Thursday, August 30, 2018

How do you go about creating a character for play?

Nefereanu, my Osiriani oread brawler/living monolith (and his embiggened form)
I recently came across an old thread on the Paizo Messageboards titled "How do you go about creating a character for play?" The original poster wanted to know whether other players started with a optimized build, a purely character-driven concept, random rolls, GM assignment, or some other method. My own answer would have to be that I don't have a single method; I have created player characters using a wide variety of starting points. That's hardly a satisfying answer by itself, so I'll give several examples.

First, I should mention that during my 30+ years as a RPG player, I have GMed about as much as I've played as a PC, and that influences my choices as well. I get frequent opportunities to try out new character ideas as NPCs in games that I run, and I enjoy a wide diversity of character types, so I'm pretty flexible about what niche my PC will fill in a party. If some of the other players have strong preferences about what they want to play, I'm usually willing to take one of the unfilled roles as my starting point.

That goes double if I'm joining an established group with a campaign already in progress. I will almost always feel out what the party most wants or needs and try to oblige, while insuring my own fun:
  • When I joined a fantasy GURPS campaign many years ago, my first chat with the GM revealed that current party was rather light on combat skills, so I chose to build a weapons master. (This choice also allowed me to focus on learning the intricacies of the combat system without having to learn the magic rules at the same time.) Most of Sura's character points went towards making her a very effective warrior, but then I looked for ways to keep her interesting to play when she wasn't fighting. Shopping for disadvantages helped here: Secret intrigued me (I decided that she pretended to be a man in order to learn swordsmanship), as did Minority (she was a Muslim in a Christian-dominated region). As the game went on, Sura's faith and her sense of honor defined the character at least as much as her battle prowess.
  • Some years later, when I was recruited into a Buffy RPG game, the group had just lost two players who had played witches. I was willing to take over the spellcaster role, but I needed a hook that would get me invested in the character. I am a longtime Lovecraft fan, and the campaign was set in a fictional New England town, so I proposed a character based on the Deep One hybrids of Innsmouth. The GM turned out to be a Cthulhu Mythos junkie as well, so gleefully worked a "Triton" race into her game. Most of Baz's personality and interests were an exaggerated version of my own--if I had been born a half-demon sorcerer--which made him easy and fun to play.
These days, most of my new PCs are created for Pathfinder Society. Unlike most of my other RPG experiences, participating in organized play means that you rarely play the same character in the same party from session to session. There are special rules for home games and/or campaign games if you want that kind of continuity, but it's not the default assumption. Instead, there's a certain amount of randomness about party composition, though players who (like me) have several established characters can mitigate that somewhat by substituting in a different PC before the mission starts if the table desperately needs a certain role filled. But in general, this "luck of the draw" element is embraced; players are encouraged to play the character that they want to play for that event, rather than settling for a second or third choice simply because the party is full of, say, strikers instead of healers or diplomats. 

Ansari Zolta, human rogue
When I first started PFS, I played pregenerated characters for my first several scenarios before committing to building my own character. I started with the iconic rogue, because that class can contribute in almost all types of encounters, and because the table lacked one. That made me decide to build a rogue as my "dash one" character. Ansari was a fairly typical thief-style rogue, good at sneaking around, noticing things, and disarming traps. However, I made sure to include a few hooks to make him more interesting to play: He was Keleshite, but was a devotee of Cayden, the god of drink, because he had been apprenticed to a brewer. His master had been a dwarf, so he knew the language and enjoyed being around others of that race. As play continued, Ansari remained faithful to Cayden--even to the point of dipping a single level of cleric--and he was surprisingly honest and forthright for a thief, except when the mission demanded subterfuge. All of which was development from my very sketchy notes about his background at 1st level.

Rauadabjorn Kjallaksson,
dwarf stonelord paladin
My second character was a paladin, because I had also tried out that iconic for a couple scenarios. This time, however, my character was entirely built around a racial archetype, and I never really worked out much background apart from the minimum implied by his stat block. Bjorn was actually based on a fighter/paladin/stalwart defender that I created for a 20th-level one-shot that a friend of mine has yet to run. I had deliberately built the "dwarfiest dwarf that ever dwarfed" (in that friend's words), but when I decided to recycle the name and core concept for PFS, I discovered that a single-classed stonelord paladin was actually a better fit, especially at lower levels. (The archetype gains stalwart defender abilities, without multiclassing.) The details of his personality and motivations have arisen almost entirely out of play: He's a fairly straightforward crusader hero, but his open mind and genuine concern for the welfare of the people he's protecting have been known to put him at odds with more jaded soldiers.

Some of my other PFS characters have started out as finding an interesting combination of classes and abilities, then draping roleplaying hooks over that frame:
  • Neferanu came out of a desire to try out the Living Monolith prestige class when I acquired People of the Sand. I decided to aim for the more martial option, rather than a spellcaster, and settled on brawler because I hadn't played a hybrid class before and that class seemed the easiest of the lot (only four pages of text for the entire class!). The prestige class's requirements dictated most of his early feat and skill selections in order to qualify as early as possible, but I did find room for a few custom touches. To play up the stony theme from the beginning, I made him an oread, and chose a background trait that gave him Bluff as a class skill. (Sadly, I learned that the mask of stony demeanor was errataed well out of his price range, but I still gave him Combat Expertise so that he would have access to Improved Feint.)
  • Mariko Snowtop,
    undine white-haired witch
  • Similarly, I picked the White-Haired Witch archetype for my first character of that class because it sounded weird and intriguing. I chose a king crab for Mariko's familiar because it gave a bonus to grapple checks, which would help with her hair attacks. That choice suggested an aquatic origin, so I made her an undine. At this point in my PFS experience, I had characters from about half of the different Pathfinder Society factions, and I've tried to avoid duplicating any for as long as I could. I had had no interest in the Exchange before then, but decided to give it a try, and gave her the Diplomacy and Profession (merchant) skills to support that career path. That choice has worked out quite well for her, and she's very close to becoming my first PFS character to unlock the final reward (7+ goals) on a faction card.
My wife Erika joined PFS later than I did, but is now just as active in it as I am (and has actually GMed more PFS scenarios than I have). We play together often enough that we eventually decided to add some pairs of PCs to our stables who were designed to work as a team.
  • Our first attempt was designed to eventually make use of teamwork feats, which are difficult to use unless you can regularly play with a character who has the same feats, or have a class feature that gets around the normal restrictions on using them. I chose to go with an inquisitor, while Erika built a rogue. The fun (and somewhat silly) part came when we decided that the Greenbottles were half-siblings--a half-elf and a half-orc--who were raised by halflings. 
  • One of the GM boons that we've both earned allows us to create an aasimar or tiefling character, which are normally prohibited in PFS. Even before we received this boon, we had the idea of creating a pair of lawful neutral Chelaxian Asmodeus worshipers, each with Profession (barrister). This subskill shows up in a surprising number of PFS scenarios, and is a perfect day job skill for bureaucratic devil cultists. Erika settled on a cleric early on, though was undecided about race until recently (she chose aasimar, to mess with people's expectations). Before the race boon, I was considering an unchained summoner with a devil eidolon, but I've since settled on a tiefling investigator instead. I've also changed his Profession skill to scribe, though he'll likely pick up a rank in barrister within a level or two so that he can aid the cleric. We originally envisioned them as members of the Dark Archive, but we already had active characters in that faction. On the other hand, our original Grand Lodge PCs will reach Seeker level soon, so we made our Asmodeans members of that faction, with the idea that they promote inter-faction cooperation. (We've yet to play these characters, but hope to debut them soon, now that we've finished earning the necessary race boons.)
Nar-Lok, half-orc
heavens shaman
And then, sometimes, I just revel in being weird. I'm not sure anymore exactly how I came up with the idea for Nar-Lok, my half-orc heavens shaman. He is a combination of interesting mechanical combinations as well as some over-the-top personality elements. I gave him the sacred tattoo alternate racial trait, which gives a luck bonus to saves, and the Fate's Favored background trait, which increases any luck bonus he receives. This gives him very good saves for his level, which is critical in PFS--especially once I decided that he was Dark Archive, and thus would be making ill-advised experiments on a regular basis. His interest in the stars and weird magic suggested a day job as a fortune-teller, and to advertise this, he wears clothing covered in stars and other astrological symbols, and has a number of tattoos in the same theme. Despite his brazenly bizarre appearance, he's quite diplomatic, and with aid from his talking thrush familiar, regularly serves as the party's "face." (On the other hand, he will only get creepier as he advances and gains new hexes and spirit magic. He has also earned a very exotic improved familiar as soon as he's high enough level to claim it.)

I'd love to hear in the comments how you lovely readers come up with your own character ideas!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Days 28-31

WEEK FIVE [continued]: SHARE...
28) ...whose inspiring gaming excellence you're grateful for.
Everyone who's been willing to run games for Pathfinder Society at my FLGS. It's hard work to run an adventure, and even more so when you don't know who you'll be playing in your games from week to week. Naturally, some of those GM are better than others, but right now, I'd rather encourage all of them rather than call out the especially good or bad individuals. They're willing to run so that I can play, which makes it easier to give back and run more stuff for them.

29) ...a friendship you have because of RPGs.
There have been many of these! Here's just a couple of examples:

My friend Mike recruited me when his Buffy/Angel group needed to replace a couple departing players, and I quickly hit it off with the other players. The two primary GMs, Cassandra and Katie, were both very imaginative people whose other interests had a high overlap with mine. They introduced me to many cool things I would have missed out on otherwise--and also gave me a much-needed education on certain topics that I needed to be more aware of.

That's the key to making lasting friendships through gaming: Find people who you want to spend time with when you're not gaming.

30) ...something you learned about playing your character.
Well, since that old Buffy/Angel game is on my mind...

That game had a disproportionate number of PCs and NPCs who were LGBT, to the extent that there was a running joke in-game about "there must be something in the water." My character, Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, was dubbed "straightest girl alive" at one point due to her obsession with boys and her obliviousness to her best friend's infatuation with her.

Then she went through a couple of experiences--becoming a tantric warrior of Dionysus, and being body-swapped for a week with one of the male PCs--that widened her horizons and made her confused for a time about her own sexual orientation. With the help of her therapist, she concluded that she must have always been latently bisexual, but only recently started to recognize it for what it was. Between this newfound curiosity about her feelings for women and the fact that her last couple of relationships with men had ended spectacularly badly, she effectively swore off dating men for the remainder of the campaign. Her love affairs with women were just as tumultuous, but she did manage to make one of them last far longer than any other relationship she had ever had.

31) ...why you take part in RPG-A-DAY.
I find many of the questions to be interesting, and hey, I have a blog dedicated to RPGs! So it's good practice.

Monday, August 27, 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Days 24-27

WEEK FOUR [continued]: WHICH...
24) ...RPG do you think deserves greater recognition?
This time last year, I would have said Fantasy AGE, which I finally made time to try out for a couple short adventures late last year. However, with the release of the Modern AGE RPG, and the resounding success of Green Ronin's recent Kickstarter for The Expanse RPG, it seems that the AGE system is receiving quite a lot of attention.

25) Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.
I first tried Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition back in 2014-2015, but it was a little over a year ago that I started running Tales from the Yawning Portal for my wife and children. I've enjoyed those games a great deal, which has led me to investing more in the system, and blogging more about it here (as attested by my Freeport 5E series).

With all four of us heavily involved in Pathfinder Society, it's become harder to make time for D&D these past several months, but I hope to return to and finish The Forge of Fury soon.

26) Your gaming ambition for the next year.
Two things come to mind: 1. I want to have my "Time of the Tarrasque" campaign running regularly again by 2019, and 2. I hope to finally make it back to GenCon for the second time.

27) ...a great stream/actual play.
I have watched only a handful of actual play streams, and never live. It's just not my thing--I'd rather be playing a game myself than watching other people getting their gaming fix on. (It must be a generational thing, at least in part. My 13- and 14-year-old are perfectly happy to watch YouTubers playing video games I've never heard of for hours on end. That would make my eyes and ears bleed.)

On the other hand, I have enjoyed some shows where the action at the table gets an aggressively professional editing job before it reaches the audience, such as Titansgrave on Geek and Sundry, and the couple of RPG-related episodes of Tabletop that preceded that series. I'm not sure if that counts as "actual play" as most people use the term, but I find that format to be a much more rewarding investment of my time.

Friday, August 24, 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Days 20-23

20) mechanic inspires your play the most?
21) ...dice mechanic appeals to you?
22) ...non-dice system appeals to you?

I'm not really sure how to answer these. I enjoy many different games, some of them with wildly different mechanics.

One of the more fun (albeit arcane) dice mechanics I've played with is Earthdawn's "Dice Step" system of variable-sized dice and its use of exploding dice. The results can sometimes be truly epic, and it's always fun to roll a handful of dice. (My Journeyman-tier obsidiman warrior regularly rolls D12+2D6 to attack and 2D12+D8+D6 for damage with his many-times-reforged two-handed sword.)

23) do you hope to play again?
To choose an answer that is likely to actually happen, I'd have to say Earthdawn. My wife and one of her other players backed the Fourth Edition Kickstarter, so whenever she does resume her campaign, we'll be converting from Third to the new edition.

If I don't limit myself in that way, then I'd say the "Grey Angels" Buffy campaign that I was in several years ago. I still miss playing those characters, especially Trick (who I've mentioned at least once already this month). However. I've moved out of state since that game ended, so it seems highly unlikely that we would ever be able to manage any kind of sequel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour: Monsters and Playtesting

Mike Mearls
(by Tim Emrick)
For most of July, the focus of the "The Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour" was designing a number of new monsters. Mearls' personal goal in this was to produce some new monsters for his home campaign, which is set in Nentir Vale. That was the default setting for 4E, so this was the perfect opportunity for him to update some of his favorite undead from that edition to the current rules.

As August began, Mearls shifted gears to talk about the playtesting process and how that drives the design process.

7/10/2018: Mearls goes over Wizards' in-house process for designing a new monster, from the "white page" that sketches out the creature's core concepts before any game mechanics are assigned, through the creation of a first draft of the actual stat block. Along the way, he stresses frequent comparison to other monsters, both to set appropriate stats for a creature of the intended type and Challenge Rating, and to avoid designing something too close to an already existing stat block.

7/17/2018: Mearls reviews the stat block for the CR 1 blazing skeleton he designed last time, with a few tweaks he's made in the intervening week. He also introduces a spreadsheet that is used in-house at Wizards to calculate Challenge Ratings. He will be looking into the possibility of releasing this spreadsheet through DM's Guild, but stresses that this is only a tool, not a magic solution to determining CR. Comparison to other creatures of similar level, and playtesting the new creature, are still essential.

He then sketches out stats for two legendary creatures--monsters with legendary actions they can use at the end of another character's turn. The game includes very few such creatures at lower levels, so Mearls creates a four-armed guardian skeleton (CR 3) and the vassal of Orcus, an undead monster created from a demon's corpse (CR 6). These two examples provide some useful insight into how legendary abilities factor into a creature's CR. They also show how the monster's back story (in this case, servants created for Orcus's cult) can influence the design of the creature's game mechanics.

7/24/2018, 7/31/2018: Mearls returns to an idea he conceived during the shows on psionics. The Shaper Psion's signature trick involved summoning astral constructs, which required development of a new spell to provide rules for the summoned creature. He uses the Spell Damage table from the DMG to provide a baseline for the hit points and damage for a summon monster spell. Ideally, this new spell could be used by many spellcasting classes, perhaps with a different creature type for each (such as beasts for druids, elementals for wizards and sorcerers, and constructs for shapers). It could also provide a much more systematic way of handling summoned creatures in the game. However, Mearls stresses that this basic framework will need rigorous playtesting to prove that the core idea is sound before he's willing to start adding a lot of potential options to the mix.

8/7/2018: This week, Mearls begins to talk more directly about the playtesting process. He breaks down the steps of the process, and strategies for getting the information you need to refine your design. He then shows some playtest survey results for the Brute fighter subclass, which appeared in Unearthed Arcana but did not get good enough ratings from playtesters to appear in an official release. In the last few minutes of the episode, Mearls starts to sketch out an alternative subclass to replace it.

8/14/2018: Mearls presents a first partial draft of his new Weapon Master fighter subclass. His discussion of the subclass and its features is strongly geared towards how it would be presented to playtesters, and specific questions that he might highlight in the feedback survey. For now, he is focused on the first five or so levels of the subclass, because he needs proof that the core pillars of the subclass work before proceeding with later, second-tier abilities.


My past columns about this series include:
This is likely to be my last review of the "Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour" in this level of detail. The show does not really need an exhaustive episode guide, and I feel that I've discussed the series enough by now to let others decide whether they would be interested in watching it. I do plan to continue following the show for my own enjoyment (and contining education as a game designer), and I may occasionally comment on it in my "Unearthed Arcana and Freeport" series when those releases include material first shown on the "Happy Fun Hour."

I also anticipate needing a bit more space here at the blog for my "Time of the Tarrasque" campaign when that finally starts up again soon--hopefully next month!

Monday, August 20, 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Days 17-19

WEEK THREE [continued]: DESCRIBE...
17) ...the best compliment you've had while gaming.
I've been GMing for over 30 years, and in my opinion, one of the best things you can say to your GM is, "Thank you for running." It acknowledges the effort that they've put into preparing and running the game. It also implies that you'd like to see more, which is encouraging.

18) What art inspires your gaming?
My undergraduate degree was in studio art, and I've been playing RPGs for over 30 years, so there are far too many sources to cover in just one short response. That said, the only RPG artist whose coffee-table art collection I own is Wayne Reynolds, who is my favorite Pathfinder artist, and (with Toren Atkinson) one of my two favorite Freeport artists.

19) What music enhances your game?
I don't play music during game, as I (and many of my players) find it distracting. However, in the past, I have created a number of playlists that represent different characters (and events in their careers) to me, and listened to them outside of game to get into that character's headspace. The most extreme example of this is when my Buffy RPG character essentially rewired part of my brain with her own musical tastes.

Friday, August 17, 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Days 13-16

13) your play has evolved.
This is a difficult question to answer concisely, because I've been playing and GMing RPGs for over 30 years. Instead, I'll address one piece of it that came up in an online forum recently: maps and minis.

My longtime readers will be aware that I started using LEGO minifigures as RPG miniatures around 20 years ago. This started small, with just the PCs being LEGO, but then as my collection grew, I've been using LEGO more and more exclusively. I still have a small collection of prepainted D&D minis, HeroQuest pawns, and plastic toy animals that see some use, primarily as a "mook box" of common minis (reptilian humanoids, undead, orcs, etc.) that my wife and I can quickly pull from for Pathfinder Society and the like.

My preferred battle map for the past several years has been a 1"-gridded easel pad. Depending on the adventure, gaming group, and time available, I sometimes draw out the map as we play, and sometimes draw them ahead of time. As my wife and I have done more GMing for PFS this past year or so, we have purchased a number of Paizo's flip-mats and map packs to simplify prep for those games. We primarily invest in maps that either see use in multiple scenarios, or that will likely see use in a home campaign. (Right now, that primarily means anything related to deserts, plus a few dungeons.)

14) ...a failure that became amazing.
One of my Buffy/Angel characters, Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, had a long history of screwing up royally but going on to bigger and better things. She started out as a normal human, albeit one highly trained in fencing and the use of other weapons. Early on in that game, she agreed to become a champion of Dionysus in order to better help her Slayer best friend. After some time, she came to regret her decision, partly because Dionysus was a major jerk (like most Greek gods are) and partly because it became a far-too-convenient excuse for her own bad behavior.

Meanwhile she had become friends with the Raven Totem, in his identity as Jonathan Poe, the owner and bartender of a local club. Poe liked Trick a great deal, but had already invested a champion shortly before meeting her. That Totem Warrior died within a year, but by then, Trick was a Maenad, and increasingly unhappy about it. One of Poe's signature powers was a limited-duration reality shift lasting only one day, which most often saw use in seemingly silly shapeshifting pranks meant to teach their victims a lesson. He attempted to use this gimmick to make Trick his champion for a day, in the hope of freeing her long enough to start working on a more permanent solution. This plan backfired dramatically, and she ended up as the champion of Puck, another trickster, instead--and Poe couldn't reverse the spell without Puck's consent. Trick managed to acquire that, mainly through brazen stubbornness, and ended the day exactly where she was before.

However, successfully standing up to two tricksters gave her the confidence to confront Dionysus about their arrangement. When she demanded to be released from the wine god's service, he laughed in her face. This infuriated her, and in her desperation, she attacked him with the very sword he had given her--to no effect, but her fighting spirit impressed him enough that he consented to her request. Undoing her status as a Maenad proved very dangerous and nearly killed her, and surviving the ordeal lefts its own mark: She would always be attuned to the mystical world in some way, and now she started having visions. But that's a story for another day...

15) ...a tricky RPG experience that you enjoyed.
My previous answer answers this question, too.

16) ...your plans for your next game.
My next game is actually the same as my last game. My "Time of the Tarrasque" Pathfinder campaign has been on a long hiatus, but will be resuming soon. We have a tentative date set for early next month.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Plane Shift and Freeport, Part 3: Dominaria

James Wyatt's Plane Shift series has received enough support from fans that Wizards will be publishing an official D&D/M:TG hardcover book, the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica, in November of this year. Some of that material ("Races of Ravnica") has been released as an Unearthed Arcana playtest document, which I'll talk about in my next batch of UA reviews. Meanwhile, a new Plane Shift article covering Dominaria, one of the oldest Magic settings, has been released.

I haven't played Magic: The Gathering in over 20 years, so my interest in this material is strictly for what I can use elsewhere rather than using the CCG's setting. Therefore, I will continue to approach it from the angle of mining parts of it for a 5E Freeport campaign.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Plane Shift: Dominaria

This article is the shortest to date in the Plane Shift series, at least in part because this setting is already very close in feel to a standard D&D world, and thus needs very little mechanical support beyond the core rulebooks.

One obvious way of using Dominaria with Freeport is to place the City of Adventure within that world. I lack the necessary setting knowledge to identify the most suitable locations, but the Spice Islands or the fringes of the Voda Sea seem likely from the very brief overview in this document. (Perhaps one of the two Tolarian Academies is identical to the Wizards' Guild in Freeport?) The merfolk of the Serpent's Teeth would become one of the many Vodalian tribes, and their ties to that federation would give them greater influence (especially over shipping) than is assumed by most Freeport titles.

References to "The Continent" in Freeport sourcebooks should be read to mean Aerona, and in most cases would apply to Benalia specifically. Northern barbarians would hail from Keld, elves from the Llanowar forest, and orcs and goblins from the Ironclaw Mountains.

The Church of Serra provides good opposition to the many demonic and diabolic cults that operate in Freeport (which might include Belzenlok's Cabal), and would likely be the origin of most of the inquisitors and crusaders who have visited the city in the past. However, due to the city's history as a pirate haven, the Church is unlikely to achieve the lasting presence or popularity there that it holds in Benalia. In fact, in campaigns where the PCs are as amoral and corrupt as the city in which they operate, Serrans are far more likely to be enemies than allies.

The other approach to mixing these two settings is to take whatever bits and pieces you want from Dominaria and drop them into your preferred campaign world for running Freeport. For example, the aven previously appeared in Plane Shift: Amonkhet, and thus could be associated with the distant land of Hamunaptra. The three new monster stat blocks (homarids and two species of kavu) are suitable for nearly any setting, but fit Freeport especially well, and the tables of quests, sites, and villains are easily mined for inspiration for any campaign.

#RPGaDay2018: Days 4-5, 11-12

As I mentioned in my post earlier today, I participated in #RPGaDay in 2015, 2016, and 2017, but this year, I wasn't reminded of it until the middle of the month. So, to start with, I'm going to choose a handful of questions from the first two weeks. I may or not return to the skipped ones later in the month.

1) you love about RPGs?
2) you look for in an RPG?
3) a game "staying power"?
I'm going to skip these three, at least for now.

4) Most memorable NPC?
That would have to be one of the witches from my "Kynthiad" BESM campaign who I've talked about here. Medea, Archemora, or Luscina all made a lasting impression on Kynthia, and she's had to deal with each of them on multiple occasions by now.

5) Favorite recurring NPC?
In the distant past, that would definitely be Thastygliax, an NPC from my "Arcadayn" campaign (GURPS 3E). He was a young dragon who was curious enough about humans that he had learned a spell to adopt human form at will. It was in this form, using the name "Al-Zaki," that he met the party and started traveling with them.

More recently, it would be one of many of the recurring NPCs in the "Kynthiad," but I would have trouble choosing a favorite. One of the more interesting from an overall story arc perspective is  Thaleia. This beautiful Hyperborean princess had been romantically involved with Kynthia's beloved Anahodios some years before the campaign started. Thaleia started as a jealous bitch who enjoyed making Kynthia feel drab and unworthy. She eventually went too far and was exiled after Anahodios's sister consumed a nasty drug concealed in a gift meant for Kynthia. The next time Kynthia encountered her, Thaleia had taken over part of a distant tribe, and was using them to carve out a kingdom for herself in the Tin Isles. They made an uneasy truce, because they had a common enemy: the witch Luscina. Years later, Kynthia returned to the Tin Isles because a vision warned her that Thaleia's life was in danger. She saved her old rival (and her newborn daughter), and in the process, the two earned each other's grudging respect. Thalaia's exile had been revoked by then, but the princess refused to return home: she was a queen in her own right now, and felt responsible to the people she ruled.

6) ...can players make a world seem real?
7) ...can a GM make the stakes important?
8) ...can we get more people playing?
9) ...has a game surprised you?
10) ...has gaming changed you?
I may get back to these later.

11) Wildest character name?
Finnilish Tremolile Boggarty Quince. He was an ugly, dwarfish half-elf mage who I played briefly in my friend Rich Feitelberg's GURPS 3E fantasy campaign. He was physically quite weak, and his spells were more trickery-oriented than battle magic, so he was rarely effective at anything. He was not nearly as much fun as my previous character, Sura El-Khadijah, a Muslim weapon master, had been.

12) Wildest character concept?
For a one-shot BESM (1E) game, I created Aldebaran Alamut, an genetically-engineered anthropomorphic albino alligator who worked as a plumber in the sewers. (Considering that one of the other PCs' concept was a retired "last year's model" sex droid, "Al's" origin was not that outre, in context.)

#RPGaDay2018: Is is that time again already?!

I participated in #RPGaDay in 20152016, and 2017, but this year, I missed the reminders about it until the middle of the month. I will have to do some quick thinking about how much of it I want to do this year, and whether I want to bother playing catch-up for the ones I missed. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Big Ears, Small Magician

Mr. Snark is a magical talking white rabbit who used to be the pet bunny of a famous stage magician. Through some combination of genetic mutation and exposure to real magical power, he now possesses the ability to speak, stand on his back legs, and use his forepaws as hands. He has also acquired more magical talent than his master ever possessed, so now he has his own solo career as a stage magician. He is, however, still the size of a rabbit. He is always dressed in a top hat and cape.

Mr. Snark was created as a character for the Big Eyes, Small Mouth RPG. The Revised Second Edition stat block below uses the Teenage Romance genre costs for Skills, while the Third Edition version uses the Multigenre costs. In both editions, he has the ability to enter a tiny pocket dimension that he uses to vanish during magic acts--and when he needs to disappear for any other reason. (Mr. Snark knows he's no good in a fight; he employs trickery instead.) He needs to cover himself with a cape in order to enter this pocket dimension, but not to leave it.

Finally, in the Third Edition stat block, the reduced running speed for the Tiny template has been removed, and he has been given Fast instead.

Mr. Snark, The Magician Rabbit (BESM Revised Second Edition; 25 Points)

Stats: Body 4, Mind 5, Soul 7 (16 CP)

Attributes: Dimensional Portal 1 (Any capes, two apertures) (5 CP), Features 1 (Night Vision) (1 CP), Highly Skilled 1 (1 CP), Illusion 1 (Sight, hearing, and smell) (4 CP), Jumping 1 (1 CP), Personal Gear 1 (Magic props and costume) (1 CP), Sixth Sense 1 (Detect Magic) (1 CP), Speed 1 (1 CP)

Defects: Diminutive (3 BP), Easily Distracted (Carrots) (1 BP), Marked (Talking white rabbit) (2 BP)

Skills: Acrobatics 2 (Jumps) (6 SP), Sleight of Hand 5 (Stage Magic) (15 CP), Stealth 3 (Silent Movement) (9 SP)

Derived Values: Attack Combat Value 5, Defense Combat Value 3 (5 vs. ranged attacks), Health Points 11, Energy Points 60, Shock Value 2

Mr. Snark, The Magician Rabbit (BESM Third Edition; 200 Points)

Size: Tiny (-2)

Derived Values: 
Attack Combat Value 5 (Ranged 7)
Defense Combat Mastery 5 (Ranged 7)
Damage Multiplier 5
Health Points 55, Shock Value 16, Energy Points 60

4  / 40 / Body Stat
5  / 50 / Mind Stat
7  / 70 / Soul Stat

2 / 10 / Attack Combat Mastery (Ranged Attacks)
2 / 10 / Defense Combat Mastery (Ranged Attacks)
2 / 15 / Dimensional Portal (Earth to his Pocket Dimension, and back; Unique Variable -1: Requires a cape to reach Pocket Dimension)
3 / 3 / Features (Appearance 1, Increased Shock Value +5, Fur)
1 / 2 / Heightened Awareness
1 / 2 / Heightened Senses (Smell)
2 / 6 / Illusion (1 m radius; Extra Senses: Smell, Sound)
-- / 1 / Item (Magician's hat, cape, wand, and other props)
1 / 2 / Jumping
2 / 8 / Pocket Dimension (1 m)
1 / 2 / Sixth Sense (Magic)
3 / 9 / Skill: Acrobatics (Jumps)
3 / 6 / Skill: Burglary (Breaking and Entering)
2 / 2 / Performing Arts (Fast Talking)
5 / 10 / Sleight of Hand (Stage Magic)
3 / 9 / Stealth (Silent Movement)
1 / 2 / Special Movement (Fast)
2 / 2 / Unique Attribute (Small and Light)

-1 / Easily Distracted (Carrots)
-3 / Marked (Talking white rabbit)
-24 / Unique Defect (Lifting Capacity x1/100)
-20 / Unique Defect (-8 Attack Damage)
-6 / Unique Defect (x1/4 Thrown Weapon Distance)
-8 / Unique Defect (Suffers +8 Extra Damage Each Attack)

Total: 200 Points