Friday, April 24, 2009

[RPGs] Skype game character stuff

Spirit of the Century is a pulp game. So its protagonists are generally at that pre-superhero level of capability, where they're fantastically capable in some specialized area, maybe even to a level that's effectively superhuman. And of course all kinds of crazy-ass backgrounds are totally possible. You can be an intelligent gorilla or an Atlantean awakened from suspended animation or . . . hell, we could probably figure out a way to do a robot or vampire, even. The game really is very flexible in a loose kinda way.

Anyway, the basic component of a SotC character is their skill pyramid. That is, you've got one skill you're really freaking great at (that's the top of the pyramid), two you're just plain great at, and so on down to five that you're just average at (the base of the pyramid). 15 skills in total, chosen from this list:

A few clarifications: "Academics" is a huge catch-all for history, linguistics, and all manner of soft sciences. "Contacting" is generally about who you know, the contacts you've got. "Empathy" is detecting lies and intentions. "Investigation" is searching for clues and doing forensics. "Mysteries" is sort of a catch all for magical stuff, but mostly in a typically pulp-like vein, so it's largely about hypnotic effects. "Rapport" is making friends an influencing people. "Resources" is about how much money or material support you have or can get access to. "Science" covers medicine as well as various research fields. "Survival" is wilderness survival, tracking, riding, stuff like that. "Weapons" means things with a shorter range than guns and arrows, but either throwable or long enough so that they give you some range.

So, you can see how picking 15 such broad skills means you can be good at a whole lot of stuff. And really crazy awesome at a narrower bunch of stuff.

But where things start getting really awesome, and really coming to life, is with the heart of the Spirit of the Century system: aspects. A character's aspects are basically just a list of ten things about that character. Almost any kind of thing: physical stuff, personality stuff, background stuff, relationships with other characters, signature possessions, running plot shticks, even catch phrases. Here's a list of examples, and you can also look at characters I've posted on this blog for more (they're mostly SotC characters, if not all).

Aspects make you better at doing whatever they logically suggest you ought to be good at. So if you've got a "Crusty Old Prospector" aspect, you can use that to get bonuses on rolls when you're trying to dig, look for water in the wilderness, appraise gold, and maybe even for stuff like drinking moonshine or driving strangers away from your property. The important limiting factor is that whenever you want an aspect to help you, you have to pay a "fate point".

The thing that makes this really cool is where fate points come from: You get them by following your aspects when they lead you into trouble. So if your Crusty Old Prospector pisses off a friend by being cantankerous, or gets distracted by gold, you'd get fate points for your trouble. On the other hand, if you want him to overcome his natural inclinations, you've gotta pay a fate point, instead.

So the game really rewards you for playing your character. And it's really important to make an interesting one, with foibles and weaknesses as well as strengths. Not only do they provide fate points, but they can really drive the game's plot.

Now, the final element of a SotC character is their stunts. These are like the feats of a D&D character: they let you break the rules in little ways, give you bonuses in specific situations, allow one of your skills to do more stuff than it normally does, give you things like allies, vehicles, or weapons, etc.

...But the list of available stunts is frigging huge, and it can really bog down character creation. So, personally, I'm kind of leaning towards the idea of just skipping stunts all together, and maybe using this stuntless rule variant. It just lets aspects do stunt-like stuff, and aspects are the coolest part of the system, anyway.

Anyway, here's where everybody should post ideas and questions about all their character concepts, and we'll figure out a way to get all your dudes tied together.


Michael J. Patrick said...

Very sleepy after Yasei's ustream, but I will read the rules and try to make a practice character. I probably won't use the Durendal idea since he is maybe outside of the limit of the rules (I was thinking along the lines of Bruce Willis in Unbreakable or the comic character, Brit). I will probably try to work up the Gator Boy character. His neck will be very red.

Sulevis said...

I already have ideas for characters, but I'll need to know a bit about what era we'll be playing in. Because I am a history dork.

Else I'll just make a timetraveller. :V

I'd be up for Skype-assisted planning today (Saturday), sometime before midnight GMT, circumstances allowing.

Matt Sheridan said...

Ah, good point, Sul! Yeah, I'm gonna say for now that this takes place in 1937, just because that's one year after my last SotC game was set. (As a handy reference for the non-history dorks, Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936.)

I'm afraid it's looking less and less likely that I'll be able to get on Skype with you guys today, sadly. Templar, AZ is being promoted to its own hosting, and guess who's gotta do all the heavy lifting to get it moved.

Sulevis said...

Holy shit, awesome, I don't have to modify my gunslinger valkyrie much at all.

We're allowed play two characters at the same time, right?

Michael J. Patrick said...

I am fleshing out my Bigfoot character now- first story then the character creation. I may develop the Gator Boy- not the most original idea, but still fun. Like Tarzan of the Bayou. He pretty much just wears cutoffs most of the time.

I liked the Durendal character (want to play someone who is both indestructible and self-destructive), but should probably save him for another system. Maybe M&M.

Michael J. Patrick said...

How's this for a start?

Hieronymous Q. Bixby was captured as a young critter in the late 1890s. The hunters who found him originally planned to kill him outright but one of them realized they could sell him to the traveling circus that was passing through the region. Soon he was billed as the Talking Skunk Ape of North America and he made Dr. Peter Tiberius Bixby's Rambling Spectacle the most popular sideshow in America and eventually Europe as well.

Dr. Bixby eventually came to love Hieronymous as his own son. Having no remembrance of his true family, Hieronymous considered the sideshow his home. When Bixby died he left the show to his 'son'. Eventually the sideshow fell on hard times. Most of the performers died or retired. Hieronymous enlisted in the army and became a sergeant in the Great War. He used his animal affinity and stealth skills to complete many missions with a minimal loss of life.

After the war Hieronymous travelled the world doing various good deeds. He has since built a reputation as a friend to those in need.

He is something of a minor celebrity but many people doubt his existence and many more assume he is a regular human wearing a costume.

His life cycle is unknown, but it is assumed that he his a mature adult member of his species (not yet middle aged).

Michael J. Patrick said...

Hieronymous Q. Bixby
The Amazing Talking Skunk Ape
(played by Michael J)

• "Get that THING away from muh BABY!"
• "Hey, aren't you?"
• Don't know my own strength
• A friend to the Trees
• Itchy Feet
• Family Estate (The Bixby Museum in Reading PA- a dusty collection of wax statues, knickknacks, and artifacts)
• That kitty is in trouble!
• My friends are real FREAKS!
• That's all I can stands!
• Been around the block

+5: Stealth
+4: Might, Survival
+3: Empathy, Intimidate, Endurance
+2: Resources, Contacting, Fists, Alertness
+1: Mysteries, Academic, Rapport, Leadership, Science

STUNTS (if we use them)
• Herculean Might
• Brawler
• Track the Soul
• Animal Friend (cats)
• Lightfoot

Sulevis said...

My idea is using - with some modifications, including likely different names - the main characters from that thing I am trying to write and will eventually draw.

If I can't get the two of 'em, I'll just settle for using a character based on Screech.

Good/bad idea?

Sulevis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sulevis said...

I fucked up the formatting in the other post, so reposting:

Okay, here are the rough stats, no background yet. The two of 'em are married:

Dagmar "Maria" Jonsdottir

Can you believe she's married?
Supernaturally unusual
Loudmouthed gunslinger flapper
Rosary beads in back pocket
Drinks whiskey like water
Four ex-husbands
Undyingly Loyal to New York
Books are for squares

+5: Guns
+4: Endurance, Sleight of Hand
+3: Fists, Rapport, Gambling
+2: Stealth, Weapons, Deceit, Survival
+1: Contacting, Drive, Empathy, Might, Alertness

Leon "Lee" Falkensen

Wandering Foreigner
Lovecraft-reading Intellectual
Ladies' Man
Damn Communist
Straight Man to Entire Damn Universe
Death can't find him
Sees Things
"Sometimes, my vife scares me."
Hipflask in inner jacket pocket
Sketchbook in back pocket

+5: Science
+4: Investigation, Academics
+3: Art, Engineering, Survival
+2: Drive, Empathy, Resolve, Resources
+1: Leadership, Mysteries, Might, Contacting, Guns

Michael J. Patrick said...

The Wild Child of the Everglades
(played by Michael J)

• Goll-ee! this modern world!
• Dive into hail of bullets first- ask questions later.
• Let's Wrassel!
• That's not a knife!
• Scared of girls.
• The jungle is my home!
• Guardian of the hidden temple.
• What's this button do? PUSH!
• I ain't going into no temple full of haints!
• He's snapping because he likes you!

+5: Survival
+4: Stealth, Fists
+3: Weapons, Alertness, Endurance
+2: Bow and Arrow, Athletics, Sleight of Hand, Alertness
+1: Mysteries, Survival, Rapport, Might, Intimidation

STUNTS (if we use them)
• Animal Friend (gators- may extend to crocodiles)
• Call of the Wild (Gators again)
• Brawler
• Dirty Fighter
• Quick Exit

Known by no other name, the Gatorboy is about fifteen years old. He is as backwoods as one gets- having grown up in the Florida Everglades. He has had very little exposure to modern technology such as firearms and radio and tends to leap into gunfights armed only with his Bowie knife and fists. Gatorboy speaks in broken redneck. He wears little in way of clothing and resists all attempts to 'correct' his behavior. He has been known to save lost campers from cultists, Nazis and wildlife, but he generally warns outsiders to stay away from his home.

He has some connection to the lost Timi-Kua tribe whose hidden temples are targets of treasure hunters and occultists alike.

Matt Sheridan said...

Oh, God damn. DAMN, guys. These are great. I already emailed my comments to Sul, so I'll concentrate on MJP's dudes, now.

First off, I've decided that if you're going to go with two characters, they'll share a pool of fate points, and should have only five aspects each. I can see how that'd be hard to do with Hieronymous and Gator Boy, though. They're much more separate characters than Sul's married couple. So you might wanna just pick one. I can offer no preference, though, because they are both totally awesome.

I really love that Hieronymous is, effectively, a stealthy brick. Man, you never see that, and it makes so damn much sense here! I should point out that, the way he is now, he wouldn't be much of a fighter. Normally, you can't use Might in combat.

There is a stunt that lets you do that, but I think I'm going stuntless after all. So you might want to turn some of the stuff your characters have as stunts into aspects. For example, Gator Boy could have a "Friend to the Gators" aspect. Hieronymous, in order to let him use Might to attack, might have something like "Flailing Giant Fists" or "Damn Huge" (the idea being that his sheer size makes him more likely to hit a target, even if he hasn't got much actual fighting skill). For that matter, maybe in order to use Endurance to defend, he could have something like "Thick, Hairy Hide".

Oh, holy God, it's almost five in the damn morning. Good Christ, what has happened to my sleep cycle? Anyway, again, these are great characters. This is the stuff that makes me love this game. Thank you both for being awesome.

Okay, bed now.

Michael J. Patrick said...

OK- I'll work on those changes.

I would like to play them both because I think subliminally they remind me of my childhood love of "Bigfoot and Wildboy".

Hieronymous is a more interesting character to me, but Gatorboy will be much more fun to play.

Matt Sheridan said...

Actually, MJP, since you and Sul are the only ones who've made characters so far, I'm thinking two full 10-aspect characters each might be just fine after all.

Michael J. Patrick said...

Aspects redone for H.Q.B.

• "Get that THING away from muh BABY!"
• "Hey, aren't you?"
• Flailing Fists of Furry
• Family Estate (The Bixby Museum in Reading PA- a dusty collection of wax statues, knickknacks, and artifacts)
• That kitty is in trouble!

and for Gatorboy

• Dive into hail of bullets first- ask questions later.
• Nervous around girls
• What's this button do? PUSH!
• Fears Haints
• Friend of the gators

Matt Sheridan said...

Sorry, Mike, I guess you missed my last comment: 10 aspects each is cool after all, since we've got a small group.

Also, I think giving Hieronymous something like "Friend to All Felines" might cover everything "That Kitty Is in Trouble!" does, and also add some additional possibilities. Just a suggestion, though.

Dan said...

Here's my first pass. Not sure about some of this, Matt, would you be okay if I poked a couple holes in the tree to fill in as we go?

I like the idea of the baggage from his former boss (As yet unnamed). Also, I want to play a bit with the 'mystical savage' stereotype, which is why the skill list reads more Holmes and less Dr Strange, though I think it'd be fun if people keep assuming that he's got some sort of mystical thing going on, and not that he's the guy who's really paying attention. Not quite sure how to drive that as an aspect.

Shin Jin Ho - Retired servant, detective

"I'm not your 'manservant' anymore'"
"Yeah, I can drive it"
"I drank what? Eh..."
Tired of being in the background
"We couldn't have done it without you"
Didn't I see you somewhere before?
Uncanny Intuition
"I think I can fix it"
Master detective
Trance like concentration

+5 Investigation
+4 Drive, Fists
+3 Athletics, Stealth, Sleight of Hand
+2 Stealth, Burglary, Alertness, Pilot
+1 Weapons, Deceit, Empathy, Contacting, Mysteries