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Character Generations (no the other kind)

Started by MachMoth, September 05, 2003, 02:35:05 AM

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MachMoth

I was talking about a game I had run, on another forum, and wondered if any formal (I use the term loosely) RPG had been done like it.  I originally tried it out, to make sense of classes and levels to a normal "non-hero."

Basically, it was a D&D rework (which I am well known for, because the core system bores me).  Each person created a rookie character as normal, at 1st level.  The class needed to have a tie to the character's origins.  Growing up on the street, rogue.  Joined the army, fighter.  And so on.  The first session related an experience that brought the team together.  The next session took place some time down the road (decade or so).  For this session they got a new level, and a class that reflects what happened since then.  Then, they get dragged/go on some major adventure.  This continues for the rest of the character's useful life.

The character's rarely reached over 6th level, and the magical items and treasure were rare, but significant to the characters (finding 100 GP could change a persons life).  However, one group enjoyed it so much, that they wanted to continue the story.  They created new characters that each had some tie to the old ones (child, apprentice, etc.).  It was interesting to see the son of a fighter/rogue/bard (multiclassing was common, as each level was a significant portion of their life) take great pride in recieving his father's Broad Sword +1 (of which even had a name).  Characters never had too much HP, and never played the stupid slaughtering hero (so well parodied by Terry Pratchett) since there was no XP rewards, and only went on a few major adventures in a life time.  And, inserting/removing players between sessions was easy.

The game eventually became something of a living world, character's leaving, entering, and dying every session.  I could ramble on in more detail, but what I want to know is, has anyone ever written an RPG that followed a character's virtual lineage, instead of the character.  I know some games (like Fate) would talor well to this kind of play, but has any RPG actually done it before.
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Andrew Martin

Quote from: MachMoth...has anyone ever written an RPG that followed a character's virtual lineage, instead of the character.

I know that Chaosium's Pendragon (AKA King Arthur Pendragon) is supposed to do this, particularly with the Boy King supplement, but I've never managed to get my players to "give up" playing a old character until they were "forcibly retired" by a dragon or a set of fumbles & criticals. :-/ I have heard reports of it being done by other play groups.

I also tried doing this kind of thing in a game design of mine (which was supposed to be about the interesting parts of a medieval kingdom) but it hasn't got to play test yet.
Andrew Martin

contracycle

Quote from: MachMoth
The game eventually became something of a living world, character's leaving, entering, and dying every session.  I could ramble on in more detail, but what I want to know is, has anyone ever written an RPG that followed a character's virtual lineage, instead of the character.  I know some games (like Fate) would talor well to this kind of play, but has any RPG actually done it before.

No, not well.  This Should Be Done, IMO.
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Tim Alexander

I think Aria had some handling of this kind of thing, and Ars Magica handled a similar vein with the Covenant being the sticking point of what play revolved around.

Did you have any thoughts on what an RPG designed for such a goal would do to facilitate it?

-Tim

MachMoth

I don't know.  I didn't really change that many rules.  It was more of a change in play style.

Advancement was slower, compared to normal in game time.  However, a little faster for the players, since they gained a level each session, or era.  The focus was on the world's timeline.  The players weren't attached to the characters, but enjoyed playing them in character, and effecting the events of the world.  If one died, a new character wasn't hard to insert.  They almost always started at 1st level.  Older, more experienced characters were allowed, but they had less time to live.  So the effect was a group of characters at differing levels of experience most of the time.  Sometimes we would go back with new characters, and relive the events from someone elses point of view (like they did with the halflife games), or create new history elsewhere in between.  Each player would have numerous characters to his name, often switching around between them.

Through playing it in DnD, I would say one thing that I would have to change is the complexity of the characters.  When generating half a dozen characters, you want them to be relatively simple, on paper.  Also, the players don't settle for B Grade adventures.  It's one thing to run a boring adventure that takes a day out of your characters' life, but something different if that's suppose to be one of only half a dozen adventures they ever go on.
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Tim Alexander

I was running a Chill campaign for a while that sort of inadvertently ended up being based heavily around one character (mainly since the player was present most often when the game got played.) After a while that character became a focus point that the game revolved around, while individual sessions/stories became sort of one shots tied together through that character. In our particular case they often came with pre-made characters, and it helped give everyone a sense of continuity while allowing some diversity in terms of setting, who you're playing etc.

It didn't really require rules changes in our case either, but I wonder if designed for you couldn't add some mechanics to facilitate play in this style like :

1) Quick character generation. When you're not playing the same character you're essentially dealing with a game that approximates a high mortality rate. The characters aren't necesarily dying, but a long creation time for a character that's being used short term seems counterproductive.

2) Some sort of tie-in metamechanic? Relationship values across time sort of thing?

-Tim

Mike Holmes

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Tim Alexander

Hey Mike,

The Fate system seems pretty good at addressing characters through a timeline, it'd be pretty easy to pick them at a given phase for a given session. My interest in this though (which I'm hoping MachMoth was touching on, so I'm not offtopic) was more in exploring continuity through player, using previous characters as the thread. Is there anything in the canon that handles this mechanically?

-Tim

Mike Holmes

In Fate? No.

Like you mentioned, I think Aria is the game that does that sort of stuff most rigorously. TROS also has the inspiration mechanic, FWIW.

Mike
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Ron Edwards

Hello,

It's Insight in The Riddle of Steel, not Inspiration. Also, there's no particular reason to establish in-game continuity between Dead Character #1 and New Character #2; you can if you want, but you don't have to.

I think the poster child for lineage-based, year-by-year and generation-by-generation play, among published games, is Pendragon.

Best,
Ron

MachMoth

Quote from: Ron EdwardsAlso, there's no particular reason to establish in-game continuity between Dead Character #1 and New Character #2; you can if you want, but you don't have to.

That's kind of my thought, too.  Most player's related their characters, because I guess it created some kind of bond.  However, every now and then, they would up and inject fresh blood into the game.  Binding all of your character's together was fun, but sometimes you just wanted a change of pace, and this kind of play was really good for that.  No one ever got tired of a character, and they were never afraid to experiment.

And tell me about this Pendragon.  The website just describes it as roleplaying in King Authur's Britain.  Is it focused around generational play, or is it just an option?  What're the gameplay basics like?  GNS, stance?  I MUST KNOW!
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Andrew Martin

Quote from: MachMothAnd tell me about this Pendragon.  The website just describes it as roleplaying in King Authur's Britain.  Is it focused around generational play, or is it just an option?  What're the gameplay basics like?  GNS, stance?  I MUST KNOW!

Pendragon is based on Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying System, but uses a D20 and 5% equivalent steps instead of a D100 and 1% steps. Our group swiftly substituted Chaosium's RuneQuest III system for Pendragon's system to get more character power. Basically a conventional RPG; a Simulationist system, which I now realise was being drifted to Gamist by my fellow players and I. The Passions rules are very good for the most part. I feel that probably only some Indie narrativist games and maybe TROS would beat them. I regularly ported these rules to other games as GM and a player (for my own characters).

The generational play part is really like a few optional rules, that I felt were missing parts. For example, rules for building up one's land and castle disappeared in later versions of the game, but were incomplete anyway. The rules for romance lacked parts; it looked as if the designer wanted players to roleplay this part. IIRC, the pen-ultimate edition's romance rules were the most complete. It was possible to gamist play the land rules and the children rule and end up with frequent sets of twins?! There was a lot of effort to build up passions for a lady, but when she dies in childbirth, there was no clue about what do next with the passion?!

For large battles that weren't played out, the battle rules didn't work properly; it was possible to regularly kill the opposing army's leader, but still have the battle continue, and even be able to do this same feat several times in a row!

Basically the game required a lot of GM intervention to remove the illogical results that regularly came up in our games, plus it required more GM intervention to bridge "hole" in the rules.
Andrew Martin

RaconteurX

Pendragon is a marvelous game, much of the intent behind the design being that a player would start the campaign with one player-knight and conclude it with that character's great-grandchild. Mind you, not many people in my experience ever get through the entire eighty-year campaign outlined in Boy King as, even with weekly sessions and using the "one session, one year" guideline, it would take eighteen months to finish! The last campaign in which I was a participant covered thirty-five years, from Uther's death to just after the Battle of Badon, and the players were running the adult children of their original knights. Few other games impart such a grand sense of genuine legacy, of real and abiding history.

MachMoth

Okay, its nice to know that an idea I had has been done, but not the way I did it.  It would seem that game covers the minutes in far more detail than we ever did.  I would say that my game turned out differently, because I had a different goal in mind when I did it (making sense of classes and levels).  The lineage idea was more of a fluke that got popular.  

I guess it wouldn't make a bad game, if I tried and polish up my take on the style.  But, right now the motivation isn't there.  In the design mood I'm in , it would become a Narrative, Director's Stance game, without a doubt.  At a glance, I think it would play best as a Gamist, Actor's Stance (or pawn's stance, as they end up becoming) game.  If you all think otherwise, I'm open to comments.  It just smells of writer's block.
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