Friday, June 28, 2013

Character Creation, the first! Earthdawn, 1st edition!

Okay, so I'm a gamer and game designer and editor of games and what not. This list is grouped by relativity to this post, not exclusivity. I am married to another gamer/game designer/writer of game stuff person, and he has an ongoing character creation project here. I will occasionally join him in these endeavors, but since grad school began I think I have a near-zero number of characters made with him. Today, however -- today his game of choice is Earthdawn, and for that I had to join in.

So, this is how it goes. I worked for FASA Corporation the last year it was in business, as it turns out. Earned my editing chops there and worked on Shadowrun and BattleTech and Crimson Skies and Crucible and VOR. What I did not work on was Earthdawn, as it was already sort of done by the time I arrived. I always thought it seemed really cool, though, and I was curious about it. Between babies and work and trying to scrape by, I never really got to do anything about that, though -- and then FASA closed and so did whatever window of opportunity I had. I got to pick up some books as a parting gift from my employer, though, so that was something.

I know there are lots of versions of Earthdawn out there now due to an odd licensing quirk that I've never fully understood (nor do I need to, as it isn't my game). I admit that I'm way more interested in the old FASA stuff than the versions that exist now, though, and so that's what I want to work with. We've talked the group into playing a game of Earthdawn coming up, and so we're running through chargen ahead of time to make sure we get it. I'm very excited.

Game: Earthdawn (original)
Publisher: FASA
Familiarity: Um, somewhat? Also worked on a lot of early SR stuff, so there's a familiar aesthetic if nothing else.
Books Needed: Just the core.

Step 1: Choose a discipline.
Ooh, so I get to choose a career, roughly. Matt hogs the book whenever we do these things and reads stuff aloud to me, so I'll be choosing from a list he reads to me. At this point I'm picking randomly, so I'm gonna pick Skyraider -- which, as it turns out, is awesome. I get to be an airship pirate (as in, raiding airships and raiding from airships). How much coolness is that?

Step 2: Choose a race.
Okay, so air pirates are cool, but I can't be an obsidiman, elf, or windling. Dwarf, human, ork, troll, tskrang are my options.... Okay, I'm going to be a dwarven skyraider, because how cool is that? And I will name her Lyran, in honor of my gaming industry origins. :) I have heatsight to 250 yds, too. Oh god, the D&D flashbacks.

Step 3: Attributes
So, there's a buy system and a random system. Given my druthers, I'll always do random, so there we be. Thanks to random.org's dice roller, I roll 4d6 and drop the lowest 6 times, giving me the following:

15 9 14 13 10 16

That's not bad.

Okay, so with that in mind, I've got to figure out what skyraiders need to be successful. The book says I need dex, strength, and toughness. I hate hate hate using charisma as a dump stat and I already get a minus 3 to it. Argh. I get pluses to strength and toughness, though... so I could put my eh stats there and raise them to middling decent, but then I lose my chance to really shine. I end up sort of splitting the difference: 15 Dex, 16 Str, 19 Toughness, 10 Perception, 9 Willpower, 11 Charisma (among dwarvenkind, I'm consider quite the life at parties -- whether that translates to outsiders is less certain but I've got a fighting chance). I've decided that part of the problem is that she always kind of feels like she's sizing someone up to see what they have that's worth taking... which is true, but not in a malicious sort of way. She just can't entirely help it. Raiding, you see.

Step 4: Characteristics
This seems to be a lot of derived value stuff, as we now tend to call it. I'm not going into all of it, because initiative scores and health points, and armor ratings and blah de blah. The highlights are that I'm hard to hurt, I get a d6 for karma, and... yeah. That's about it.

Step 5: Talents
Okay, so these are like career skills. Except they raise up your Steps, which is this odd sort of pre-Savage Worlds way of randomizing the dice you use. My options are:

Air sailing -- (must have at least 1 to be on a ship), which is basically air sailing stuff.
Avoid blow -- all about avoiding blows (seems useful).
Battle shout -- lets me yell at foes to intimidate them. Actually pretty cool.
Fireblood -- allows me to make a recovery test in the middle of a combat round, which I couldn't otherwise do. Matt cheerfully informs me that it makes oozing blood bubble and hiss. Delightful.
Karma ritual -- Lets me buy karma points, which makes me more fabulous apparently
Melee weapons -- lets me be all fighty with handheld weapons

I have 8 points to assign between them. So... bleh. Well, air sailing gets 1. Battleshout should get 1. Avoid blow can have 2, because avoiding blows. Seriously. Fireblood can have 1. That's 5 spent. That leaves me 3 -- I could do one for karma ritual and 2 for melee, but I suspect that I could skip karma and dump 3 into melee. I'll play it safe, though, and settle for 1 and 2.

Step 6: Skills
So, I get a rank 1 artisan and knowledge skills, on top of either 2 skills at 1 or 1 skill at rank 2. For my artisan skill, I can choose either bone, rune, or wood carving. I think wood carving -- boats, you know. Scrimshaw would be cool, but a bit more thoughtful than I picture her as. So I can kinda fill in knowledge skills -- I'm choosing weather lore (important when you fly through the skies, really) and geography (she gets a top-down view, just like Google Maps).

Step 7: Equipment
I'm so spoiled by not playing games where I have to do equipment. Seriously, it's a thing for me now. But here we are, and I don't have weapons or armor yet, so... okay then. The example character has hardened leather armor, which seems reasonable for me. I've got 120 silver to start with and this one costs 40, so it's a good bet. I'll also get a dwarf sword, since I'm a dwarf. This isn't splashy, but it's servicable. I've decided that her goal is to someday own a griffin to ride around on. Since a trained griffin costs 7500 silver and an untrained griffin is liable to eat you, this will take some time.

Step 8: Flesh out your character.
So, Lyran was born to a clan of skyraiding dwarves, which only sounds odd if you aren't from Barsaive. She is as comfortable under the open sky as others are below ground, and although she's spent her time in a kaer, she's never as happy as she is out beneath the blue arc of heaven. She's well aware of the threat the Horrors still provide (and also aware of her lack of skill and funding to really let her take up the skyraider mantle in earnest), so she's going to do her time in community service, as it were, and take up the battle while making her fortune, so to speak, and readying herself to return to her people. Lyran is about 4 feet high and 130 lbs. She has pinkish skin, contrasting vividly with blue and green tattoos, and she blushes pinker when in battle or stressed or roused with emotion. Her ears are pierced with gold hoops, her hair is a bronzish-brown shot through with streaks of gold highlights, and her eyes are a vivid dark blue. I'm not answering all the questions (there are 20 suggested) because OMG it's late and because I think I have a sufficient sense of her for now. If I ever get to play her somewhere, maybe I'll follow up.



Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Life As a Superhero, or What Color Is Your Spandex?

So, one of the things I've figured out along the way is that the people I most admire and am personally wowed by are all actually superheroes. I collect them, in fact, and store up their reflected awesomeness in my heart and mind, so I can bathe in the light they generate in the world. They are the epitome of cool, the loci of wonder, and I rejoice secretly each time I meet a new one.

Now, it is worth stating that when I say superhero, I don't mean Phoenix Jones, masked fighter of urban mischief in Seattle, or Superman, or even Wonder Woman. I don't need spandex or bracers or masks to garb my heroes in, though far be it from me to say them nay should the drive come over them. They may or may not actually fight crime in the guises in which they are known; I look on that as a personal choice, unrelated to hero status. I speak instead of the people who, in their public personas, wow me with their awesome, eclectic, one-of-a-kind personalities -- the kind of people who, if you put "and they fight crime!" at the end of a description of them, no one would be surprised.

For example:

She's a red-haired, straight-talking criminal justice grad student with a black belt in karate and a passion for all things caffeinated.

OR

He's a passionate, tattooed, green-eyed man who is an accomplished foodie and amateur chef, who helps children talk while he thinks of ways to show the people around him how they shine through playing games.

OR

She's a gimlet-eyed, West Coast literature prof with a silver streak in her dark hair, who spends her time mentoring those who seek the hidden truths about understanding the mind through culture.

You get the idea? It's like a catalog of the ways someone is spectacular in totally mundane pursuits that, in real life, are absolutely star potential. The primary difference, really, between these people and superheroes as in comics is that the alter-egos of comic superheroes are generally really boring. Their personality is who they are with the mask on, not who they pretend to be to the world. All the interesting stuff really only comes out when they hide their faces. In contrast, these people show off their superpowers every day. Their real-world lives are way more interesting than their masked crime-fighting alias would be, in no small part because they don't hoard their awesomeness and save it for when they wear improbably fitting outfits. They allow their lives to express the person they are, with as few walls as possible between themselves and the rest of the world. I find that inspiring.

In my own life, I try to make this a plan for action. It's part of why I decided on grad school. It's part of why I decided to take the risk and get married. It's part of why I moved cross-country. It's part of why my hair is purple, and it's part of why I write games. I am only here once, and I have no way of knowing how long that stay will last. Being the most "me" I can manage allows me to achieve my own superhero way of life, something I'll keep working toward until I don't work toward anything any more. In the meantime, I will be the superhero I can be, and perhaps one day I'll even "fight crime," for whatever value of fighting crime that takes.

So, since I love to hear these stories, how are you a superhero? What makes you awesome?