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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 181 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: A fill-in-the-blanks life-path system  (Read 1612 times)

Posts: 8

« on: April 20, 2010, 05:39:20 AM »

I am also new to the forge, having stumbled upon it after going looking for an RPG design forum, as asking around at all my usual geeky hangouts was not producing desired results. My RPG design (like so many it seems) is inspired by some of my favourite systems to be something, compact, portable and encouraging of RP.

With that in mind I'm considering using a life-path system to character creation, which seems to be somewhat at odds with two of my other design philosophies: 'things should be as quick as possible', and 'the system should be portable between settings'. So with that in mind I'm thinking of stripping away all specific context from each life path event and reducing every event to a half sentence as a prompt for the player to fill in the blanks, and I was wondering what other people think of the concept as it stands at present.

We start with the descriptors of a character's background, their early childhood. Their culture and Physical health, mental health, social status and culture, family wealth and opportunities for success. These five backgrounds (physical, mental, social, economic, and academic) can be chosen based on concept (a poor peasant's son who ran away to join the military as soon as he was able) or rolled randomly on 1D10. Each event in the five background categories would have a neutral prompt:

Economic (2): 'times were tough for my family'

Which could be followed by something appropriate to the player's character concept and setting

'after the demon war, it never rained for two years'
'the colony ship crashed on the wrong world and we lost most of our heavy equipment'
or even
'after the solar flares wiped out the whole net, there wasn't much use for software engineers'

These backgrounds are considered to be the source of the character's current worldview and motivations (as well as a source of potential plot hooks for the GM) which also lend additional flavour to life path events. Backgrounds also effect stats, total number of primary skills, and starting wealth and resources.

Life path events follow the same idea but instead of five sets of life paths for each stage of development (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) we have one life path with a whole load of potential options (1D100 at present). A sample life path event might be:

'Your skills have come to the attention of a wealthy patron. (+2 to academic and choose either: Contact (2) or Indebted (2)).'

The player is free to choose not only what skill their character was noticed for but also whether or not their benefactor was a positive or negative influence on their life. To follow on from our previous example perhaps:

'I was drawing on some scraps of parchment I'd scavenged from the remains of the monastery when Brother Adiri stopped by one day, he saw me copying the words, even if I couldn't even spell...'

or even
'Milo was a frightening enigma, but he knew how to survive the new world better than anyone, and I owe him mine and my family's survival.'

That's the basic idea as it presently stands: A character concept is reduced to five descriptors which are converted into game terms and the player is still more or less free to choose the specifics and context of their character's major life events. Additionally, there is no absolute need for life paths to be rolled randomly, or even to be done in the sequence of past to present. If a player has a solid character concept they could even work backwards from the present to work out how their crotchety hermit-wizard became a crotchety hermit-wizard.

Questions, comments, and suggestions welcome.
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