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Title: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 06, 2009, 10:20:20 PM
Amazing. Thank you so much for all this great work. Here she is again, but …

(http://www.bloodredcomics.com/Frostlick-inkedcolored.jpg)

… now we know her name!

The Solar System: Eleta the Jungle Girl, by Eero Tuovinen
The Fantasy Trip: Xocotzin, by Jason Morningstar
The Eighth Sea: Eagle Sky of the Snow Clan, by Michael Wenman
D&D + Greyhawk: Paulina, by Rod Anderson
HeroQuest: Karla Sword-Swallower, by Peter Nordstrand
Principia: Lilja, by Tony Dowler
SenZar: Scathine the Ice-Reaver of Jotun, by Paul Czege
Poison’d: Filthy Jackie, by Graham Walmsley
Barbarians of Lemuria: Freydis from Valgard, by Alexandre Jeannette (Kobayashi)
Donjon: Layla Stonecrusher, by Anna Kreider
Sorcerer + Sorcerer & Sword: Yaeta Fae-Touched, by Joel Shempert (Melinglor)
Toon: Connie the Barbarian, by Graham Walmsley, the cheater
The Affairs of Wizards: Praveena, by Jacob (lilomar)
Storming the Wizard’s Bella Tower: Unora, Horsehall Sword Maiden, by Kingston Cassidy
Talislanta: Frost, by Ara
Tunnels & Trolls: Bella, by Sean Musgrave (sirogit)
Risus: Jelena the Hired Blade, by Raven
Delve: Methild DuvGunnar, by David Berg
The Donut: Juno, by Jared Sorensen
Sexy Deadly: Tyris the Amazon Queen, by Lance Allen
Apocalypse World: Snow, by Vincent Baker
Escape From Tentacle City: Stephanie Glumwort AKA Frost-Queen Titania, by Willow Palecek
UniSystem Lite (Angel RPG): Svenja Frost, by Frank Tarcikowski
Traveller: Dame Kuula Ben’on, by Darcy Burgess
The Pool: Baroosa, by Christopher Kubasik
The Path of Journeys: The White Shadow, by Julie Stauffer
Trollbabe: Griselde, by Ed Heil
Land of a Thousand Kings: L***, by Ben Lehman
In a Wicked Age …: Zahri, by Adam
Psi Run: Elena MacIntyre, by Meg Baker
Legendary Lives: elfin shaman, by Clinton R. Nixon
Red Box Hack: Nora, by Antoine

My hope is soon to have a page which includes all the sheets, and we can even set one up for additional characters (all based on that illustration).

Now for the talking part. Remember how I said I’d pick about five authors, based on something-or-other? Well, screw that. The something-or-other was idiotic, and I can’t imagine treating all this even partly like it’s a contest.

What happens now is to ask a series of questions for people who’ve posted characters. For each question, I’ll name two to four characters who seem well-suited for dealing with it. I want to establish a bit of dialogue with one or some or all of those particular authors. However! Everyone else is asked to be involved – ask any questions, make any comparisons, or refine any points which are arising, at any time.

Once at least a couple of those particular authors have spoken up for a given question (there are ten), then it’s a free-for-all – talk about another character, talk about any character posted regardless of authorship, feel free to bring in examples using other characters you may have written up as well.

To be clear about what I have in mind in the long term, the ten questions in this thread and the probable many-layered discussions that ensue are merely the first part of my goal. The next part is another series of questions about something else, in a third thread. That thread will generate the basis for James’ eventual illustrations. And then, whew, that’ll be it.

Questions, concerns, before I post the first question? This isn’t intended to be mysterious.

Best, Ron
edited by me to fix a misattribution - RE


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 06, 2009, 10:22:48 PM
I lied. Questions et cetera are still welcome, but here's the first question, out of ten.

1. Pure Color: that’s what we started with, me included. As is often the case with cartoon-style art, the superficial lack of seriousness seems to open up doors for particular, often quite pointed topics.

Don’t misunderstand me to be saying that Color is the best way to start. It’s only one way (see Everway for the game which goes farthest to start with it, I think). Doing so does, however, illustrate the point that I made in [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk post-mortem (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27126.0) that Color is not merely a sprayed-on extra feature. Without it, the Shared Imagined Space would not have social substance. By starting with Color, I’m also illustrating how it touches all the other components. Also, I’d like to emphasize that Color is almost by definition shared! After all, that’s what pictures do best – they make the imagination transitive, and the same goes for a picture which is verbalized and heard.

Another point: Color is highly personal. You’ve probably noticed that people have utilized the slightly conflicting imagery in the illustration to indicate both tropical and arctic interpretations. Also, and more importantly, nearly everyone has noted something edgy and not-socially-comfortable about the character, and they’ve interpreted it (or better, again, utilized it) in over a dozen different ways: rough or blunt sexuality, a certain tension between fighting and magic, troubled romance, foreign-ness, outlawry, extreme ideology, sexual preference, association with monsters or bad guys of some kind, rudeness, offensiveness (not the same thing), special metaphysical status, being either mistrustful or distrusted, and so on.

One thing we might develop through discussion is how the transitive aspect interacts with the personal aspect. Anyway, here’s where we start:

What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was “obviously” suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.

Please, I’m not asking for your motivations, but rather your process. What did you see and which specific choices about existing options arose from what you saw? Also, please limit your answer to one or two of the most important things, not a blow-by-blow of every detail.


Solicited input: The White Shadow (Julie/jrs), Xocotzin (Jason), Eagle Sky (Michael/Vulpinoid), Jelena the Hired Blade (Raven/greyorm)

Again, once we get the discussion rolling about two or more of these when their authors respond, then it opens up to any of the characters as well as to extra ones.

Best, Ron
edited by me to add a username - RE


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Jason Morningstar on January 07, 2009, 04:55:12 AM
What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was “obviously” suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.
OK, when I looked at that picture I thought she was sexy and dangerous-looking.  I think that's largely because she's looking directly at the viewer, sort of returning the male gaze if you want to get all second wave feminist about it. 

The Fantasy Trip is a point-buy system prone to agonizing choices in character generation (and that incentivizes optimization heavily), so I looked right away for pointers that would guide that process:  Sword, clothing (or lack thereof), ornament, and of course her body - noodly arms, wide hips, she looks tiny.  I thought about making her a Halfling.

Another critical and sorta unique feature of TFT is its obsession with employment - you get jobs, they pay a wage, there's risk and reward in working for a living.  Everybody has a job, at least at first.  So if you build a really esoteric character, they may be employable only as (subsistence) farm help - unacceptable!  This limited my options a bit in an interesting way. 

I think I built her around that sword, which seems so incongruous - she doesn't have a warrior's build, she's not dressed for a fight, but she's got this bad-ass sword strapped (somehow) to her back.  It seemed like cheating to build her as a social monster (an obvious and viable choice in the system) and have the sword be color she couldn't actually use without a -4DX penalty, so making it functional equipment in her profession drove my process.

These factors (sword, appearance, need to be employable) resulted in my decision to make her a wizardly thief .  I gave her a name that means "Revered Youngest Daughter" in Nahuatl.  That was my one concession to cool; the rest of the process was very workmanlike. 


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: jrs on January 07, 2009, 05:21:27 AM
Jason and I had a very similar response to her gaze. And for me, it is not just the eyes, it's the whole stance which is straight on to the viewer with no turning asides. That is what inspired the Control and Bewitch motivations that I used for The White Shadow character.

You also can't miss the sword. I was particularly captivated by the bird beak on the pommel. It appears to be some form of large raptor, and I wanted to specifically include that in my character write-up.

I'm sure I also allowed my knowledge of other James V. West art to influence me, but I tried to limit that where I could.

Julie


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 07:26:51 AM
Jason, The Fantasy Trip is probably the single biggest influence on me as a role-player and eventual designer-publisher, so it's excellent to get a closer look at it.

I think it's fascinating that a sword in the picture led directly to the creation of a wizardly thief via the twists and turns of the point-buy and job component. Not a belt of lockpicks, not a magic spell opening a door, but a relatively scary-looking, no-nonsense sword.

There's a section in the rules in which players are enjoined to give their characters personality - as I recall, the example describes an elf who's "not merely an elf" but also loves animals and yells at other characters if they threaten or hurt animals (something else, too, I can't recall). What would you write for Xocotzin at that depth of description?

(You and your whacked Aztec names ... for the quintessential Welsh-looking or Icelandic-looking babe, yet ...)

Julie, all of that makes perfect sense. I was also interested in how the Motivations were all built lower than 4. (To clarify for others, in this game, low values are more powerful for Motivations and all Skills, but high values are better for Traits.) In our past use and discussion of the game, we've both been inclined toward at least one Motivation set at 5 - the most iffy, conflicted, and specific application of a verb. So the directness of the character as you see her seems to have played into that as well, possibly. Another thing is that a number of phrasings or possibilities in character creation lead to the presence of NPCs or organizations, and those are absent for the White Shadow.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 07, 2009, 07:55:17 AM
The Gaze, for me as well.

There was no denying the curve of those hips, but her attitude seemed to be, "Hey, Bub!  Up here!  I'm looking at you!"

I was struck by the craziness of the outfit: the string of little tiny somethings, the sword, the attitude, and knew I was in some sort of Boris Vallejo land, where practical aspects of combat didn't matter and I'd stepped into one of his covers from a John Carpenter of Mars book I'd seen years and years ago.

The Pool seemed a perfect fit for making the character, since the system would in no way penalize me for having a warrior running around with g-string, so when I ran out of systems and thought of that it was suddenly less of a default than a "Oh duh, this is perfect," moment.  I could get away with this character in the Pool without a moment's thought of logic.

That's where the Barsoom riff came from. I did exactly as I wrote out, scribbled some notes about the world background first, and then looked back at her to see what I would see...

And it was the eyes.  Purposeful, a touch pissed off.  Everything flowed from that.  You'll note Baroosa is almost all personal relationships -- even with the purple moon god, even the sword, which belonged to her father.   For me those eyes said, "I'm on business.  And the business is all personal."

Christopher


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Jason Morningstar on January 07, 2009, 08:05:57 AM
There's a section in the rules in which players are enjoined to give their characters personality - as I recall, the example describes an elf who's "not merely an elf" but also loves animals and yells at other characters if they threaten or hurt animals (something else, too, I can't recall). What would you write for Xocotzin at that depth of description?
To be fair I probably didn't do the most brilliant job of optimizing the character, but I was trying to stick with the visual cues I had.  She'd be hell on wheels as a high-DX swordswoman, but she just doesn't look the part to me.

Well, crap, I balanced the line between advice and direction, and there are some imperatives in there - on page 5 of In The Labyrinth it tells you to work out your character's background and think about personality.  There's stuff on page 7 that gives you random personality tables, but it also says that if you have time, you shouldn't use them.  They suggest rolling 2d6 to determine various facets of personality, so I'll use that as the benchmark and pick my own numbers:

Bravery (12 is very brave):  Xocotzin is 8
Honesty (12 is very honest):  Xocotzin is 8
Freindliness (12 is likes everyone):  Xocotzin is 4
Appearance (12 is babetastic):  Xocotzin is 10
Mood (12 is aggressive extrovert):  Xocotzin is 9

So in my mind she's the youngest of many daughters of a regional lord, making her way in the world with no place at court.  She's learned the ways of the hoi-polloi, though, and uses that to her advantage, and as nobility (even the least of it), she knows how to demand deference.  Her absent father at least filled his court with wonder-men and mercenaries, and Xocotzin took what instruction she could.  She has a low opinion of her privileged class and has set out to make a profession of robbing them blind through a combination of flattery, craft and seduction.  Outside of her immediate work Xocotzin is scrupulously honest and goes to great length to keep her word and preserve her growing reputation among the  criminal elite.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Graham W on January 07, 2009, 08:26:32 AM
I thought she looked like a fantasy babe, but I'm not really into fantasy. I wondered about non-fantasy systems. Then the sword reminded me of a Poison'd character I'd had, who had a hatchet as a weapon. Or perhaps I consciously thought: oh, wait, maybe Poison'd would work. Probably a mixture of the two.

So it became a Poison'd character, with a "fucking huge hatchet" as one of the weapons, and "wiry strong and vicious" as another, because that's how she looks. Her position on the ship is "Surgeon", because she had a hatchet.

As a tongue-in-cheek observation: I wonder if anyone will outline their process as "After seeing the picture, I saw the perfect opportunity to advertise, by drawing up the character using my game".

Graham


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ejh on January 07, 2009, 08:53:12 AM
To be fair I probably didn't do the most brilliant job of optimizing the character, but I was trying to stick with the visual cues I had.  She'd be hell on wheels as a high-DX swordswoman, but she just doesn't look the part to me.

She looks confident and smart but not really strong or agile.

This puzzled me.  Not strong or agile?  Not a high-DX swordswoman?  I could totally see her as exactly those things.  Maybe I'm too big a James West fanboy,* because in the James West universe, a woman who is built and dressed exactly** like her is potentially an unstoppable combat monster.

E.g.:

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/jamesvwest/sevenarrows/series.php?view=archive&chapter=11099&name=sevenarrows

I'm not saying you're wrong to read it that way; obviously this is all about everybody's different reactions.  I just was startled by the incongruity between your reading of the image and mine, and how that constrained and drove your character creation work.

(And yet for all that I'm perfectly happy with the way your writeup of her did turn out -- I'd be happy to play, or play in a game with, Xocotzin.   I think she rocks. You just got to that point by working within a constraint I would never have imagined.)

* If you think you dig James's work more than I do, in the words of Ron Burgundy, I WILL FIGHT YOU.

** well almost exactly; Fawn Rainchild's bikini is chainmail, but I think the point still stands. :)


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 08:57:36 AM
Differences are definitely worth noting!

After all, Jason considered making her a halfling and Ed made her nigh-seven feet tall.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: jrs on January 07, 2009, 09:06:28 AM
Julie, all of that makes perfect sense. I was also interested in how the Motivations were all built lower than 4. (To clarify for others, in this game, low values are more powerful for Motivations and all Skills, but high values are better for Traits.) In our past use and discussion of the game, we've both been inclined toward at least one Motivation set at 5 - the most iffy, conflicted, and specific application of a verb. So the directness of the character as you see her seems to have played into that as well, possibly. Another thing is that a number of phrasings or possibilities in character creation lead to the presence of NPCs or organizations, and those are absent for the White Shadow.

My personal kneejerk reaction to creating a character for The Path of Journeys was definitely to have a 5 motivation, but I just couldn't make it fit for this character.

As for associated NPCs or organizations, I have the idea that she is affiliated with a nomadic gypsy band. I did not have the chance to flesh that out at the onset of character creation. I blame my need for group input to establish such things.

Julie


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: lumpley on January 07, 2009, 09:09:24 AM
Here are all the character sheets I have so far: Color First Character Sheets (http://www.lumpley.com/color-first.html)

PM me with additions and corrections.

(Well I saw the perfect opportunity to advertise, of course.)

-Vincent



Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Jason Morningstar on January 07, 2009, 09:26:33 AM
Different strokes, for sure.  And this illo - she's got the physical dimensions of a child but the sexual dimorphism of a babe built to a very particular fetish-y order.  Or maybe on her planet people just have enormous heads.  I just tried to imagine what a real person who looked like that would be good at, and it isn't hacking people to death with a sword. I definitely didn't parse it in context to James West's other work. 


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 07, 2009, 09:41:16 AM
I find the emphasis some folks put on the visuals interesting. Cartoon conventions must be relatively transparent for me, considering that I all but ignored the weird hair color, body shape and other such details, assuming that they're just quirks of the artist's style. (Really, you can't read comics artists literally when it comes to female body types; they're all taught to idolize the female shape.) Alternatively I just don't know how to get strongly inspired by relatively minor Color details; I just took the whole image in, chose a character concept that worked with it and ignored the details - added a sword as an afterthought when I noticed it, but otherwise the details were incidental. Specifically, now that people remark on it, that hair color is strange - however, when making the character I just assumed that it's an image of the character through the James West filter and she's just an exotic blonde in setting terms; for all I care all Ammeni nobility can have blue hair, it's no skin off my nose.

Those minor details being the things that didn't strike me here, I probably should also mention that the functional inspiration I got from the image was simply that she seems primitive. Basically the rest of my chargen process was just predicated on the random flash of insight that she'd go well with the Qek campaign framework I'd been writing about lately. This was when I decided to actually make the character for Ron - the first steps were just idle musing, only when I'd already latched on the combination of setting, campaign frame and character concept I decided to actually write her down. After deciding on those I didn't draw influence from the picture itself before adding the sword at the last stage.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 07, 2009, 09:45:02 AM
[cross-posted with Eero, responding to Jason's last post]

I just tried to imagine what a real person who looked like that would be good at...

This was a really important point for me, which I touched on in my first post.

I had originally wanted to stat her using Pendragon's Beyond the Wall, a pict warrior.  But Pendragon is a mix of fantasy and "real" -- and there was no way, to me, that this person was real.

This wasn't a shortcoming, to me, by the way!

I reminded of some art critic talking about the portraits of Matisse, and how if he saw a woman walking down the street who looked like a woman from one of his paintings, he'd run fleeing!  But as a painting, they were great.

So, using this particular image as a starting point, I simply surrendered "real" and said, "What world would hold a woman like this?  What system would let me easily slip past concerns of reality to build a woman like this."  Again, The Pool's loosy-goosy nature allowed me to get there pretty fast.

It was a stated goal of mine after I dealt with the picture a bit to skate around reality.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 07, 2009, 09:59:20 AM
Her unworldly looks definitely pushed me towards choosing the Elfin race for her in Legendary Lives. I got the idea she was primitive, also, Eero, and so assumed her human mother was from the Bush People. Lastly, it was definitely her stance and gaze that led me to choose Shaman as her profession. She looks like she's seen things you can't imagine, and there's nothing about you that's going to faze her.

A lot of what came after that was random, but even random character data gets filtered through our perceptions. I was amazed at the similarities that occurred between her randomization and others' choices. Like your version, Jason, she ended up not strong, but very dexterous, and also like yours, she comes from the upper class elite, but has chosen a more rugged, more primitive life.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 11:20:40 AM
Here are two characters I'd made up before posting the first thread, which tie directly into the points you're making, Clinton.

Both are one-step-removed characters, meaning that the character who's most directly played is actually not a real person, and there's an intermediary fictional person or persona between the player and that character. This has been done a lot, with various concepts for the "in betweener," ranging from Amazing Engine to Hong Kong Action Theater to Tales from the Crypt to Ruby. I happen to enjoy the technique greatly and think it has some strong implications.

Solipsist: Jenna Fahr
Vision (up to me): underground-comix style, vague-but-gritty fantasy adventure world, in which I wander, scattering love and violence like leaves
Obsessions (5, allocate 9 points): The world is unmapped 2, I am a barbarian warrior-woman 3, I am passionately sexy 1, I am coldly threatening 1, Magic is everywhere 2
Limitations (ditto): This murder case is about to break 3, My colleagues depend on me 1, I am lonely 1, I love my coffee in the morning 2, I’m getting older 2
Infestation 5 (this value is pre-set)
Tears 0 (ditto)

The text requires rounding it out in a bit of description. She’s a homicide detective, 34 years old, living alone in a major city. She’s had at least one major relationship but is currently single; she gets along with her family but they don’t live in the area and aren’t especially close. Her main personal connections are developed through work. She’s generally professional, given to dark humor, and capable of fearsome payback when pushed.

I now realize that making up this character is about (a) being affected by the Color myself, and then (b) thinking about how someone else might be affected by it to the point of solipsistic power over reality. In this game, the intermediary character is not absent from play, so who she is matters a lot. But the neat thing is that other game mechanics really have little to do with who the warrior-woman is, but everything to do with what Jenna Fahr wants. Talk about Color as the driver! That's how I think it ties into your point about the "filter" that all other results, even random ones, tie into.

This also goes some distance to explain why I didn't use the obvious Limitation of “I’m a man,” even beyond its obviousness. I think I wanted to stay with the concept of fantasizing, which is not about core issues of identity in the same way.

There's another bit of Color too, that I reached out to in addition to being inspired by the picture. I rather like the acting/presence of Catherine Dent, who's played police officers in two shows I've seen, and she was sort of on my mind in iconic terms (age, expressions, job issues) when I made the character. So that's two Color-inspirations coming together in one.

The next character is more complex to discuss, partly because the intermediate character isn't a character at all but an abstract persona, and partly because the game itself is poorly known and in my opinion, based on a variety of internet comments, sometimes misunderstood among those who do know it.

Extreme Vengeance: Lina Handermann, "the Icelandic Angel"
(The fantasy illustration only means that’s her most familiar venue; an action hero can of course be just as exciting in a modern-set film too, wearing slightly different clothes and fighting drug lords, terrorists, martial arts masters, and muggers)

Typecast: Maverick (Guts 2, Coincidence 3) + Fighter (Guts 3, Coincidence 3), for  Guts 5 and Coincidence 6
Maverick is sadly not one of the more interesting builds, but her quirky smirk doesn’t say “Grim” to me. In fact, this whole persona is built around the Maverick thing.

Repertoires: Catch-phrase 3, Cue Card 1, Dramatic Slo-Mo 2, Flashback 3, Go Ballistic 2, Lethal Exchange 3, Multiple Angles 3, Re-shoot 2,* Soundtrack 2, Avenging Fury 1, BS-Melee 3, Cut-away 1, Dynamic Duo 1, Gratuitous Violence 1, Tough It Out 1, Zoom 2*
What these basically mean is that she gets a lot of hard-core effectiveness with a modicum of tweaking – a middle-road character compared to (e.g.) Pumped-Up or Avenging (all effectiveness, no tweaks); or on the other side, Bumbling or Suave (all tweaks and plot, little hit-it)
* used Free levels to upgrade these, going for effectiveness rather than range, i.e., choosing other Repertoires

No-Goods: Bad Bonk (1), Pray for Miracle (2); I immediately began to think of applying these in romantic-interest scenes.

To clarify, all of these came from the lists accompanying Maverick and Guts; this is almost entirely a column-A-column-B build.

Despite the unfortunate prose style in the book, Extreme Vengeance isn't a parody game. Its mechanics are based on the interaction between the persona (not the character immediately being portrayed in a particular movie) with the audience (which is not actually the group of players, but is referenced by them via the system and often the GM specifically). To emphasize, the persona is not an actor making a movie, it's an abstraction that sums up a given image and icon that is applied across movies. You never ever play the actor or talk about the movie-as-being-made during play, but as what the film is in pure audience experience. So "Typecast" is not just a fancy name for character class, but rather literal. Anyway, back to the persona-and-audience thing, the whole point is that that is, itself, strictly Color!

That goes a long way toward understanding why, in this game, you get experience points 1:1 from (a) the total pips of your own rolls and (b) the total pips of rolls made against you - regardless of who succeeds, and also, at the same time.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Vulpinoid on January 07, 2009, 03:18:08 PM
What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was “obviously” suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.

I think a lot of my other inspiration processes were pretty much covered in my original character generation description, So I'll try not to repeat myself too much here.

Choice of system wasn't hard for me.

I originally designed the Eighth Sea to work for any part of our world (as long as there was some coastline nearby) and any stage of our timeline (past, present or future). So while I could have gone with a more genre specific game that fit the image, I quickly looked at my bookshelf and none of the games immediately leaped into my hands saying "use me, USE ME!!!". So I naturally went with the path I'm most familiar with at the moment, the game I'm promoting as much as possible up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia.

As for pulling out the images features and translating them into game options, that was a little bit of observation, some deep thought, and a chunk of zen. It's how I do most of my characters.

Step 1. I look for something interesting that I'd like to portray or explore as a concept.
Step 2. I examine the system to see how this concept is handled.
Step 3. I refer to source material to round out the concept.

I never try to get too attached to a complete character at the early stages of design, because system mechanics will often render certain ideas unworkable, while party dynamics might vary the importance of certain features, and a game's setting has the tendency to do the same.

So when it comes to designing a character around an image, I look to two or three key things that give me a germ of inspiration. In this case, the white hair [which indicates something otherworldly or mystical to me], the pommel of the sword [while the sword indicates she does a decent amount of fighting, the birdlike head almost seems totemic to me], and the sensual curves of the hips [which give me a distinct that she can get her way without resorting to violence]. These form the basis of the character, pretty much in this priority order.

"A mystical warrior, with a bird totem, who isn't hard on the eyes."

With this in mind I refer to the system, and see what options are available. The Eighth Sea is very open in this regard, but it gives two dozen templates to speed up the character process for players who are suffering option paralysis. The image immediately lends itself to any of the fighting types, and basically rules out anything like a ship's surgeon. A number of the character templates would work as awkward fits, but I aim toward the option that first instincts brought to my attention.

Using the image as a grounding point, I think of a hook. "Last warrior of a dead tribe"....a bit stereotypical, but I know that rounding out the character will give her some better depth as the process continues. It also gives me another grounding point in case I'm stuck with an awkward decision later.
 
Aiming toward the character idea I've chosen, I find that there are no prerequisites for any of the occupational templates, so attributes can go pretty much any way. I prioritized these pretty much according to the way I perceived the picture.

After assigning the remaining skills, I find that the character concept so far has been missing the "sensual curves" part so I bring it back to the fore by choosing one of the positive traits that turns this into a mechanical benefit. I also find that the character doesn't quite have enough socially related skills to cover this, so I make sure another Talkin' skill is added to her repertoire. The other positive and negative traits I try to tie into the image as much as I can [or the developing back story where spontaneous ideas hit me].

Alluring: As described.
Instinctive: At first glance, she seems more wild than civilized. And since I've just added the Animal Ken skill, it seems like a nice fit.
Tough: She ain't wearing much protective gear, so either she's damn quick or hard as nails. Nimble swordswomen are a bit too stereotypical, so I break away from that.
Callous: Her eyes strike me as having a look of deep concentration or anger, but combined with the lips I feel that it gives more of an expression of disdain, contempt or even disappointment ["Oh no, not again..."]. Between this and the death of her tribe, I feel that she wouldn't really get on with people too easily, she seen it all before and she's learnt that people will keep making the same mistakes no matter how much you tell them otherwise. Better to just not let it get to you. 
Antisocial: Basically reinforces the previous trait, but also reflects the fact that her entire tribe has died and she probably doesn't want to get close to people in case it happens again.
Outcaste: This can be read a few ways, she may have been a highly ranked in her tribe and has imposed an outcaste status on herself for being unable to protect them in battle, maybe the entire tribe were outcastes from a civilised land. It seems to fit the image but I'm not sure how yet...I'll let the unfolding story determine that one.

The illustration doesn't have much in the way of equipment, and since the system only requires that I name a single weapon and a temporal compass, that's all I do. Anything else is generated on the fly as the story demands. I could related more game mechanics to the sword, but I've used this as a focal point in a couple of decisions, so I just make it a standard weapon.

The piracy-integrity decision I covered in the character generation post, the same with the background elements.

Character goals were chosen based on the ideas that had arisen through the generation process so far, making sure not to conflict with the image in any way. I look through some of the sample goals in the rule book and many of them just aren't appropriate. A few come close and I tangent off them.

I make the goals reflect her two strongest suits, and make them the kinds of long term effects that can't be resolved in a single session. The character becomes obsessed with restoring her people and taking vengeance on those who caused her people harm. I know that there will be numerous other goals across the ship and that the character won't get the chance to be 100% obsessive about these, but it certainly tips the scales morally in many situations.

I think that there is enough at this stage to give the character a starting point and an intended direction. At this point I'd typically write down two or three short term goals for my own reference only...things I'd like to see brought into the game to reveal aspects of my character to the other players. It's not required of the system, but I find it gives me a better sense of the progression in the character's story. Once I manage to incorporate one of these into the game [or once a better situation comes up in the game that I can take advantage of], I'll archive that as a part of the characters history and add a new one to the list.

I hope that gives a bit more insight into how I interpreted the character.

V


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Kobayashi on January 07, 2009, 05:36:56 PM
Compared to others I confess I had a very down to earth approach. When I saw the drawing, I just thought : well this is a R.E Howard character drawn for a Ralph Bakshi cartoon. It just screamed Sword & Sorcery. And these times, when I see S&S, I think Barbarians of Lemuria.

The elements of the picture that I thougth were important :
_an eerie look
_white hair
_a "special" sword
_clothing reduced to the minimum

Attributes were a bit tricky, Strength and Agility were easy, but Appeal and Mind ? The eerie look spoke to me more of intelligence than charm, so Mind was to have the best score.

As I made the character "by the book" I had to choose an origin tied to the gameworld of BoL which I don't like that much; I would have prefered to design a custom origin for the character but that weren't the rules set by Ron.

The career system of BoL is a very simple and effective way of building a character history.

the white hair and clothing => barbarian
the special sword => a warrior ? No she became a mercenary to leave her mountains.
the eerie look => sorcerer of course.

But well, how does a barbarian mercenary starts dabbling in magic ? I needed a link and looked at all the available careers. "Slave" immediatly clicked. A mercenary, captured far form her mountains, in some southern land, becoming the slave of a powerful Sorcerer. Maybe she escaped, maybe he let her go... But the experience changed her (maybe turned her hair white too, maybe she stole that strange looking sword from one of her captors...).

I really appreciated the way rules served my vision of the picture, not the other way around. And the fact that they allowed me to build on my vision to flesh out the character. Plus the fact that it only took 15 minutes.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 06:07:07 PM
Looking over the thread, here are some notions about Color and role-playing-oriented creativity.

1. Everyone utilizes (say) an illustration selectively. Things or aspects which are not part of the selected "set" sort of fade back in terms of importance, becoming an artifact of the picture and not the "what it is" to be used as inspiration.

For instance, some people saw the specialized cartoon style as a key indicator; others saw it as a detail that didn't need to be carried through at all. Some saw the white hair as eery and indicative of magic; others saw it as merely ethnic and perhaps not different from simply light blonde. To some, the sword took on significant content, and to others, it was just a sword (OK, system options were sometimes involved with that, but the starting impression did show up in the post too).

2. Putting Color first does interesting things to working with the game system. Instead of designing toward stuff to happen later, one often finds decision-points to be already settled with a moment's reflection about what the Color dictates (or that's how it feels, because at this point it's your Color-set and not the illustration any more), and then the system produces new and emergent things or specifications.

The neat thing about this is that the system's unexpected results or constraints take on a weird feel of inevitability or "rightness" which is very different from merely stacking up the pieces to meet pre-set specifications toward a desired play-result. I'm especially charmed that this happened with fully point-buy systems as well as ones with randomized elements.

Choices which otherwise seemed "agonizing" in your words, Jason (and believe me, when it comes to TFT, I totally agree), become almost poetically just in their application. I'm thinking as well as the dice results and Type requirements in Legendary Lives.

Geez, all that yipyap and you already said what I'm talking about, Alexandre.

3. If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

What are others' thoughts on any points that have emerged across the posts so far?

Best, Ron

P.S. Remember that this is only the first of ten questions!


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: David Berg on January 07, 2009, 06:19:45 PM
I came at this with "how would this work in my game?" from the beginning, thus demanding some level of real-world plausibility (like Eero, I translated the more fantastic elements as art style).  That said:

What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?
Gaze + prominent weapon contrasting with totally impractical outfit. 

Q: Who the hell goes out spoiling for a sword-fight with an exposed belly? 
A: Someone who wants to broadcast how tough they are.

Q: How would a player achieve that for their character in my game?
A: Loud & dominant personality color, plus enough non-lethal fighting ability to weather social friction.

Q: What's she good at?  Should we back up the attitude, or have her be all posture?
A: There aren't any countersignals to "can back it up" in the image, and Delve PCs are bold, ambitious, risk-taker types.  So, time for some combat skills.

Q: Won't a pushy ass-kicker get old & annoying?
A: Let's throw in some complexity: 1) Carving up mofos is a job, not a passion.  She hungers for broad, influential power, and looks to magic for this.  2) There's something well-maintained about her look... maybe just the smooth lines of the drawing?  In any event, let's say she is meticulus about something.  Fingernails.  Sure.  Maybe she'll get to deck someone who thinks it's prissy.

Hmm, that last question isn't asked by my char-gen process.  Maybe it should be.  Some sort of "diversify" suggestion, perhaps.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 07, 2009, 06:20:37 PM
3. If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

Baroosa is so ready to act and react it's insane.  

I don't think I've ever had a PC so streamlined and ready for motion before.  In fact, honestly, that's a concern of mine.  I look at everyone else write-ups and they seem "meatier" somehow.  Baroosa is Vegeance, Stubborn and a Plot Stealth Missile.  She almost seems too sleek.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: greyorm on January 07, 2009, 06:26:46 PM
What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was “obviously” suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.

Please, I’m not asking for your motivations, but rather your process. What did you see and which specific choices about existing options arose from what you saw? Also, please limit your answer to one or two of the most important things, not a blow-by-blow of every detail.

Forgive this post if it's scattered, I'm trying to write it with three different kids interrupting me every few minutes with nonsense they've been told not to bother about. *grindteeth*

To own-up: I wrote up the ORX version first, then based the Risus character on that specific design. The color for the character came from the ORX design, which definitely affected how I set things up when I decided to re-write her with Risus, but Risus certainly had its own impact on that design, skewing it away from the original and towards a much-more over-the-top stereotype.

Honestly, when I wrote it up for ORX, I just made it up as I went; other than a few details, it wasn't carefully planned or thought-through. I just let my fingers did the writing and put down what came to mind as it did. I later ported what I'd done for ORX over to the Risus system and made some alterations to the underlying details.

So, here's a curvy girl with no armor packing a huge sword and an I-take-no-shit look; I didn't notice hair-color, eye-color, cartoonish proportions, or other little details, and actually didn't even notice that she was even more naked than a loincloth until well into the later design. Heck, I accidentally wrote down "dark haired" in her description first.

More importantly, what I saw was the male fantasy version of a strong warrior woman archetype: completely unrealistic but fundamentally perceptive (in regards a very human picture of the perception and appreciation gender on an individual's level), and I liked trying to do something with that. Which is why even though I initally thought about making her strong foremost, I then decided it would be far more interesting and far less patently cliche to avoid the beef-based testosterone and have more social muscle behind her concept.

It was clear she had an attitude, and who wears that little armor while giving that look and carrying that arsenal? All of which said to me she was skilled at influencing others, getting her way, and distracting her opponents in a fight. Someone who could fight if necessary, but whose true strength was in her social adroitness, in intimidation and distraction: a girl who knew the game and how to play it to her own advantage, and someone who knew how to stay out of fights or end them without violence, but who was very capable as well of holding her own when things shifted elsewise.

When I moved her into Risus, this trait (combined with one interpretation of the low Grok from her ORX version) became the "Bimbo" Cliche; originally, I set it with fewer dice than "Warrior", then swapped it back and forth until I decided the social-sexual aspect should be front-and-center, rather than the warrior concept. And I knew that would likely annoy the second-wavers no end, but I went with it and used that snarky moment of sexual liberation to color the rest of the design, going over-the-top with the descriptions and including as much sexualized humor as I could. Money and flesh-toys as a goal also came into play at this point, and more of her history started falling into place (in my head) from the pieces I'd already written.

The "Novice Wizard" Cliche is notable because while I went into the Risus design knowing the armband was magical from what I'd done for the ORX write-up, but I ended up choosing "Novice Wizard" when I couldn't think of an appropriate one-word Cliche for someone carrying around a mysterious magical armband. I threw more comedy into the mix with a re-imagining of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia (I will note the ORX version would have been far more (narratively) competent with whatever magic resided in the armband, but was also not in any way a wizard or proto-wizard, just a girl with a magic item).

I would also like to note that both versions were based on a real woman I've known for years, and both designs are what (I imagine) she would be like if she carried a sword and was more self-aware of her own oft-used sexual power -- though with an obvious extremely "rude comedy" slant on the Risus version (which, on consideration, I realize isn't really all that different from my model's actual behavior).

Hopefully, that's enough description of the process and avoided enough motivation for the question, Ron.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Kobayashi on January 07, 2009, 06:49:03 PM
If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

Yes, my vision of the picture led me through the character creation and in return those rules brought some new light on the character. In some way the rules allowed a "random" picture to become my character.

What are others' thoughts on any points that have emerged across the posts so far?

So far I got only more interrogations and some random thoughts, so I'm afraid it won't be that useful. I'm still amazed by the relation between rules and color. I start thinking about the games I played, run or wrote.

Everway's character creation was a great success with my gaming groups. Even the most shy or dense player was able to come with ideas about his character. Color seems to lead to more color. Can rules get in the way of the process instead of allowing it ? (I tend to think yes when they are poorly written but how do I write "good" rules for that ? Am I completely mistaken ?)

Maybe that's why Rifts has such a strong appeal (to me at least) but in the same time turns me off : the rules don't allow me to make those pictures (=possible characters) mine. Is it possible for rules to work against color ?

Does a random table (encounter, scenario, equipment, whatever...) works as a picture ? Color that you process through the game rules to make the results yours ? (Running In a Wicked Age, I tend to say yes too).


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Jason Morningstar on January 07, 2009, 06:54:10 PM
Yeah, I want to play the character I developed.  I really want to set her free and put some sensible clothes on her.  I can even see her world, it's got an M.A.R. Barker vibe!


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 07, 2009, 08:45:18 PM
Quote
What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was “obviously” suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.

A'right.

First, to answer Graham: A good excuse to advertise was absolutely in my mind. I won't even try to deny it.

Second: The moment I saw this picture, I thought Sexy. Deadly. Check.

How that translated into the final concept of the character: First, it's the subtly overstated lushness to her figure, the boldness of her pose. She's a fantasy female badass. She's primitively dressed and armed, which suggests the Amazon, the archetypal primitive women warriors. But like most heroic cultures from classical mythology, they value knowledge and learning as well as martial prowess, which was why the Sphinx won out as an archetype.

So now we go into traits; More than a Woman: Forethought. She's a queen. Maybe I got that from the golden belt. I dunno. It wasn't a conscious thing if I did. She was the Amazon Queen before I had a name for her. Anyway, a queen would think things through deliberately. That also came from Sphinx, definitely. Less than a Woman: Contemptuous. As I explained, she's an Amazon, but there're also those cold eyes and that bold stance. She's daring you to try something, to underestimate her. You're beneath her. Motif: Back to the sword. She has a bow, but it's not pictured. The sword is important, so it's there. I want her to have something more combative to complement her non-combative MtaW. She's also the Sphinx, so it's something more than brute force or simple skill. It's the riddle of steel!

That's it from the picture. The rest stems from the build up of the concept.

I could definitely go in and play this character. She's got style, personality and attitude. She's aces in all four suits; Sexy, Deadly, Smart and Tough. Narration for her will be easy; She was almost Death-by-Surprise, so that will be a common motif in the narration, though she wouldn't gain any mechanical value from it. I know she would probably get a comparatively large amount of challenges in the arena of Sexy, so that my opponents could call in Contemptuous on me.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: KCassidy on January 07, 2009, 10:16:49 PM
Because Storming the wizards tower characters are constrained by their initial in order dice rolls (no moving stats around!) and their starting communities (which determine their beginning powers, maps, spells, weapons and equipment), my character had to "fit" the both the picture and a bunch of other things as well.

What struck me most about the picture is her power and confidence. She's totally self assured. Also, she's a member of sorority of the chain mail bikini, and I felt I needed to honor that. In practical terms that lead me to....

1) Choose a character type that was both martial and only open to women.
2) Choose not to give her armor, only a shield.
3) Choose jewelery as her one gear, which accentuates the sensual.
4) Her mix of spells, which make her more effective in combat.

The funny thing about it is that this picture totally effects the color of the Horse Lords text in the main book. The text reads as mostly historical but with more accessibility for powerful women that real history did. The picture doesn't contradict that, but the image injects some Heavy Metal Magazine into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer-ism of the game text.



Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Antoine F on January 08, 2009, 02:31:00 AM
First, thanks to Ron for taking my character in despite the late entry time. Your are a prince among men.

I agree that my vision of the picture was selective with back and forth rereading along the creation process. I totaly overlooked the cartoony appearance and the codes of female depiction that Jason noticed as opposed to a martial background for instance. I think it's because of my tastes in comics (Joann Sfar, Heavy Metal authors, Miyazaki, lots of manga, etc...) where totaly deadly badass chicks can look like fragile adolescents.

What I first noticed were the eyes, this straight in the eyes look, and the sensual but twisted lips. Realy, despite what I said about the green brassiere. I wanted that in my character, the mix of aggressivity and sensuality.

There was no choice of game : I almost play (for playtest and for pure enjoyment) only the RBH since winter 2007 and I've juggled with dozens of characters concepts since then. The mix of sensual naked aggressiveness was instantly transformed into class and talent, as I said in the character post, because of the no armor thing. Partly because of the talent name ("loincloth sexy", remember) partly because of character effectiveness. Fights are quick and deadly in the RBH. No armor and aggression meant I had to go with a character able to generate a lot of tokens on her show-off actions before falling to the monsters' attacks. I wouldn't be content with a no-fight character or an only assisting one (generating tokens for the other characters). That wouldn't fit with what I saw in the picture.

Then I had to hope the rolls for the attributes would let me go with that. I fact I wasn't too anxious of the results. Except with exceptionally bad rolls (which the rules would let me mulligan anyway) I would have had the character I wanted. I just needed a least a good roll for Daring. So I rolled in order, attributing the stats as they went and refining my vision of the character along the road. The first two rolls were realy bad (2 and 6 on 2D10) meaning the worst stat in the game : -1. Color entered play. What did the picture let me do ? Bad Sneakyness seemed natural : she was soooo Showy this one. Then bad Size : no armor let me do that (and that's where I noticed the sword and said that the girl could be small according to the size ratio in the drawing). 0 in Alertness was a bit problematic but not so much : it went with the self-absorbed limitation of the RBH warriors. Here, color trumped combat effectiveness without any regret. Then my best roll : +5, the max stat. It went straight to Daring and I had my character. Good Eloquence and Stubborness were just pure bonus and she turned out to have a sharp tongue and a hard head (becoming the badass look). I would even have been satisfied with medium results here and just the very good Daring but that's how it turned.

I pass the gear. Last thing is the motivation for adventure. It thought a bit here and that's where the picture came back with the strangeness of her colors. At first I though about it as pure plastic or aesthetic components (when I draw characters, the naturalism of the colors is not my first thought). But then it seemed to me as compatible with an alien origin. As I am now into pure pulp wackiness, the outerspace origin imposed itself. She is here for the sport and the thrill. Her spaceship is waiting somewhere for her to hit retirement at the 5th level and to come back on her planet with exotic alien jewels, treasures and beast hides. She is a kind of Predator with a bikini chick appearance. I could play her right now.

Now, it's your fault if I want to play her next time and not be the GM.



Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ejh on January 08, 2009, 07:13:35 AM
Doing her up in Trollbabe was easy as hell, because Trollbabe character creation establishes almost exactly as much knowledge of the character as a good illustration does.  You get looks and attitude and equipment (all of which are also present in the drawing).  I mean, we know a *bit* more on the character sheet, like the fact that the skull has some kind of Trollish magical mojo going for it, and the "well-worn bracers" have some personal significance to her (but we don't know what), but I felt like I was just putting tracing paper over the drawing when I wrote up the character sheet.

Now, that's not *true* -- because in fact different people got significantly different things out of the illustration.  So in fact I wasn't just "copying what was there," I was copying what was there *for me*.  But it didn't feel that way.

And yes, I think I'd be ready to run with Griselde.  She's pretty spare, but Trollbabes are supposed to start that way.  She's got meat where it counts.  Hm, that didn't quite come out right...


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2009, 09:33:41 AM
Hi there,

Alexandre (Kobayashi), you're really nailing some important stuff for me, the kind of thing I'd hoped this dialogue would reveal and probably couldn't manage on my own.

Quote
Everway's character creation was a great success with my gaming groups. Even the most shy or dense player was able to come with ideas about his character. Color seems to lead to more color. Can rules get in the way of the process instead of allowing it ? (I tend to think yes when they are poorly written but how do I write "good" rules for that ? Am I completely mistaken ?)

Maybe that's why Rifts has such a strong appeal (to me at least) but in the same time turns me off : the rules don't allow me to make those pictures (=possible characters) mine. Is it possible for rules to work against color ?

Does a random table (encounter, scenario, equipment, whatever...) works as a picture ? Color that you process through the game rules to make the results yours ? (Running In a Wicked Age, I tend to say yes too).

I had the same experience with Everway, and have always wanted to bring that particular design feature, the Vision Cards (as opposed to the Fortune Deck), into a new game. And yes, "rules" become an issue - do they permit you to take what you get from the picture and make it breathe? Or do they and the picture merely express what the author has decided is already there? It brings up other issues about creation vs. depiction.

Regarding Rifts, I think it sings best in a particular, fully Gamist application, and as such, perhaps the relevant design feature is that character creation is menu-driven maximization of strategy and tactics (this isn't the case for all Gamist-facilitating designs, just this kind). The question is, do its rules work against the inspirational Color? I'm not so sure ... I think that might indeed be a Creative Agenda issue. If one sees the illustrations and reads up even a little of the whacked setting material, and personally processes that toward strategic and tactical ends, then the experience might be seamless. But if one processes it in a Simulationist or Narrativist way, then yeah - I can see how the application of the character creation rules and possibly the goals-clash among group members would be experienced as having one's starting Color-commitment (and hence SIS-commitment) stopped in its tracks. That'd be a good topic for an actual play thread, especially since there was a great thread a while back about a very high-Color, balls-to-the-wall Gamist Rifts game.

Maybe that's a fancy way of saying that the rules work against Color if the rules aren't what you want to do. So it feels like a bait-and-switch. That was certainly my experience with Vampire 1st edition.

I think random tables are ripe for more development along the lines you describe. Many of us remember the insanely long tables at the end of the 1979 Dungeon Master's Guide for AD&D, and I'm given to understand AD&D2 was notable for them too. I can't say those tables did more than clutter my play-experiences, speaking for myself. "You find a gem! It's an agate!" "Uh-huh. How much?"

Whereas as Clinton mentioned, and as I'll be talking about in an upcoming Actual Play thread, the lifelife and other random character generation tables in Legendary Lives are shockingly satisfying, both in terms of confirming what you originally wanted, and also in terms of throwing in angles that retroactively make perfect sense.

Christopher, I wanted to address your point about your character's sleekness. I think that's a feature of The Pool at its finest, and also of The Path of Journeys, Trollbabe, Universalis, InSpectres, and Primetime Adventures, among others. The thing about it in play is that remarkably, despite being in rocket-charged motion, the character is not actually locked into a course of action - therefore a meaty (not necessarily complicated) situation and some interaction with equally-with-it characters results in astonishing play. I don't mean hysterical play, nor automatically blood-opera player-character conflict play - just astonishing. Because every decision is made in the moment and yet, upon being established, feels inevitable in the best dramatic sense of the word.

Best, Ron
 


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 08, 2009, 09:47:17 AM
Hi Ron,

Good point about sleek not being the same as directed.  She'll be in motion, but we don't know how it will turn out or ultimately where she is going.


About the tables:

I get the feeling that Classic Traveller isn't well known around these parts, but I suspect that the success of solo Character Creation and solo World Generation came exactly from the random rolls and evocative results. 

In character creation, each PC is generated in four-year-terms of military service.  PCs pick up new skills during each term.  Although the game rules don't break this out, there is a page where Miller describes the a fictionalized account of the creation of PC, justifying with events how the PC picked up the new skills.  Thus, we got to imagine key incidents in the creation of the character as we built them.  (The new Mongoose Traveller rules takes this concept and runs very well with it, even tying the PCs pasts together during character creation as they live out their years in character creation...)

The World Generation system required random rolls that gave you things like planet size, atmosphere type, government type, tech level and so on.... Often you would end up with results that didn't always seem to make sense together -- at first blush.  But then you'd puzzle it out and end up with a really cook, unique world that took all the color elements that combined to make something quite solid.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: David Berg on January 08, 2009, 03:56:45 PM
Just wanted to chime in about my own Rifts experience from a dozen years ago.  (Our game might have been Sim, or might have just been enjoyable incoherence.)

The GM read the book and latched onto "fight the Coalition" as what we'd be doing in play.  We then all worked on character concepts that would interface well with "fight a fascist govt".  I played a rogue Coalition soldier, another player chose a tech geek saboteur, and someone else picked some weirdo alien race that the Coalition hates (I think this enmity was in the book, but I'm not positive).

As for the rules in the book, I mainly remember using them to spell out what my character could do, and finding satisfaction in successfully avoiding redundancy with the other characters.  This appealed to me primarily from the POV of "my color is unique and I'll get some spotlight tasks" rather than "we've optimized group effectiveness".  At the same time, I think most of our char-gen decisions post-concept-picking were directed toward optimizing character effectiveness.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ghashsnaga on January 08, 2009, 04:07:27 PM
To follow up on what Ron and Alexandre were saying about color and rules. When I saw her picture with the blue hair, the stance, and her gaze I thought Talislanta. In particular half Muse, half knife fighter so you have this mixture of two cultures. But given the rules as written I had to choose one: a knife fighter or a muse.

The rules for character creation let me get at some of the  aspects I saw important in creating her character but I would never run her in a Talislanta game. Since Talislanta rules work against getting at any of the cultural stuff thus interfering with my fun with color (very similar to my experiences with Vampire, Planescape, and so on)

ara


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: tonyd on January 08, 2009, 04:40:56 PM
Like David, I tend to take a "how can this work in my game" approach. The illustration gives me a strong impression of who this person is. She's frowning, but she doesn't look enraged or angry. She's determined, and possibly not very nice. But she isn't mean. She can handle herself; why else would she be running around dressed like that with a big sword hanging on her back?

Then I start to think "what would it be like to play this person in a particular world?" To me she's obviously at home in a swords & sorcery fantasy world. TSOY and Talislanta immediately jump to mind. So I rule those out. Playing a character in their obvious milieu doesn't strike my fancy. Likewise some pairings would just seem weird. I thought of Traveller (because its character creation system is so interesting), but I rejected it. She just didn't fit the Traveller world as I imagine it.

Principia was just the right balance. She's a bit off for Principia, but not too far off. I want to see what this person does in a world that throws her character into contrast. Perhaps this is a case of contrasting color where, I hope, both the character and the game color will show up better.

And also, I saw an opportunity to shill my own game.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Darcy Burgess on January 08, 2009, 06:30:16 PM
Hey Christopher,

I'm with you 100% regarding Traveller tables.  It's an especially powerful experience when you're doing it as a group; here, I'm thinking of the giddy fun of wasting an afternoon with your buddies generating subsector after subsector.  Contrast that with the more labourious fun of prepping a subsector as a solo GM.

That contrast is probably one of the strongest validations for the importance of the first 'S' in SIS that I know of.

D


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on January 08, 2009, 07:30:28 PM
What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system’s options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was “obviously” suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.

Please, I’m not asking for your motivations, but rather your process. What did you see and which specific choices about existing options arose from what you saw? Also, please limit your answer to one or two of the most important things, not a blow-by-blow of every detail.

Well--I saw the piece and went: Cool! James West art! One I don't remember seeing before, too. She's hot!

Then once I settled down, it was, yes, the gaze, that struck me. Straight-ahead, seemingly magical (along with the hair), intense and penetrating. Beautiful, but a bit uncomfortable? Kind of unique among James' work, too. His women have sullen eyes, or playful eyes, but that mystical sort of icewater stare doesn't pop up anywhere else that I know.

I didn't go "Oh, she's obviously blahblahblah; " in fact I cast about for a game to use. But once i had something to apply the Color to, the concept just poured out.

I don't think I consciously thought, "it's the eyes," actually. Consciously I was thinking of her other assets. Her sexuality figured in both the IaWA attempt that I aborted and the Sorcerer character I eventually created. In neither case was this suggested by the game's process explicitly, I just added it in the "player-generated content" sections of the character: Best Interests and Kicker, respectively. (Oh, and I'm also including her big, cool sword in "other assets", which very clearly informed my creation process. I knew she was going to be a warrior woman, whose deceptively soft curves hindered her not a bit in cleaving your fucking head if you crossed her. But it was mainly the curves that caught my attention; good Lord, those hips look almost as mesmerizing as her eyes!)

The picture in this case "informed my options" in a gradually-narrowing-down process. Like, I knew, first, that she had to be a "fantasy" character. Sure, there were some possibilities such as "space opera" or "larper" or "time traveler" that could stretch the bounds a bit (OK, I didn't think of the LARP angle at the time), but i didn't feel like getting funky like that. Of course, that means narrowing down what "fantasy" means, for this girl. To my mind she occupies a definite range of genres, mostly variations of Sword and Sorcery. She definitely doesn't live in Middle Earth, for example, or Earthsea. So I thought of the specific games I have access to that do "fantasy" in some way, with an eye for genre matches. I scratched my head, thought of D&D 3.5 and rejected it because I wouldn't be able to make a satisfying build for her. . .then thought of in a Wicked Age. I went fairly far in the process for that game, but actually scrapped the idea based partly on Color: Sure, both the drawing and IaWA are "Sword and Sworcery," but but her bikini-sword-chick thing doesn't mesh with Vincent's culturally evocative, fertile-crescent writing voice and illustrations. .. for me. Then I think "duh! Sorcerer and Sword!" and I'm off to the races.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2009, 08:53:20 PM
Cool!

I realized this can just go on and on ... which I suppose is OK, but let's move to the next question, 2 out of 10. I figure if more Color notions crop up they can be added as we go. So maybe ... all right, we're moving on to #2, but #1 isn't being shut down if you really really want to contribute about it.

So!

2. Understanding and applying the SIS “equation”: Color * (System * (Situation: character + setting))

See The Provisional Glossary (http://indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html) for a pretty good Big Model diagram and set of baseline definitions; see the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Model) for a really good diagram and a breakdown of terms (although some of the phrasing is off, for instance, I do not claim that I am talking about everything anyone ever called role-playing).

With hopes of clarifying: characters in a setting comprise, or are in, a situation. The situation and anything in it changes, usually with consequences, via the operation of the system currently in use, which may or may not be ‘the rules.’ All of this is multiplied by, if you will, or perhaps imbued with color: descriptions, additions, elaborations, as described and received. The whole thing is called either Exploration, or probably better, Shared Imagined Space.

Further clarification: Imagined is the participle form of “to imagine,” not “imaginary” – it is an act, not a condition. Also, Space implies the possibility of time and change; arguably System is the application of fictional time (and hence consequence) to the Situation.

Is color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it’s integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games. Arguably, without Color, then the dialogue regarding system outcomes would no longer be about Imagined material at all.

 Is any part of the sheet you established, including those with randomized methods, easily connected to one or more of the four components that are not Character? Remember that a given thing on the sheet may “touch” more than one Exploration-component at once.

This question is really easy when you apply it to a single character; my goal is to see how the results differ across them. Also, please feel free to ask any questions about the equation, including “what the fuck is that” if necessary. (Although please don’t ask that just to be funny.)


Solicited input: Nora (Antoine), Tyris the Amazon Queen (Lance), Juno (Jared)

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 08, 2009, 09:13:39 PM
HI Ron,

My head feels clogged reading your question.  Now, that might just be my fever, but let me see if I have this straight:

You're asking if any part of the sheet I established, including those with randomized methods, easily connects to Color, System, Situation and Setting?  (I'm assuming those are the four components that are not Character, yes?)

I'm confused because it seems to me not only are those four components easily connected to Baroosa's character sheet.  Those four components ARE the character sheet.  We have Crystal Cities.  Tribes fleeing into the desert.  Dead fathers.  An oath of vengeance.  Numbers attached to Traits that reflect all of this and more.  Is there anything on the PC's sheet that isn't this stuff?

But, like I said, I have a fever.  My lungs are filled with fluid.  I might be missing the boat here.

Christopher


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2009, 09:23:48 PM
Hi Christopher,

That's why I didn't pick Baroosa for one of the showcase characters for this question. I picked them because either the components are somewhat differently related to the sheet, or generated in a different way through the agency of other players/GM, or in the case of Juno, rather mysterious to me. I do think The Pool is relevant to this issue partly because it has a way of really nailing down most of the equation to make the remaining part "pop out" for the GM's prep, but I wanted to hold off on that until at least two of the named character-authors have posted.

Furthermore, yes, my question is easy and may seem trivial when you're looking at one character and you know the game pretty well. So this set of question-replies-chit-chat is supposed to look across characters, to see which parts of the equation are brought forward and which are ... geez, how to put it, left for someone else to rev up.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 08, 2009, 09:26:10 PM
Got it.

I'll be quiet now.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 08, 2009, 09:48:48 PM
This answer is based on the idea that I understand the question. I'm not entirely sure I do.

Yes.

More specifically, it's obvious (to me) that Goal and Role are intimately tied into the setting/situation. The setting is, generically, a world somewhat like ours where these Ladies exist. The situation is that these Ladies all want a thing, the Goal, and want to do a particular thing to/with it, the Role.

All of the aspects (except, perhaps, Goal; what it is doesn't effect how the mechanics work) interact purely with the mechanical portion of System. Role determines the mechanical action required to win. MtaW/LtaW and Motif mechanically effect your outcomes during the conflict sequences. Archetype gives you a specific mechanical power that can increase your chances of winning if used in the right moment.

All of them also affect narration (which I think falls under Color) because they require certain fictional elements be brought into play when they're used. Goal subtly and unsubtly flavors all narration. Seeking a child will differ from seeking the crown jewels in the fiction, though you will still be seeking. The Complex (the fictional playing area) will differ as well. A child may be kept in a house, where a crown may be in a museum. The types of challenges set up will differ too. You may face bodyguards who dive in the way of bullets to protect the child, and laser security systems and booby-trapped cases to protect the jewels.

Are these the right answer to the question you asked? Or did you just ask me what my favorite color is, and I said "No, I don't really care for cabbage."


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on January 08, 2009, 10:27:08 PM
Just one last bit for #1:

3. If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

I'd say that hell yes, Yaeta's ready to act and react--owing at least as much to the systems supports in this game, Sorcerer, as to the inspiration of Color. Because of these specific game elements--esp. the Kicker, but also Descriptors, Destiny and Demon Desire/Need--I have a very clear handle on "Yaeta in motion." I could well do this color-first process in another game (indeed, I have!) and come out with a dud that looks awesome and cool in my head but I have no idea how to play. For instance, the Bard example I gave in this post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27126.msg257834#msg257834) in Cascadiapunk Postmortem was a problem of both "preplayed Narrativist arc in my head" paralysis, and a helplessness in implementing Color--"uh, he's a Bard! He does, like, True Irish Celtic Bardic stuff! Like, y'know, something! Gimme like 5 minutes to think of something bardy to say!"

So I guess I'm not entirely convinced that just grabbing Color and putting ith through the "works" of a particular game will necessarily give you that "ready to roll" feeling. It might, or might not, owing to merits or faults in the particular systemic process. But then, maybe that's another way of saying what you have been all along: that Color and Reward have to work in tandem to produce functional, playable results? It also brings to mind this statement of yours:

Maybe that's a fancy way of saying that the rules work against Color if the rules aren't what you want to do. So it feels like a bait-and-switch. That was certainly my experience with Vampire 1st edition.

So maybe I'm just fretting that a dud system, or a dud System/Color combination, will kill even my best efforts? Which is kind of a 'duh" thing; of course you want functional social dynamics, functional procedures, and so forth. But considering that it's such a point of struggle for me (and I'm not alone0, it doesn't seem like an empty worry.

peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: David Berg on January 08, 2009, 11:37:21 PM
Is color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it’s integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games. Arguably, without Color, then the dialogue regarding system outcomes would no longer be about Imagined material at all.
I've played some hurried con games where it was like, "You won the Conflict.  We previously established what your stakes were, so now that's what you get.  Okay, next scene."  I'm not sure what level of "imagined" to call that.  There was definitely painting going on at other moments, but we put the brush down an awful lot for my taste.

It's funny, Ron, your "sometimes your setting and character features exist in order to be colored" comment (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=22017.msg224680#msg224680) about my Werewolf game didn't strike me as relevant until I'd played some games that really didn't work that way at all.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: greyorm on January 09, 2009, 12:53:13 AM
For #1:
The neat thing about this is that the system's unexpected results or constraints take on a weird feel of inevitability or "rightness" which is very different from merely stacking up the pieces to meet pre-set specifications toward a desired play-result.

This is very interesting, as I noted in my write-up, changing systems made very different characters out of the two versions because of what was necessitated by the system, even though they were the same basic character, the result was very different executions and (I imagine) play. Yet the character(s?), different as they turned out from each other due to the systems used, each feel exactly correct. A sort of "well, of COURSE that's how this character should have been designed and have worked".

Quote
3. If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

Yes. Hell, I've managed to set-up character-event potentials all over the place; I not only know how she'll react, but what she's probably in the middle of and what she will undoubtedly be in the middle of for the next few sessions at least, and even if not, what sorts of things she will get herself into.

For #2:
Is color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it’s integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games.

Interestingly, before you even stated that, I was thinking: why the fuck are you multiplying Color by the rest of it? The rest of that stuff IS Color. It should be a box, an equals sign, not a multiplier. But looking at it more, I'm wondering if that's entirely true. From an odd perspective, I'm thinking Color is an attribute that resists easy classification as either this or that. It multiplies AND contains, like some weird elemental Elder God of theory components. It is all that other stuff, and yet it is also its own distinct thing.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Antoine F on January 09, 2009, 03:00:06 AM
Okay,

I believe that a lot of things from your equation are absent from the sheet.
Setting : not much. The only bit of setting that was involved in Nora's creation in the part with her alien ship and I realise that it's not even on the sheet.
Situation : not much. No other character, mac guffin, etc..
Color : that's perhaps the clearest thing the sheet can communicate. There's this "loincloth sexy" talent and the moons belt and the vulture head sword. All that, vehiculate the pulp feel I want for a game including this character.

But I am not sure about what you ask for "System", Ron. I can see how I would evoque the belt in some conflict and how it would generate narration. Given Nora's attributes, I totally imagine what kind of actions I would undertake to further her goals. If linking the sheet to system means something else, please can you help me understand it ?

Wait, I have an idea, let's take it in reverse. I'll take each part on the sheet and see if I can link it to parts of your equation.

Name : color perhaps. It's telling of real world sounding names not fantasy ones. It would totally break it for me to interact with a lot a "Gundalbrf Bright Leaf", etc...

Level and class : not sure. I don't think it matters much for anything but Character.

Talent : color as I said above. For me, it speaks also of system because it tells the kind of elements that will give more weight to Nora's actions when I'll introduce them in the SIS (namely Eloquence using actions and Show-Down actions in fights).

Limitation : oh, yes, I think there's some potential for Situation here. Nora should be easy to offense if you express doubt about her exploits for example. But it still pretty devoid of a precise incarnation in the setting and others characters.

Tha attributes (Daring, etc...) : the random part of the sheet. Given the game conflict rules, I know that I am at most 3 attribute rolls aways from any reasonable (within the previously established SIS) stake I could set. So the attributes speak of a potential of action. These are my means to win the stakes of conflicts and the kind of actions I will try to avoid. So System it must be.

Weapon : a little bit of color with the short description. Oh, yes, some System also because the weapon type interact with the Arenas (types of combat terrains) in the game. Light weapon are good for fighting in tight arenas (corridors, small rooms...). So I will try to move the narration toward those kind of terrains and the GM will probably try to move me away from them.

Specialist equipment : again System as it is a potential of narration and action. The exact nature of the action is not clear but for me it speaks of seduction, treacherous action... And color too. Exotic sexy pulpy color.

Armor : System. Low armor means quicker and deadlyer fights than usual. Knowing the rules, you would envision fast fights with a early Show-down action (stunts for bonus) and either a fast kill of the monster, a soon inconcious Nora or a prompt retreat.

I don't know if that answers your question and if my interpretation of system is good. But that's all for know. All in all, thinking about that was interesting, though.


Antoine



Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Kobayashi on January 09, 2009, 04:15:47 AM
Is color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it’s integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games.

This may be a poor analogy but I see Color as fuel : it's the resource that allows the players to put all other elements in motion (setting, situation, character). On a publishing level, Color is as important as Situation it's often the first elements we came in contact with.

Usually Situation is defined as the element giving motion, but without Color I think you can't have a Situation.

Considering the wiki article :

The situation of Romeo and Juliet, for instance, is "two noble households, both alike in dignity" and "two star-cross'd lovers."

I tend to see "the two noble households" as purely Color. Their rivalry, on the other hand is pure Situation. But maybe I'm not grasping the Color concept correctly.

Is any part of the sheet you established, including those with randomized methods, easily connected to one or more of the four components that are not Character? Remember that a given thing on the sheet may “touch” more than one Exploration-component at once.

Let me know if totally beside the point.

Setting
In Barbarians of Lemuria, your character must have an Origin tied to the gameworld. If I don't use the setting used in the rules I still have to make up an origin for the character, thus creating a setting. Setting and character are tied in the chargen process.

Situation
This one is not present on the character sheet. We know who the character is and a little bit of her story. But Barbarians of Lemuria tries to emulate a vision of the Sword & Sorcery genre where characters are often drifters with no real goal in mind. The game has a "The Situation comes to you" approach rather than player defined goals.

I can use elements of the character sheets to actively build a situation but it's not there, it will merely be interpretation on my part.

Character
The origin leads to a choice of traits and flaws that contribute to the character definition, so are the Attributes, Combat Abilities and careers. These stats don't only measure the character's effectiveness but help define him.

Color
The color was given by the picture. I "translated" it using the chargen rules which in turn gave me more color. The choice of careers implies that the player consider his character history. What careers and why ? Combat Abilities are not tied to careers so a a gamist approach to careers is pretty much irrelevant. And even if a player choose careers only based on effectiveness (let's say Assassin, Mercenary, Sorcerer, Noble) it still gives the character a backstory. And once again the Origin adds color to the character.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 09, 2009, 04:24:55 AM
Quote
Is any part of the sheet you established, including those with randomized methods, easily connected to one or more of the four components that are not Character? Remember that a given thing on the sheet may “touch” more than one Exploration-component at once.

Well, certainly most of the information on the UniSystem sheet is relevant to resolution mechanics, so if that counts as “easily connected to System”, then most of it is.

Apart from that, the “Love” and “Adversary” drawbacks are connected to Situation, and Color is almost omnipresent. There is of course the “Attractive” Quality, but also the unnaturally high physical Attributes, the Resistance to cold, Antisocial Impulses, Humorless and probably other stats which will directly influence Color elements in play. I submit that I’m finding it very hard to even keep apart what’s “Character” is and what’s “Color”.

Creating the Demon Package probably also adds to Setting, in that there is such kind of half-demon, and some sort of frosty dimension she came from.

- Frank


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 09, 2009, 09:43:31 AM
Hey,

Everyone’s doing fine! Lance, you nailed it, or the starting part of it.

Here’s one key point, though: in Sexy Deadly, literal Situation isn’t on the sheet. Yes, Goal will factor into creating the Situation, but you aren’t the person who undertakes that creative task, and the task itself awaits future effort. In fact, looking at the sheet, what I’m seeing is all direct Character-to-System connection.

Antoine, yours is full of System too, although I’m surprised that you tag Class and Level as not being System-features. How do they work in Red Box Hack? In fact, I suggest that Character is even less prevalent on the sheet than System! I mean, yes, we know what sword she has and all that (which is a bit about Character), but unlike Tyris, there’s not much there to say what she’d be like using it, or anything of that kind.

So to clarify for everyone, in this particular question or exercise, we are talking about about what’s on the sheet, not imagining what it’ll be like or affect in fully-SIS play. If you do that, then obviously all five components are involved to various extents at all times. So stay with the sheet itself.

Once we observe and compare some of the diversity of ways in which this is done, it’ll set up for a later question about whether anyone besides you is now required to look at your sheet and use what’s there to make up a Situation (because it’s absent) which will cause you to use System.

(Note the difference between Sexy Deadly and Red Box Hack, too, in which the former sheet tells us a lot what what she’s like and what she might do, and the latter provides nothing of the kind. So in the latter, discovery of the character is left to off-sheet, later input. Again, both are great!)

Again, one might say, “So what, that’s obvious,” and I’ll say, “Now it is, to us.” I still maintain, though, that different sorts of combinations of emphasis on character are functional and fun. In some games, System is actually practically absent from the sheet; in others, it’s most of the sheet. Same diversity for Setting. I think Situation is exceptionally absent (and maybe that’s not a bad thing, it depends) in games prior to 2001 or so. So that’s what this question is about and I think we should stay with it and really look at the three characters.

Frank, this is my take on the sheet, which is almost the same as yours.

Stuff like Anti-social and Humorless are Character as character, not anything else, although Adversary and Love are maybe 75% of the way to become Situation. Your issue with Color is related to the points above – yes, later, we’ll see her high attribute in action and it will be Colorful as such (or I hope so), but for now, it’s Character-to-System, like most of the sheet. I agree with you about the demon package being Character-to-Setting. (Packages in point-buy systems, incidentally, first appeared in Fantasy Hero, I think, 1985-86 or so. They operate very much as Setting features, similarly to the way Lifepaths establish Setting in Burning Wheel.)

Joel, you wrote,

Quote
So maybe I'm just fretting that a dud system, or a dud System/Color combination, will kill even my best efforts? Which is kind of a 'duh" thing; of course you want functional social dynamics, functional procedures, and so forth. But considering that it's such a point of struggle for me (and I'm not alone0, it doesn't seem like an empty worry.

When you say “duh,” that makes me laugh. I published System Does Matter (http://) in January, 1999. The nigh-universal response, especially among game designers and publishers of the time? I was crazy, wrong, “divisive” (whatever that means), lost in babble, obviously uninformed, and needed a good beating. I’m not kidding. That was the hugest internet wave of negative response I’ve ever seen; the brain damage thing was a feeble rattle-fart in comparison. The conventional wisdom, even a core value, was that system did not matter, it never had and never did, and the goal of any really good design was to have the system fade away and eventually never be used.

Many people participating at the Forge were literally trained in “what real role-playing is” from that perspective. I’m not surprised that it’s an ongoing issue.

Raven, you wrote,

Quote
From an odd perspective, I'm thinking Color is an attribute that resists easy classification as either this or that. It multiplies AND contains, like some weird elemental Elder God of theory components. It is all that other stuff, and yet it is also its own distinct thing.

I think I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been having that same feeling/reaction since these threads began, and I wonder whether we still have to work on that equation a little bit, maybe, maybe not. At the moment, I’m not thinking of Color as fuel (although I see why you say that, Alexandre), so much as material-in-use, along the lines of paint in painting, raw medium, as I said earlier.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Antoine F on January 09, 2009, 10:25:56 AM
At the moment, I’m not thinking of Color as fuel (although I see why you say that, Alexandre), so much as material-in-use, along the lines of paint in painting, raw medium, as I said earlier.

I love that, Ron. It reminds me of drawing.

When you draw you can have an idea of what you want on the paper or even a kind of mental image or feeling of an image. But it becomes real only when it is on the paper with the specificity of the medium. If you use ink and nib, you won't have the same global result as if you use a pencil or oil painting. The materiality of the tool, medium, etc... affects all the elements of your drawing even if the initial concept was the same. In a way, it "colors" (as "affects") all its aspects.

But this materiality can also make you draw further. The fact that this precise medium has this kind of result gives you more ideas, but not ideas that are born in your head, ideas that are born directly on the paper and would not exist without the materiality of the medium.

Perhaps, I am going too far, but I like what you said. It's a realy positive view of color.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 09, 2009, 10:59:20 AM
I've actually been trying to lay out how Color is used in Play Sorcerer.  (Though I kind of forgot about the whole formal thing worked up in the Big Model till last night!)

An analogy I use is, again, from painting.

When painting, an artist uses what is called a limited pallet.  The artist selects a few color -- anywhere from 2 to 11, usually -- and uses these, and only these colors for the painting.

However, these colors can be combined to produce NEW colors, hues and values.

The point is this: If you just grab 100 tubes of paint and use them to make your painting, you're painting is going to look very cluttered, no matter how clean the composition, because all these colors are coming from everywhere.

But, if you use a limited pallets you get order, because the colors will be drawn from the same stock of limited colors, but you'll also get variety because you can combine all the colors from you pallet in new ways.

So, in Sorcerer, I see Lore, Demons, Humanity, Price, Kicker, Stamina, Will, Cover (and the descriptors for each of those, including info on the back of the sheet) as the limited pallet.  It's specific to each PC, but tied to the shared elements of the game world.

And then we start play... and we start producing new Color from the limited pallet we've created. 

I see Color not a multiplier of System and Situation and Character and Setting as defined before play begins. 

I love Antoine's point that this Color doesn't exist until it applied or made.  It's like mixing a yellow and a blue together to get a green.  You didn't have the green before, but now you do.  It is at once new, but still a product of what had been laid out for the foundation of the painting.

Sorcerer is pretty robust in this regard, but off the top of my clouded head I see how In a Wicked Age... and The Pool, Polaris, all work cleanly this way.  (There are others!  Maybe all of them!)

So, Color (in the Big Model sense), is paint created and applied through the limited pallet of the character sheets and what the GM's... what?  Notes?  What he says to the Players?  Not sure here.

Anyway, I don't think Color is a multiplier.  I think it is a result of the application of the other elements in combination in play.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 09, 2009, 11:15:08 AM
Oh.  The GM. Notes.  And whatnot...

I think this is where things get really tricky.

So, in Sorcerer, at least how I play, the Players clearly don't know everything.  They certainly don't know the NPCs that weren't mentioned at character creation.  But they might also not know a secret the wife of a PC has.

But the key is, I try to "grow" -- or mix the color from -- all the fundamental elements already defined: Lore, Demons, Kickers and so on.  The unknowns should both be unexpected but feel like they're coming from all the fictional elements defined so far.

In some play or games, however, the procedures are unclear, undefined, or not really thought about or ignored.  So the GM has "his stuff" and the Players have "their stuff" and the colors might get muddy and brown when mixed, since the variety isn't being produced from the same limited pallet.

A different problem is the "Star Wars" problem.  We all know what it is. And it's huge.  And there's too much.  But we go in thinking we know what it is.  But we haven't nailed down the limited pallet to mix the Color from.  So sometimes everyone grabs fist-fulls of paint, but they might not work out that well together, and no notices until the Color is being mixed.  This can be avoided, of course, by doing so narrowing of the pallet pre-play.  But often picking Star Wars is seen as the narrowing of the pallet... when really it isn't.

And even then, because Sorcerer is so big, people could start grabbing new tubes of paint willy nilly as play progresses -- in a perfectly justified way -- if the character creation and prep doesn't help limit this stuff. Compare this to HeroQuest and Glorantha.  People flip out because of the size and scope of Glorantha, but fail to realize that HeroQuest helps limit that crazy scope considerably.  If the GM and the Players build characters together, with the GM defining setting and opportunities of situation, and then the GM stays focused on Traits on the PC sheets, the game won't spin out of control with a gazillion extra Glorantha facts.

I say all this with hesitation because I've got my head so far up Sorcerer it hurts right now.  Certainly what I'm describing is what I like, and how I prep and play Sorcerer, Sorcerer & Sword, Primetime Adventures, HereQuest, and The Pool.  Other games might handle producing color differently, and be very successful in producing it in different ways.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Graham W on January 09, 2009, 04:17:44 PM
As I understand it (and do correct me if I'm wrong, Ron, because it'll help me)...

Ambitions and Bargains, on my Poison'd character sheet, are Situation.

Some of the crimes are arguably Situation.

I'm unsure exactly what System might look like on a character sheet. Perhaps it's the scores for Devil, Soul, Brutality and Ambition and other things that have a mechanical effect (including the occupation, Surgeon).

Everything else, I think, is Colour.

Graham


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on January 09, 2009, 05:04:55 PM
When you say “duh,” that makes me laugh. I published System Does Matter (http://) in January, 1999. The nigh-universal response, especially among game designers and publishers of the time? I was crazy, wrong, “divisive” (whatever that means), lost in babble, obviously uninformed, and needed a good beating.

Heh. It's funny that, on reflection, this is definitely a value I learned and refined right here on the Forge, but it's internalized to the degree that I just think of it as "duh." I wasn't thinking, "well, the Forge answer is. . ."; I was just answering from the hip regarding the baseline for functional activity.

At least, I've internalized the idea. Putting it into practice is still hit and miss, which leads us to, among other things, Cascadiapunk and this series of threads. I'm very much enjoying the discussion.

The conventional wisdom, even a core value, was that system did not matter, it never had and never did, and the goal of any really good design was to have the system fade away and eventually never be used.

Many people participating at the Forge were literally trained in “what real role-playing is” from that perspective. I’m not surprised that it’s an ongoing issue.
Neither the group of my adolescence or my long-running group of adulthood subscribed to that wisdom exactly, but it did crop up in subtly different forms. The teen group was very much about "following the rules" as a general MO, but our understanding and application of them was usually pretty spotty, and of course we "knew" that you had to fudge on occasion, but it had to be invisible. If someone could recognize it and invoke a rule to prevent it, that rule was gospel.

Then we'd just argue about its interpretation for half an hour. ;)

I think that experience (and the fact of 'the rules" getting in the way of what i wanted for my characters and "the story") paved the way in adulthood for more of a "the rules are the enemy" kind of mindset, though they were still a necessary enemy. It never occurred to us to throw out the rules or feel smug that "we never rolled dice all session!" or anything like that. But we knew well the pain of a set of rules not doing what you want them to do, for a particular game or particular situation. We just kind of passively-aggressively (that's right: passive-aggressive toward an abstract set of precepts!) added, dropped or tweaked rules without actually saying "OK, this doesn't work, so we're changing it, right now." It was always, "oh, it doesn't work that way in my game" or "What? No, we don't play with those rules, didn't you know?" or just "The thing you're doing doesn't work this time [without actually saying "I've decided to momentarily suspend that rule]." A voice of dissent on this matter is always met with a look, like "c'mon, we've always done it this way" or "what, are you a slave to the rules or something?" But of course the rules were always available to exploit for advantage, leading to a "c'mon, you know we follow the rules around here" attitude that looks like a frickin' multiple personality.

. . .

Wow. I never realized before I typed it out just how strongly The Golden Rule was operating, despite nobody in that group cracking open a White Wolf book. Shit.

Apologies if this is too far afield from the topic. From the initial question to the above musing, I can see the trail but I fear I've wandered into different territory.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 09, 2009, 05:33:27 PM
Hi everyone,

Joel, I see what you're saying and how you got there, but yeah, I think you've taken as far as it can go in this thread.

Christopher, everything you're saying is so ready for my Questions #3-5 it's just silly. Hold onto those thoughts!

Graham, you got it. Maybe it will help to think of most of the things you write on a character sheet as "Character and ..." In other words, the scores are definitely System, although they are indeed your character's System. I am inclined to think of an ambition as Character (& System, with its score), rather than Situation, because situation really is a definite place and location and "who's there," on a scale that's even smaller than the ship. The Ambition tells me what your character will bring to a situation, possibly, but not what the immediate situation is. Bargains do sound more like Situation, though, but only because they are made with a pirate who is guaranteed to be arm's-length away from yours when play begins.

I picked Filthy Jackie because it's a Situation-first game: the ship is indeed out there in the ocean, the captain did indeed get poisoned, the perpetrator is indeed alive and defiant, and a dozen different things are a hair's-breadth from complicating it even worse. Interestingly, that's actually a lot like a dungeon prepped ahead of time, then showing up to make up the characters and begin to play right afterward. Whereas in Sorcerer, Situation doesn't gel for the session prep until after each mini-Situation of each Kicker has been considered, i.e., after the characters are finished.

As a final thought, I'm not claiming every last thing on the sheet is always "Character and [fill in the blank]." Sometimes a sheet feature is Character "... and nothing," and sometimes (rarely) it's not Character at all. I confess that much of Juno's character sheet intrigues me because I'm not sure about what it means in these terms, and would like to know.

Anyway, that's almost all the characters I mentioned, right? Others' input is certainly welcome, and it's possible that practicing this step is a little more necessary than I'd thought. I'll probably bring in a character for examples soon too.

Best, Ron

edited because I apparently cannot count - RE


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 09, 2009, 05:37:17 PM
Thoughts held.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on January 09, 2009, 10:56:21 PM
Is any part of the sheet you established, including those with randomized methods, easily connected to one or more of the four components that are not Character? Remember that a given thing on the sheet may “touch” more than one Exploration-component at once.

Hmm. On Yaeta's sheet I see:

Name: Character plus Color. Name is a non-trivial element of the character; it elevates her from merely "the faery-barbarian chick with the sword." And it's your first chance to show off your PC's unique flair.

Appearance: Character plus Color. Not just in the sens of "color about the character" but in this case a chance to give a sample of the game's color in general: i wrote a nice little run-on sentence kind of blurb that waxes all florid in a Sword and Sorcery way about Yaeta's looks. I feel it give a nice general impression of what style Gorias would be narrated in.

Telltale: Character plus Color, and Setting, maybe? At least it seems to me that Telltales contribute to the sense of "what stuff there is in the setting," i.e. what sort of things ARE signs of Sorcery.

Humanity: Character plus System and Setting. It's a score with mechanical effects, yes. But it's also something that, by it's definition, tells us something about what "humanity" means in this setting. Or maybe that should be "Situation"? After all, the Humanity definition specifically points toward what kinds of situations are the point of play.

Scores: Character plus System. the scores are the means of getting things done in the game, and interact in interesting ways.

Descriptors: Character plus Color and Setting, with a bit of System. Descriptors are evocative of the character and her surroundings. She's not just "4 Stamina," she's "Savage-raised"! How cool is that? And what Score descriptors exist tell us a lot about the wider world the character exists in, in non-trivial ways. For instance, Yaeta's descriptors tell us there are Savages, Outlaws against an encroaching empire, and Faerie folk that transform those who have Brushes with them. As for System, the Descriptors inform the range of circumstances where the scores can be used.

Price: Character plus System and Situation. The price has an effect on rolling scores, but also tells us what sorts of situations will be complicated by it. "Unlucky in Love" is especially informative of the sorts of Situations that do or can exist for the character.

Destiny: Character plus Situation and Setting. It speaks to the general array of situations that Yaeta will progress through and toward, and also points to key elements of the world around her, on which her Destiny hinges and vice versa.

Kicker: Situation, situation, situation. And a bit of Setting. Pretty obvious, since a Kicker IS a player-crafted Situation. And it paints some nuances and flavor of Setting as well.

Bound Demons: Character plus Setting, Situation and Color. The fact that the PC summoned and bound this demon plants it squarely in the Character category, plus the Demon is a Character too. And the demon's nature and existence contribute to Setting. And it's Need actively informs Situation. And the evocative aspects of the Demon-name, type, telltale--are great Color.

Back of the Sheet:
Character plus Setting, Situation and Color. Everything but System, really. Placing all the "people, demons, places, and possessions" on the sheet flesh out and form connective tissue between: the people in the PC's life, the elements of the world at large, the specific circumstances and relationships surrounding the character, and all the evocative details the bring them to life. Like, after I wrote "Faerie Wood" in the Lore section, I wrote "Harvest moon," and now the circumstances of Yatea's brush with the Fey have that much more life. And I've established that, for instance, the portents of the sky are important to Sorcery, which informs further Ritual in the game, and so on. And, to look at a different vector, I wrote the name of a Faerie Prince and former lover in the Price section, just across the border from the Faerie Wood. Just having that border made me think of doing something like that: Oh, look, her Lore is spilling over into her troubled love life. Of course! Only I might've never done so without the sheet pushing me toward that.

The Demon's sheet: Character plus. . .everything. No wonder, it's just as much a "character sheet" as Yaeta's is. As I noted above, the most interesting markers are the Situation-pregnant Need and, now, Desire.

*                              *                              *

One thing I note after working through that; I'm rather fuzzy on the "border" between the different elements in the equation. Like Color: Since it suffuses everything, how can I tell if a setting detail is capital-S Setting, or just Color about the Setting? Like, in Gorias I have very Roman-ish conquerors/colonizers. Is the fact that they're "Roman-style," just Color? To me it says a lot that they're Roman-like: that they're neat and organized, bringing roads and hygiene and such, that they're founded on law and order and a clear authority structure, and that they're supremely presumptuous of their "right" to move in and take over--doing the filthy pagani a favor, in fact. So is that Setting? Or is just the bare fact of "There's a civilized conqueror moving in on the scattered tribal folk" the Setting component, and the Roman "Skin" is just Color? Or is that even a useful distinction to make?

And the bits in the innermost parentheses are even more perplexing. If Situation is Character + Setting,then how can anything every be "just Setting?" Like the Appolonians again, their invading Gorias constitutes a Situation. Or, if you will, a whole passel of Situations, that is, all the local results of their moving in. A Setting IS it's people, so saying you ADD Character to it to make Situation just seems redundant to me. Or is it that Setting is the past actions of people, and the current actions of select people (the "Characters") create Situation? That would make some sense to me.

peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Vulpinoid on January 10, 2009, 04:18:15 AM
This notion of the equation has really got me thinking, and I've been seriously considering where my own game design stands with regard to this issue.

Especially if I take into contest the current thread about setting.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27396.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27396.0)

Is colour a part of setting?

Is colour independent of the whole thing?

I can play RIFTS using a manga feel to it...there are certainly enough tentacled monsters, enchanted weapons, strange aliens and post apocalyptic hi-jinx.

I can play the same game with a dark gritty and gritty feel, or a even play it as a world of superheroics.

What is the "feel" I'm describing here, if not a manifestation of colour?

I'm using the same setting, the same rules, possibly even the same characters...but each game feel has a dramatically different style of play.

I actually explored this quite specifically at a recent convention when running the Eighth Sea.

Basically, the game ran with the same characters, but I gave the players a choice of "genre" at the beginning of each session. This "genre" choice was 'Steampunk', '1950's Sci-Fi' or 'Manga', the character sheets didn't change, the rules of the game didn't change, just a few of the descriptive elements when setting some of the scenes.

Yet in each of the games there was a definite vibe that felt different as the "genre" choices had been felt across the room.

So I'd have to say that this choice of "genre", "feel" or gaming style simply isn't manifest on the character sheet at all.

Instead it is a conscious choice that becomes manifest when players interact with the storyline, rather than when characters interact with the game world.

V


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Antoine F on January 10, 2009, 06:16:53 AM
Oups,

I got so carried away by the drawing analogy that I forgot to answer your question about class and level in the RedBox Hack and why I didn't see System in them, Ron.

Each class lists 5 talents and 1 limitation. The player of a first level character can chose 1 talent from the list and can take or not the limitation (without any compensation). That's it.
When you gain a level, you can chose a talent from your class or another one but you must never have more talents from another class than from yours.
Besides that, you gain one attribute point per level after the first and must retire when you gain enough experience to attain what would otherwise be the 6th level.

That why I think that level and class speak about Character but not about System. There's nothing here to use directly in the game. Important values and notions where derived from level and class but before play.

Also, now that I have a clearer vision of the thing, I can see that a lot of parts of the sheet are realy full of system, like you said.

Antoine


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 10, 2009, 09:19:10 AM
Thanks everyone. In the interest of clarifying what I'm asking, because more than one person has contacted me to say they're confused or I"m not being clear, here's a quick made-up example.

Imagine three character sheets. Each one has "Bob" written at the top, the character's name.

On one sheet, we learn that Bob is from Narnia, that he speaks Narnian and two other languages, that he reveres Aslan, and that he has pledged to the service of King Edmund, or his memory, as he'd vanished from the land while hunting some decades before.

On another, we learn that this Bob stands six feet tall, that he can bench-press 220 pounds, that he is skilled with longsword and axe, and that he has the special abilities to "charge" and "alertness."

On still another, we find that Bob III met his lover years ago, that they fell out over differences concerning a clan feud, that she moved far away, and that he owes her money. Plus, there's a "Goal" listed on the sheet that says "Escape captivity and reconcile with lover."

Here are my points about this. (1) Yes, all of them are about Character. No problem there. (2) I left out the System consequences of some or all the things I listed in each case. Most of them would, in most of the games we're familiar with, be followed up with numbers or ratings that factored into resolution of some kind during play. So yes, System consequences are common. No problem there either. (3) The first Bob has tons of Setting material; the second has nothing but Character; and the third is all Situation (which of course includes a bit of setting, the clan, by definition, but not very much).

I'm not talking about play! Of course any of the Bobs, in action, is fully ensconced in all five components. And whether something is "only" Color* or not is strictly a matter of how it's expressed in play; in one game, Bob II's height would be Color, and in another, it would integrated into some kind of System application. So we shouldn't get wrapped up in those concerns.

My interest lies in how Setting and Situation are involved in terms of mere presence on the sheet. This question is merely looking, without concluding much, at how such information is distributed across different game systems' sheets. The next couple will get more detailed and begin to extend into play.

I want to be very clear that I'm not claiming any one way to include or distribute such information on a sheet is the right way, and I'm very skeptical of the idea that "all of it!" would be a path toward good design. But again, that's getting ahead of myself.

Best, Ron

* I use the quotes because I consider the issue to be a work in progress.

P.S. Antoine, that point is important because it's involved in a later question about something called Layering, so let's remember to talk about it then.


Title: Juno, broken down into her molecular parts
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on January 10, 2009, 09:53:05 AM
Juno's key name is Character. It's also part of the Setting as there can be only one Juno on FreeMarket... this name translates to a serial number that's part of her "key" (a network interface in her noggin) that is like an ID/telephone number/social security number/email address/birth certificate.

My name for the purposes of this exercise is irrelevant. It does establish that in the game I'm a user and not a superuser (GM).

Concept is Character and Situation. She's a LARP Goddess, which means there are LARPs in this world.

Template is Blank. This defines her in terms of the System (point allocation!) and Setting (he's a bio-engineered human implanted with memories).

Geneline is descriptor that tells the users what her base genetic structure is from. Sometimes this is a family name (Sorensen), other times it can be a brand name or a model number. Juno's Bode geneline is a sly nod to the artist from the 70's. The three descriptors tagged to geneline are called tags. They're Character + System.

Experiences are learned skills. There are essentially 14 things you can do on the space station. Juno has an edge in three of them. Negotation and Social Engineering are used to engineer contracts and to manipulate people, respectively. This is System + Situation. Wetwork as well (it deals in nasty physical business, anything from fighting to killing to torture to kidnapping). What's interesting is that she was created to be part of a live action roleplaying game but she does not have Ghosting (spying/sneaking/surveillence), which would be good for a thiefy character, nor does she have Ephemera (creation of memes through religion, art, debate, etc.). So she's a straight-on fighter type in terms of the game within a game, but she's there to pummel and provoke, not to generate any great ideas or artistic excellence. Since it's not about her personal expression, she's literally an NPC working at the behest of her sponsor. She might have something to say about this once the game begins.

Interface and Technology are the same thing, more or less, save one is internal and the other is external (creation methods differ as well). Technology can be traded or gifted, which is a neat thing to do in this game as you rise in flow from gifting/trading rather than making/acquiring. Again, names for Color and tags for System. Each of these objects is affiliated with one of the 14 experiences and each object has two additional tags that serve to define the item. With her experience, her enhanced reaction and her boffer sword, Juno is going to be formidable at wetwork. In FreeMarket, we call this the "triad" and have three complementary characteristics is way powerful.

Flow (social status) is determined by Template + any relevant experiences (be they actual experiences or part of interface/tech). The experiences marked with donut symbols are beneficial to the day to day lives of the residents of the space station and they're rewarded with bonus flow. Flow is integrated with just about every part of the game's setting and situation and system, and it's also part of the setting's system. In fact, everything on the character sheet except for User ID can be talked about by the characters. It's perfectly in character to say, "Juno upgraded her experience after being flood/bleeded with a long-term memory and now she can raise her flow by a few points if she successfully brokers this negotiation challenge." It's weird.

Memories are setting (they allow users to define the setting), situation (they determine what is going to happen during the game session), and system (they can be manipulated, destroyed, earned, upgraded, traded and are used for character advancement).

The back of the character sheet outlines the character's MRCZ (social group) and is chock full of more information but that was outside the scope of this task.












Title: Re: Juno, broken down into her molecular parts
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 10, 2009, 10:03:24 AM
The back of the character sheet outlines the character's MRCZ (social group) and is chock full of more information but that was outside the scope of this task.

Was it?  Seriously, I'm asking. If it was, why?


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on January 10, 2009, 11:14:30 AM
MRCZ creation is a group activity. After making characters, the users "mesh" them into a social group to generate flow and elevate their status tier. Since it's just me, I didn't create a MRCZ.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: David Berg on January 10, 2009, 12:28:06 PM
A few thoughts on the Delve character sheet:

Sheet One:

Name: "Methild DuvGunnar" connects to Setting in a way not too dissimilar from Bob of Narnia.  The name references two gameworld cultures.

Life Goal, Path, and Destination: these are components for building Situation, though they aren't yet that in and of themselves.

Gray box at top right: all System reference to reduce search time.

Everything Else: has System impact, but the formal interface is hidden from the player.  The GM has a sheet describing Methild as Agility 4, Toughness 5, Climbing 2, and +3 to avoid Barrier Rot.  The player, on the other hand, knows Methild has good, explosive Agility; excellent, rock-solid Toughness; and is a skilled Climber and Very Grounded.  When Methild is injured in combat, the player will mark a slash or something on the left arm of the human form on the sheet, with a note if it's particularly bad.  The GM, on the other hand, will mark L-Arm: 3pts on his sheet.

The point of this division is to allow the players to keep their attention on the fiction, rather than abstractions representing it, while the GM does all the arithmetic.

As for the bottom rectangle listing Color stuff, you could say the descriptions are pure Character, but the checkboxes are System.  Basically, you get points for contributing color, but the color on your sheet is not mandated-use, jsut inspiration.

Sheet Two:

Background: pure Setting.

Possessions: uh... I'm honestly not sure.  Before long, a Delve character usually has a backpack full of weird poisons, map halves, extra clothes, notes of promise, and rocks.  Um, is that just Character, or is it some Setting and some brewing Situation?


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 10, 2009, 01:25:03 PM
Again, a lot of what's on there isn't immediately classifiable, especially details of fictional "presence." Remember, the equation really applies to play, and we're looking at the sheet as a kind of special bundle ready to use in play, and seeing what's in it. I bought a lot of iron rations for characters back when I played early D&D(s), and I might call it Setting by looking at it on the sheet, but I don't remember it being anything but Color in practice.

Anyway, the next and very closely related question is coming up soon. Please feel free to post characters in terms of #2, if you'd like, as we continue.

I don't suppose anyone's noticed how Ben's character L***, for The Land of a Thousand Kings sheet, would be seen through this lens?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 12, 2009, 09:06:25 AM
I don't suppose anyone's noticed how Ben's character L***, for The Land of a Thousand Kings sheet, would be seen through this lens?

I have my answer to that, but it is based a bit on a knowledge of how the game operates. To recap, here's the sheet.

Name: L****

Strong: 1
Brave: 0
Sharp: 0
Kind: 0
Beautiful: 1

Artifact: War King's Sword

My answer is that there is no character on this sheet at all, except maybe in the "name" section. The character is L****, who is at the table with us, a repository of her own personality, ideas, behavior, and background. The sheet itself has a few bits of system, each with an associated color tag. The color tags on the values might become character, later on, if L**** accepts the view of her that we offered, and the color tag on the artifact will probably become situation, once play starts.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 12, 2009, 09:24:04 AM
Cool! Thanks Ben!

Is it possible that any character on a sheet, prior to play, is "no more a character" than L***? In other words, that the play-activities that bring her into fictional activity and identity are pretty much the same as those which we use in playing, say, Nora?

Also, does her name become better known or established later too?

Also, if I'm misunderstanding something about the game in making that point, let me know.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 12, 2009, 09:46:07 AM
Jared, I keep looking at that character sheet and marveling. At first glance it's what the fuck and then, thinking about it, the possibilities are dazzling.

What are the other characters in play potentially like? Do they all have to be LARPers, or all similar constructs of some kind, or is it any sort of (if I'm saying this right) fictional character-experience in physical form?

OK, now for question #3! You may be asking, how long is this thread supposed to go on, and my current thinking is that we'll do #3 here and I'll start a new thread for the later questions.

***
3. So I’m thinking about many games, and one thing that happens frequently is that there ‘s a whole lot of setting and system that someone reads about in the book. Then I, a player, come along and digest some fraction of that mainly through what is touched upon, i.e., relevant to my choices, on the character sheet. The rest of it, or a lot of it, is expected to be utilized in play but pretty much under the auspices of someone who is not me.

In other words, you pick “Lorthian Church-Assassin” for your character and choose various build-options accordingly, but detailed and contextual knowledge of that content for play is to be provided and developed by the GM.

Granted, we have many funky games now that do things differently, and not all games ever did it that way anyway. Nor is that necessarily a bad way. The purpose of this question is to see what kind of diversity shows up in the systems we’ve used in this project.

Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it? To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

Solicited input: Scathine the Ice-Reaver of Jotun (Paul), Frost (Ara), Bella (Sean/sirogit)

Here’s a character I did that I hope illustrates the question.

Primetime Adventures: Animated adventure-fantasy show, called Broadswords. It’s a bit anachronistic and occasionally funny, but not comedic. As with the original Conan stories, the episodic feel belies subtle story-arc and character development. There’s a lot of gory fights and scary magic, there’s some sex, and the heroes are a bit neurotic and off-beat. There’s a mild Bakshi riff, but it’s not by him or wholly like him, just a riff, so chew on that, Christopher.

Scytha (“see-tha”), the frost giant’s daughter
Concept: trouble-making maverick heroine, gets things done in surprising ways, comes a-cropper when she relies on herself too much

Story Arc
Issue: Independence
Screen Presence sequence: 2 (pilot) + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 1

Traits: Edges = bad-ass sword, eery beauty; Connection: inept and mild-mannered minstrel she has a soft spot for

No personal set: she wanders.

Setting is a subtle concept in PTA. Not only is it the fictional circumstances of the characters in the story, it’s also shaped and highly constrained/inspired by the nature of the TV show resulting from the pitch session. Let’s see, Issue is character, definitely, and Screen Presence is a solid connection between Character and Situation and System (very interesting if you look at the equation). The Traits are Character and System with Setting possible included as the player sees fit; the personal set (if she had one) is Setting.

System: Ideally, everyone knows it and uses it equally. Although Producer and players have different tasks to cover, it’s not like the Producer has a whole ton of system to use for “his” stuff, and there’s little sense of a bank of System beyond an introductory later.

Situation: it’s totally absent from character creation, so it all must come from the Producer. And furthermore, it comes totally after the Pitch and character creation, taking characters, Screen Presence, and Issues into account.

Similarly, Setting is left quite wide open, aside from the above specifications. What is in it, where everything is, and what it’s like is not only absent from the sheet, it’s pretty much absent from pre-play unless some piece of it were central to the Pitch or central to a character’s feature. (For instance, to take a TV show, Mal in Firefly is basically a post-Civil-War Missouri character. So the war itself was conceivably part of the setting via the Pitch, and it would be expressed in character terms by an Edge called “veteran” or something like that, thus eventually touching on System.)

Finally, it so happens in PTA that all characters are affected by System and Setting equally, i.e., there are no special rules or subsets of the rules which apply only to characters of a certain type, or anything similar.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ben Lehman on January 12, 2009, 11:19:26 AM
Also, if I'm misunderstanding something about the game in making that point, let me know.

Yup!

Which you play the game "Adventures in the Land of a Thousand Kings" you, the player, enters a magical world and has adventures. L**** is a friend of mine, my housemate actually, who looks like James' picture, and I imagined what sort of sheet she'd have to play the game. Her name is starred out not for any mechanical purpose, but to protect her privacy. If we actually played, her full name would be on the top of her sheet.

What you say about other sheets is possibly true (there's no character there until the rubber hits the road.) However, it's extra-true in Thousand Kings, where the "character" is the player sitting right in front of us.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ejh on January 12, 2009, 11:33:47 AM
Which you play the game "Adventures in the Land of a Thousand Kings" you, the player, enters a magical world and has adventures.

Villans & Vigilantes lives!


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 12, 2009, 12:00:09 PM
Oh! I didn't get the asterisks. It's cool that my point was apparently strong enough to stand even with the corrected understanding.

Between Land of a Thousand Kings and The Donut (or whatever we call the game; I'm not sure of its official title), that's some whacked character concept diversity. They make the in-betweener concept of Extreme Vengeance and similar games look tame.

Best, Ron

P.S. Ed - totally!


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: sirogit on January 13, 2009, 12:46:01 AM
My answers might be taken with a grain of salt, considering I've never actually played the game.

Setting: As far as I can see, setting in T&T 5th ed is a combination of possibly likable, but ultimately non-consequential color (There are lots of conany types running around, woohoo) and a handful of quirky facts that have some baring on the system, some of which prevents mildly interesting areas of exploration and some of which just seems kind of compulsory and somewhat pointless (leprachauns are always magicians.). The expectation I would bring to a game is that I should be a little bit enthused about my own little color-hole (And I am, red sonja-y chicks are neat.) wheras other setting information is provided by other players (most likely the GM) as strictly needed ("I want to pick on the non-magical leprachauns.." "There are none" "Oh damn. Well I pick on a kobold.")

System: There's some onus on the player to know common mechanical procedure as it applies to their character. There's a dramatic instance of a specification of this in the distinction between magic using characters and non-magic using characters, as there's a strong suggestion for first characters to be non-magical for the purpose of being ignorant of the magical system while first learning the game.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: lumpley on January 16, 2009, 07:33:52 AM
I've added Joel's character Yaeta to the character sheet scan archive (http://www.lumpley.com/color-first.html).

More additions welcome!

-Vincent


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 16, 2009, 09:10:14 AM
Hey Sean,

T&T is a very interesting game with some emergent properties. Before I played it, I often found character creation frustrating, because they were often so puny and hard to match with a Color-first heroic vision.

What I learned through play, and through discussions here, and review of the whole text, is that the best way to go is for each player to have multiple characters and to play them at once. So three players means eight to ten characters in the delving party. Rolling them first and assigning the really inspirational Color second (i.e. names, faces at the very least) is how you get the characters you want.

Not to mention the high mortality rate, which results, in a little while, in a level-diverse party as you fold in new (and first-level) characters routinely to replace the old ones. That's apparently standard and desirable, which I think is one of the game's biggest departures from the way AD&D (late 70s version) went in my experience.

With all that in mind, evaluating this question is kind of a different experience for your character. I'll outline how it looks to me.

I agree with you that the overall setting (playfully tossed off as "Rhalph" in the text, and only as an example) is extremely sketchy, and I suggest that the real setting of a T&T game is the dungeon itself - that is, unless/until you choose to world-build later. The interesting point is that there is absolutely no link at all between the character, and character creation as a process, to any given dungeon. The dungeon is recommended to be a kind of personal revelation of the GM himself or herself, with an NPC-alter-ego or satirical version running the place from the lowest level, but regarding the players and characters ... any character will do. There is no setting-character connection until play itself begins.

Quote
System: There's some onus on the player to know common mechanical procedure as it applies to their character. There's a dramatic instance of a specification of this in the distinction between magic using characters and non-magic using characters, as there's a strong suggestion for first characters to be non-magical for the purpose of being ignorant of the magical system while first learning the game.

That's definitely true. It also ties into the gleeful-Gamist point of view which suffuses the whole text, which is to say, hey, if you're gonna play this game, know how it works or suffer the consequences. It's also important to know what Adds are and to take responsibility for including them in one's roll totals. And it's crucially important to understand the so-called Saving Throw rules, which I submit were among the most important innovations in role-playing in the mid-1970s. They absolutely require a degree of Director Stance which isn't evident in the player-instructions during character creation, and I suggest that not knowing them well means a very high death-rate for one's characters.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on January 16, 2009, 09:34:44 AM
Jared, I keep looking at that character sheet and marveling. At first glance it's what the fuck and then, thinking about it, the possibilities are dazzling.

What are the other characters in play potentially like? Do they all have to be LARPers, or all similar constructs of some kind, or is it any sort of (if I'm saying this right) fictional character-experience in physical form?


They can be just about anything. They don't have to be similar constructs (literal or figurative). Characters start as one of four different templates that defines how they came to be on FreeMarket Station. 1st Generation characters are the children of the Originals. 2nd Genners are their kids. Blanks are grown from cellular material as mentioned before. The last template is Immigrant and places the character's origin offMarket... they came to live on the space station from somewhere else (Earth, another orbital or one of the colonies on Mars or Luna).

Also, the other characters don't need to be LARP actors or in any way associated with gaming. Just because Juno was created to be a "LARP Goddess" doesn't mean she had to remain one. She can hack her interface, trade away her boffer sword, burn out her experiences and implant new ones. She'll always be a Bode-geneline Blank, but everything else can be modified, upgraded, exchanged, etc. I played a cybernetic ninja grown from the cells of an ancient calligrapher. Everything on his character sheet screamed ghost/wetwork assassin but I immediately started him with memories about poetry and art.

The game gears really catch and turn when the other players finish their characters and the group as a whole constructs its MRCZ (an acronym meaning "micronational/regional/cultural zone" and pronounce "mercy"). That's when the concepts mesh together and a social group is formed. Juno could be part of a LARP group. Or she could be involved in something unrelated...a MRCZ comprised of athletes, or Nordic-looking people or Blanks that want to re-invent themselves or people with the same haircut or people who believe that FreeMarket Station is Heaven and everything offMarket is Hell. Anything, as long as its members are a) passionate and b) have something they think they can offer to other people.




Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on January 16, 2009, 11:52:43 AM
And it's crucially important to understand the so-called Saving Throw rules, which I submit were among the most important innovations in role-playing in the mid-1970s. They absolutely require a degree of Director Stance which isn't evident in the player-instructions during character creation, and I suggest that not knowing them well means a very high death-rate for one's characters.

Well, this has me intrigued. Did you mean "Saving Throw" rules in general or specifically Tunnels & Trolls' version? What about T&T's Saves is special or unique?


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 16, 2009, 01:17:41 PM
Hi Joel,

It wasn't intended to be mysterious. Saving Throws in T&T are nothing like their use in D&D of any kind. They introduced a new thing to role-playing entirely, retaining the familiar name. This is the thread discussing it specifically: [Tunnels & Trolls] Killed me a player-character (spit) (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=6272.0)

See also [Tunnels & Trolls] Second level characters (http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=6355.0) and [Tunnels & Trolls] Half-elves are poncy nancy-boys (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=7104.0) for further discussions of the game. You'll find that I misunderstood the experience point system for the Saving Throws but was schooled by others.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ghashsnaga on January 17, 2009, 11:07:53 AM
"Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it?"

The System stuff is a pretty small portion of the Talislanta game so by the time character creation was done you pretty much knew the system.

The Setting is a different story. Usually we just knew what our character's setting was and maybe a little about the surrounding area. All the other setting stuff was provided by the GM.

"To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?"

I think I understand this questions so let me give it a shot here.

Setting: I think the sheer volume of setting and the social contract assumption that the GM knows the whole things leads the players to only read up on what is interesting to them and what inspires their character. Just to recap: The players use only a small part of the setting (character's culture, Seven Kingdoms section) and the GM has all the rest.

System: The system in Talislanta is fairly simple and occupies a small portion of the book. Ideally everyone has a good idea of how it works and how to exploit it to fulfill (or not) the idea of their characters. The players and the GM use the same system (no separate rules for the GM).

Situation: This is not included in the character creation process and comes from the GM. The player pick out cultures and write back story but I don't think that qualifies as dynamic interaction with setting elements.

Features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character:
So I have a question here. what do you mean by features? Thanks!

ara


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: tonyd on January 17, 2009, 12:18:24 PM
Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it? To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

Principia is new. Bits of it are still a mystery even to me. Sometimes there's an elephant in the room when we play Principia. It's named "the Renaissance". That's the games ostensible setting, but it's a terribly murky thing. And the more you dig, the more you find out that it's even murkier than you thought. The intent is that it act as a fruitful void from which all the players (GM included) can pull useful inspiration, guided by the system.

A Principia character belongs to a position (which is analogous to class in traditional gaming). Position is part of setting, but it interacts with system.

When I make a character, I get to choose one of three facts about the setting. My three choices are defined by my position. The fact I choose narrows down the options regarding my character's place in this world. It also narrows down a whole class of people. In Lilja's case, it tells me that merchants are world travelers with access to exotic knowledge and objects. Choosing a fact is part of deciding what The Renaissance means in the context of the game: our Renaissance, as opposed to any other Renaissance. This choice is setting as highlighted by the options I chose.

Lilja also has this list of special things she can do by virtue of being a merchant. This is system. It interacts with setting because it defines a position. It says "this is what this kind of person does in this world." For example, alchemists can blow stuff up. Astrologers can make predictions. This is setting highlighted by the system.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 18, 2009, 09:12:48 PM
Quote
Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it? To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

I'll take a crack at answering this for Tyris.

Some things will be determined about your character by other players. Specifically, this will be done via the Flashback scene mechanic. In a flashback, the active player narrates some history between their character and another player character. This may result, depending on how you play your cards (literally) in your character gaining a weakness associated with another player character.

I don't know that I understand the rest of your questions. Every round of play highlights one or more player characters. Every scene is intended to reveal something about the character. Sometimes, you'll reveal your Lady's ability to overcome the challenges laid before her. Sometimes you'll have flashbacks with other Ladies. Sometimes, you'll contest with those other Ladies. I don't think anything about the system itself is highlighted by any particular options chosen for the character.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 20, 2009, 10:27:10 AM
Hi guys,

This is excellent! What interests me is how similar they are in some ways. Principia and Talislanta clearly have two different ways to create Setting as a specific "thing" in play, but the idea that each character brings some powerful angle of the setting "to the foreground" is the same. 

Well, at least on paper. That leads to the differences. In Principia, by creating and naming those features of Setting (note, as part of character creation), it’s part of the basic contract of the SIS that those become the Setting as we’ll see it in play. Whereas in Talistanta, being Arimite gives you the starting bonuses and penalties as well as a bank of skills … but whether anything about Arim (the place) has anything to do with play, will be seen in play directly or indirectly, or registers in any way except for those bonuses and skills of yours, remains to be seen.

That’s what I’m after: to look at what the sheet means in terms of how much Setting and System are now known to be active in the upcoming play.

In Universalis, everyone has exactly the same access to System and Setting features throughout play. If the setting includes a “fantasy forest with black-green leaves,” then I can spend a Coin to put elves in it, or not, and so can anyone else. I also have full control at the start of my turn (assuming no Challenge) to have the forest be the site for the next scene, and again, so does anyone else.

In Primetime Adventures, given that our show is adventure fantasy, and let’s say the forest is part of the established setting, then … it’s not up to me to say if it shows up in play. That’s someone’s else’s job, and also his or her job to say whether there are elves in it. We don’t know if it will or won’t, and we don’t know if there are or aren’t. Even if it’s a Personal Set, if I’m recalling the rules correctly, then it’s still the Producer’s call whether we ever, ever play a scene there.

Does that make sense? These two games differ profoundly in terms of how System and Setting use are distributed among the people playing, and although each one may feature a character sheet that says “From the Shadow Wood” on it … what that means in terms of that setting’s being in play differs greatly.

I think some people had some trouble with this bit.

… To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

I’ll try to put it like this … well, if Rod Anderson were to play his character Paulina (the D&D Greyhawk fighter), then he wouldn’t have to concern himself with the magic system at all. Simply not his deal, not his problem, tell me when I roll Save Vs. Petrification, and that’s all. There’s a whole bevy of rules that someone else knows and uses and that someone is not Rod. On the other hand, the rules for Armor Class do indeed apply to everyone, in their glory.

So Lance, I was looking over Sexy Deadly and found that different Archetypes have different special powers which really are that particular player’s and no one else’s in System terms. So if you were playing Tyris, you have the automatic Ace of Diamonds at your disposal, uniquely. Now, that’s fairly minor in terms of whole rule-sets (i.e. access to spells as a magic user, for instance), but it still means all characters are not equal relative to system for this game.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ghashsnaga on January 20, 2009, 06:02:45 PM
Okay, I understand a little better.


In Talislanta the character I created has access to these parts of the game:
Culture background chosen, just the blurb
Skills (based on culture, err Setting)
Action table for skills
Combat section
Contacts and Character History (possible incorporating more of the Setting)

I ignore the whole section on magic since it doesn't apply to the character. And there is a GM section which doesn't have rules but provides some loose methods for only the GM to use.

So confirming what Ron already said. Based on my sheet I know that my skills and possible contacts from the Setting are active at the start of the game and that is it.

I'll get a sheet posted tonight.


ara







Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on January 20, 2009, 08:14:26 PM
Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it?

Allrighty: looking over Yaeta's sheet I see Humanity, which is a ascore that will be especially arbitrated by the GM in terms of when gain or loss rolls are called for. In other words, the GM is the barometer of what it means to be "human" in the game. The GM will also be providing input for the Score Descriptors, such as, "what does it mean to be "savage-raised" in Gorias? WEhat cultures fallk under that umbrella, and what reactions will I provoke from "non-savage" cultures? The GM will also provide pretty heavy input on Destiny inasmuch as the specific Destiny is bound up in NPCs and other setting elements. The Kicker will be entirely under the GM's purview the moment play begins; whatever I stated in it is the clay she uses to mold the fully fleshed situation and characters, and I have to butt out at that point and recieve her input.

Similarly, the Demon, Taibhse, is entirely the GM's toy now. She plays it as a character, and dictates all usage of its Abilities; she may even tweak its Abilities and Scores a bit without my knowledge. Designing the starting Demon is the last direct act of creation I will perform in the realm of Demonics in the game.

Looking at the back of ther sheet, it's pretty much all GM clay. Not that I can't initiate stuff regarding these elements, but it's mostly fodder for the GM's creativity. Just like the Kicker, she'll be fleshing out NPCs and feeding the material into Bangs.

To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

Well: Right away I note that Humanity is a shared concern amongst all players--we're all working off the same definition, and eac player character will be subject to judgment by the same GM meter. Being on the same page regarding what Humanity is for this game (and what that means), is crucial.

The scores have an assymetric overlap--I mean, besides the numerical values and what you do with them (dicerolling), which are equally relevant to all. But the Descriptors only concern other players where they have the same one; if there were another Brush with the Unknown character, his player would be just as concerned with me as to when and how to bring that Descriptor into play, and what it means fictionally for the character.

Destinies and Kickers are entirely individual.

Demons are individual as well, except that they all draw from the same list of Abilities, so if two players have, say. Boosting Demons, they they're gonna share concern over using Boost.

The back sheet is entirely individual as well, though stuff pertaining to Lore could conceivably be cross-relevant as to how Ritual works and what Demons are like.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Paul Czege on January 23, 2009, 09:58:45 AM
Hey Ron,

Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it? To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

Solicited input: Scathine the Ice-Reaver of Jotun (Paul), Frost (Ara), Bella (Sean/sirogit)

I confess that I'm not even sure where to start on this. SenZar's setting is strewn throughout the game text, in much the same way that Greyhawk is strewn throughout the AD&D 1e Dungeon Master's Guide. Artifacts and spells and whatnot are named after significant figures. But there's no section of writeups or stats or anything for these figures. There's no map, but locations and city names appear in the write up of the setting's timeline, and here and there in the descriptions of the various races. The whole thing has a "flesh out what grabs you" feeling, which I rather quite like.

So, in theory, anything and everything is potentially in play if the GM is inspired to do something with it. The only true given is that what the player characters aspire to do in SenZar is become gods and have Primal Powers and then play in the Dragon's Game of trying to acquire even more power. But since the advancement to godhood is via the acquisition of experience points, a GM could satisfy this core assumption with the Situation of traditional dungeon crawling. But in practice, I think, the choices I made in creating Scathine direct the GM's attention to the Dragon, and its politics, and the activities of the immortals. And thematically, via my Connections, to issues of friendship and relations characters with dark pasts.

Of course, if the GM doesn't develop Situation on these interests that I think I've pretty clearly articulated, which I think the game has invested me with the power to articulate, and instead creates traditional dungeon crawls, my only real recourse is to be irritated at him.

Is that what you were looking for?

Paul


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 24, 2009, 06:56:27 AM
Hi everybody,

My apologies for not following up faster with all the great stuff you've provided.

Paul, that's definitely what I wanted to know about Scathine and SenZar, and what I see is that mass of Setting serves well for inspiration (pending anyone reading it and pending it being any good), but whether it serves play is another question. The key points are, does or does not the character sheet constitute a recipe for play, and if so, in what way, and if not, why not?

I've never been satisfied with the term or concept of "flags," as arose through various discussions elsewhere. I'll follow up on that point soon, because the responses to the last question laid the framework (and helped me to articulate) my criticism.

Anyway, that will work best if we move on.

4. I’m still harping on this equation thing, and now I’m curious about what isn’t System or Setting on the sheet.

In some games, specific Setting stuff like places, groups, ideologies, and similar. For instance, if you’re playing HeroQuest set in Glorantha, you must begin at least with the character’s culture of origin – even if you use the “blank at the start” character creation option. Talislanta is the same way and each option goes so far as to mandate the profession as well.

Is Setting an instrumental, driving context for what sort of character you can make up and what she can do? Also, does it seem to you as if Setting is a frame or vehicle for Character, or vice versa? (Or neither, in some cases)

Finally, regarding System instead of Setting, what is the most important feature on the sheet, if any, that does not punch into System?


Solicited input: Griselde (Ed), Freydis from Valgard (Alexandre), Karla Sword-Swallower (Peter)

Here’s an example character with my answers for her.

Space Rat
Frostina, the pulp comix girl
Body Typical, Mind Poor, Spunk Typical, Combat Good
Attributes: Barbaric presence, Moody sarcasm, Lethal habits
Gear: inseparable from her BAD-ASS SWORD CLEAVER, Protected from vacuum and other environmental threats by her FORCE-FIELD BELT THINGS
Luck = 6, Attention Stars = 0

Space Rat is centered on the small group of femme babes who compete for Jack’s attention, and Setting exists basically as a means of providing colorful opportunities for and putting colorful pressure on that rivalry. It’s a pretty improvisational means per adventure, too; there’s no space-system map or sense of structure in the setting that provides any creative jump-starts. Being “from the Ferxx system” or “the cyborg factories” doesn’t mean anything; even to say such things instead of “the barbarian girl” or “the cyborg girl” is to elaborate for fun, and nothing else.

Therefore Attributes and Gear don’t come from named/known Setting; by making them up, you put them into the Setting rather than (say) choosing from a list somewhere.

Interestingly, the Character + System attribute score Typical does invoke Setting slightly, given its comparative phrasing, as opposed to “Fair” or something like that. But maybe that’s better interpreted as a feature of the among-player-character rivalry.

As far as what doesn’t punch into System … h’m, I think it’s the (fill-in-the-genre)-girl part. Everything else hits System significantly.

Best, Ron

P.S. I think I'll start a third thread after we work through this last part. But there's stuff to talk about with #4 that ties so strongly into #3 that I want to keep this thread together for now.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: KCassidy on January 24, 2009, 08:11:28 AM
In Storming the Wizard's Tower, player's choose the character type (which functions much as classes do in D&D) from a list designed by the game master to fit into the setting, specifically the community that all of the characters champion. For example, Unora's sword maiden character type is created specifically for the Horse lords setting, with a specific social role in that setting. It's not generic, the way say the "fighter" character class in D&D is. The character's type determines how many spells, gear, maps and weapons you start with, and their initial power. The community construction rules determine which arms, gear, maps and spells are available to the player. The player has people in the community they protect as resources.

In fact, the only elements on the character sheet unaffected by setting are the  stats and hit points.

The most important thing on the sheet without system effect is the name of the character type. I.E. although my character's character type has a lot of mechanical effect, instead of being named "Sword maiden" it could be "mystic warrior" or something else.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 24, 2009, 11:47:21 AM
Hello,

Ara, your post sparked something for me. Storming the Wizard's Tower and D&D + Greyhawk are definitely cousins in terms of game content and genre. It'd be even better if STWT were a hack for the 1974 + Greyhawk D&D instead of the later "red box" thing, but close enough.

But. Look at how differently Setting relates to the actual character creation process and its consequences for play, between the two games. For Unora, the Horsehall Sword Maiden, setting doesn't dictate various points or character specifications, but (a) it does determine a lot and (b) everything about the character only makes sense for play in the context of the setting as everyone is expected to understand it. Whereas for Paulina, all that complex multi-hex encounter-laden setting is ... well, absent. There is not a single term from Greyhawk on there. We don't know where she's from, and nothing about where she's from informs any choices made. She could be "human fighter, speaks orcish" from anywhere, and play could be set anywhere without consequence of her origin.

I draw attention to this to say that what setting is, for play, begins at radically different cognitive and social points for these two games, utterly regardless of the fact that they are both "old school dungeon play," both manifestations of the same game, and that the character in each case began with the same (striking) Color.

Kooky point: check out perhaps the wildest two characters discussed so far: Freemarket and L*** for Land of a Thousand Kings. Given what Jared and Ben have respectively written about the games in this thread, it seems to me, in terms of this variable, that the former is a lot like Storming the Wizard's Tower and the latter is a lot like D&D + Greyhawk. Disclosure: I'm only familiar with the latter game, so authors, correct or refine me as necessary.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: ejh on January 24, 2009, 12:44:29 PM
Wait, what?  I'm supposed to tell Ron how Trollbabe works with respect to some Big Model terms?  Who came up with this crazy idea?

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In some games, specific Setting stuff like places, groups, ideologies, and similar. For instance, if you’re playing HeroQuest set in Glorantha, you must begin at least with the character’s culture of origin – even if you use the “blank at the start” character creation option. Talislanta is the same way and each option goes so far as to mandate the profession as well.

Is Setting an instrumental, driving context for what sort of character you can make up and what she can do? Also, does it seem to you as if Setting is a frame or vehicle for Character, or vice versa? (Or neither, in some cases)

If you understand Setting here to be the big world of Trollbabe, with Trolls and Humans in conflict, then hell yes it is an instrumental, driving context; she only makes sense in that context.  If on the other hand Setting is supposed to mean some *specific* group of trolls or humans, some *specific* geographic feature -- such as might have been established in the rulebook or in previous play -- then no, it doesn't figure in much at all.  We don't know a damn thing about how Griselde relates to any specific part of the setting, at all.  We don't know who she knows, where she's been, what connections she has in the world (she doesn't have any, mechanically speaking).  Her only connection to any specific part of the world is "She is currently walking grimly towards the gates of Kragg Keep."


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Finally, regarding System instead of Setting, what is the most important feature on the sheet, if any, that does not punch into System?

Not that much punches into System on a freshly-minted Trollbabe sheet.  Just the numbers.  So there's a *lot* that doesn't punch into system.  I'd have to say for me the most important is the picture, but that's not something I came up with, so let's put that aside for the moment.  I'd probably say that in her specific case, it's the "mojo skull" listed as her trollish item.  What is a mojo skull?  What is trollish about it?  I don't know but I'd like to find out.



Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Kobayashi on January 25, 2009, 04:56:51 AM
One of the step in character generation is choosing the Hero's origin. This origin shapes the character : if you come from the Valgardian moutains you're a barbarian, in the city of Tyrus sorcerers are outlawed, etc... mechanically speaking the Traits/flaws you can choose must be tied to the character's origin. Each culture comes with a set number of flaws and traits. And some cultures prohibit certain careers. So the answer to the first question :

"Is Setting an instrumental, driving context for what sort of character you can make up and what she can do ?"

is definitely yes. Which means that "Setting is a frame or vehicle for Character" too.

But what's interesting with BoL is that you can have the opposite answer if you just drop the setting. You just say "pick 3 traits and three flaws that represent the culture you come from". In that case the character becomes a vehicle for setting and is driving context. Two opposite answers with the exact same system. So what's interesting is that the system doesn't favor one way or the other. The only limitations are imposed by pure color aka the setting.

"what is the most important feature on the sheet, if any, that does not punch into System ?"

Even the name is tied to the setting (Freydis from Valgard) which is tied to the system. Every piece of info on the sheet is System-tied as far as I can see.

Let me know if I didn't answer the questions correctly.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Peter Nordstrand on January 25, 2009, 05:42:54 PM
I made a couple of choices prior to making up Karla that has an impact on all of this. First of all, I decided that there is no ore-determined setting. The picture would be all the information I had, so the game would not be set in Glorantha or any other pre-determined setting. "Here's a picture. Make a character."

Interstingly, Karla is still strongly connected to a setting, only I made it up during character creation: We have the city of Gar, with its prude city folk, contrasted by the precence of street gangs and entertainers. There is some other stuff as well. So, the setting is not detailed, like Glorantha, but it is still very much present on the character sheet. Perhaps it isn't important whether that inbfirmation came from an external source or I put it there myself. I don't think I could have made a character without tying her to some sort of setting related info.

A feature on the sheet that doesn't punch into system? Apart from Karla's name, there is none. Perhaps the Driving Ambition could have been such a feature, but as it turns out both Mundu the Vivisectionist and Karla's murdered brother are hooked right up to system stuff. Well, okay, perhaps her desire to track Mundu down isn't system related.


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 27, 2009, 09:45:56 AM
Hello,

I didn't anticipate how beautifully these three games would mesh to showcase setting and character options. At one extreme is Trollbabe, in which Griselde is defined by setting only in terms of genre, with no specifics at all to anything on the sheet. At the other is Barbarians of Lemuria (option 1) in which Setting defines pretty much everything. That's also the case for normal-HeroQuest, i.e., set in Glorantha, which is a tacit participant in this post. And between the two is Barbarians of Lemuria (option 2), as well as Peter's fortuitously tweaked HeroQuest which is not Setting-first.

One of my goals in designing Trollbabe was for most of character creation to be (a) Color and (b) relevant as the player sees fit. Setting was present as Ed describes it only as a crucial over-framing device, but not as a detail-specific tapestry or historical sequence.

Regarding System, Ed, you missed one Trollbabe thing: the number of re-roll items currently available. But overall, you're right; there isn't much. Whereas the other two include System in all or very-nearly-all details of the sheet.

It might interest people to know why "Mr. System Matters" designed a game in which the bulk of the character sheet does not touch system. That goes with one of my points in this whole endeavor, which is that although all five components of the SIS are gunning along in play, characters built for play (and privileged as player-characters) are recipes for making that happen. And like all recipes, they are not yet "there." What I'm seeing over and over in this thread is that different games and character concepts are using very, very different recipes in terms of the emphasis on the five components. And those differences (and similarities) are sometimes surprising.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 28, 2009, 06:19:48 PM
Hi,

Any further discussion in this thread is OK, up to and including what the hell are you trying to say or anything similar. Before asking that, though, please take a look back over the questions and answers; there are about a hundred interesting points to follow up on.

However, to move forward, I'm also starting Part 3, which picks up with the next question in the sequence.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on February 01, 2009, 11:24:57 AM
This is coming in a little late but I wanted to take a crack at this before moving on, for my own benefit at the very least.

Is there information that must be provided by another person from this point forward? (And I don’t merely mean playing NPCs, I mean substantial Setting and System stuff, mainly, or anything like it.)  What is it?

Well, there's information that's already been provided by another person, whether the GM or the whole group or what: The basic setting premises, Humanity definition, descriptors and their relation to culture and background in the specific setting, and so on. I mention it only because it seems to tie into the topic of whether the character can be created (or played) in a vacuum. In this case not. I notice, even now, that I forgot to write in the Humanity definition the box--telling, I think, that even though I always had Humanity "in the back of my head" through the process, without the. . .feedback? oversight? of whole-group parameter-establishing as per Sorcerer, it's easy to let things like that fall by the wayside, be taken for granted, or left vague.

So anyway: The biggest thing on the front of the sheet is the Kicker. The GM must take what I write here and, with autonomous control, craft it into real, at-the-table, forward-motion Situation. Sure, a lot of that is merely "playing NPCs," but it's a very specific lever that sets play rolling downhill, that I can't do myself.

Other stuff: Destiny, at least in this case, implies a lot of stuff about Setting that the GM, an somewhat other Players, must bring forward. The Demon. . .maybe? It might just fall under "merely playing NPCs," but it seems like a big deal in terms of establishing a relationship dynamic that affects the course of the whole game. And there's Setting stuff in terms of 'what Demons are like" that the GM provides. Back of the sheet: this is a whole interlocking web of Setting and Situation that I must have other input on, both on Czege Principle terms, and because it's just too vast for me to bring into play all by my lonesome.

To develop this idea further, what are the underlying features of System and Setting that apply to any and all player-characters in the game, and what are the features that are highlighted by the options chosen for this character?

From the top: Humanity affects everyone in terms of the shared definition and its practical use. We all need to know the Humanity rules and their local application to play the game (Hmm, yet another thing we fell down on in Cascadiapunk!).

Descriptors and price are shared concerns only insomuch as multiple players have the same Descriptor: if there's another Savage-raised PC, then it concerns her very much what breadth and depth the Descriptor applies to stated actions and rolls. Not to mention the setting elements behind the Descriptors, such as what "Savage" cultures are like and so forth. Ditto Demons and their Abilities: Anyone with a parasite has to know what they do and how. Anyone whose Demon has old, frex, needs to know what it does and how.

Back of the Sheet: these elements affect other Players inasmuch as they share elements (such as relationships with a particular NPC) or are concerned with general concepts. In the latter case, for example, I wrote "faerie Wood" and "Harvest Moon" in my Lore section, implying that tose elements, and similar things, are important to Ritual. Therefore it informs anyone else doing Ritual, or encountering those elements ("It's a Harvest Moon tonight. Be wary of Fey Lights in the woods!").

I think that does it. Hope I got it all down!

Peace,
-Joel