Saturday, June 11, 2016

Character Creation: MADS, Also Musing

A brief moment of reflection/navel-gazing, if you will.

I started this character creation project in June of 2008. In a couple of weeks, we'll hit the eight year anniversary of this project starting. I think, actually, that I'll try and do a character for Mage: The Awakening 2nd Ed on that day. I don't know that I'll make it (I really, really like to have physical books to read and I don't think I'll have one by then), but I'll do my best. My players would like me to read through Mage so I can run it, anyway.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, my project was very nearly complete and then I bought the Haiti bundle, which gave me a whole shitload of new RPGs in PDF form. And then came another bundle (or two), and then Michelle and I got married and merged out collections, and somewhere in there I gave in to my urges - I'm an RPG collector. At the time, that was resignation; "I'm never going to run these games, but I want to collect and read them." And now...I'm actually running some diverse stuff, rather than all-WoD, all the time. I'm running Scavengers in a few hours, and I'm really looking forward to it.

But I still have this project. I've made more characters in the past week than in the past couple of months, but that's summer for you. I've got more than 200 games on the list yet to do, and I know I'll have more next weekend because like I'm going to go to Origins and not buy games.

The Game: MADS
The Publisher: Point of Insanity Game Studio
Degree of Familiarity: None
Books Required: Just the one, technically, but read on.

So, MADS (Mental-Attack-Defense-Skill) is designed to be a kind of Esperanto - a universal system that you can convert characters from other systems into. Want to take a supervillain from Champions and have her mix it up with your dungeon delving party from D&D? OK, then.

I actually had an idea kind of like this many years ago, but it was focused less on making a universal system and more about the idea of mashing up disparate genres (that idea is M0arpigz, and I do plan to finish one day, Kif). Anyway, MADS has a character creation system as well as a character conversion system, and I was kind of noodling which one I wanted to try out, but I think it's more in keeping with the point of this project if I create rather than convert.

That brings up another point - does this thing even have a setting? Let's find out.

OK, so reading through this, this game is a neat idea that could really use some more love. The system isn't bad, but it's a pretty simple D&D-esque physics emulator (yawn). The "building a campaign" section, though, is focused on getting characters from different genres together, without losing those genres. So ronin samurai can port directly into the sci-fi setting, without having to change the character to a masterless android or whatever. That's pretty interesting.

Anyway, there are several example campaign settings, so I think I'll choose one of those, and then figure out a way to choose a character to fit into (or not) that setting. Reading over the sample campaigns, they're actually pretty neat, some of them. I like Trouble on Sunset Mountain, a Western setting in which a new gang of outlaws with super-powers has just stumbled into town. I've made Western characters in various games (Deadlands, notably), but this one has a more superhero than supernatural kind of flavor, so that's fun. The conceit of the game is that the sheriff has tapped the PCs for help with the new gang. Sure, why not.

OK, step one in character creation is Choose Race. The book lists some sample races, including fantasy ones (dwarves, elves) and sci-fi ones (androids, grays) but I think I'll stay human.

Now I Generate Statistics. There are a few methods here; I can roll randomly or I can point-buy or I can make a character in a different system and then convert. I think I'll roll randomly. I get 10, 10, 6, 5, 4, 5, 5, 3.

10 is Peak (it's the best I can be!), while 3 is pretty weak and 5 is average. OK, then. I'm pretty baller in a couple of areas. So tempting to put a 10 in Mysticism.

Actually, yeah. I'm thinking of characters like Sing in Kung Fu Hustle, who have vast magical (or kung fu, but whatever) potential. Yeah, yeah, Chosen One, bite me. I'll arrange my stats thusly:

Strength 4
Agility 5
Endurance 6
Willpower 10
Intellect 5
Mysticism 10
Charisma 5
Perception 3

There, so my character is magically really powerful, but also pretty clueless - he misses obvious stuff and he's physically unimpressive. He's also utterly unflappable and fearless, though (Willpower 10!), so there's that.

OK, now I figure Profession. Annoyingly, these are very much D&D-esque character classes; they're all arranged around what they do in a fight. Yawn. Anyway, I'm faced with a dilemma, here; my magical cowboy really should be an "untapped potential" or something, but that's not a Profession. And you can "dabble" in skills that your Profession wouldn't normally have, but doing that requires a higher experience level (so it's basically multi-classing, god this is boring). OK. Well, fuck it, I'll take Mystic as my profession. I don't really want Mystic, but it's too hard to figure out how the concept I have would translate into this "universal" (but really D&D) system.

Have I mentioned how much it annoys me that D&D has its grubby fingerprints all over this hobby? 'Cause it's a lot.

Anydangway. So, I'm a mystic. That tells me nothing except "I cast spells." The next step is Skills, which, surprise surprise, gives you a choice of how your skills are arranged vis-a-vis combat. Yawn. Well, I don't want to be a Supporter, I want to be a Frontliner. I want this guy's magic to come out in big, flashy, boomy ways that surprise everyone. That gives me 4CP in Fighting Style, 6CP in Knack, 2CP in Weapon Point and 4CP in Skill Point, whatever the fuck any of that means.

OMG. I'm looking through the Professions now. It's just D&D. It's the same old, "you know this many spells, you can't cast while wearing armor, you're weak and skinny because you do magic" played-out, tired, boring bullshit that RPGs have been doing since 1974 and what the actual fuck. This looks like it actually had some promise, and then it just falls back on D&D. And now I have to finish this. Ugh.

OK, so I really have no idea what all those CP numbers were for, since I have one place in the book telling me that at Novice I get 10 "points" (12, actually, since the write-up for the human "race" tells me they can get extra because they're "versatile" GEE NEVER HEARD THAT BEFORE).

The spell chart assumes spells have "levels," but no spells are listed. The skills and knacks system is entirely based around combat. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

OK, deep breath. Let's get back into this. Reading a little more carefully, those "CP" numbers I mentioned earlier are costs, not points I get to play with. There's also a profession called "War Caster," which is probably closer to what I want, so I'll change my professional appropriately. The character creation system jumps straight from skills to social status, which requires a d100 roll. Hang on. 21 makes me Lower Class, which is fine, I'm a poor cowboy.

Looking under war caster, it's arranged just like a D&D class, telling me what I get at each "level" (so, great, I can take my characters from far-superior system and convert them into a level-based system that's somehow less intuitive than d20 WHOOPTY-DOODLE-DO).

OK, I got lunch, maybe I'll be a little less grouchy. So, it looks like what I need to do is dip back into Chapter One to finish this up. I had figured Body Points before, but I actually get more than I think; I'm at 42 rather than 30. I have to jigger with dice placement, but it looks like as a Novice I get 8 points to throw around, so I'll just go even split (Mental-Attack-Defense-Skill).

Skills, though. I honestly have no idea. The system is mostly geared around "convert it," there's more detail given to combat skills, but the skills are and knacks and whatever-the-fuck-all aren't really spelled out. It's like this system wants to be a universal conversion point, but doesn't want to do the hard work of acknowledging that some systems don't treat combat as the be-all-end-all. Argh.

Knacks are non-combat skills that characters have based on their concepts or pre-conversion-to-MADS systems. My guy is a cowboy, so I'll give him Riding as a knack. Presumably he'd have Pistol as a...fighting style, I guess?

And you know what? Fuck it. This is a mess and I'm bored. This is too badly explained to waste any more time on, except with some conceptualizin'.

OK, "Spooky" Daniels is a cowhand. He's decent enough at that job - he can ride forever and he barely needs to sleep (high Willpower), and he can sense trouble coming (high Mysticism). He's kind of clueless and gormless in general, which is what I mean by "decent enough." Thing is, though, when these super-powered bandits came to town, everyone figured Spooky should have known about it ahead of time - he always does. And he did, he'd been having dreams, but he figured they were just dreams, since it's not like people can really teleport and fly and mind-control good God fearin' folks...right?

Spooky is about to get in over his head, but if he can learn to wield magic, he could drive these bastards back.

That's me done. Fuck this game.