*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 18, 2019, 11:29:36 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: lab: EPICS, a one-sheet and chargen  (Read 6752 times)
Paul Czege
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 2341


WWW
« on: September 23, 2003, 12:27:36 PM »

Well, if you're going to have http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7776">a labworks, someone has to uncork the first Klein Bottle. So here goes...

Two weeks ago we did chargen using the http://www.dragonslayergames.com/games/">EPICS rules, for an attempt at http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5096">setting-premise Narrativism. And if you saw my http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=83958&highlight=#83958">post yesterday to Rafial's Savage Gamism thread, you know I selected Shane Hensley's Evernight as the basis for the setting and situation.

But first maybe a little historical context. We tried using the EPICS rules for a game earlier this year. And for various reasons, that game abended after two sessions. But my subsequent reflection on how we had implemented chargen provoked a recognition that we'd actually drifted it pretty far from the text. For that game, we had a pre-chargen discussion session during which we basically negotiated a premise for the game: all the player characters would be sidekicks to various superheroes. And from there, players created their characters, described their costumes, and the superheroes they were partnered with, and even got specific about their history together and the nature of the relationship.

But the EPICS game text doesn't allow for that. We were Narrativist players gone amok on distributed power. EPICS characters are sketchy to start, and get defined further through play. Skills are defined during play. If you go strictly by the game text, you don't even get to pick your character's gender, or species.  A starting character consists only of the following:
    1. Name
    2. Role (warrior, connections man, computer whiz, etc.)
    3. Motivation (picked from a list that includes The Good Fight, and Reluctant Hero)
    4. Personality (cheerful, bitter, etc.)
    5. Trademark (smokes a pipe, speaks with an accent, etc.)
    6. Specialty (fighting, firearms, computers, stealth, etc.)
    7. Influence (a number mostly representing story significance)
    8. Power (a number representing physical effectiveness)
    9. Survival Points (a number calculated from Influence and Power)
    10. Inhuman Forces (capabilities beyond what normal men can do)[/list:u]So, this time I was determined to do it by the book. My "one-sheet" to the players consisted of a little bit of setting information, a clearly articulated setting-premise, a sidebar on how I think character protagonism works in a setting-premise game, an abbreviated version of the EPICS chargen rules from pages 5 and 6 of the pdf, and a small sidebar on how I'd personally come to conceptualize the somewhat abstract output of EPICS chargen.

    Here's everything from the one-sheet except the abbreviated chargen rules:
    A Fair Land

    Valusia is a fair land. The farms in its green valleys are bountiful. Its forests are full of game, and its rivers full of fish. All the races, human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, half-folk, and halforc, live in peace in Valusia under the rule of King Crassus Kaden.

    The capital of Valusia is Kingsport, a peaceful city that reflects the prosperity and racial diversity of the kingdom at large, and a city where legends walk. Kingsport is the "City of Heroes."

    Hero Bands

    The romance and grandeur of heroism is an institution in Valusia. And Kingsport is the center of it. Hero bands, with names like The Scarlet Riders, and The Golem Smashers, are supported by Kingsport's small industry of exclusive taverns, songwriting minstrels, armorers and weapon makers, and all manner of service providers. Those with troubles come to Kingsport seeking heroes, and those with heroic aspirations come to Kingsport in search of adventure and fame. Of course, dungeon delving and hiring out to private clients for honest deadly missions are the staples of heroism, but not the scope of it. If goblinoid hordes become too large or overbold, or a dragon rampages, the peaceable folk will clamor. And King Kaden will rally Valusia's heroes on their behalf. Undoubtedly the most famous of all of Valusia's hero bands is The Seven. Every child knows of the warriors Urich and Wygand, Sarrian the elven ranger, Zelda the Sun Priest, Spyke the rogue, Tyvek the one-eyed fire mage, and the most famous of all living Red Knights, Kerreth the Righteous.

    Of course, a few sages worry that the reliance on "heroes" has made the average man too dependent on others to resolve his problems. But no one pays them much mind.

    Religion and History

    People throughout the world revere Solace, the Sun God. More than a thousand years ago, during a time historians now call "The Scourge," a race of savage spider-like creatures infested the land. Legend says the intelligent races were nearly wiped out by the spiders. And it would have happened had not Solace inspired a great human heroine to unite the the elves, dwarves, humans, and half-folk and defeat the spiders. This woman, named Elena Tarrian, was the first Red Knight. And the divine existence of Solace remains unquestioned...to this day the Red Knights and Sun Priests who dedicate their lives to Solace are blessed with visible powers of fire and light. Though it seems that only humans are called to his service.

    Protagonism and Setting-based Premise

    Our prior games have all been character-premise narrativism. That is, the meaningful, thematic "questions" have all been asked of the characters, and answered by them through their actions and decisions. In the Sorcerer game that Scott ran, the "question" was something like: "What will you do for power?"

    This game is going to be an attempt at setting-premise Narrativism. The meaningful question is being asked of the setting: "Has the average man become too dependent on others to resolve his problems?"

    The player characters in our previous games have been protagonists because they have held the interest of the audience of other players in working out their own personal answer to each game's premise. But in setting-premise narrativism, the question isn't answered individually. So your job, in creating your character for this game, is to make one that is positioned to raise concerns relevant to the question and one whose actions are capable of impacting on the answer.

    Note that it isn't the player character's job to make the setting aware of the problem.. That requires a GM-delivered kicker-like event at the setting level. Your job is just to be relevant and central.

    What Exactly Is an EPICS Character?

    I've been racking my brain over this question for two weeks. Because unless we're going to define them to a greater extent than the rules would have us do, which is what we did for the sidekicks superhero game, an EPICS character is very, very different from what we're used to. Consider that if we stick to the rules, chargen won't have specifically defined any of the races of the player characters, or their professions.

    So here's what I propose: conceive of your EPICS character as a heavily typecast Hollywood actor. The opening scenes will drop your "actor" into a "role" for which he/she is suited. So, like John Rhys-Davies, you may find yourself in the unlikely position of being an entirely different species.[/list:u]Paul
Logged

My Life with Master knows codependence.
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
Paul Czege
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 2341


WWW
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2003, 12:41:36 PM »

And here are the player characters:
    1. name:         Thomas the Liar
    2. role:         warrior
    3. motivation:      the good fight
    4. personality:      quiet
    5. trademark:      mask across lower face
    6. specialty:      archery
    7. influence:      4
    8. power:         6
    9. survival points:      14
    10. inhuman forces:   specialty arrows

    1. name:         Benedict Grey
    2. role:         financier
    3. motivation:      reluctant hero
    4. personality:      boorish
    5. trademark:      fashionably blackened  teeth
    6. specialty:      logic
    7. influence:      6
    8. power:         3
    9. survival points:      15
    10. inhuman forces:   magical bag

    1. name:         Balthazar
    2. role:         spellcaster
    3. motivation:      reluctant hero
    4. personality:      egomaniac
    5. trademark:      shaved head
    6. specialty:      performing the role of hero
    7. influence:      5
    8. power:         5
    9. survival points:      15
    10. inhuman forces:   summoning

    1. name:         Ernest of [hero]
    2. role:         page
    3. motivation:      joy ride
    4. personality:      enthusiastic
    5. trademark:      the hero's standard
    6. specialty:      negotiating
    7. influence:      6
    8. power:         4
    9. survival points:      16
    10. inhuman forces:[/list:u]Paul
    Logged

    My Life with Master knows codependence.
    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
    Ron Edwards
    Global Moderator
    Member
    *
    Posts: 16490


    WWW
    « Reply #2 on: September 23, 2003, 02:02:36 PM »

    Hi Paul,

    Ernest doesn't have any inhuman forces? "Insanely lucky," comes to mind. That character is begging for a punch in the snoot.

    Where do the numbers come from? Looking at the totals, I see 24, 24, 25, and 26.

    Now for the main question - I'm curious to know whether the process of play is best understood as

    a) skills are defined into place as a means of getting events underway and conflicts resolved (this is more like the stereotyped hero in a movie), or

    b) events and conflicts occur so that skills are defined into place, hence "completing" character creation.

    To help me understand that better, can you explain the process of defining the characters' skills (and, as you suggest, gender and species) as the group plays? Is there any structure involved?

    Best,
    Ron
    Logged
    Paul Czege
    Moderator
    Member
    *
    Posts: 2341


    WWW
    « Reply #3 on: September 24, 2003, 09:00:55 AM »

    Hey Ron,

    It's pretty interesting that you focused your cracking-wise on Ernest. The other characters are almost too undefined for such hijinks. You'll note that although everyone figured out how to hint their character's gender through their name, Ernest's player has hinted a lot more about the character. The role of "page" and the "of [hero]" part of the name hint the character into relationships and circumstances in ways that the roles and names of the other characters do not. And, yeah, if you're thinking that Ernest's slightly more fully-defined nature represents a hard-fought effort on the player's part to restrain the urge to fully describe the character, you'd be right. EPICS requires of the players a greater degree of GM trust than any other game I've seen. At least with a traditional game, if your character gets railroaded into a storyline that doesn't apprehend him properly, you can still find enjoyment in the character background and concept you created.

    Regarding define-through-play, here's a general idea of how EPICS structures it:

    The tag-line of the game is "deserve to survive." By defining your character through play, you earn "survival points," which you may spend for bonuses on your action resolution rolls, and use to increase your Influence score, and which you must spend in response to the successful hostilities of others.

    How you earn them is complex. And as far as I can tell, is also entirely Authorial. The game provides a number of examples of the GM interrogating a player. "Can you fly a plane?" If you answer in the affirmative, you get a Survival Point award based on the level at which you rate your skill, poor/average/expert. If you answer in the negative, you generally get a larger Survival Point award, and potentially an "Into the Fire" award for making things interesting by worsening of the situation for your character. An "Out of the Frying Pan" award is given when you avoid a threat through cleverness. And you also get Survival Point awards for defining other player characters...but only in roleplayed, in-character dialogue situations. "Susan is the one you should talk to. She is an accomplished pilot." Also, the game includes guidelines for Survival Point awards for good roleplaying.

    And I must confess, I'm not sure whether that's purely process (a) or process (b) in your question. What do you think? If it's a little bit of both, is it problematic?

    Paul
    Logged

    My Life with Master knows codependence.
    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
    Paul Czege
    Moderator
    Member
    *
    Posts: 2341


    WWW
    « Reply #4 on: September 24, 2003, 09:11:01 AM »

    Oh yeah...

    Inhuman Forces are optional. Ernest's player opted out of specifying any during chargen. Players can specify them during play, but do not get Survival Point awards for doing so. Survival Points are awarded for subsequently defining how a given Inhuman Force does and does not work.

    And regarding the numbers, the game text presents several options. One of them is that the player divides 10 points between Influence and Power. A chart that defines how a given score in Influence or Power might be understood is also provided. So, a 6 or 7 in Influence is an "important character" but not a "main character." And a 5 or 6 in Power is an average man. Starting Survival Points are calculated by doubling Influence and adding Power.

    Paul
    Logged

    My Life with Master knows codependence.
    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
    Lxndr
    Acts of Evil Playtesters
    Member

    Posts: 1113

    Master of the Inkstained Robes


    WWW
    « Reply #5 on: September 24, 2003, 10:29:12 AM »

    Benedict only distributed 9 points (6+3).  What happened to the remaining point?
    Logged

    Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
    Maker of many fine story-games!
    Moderator of Indie Netgaming
    hardcoremoose
    Acts of Evil Playtesters
    Member

    Posts: 669


    WWW
    « Reply #6 on: September 24, 2003, 10:43:49 AM »

    Quote
    Benedict only distributed 9 points (6+3). What happened to the remaining point?


    As I recall, Bendict's player deliberately chose to spend fewer points, to keep the character closer to how he imagined it.  It was an option Paul gave us, which that player availed himself of.

    - Scott
    Logged
    Ron Edwards
    Global Moderator
    Member
    *
    Posts: 16490


    WWW
    « Reply #7 on: September 24, 2003, 02:48:11 PM »

    Hi Paul,

    Quote
    I'm not sure whether that's purely process (a) or process (b) in your question. What do you think? If it's a little bit of both, is it problematic?


    I'll have to think on it a bit more. But based on my limited understanding at the moment, it strikes me that over time, either (a) or (b) will emerge as the priority. It can't be told just from looking at the mechanics, although now that I know them better it will help me talk about this issue later. But again, I think that "over time" is crucial. This experiment is definitely a stepwise regression, not a snapshot correlation.

    Best,
    Ron
    Logged
    jscottpittman
    Member

    Posts: 5


    WWW
    « Reply #8 on: September 24, 2003, 03:31:13 PM »

    Hey there guys,

    Quote:
    I'm not sure whether that's purely process (a) or process (b) in your question. What do you think? If it's a little bit of both, is it problematic?  

      Defining skills during play in EPICS makes both results possible, which actually solves more problems than it might cause. It allows for both creating and resolving situations, as well as defining character abilities during play as a direct result of situations resolved, or even created, by those skills.
      For example, in a game session in a modern setting a character finds himself being chased by a gang of crimminals. He needs a quick way to escape. The Director announces that up ahead there is a motorcycle, parked with the keys in the ignition (the owner is paying for gas). The question arises: does the character know how to drive a motorcycle? If the answer is yes, the character receives points and is further defined, and the situation is resolved, as the character takes the motorcycle and escapes. The character is also futher defined - we now know that he has the Motorcycle skill.
      Skills can also be used to create situations for the characters as well. For example, the players might be stumped on how to find out how a drug ring they are trying to stop operates. One of the players, a more shady type of person, announces that his character has a Crimminal Underworld skill and knows a few connections around town that might lead him to some answers. The Director thinks this is a fine idea, and it creates the possibility for a new scene in the story where the character meets with one of his contacts and tries to dig up a few leads. Again, the character is defined and a new situation is created based on a skill, as opposed to a skill being created based on a situation.
      I hope this sheds some light on how skills can be used in the EPICS game.
    Logged

    J. Scott Pittman
    EPICS game designer
    www.dragonslayergames.com
    jscottpittman
    Member

    Posts: 5


    WWW
    « Reply #9 on: September 24, 2003, 04:30:00 PM »

    Quote


    I've been racking my brain over this question for two weeks. Because unless we're going to define them to a greater extent than the rules would have us do, which is what we did for the sidekicks superhero game, an EPICS character is very, very different from what we're used to. Consider that if we stick to the rules, chargen won't have specifically defined any of the races of the player characters, or their professions.



    This might be true, except in games where the Director has designed Roles for the characters (see pg. 5 of the EPICS rules, and examples as given in the ANGELS setting, pgs. 33 and 34). As stated in those areas, a Director might have specific roles that he feels are required for his Setting. Of course, players could help the Director design those Roles, based on what they wanted to play.
      Let's take an example of a fantasy world, one where the local religion is very important. The Director wants to make a powerful theme for his game, such as "how far would you go before you went against your religious beliefs?" We assume that the religious beliefs would be not killing and innocent person, for hypothetical purposes.
      By EPICS strict game rules, you wouldn't define the character's religious strength of conviction until play begins. That creates a problem for the Director's goal for the theme of his story. What if all the characters are very cool in their convictions?
      The Director has the task of solving this problem, and thus meeting his goal, in two steps. First, he defines the setting, and then the Roles for the characters.
      The setting would have to include a religion that strictly prohibits murder except (perhaps) in self-defense. The more the Director could add to this religion to make it a "good guy" type would make it all the more interesting. The priests wear white, live with little or no wealth, etc. Due to the theme of the adventure(s), the Director would probably want to detail the religion in great detail as part of the Setting.
      Then the Director would want to design the Roles for the characters. A Religious Warrior, one who follows the god and deals out his law with a sword, a Holy Man, gifted with powers from his god and faithful until the end to his ways (?). Of course, you could throw in a Doubtful Rouge, one who has little faith in gods and prefers to beleive in what he can see and feel. The Director would like most of the characters to be human, so it is assumed that they are. However, any player could choose to be female if they chose one of these Roles.
      Still, the Director feels that a bit of alien thinking might be interesting to the group. He could make a race part of yet another Role - The Inquisitive Elf Ranger. In the description of the Role, the Director could state that the character's purpose is to ask questions of the other player-characters - why do you beleive in a being that you cannot see? You claim he speaks but none can hear him but you when he does? The elves of this particular world might not worship gods and the whole idea may seem quite strange to them.
      Throw in a Motivation and you've got a pretty good group, although not heavily detailed, that will meet the needs of your game idea. It's easy to place The Good Fight on the Role of the Holy Man, Eye for and Eye on the Religious Warrior, and Joy Ride on the Rouge. But what if we switched them up a bit?
      Let's say that the Rouge picked the Reluctant Hero motivation, and the Holy Man chose the Eye for an Eye motivation? You could start the game with a flashback, allowing the players to act out their Roles as younger characters without any dice rolls, and deciding with their imput how the characters wound up with the motivations they have. The priest was already a member of the clergy when he discovered secret documents that showed that a very powerful baron he serves had his mother killed. The rouge has always been a friend of the Holy Man, and now finds himself in the position of stopping his friend from killing the baron. Can the rouge, who wishes no real part in heroics, find a way to save his friend from dooming himself? Will the priest, if given the chance, actually break his religious beliefs and kill the baron?
      Is this a little like making up backgrounds before play, which the EPICS game discourages? Sure it is, but the Role can be very exact, leaving the player with only the option of a name and all of his basics decided for him (race, occupation, gender, and even motivation and background information) or very vauge (a general occupation or type of abilities the Role is known for) depending on the requirements of the game, the idea for the story, and what the Director will allow.
      Many Directors have a general plot line (go kill the monster, rescue the prisionor, get some treasure) and vauge character roles suffice. In game sessions where very exact natures and occupations are required, make them a requirement of the character's Role and then make the players pick from the Roles that you have created, hopefully with their help.
      Some of this was ramble - but I hope it gives you some idea of how I wanted EPICS to be a game that did not use "classes" but could be more structured by the Director if neccessary. Unfortunatly, I had to limit the game to 50 pages to make it affordable to print in it's first trial.
      Some of you might be pleased to know that I am slowly working on a second book for EPICS that will deatial more about character creation, including Roles, creating adventures, and more specific guidelines on how to run games using the EPICS rules.
    Logged

    J. Scott Pittman
    EPICS game designer
    www.dragonslayergames.com
    Paul Czege
    Moderator
    Member
    *
    Posts: 2341


    WWW
    « Reply #10 on: September 25, 2003, 10:41:50 AM »

    Hey Scott...welcome to the Forge!

    Skills can also be used to create situations for the characters as well. For example, the players might be stumped on how to find out how a drug ring they are trying to stop operates. One of the players, a more shady type of person, announces that his character has a Crimminal Underworld skill and knows a few connections around town that might lead him to some answers.

    Thanks for this example. I very much like the idea that players aren't restricted to defining facets only when their characters are having a scene. By allowing a player to define facets out-of-character, in between scenes, you're giving them a mechanism for collaborating with the Director, influencing the scenes he frames, and helping when things seem to be floundering. My girlfriend did this during our session on Monday, defining a connection between her character and an NPC who'd appeared in an entirely different scene.

    Here's my question, though: Where do you draw the line on this kind of thing? What are the limits on the power a player has over the game world? Imagine a player who, every ten minutes whether his character is in a scene or not, defines a new facet that has large-scale impact on setting, situation, and theme...or is just plain cryptic:
      "Just so you know, Stevie doesn't remember anything that happened to him between the ages of five and eight."
      "When the aliens invaded, Stevie had already been released from Compton. But his former cellmate was killed."
      "Don't talk to me about impropriety! I've seen your signature in the Mannheim Guestbook!"[/list:u]In game sessions where very exact natures and occupations are required, make them a requirement of the character's Role and then make the players pick from the Roles that you have created...

      Yeah, that's a powerful strategy. I think it's not well-conveyed by the game text though. Actors are instructed to "think about...story needs" in choosing their Roles, and Directors are described only as providing "ideas." Thanks for describing it.

      Paul
    Logged

    My Life with Master knows codependence.
    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
    Valamir
    Member

    Posts: 5574


    WWW
    « Reply #11 on: September 25, 2003, 11:23:30 AM »

    Hey Paul this is pretty interesting.  Couple of items for you.

    1) Why EPICs for Evernight?  Was it just that you wanted to try EPICs and wanted to look at the Evernight premise and just decided to do both at once...or was there something in particular that drew you to this combination.

    2) There are a number of similarites in how characters get developed between EPICs and Universalis.  After you've had a chance to play a few sessions, I'd love to see a comparison / contrast between the two...strengths, weaknesses, etc.
    Logged

    jscottpittman
    Member

    Posts: 5


    WWW
    « Reply #12 on: September 25, 2003, 11:44:57 AM »

    Quote

    Here's my question, though: Where do you draw the line on this kind of thing? What are the limits on the power a player has over the game world? Imagine a player who, every ten minutes whether his character is in a scene or not, defines a new facet that has large-scale impact on setting, situation, and theme...or is just plain cryptic:


    Pg. 7 of the rules states that players should be allowed to make up any kind of character that they like, limited by the Director. The Director can choose to limit or even refuse any facet that he does not see fit for a character.

    Quote

    "Just so you know, Stevie doesn't remember anything that happened to him between the ages of five and eight."


    Pg. 8 of the rules (Co-Facets) states that players of characters who receive this kind of Facet can refuse to accept them. This includes the Director if he controls the character. The Director also has the ability to not allow the Facet, of course.

    Quote

    "When the aliens invaded, Stevie had already been released from Compton. But his former cellmate was killed."

    See above.

    Quote

    "Don't talk to me about impropriety! I've seen your signature in the Mannheim Guestbook!"


    Also see above.
      As for characters who are making up Facets about their own characters that seem out of line or "too much", the Director has the final say in limiting or refusing to allow these Facets.
      Let's use the example of the drug ring from the earlier e-mail. A player might have staed that he knew all the drug rings in the city like the back of his hand (Drug Rings of Chicago: Expert). He knew when and where most drugs were delivered by the exact group that the characters were looking for. The Director could (and should) decide that this Facet would disrupt the excitment and challenge of the adventure, and decides not to allow the skill. He might suggest that the players think of another skill, or suggest to them the Underground Knowledge skill as mentioned before. This gives the characters the ability to continue the story "unstumped", but limits their skills so that they just can't win the game without any struggle.
    [/quote]


    Quote


    In game sessions where very exact natures and occupations are required, make them a requirement of the character's Role and then make the players pick from the Roles that you have created...

    Yeah, that's a powerful strategy. I think it's not well-conveyed by the game text though. Actors are instructed to "think about...story needs" in choosing their Roles, and Directors are described only as providing "ideas." Thanks for describing it.



    You're welcome. No, it wasn't. As I mentioned earlier, I was limited to space as the first EPICS book was in paperback form. In hindsight, I should have been working toward a .pdf book all along. The book I am working on (again, slowly) should shed more light on these kinds of querstions. Keep asking them, they give me lots of ideas on what to cover.
    Logged

    J. Scott Pittman
    EPICS game designer
    www.dragonslayergames.com
    Pages: [1]
    Print
    Jump to:  

    Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
    Oxygen design by Bloc
    Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!