Beta 3 Preview: Character Creation!

By | December 13, 2014

Hello all!

This week we’ll be talking about the new character creation process for Forthright Open Roleplay.  One of the things we’ve struggled with is providing lots of options to Players while, at the same time, providing a quick and streamlined character-creation process.  The main difficulty with testing this has been familiarity with the system – once players become more familiar with the system, they take dramatically less time to create characters than new players coming in.  That’s why events such as conventions are a blessing to us – it’s a ready stable of new players.  What we found with our most recent character-creation playtests is that we still had way too many options at character creation to make character creation anything resembling “quick” or “simple.”

So we’re streamlining character creation again with the goal of providing clearer options for Players.  The first thing we’re doing is exchanging the term “Player Character” for “Protagonist.”  This much more directly identifies the Players’ role in the story that will play out – a game of Forthright is their story, centered on them, and it is their exploits everyone is here to experience.

Session Zero will still work by defining expectations and narrowing focus.  This is done to ensure that Players don’t build their Protagonists in a vacuum, potentially creating characters who are incompatible with each other.  If characters are going to be at odds with each other, it should be because the group mutually agrees to do so rather than any individual Player forcing the rest of the group to “deal with it.”  With that in mind, here’s how Session Zero now flows:

  1. The Game Charter still comes first, streamlined but largely unchanged.
  2. The Company will be formed.  We’re replacing “Fellowship” with “Company” to pull away from that feeling of pure fantasy by using a similar term with a much broader acceptance throughout genre fiction.
    • The Company has a Bond that is a mission, an employer, a common enemy or a mutual goal.  You trust each other with your lives, and you can restore each others’ fighting spirit.  This is why.
    • The Company also has one or more Allies.  Each Protagonist provides the Company with an Ally or provides an Ally with an additional trait.
    • Finally, the members of a Company share a special Talent, something that makes them uniquely suited to working together.  That Talent is chosen collectively by the Players.
  3. The Protagonists are defined.
    • Choose a Species, gaining a unique Species Talent.
    • Choose a Focus.  Your fighting powers can be Innate or Gear-based.  Innate powers can never be taken away from you (for instance, if you are jailed), while Gear powers can be improved at less cost.
    • Choose a Source for your power.  Is your power rooted in Magic, Science, or personal Prowess?  This is recorded as a Renown, something that people know about you and which helps define the cosmetics of your Protagonist.
    • Choose a Distinction.  This is something that makes your Protagonist unique.  It could be that you are an orphan raised by wolves, that you were bitten by a vampire but not fully turned, or that you developed your own suit of combat armor.  This is recorded as a Renown, and provides some backstory to your character’s abilities.
    • Choose an Ambition.  This is something that your Protagonist wants for himself/herself that is different from the Company’s Bond.  This is something you would be willing to betray your friends for.
    • Decide what you want to be Best, Worst or Okay at for Fighting Style, Persona and Vocation.  This will determine your bonus for success when using those Proficiencies.
    • Choose your Fighting Style from the following:
      • Armsmancer:  Conjure arms and armor from energy.
      • Caller:  Command another creature to fight for you.
      • Caster:  Wield the fundamental forces of the universe.
      • Deadeye:  Perform astonishing feats of precision at short range.
      • Dervish:  Frequently attack anything that gets near you.
      • Guardian:  Protect others by forcing enemies to fight you.
      • Juggernaut:  Deal massive amounts of melee damage.
      • Pacifist:  Try to convince others of the futility of fighting.
      • Reaper:  Dance across the battlefield attacking multiple targets.
      • Scrapper:  Expose your opponents’ vulnerabilities to your allies.
      • Sniper:  Deal massive amounts of ranged damage.
      • Tactician:  Command your allies to fight on your behalf.
    • Choose your Persona from the following:
      • Carouser:  Party on to get what you want from others.
      • Charmer:  People just naturally seem to like you and overlook your flaws.
      • Comedian:  Joke around to impress others.
      • Curmudgeon:  Hard to convince and hard to love.
      • FastTalker:  Convince your target before he realizes it.
      • Glory Hound:  Cultivate your fame to have others fawn over you.
      • Individualist:  Stand on your own merits to find common ground.
      • Intellectual:  Astonish others with your knowledge.
      • Oracle:  You hear some things and can figure out the rest.
      • Orator:  You talk so much it’s impressive.
      • Stoic:  You don’t talk much, but when you do
      • Trickster:  Of course you’re lying, but after all everybody’ll benefit in the end.
    • Choose your Vocation from the following:
      • Chemist:  Concoct one-use items with the power of chemistry or alchemy.
      • Entertainer:  Perform for others to make mad bank.
      • Facedancer:  Master of disguise.
      • Infiltrator:  Master of stealth.
      • Outfitter:  Craft items and equipment.
      • Rider:  You are one with your animal.
      • Ritualist:  Perform arcane rituals and use places of power.
      • Saboteur:  Master of sabotage.
      • Scholar:  Is there anything you don’t know?
      • Thief:  Master of legerdemain.
      • Tracker:  Master hunter.
      • Pilot:  Wheels, wings or rockets, you can make it go.
    • Choose 0, 1 or 2 Expert Skills, depending on whether you are Worst, Okay or Best at your Vocation.
    • Spend any starting money you would like to spend.

As you can see, character creation is still a fairly lengthy process – we would lose the “create your own class!” aspect of character creation if we simplified much more, and that’s too fundamental to Forthright Open Roleplay to change.  However, you might note that we’ve reduced the number of Roles from 45 to 36 and tried to make them much more distinctive.  We’ve also removed the “Backstory Talent,” which was basically just an opportunity to try and out-think the Guide and perform a little character optimization before play even began.

By removing the Backstory Talent and rearranging the starting Renown selection, we’re hoping to provide a more engaging character-creation experience that feels like the creation of an actual person instead of the creation of a set of statistics by which Players will defeat encounters.  We’re also trying to step into a broader realm where the same character roles can fit comfortably in sword-and-sorcery, pulp, space opera or other genres, highlighting more the distinctiveness of Forthright‘s play style.

So how is this looking?  Good, bad, ugly, indifferent?  Please let us know in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

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