Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Character Creation: Ghost Dog: The RPG

Felt like making a character today, so I took to Facebook to ask for songs to inspire me. A couple of interesting songs resulted, but the one that's sticking with me is this one:

I had to think for a moment about what game would be appropriate, though. The song is about remembering where you're from, paying attention, and a generally positive philosophy. I peruse the list to find a game, and lo and behold, I have one that I think will be fun. 

The Game: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
The Publisher: Guardians of Order, now dead
Degree of Familiarity: Some with the underlying system, none with this particular game.
Books Required: Just the one.

Ghost Dog has got to be one of the weirdest movie-based RPG choices I've ever seen, at least at face value. If you don't know, Ghost Dog is a Jim Jarmusch movie starring Forrest Whitaker (actually you can read my little mini-review here), and the opening of the book talks about how the dynamic of RPGs is changing, people who were teens when they started playing are getting older, and there needs to be more of a focus on single-player RPGs (this book was published in 2000, for reference). Now, I'm not really a fan of single-player RPGs; they kind of feel creepy and weirdly intimate to me when I've played them, and especially as shared narrative is more of a thing now, they feel unnecessary. But since I'm not going to play this game anyway, no problem.

Ghost Dog is a Tri-Stat game, so it's very much a trad, skill-list sort of game, though the movie lends itself more to an indie, micro-game sort of thing, or Fate at the very least. But, it is what it is.

Step One: GM Discussion. Here, me and my hypothetical GM would discuss what kind of game we're playing, what the violence level is, whether I'm playing Ghost Dog or someone else from that universe, and so on. Let's assume, since I don't have a GM, that I'm playing in the same world as Ghost Dog, but after the events of the movie. Louise Vargo has assumed control of the Vargo crime family, but let's also assume there's some pushback from other folks who, like Ghost Dog, operate by their own code (the RZA cameos as "Samurai in Camouflage," so clearly there's not just one samurai around).

Let's assume, too, that I have an average-level character to work with, giving me 30 points.

Step 2: Character Outline. I want to play a citizen, rather than a criminal or a cop. I want my guy to be a panhandler, a man who sleeps outside or in shelters, but who looks after Pearline and people like her. He has a past - he just doesn't remember much of it. He remembers gunfire, blood, pain, and death, and sometimes he'll perform tasks methodically and by rote, suggesting he has some military training, but he doesn't (or refuses to) remember it. Actually, I think it's a better character arc if he's well aware that he used to be something he's not, and he's actively turning his back on that part of himself. He wants to be someone kind, honest, and forthright, implying that he wasn't (or thinks he wasn't). (I feel dirty admitting this, but I'm taking some inspiration from Jim Cavezial's character in Angel Eyes, too.)

Step 3: Assign Stats. Tri-Stat, as the name would imply, has three stats: Mind, Body, and Soul. 4 is "adult human average," and they're 1 for 1. I have 30 points, so average across the board would cost me 12, less than half. Meh. I want to be better than average. I think I'll put Body at 5, Mind at 4, and Soul at 8. That's 17 points.

Step 4: Character Attributes. These are Merit-like things. I think it's interesting they're here, before Defects and Skills, but whateves. Looking at the list, I like:

Art of Distraction (allows me to distract people at a critical moment): 3 points
Combat Mastery (training, y'see): 3 (6 points)
Divine Relationship (I've worked with Tri-Stat enough to know you're silly if you don't take this): 3
Gun Master (each level gets you an ability, and there's one I want: Weapons Encyclopedia): 1
Highly Skilled (again, silly if you don't, but I don't know how much I'll need yet)

That's all I want, actually.

Step 5: Defects. It would actually make more sense to do these last, after I know how many I need. How many do I need? Well, tallying up what I've done so far, I'm at...exactly 30, not counting anything I'd need from Highly Skilled. Oy. OK, well, I'll take what Defects I think are appropriate and then add the points in somewhere.

Attack Restriction (he won't attack anyone who's not actively threatening him or someone he cares about who can't defend himself) 2BP
Recurring Nightmares (PTSD, yo) 1BP
Skeleton in the Closet (military service, probably, but I'd leave it to the GM) 2BP

I'm now up by 5 points.

Step 6: Skills. Skills cost different amounts depending on how useful they are. I have 20 points, plus I could take as many as 50 more if I wanted to dump all 5 of my remaining BP into Highly Skilled. I want:

Burglary 2 (6 BP)
Demolitions 1 (3 BP)
Gun Combat 3 (18 BP)
Interrogation 2 (6 BP)
Military Science 1 (2 BP)
Intimidation 2 (8 BP)
Stealth 3 (12 BP)
Unarmed Attack 3 (12 BP)
Urban Tracking 2 (8 BP)

That's 75 points...which means I'd need all of my extra BP plus another one. BALLS. Well, I think I'll drop Unarmed Attack down to 2 (71 points) and Interrogation down to 1 (68 points). I'd need to lose another 8, though. OK, fine, we'll drop Gun Combat to 2 (62 points) and Military Science entirely (60 points). That means I need to spend four of my points on Highly Skilled, leaving me with one lonely little BP. I'll put it into Gun Mastery and take Lightning Draw.

Step 7: Derived Values. Where they belong. At the end of chargen.

Attack Combat Value is the average of my stats, which is 17/3 round down...round down? Crap. Here, you know what, let's bump up Recurring Nightmares to 2, and then take another point in Body, which makes that total 18, which makes my ACV 6, plus the three from Combat Mastery is 9. My Defense Combat Value is therefore 7. My Health is (Body + Soul) x 5 or 50. My Energy (which I can use to bump up Stats when necessary) is (Mind + Soul) x 5, or 60. My Shock Value, which is the amount of damage it takes in one attack to stun me, is Health/10, or 5.

Step 8: Background Points. This is basically me writing up my character's history and getting a biscuit from the GM, but I've pretty much explained this guy. I haven't named him, though. He's forgotten his real name, but he goes by Jay (he wears a Blue Jays cap year-round). He's dirty, sleeps where he can, but he takes hobo showers to try and avoid being too scary to people. He panhandles and does odd jobs, but mostly he watches out for the younger folks around the park and chats with Raymond (not that he speaks French, but he listens well).