Tag Archives: Player character

Back to the Stacks

I’ve switched from my novel to doing a bit of work on the Stack based RPG this week. If I’ve not mentioned this before, this is a RPG that utilizes Warhammer style careers but stacked in a related series. The plan is to give bonuses to those players who go through a stack without jumping to a different one, but leave it viable for those who want to jump around to get a more diverse set of skills and abilities.

This week’s work has me fleshing out the system mechanics and working up various lists. Lists of talents and abilities, lists of spells, and a list of skills.
Skills have always been a sticking point when designing. Do I want to have a skill for all conceivable player actions? This leaves me with a long list, the majority of which will never see any apprecable play, let alone do more than give some characters a smattering of flavoring. It doesn’t advance the playability of the game or the character. On the other hand, I could aim for haivng a majority and let the GM and Players do some clean up if they find something I’ve missed? That gets rid of a certail level of customazation I know that some GMs and Players really enjoy having.

It also leaves them with an additional task when creating a character.

With either choice, I’m often stuck on this part of the game for weeks going back and forth.

So I’m trying to do it different with this game.

Last night, I had the idea that the careers have inherent, but litmited, skills and/or abilities (whatever you want to call them) which are directly related to what the career is named. That is if your character starts life as a Baker, then obviously, they’ve had some training and expreience baking goods. In making this a rule, both the player and the GM can safely make the assumption that if anything baking related suddenly becomes important to the story, then this character has the capacity to deal with it. How well they can deal is where dice come into play.

This cuts me free from having to stick in a dozen or more of the more function style of skills. At the same time, it also keeps the sorts of custmozation and character flavor options in there, should the Player or the GM want to go that route.

Which is good. I like that I can keep the skill list short-ish. It means that players are going to have a better chance at doing things, more often because their characters will have the skills to do so.

But then there are the meta-skills.

Perception, awareness, search, and their brethern. Where do they fit in?

Anymore, it’s something of a rite for players to expect, once a session to miss some detail or clue because of a botched test of one of those listed above. It is disheartening and frustrating when it becomes apparent that this was curcial in order to get through the rest of the session.

That player part of me wants to eliminate those failure points. Move to something like the Gumshoe system which gives the characters all of the clues and then uses their skills to put the links between them together. It’s a nice solution which keeps the players invovled in the story and less involved in statistics and dice.

“But,” the GM in me interrupts, “what if the situation calls for the players to be distracted at a crucial clue gathering moment? Or if the GM feels they need to work for a clue to the plot? What then?”

In those situations a skill check certainly feels more appropriate but this doesn’t get us past the underlying dilemma — the use of randomness to advance the plot, rather than using character action to do the same. I’m not saying that randomness isn’t a part of RPG patterns, but I have become suspcious when it’s used for plot.

More thinking is needed before I come to a decision.

Enhanced by Zemanta

When writing an adventure module

The things I think about when writing an adventure module can be summed into three categories. Those are Story, Survivability, and Reward. Each one has different considerations to balance and address and each one can be a little overwhelming if taken too seriously. Inside I take each of these topics separately and the areas I address when working on the WFRP campaign.

Story: Does there have to be an overarching story? Yes, but more than that I think there should be up to three story lines going at any given moment. This way you can address the three elements most people seem to be interested in: Combat, Diplomacy, and Roleplaying. The overarching story ties the entire season or whatever you want to call it together and the other two side stories to keep people interested in playing. Ideally, I think that the overarching story has a mix of the three elements in each adventure as a way of making sure all players have a stake in what is happening. In your two off stories you can concentrate on one of the elements more to your liking. In attempting that mix you have to realize that Combat and Diplomacy are closely related. If you are not careful in using them much of what gets decided is decided by the dice and not your players. So this gets extra attention in how much it affects the story’s outcome. Also attempting to keep as many players involved in the game itself, you have allow for the different character archetypes to each get a chance to shine. While WRFP does not formalize them as much as, say, L5R has, carving out some time for the Burghers, Politicians, and Courtiers to practice their silver-tongued deviltry is something I try to keep in mind as the plotting moves along.

Survivability: The survival of the characters is a major concern that I come back to when writing WFRP modules. The reasons it comes up is twofold. WRFP is a system which can be very lethal to PCs. One good Ulric’s Fury and you’re staring at a dead table. This can be a serious detriment for players. Part of having a living campaign is to give your players a chance to step deeply into their character’s world. Having the character investment be shallow means you get the same shallow buy-in to your campaign. That is not something I want. Secondly, Fate Points are there to help counter this but they are an extremely limited player currency. I don’t want to force my PCs to use them unless it is completely necessary and I don’t want to hand them out continually. Unless the drama of that module calls for it, the use of FP is something I actively look to write around. This tension between the system’s lethality and the needs of a long term campaign can be a difficult balance to achieve. If this was a system that was still being actively published, a better understanding of creatures and how to craft combat encounters is something that I would take to the developers. As it stands, having to refine it takes a backseat to the many other tasks as the series keeps going forward.

Rewards: Rewarding players and character in an ongoing campaign effectively is the final tough point. In the campaign, I am terming the rewards as “Opportunities”. These include the ability to create new characters in races not set forth in the campaign guide, careers created for the campaign, experience, items, and of course Dwarven Magic, er, gold. In this WFRP campaign, one of the first decisions I made was to make all starting characters human by default and to take away a few of the careers. Not to get into all of the reasons for doing such, but the big was that this is the human Empire. I want this version of it to be populated and saved mostly by them. In doing this, it made setting up a dwarf or elf character as a reward. And in the first module, The Faire, (soon to be out, just give me another day or two) part of the rewards are careers which are specifically created for the campaign. Experience is something I’m working on standardizing. On the whole my thoughts are that a single session should have the potential for one advancement. In doing so, it should be become predictable in how far characters are able to advance at any given point in the campaign. The same goes for items and gold. It may seem cheep to want to control these things but this goes right back to player enjoyment and trying to have a certain sense of fairness.