Today I find myself not only with some free time, but some alone free time as Michelle is off at Con on the Cob selling our stuff (come visit! We'll be there all weekend!) and Al isn't home yet. I'm not quite ready to start working on Timepeekers in earnest yet, so I think I shall fill the time by making a character.
You will be witnesses.
The Game: Eldritch High, collected in The Big Book of Little Games
The Publisher: John Wick Presents
Degree of Familiarity: None, but I've read Harry Potter
Books Required: Just the one.
So, the beginning of this game feels very Harry Potter, but then we get into a discussion about the Shadowrealm, which includes a secret war between demons and angels and other magical beings. So far, so good.
Holy shit. So, in this game you're playing children (that is, someone younger than 18, which encompasses a pretty goddamn wide range of ages and developmental levels but never mind that for the moment), who are recruited into this war. These folks develop "the Sight", which does pretty much what it does in every similar RPG, and so the kids get drafted and go to "the Academy." They rarely see their parents again.
Side note: The game I'm now working on, Timepeekers, was originally envisioned as a game in which you played kids fighting back an alien invasion by using their powers of learning skills from their future selves. One of the aspects that I ditched was the idea that the government was behind this, because if you're a kid fighting on behalf of a government or another ideological body, what you're called is a "child soldier." It shouldn't be hard to figure out why I ditched that notion.
Anyway, let's move on. After some description of the grounds of the school (during which we're told that people try to escape from their training, but then some people get expelled, too - arrgh), we come to character creation.
Step One: Who Are You? "First, nearly all students admitted to Circe's are 14 years old, but there are a few details that make your character distinct from the rest."
Is the implication here that most 14-year-olds are interchangeable, or is that just a kind of badly phrased sentence? Anyway, sure, we'll say my character is 14. The same age as my oldest child. Twitch.
Where are you from? The school recruits from everywhere. I don't much feel like doing a lot of research into how children from not-USA are raised, though, so I'll say my young lad grew up in Nebraska. I've been through Nebraska - it's Omaha, which is kind of a cool city, and then nothing. My character, Dominic Brussels, grew up in the "nothing" part.
When did you gain Sight? Nic (he prefers "Nic" to "Dom") was out in the field hitching a chain to a stump to pull it free when he spotted something shiny under the roots. He touched it, and saw the Shadowrealm for the first time. He was also blown back 30 feet by the magical energy, and when his head cleared, the thing under the stump had gone. Did someone grab it? Had he opened a prison? He's not sure.
What do you look like? I'm supposed to just say three things that make me distinct from the other kids at the Academy. Sure. Well, Nic is a corn-fed farm boy (muscular, blond, handsome). He's missing two fingers on his right hand (accident in shop class). And he's always hungry. Boy's got a hollow leg, as his dad used to say.
What is your stereotype? You know, what type of kid are you. I think Nic is the hick (this actually is a stereotype in Tales from the Loop, because it just now occurred to me I played a character like that at Breakout last year).
Step 2: Willpower: We use Willpower to do magic, and we start with 3 Willpower. OK, then.
Step 3: Fumbles: We start with 3 Fumbles, which I guess are mistakes you make casting magic, but then it says "I'll explain later in the book," which, argh, give me a fucking page number, at least. Hang on. Oooooookay...Fumbles are, in fact, not mentioned again, that I can see. I don't have a PDF of this book, so I can't search to make sure, but I don't see the word "fumble" anywhere in the magic system.
(See, this is the problem with cutesy shit like "I'll tell you about this later!" - if you forget to do that, you think you've already done it. It's a mistake I've made, too.)
Step Four: Required Courses: OK, so I take six courses per semester. Now, there are slots on the character sheet for each year in high school, but each slot has eight sections for courses, not 12, so...good work?
Anyway, what courses should Nic take? Wait, hang on. There are seven courses listed. Do electives count? They're not listed separately on the sheet, but they're in a separate step. (Jesus, this is so badly organized.)
Ah, OK. This is...check it out. Step Four of character creation is "Required Courses," and implies that you must take six. The section starts off with "Now it's time to consider your course schedule at the Academy." But you don't actually pick six courses here, because Step Five is Electives, which begins with "Your student may also take elective classes," and then lists a bunch, but does not explain what to do with them.
And then Step Six is "Your Freshman Schedule" which tells us how scheduling actually works, and that I must take three required classes and one elective for the first semester, and then in second semester, I'd take three more required's and one more elective (meaning that the setup on the sheet actually does make sense, but the sentence in Step Four saying that we take six courses per semester is wrong).
Editors. Use them.
Right, so, three Required Courses and one Elective. Got it. For my Required Courses, I'll take Crafts (Nic is used to working with his hands), Conjuration, and Alchemy. For my Elective, I'll take Public Speaking (Nic is a little shy and he figures this would be good for him).
That puts me right over to Step 7: Prodigy. Everyone is a "prodigy" in one class, which gives me a bonus to cast in that class. Neat. I'll pick Crafts.
Step 8: Gifts. Special advantage type thingie. I could have a Familiar, which is odd - the sentence just cuts off. Maybe there was meant to be more.
Oh, what the hell. "French" is a Gift. It means you're cultured and smooth. I just...
Anyway, I'll say Nic has Giant Blood. He's not abnormally large, but he's very strong.
And that's it! There's a lot of space on this sheet that we don't use right away, apparently.
I looked ahead at spellcasting; it's all card based. Fumbles are mentioned again, but at the very end, and it doesn't actually tell you how they work, but they seem to involve discarding a card.
Anyway, I suppose that's it! This game actually looks pretty cool, I'd just have to patch the holes if I were going to run it.