Thursday, 15 January 2015

Meaningful Fluff: A Look at Character Creation

Hello World,

At the start of this month I moved in to a new apartment with my girlfriend. This apartment is rather far from my gaming groups and it has required me join and create new gaming groups. As a result of this I have created and help create 6 characters over the past week. By creating an abundance of very different characters for a variety of different systems, you start to see patterns in the character creation process.  This week on the blog I am going to talk about one tool of character creation that I find helps make meaningful and realistic characters.

This tool is what I like to call Meaningful Fluff, when  a characters backstory or narrative traits has direct impact on the characters skills and abilities. A number of systems include this in character creation. Some notable examples are HeroQuest 2, Dogs in the Vineyard, and even Dungeons and dragons 5E to a lesser extent. I find that while these systems include Meaningful Fluff, I feel it can be taken even further. It can be a driving force for your character.

In the Stars Without Numbers game I am currently playing, the GM has hacked a version of the “Keys” system from Lady Blackbird into the games character creation. Having never played Lady Blackbird, this was my first exposure to the mechanic and I fell in love with it. For those not familiar with it, the overarching premise is assigning a form of quirk or trauma that grants you XP boosts when it you role-play they trait, or it causes problems. This is where I find the system excels,  you want to pick Keys that you can use, and in doing so the Keys you choose shape who your character is.

As an example of this, my character in the Stars Without Number campaign was your stereotypical tech geek. But when it came time to pick keys, he became so much more than just a trope. When browsing the options the “Key of the Collector” caught my eye.

Key of the Collector: Your character is dedicated to obtaining as much –Blank- as possible. Gain 1 XP whenever she obtains information about the location of a piece of –Blank-. Gain 3 XP whenever she puts herself at risk in order to obtain –Blank-.

Now that I had picked a key, I had to find a way to incorporate it into my character. Simple enough, I just needed to figure out what he collected. After a bit of pondering I decided to say that he collects old outdated technology [Retro-Tech] in a futurist and sci-fi world. This led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about why he would collect old and obsolete technology, establishing his collection as an escape from his complex and confusing world to a much simpler world.  This was an interesting aspect of his personality that wasn’t even considered initially. Such a small creation tool directed me to create a more interesting and compelling character by giving a mechanical meaning behind the fictional fluff.  

A Picture of 'Kua' My SWN Character

Players are creative beings and if you give them a mechanical reason for giving their characters personality and flavor they will use that as a jumping off point to make interesting and unique characters. With that I wish you all the best in you future games and as always thanks for reading.

-Patrick Lapienis