A system for quickly and easily creating complex, interesting characters.

edited December 2011 in Story Games
Anyone got one? :)

[yes, its 10.15pm on new years eve, and Im sitting online in my kids bedroom waiting for him to fall asleep. sigh.]

I think a popular method is the questionnaire? I did have a list of categories of Motivations for characters that players were supposed to make up for their characters, with some examples, but I suspect that is too much like hard work.

So what I am trying instead is a shortish list of questions that players must write the answer to for their character. Im hoping this would be easier and more fruitful. The questions I have here come straight from the categories I mentioned before.

comments? additional cool questions?

cheers, happy new year!


_________ are not as (smart/capable/strong/civilized/good) as we are.
Its OK to ____________
Everyone should always ___________
Nobody should ever ___________
I firmly believe ___________
What I desire most of all is ___________
I fear ____________
____________ makes me furious.
I deeply regret _____________
I am proud of ____________
I am obligated to _____________
I feel _____________ towards ______________
_________ feels ____________ towards me

Comments

  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: stefoidSo what I am trying instead is a shortish list of questions that players must write the answer to for their character.
    I've said it in other threads, but the one question that has made every character I play much, much better is:

    What do I, the player, want to do in this game?

    Deciding what kind of play experience I want up front means that I can structure all of my character-creation decisions towards facilitating that play experience. I used to screw this up all the time before I started with that question, making characters that just didn't deliver the play I wanted. The moment I started focusing on what I wanted and thinking about things in terms of how I relate to the game through the character (rather than just starting with a character idea and thinking that connecting it to the game and myself would happen automatically), gaming got better and more fun and more satisfying almost immediately.

    So my advice is always going to be to start there. Get players thinking about what kinds of things they have fun doing in a game, and what kinds of character design choices they should be making to aim their play squarely at those things. When they've established that, coming up with ways to flesh out that character and make them complex, interesting, and memorable gets a lot easier and more fun.
  • I keep a folder of interesting photographs with people in them for use in workshops. Throw two out on the table and start asking questions. how do these people know each other? where does he work? who gave him those sunglasses?
  • edited January 2012
    @Stefoid: I don't want to answer all those questions. Maybe 2-3, tops. That's the kind stuff I want to play to find out.

    You know when characters are really made? When you're finished playing.

    A good chargen process gives you a character that's fit for the first session. It's vital that the character isn't "done." When play starts I want to be desperately curious about the character. I'm going to find out who they really are -- what they want, how they feel, what they really care about -- during play. Answering all that stuff before play is death. The momentum and interest are killed.

    Play Apocalypse World and Mouse Guard. They do chargen perfectly. MG even has a pre-play questionnaire that works really well (especially notice how MG focuses "character" into Goal, Belief, and Instinct as elements to explore through play).
  • Posted By: John Harper@Stefoid: I don't want to answer all those questions. Maybe 2-3, tops. That's the kind stuff I want to play to find out.

    You know when characters are really made? When you're finished playing.

    A good chargen process gives you a character that's fit for thefirst session. It's vital that the character isn't "done." When play starts I want to be desperately curious about the character. I'm going to find out who they really are -- what they want, how they feel, what they really care about -- during play. Answering all that stuff before play is death. The momentum and interest is killed.

    Play Apocalypse World and Mouse Guard. They do chargen perfectly. MG even has a pre-play questionnaire that works really well (especially notice how MG focuses "character" into Goal, Belief, and Instinct as elements to explore through play).
    Hi, the reason I introduced the 'Motivations' during character creation in the first place is because I want the characters to have a Long Term Goal that wasnt a reaction to the initial situation. You know - "The arch villian has stolen the artefact" initial situation naturally leads to a Long Term Goal of "Catch the villan and retrieve the artefact", which is fine and proper, but one dimensional. I want the characters to have something else going on in addition to the situation-based goals. But that was hard for players - how to come up with a long term goal if you dont understand some basics about your character? During playtest, goals other than situation-based ones slipped through the cracks.

    So motivations --> goals. This kind of helps - or maybe it just moves the instant inspiration quotient from goal setting to motivation setting...

    I will check out mouseguard.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: Accounting for TastePosted By: stefoidSo what I am trying instead is a shortish list of questions that players must write the answer to for their character.
    I've said it in other threads, but the one question that has made every character I play much, much better is:

    What do I,the player, want to do in this game?

    Deciding what kind of play experience I want up front means that I can structure all of my character-creation decisions towards facilitating that play experience. I used to screw this up all the time before I started with that question, making characters that just didn't deliver the play I wanted. The moment I started focusing on what I wanted and thinking about things in terms of how I relate to the game through the character (rather than just starting with a character idea and thinking that connecting it to the game and myself would happen automatically), gaming got better and more fun and more satisfying almost immediately.

    So my advice is always going to be to start there. Get players thinking about what kinds of things they have fun doing in a game, and what kinds of character design choices they should be making to aim their play squarely at those things. When they've established that, coming up with ways to flesh out that character and make them complex, interesting, and memorable gets a lot easier and more fun.

    Hi.
    Personally I always have an idea of the type of character I want to play, mostly in terms of imagery/style and what the character is capable of. One of the letdowns of some games is when the game either doesnt let me achieve that during character creation or sometimes whats worse - appears to let me achieve that during character creation but falls down during play.

    I havent played many games that encourage me to think about the personality/goals of my character up front, and I find that in those situations exploring character during play tends to get left at the gate, in favour of .. pragmatism I suppose you could call it. (edit: exploring situation I mean)
  • OK, so Mouseguard has Belief, Goal and Instinct, which is nice. But the question remains - how to come up with these cold?

    The Motivational categories I had/have are:

    Belief (what is this character prepared to take action on?)
    Desire (an urge the character will go out of their way to satisfy)
    Issue (what does the character get emotional about?)
    Relationship(s) (a situation the character is in and/or how they feel about other characters)

    and at least one Long Term Goal.

    But hitting players with this cold during character creation can be hard work.

    And like I said, I dont really care if this kind of stuff is done during character creation, or during play, except that Motivations are suppsoed to help with generating a good Long Term Goal which I do want before the intial situation is outlined.

    Perhaps the ideal solution is for character creation is a bunch of questions that the player is not obligated to answer, but may answer any or all, one long term goal that the player IS obligated to answer, and hopefully the questionnaire can help in that regard, at least to get creative juices flowing.
  • Interesting discussion.

    John has a good point in only doing what you need for the first session. 3:16 is a classic in this perspective in that you start with (almost) nothing for motivation and an amazing character emerges through play.

    This raised for me the thought that some systems seem to be tying the motivation to an in-game effect (not just a need to build the story). Some examples:
    - With the BIG in Mouseguard, you can use the Instinct to change the facts presented by the GM if the Instinct applies. Ie: "Monty would totally be ready for this, he has xxx as his instinct." So when wrtiing an Instinct the in-game effect drives the choice to interesting places and I never feel it is onerous.
    - In Apocalypse World (and some of the hacks, like my own) you develop use a history (Hx) with the other PCs to develop common and conflicting motivations. (This development is two-way, which has additional benefits.) The strength of the history has an in-game effect as to your power to impact on the other character.
    - Although I don't own it and haven't played it, the story web think they do at the start of Smallville seems to generate complex motivations pretty easily.

    In both MG and AW I've never wondered why I am doing the motivation bit, there is a clear connection to the rules so I can see the benefit. There is nothing wrong with the questions you are asking, but as a player if I have a rules reason, in addition to a story benefit, to do them I will be much more engaged and less questioning.

    For AW and Smallville, the key seems to be the collaborative creation of the motivations. You are not staring alone at a question and trying to come at an answer, you are doing it as a group.

    I really like your classifications in terms of capturing the types of motivations, but I wonder if it is also worth distinguishing motivations with other players (PVP?) from motivations with the world. One of the things I disliked about how we used to play D&D was that there were only ever positive PVP motivations. Having a broader range of PVP motivations creates a completely different feel like the Hx creates for Apocalypse World.

    Anyway, not sure if this is particularly insightful, but hopefully useful.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: stefoidPersonally I always have an idea of the type of character I want to play, mostly in terms of imagery/style and what the character is capable of. One of the letdowns of some games is when the game either doesnt let me achieve that during character creation or sometimes whats worse - appears to let me achieve that during character creation but falls down during play.

    I havent played many games that encourage me to think about the personality/goals of my character up front, and I find that in those situations exploring character during play tends to get left at the gate, in favour of .. pragmatism I suppose you could call it.
    I'm...not sure if you're disagreeing with me?

    Whether a given system supports the kind of play you want is definitely an important question to answer; if your goal (you, the dude at the table playing the game) can't be achieved within that system, there's going to be a problem and you need to work out a solution to it as soon as possible. Maybe you switch systems, maybe you change your goal for this game (again, YOUR goal, this has nothing to do with your character's goals) to something else.

    Anyway, my point is that I've found that I get much better results from thinking about my goals as a player first. By focusing in on what kind of fun I want to have, I can keep myself from unintentionally steering myself down a dead end and getting stuck on a character concept that isn't actually any fun for me to play. Knowing MY goals means that I can make better choices when deciding what my character's personality and goals should be. Also, just eliminating all of those non-fun options makes the process of creating a complex and interesting character much, much simpler, and faster, too.

    For example, if I'm interested in doing a lot of talking in our next game, then I know that any character I create needs to have a personality that encourages him to talk to people. He should have a goal that can only be achieved by enlisting the aid of other people, to give him reasons to go out and talk to them. He should have a worldview that either drives him to ask a lot of questions, or to share his opinions freely. Any decision I make during character creation is going to be explicitly guided by my desire as a player to have lots of fun in-character conversations. I should be making choices that give us all more hooks to pull my character into the kind of play I want to do.


    Regarding long-term in-character goals, I find that I have a lot of difficulty coming up with one unless I am extremely familiar with both the setting for the game and with the specific kind of story/theme we're doing. If I don't know the setting, I can't figure out what goals are appropriate; if I don't know what kind of story we're telling, I often end up with a goal that doesn't mesh satisfyingly with anything else that's going on and may not even be possible to address before we're done. I hate when that happens, it really wrecks the flow of a game for me. When I don't know what our game's going to be about or I don't understand the setting fully, I'll make my character's long-term goal as vague as I can get away with, and tighten it up later on, after we've got a few sessions under our belts and I have a clearer notion of what will work for me. (Alternately, I'll use one or more other players as a resource, and make my character's long-term goal similar to, part of, or pretty much identical to their characters' goals, and trust that over the course of play we'll diverge enough from that common motivation to make things interesting. Having two or three characters teamed up like that does a lot to stack the deck towards making their long-term goals really significant and interesting.)
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteI'm...not sure if you're disagreeing with me?
    Not disagreeing, just chatting. I think you make a good point. Ingenero has a character 'concept' that the system presents as a nutshell summary of the character for which the primary use is describing your character to the other players. However, the character concept is also a target for the player to aim at during character creation. thats something worth stating explicitly.
    Posted By: Accounting for Tasteif I don't know what kind of story we're telling, I often end up with a goal that doesn't mesh satisfyingly with anything else that's going on and may not even be possible to address before we're done.
    How to choose good goals is definitely a topic worthy of discussion - its probably more what this thread is about
    Posted By: WightbredThis raised for me the thought that some systems seem to be tying the motivation to an in-game effect (not just a need to build the story). Some examples:
    - With the BIG in Mouseguard, you can use the Instinct to change the facts presented by the GM if the Instinct applies. Ie: "Monty would totally be ready for this, he has xxx as his instinct." So when wrtiing an Instinct the in-game effect drives the choice to interesting places and I never feel it is onerous.
    In my view, good motivations/goals are about driving the character and complicating things for the character. That what you are calling building the story? And I agree that mechanical backing should be there to reinforce/encourage.
  • I remember Traveller had this 'lifepath' system for character generation where you worked out your skills. Are there any games that have a similar thing for working out character background (in terms of motivations and other goal-forming traits)? It wouldnt have to be a lifepath per se, but the general concept of a starting point (of a creative process), and a series of steps that build on each other in an interesting way, that results in the required character detail.?
  • Yeah, what I'm saying is to get players to engage with the story complicating motivations you want you need a more obvious rules carrot. I was reminded of this when we played Remember Tomorrow the other day. We had no problem filling in the sheet until we got to the motivation bit then we stalled. We all wanted an interesting story, but it is too hard to see how what you write in this box gets you there. A connection to more concrete rules or a collaborate process could give the lever players can connect to while ensuring the motivational drivers the game wants exist.

    Rogue Trader has a life path system, that I seem to recall hearing was adapted for Smallville. Imagine a matrix where each row is a time in your life. You move down the table choosing a cell that an experience on that row, say Voidborn for birth. But on the next row you can only choose options in the same of adjacent columns, like Ganger or something. From memory the last row is your class option. As you do this together as a group any intersections are shared experiences that you work through. Also each cell gives you a motivational or result choice that has a moderate affect on your character's ability by giving ability score bonuses or 'feats'. I've only seen diagrams of the Smallville approach, but I think it takes this to the next level by drawing a relationship map.
  • Here's an idea I had that sort of combines John's comments and Accounting for Taste's:

    Ask yourself "What question(s) about this character do I want to answer in play?"
  • If you need to fill in character motivations/story before going into play, in my experience it's much easier to make up motivations/backstory/whatever for other players' characters than for your own.

    A process that involves multiple players deciding (or proposing) stuff for your character can break the impasse and add an element of surprise.
    A single fact introduced by an external source can bloom and ramificate easily into a story of his own.

    --ivan
  • edited January 2012
    Quick question: Are you working on this system for Ingenero?

    If so, Ingenero's goal is to serve as an introduction to story-centric gaming, right? I remember you saying that you were designing it to serve as an access point for players who are used to a hack-and-slash/dungeon crawling/stat tweaking style of play.

    In that case, I would probably think less about giving your players questions to answer (or broad prompts of any kind), and more about giving them options to chose from. I've found that questions and prompts that require creative thinking--and I'm not talking about quality here, just thinking in creative terms--can often be another barrier to play for unaccustomed players, even if they are designed with the intent of easing them into a new style a play.

    Meanwhile, these players are used to being able to pick skills/traits/features for their character from a list, and having a list of possible character motivation or other personality traits, complete with some description of how each might impact play will probably be more digestible for them. Most of my games give players some form of randomly determined starting point for character development--whether its a broad character archetype or a more specific trait--because I've found this gives players a foundation to improvise upon for character development and usually prevents the players from suffering from paralyzing indecision, making character gen a lot less painful than it would be otherwise.

    Also: ivan's suggestion about cooperative character/story generation has worked pretty well for my group in the past too.
  • @whdureya Yes! like in Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Transantiago, but even In a Wicked Age's oracles. It really helps getting started.
  • I haven't executed it fully, but the questionnaire for Don't Rest Your Head is really great because it creates a story-driving kicker, articulates the player's imagined story arc to the GM, and Leaves open questions about the character's development. There's none of that urge to make an extensive, unprompted backstory that sits resolved and prevents strong Story Now play, because the creation process asks all the questions you need answers to - the other exciting questions, like 'How far will I go to save my son' or 'How can I get what I want but hold onto my memories and my self' will come up in play.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: stefoidI remember Traveller had this 'lifepath' system for character generation where you worked out your skills. Are there any games that have a similar thing for working out character background (in terms of motivations and other goal-forming traits)?
    Burning Wheel has a lifepath character creation system. It is super fun, and you can start totally cold, no ideas at all, and come out the other side with an interesting, multi-faceted character you're excited to play and figure out.
  • edited January 2012
    Honestly, the best NPC creator I've ever used is any deck of tarot cards. The very same breadth of topics and ambiguously overlapping results that make the traditional tarot process ideal for phony fortune telling make it ideal for creating well-rounded fake people.

    Some people have religious objections to tarot cards, but you could always build a spreadsheet using the same (or similar) topics with the same (or similar) random options for results. (Personally, I've owned two decks. One was innocent. The other set off every spiritual "alarm bell" I have developed so I got rid of it. Sadly I had to get rid of the first as well when it became a stumbling block to someone's else's spiritual development. I won't agree that an object by nature can be spiritually contaminated. But it seems sensible that just like many folk who pass out Bibles pray the Bibles cause converts, more tarot decks than windshield wipers are subjected to negative influences.)
  • Posted By: WightbredYeah, what I'm saying is to get players to engage with the story complicating motivations you want you need a more obvious rules carrot. I was reminded of this when we played Remember Tomorrow the other day. We had no problem filling in the sheet until we got to the motivation bit then we stalled. We all wanted an interesting story, but it is too hard to see how what you write in this box gets you there. A connection to more concrete rules or a collaborate process could give the lever players can connect to while ensuring the motivational drivers the game wants exist.

    Rogue Trader has a life path system, that I seem to recall hearing was adapted for Smallville. Imagine a matrix where each row is a time in your life. You move down the table choosing a cell that an experience on that row, say Voidborn for birth. But on the next row you can only choose options in the same of adjacent columns, like Ganger or something. From memory the last row is your class option. As you do this together as a group any intersections are shared experiences that you work through. Also each cell gives you a motivational or result choice that has a moderate affect on your character's ability by giving ability score bonuses or 'feats'. I've only seen diagrams of the Smallville approach, but I think it takes this to the next level by drawing a relationship map.
    Not a huge fan of the collaboration process. Its a personal thing. Ive never had the 'everyone sit down and agree on setting and theme' like in PTA for instance, work for a group Ive been in. It seems to end up with something that offends nobody, but also thrills nobody. I would rather play something that has been produced by somebody with a strong coherent vision, and when doing character creation, that person is myself. Im sure it can work for others though.

    With Ingenero, you set two long term goals and an endless series of short term goals. Im going to mechanically support/encourage motivations by awarding an extra +1 reward point for basing goals of any type on motivations.
  • Posted By: whduryeaQuick question: Are you working on this system forIngenero?

    If so,Ingenero's goal is to serve as an introduction to story-centric gaming, right? I remember you saying that you were designing it to serve as an access point for players who are used to a hack-and-slash/dungeon crawling/stat tweaking style of play.
    Hi. That was your take on it when I served it to Moms Basement without any real 'this is what the game is about' explanation. I think it might tun out like that simply because the game mechanics have evolved as my own idea of what I want out of an RPG has evolved. But Im not anti hackNslash&stat tweak. I like that style of play. Im anti boring shit roleplaying, which I have done quite a bit of, and Ingenero is more specifically aimed at eliminating boring shit play :)
    Posted By: whduryeaIn that case, I would probably think less about giving your players questions to answer (or broad prompts of any kind), and more about giving them options to chose from. I've found that questions and prompts that require creative thinking--and I'm not talking about quality here, just thinking in creative terms--can often be another barrier to play for unaccustomed players, even if they are designed with the intent of easing them into a new style a play.

    Meanwhile, these players are used to being able to pick skills/traits/features for their character from a list, and having a list of possible character motivation or other personality traits, complete with some description of how each might impact play will probably be more digestible for them. Most of my games give players some form of randomly determined starting point for character development--whether its a broad character archetype or a more specific trait--because I've found this gives players a foundation to improvise upon for character development and usually prevents the players from suffering from paralyzing indecision, making character gen a lot less painful than it would be otherwise.
    Options are great, but maybe limiting when you are dealing with a generic system? I guess they would have to be generic options. That could work, even as you say for a starting point.
  • Thanks for all this advice
  • Posted By: John HarperA good chargen process gives you a character that's fit for thefirst session. It's vital that the character isn't "done." When play starts I want to be desperately curious about the character. I'm going to find out who they really are -- what they want, how they feel, what they really care about -- during play. Answering all that stuff before play is death. The momentum and interest are killed.
    Can you expand on this?

    I have been basing a lot of my ideas on traditional fiction, and in this case, you are introduced to a protagonist, how they currently are and why, and then as the story goes through to completion, the character generally changes in some way in response to the events - they learn, they grow, they change their minds, etc... The exploration of character is about under what circumstances will the character change?

    Your view is that play starts before the character has even solidified to any great degree?
  • I respect where you are coming from, but my experience is completely different. The less cohesive the (GM) vision before the game the more fun we have. This started for me with Apocalypse World which involved lots of player input and more recently in rocking out awesome GMless Fiascos and sessions of Remember Tomorrow. Maybe this is why I have trouble with Ingenero motivations, as I expect to be developing this stuff with a group not for a group.

    The concept of starting a character as a virtual blank slate is really appealing to me after I tried 3:16. I definitely feel character develops in play, not before.
  • About blank slate characters:

    Think about many tv series and cartoons, where the characters start out very simple and are thrown in a situation and how we find out about their backstory and motivation later. I am pretty sure the authors do lots of plot ret-con, starting out from a few traits and action and developing character from that. (eg: Lost, Fringe, even Naruto :-)
  • Posted By: ivanAbout blank slate characters:

    Think about many tv series and cartoons, where the characters start out very simple and are thrown in a situation and how we find out about their backstory and motivation later. I am pretty sure the authors do lots of plot ret-con, starting out from a few traits and action and developing character from that. (eg: Lost, Fringe, even Naruto :-)
    Hi, thats true. First you hook the reader with the situation and ease into character development to avoid boring the watcher/listener to death. So maybe too much character development at the start of a rpg is like too much expostion at the start of a novel.

    The flipside of that is, for players in my groups, character development gets forgotten in favour of reacting to the situation. Like Wightbred says, it needs to be mechancially supported to encourage players to keep it in mind during play.
  • @stefoid

    do your players really fail addressing character development in actual play or is it more of a theoretical notion?
    I am asking because I have always seen character development happening pretty organically during play, after character creation.

    I guess the informal procedure goes somewhat like this:
    Player: ".. and my father was a general in the duke's army.." (glancing at the GM)
    GM: "he was actually a captain" (GM nods to indicate to the Player that he can continue)
    Player: "..yes, and he fought at the battle of blackrock.." (GM keeps nodding in approval)

    The informal understanding in most group - I guess - is that a player has some narrative authority over his backstory - with GM veto powers.
    If you made this explicit and extended it to the character's city/family/organization it could be enough to elicit character.

    Your initial questions about the character also made me think about a more dramatic way you could use them.
    Don't ask them at the beginning, ask them when they are dramatically relevant to a situation.. and reward the players for good answers.
  • @Ivan yeah - seriously, otherwise I wouldnt worry about it.
    Posted By: ivanYour initial questions about the characteralso made me think about a more dramatic way you could use them.
    Don't ask them at the beginning,ask them when they are dramatically relevant to a situation.. and reward the players for good answers.
    Possibly, but that also seems like work for the GM. Wouldnt it be better if it was player driven?
  • This thread has been really helpful.

    @Wightbred: I think I am onto something. At the moment, motivations are these 'facts' that sit on the page. Proficiencies and in some cases Body are active in that they provide the number of dice to roll for Plays associated with them. So Motivations and in some cases (Soul) could be used in the same way - to provide the basis (dice) for Plays associated with them. I dont mean in the Smallville sense of 'I punch you with the love for my girlfiend',, but specifically for social challenges.
  • edited January 2012
    There's, y'know, Rustbelt. With it's Psyche system. Which once prompted a player to turn the character concept of 'the Hulk but in a Western' (roughly) to an immigrant trying to buy acceptance with his not-that-valuable-in-this-setting virtues of loyalty and strength. While still being the Hulk in a Western. And that's just chargen, before the Dynamics (which he had set himself up for and the GM was ready to spike, because that's how it works) kick in and stuff starts getting interesting.

    If BITs and Keys don't do it for you, odds are good that Rustbelt can at least give you some ideas. I wrote the Psyche system because BITs, Keys, Spiritual Attribes, etc. didn't do what I was looking for. Search the Forge for the Rustbelt and you can read all about it.

    Here's something to think about: Psyche traits never give you bonuses or dice or XP, but they're still important to Effectiveness because they provide the motivation necessary to use the Push mechanic. Pushing means overriding a failed roll, but at a Price equivalent to the margin of failure. Psyche traits don't make it any easier, they just allow this in the first place (since they're the whole reason you're Pushing). Nor is the requirement to invoke a trait the balancer; the Price is, so awkward invocation of traits to get bonuses isn't an issue. It's really a great system and more people should be playing it.
  • Sounds interesting, ill check it out.

    The main thing Im after is pretty simple. My game involves players setting goals for their character, and I want to encourage a mixture of goals, possibly conflicting or 'unhelpful' goals. So not only are the goals a reaction to the on going situation, but the choice of what goals to set are a reflection of where characters personality as well.

    Im toying with the idea of a 'motivation fo the week' - like an AW highlighted stat. The player can highlight a motivation at the start of a session, and if they set a goal related to that motivation, they get bonus reward points.
  • I have a method that almost always results in characters that are a blast for me to play.

    I find something that is very different from myself, what I am, believe in and approve of, and I make that very central to the character. And then (here's the trick) I resolve to do my damnedest to make that very trait awesome and heroic.

    Examples: Making an ardent patriot and militarist (I'm more of a cosmopolitan war skeptic verging on pacifist myself), making a vicious con artist/sorcerer out to lie, cheat and murder his way out of the end of world (I tend to believe that honesty is mostly a good thing!), making a chatty, meddlesome lady who is dead set on getting people to talk, make peace and get along (I'm a feminist and consider the chatty, meddlesome woman to be a seriously annoying stereotype).

    That tension between player and character works like a charm. For me, at least.
  • edited January 2012
    Oh, and here's a thing that's a recent development, so you won't find it in any of the Forge threads about the Rustbelt. When I'm running Rustbelt for a first-time player, I guide him through the Psyche thing. Like this:

    "Name the central thing that drives and motivates your character. Keep it general and conceptual. That's your Hunger."
    Then they name something; freedom, acceptance, and security are the most popular for first-timers. Then I say,

    "Ok, the world is fucked up, so you can't satisfy your Hunger. What substance or activity do you fall back on to cope with that frustration? That's your Vice. What belief system do you use to justify your Hunger and/or Vice in the face of the facts of the world? That's your Faith. Ok, now name something horrible that you did or that happened to you that's connected to one or more of the above, and that you wish you could redeem/absolve/heal yourself of. That's your Woe."

    The potential applications of the Psyche traits are of course much broader than that, but I keep it simple for first-timers because otherwise they get hung up on it. After that, though, I take the training wheels off and nobody has yet to have any problems with it. So coming up with stuff "cold" doesn't really seem to be much of a problem after the first time.

    There are, of course, differences between Rustbelt and what you're doing, which is why I just suggest it as something to mine for ideas. Namely, in the Rustbelt, the GM doesn't do any prep at all until after the PCs have been created; it's his job to craft a conflict in response to the players establishing the characters and their normal routines, not the other way around.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsOh, and here's a thing that's a recent development, so you won't find it in any of the Forge threads about the Rustbelt. When I'm running Rustbelt for a first-time player, I guide him through the Psyche thing. Like this:

    "Name the central thing that drives and motivates your character. Keep it general and conceptual. That's your Hunger."
    Then they name something; freedom, acceptance, and security are the most popular for first-timers. Then I say,

    "Ok, the world is fucked up, so you can't satisfy your Hunger. What substance or activity do you fall back on to cope with that frustration? That's your Vice. What belief system do you use to justify your Hunger and/or Vice in the face of the facts of the world? That's your Faith. Ok, now name something horrible that you did or that happened to you that's connected to one or more of the above, and that you wish you could redeem/absolve/heal yourself of. That's your Woe."

    The potential applications of the Psyche traits are of course much broader than that, but I keep it simple for first-timers because otherwise they get hung up on it. After that, though, I take the training wheels off and nobody has yet to have any problems with it. So coming up with stuff "cold" doesn't really seem to be much of a problem after the first time.

    There are, of course, differences between Rustbelt and what you're doing, which is why I just suggest it as something to mine for ideas. Namely, in the Rustbelt, the GM doesn't do any prep at all untilafterthe PCs have been created; it's his job to craft a conflict in response to the players establishing the characters and their normal routines, not the other way around.
    Maybe its the way you are connecting the relationship between the Psyche traits that is helpful - people are good at making up little stories given a starting point.

    And maybe I am not being restrictive enough with the initial motivations - Im leaving it basically open. I could have a "if you have trouble, follow this procedure...' type of thing where players fill in the blanks, something like Dungeon World. You could have a bunch of 'fill in the blanks' templates for various types of characters. That would be super handy for GMs to generate NPCs too!

    Like a 'brooding character' template and a 'dashing character' template and a 'mischievious character' template.

    The particular questions you listed for rustbelt, their order and the way they relate to each other above would be great for a brooding character template straight off.

    So for a dashing character template, for isntance, you could have:

    Desire: You are driven to excel and shine in your chosen field. Your desire is to be the best at what?
    Issue: Something in your past produced your drive, and it still burns. What is it?
    Belief: You cant abide a certain type of behaviour in others. What behaviour?
    Relationship: You have taken a shine to one of group. You look out for them.
    Goal: Choose a specific, concrete, achievable goal that relates to one of the above.
  • I kinda like that idea. Gimme a day or so and I can probably dump a dozen such templates on your head for you to use/deconstruct/recombine/discard at your leisure.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsI kinda like that idea. Gimme a day or so and I can probably dump a dozen such templates on your head for you to use/deconstruct/recombine/discard at your leisure.
    Its a deal!

    off the top of my head: brooding, dashing, mischievious, manipulative, amoral, brutal, upstanding, caring, eccentric, desperate

    Ill bet there are others that are better
  • If you replace "characters" with "food" you end up with an answer like "go to a restaurant."

    By analogy, I think the answer to this one is "write up a bunch of good characters for the end-users of your game to choose from. Don't make them cook."

  • edited January 2012
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