Thursday, January 4, 2018

Character Creation: When the Dark is Gone

I picked up Seven Wonders at...GenCon, I think? 2016, I think. It's an anthology of story games, and it was nominated for an Indie Groundbreak Award last year, and I think it won, but the winners aren't posted on the IGDN site (whoops) and, embarrassingly, I don't remember who won. I'm like 90% sure Cat Tobin gave an acceptance speech, though, and she edited and published it.

Anyway, I felt like doing a storygame for my chargen project today, because I'm having trouble focusing on my own work and I tend to find them inspirational. Also they're often easier than D&D clones and other trad games, in the sense that I don't need to do math.

Not "easier" in the sense of "requiring less brain-power", of course, because holy cats. Right out of the gate.

The Game: When the Dark Is Gone
The Publisher: Pelgrane Press
Degree of Familiarity: None. I'm reading it; it's short.
Books Required: Just Seven Wonders

So, this is a game about therapy, not therapy as a game (as the text points out). The idea is that you're playing people who, as children, went to a magical other-world, returned to Earth, and now can't go back. Taking inspiration from C.S. Lewis and The Neverending Story and any number of other books wherein kids save the world by traveling to other dimensions, and asking the same questions as XKCD does here.

And aside: Not all of the games in this anthology present "character creation" in a way that works for this project, but a few of them do and have character sheets. Plus, I have the PDF, because Pelgrane is cool like that. So why does my list say that there's no sheet for any of these games? What the hell, past-Matt?

Anyway. The first thing we'd do if I were actually playing this is to list out banned topics, which I think is a good practice no matter what you're playing. Since it's just me, though, I'm not gonna bother with that.

Next thing: Name, Occupation, Age, and Description. OK, then. We assume this to be modern-day, which means I'm making an adult who went to a magical world as a child. His name is Raymond Ruth. He's (now) 40.

Occupation...hmm. I want to make him something that I could play. I don't think I want him to be a teacher or someone who works with kids; I think he'd find that a little too painful. I'll say he works in banking - he makes good money, no one asks him about his job except other people in the industry.

Description: Ray is skinny (he eats like a bird and he's not prone to putting on weight). He used to be bright blond, now his hair is thinning and grey. He has a light beard that he keeps neatly trimmed. He wears gold-rimmed glasses (bifocals, now). He always wears long-sleeved shirts and usually wears a carpal tunnel glove/brace on his left hand, sometimes both.

OK, the next bit is perhaps the hard part: The psychological disorder. These folks are in therapy for a reason, and the game makes it pretty clear that they're hurting people (self or others) with their behavior. I think for Ray I'm going to say he self-harms. And I'm gonna get personal for a minute, so feel free to skip the next paragraph if you just want to watch me make a character.

I cut myself when I was in high school. My usual method of self-harm is to punch myself in the face, and that persists (though I've got it under control), but there was a time there when I would take a kitchen knife to the back of my hand. I still have the scars, I can see them plain as life and I know exactly what they're from. If anyone in my house noticed, they never said anything, but I was pretty good at keeping it under wraps (as it were). It was a method of...punishment, I guess? Of feeling something sharp and quick and intense rather than the slow rot that my brain gave me? Anyway, that's why I'm going with this for Ray.

OK, back to Ray. Ray cuts himself, usually on the left hand, usually with something slim and sharp. I think the idea is that he remembers how things were in the other-world - they were intense and bright and colorful and sensation was amazing, and here in the real world it's just...not like that. I don't know if that's too much planning for the "why," though.

Anyway, the next sections in the book talk about relationships with the other PCs and why we're in therapy. If we were playing, I'd have specific relationship with two other characters. Since it's just me, I suppose I'll make a couple up. These are folks I knew as kids, but we have more adult relationships now.

First relationship: Joe Bathic. We roomed together in college and we're friends and drinking buddies now. I enable his drinking, because when he's drunk he gets angry and violent and sometimes I can goad him into hitting me. I figure if he hits me he doesn't hit anyone else. Secret: One night he was close to a moment of clarity and asked me to drive him home. I said he was fine and let him drive. We made it home without hurting anyone, but there was some damage to his car; he had no memory of any of it in the morning.

Second relationship: Carly Weiss. Carly came into my bank quite by accident and we remembered each other; she was working on refinancing her house. We wound up going out for drinks; not a date per se (I'm getting the feeling that Ray is largely asexual, though perhaps not aromantic), but just catching up and supporting each other. And Ray panicked and ghosted her and passed her case on to another banker, citing "conflict of interest" because they were friends, and the other guy just fucked it all up. Secret: Ray looked through her phone one night while they were out together, looking for any sign that she remembered what happened to them. He saw text messages talking about how "pathetic" a guy that Carly was seeing was, and he assumes that meant him.

Finally, Ray has a redeeming quality, something that people can recognize as good in him. I'll say that Ray is patient. He doesn't lose his temper, he doesn't fly off the handle, and he doesn't jump to conclusions. That also makes him a good listener, though of course he's abused that trait in the past.

The last thing would be that everyone contributes one memory of the magical world. In Ray's case, I've kinda already said it: Everything was vivid. Colors were brighter, sounds were more harmonious, sensations more intense, flavors more delicious. Everything was more vibrant. To Ray, it's left the real world feeling a little grey.

And that's it, actually. Intense little game, this. I like it.