Tuesday, 14 February 2017

What races should Dungeonworld include in the next book

As I ramp up the writing and my play testers and I discuss the next book, we're talking about what races to include.. So here's a nice big list and my thoughts on what should be included.

What races should we include in the new books..

I've currently got the stats and skills for nine races, so lets start by looking at them:

Variety is the spice of life

Humans: Pretty much need to have static classic humans. I have racial modifiers for the five variants in The Full Coyn World Book, Finno-ugric, Caucasian, Asian, Arabian, Nigerian, though I recognize that plausibly the scottish red-heads and the Irish raven heads have unique traits, which also suggests to include the islander races, Indians of both variants and Meso-americans, have some unique skills or modifiers too, but I'm careful not to include cultural differences.. Why not have Samurai culture in Africa or Scottish camel riders.

Elves: As part of the core fantasy races, but because of the world creation mythos, there are eight distinct varieties of elves, The Hearth Elves, being of sound mind and spirit, living above ground in large stone buildings, the Wood Elves, a classic, as are Dark Elves, Sea Elves and Desert Elves, but I've also included a second Underground Elves race and an above ground Evil Elven race so theres a bit more balance.

Dwarves: Again, classic core fantasy, with some small twists. Since alot of my world was developed while reading Terry Pratchett, my female dwarves have beards, but as is always plausible, not every dwarven culture will be identical, so there are the two offshoot varieties, where the men shave and where the women shave.. Also there are two 'evil' varieities, The Dark Ones, who've been trying to get magic going in their culture, very anti-dwarven.. and this has caused some bad blood.. and the Dwarvult, Dwarves that take on Mechanical advantages, but lose their humanity in the process.

Halflings: Both Hobbits and Halflings, but also the Dwarflings and Elflings, not named by themselves, but by external cultures because of who or what they remind them off.. Hobbits as we known and love from LoTR and Halflings being the curious busybodies, Dwarflings are bearded, but they're actually more into lore and knowledge and magic, and Elflings are laid back, casual and less likely to achieve anything in life, regardless of their taller, lithe, pointed ears and aloof looks.

Gnomes: come in two major varieties, the studious, well spoken, cultured artists of metal, jewellry and fine arts, with a dash of magic in there from time to time, and the uncultured nature loving tricksters who prefer to cast bogs spells on travellers than anything much else.

Interesting Goblin!
Goblins have 1 of their sub-species that's a playable race, and they in kind have two sub-sub-species. The Ugly, spiteful, yet intelligent and calculating masters of the counting houses, and the bookish, foppish readers of great works and great wit. Both of which usually reside in large cities within or around the banks and libraries respectively.

Gelfling, Friend?!
Gelfling: A shorter than elves and humans, but taller than dwarves and halflings race, they have an affinity for inner magics and attunement for nature, the females have gossamer wings that can used to float down safely, and they have a kind of telepathic ability within their race or with races that have similar abilities.

Caitshee: A race that seem to have evolved from cats, not so much a cat person, but cat-like in many ways. they have a selfish kind of nature, less likely to move about in groups, but have a need to be around others for safety and comfort. Caitshee sometimes get attached to their friends, but would never admit it.. its not sure if they view themselves as the pets or the masters (or both)

I am Groot!
Dryads: When a nature spirit leaves its environment for too long it can sometimes get stuck in its humanoid shape, often when this happens they seek out others of their kind and form communities and protect nature and its flora and forna from those who would seek to destroy it. The Dryads come in a wide variety of abilities based on their nature, be it forest, pond, stream, cave or swamp.

Half Forms can exist from any of these varieties, players choose which parent would have raised them, and typically will take the average of both races for characteristic modifiers, the common variants are half-elf, half-orc, but players being players, don't be surprised to see a half-caitshee, half-dwarf (would that be a dwarfshee or a caituarf?)

So now we get to the part where we explore the other variants, what to choose to add to the books..

I have been contemplating having one section about playing as 'bad' races, Orcs, Lizardmen, Goblins, Kobolds and such, Sometimes players find it fun to try the other side, but I always make a point of how brutishly short their lives are, the dog eat dog world they live in means constant fear, even from their own group.. 

But for now, lets contemplate the following:

Giants, Ogres, Trolls or Golems: The bigger problem with large bulky beasts of characters is logistics.. getting anything for them as armour or weapons is pretty much impossible in standard towns, so everything has to be crafted specifically. Also food costs, a Troll at 9ft isn't going to be eating 1.5 times his size, no, the ratios of weight and energy usage means at least double the meals, if not triple. Dungeon adventures become impossible, local towns are more likely to hire knights to slay a giant than to employ one.. so they're pretty much out.

Minotaurs, Centaurs, Satyrs and Archons: While these exist of course, and are a race that would have towns, culture, locations of interest, within their own world and in specialised places of the Coyn, I fear that humans would have not seen them as a culture of people, but as creatures, and would have likely killed off or made enemies of these races.. so for the purposes of the next book, I think they'll have to wait..  Also, Could I not just cut-n-paste any animal+humanoid together and viola another race? Harpy, Mermaid, Siren, Lamia, Naga, Manticore, Sphinx, Ganesh? Alot of 'gods' are just animal headed people..

Draconians, Gargoyles, Djinn: The only real problem I have is with these, is balance. Getting players to play their characters appropriately and not becoming the star player of the group, can be hard GMing one of these guys can be a strain, so like the Satyrs and Merfolk, they might need to be in the later books with some "Roleplaying advice" thrown into the chapter... I'll include them later, with a higher Karma cost, but maybe not for the next book.

Pixies or Sprites: Actually for a long time you could play a Pixie or a Sprite. Magic using characters as a natural effect is something that brings a little balance to early games, Magic User Sprites start with some effects and powers, rather than just "Salt" and they always have that 1-shot death danger that balances them long term.. the problem is that exact point.. 1-shot death, Pixies and Sprites are so fragile, any AoE spell will take them out of the group.. 

So what else is there?

Warforged? Being a bit anti-technology, having players rely on another form of 'magic' but one that's easier to understand or use, sortof takes the 'fantasy' out of the game for me. I represent this is many ways through the game, the only 'mecha' race are considered evil, Magicians have formed a guild to eradicate the technology of gunpowder, so any kind of AI-robot-race won't be appearing.. heck if we can't make robots work yet in modern society, it's definitely not going to exist in fantasy...

Wolf-men/Vampyres/Blended: Actually also, as long as there is some kind of balance, I don't mind the idea of a blended race, heck I have Caitshee already, so doing a Dog-man/Wolf-man/Hamster-man is going to be viable. I did have Badgerians in for a while, (Half Dwarf, Half Badger) so they might come back.. (Vampyres were Half-bat, Half Elf, a race we had for some games 10+ years ago, they worked ok, not real vampires, but more sonar-sense & day-sleepers)

Dimituative Races: The Pod People, Gibberlings or any Athropomorphic 3 foot tall creature with intelligence? Sure, why not.. If players want to play a smaller person, I think the 'easier to kill' balances with the 'bonuses to stealth' so thats going to be fair.. though I'd probably have a very very low Karma cost to play such a race.

(Rock)-Trolls: Again, Terry Pratchett influence here, but if Detrius can become a watchman, then players can play as a RockTroll. They're big, and they pack a massively mean punch, but the balance is speed and intellect. They are incredibly slow, physically and mentally, so as long as the player is a good roleplayer, I'm ok with it.

I explored the concept of 'modifying' the existing races to create new 'breeds' in the last blog, but it just felt a little .. uncomfortable.. I already had dwarflings and elflings.. but they already feel a bit 'stickytaped', but they were added such a long time ago so they sorta became canon, the gelfling might not make it to the books due to copyright, which is why I don't even consider talking about Wemics, Driders or my little Ponies.

though, I'd love to include Aughra somehow, what would she be? teifling?

And thats about it.. Sure there are a multitude of 'races' that people have invented, named and appear in books, but they all seem to fit into these categories or are just variants of what I've listed.. so maybe thats all I can do for now.. just make a chart of them all, roll some dice and blend them together?

All images were googled for, their image names unchanged, so you can copy the name and find the file to get the original locations, some come from pinterest others from blogs, so it'd be impossible for me to track down every artist for the sake of a common blog.  

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Childhood to Adult: Character Creation

Most Recent Update - Character Creation process

For a very long time, I've had one big missing element: Character creation. Now you might think this quite insane. How can you have a roleplay game without character creation... well ok, so I mean that it was not so much missing, as, my definition of character creation is a bit more 'plot' based, and that chapter wasn't properly written... at all...hence missing.
This isn't "CHARACTER" creation, beards and hair colour, even rolling stats isn't character creation..
Character Creation is creating "the Character", where was he born, what kinds of family did he grow up with and what skills did they teach him, How did that affect his choices to become a hero. 
    The Version that existed, and still does (as of this blog) is the template system. This is what most people think of when they think "character creation". Players would roll the dice and consult a chart to see what was a good character to make with the numbers they rolled. Pick a race, add race template, pick a Lifestyle, add Lifestyle template, pick a hero career, add Career template. It is/was fast, quick, efficient, and got you a character.. without any character. I had a few players who complained, wanted a more in depth creation system. claiming they felt their character was just a bunch of number and had no life (like most systems).
    So I developed a more in-depth, more story and plot based character creation, and I added a decent amount of crunch to go with it:

How Far do you want to go back?

Technically, if you want to start with your grandparents, you can. Roll up their stats, find out what they did for a living, and how that affected you. Then roll up your Parent Modifiers, adjust your stat sets and finally arrive at a set of characteristics that represents YOU.

Well, maybe not that far

So, Most players will simply roll up their own stats. I've never really been a fan of the point buy system, so while I have created a balanced system for players to use, I've also spent a bit of time creating a structured system for rolling that gives players the ability to balance things themselves (more on that later). 

My system encourages character creation to take place over 1-4 roleplay sessions. You roll up your stats, take a childhood skill list based on where you were born (and where your group will roleplay) then an apprenticeship, which gives you an approx 12yr old.. then you and your 'group of friends' can go out and discover things (Session #1)
Next, your progress your characters to teenagers, take a Journeyman skill set, based on whats available, and roleplay your 'friend circle' as teenagers.. get in trouble, have a local fight with the rival gang, or get lost discovering some ancient crypt & tunnels, that everyone has gone through before, but maybe 1-2 coins were left behind (a treasure to a teen, worth 10 years of pocketmoney) (session #2)
Lastly, why did you become an Adventurer.. take on the Adventurer path that suits you, grab the skills from it, but it also lists skills that you can choose to take, Now the player gets more choices, where to become more skilled, things that don't match the mundane life you left behind..your gang finds some clue, maybe something you already had in your attic, a map in a painting frame, with a stashed coin with holes in it.. now you take your team of adventurers and go find one eyed willies treasure (session #3-4)

Why this works better than the old man at the fire

The old man begins to tell you a story of a dungeon...
The players, realise its a plot hook and leave the campsite..
The DM cries, as all his work for 3 weeks is useless
When players come together, create characters and start roleplaying, there is a missing element of 'how did we get here' its assumed that this will be filled in afterwards. It often never happens. When it doesn't, and a conflict within the group arises, there is no logical reason for the group to stay together, they 'just do' and deal with the conflict 'offline'.. what I mean by that is they don't deal with it in game, so these characters have some unknown reason why they suddenly hate each other, draw weapons, start to fight, but calm down and are best of friends, without ever resolving the reason why they fought.

By including a whole 1-3 roleplay sessions prior to the main plot, all those 'unknowns' become more obvious. Turns out that all this time stevenson and harold were at odds because stevenson got the extra treasure when they were kids and it just ate into harold, and made him resentful to stevenson. (in real life, their players just don't get along, but now we have more backstory)

Also, maybe its just my groups, but I only ever really had 1 player write detailed backstory for their character, sometimes this backstory would be 3 pages and often included some very dubious connections, in that the player was now noble blooded, friends of three other noble families and received a monthly stipend of a few thousand dollars.. game & plot breaking backstory.. 

So now, all players have a backstory, all players have something to refer to in game & in plot.. Also they have a little more than 5 minutes of 'love' for their character.. in this method, I've yet to have throw-away suicides, so they could get a 'better character', though I have had plot reasons for players to 'need' to wade into a suicide missions, which again, made more sense because we had backstory.

This is not for everyone.. or is it?

If your group is only playing 1-4 sessions for an adventure, then having a break and playing a different system, then obviously this isn't for you. But if your going to play for anything longer than two months, I'd suggest this as a viable option, and remember, you can always do this in stages.. flashbacks are a wonderful 'break' from the regular..

The Flashback

I've attempted this quite a few times, and with one exception (I'll get into next) its a great way for players to develop a better background.

The biggest factor is the introduction of your characters in a more unique way that average. You start the game, lets say at 5th level, progress for several adventures and you're around 7th and about to take down the end boss.. all seems hopeless, then the GM points out that you've all forgotten something...

The GM passes the characters blank charactersheets and has them copy the basic stats over, and they're all level one or two, the characters are mid adventure, they're entering a simple tomb, and begin play...

The adventure is a fairly straight forward one, nothing too extreme and guarenteed the players are going to win, but just 'how' they win is important.. push to make some lasting effects on characters, wounds that can become scars, rare, exotic burns or items mundane but interesting, powerful artifacts that do nothing.. once they have acquired the end goal, return them from the 'flashback' to the main story.. that artifact, the one they acquired all those years ago? its the object required to take down the end boss.. they've been carrying it all these years and didn't realise it.. 

Mechanically.. the Flashback is the same as RPing the backstory, just later in the game.. Some GMs might award the XP gained from that adventure to the group, based on their choices and results, some might chalk it up to 'backstory', but the point is, you've added more 'character'.

Dungeon Delvers Changes

Since Dungeon Delvers emulates Dungeonworlds System but as a quick "we made most of the choices for you" kind of way, We needed to made backgrounds and races a kind of "sub-profession" system, This has some interesting nuances that many game systems should probably consider.. I'll blog about these in more detail, but in essence.. you can level up your race and background, to represent your backstory & flashbacks, without breaking the flow of the game.