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Color-first character, part 2: Getting this far

Started by Ron Edwards, January 07, 2009, 01:20:20 AM

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Christopher Kubasik

Hi Ron,

Good point about sleek not being the same as directed.  She'll be in motion, but we don't know how it will turn out or ultimately where she is going.

About the tables:

I get the feeling that Classic Traveller isn't well known around these parts, but I suspect that the success of solo Character Creation and solo World Generation came exactly from the random rolls and evocative results. 

In character creation, each PC is generated in four-year-terms of military service.  PCs pick up new skills during each term.  Although the game rules don't break this out, there is a page where Miller describes the a fictionalized account of the creation of PC, justifying with events how the PC picked up the new skills.  Thus, we got to imagine key incidents in the creation of the character as we built them.  (The new Mongoose Traveller rules takes this concept and runs very well with it, even tying the PCs pasts together during character creation as they live out their years in character creation...)

The World Generation system required random rolls that gave you things like planet size, atmosphere type, government type, tech level and so on.... Often you would end up with results that didn't always seem to make sense together -- at first blush.  But then you'd puzzle it out and end up with a really cook, unique world that took all the color elements that combined to make something quite solid.
"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

David Berg

Just wanted to chime in about my own Rifts experience from a dozen years ago.  (Our game might have been Sim, or might have just been enjoyable incoherence.)

The GM read the book and latched onto "fight the Coalition" as what we'd be doing in play.  We then all worked on character concepts that would interface well with "fight a fascist govt".  I played a rogue Coalition soldier, another player chose a tech geek saboteur, and someone else picked some weirdo alien race that the Coalition hates (I think this enmity was in the book, but I'm not positive).

As for the rules in the book, I mainly remember using them to spell out what my character could do, and finding satisfaction in successfully avoiding redundancy with the other characters.  This appealed to me primarily from the POV of "my color is unique and I'll get some spotlight tasks" rather than "we've optimized group effectiveness".  At the same time, I think most of our char-gen decisions post-concept-picking were directed toward optimizing character effectiveness.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


To follow up on what Ron and Alexandre were saying about color and rules. When I saw her picture with the blue hair, the stance, and her gaze I thought Talislanta. In particular half Muse, half knife fighter so you have this mixture of two cultures. But given the rules as written I had to choose one: a knife fighter or a muse.

The rules for character creation let me get at some of the  aspects I saw important in creating her character but I would never run her in a Talislanta game. Since Talislanta rules work against getting at any of the cultural stuff thus interfering with my fun with color (very similar to my experiences with Vampire, Planescape, and so on)



Like David, I tend to take a "how can this work in my game" approach. The illustration gives me a strong impression of who this person is. She's frowning, but she doesn't look enraged or angry. She's determined, and possibly not very nice. But she isn't mean. She can handle herself; why else would she be running around dressed like that with a big sword hanging on her back?

Then I start to think "what would it be like to play this person in a particular world?" To me she's obviously at home in a swords & sorcery fantasy world. TSOY and Talislanta immediately jump to mind. So I rule those out. Playing a character in their obvious milieu doesn't strike my fancy. Likewise some pairings would just seem weird. I thought of Traveller (because its character creation system is so interesting), but I rejected it. She just didn't fit the Traveller world as I imagine it.

Principia was just the right balance. She's a bit off for Principia, but not too far off. I want to see what this person does in a world that throws her character into contrast. Perhaps this is a case of contrasting color where, I hope, both the character and the game color will show up better.

And also, I saw an opportunity to shill my own game.
"Come on you lollygaggers, let's go visit the Thought Lords!"

Darcy Burgess

Hey Christopher,

I'm with you 100% regarding Traveller tables.  It's an especially powerful experience when you're doing it as a group; here, I'm thinking of the giddy fun of wasting an afternoon with your buddies generating subsector after subsector.  Contrast that with the more labourious fun of prepping a subsector as a solo GM.

That contrast is probably one of the strongest validations for the importance of the first 'S' in SIS that I know of.

Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.

Joel P. Shempert

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 01:22:48 AM
What struck you the most, and how did you express it through the system's options?Clearly people were indeed struck, as expressed by the humorous but nevertheless sincere introductions made by several, in that the character was "obviously" suited for this-or-that system and concept. Other bits and pieces throughout indicated key features, such as her eyes, which played the same role.

Please, I'm not asking for your motivations, but rather your process. What did you see and which specific choices about existing options arose from what you saw? Also, please limit your answer to one or two of the most important things, not a blow-by-blow of every detail.

Well--I saw the piece and went: Cool! James West art! One I don't remember seeing before, too. She's hot!

Then once I settled down, it was, yes, the gaze, that struck me. Straight-ahead, seemingly magical (along with the hair), intense and penetrating. Beautiful, but a bit uncomfortable? Kind of unique among James' work, too. His women have sullen eyes, or playful eyes, but that mystical sort of icewater stare doesn't pop up anywhere else that I know.

I didn't go "Oh, she's obviously blahblahblah; " in fact I cast about for a game to use. But once i had something to apply the Color to, the concept just poured out.

I don't think I consciously thought, "it's the eyes," actually. Consciously I was thinking of her other assets. Her sexuality figured in both the IaWA attempt that I aborted and the Sorcerer character I eventually created. In neither case was this suggested by the game's process explicitly, I just added it in the "player-generated content" sections of the character: Best Interests and Kicker, respectively. (Oh, and I'm also including her big, cool sword in "other assets", which very clearly informed my creation process. I knew she was going to be a warrior woman, whose deceptively soft curves hindered her not a bit in cleaving your fucking head if you crossed her. But it was mainly the curves that caught my attention; good Lord, those hips look almost as mesmerizing as her eyes!)

The picture in this case "informed my options" in a gradually-narrowing-down process. Like, I knew, first, that she had to be a "fantasy" character. Sure, there were some possibilities such as "space opera" or "larper" or "time traveler" that could stretch the bounds a bit (OK, I didn't think of the LARP angle at the time), but i didn't feel like getting funky like that. Of course, that means narrowing down what "fantasy" means, for this girl. To my mind she occupies a definite range of genres, mostly variations of Sword and Sorcery. She definitely doesn't live in Middle Earth, for example, or Earthsea. So I thought of the specific games I have access to that do "fantasy" in some way, with an eye for genre matches. I scratched my head, thought of D&D 3.5 and rejected it because I wouldn't be able to make a satisfying build for her. . .then thought of in a Wicked Age. I went fairly far in the process for that game, but actually scrapped the idea based partly on Color: Sure, both the drawing and IaWA are "Sword and Sworcery," but but her bikini-sword-chick thing doesn't mesh with Vincent's culturally evocative, fertile-crescent writing voice and illustrations. .. for me. Then I think "duh! Sorcerer and Sword!" and I'm off to the races.

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Ron Edwards


I realized this can just go on and on ... which I suppose is OK, but let's move to the next question, 2 out of 10. I figure if more Color notions crop up they can be added as we go. So maybe ... all right, we're moving on to #2, but #1 isn't being shut down if you really really want to contribute about it.


2. Understanding and applying the SIS "equation": Color * (System * (Situation: character + setting))

See The Provisional Glossary for a pretty good Big Model diagram and set of baseline definitions; see the Wikipedia entry for a really good diagram and a breakdown of terms (although some of the phrasing is off, for instance, I do not claim that I am talking about everything anyone ever called role-playing).

With hopes of clarifying: characters in a setting comprise, or are in, a situation. The situation and anything in it changes, usually with consequences, via the operation of the system currently in use, which may or may not be 'the rules.' All of this is multiplied by, if you will, or perhaps imbued with color: descriptions, additions, elaborations, as described and received. The whole thing is called either Exploration, or probably better, Shared Imagined Space.

Further clarification: Imagined is the participle form of "to imagine," not "imaginary" – it is an act, not a condition. Also, Space implies the possibility of time and change; arguably System is the application of fictional time (and hence consequence) to the Situation.

Is color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it's integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games. Arguably, without Color, then the dialogue regarding system outcomes would no longer be about Imagined material at all.

Is any part of the sheet you established, including those with randomized methods, easily connected to one or more of the four components that are not Character? Remember that a given thing on the sheet may "touch" more than one Exploration-component at once.

This question is really easy when you apply it to a single character; my goal is to see how the results differ across them. Also, please feel free to ask any questions about the equation, including "what the fuck is that" if necessary. (Although please don't ask that just to be funny.)

Solicited input: Nora (Antoine), Tyris the Amazon Queen (Lance), Juno (Jared)

Best, Ron

Christopher Kubasik

HI Ron,

My head feels clogged reading your question.  Now, that might just be my fever, but let me see if I have this straight:

You're asking if any part of the sheet I established, including those with randomized methods, easily connects to Color, System, Situation and Setting?  (I'm assuming those are the four components that are not Character, yes?)

I'm confused because it seems to me not only are those four components easily connected to Baroosa's character sheet.  Those four components ARE the character sheet.  We have Crystal Cities.  Tribes fleeing into the desert.  Dead fathers.  An oath of vengeance.  Numbers attached to Traits that reflect all of this and more.  Is there anything on the PC's sheet that isn't this stuff?

But, like I said, I have a fever.  My lungs are filled with fluid.  I might be missing the boat here.

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Ron Edwards

Hi Christopher,

That's why I didn't pick Baroosa for one of the showcase characters for this question. I picked them because either the components are somewhat differently related to the sheet, or generated in a different way through the agency of other players/GM, or in the case of Juno, rather mysterious to me. I do think The Pool is relevant to this issue partly because it has a way of really nailing down most of the equation to make the remaining part "pop out" for the GM's prep, but I wanted to hold off on that until at least two of the named character-authors have posted.

Furthermore, yes, my question is easy and may seem trivial when you're looking at one character and you know the game pretty well. So this set of question-replies-chit-chat is supposed to look across characters, to see which parts of the equation are brought forward and which are ... geez, how to put it, left for someone else to rev up.

Best, Ron

Christopher Kubasik

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Lance D. Allen

This answer is based on the idea that I understand the question. I'm not entirely sure I do.


More specifically, it's obvious (to me) that Goal and Role are intimately tied into the setting/situation. The setting is, generically, a world somewhat like ours where these Ladies exist. The situation is that these Ladies all want a thing, the Goal, and want to do a particular thing to/with it, the Role.

All of the aspects (except, perhaps, Goal; what it is doesn't effect how the mechanics work) interact purely with the mechanical portion of System. Role determines the mechanical action required to win. MtaW/LtaW and Motif mechanically effect your outcomes during the conflict sequences. Archetype gives you a specific mechanical power that can increase your chances of winning if used in the right moment.

All of them also affect narration (which I think falls under Color) because they require certain fictional elements be brought into play when they're used. Goal subtly and unsubtly flavors all narration. Seeking a child will differ from seeking the crown jewels in the fiction, though you will still be seeking. The Complex (the fictional playing area) will differ as well. A child may be kept in a house, where a crown may be in a museum. The types of challenges set up will differ too. You may face bodyguards who dive in the way of bullets to protect the child, and laser security systems and booby-trapped cases to protect the jewels.

Are these the right answer to the question you asked? Or did you just ask me what my favorite color is, and I said "No, I don't really care for cabbage."
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Joel P. Shempert

Just one last bit for #1:

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 09:07:07 PM
3. If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

I'd say that hell yes, Yaeta's ready to act and react--owing at least as much to the systems supports in this game, Sorcerer, as to the inspiration of Color. Because of these specific game elements--esp. the Kicker, but also Descriptors, Destiny and Demon Desire/Need--I have a very clear handle on "Yaeta in motion." I could well do this color-first process in another game (indeed, I have!) and come out with a dud that looks awesome and cool in my head but I have no idea how to play. For instance, the Bard example I gave in this post in Cascadiapunk Postmortem was a problem of both "preplayed Narrativist arc in my head" paralysis, and a helplessness in implementing Color--"uh, he's a Bard! He does, like, True Irish Celtic Bardic stuff! Like, y'know, something! Gimme like 5 minutes to think of something bardy to say!"

So I guess I'm not entirely convinced that just grabbing Color and putting ith through the "works" of a particular game will necessarily give you that "ready to roll" feeling. It might, or might not, owing to merits or faults in the particular systemic process. But then, maybe that's another way of saying what you have been all along: that Color and Reward have to work in tandem to produce functional, playable results? It also brings to mind this statement of yours:

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2009, 12:33:41 PM
Maybe that's a fancy way of saying that the rules work against Color if the rules aren't what you want to do. So it feels like a bait-and-switch. That was certainly my experience with Vampire 1st edition.

So maybe I'm just fretting that a dud system, or a dud System/Color combination, will kill even my best efforts? Which is kind of a 'duh" thing; of course you want functional social dynamics, functional procedures, and so forth. But considering that it's such a point of struggle for me (and I'm not alone0, it doesn't seem like an empty worry.

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

David Berg

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2009, 11:53:20 PM
Is color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it's integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games. Arguably, without Color, then the dialogue regarding system outcomes would no longer be about Imagined material at all.
I've played some hurried con games where it was like, "You won the Conflict.  We previously established what your stakes were, so now that's what you get.  Okay, next scene."  I'm not sure what level of "imagined" to call that.  There was definitely painting going on at other moments, but we put the brush down an awful lot for my taste.

It's funny, Ron, your "sometimes your setting and character features exist in order to be colored" comment about my Werewolf game didn't strike me as relevant until I'd played some games that really didn't work that way at all.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


For #1:
Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 07, 2009, 09:07:07 PMThe neat thing about this is that the system's unexpected results or constraints take on a weird feel of inevitability or "rightness" which is very different from merely stacking up the pieces to meet pre-set specifications toward a desired play-result.

This is very interesting, as I noted in my write-up, changing systems made very different characters out of the two versions because of what was necessitated by the system, even though they were the same basic character, the result was very different executions and (I imagine) play. Yet the character(s?), different as they turned out from each other due to the systems used, each feel exactly correct. A sort of "well, of COURSE that's how this character should have been designed and have worked".

Quote3. If I'm not mistaken, for everyone who's posted, there is no doubt in your mind that once play begins, and once some kind of SIS is established among everyone in the group, then you will have no problem contributing how your character will act and react. Is that right?

Yes. Hell, I've managed to set-up character-event potentials all over the place; I not only know how she'll react, but what she's probably in the middle of and what she will undoubtedly be in the middle of for the next few sessions at least, and even if not, what sorts of things she will get herself into.

For #2:
Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2009, 11:53:20 PMIs color only an add-on multiplier, though? I suggest not: I suggest it's integral to the medium of play, like paint is to painting or sound is to music or physical cards are to card games.

Interestingly, before you even stated that, I was thinking: why the fuck are you multiplying Color by the rest of it? The rest of that stuff IS Color. It should be a box, an equals sign, not a multiplier. But looking at it more, I'm wondering if that's entirely true. From an odd perspective, I'm thinking Color is an attribute that resists easy classification as either this or that. It multiplies AND contains, like some weird elemental Elder God of theory components. It is all that other stuff, and yet it is also its own distinct thing.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Antoine F


I believe that a lot of things from your equation are absent from the sheet.
Setting : not much. The only bit of setting that was involved in Nora's creation in the part with her alien ship and I realise that it's not even on the sheet.
Situation : not much. No other character, mac guffin, etc..
Color : that's perhaps the clearest thing the sheet can communicate. There's this "loincloth sexy" talent and the moons belt and the vulture head sword. All that, vehiculate the pulp feel I want for a game including this character.

But I am not sure about what you ask for "System", Ron. I can see how I would evoque the belt in some conflict and how it would generate narration. Given Nora's attributes, I totally imagine what kind of actions I would undertake to further her goals. If linking the sheet to system means something else, please can you help me understand it ?

Wait, I have an idea, let's take it in reverse. I'll take each part on the sheet and see if I can link it to parts of your equation.

Name : color perhaps. It's telling of real world sounding names not fantasy ones. It would totally break it for me to interact with a lot a "Gundalbrf Bright Leaf", etc...

Level and class : not sure. I don't think it matters much for anything but Character.

Talent : color as I said above. For me, it speaks also of system because it tells the kind of elements that will give more weight to Nora's actions when I'll introduce them in the SIS (namely Eloquence using actions and Show-Down actions in fights).

Limitation : oh, yes, I think there's some potential for Situation here. Nora should be easy to offense if you express doubt about her exploits for example. But it still pretty devoid of a precise incarnation in the setting and others characters.

Tha attributes (Daring, etc...) : the random part of the sheet. Given the game conflict rules, I know that I am at most 3 attribute rolls aways from any reasonable (within the previously established SIS) stake I could set. So the attributes speak of a potential of action. These are my means to win the stakes of conflicts and the kind of actions I will try to avoid. So System it must be.

Weapon : a little bit of color with the short description. Oh, yes, some System also because the weapon type interact with the Arenas (types of combat terrains) in the game. Light weapon are good for fighting in tight arenas (corridors, small rooms...). So I will try to move the narration toward those kind of terrains and the GM will probably try to move me away from them.

Specialist equipment : again System as it is a potential of narration and action. The exact nature of the action is not clear but for me it speaks of seduction, treacherous action... And color too. Exotic sexy pulpy color.

Armor : System. Low armor means quicker and deadlyer fights than usual. Knowing the rules, you would envision fast fights with a early Show-down action (stunts for bonus) and either a fast kill of the monster, a soon inconcious Nora or a prompt retreat.

I don't know if that answers your question and if my interpretation of system is good. But that's all for know. All in all, thinking about that was interesting, though.