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Author Topic: [Darkest Night, Brightest Steel] Primary Character Motivations & Actions, a List  (Read 3315 times)
CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« on: February 12, 2006, 05:12:50 AM »

Hello all,

First post at the forge—fingers crossed. ;)

I’m working on a campaign setting with the following basic elements:

∙   Takes place in Dark Age Germania, Scandinavia & Germanic Britain, circa 500AD.
∙   Low fantasy: magic & monsters exist, but characters won’t see them often.
∙   PCs are Germanic heroes in the tradition of Beowulf or the Viking sagas.
∙   Working title of Darkest Night, Brightest Steel, but that’s open to revision—regrettably one of my weaknesses as an author is that my cliché detectors are not sensitive enough, so I have no idea whether that title is sublime or pure cheese.

At the moment I’m focussing on getting a fairly comprehensive list of character motivations and character actions, so I can tweak mechanics around them. So far I have:

Classic Goals of Heroes in Germanic Legend: What Characters Want

∙   To spread one’s fame and bring glory to one’s name.
∙    To bring glory to one’s lord.
∙   To gain the respect and patronage of famed, gift-giving lords.
∙    To improve one’s status (thrall-->churl-->thane-->earl-->king).
∙    To gain followers and clients (especially for characters of thane status or greater).
∙   To make allies by gaining the friendship of good fighting men.
∙   To outshine one’s rivals.
∙   To improve one’s standing with the gods
∙   To build oneself a substantial homestead, complete with a great hall.
∙   To bring glory to one’s family and ancestors.
∙   To win good land for one’s family and in general to bring happiness to one’s family .
∙    To bring glory to one’s nation/tribe.

Classic Quests and Feats in Germanic Myth and Legend: How Characters Get What They Want

Rare/Special

∙   Hunting down and slaying evil, dangerous monsters.
∙    Rescuing folk kidnapped by trolls.
∙   Avenging kin who have been slain or wronged; prosecuting blood-feuds.
∙   Marrying one’s sons & daughters well (in terms of gold, status and politics).
∙   (?) Questing for a McGuffin, like Loki had to quest for hair for Freya, or like the goddess who had to sleep with dwarves to obtain a beautiful gift.
∙   Having tests of strength/prowess with one’s rivals.
∙   Rescuing mistreated kin—e.g. hostages (in the medieval sense) or brides married off to foreign lords or notables.

More Common

∙   Doing the bidding of great, gift-giving lords.
∙   Going raiding in enemy lands.
∙   Working (often for foreigners) as mercenaries.
∙   Joining expeditions of exploration and conquest led by great lords, or leading such expeditions if one has sufficient status.
∙   Demonstrating one’s verbal prowess through oration at official functions (like being received in a great lord’s hall), storytelling, singing and games of verbal skill.
∙    Joining trading expeditions, or leading them if one has sufficient wealth.
∙   Going on diplomatic missions to negotiate with enemies or monsters.
∙   Going on hunts to take great beasts (like boar or stag).
∙    Making sacrifices to gods.
∙    Bringing treasure to one’s lord and/or distributing it to one’s followers.

Well, I’m basically looking to make sure that I haven’t missed anything obvious that should be on either list. Can anybody make any suggestions for expanding the motivation and/or activity list?

A big thanks in advance to anyone who can help.

PS If you’re not really familiar with Germanic myth & legend, you could just ask yourself, ‘What sort of thing would a Viking hero do?’ You could also suggest things from Celtic legend, as Celtic and Germanic culture had a lot in common in 500AD.
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Graham W
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2006, 03:41:23 PM »

Hi C,

I'm not very familiar with Germanic legends, but I know Arthurian stories a little. So...what about the goals involving love? For example: going on a quest as a favour to a woman or starting a battle to avenge adultery? Would you want those in your game?

And I think that "Darkest Night, Brightest Steel" is a superb title.

Graham
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Josh Roby
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Posts: 1055

Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2006, 05:15:22 PM »

Ditto on the title -- I clicked on the link because the title sounded so intriguing.

I'd love to see a game based on pre-Romantic feudal Europe without (sorry, Graham) the Arthurian drabble that's so prevalent everywhere.

It sounds like a lot of your motivations and activities (which are great, btw) revolve around heroism set squarely in the context of the larger society -- which I think would be very very cool.  It links the going-out-and-slaying or the pillaging run or the diplomatic marriage negotiations into a broader social context in which the characters are intimately embedded, which would be absolutely awesome.
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dindenver
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2006, 06:30:20 PM »

Hi!
  Seems like there is not a specific activity that explores changing roles from folllower of a liege to a leader of men. Also, more machinations, like Usurpation, Creating intrigue between rivals, Demeaning a rival faction and/or proving/creating a dishonorable act of a rival. Some things that are externally focused between the char and two parties...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
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CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2006, 02:35:10 PM »

I'm not very familiar with Germanic legends, but I know Arthurian stories a little. So...what about the goals involving love? For example: going on a quest as a favour to a woman or starting a battle to avenge adultery? Would you want those in your game?

Chivalric quests based on an idealised concept of romantic love are really the province of the next millennium. But, adultery…definitely! There was a law in Anglo-Saxon England that a man could not be subject to bloodfeud or to a fine if he killed a man caught in adulterous activity with his wife, so long as the killing took place on the spot, in the heat of anger.
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CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2006, 02:49:47 PM »

It sounds like a lot of your motivations and activities (which are great, btw) revolve around heroism set squarely in the context of the larger society -- which I think would be very very cool.  It links the going-out-and-slaying or the pillaging run or the diplomatic marriage negotiations into a broader social context in which the characters are intimately embedded, which would be absolutely awesome.

Thanks for the support! The idea is definitely to build the mechanics around a Dark Age Germanic nobleman’s view of life and society, and then encourage players to interact with the game-world from that perspective.
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StefanDirkLahr
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2006, 03:03:15 PM »

Quote
"a Dark Age Germanic nobleman’s view of life and society, and then encourage players to interact with the game-world from that perspective."

So the game punishes you for having your character act with modern sensabilities and moralities, and rewards you for following the lead of the Dark Ages (setting material)? I like it.

How would you go about making that work?
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2006, 03:50:12 PM »

  Seems like there is not a specific activity that explores changing roles from folllower of a liege to a leader of men.

That’s a good point. As becoming a lord will be an important goal of non-noble characters, I’ll definitely need to think about mechanics for the process.

Also, more machinations, like Usurpation, Creating intrigue between rivals, Demeaning a rival faction and/or proving/creating a dishonourable act of a rival.

Hmmm…These will need careful thought. Usurpation is perhaps the worst violation of the Germanic moral code possible, but…people are people, and it did happen. Showing up a rival is good, as is proving that he has committed a crime or dishonourable act, but ‘creating’ a dishonourable act would again be seen as very immoral and would likely result in banishment or worse if the character were found out. Given that the characters are heroes, perhaps some of these things should be developed as actions that evil NPCs might take?
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CommonDialog
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Posts: 31


« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2006, 10:43:08 PM »

I like the name, too.  It definitely caught my attention.

I was wondering about the role of atheletic competition in 500AD Germania.  I know that in years to come there will be tournaments of skill (sword fighting, jousting, etc.) in England as well as things like tossing the haber in Scotland.  Is there something similiar?  What about hunting/falconing, etc.?  Being able to nab the biggest bunch of food is a good way to bring honor to the house.

Also, what 500AD party planner/event coordinator?  Was this a culture that prized elaborate/expensive parties?
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CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2006, 12:45:37 AM »


So the game punishes you for having your character act with modern sensabilities and moralities, and rewards you for following the lead of the Dark Ages (setting material)? I like it.

How would you go about making that work?

Well, there’ll be more carrot than stick, but yeah, that’s the idea. A lot of the way it works will be through little things, but a few of the larger scale ideas I had:

I want to avoid the D20-esque reward system of ‘gain XP currency, spend it on skills/feats/levels’. So, fighting experience will be a trait rather than an accumulated currency, and players won’t be able to spend it on any thing. It’ll just help out in fights.

On the other hand, the game will have an explicit metagame ‘victory point system’. Players will gain victory points for acquiring classic traits of Germanic heroes, like ‘regarded as the best sword among lord Egfirth’s men’ or ‘known throughout Saxony for prowess in the hunt.’ The victory condition is to have as many points as possible when your PC dies. These victory-point-giving traits will also have utility in the game world. For example, a character with a trait like ‘slayer of the dragon Aelfscyld’ will have a much easier time gaining audiences with lords, recruiting men for an expedition, etc.

In contrast, more modern goals like being merciful or treating everyone equally will not gain the player points, nor will they be at all useful to the PCs in-game. Also, if the PCs behave in a modern a way, the characters in the game world could react negatively, as in IRL when King Sigeberht of Essex converted to Christianity. He took up the habit of forgiving his enemies in accordance with the teachings of the bible. This brought so much dishonour on his house that he was eventually slain by his own kinsmen, one of the worst fates a Germanic man can suffer.

I also plan to include several TROS-like traits that give a bonus to characters under setting-appropriate circumstances, like ‘A Good and Vengeful Man [+1 on all rolls when avenging lord, followers or kin]’. Of course, all such traits will have a Germanic character: there will be no ‘Peacemaker [+1 when promoting peace and goodwill among men.]’

Oh, and there’ll be a special rule wherein if any of the players asks to play a ninja, all the other players must immediately set upon him with whatever blunt instruments are nearby.
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StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2006, 10:44:50 AM »


Awesome, sounds like you're using something i like to call "Perks" (for no good reason) - traits that relate directly to what your character has done, and has become know for. Reputations.

I'm not so sure i get the Victory Points idea, however. It sounds like you are planning to use them like the Reputation tokens in "Shap al-Hiri Roach", only with Perks attached. I expect VPs determine the extent of your character's saga's influence. Can they also be used to affect other player's stories?
(ie. What does a player do after their character has died?)
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2006, 03:41:45 AM »


Awesome, sounds like you're using something i like to call "Perks" (for no good reason) - traits that relate directly to what your character has done, and has become know for. Reputations.

I'm not so sure i get the Victory Points idea, however. It sounds like you are planning to use them like the Reputation tokens in "Shap al-Hiri Roach", only with Perks attached. I expect VPs determine the extent of your character's saga's influence. Can they also be used to affect other player's stories?
(ie. What does a player do after their character has died?)

Sorry if the idea seemed a little confused. Let me try to clarify by first explaining how 'traits' will work in the system. The game will essentially be an 'all-traits' system where anything that is notable about a character is recorded as a trait. Some of these traits will have set mechanical effects in the game world, while others will have no set effects, but may be used, ad-hoc, to help the GM assign appropriate bonuses and penalties when they seem warranted. Here are some examples of traits, organized into various categories:

Physical

No set mechanical effects: Blond-haired
Set mechanical effects: Strong [+1 on all HtH combat rolls; +1 on all rolls involving the application of brute force]

Mental

No set mechanical effects: Fond of hounds
Set mechanical effects: Bad-tempered [-2 when trying to resist anger]

Skills/Abilities

No set mechanical effects: Literate in Futhark (Futhark’s a kind of alphabet)
Set mechanical effects: Tried & trusted technique: stab [+1 on all stab rolls]

Equipment

No set mechanical effects: Three days’ worth of smoked venison
Set mechanical effects: Sword [Use sword fight card in HtH combat]

Gods (almost always have set mechanical effects)

In good stead with Thor [Once per scene, roll 7 or better for +1 on any roll in Thor’s domain]

Reputation

No set mechanical effects: Known as a hard drinker
Set mechanical effects: Slew eleven Danes at the battle of Goedensburh [+2 recruiting for fighting expeditions; + 1 recruiting in general; +1 in all friendly social interactions with Germanic men, except Danes; +3 gaining an audience with lords, except Danes; -3 to all social interactions with Danes]

So, in this way, reputation traits are just like any other traits (e.g. having a sword or having blond hair). However, separate from their in-game use, certain reputation traits also generate victory points, which are tallied up when a character dies, but have no in-game use. As you surmised, they represent how well the character’s deeds will be remembered in the stories told down the centuries after his death. It’s basically like the victory screen at the end of a video game (e.g. Sid Meier’s Pirates or Civilization IV). These victory points won’t have any direct effect on the other PCs’ stories, but the related reputation traits might.

As for what happens when the character dies, it depends to a large extent on which end-conditions players have agreed upon before beginning the game (the players and GM negotiate a kind of contract before the game begins). Some of the things that can happen when a character dies are listed below, many of them not intended to be mutually exclusive:

i) The game ends at the end of the current adventure/quest/task. The other PCs roll to see how their characters’ fates turned out.
ii) The dead PC can effect events to some extent from the afterlife (if certain religious conditions have been met) and in extreme circumstances may even be able to manifest himself as a ghost.
iii) The player whose PC died can take over one of the kinsmen of the dead character—this is useful story-wise, because the kinsman will have a duty to avenge the dead character.
iv) The player can take over an NPC adventuring with the PCs.
v) The player can introduce a new PC to the game at a moment that the GM and other players agree is appropriate to the story.
vi) The player can swap roles with the GM next session/adventure or join the GM to work as a team.


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CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2006, 03:47:53 AM »

I was wondering about the role of atheletic competition in 500AD Germania.  I know that in years to come there will be tournaments of skill (sword fighting, jousting, etc.) in England as well as things like tossing the haber in Scotland.  Is there something similiar? 

You bet! When drinking together, men would often make boasts about feats they could perform (such as lifting a heavy stone or swimming across a wild river). The others at the table would expect them to attempt the feats after they had sobered up (or even before) and if a rival were at the table, well, he definitely wouldn't pass up the opportunity to show that he could lift an even heavier stone or swim the river faster.

Also, what 500AD party planner/event coordinator?  Was this a culture that prized elaborate/expensive parties?

Good idea. Feasting his men was actually quite an important duty for a lord and it's one of the few situations where female characters can easilly play a prominent role.
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StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2006, 03:45:18 PM »

Negotiated End Conditions = Brilliant!

And you can accomplish most of those conditions just by giving the game strong support for final "spotlight scenes", only in this case they focus on the fate of your character's saga, as much as on the fate of the character.
If i have it right, you determine how that saga plays out based on the number of "Victory Points" the character's reputations are worth, combined with some sort of conflict (whence the die-rolling)?

I like the traits - nicely distinguishes between pure colour and descriptive cues. Do you have a set of rules to handle creation of Reputations in play?
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
CLawrence
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2006, 04:04:51 AM »


Thanks for all the support Sempiternity!



And you can accomplish most of those conditions just by giving the game strong support for final "spotlight scenes", only in this case they focus on the fate of your character's saga, as much as on the fate of the character.
What's a final spotlight scene? How do games support such scenes?

If i have it right, you determine how that saga plays out based on the number of "Victory Points" the character's reputations are worth, combined with some sort of conflict (whence the die-rolling)?

If a player can play out his PC until the latter's death, then his or her score is determined by just tallying up victory points. If, however, the game ends before a player's character has died, then the player makes a roll to see 'how things turned out' for the PC up until his death (Did he die in battle? Against whom? Or did the unlucky man die in his bed?). These after-game events will then generate victory points which the the player adds to his or her total for the PC.

Do you have a set of rules to handle creation of Reputations in play?

Not yet :(

I've been spending most of my (limited) game-development time researching Dark Age Germanic culture and the cultural-political geography of Dark Age Germania & Scandinavia. But soon I'll have to spend a good chunk of effort on reputations, as I want them to play a very prominent role in the game. One thing I am sure of is that I want the average value of bonuses from reputation traits to be higher than the average value of bonuses from other kinds of traits that the PCs can acquire through play.
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