Character creation: some Nordic thoughts

edited October 2008 in Story Games
A while ago I found myself designing a game which had the following design goals: Larpish play style with a sprinkle of flashback scenes (for people not steeped in Nordic rpg, think Jeepform, which you might have heard of).

All drama in the game should be about interactions between the players. But I wanted to be able to support the dramaturgy without relying on the heavy preparation of Nordic larps and on the important GM function in most Nordic freeform. It should be GM-less and pre-preparation less. Also, no pre written characters. I tried to do this by making the game much more rules heavy than what is typical for our games. I did one playtest and while the players had a good time, there are indeed a lot of problems. I will surely write about these somewhere on the internets at some point, but that is not what I will write about here. Because there was one thing that was really appreciated and that was the character generation rules. Admittedly, these players were larpers rather than board games; it would be very interesting to see how boardgamers react. I'm thinking that these simple rules might be used also in other types of games.

All types of comments are welcome, but I had especially two types of comments in mind: 1) comments on how they can be improved? some thing that really irritates you? 2) Do you get inspired to use this set of rules or something similar in a different context?

Rules

*The are no secrets between players when it starts. Characters might have secrets. It is of course ok to create secrets during play.
*All characters know each other at least somewhat at the start of play. This is to skip empty presentation scenes.
*It is allowed and encouraged to during play allude to and invent new links between characters.
*The game is a shared activity and so is also the character creation. Everyone should take interest in the creation of all the player's characters. The character creating follows the below schedule

1. The players all sit down in a circle.

2. One by one the players present their character in very few words, in third person. "I play John, a rather lonely guy who works in an animal store downtown. He is 25, has a lousy confidence and his afraid to come across as a loser." Discuss the characters together at some length. This is fun, but don't allow yourself to over do it.

3. Each player agrees on a relationship of some kind between their character and the characters of the two players next to them in the circle.
*At the beginning of the game each role has all in all positive feelings for the character of the player to the left and negative for the one to the right.

4. Each player writes down three unconfessed sins or secrets on a note. These are not secret, players are encouraged to discuss these openly. Note that the unconfessed items doesn't have to be fully specified. On the contrary, it's often better to write "The thing at the yoga class. Henry would kill me." than something more specific. Statements like "Everyday my biggest fear is that someone I know will enter the animal store." will also work. They are to be divided freely into the following two categories:
*Things I haven't confessed to anyone else.
*Things I haven't confessed to myself.

5. Each player is to give the note to the player to the left. She will add add one more item before she returns the note. It is allowed to bring something completely new to the role.

6. You may now start the game. The notes with unconfessed sins and secrets will be placed so that they can be read by anyone during the game.

Note: I lifted these rules out from a seventeen page long rules collection and they are of course geared very specifically for that context. So they aren't like meant to be neutral or so.

Comments

  • Hi Sven,

    This is really neat. It seems like this could be put together with ease, and brings into play everyone's ideas about the characters. I have a couple questions, too. Is there any kind of initial situation that brings the characters together? Did the players have any trouble coming up with characters? It seems like some simple ideas about what unitest the characters would be a good jumping off place from which everyone could then create characters that weave together in an interesting way.

    Also, have you ever seen It's Complicated? This is a table top game that works with similar inter-relationships among the characters, and uses lines drawn on a board to help the players know what kinds of scenes to frame next.
  • Emily,
    Posted By: Emily CareHi Sven,

    This is really neat. It seems like this could be put together with ease, and brings into play everyone's ideas about the characters. I have a couple questions, too. Is there any kind of initial situation that brings the characters together? Did the players have any trouble coming up with characters? It seems like some simple ideas about what unitest the characters would be a good jumping off place from which everyone could then create characters that weave together in an interesting way.
    Yeah, I totally agree. You certainly need that. This is not a game, it is a mechanic that can be used in a certain subset of games, but not very well on it's own, I believe. In the game I lifted it from all characters are predestined to stay in the same room for the duration of the game since they are all parttaking in a religious ritual. The ritual is the game. I will talk about that somewhere, definitely, since the I think it's cool and the players thought it was cool, but it's also really flawed and I don't know what to do... But this is not the place.

    Also, have you ever seenIt's Complicated? This is a table top game that works with similar inter-relationships among the characters, and uses lines drawn on a board to help the players know what kinds of scenes to frame next.
    Not really (have I seen it, that is). I have seen the name, but wasn't aware. I will look at this and I will look at other games. The thing is, until last week I haven't touched an rpg-forum or -game, except my own, or whatever since last January. Now I feel it's time to mingle with other minds again.
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