Thursday, May 30, 2013

Character Creation: Lady's Rock

Well, I've finished with my edits for The Road to Hell on Earth, and have done the summer con update over at the Growling Door site, and I just did the write-up from Saturday's game, and I've got better than an hour before folks get here for chargen tonight, so I think I have time to make a character.

I also just updated the list of games, and I'm sure I'm missing a few, but I've gotten a bunch of things from Kickstarters so I had more games to add.

Anyway, today I decided to do a game on pdf, one from that original bundle waaaaaay the hell back years ago that I'm still picking my way through.

The Game: Lady's Rock
The Publisher: Erisian Entertainment
Degree of Familiarity: None
Books Required: Just the one.

So, the preface to this game does not fill me with the desire to run it. It starts off assuring us that this is game, it's just a game, it's got no political overtones or "hidden messages" (wtf?), and that Firefly should be put back on the air (I'd say that dates the game, but it really doesn't). This reads like it might be an admonition against those kah-razy fundies that think RPGs are real...but that's not real topical, is it? Even a few years ago when this was released? I find that some RPG designers are still stuck in the 90s that way, which is too bad.

The other problem is that the preface seems to be trying to assure us that this is all in fun, we don't need to think too hard, and that's OK, I guess. But it comes off as a big "whatever." Like, it doesn't read like the writer really cares about the game, or maybe he's trying really hard to show that he doesn't care? This may be my own experiences at White Wolf, where people made RPGs while looking down on them, but I've cracked open this pdf a half-dozen times, and I never get any further than the preface.

The intro fiction is likewise off-putting. There's a lot of trying to write in dialect: “Lights mang. Everythin‟ is lights. Are you all afraid a the dark or sumsing?” the voice asked. Stuff like that. So yeah.

Oh, and the cover is a woman who is just boob-arffic. Now, she looks piratey, so at least she's not wearing an armored bikini, and her pose is not submissive, so that's a plus. But she's totally tits-out, and at this point in my life it just makes me go "seriously?"

Whatever. Let's get to it.

So obviously this game owes more to D&D and like games than to the story games currently occupying my brainspace. Just a look at the character sheet shows that. Also, the book explains everything, from currency to law to noble houses (25 pages of them) to deities. For a game that's so "la, whatever" in the preface, someone sure put a lot of work into it. So OK, let's skip to chargen.

Chargen proceeds in steps:
1. Come up with a character concept
2. Select a race
3. Determine attributes
4. Select skills
5. Choose Merits and Flaws
6. Purchase equipment
7. Add the finishing touches

So far, so good. I'm told that concept is the most important thing, as is typical. Hmm. Well, I guess I'll do what I usually do when I'm confronted with a game with a lot of setting detail but no easy points of reference to glom on to (White Wolf with its clans and so on): find something I like in the setting and go from there. 'Scuse me a moment. You know, there's a lot to be said for a game that says, right up front, "here are the characters and here's what they do." I'll remember that for M0arpigz.

OK, holy shit. I'm reading through the "Director's Cut" (GMing) section in an attempt to get a sense about how this game should work (a mistake a lot of writers make is putting general GM advice into these sections, rather than talking about the game they're actually writing). I see this:

Do not plan around your players. I don't know how many times I've read that you should tailor adventurers to your players. Stop for a minute and think about how utterly ridiculous that is. Why would a maniac bend on world domination intentionally build an impenetrable fortress with a flaw designed to be exploited by his or her archenemies? They wouldn't. (Building a thermal exhaust port that leads directly to your reactor system is just asinine, even if it is just the size of a womp rat.) Don't hand your player's victory; let them earn it. It'll mean more to them.

I don't even know how to parse that level of thickness. Dude, we're not talking about the villains in the game tailoring their plots to the characters. We're talking about you, the GM, the actual real human being who has seen Star Wars (thanks for that, by the way, very cute), making up an adventure that the players would enjoy based on their characters. If I'm playing an archer, I want to shoot things with arrows. If I'm playing a diplomat with a secret poison ring, fucking give me something to poison. And so on. Argh.

Anyway. I'm coming up empty, here. This game seems to present a lot of information on the setting and the Empire, which a lot of BS about Eris and Discordia (which, to me, is about as much fun as people who are "random" because they say "monkey tacos"), but doesn't tell me anything about what the characters should be done. At a guess, I think we're supposed to be murderhobos, but let me read a little more (and this would easier if I had time to read the whole thing cover to cover, but I don't and it's boring anyway).

Oh, this is funny. Back under chargen, we get this: a well-written character history also lets the GM
know what sort of adventures you would enjoy. But I thought we shouldn't tailor adventures around the characters? Anyway.

OK, so I need a character concept. I feel like making someone big and burly and earthy. There have to be miners, right? Ooh, are there dwarves? Hang on. OH CHRIST THERE ARE CATGIRLS. AND THEY'RE NAKED. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY ARE.

You know, at least Michelle's enjoying my outbursts as I read this. Anyway, yes, there are dwarves, and dwarves as a race have this real racial superiority thing going. Not in a creepy white-guy way, but more "Ha! You think that's a big dragon? You should've seen the one that ate the mountain I grew up in!" kind of thing. I can get behind that. The sub-races all suck, though, so I'll go pure dwarf. There are three pages of character questions, but I can't be fucked (plus, they don't tell me anything about this game, the way the character questions in, say, Don't Rest Your Head do). On to step two. Well, three, actually, because picking a race was step two.

Step three is Attributes. But actually, the next step is build points. I get 100 + 2d10, so hang on. 15, so I get 115 points. Plus the ones for my race; I wonder where I'd find that. It wasn't in the race write-up. Yeah, it's not there. It does say I get Darkvision, Resistant to Toxins and Poison Resistance (which I guess are two different things) for free.

OK, moving along to Attributes. Here's a hoot: the attribute section mentions racial modifiers. They are not in the book. They're not under the races, and I sure don't see them anywhere else. Holy shit.

OK, fuck it. No racial modifiers, because I don't have all day. I can't spent more than 12 on any one attribute (so 6 is the highest I can go), and I can't spend more than half my build points on attributes.

Well, I want a high Strength, so let's dump 12 there (103). 3 in Coordination sounds fine (97). 4 in Quickness, since dwarves are good sprinters (8, so down to 89). 6 in Constitution (bet I'd get a racial mod there, if these guys weren't such fuckups), down to 77. For mentals (Reason, Insight, Psyche), let's just go 2, 2, 4, or 16 more points, so I'm down to 61. Oh, wait, Charisma (which isn't mentioned with the rest of the attributes). I'll put it at 2, for four more points. Down to 57.

Oh, I just found their errata page. Turns out racial costs and racial modifiers got cut. Duh. Nice editing. Anyway, moving on.

Had to quit for the day yesterday because people came over to do chargen for new games. Now getting back to this. Oy.

OK, so, I got the attributes for my dwarf done. What's next? Skills! Oh, no, wait, derived traits. OK. These are equations based on some attributes, but they don't tell you to round up or down. Hrr. Let's assume down, as in thumbs.

Action pool is therefore 5, vigor pool is 10, willpower pool is 5. I have six body hit points, four mind, and two soul (each hit point has five tracks, "five for the Sacred Lady," the book says. Seriously, there is all kinds of call-out to weird Discordian shit, talking about pinneal glands and whatnot. It reads like a crazy person's manifesto in places).

OK, now skills. "Active" skills cost 1 build point per level, up to the linked attribute, after which it's doubled (so just like Savage Worlds). I can't go higher than double the attribute. Hokay. And then I get knowledge skills as well, but they're a separate pool (7 x Reason, or 14 for me).

Oh, hey. Spellcasting rules on page XXXX. No one is ever allowed to fuck with White Wolf ever again.

Here's the writeup for Unarmed Combat: Unarmed Combat (QCK) Unarmed Combat is used to
measure the character‟s aptitude for hand-to-hand combat. Street brawling, Boxing, or mastery of the ancient spoonerian martial art of Yuck Fou are all specializations of this skill. Yeah.

Oh, and then there's this: WI-AT Operations (RSN) – An indispensable skill, WIAT Ops is a measure of a character‟s aptitude for using a Wireless Image & Audio Terminal. It is used to search databases for valuable data or the ERP for suitable “reading material.”  WHAT THE SHIT. I'm using dwarves and swords and shit! See, this is what I mean; the setting doesn't remotely make clear what game we're playing, here.

Anyway. I have 57 points left. I'll take:

Appraise 4 (costs 6)
Athletics 5 (costs 6)
Awareness 3 (costs 4)
Climb 4 (costs 4)
Demolitions 5 (costs 8)
Impact Weapons 4 (costs 5)
Interrogation 4 (costs 6)
Unarmed Combat 4 (costs 4)

That's 43, leaving me with 14 points. Let's do knowledge skills, where I also coincidentally have 14 points.

Alchemy 4
Architecture 4
Chemistry 3
Geology 3

So there ya go. I actually do like that knowledge skills get their own pool, because it sucks playing a tough character who doesn't know anything.

Now we do advantages and disadvantages. The steps in chargen say Merits & Flaws, but hey. Can't have everything.

I'll take Internal Compass (seems a good choice for a dude who hangs out in mines), for 1 point. Quick Healer sounds good (5 points, so I have 8 left). In Tune is good, giving me a better chance to notice things, and I kind of picture this dwarf as being pretty on the ball. That's 3, so I have 5 left. For those left few points, I go back to Skills and take 4 points in Sneak and 1 point in Sing, because I enjoy the thought of rousing dwarven drinking songs.

I could take disadvantages at this point. Ah, hell, let's see if any of them are interesting.

Heh. Well. Fear the Reaper is interesting; the GM rolls your Constitution and determines how many game sessions your character lives (but actually, when you hit the limit you just make a CON test [contest?] to see if you die, so with a good CON score you've got an excellent chance of outliving the campaign and getting some build points for free). Anyway, I want Blowhard, because it'd be fun to play. That's only one point, though.

Sigh. OK. Overweight (+2 pt): The character is “big boned” though as many times as I've heard this expression, I have yet to see a “big boned” skeleton… including my own. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.

Good grief. You can take "Paralyzed," and be, indeed, paralyzed from the neck down? Why...would you even include that in the game? What possible fun could that be? Jeez.

You know, I think I'm good. No, wait, I want one point more, so I can raise my Insight. Actually, I'll take "Cycloptic Vision," which is a really roundabout way to say "one eye." That actually gives me 3 more points, so I'll put my Insight and my Charisma up by 1. That probably raises my Willpower pool and/or wound pools, but I frankly don't care enough to refigure them.

OK, so a little history! My dwarf, Ulrich, was the son of an alchemist named Larin (his mom, not his dad - dad was a miner). Larin taught Ulrich some of the basics of chemistry, but mostly Ulrich liked to blow things up. One day he mixed his chemicals wrong and the formula blew up in his face, destroying his right eye. He wears that eye patch as a sign of humility and caution - check your damn mixture.

Ulrich is brash, loud, and arrogant. He's not just a dwarf and proud, he's proud of his family and the careful smarts he gets from his mom, as well as the humble persistence from his dad (whether he actually has either of these traits is up for debate). His depth perception being what is is (not great), he prefers to fight with hammers or fists, or, if he has time, bombs. He would really prefer not to use explosives to harm people, though; they make a terrible mess, and he feels there's something unfair and un-dwarven about using bombs as weapons.