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Author Topic: Particles of Character Class  (Read 4251 times)
Marco
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« on: February 07, 2002, 01:37:23 PM »

This is inspired by a discussion on the Scattershot Forum:

Fang described his points in Scattershot as "particles of character class." I sort of disagreed with his definition--an indication to the GM of what your character is supposed to do/what you want your character to do (I don't think he's wrong exactly--but I think that by the mechanics alone, without the Techniques he's using, the fact that someone has points in a science skill doesn't mean it's primary to the character concept). Anyway:

I said that in modern day gaming, Character Class was sort of like a cross between profession/intent/and how the character fits into the world. In AD&D character class is a no-brainer. Even if it was skill based, point based system you'd still need a thief, fighter, magic user, and cleric on each adventure--the world just works that way.

In moden day it's less clear.

ALMOST TO THE POINT
I'm the author of a multi-genre RPG. It uses standard points to construct the character but there is also a pool of "Weird Stuff" or "Archetype" points (this isn't fully consistent across all of our material yet--but we're getting there).

So you might have 75pts with 32 Fantasy points (Archetype/race/weird stuff) points in a fantasy game (enough to play a Dragon PC).  Mostly these are special abilities (like a Knight can buy special 'Bloodline' inhereted armor or a thief can get some secret knife fighting moves, etc.)

THE POINT
Some of these special abilities are meta-game. Especially in the super's books (where we had serious trouble applying Archetype rules--for a variety of reasons). But, after defining what I thought Particles of Character Class (Fang's term) *should* be, I looked again at the file of supers archetype stuff.

Here is what I thought Particles of Character Class *ought* to be: something you buy for the character that in and of itself defines how he or she fits into the world. This is not purely deductive--it's prescriptive and has some ability for the character to enforce it. Here is an example of one of the Conventions we've got (paraphrased and slightly modified this morning on the train ride to work):

Signature Skill Convention (4pts from the Archetype pool)
The character has a Siganture Skill--sure, all skills can be useful but this skill is especially useful to the character. This is applied to a noncombat skill. The character must define three hooks (defined below). If the Signature Skill does *not* come up during a game session, the character gets a "plot point" (exchanged for an advantage in combat, automatically making a skill roll, avoiding a failure, etc.)

Example: Poison Oak (a super hero) buys Signature Skill for Botany (he is a botanist in California). This means that either Botany comes up in a meaningful way during the adventure or he gets a plot point. His hooks are people, places, or history that would call the skill into use:

Hook 1: Poison Oak is often called on by the Marine Botany Research Station.
Hook 2: Poison Oak has an arch-rival The Advocado Wrangler who is waging a botanical war against the wealthy Advocado farmers (and uses mutant plants!)
Hook 3: Poison Oak protects a secluded vinyard that has mutant intelligent grapes (created by a mad botanist).

Anyway, the example above is illustrative of what Character Class Poison Oak is since it determines what he does and how it fits into the world (if you look at his character sheet, he's a smart "Brick"). It also doesn't preclude him from going on large group adventures that don't spot-light him--he'll just get a plot point for those.

We've got several others (like Somebody Knows Something--conventions for a streetwise detective).

I'm putting this out here as some speculation on what Character Class is (I encourage you to look at Fang's Scattershot posts--he has some very interesting observations).

-Marco
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2002, 10:07:38 PM »

Quote from: Marco
Fang described his points in Scattershot as "particles of character class."

Actually that was "the fundamental particles of character class," as in the quarks (Scattershot's points) that make up the particles (abilities) that make up atoms (classes).  As opposed to the superstrings that are character points in games like GURPS or (old school) Champions.

Quote from: Marco
I sort of disagreed with his definition: an indication to the GM of what your character is supposed to do/what you want your character to do (I don't think he's wrong exactly, but I think that, by the mechanics alone without the Techniques he's using, the fact that someone has points in a science skill doesn't mean it's primary to the character concept).

A very cogent and true analysis.  (But then what I call techniques most here seem to regard as just another complex of rules, so it makes sense that half of 'the rules' wouldn't supply this in detail.)

Quote from: Marco
Anyway:

I said that Character Class was sort of like a cross between profession, intent, and how the character fits into the world. In AD&D character class is a no-brainer. Even if it was skill based, point based system you'd still need a thief, fighter, magic user, and cleric on each adventure; the world just works that way.

I think it's quite clear that's how they're used, but I haven't seen much 'official material' that delineates the latter part of this statement; it's only there by implication.

Quote from: Marco
THE POINT
Some of these special abilities are meta-game. Especially in the super's books (where we had serious trouble applying Archetype rules--for a variety of reasons). But, after defining what I thought Fundamental Particles of Character Class (Fang's term) should be, I looked again at the file of supers archetype stuff.

Here is what I thought Particles of Character Class ought to be: something you buy for the character that in and of itself defines how he or she fits into the world. This is not purely deductive; it's prescriptive and has some ability for the character to enforce it.

I like this idea, it's very like a mechanical version of what I am attempting.  Would that I wanted to make a 'lotsa mechanics' game, I would dearly love to steal this idea (or rather your application of it).

In its stead, the main point to Scattershot is shared narrative control, coupled with a non-mechanical explicit definition of character, arms the player with the above "prescriptive" ability without the 'plot points.'  As a matter of fact, what I try to get at with Scattershot's rewards text is similar to what you describe, except you take it one step farther.  You give a mechanical bonus for 'missed opportunities.'  (We found it hard to enforce a reward for a player's not getting to use an important facet of their character.  Partly because 'catching it' either made for tedious rehashing of the game or 'lying in wait' for an 'absense' was too distracting for more immersive types of play.  We may need to rethink that.)

Quote from: Marco
I'm putting this out here as some speculation on what Character Class is (I encourage you to look at Fang's Scattershot posts; he has some very interesting observations).

Thank you very much.  This has been a very interesting new theory (I only conceived of it a week ago); I have gone to the liberty of splitting off a new thread with it.  I think you are taking the idea in some very interesting directions.  I do not think we disagree at all (judging by your examples), so I think you are much better at describing it than I.

Fang Langford
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