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Author Topic: Planning for Charnel Gods  (Read 7580 times)
droog
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Posts: 263


« on: September 16, 2005, 03:24:16 PM »

Hi all

I'm starting a new game of Charnel Gods soon, and I have some ideas I'd really like to throw around. The characters are:

Sorum - an ancient sorcerer consumed by unrequited love for his paramour, who cannot remember anything (a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), lately gone missing.. His Fell Weapon Ithoch Desires dependence and Needs to drain life (and prolongs the wielder's life).

Julius - a senator of the Salaen Empire who wields the Fell Weapon Findel, which Desires murder and Needs the blood of relatives. I'm hazy about his Kicker at the moment, but it involves locking his brother in a tower (more to come).

Khuraj Janeel - an outlander and ex-gladiator slave, wielding the Fell Weapon [?], which Desires pain and Needs a promise to be faithful from its wielder. His Kicker is that his sorcerous mentor has gone missing.



The players are all smart, creative guys who are willing to give it a go and seem to be getting psyched up for it. I've been playing Pendragon with them for a few months, and they've been playing together for a few years before that (mainly Hackmaster, I believe).

I don't read much crime fiction, so I'm thinking about using as a base the relationship map/family tree from Robert Graves' I, Claudius (http://www.historyinfilm.com/claudius/famtree3.htm). It certainly resulted in a fair bit of mayhem in history. I think I know what I'm doing, but if anybody's got any comments I would be appreciative, because I've never done this sort of planning in a conscious way before.

Likewise with Bangs etc. I have lots of ideas, but they're all in the hazy, floaty stage of creation. Bring me down to earth and ask me the hard questions.
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Judd
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2005, 07:52:37 PM »

I think you've gotta have this kickers square, look at the descriptors and cook up some bangs.

Right now the player character info has holes in it and that makes working on this any further difficult.

Good luck, post what you come up with.  Charnel Gods rocks and the characters look solid, can't wait to see how it goes.
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droog
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Posts: 263


« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2005, 01:43:53 AM »

Thanks, Paka. What would you ask the players if you were running it?
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AKA Jeff Zahari
hardcoremoose
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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2005, 11:33:17 AM »

I agree with Judd...it seems like the characters have backstory, not kickers.  Maybe I'm wrong about this, but try to get the players to give you a juicy conflict for you to frame an opening bang around, one that forces their character to make a decision.  Yeah, since it's their character, maybe they already know which way they'll swing on that decision, but you don't, and the other players don't, and that makes all the difference. 

Also, is it Sorum who can't remember anything, or his love interest?  His love interest I think, if I read it right.

Gotta' go right now, but I'm looking forward to hearing how this goes.  As far as I know, no one's ever used the Salaen Empire as a setting before.

- Scott
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Judd
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« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2005, 12:28:06 PM »

Thanks, Paka. What would you ask the players if you were running it?

  Follow the ten steps of character creation, they won't lead ya wrong and will tell the Sorcerer GM everything a GM could want to know for setting up the game.

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droog
Member

Posts: 263


« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2005, 02:58:42 PM »

I agree with Judd...it seems like the characters have backstory, not kickers.  Maybe I'm wrong about this, but try to get the players to give you a juicy conflict for you to frame an opening bang around, one that forces their character to make a decision.  Yeah, since it's their character, maybe they already know which way they'll swing on that decision, but you don't, and the other players don't, and that makes all the difference. 

Also, is it Sorum who can't remember anything, or his love interest?  His love interest I think, if I read it right.

Gotta' go right now, but I'm looking forward to hearing how this goes.  As far as I know, no one's ever used the Salaen Empire as a setting before.
I liked the Salaean Empire--everyone can grab on to that Roman imagery. I will usually run with other people's ideas when I'm first looking at an RPG, so it was a toss-up for me between that and the River Rowan. I figured that the Roman archetype was stronger for the other players. Hope we can do it justice!

I agree that the Kickers are a bit spongy, though I wasn't sure if that was my inexperience talking.

This is what Sorum's player wrote on our forum:

Quote
Kicker ideas


It turns out that the character’s motivation for everlasting life is unrequited love of a perverse kind.

He uses the staff to keep himself and his “concubine” in a state of perpetual youth. Unfortunately his concubine is not a sorcerer and so the use (and abuse) of this power over the (decades,) centuries, (millennia) has caused some personality changes in (effected the mind of) this woman.

She doesn’t remember who she is or who my character is for any length of time. She is extremely vain and concerned only with maintaining her own personal grooming at the expense of everything else.

My character is deeply in love with her and ever seeking to make a lasting personal connection. Of course this is impossible (or is it?) since she is unable to remember much of her past and retain any of her current experience for any length of time due to her inordinate age.

My character has kept her locked in a tower (away from prying eyes) for the last X number of decades/ centuries in order to keep her safe since she really can’t look after herself.

He keeps her clothed, fed, and generally upkept in the manner to which she has become accustomed, and most importantly she receives regular doses of Vitality from his Fell Weapon.

She has just gone missing!

How did she escape?
Why?
Has she been taken?
By who?
How will she survive without the magics she has come to rely on?
Will she wither and die?
If so how quickly?

Then there are the deeper questions

Who is it that I am looking for? (who has my love become?)
Do I really know her anymore?
Who is it that I am in love with?
Is she addicted to the rejuvenations?
Am I?

So his Kicker is that she's disappeared. Certainly it says 'must do something', given the backstory. Is it okay, do you think? It seems to me that something's missing, and I may have to spike it up during play.


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AKA Jeff Zahari
hardcoremoose
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« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2005, 10:14:40 PM »

Before I got to the part where he writes "She's just gone missing", I was thinking to myself:  "Okay, this is easy...she's in the tower and bam, suddenly she's not." 

That is a Kicker.  You're definitely going to want to "spike" it, but then again, that's the GM's job.  Those first few questions he wrote...you get to help answer them.

I don't want to tell you how to run your game, but here's the things I'd keep in mind.

- Once you know the girl is missing, there isn't much to do besides go looking for her.  I'd give him something else to do, or at least to think about.  You can complicate things by introducing obstacles (which is fine, but make them good ones).  Or you can ratchet up the tension by making him choose between something bad happening if he does search for her, or the obvious bad thing that happens if he doesn't (these are also good ways to get Humanity checks going and are totally what Charnel Gods is about... damned if you do and damned if you don't).

- The "deeper questions" suggest to me that the player is interested in more than just solving the mystery of where the girl went.  That being the case, remember that you don't necessarily have to prolong the search (in fact, you could have her re-appear right away if you wanted).  The compelling stuff, to me, is their nicely perverse relationship (including the Fell Weapon), and none of that is going to get touched upon if the characters never come into contact with each other.  And the reasons for her disappearance linger even after she has been found; there's room for meaty stuff there.

That's it for my brainstorming...just kicking around thoughts really.  I'm curious about the other kickers now.

Glad you like the Empire stuff.  I wrote it precisely for that reason; I wanted something people could latch onto quickly, but didn't want to do a blatant Hyborian Age ripoff.

- Scott
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droog
Member

Posts: 263


« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2005, 06:18:37 AM »

Thanks for the brainstorm, Scott (I'm a good student, but I learn best through discussion).

You might be interested to hear my wife's suggestion for Sorum's concubine: have her crumbled to dust by the Vitality treatments. He'll never find her, and the story is really about the search and what else he finds. I thought it had possibilities--we could deal with the 'perverse relationship' in flashbacks, perhaps. Is this too heavy-handed?



The player of Khoraj Janeel (not Khuraj) has posted the latest version of his Kicker:

Quote
While speaking with his mentor Sagriminus, armed soldiers burst through the door.

I guess the player wants kick-arse action from the first moment? His backstory is fairly simple and swashing--raised in a savage land, trained as a warrior, forced to be a gladiator, has become an assassin for hire. It all turns on who those armed soldiers work for, I suppose.



If you'd like to read all the character's scores, what the players have written etc, we have a wiki at http://droog.pbwiki.com/
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Paul Czege
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2005, 08:33:29 AM »

You might be interested to hear my wife's suggestion for Sorum's concubine: have her crumbled to dust by the Vitality treatments. He'll never find her, and the story is really about the search and what else he finds. I thought it had possibilities--we could deal with the 'perverse relationship' in flashbacks, perhaps.

It's a clever idea. An excellent one, in fact, but more for a novel rather than a game. It situates the character into a specific story rather than positioning him into a conflict of power and choices so the player controls thematic decisionmaking.

For contrast, here's what I might do instead:

The concubine is with some ancient undead lord, perhaps newly returned to unlife, and he's someone from her past who can somehow help her remember who she is. She's been having memories, which is powerful and exciting to her. I'd have the player character find her fairly quickly, no later than the end of the first session. And then there's the conflict. This undead lord can't keep her young and vital. So for the player character, she's more of who she was, animated and talking of her memories of the time when they were first romancing. Probably I'd make it some sort of love triangle with the undead lord. So she has lots of memories of the three of them, and particularly of the undead lord's love for her. And then just ramp up the stress for the player character. Of course he wants her to be happy. Will he give her Vitality? What will he do about the undead lord? What if the undead lord used to be his best friend? What if the undead lord is being selective of the memories he's giving the concubine? She's happy, but is it real? Will he kill that undead lord for having selected the memories which are most favorable to himself? If it deprives her of remembering anything at all?

See how that's different? Don't think about what would make for a dramatic ending. Think about a situation which would give the character fits, and a dramatic ending will totally emerge through play.

Paul
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And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
hardcoremoose
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2005, 11:03:59 AM »

While speaking with his mentor Sagriminus, armed soldiers burst through the door.

Yeah, that's a pretty straightforward kicker.  On the plus side, it gives you a lot of room to be creative.  Paul gives a good example of how to complicate a kicker and really give it some juice, and I'd do the same thing here. 

- Scott
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droog
Member

Posts: 263


« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2005, 04:26:59 PM »

Thanks, Paul, I get what you're saying about a specific story ending and I really like what you did with the rival thing. My wife is a writer, funnily enough. She doesn't roleplay, however, and when I coaxed her into running Nicotine Girls for me one night, we had a good time but there was a noticeable lack of conflict.

What you've done is also to put the character into a story, but one without a predetermined end. Now I could argue that the other version doesn't predetermine the character's thematic choices, but it does place an ironic point (made by me, not the player) as a full stop. Is that correct? I would also say it doesn't externalise the conflict sufficiently for S&S.

I guess I'm still feeling around here trying to find the line between using a character's Kicker and taking control of it.
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AKA Jeff Zahari
droog
Member

Posts: 263


« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2005, 11:51:29 PM »

Folks, I've got a serious Social Contract issue here. The third player has still not given me his Kicker, and we're due to play tomorrow.

What would you do? Should I cancel the game?
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AKA Jeff Zahari
hix
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Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2005, 01:30:00 AM »

In my experience, I need a lot of time to internalise and mull over the Kickers so that I (as GM) am happy to run with them. Add to that, having a Kicker is actually part of having a finished character in Sorcerer / Charnel Gods ...

One possible solution: just run the game for the other 2. Your third player could be an onlooker & contribute to the SIS.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
droog
Member

Posts: 263


« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2005, 01:59:12 AM »

Quote
In my experience, I need a lot of time to internalise and mull over the Kickers so that I (as GM) am happy to run with them.
Hell, yeah. It's the very point, isn't it? Rather than saying 'Make up a bunch of cool stuff about your character and then I'll send you on an unrelated quest for the Dingus of Doom.'
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AKA Jeff Zahari
hix
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Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2005, 02:26:16 PM »

Yeah, there's an audible *slapping* sound when Sorcerer players and GMs realise that Kickers and the chart on the back of the sheet aren't just optional extras for a character - but they're the actual point of character generation.

To clarify my suggestion above - I'd try starting the game with the 2 players who are ready and whose Kickers you're confident about. The 3rd player can watch and contribute - and then prepare a Kicker for the next session (presumably inspired by the events they've just seen).

I have no idea whether that 'breaks' the game - but I don't see any obvious reason why a well-thought out character can't join the game after the first session.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
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