On XP and character loss

Following the most recent session of Legend of the Five Rings game I’m playing in I’ve found myself in that dreaded situation of needing a new character as Dojo Okimoto, the Oriole Crane Lion Bushi Courtier fell in battle while protecting the group Shugenja. For a samurai it was a good death, fighting for an honourable cause and it also fit with the tragic romance angle of samurai stories as Okimoto was due to marry his true love who was already pregnant with their child. Probably the only way I could have tempted fate more would have been by being a day away from retirement. The game is on hiatus for the moment and when we return will have jumped around six months down the timeline with the surviving former magistrates having travelled to the Crab lands in order to learn about combating the Taint (Corruption has been a running theme of the game so far). This leaves me in the position of bringing in a new character and at the end of the session the GM told me to build him using 115xp (which includes the starting points plus ronin bonus).

Which is about 30xp less than the group as a whole is on and just under half the XP earned during the campaign to date.

I’ll be honest, this irks me. Not because I’m worried about being underpowered compared to the rest of the group, if it makes sense story wise I’ll often chose to take that approach. Jimmy is a classic example of this, built to be deliberately weaker than the rest of the Deadlands Noir group due to where he fits in the genre. Likewise by choosing a ronin I’m actively opting to make my life difficult. It irks me because it goes against my personal approach to XP, which centres around the notion that it is a reward to the players. Thus to lose XP because I died in game feels like I’m being penalised for dying which is, in my opinion, wrong. Especially in a game such as Legend of the Five Rings which has a reputation for being deadly.

I know my GM enough to know he’s not doing it to be vindictive or punish me for dying, he’s merely running the game his way and I know if somebody else died he’d apply the same rule to their new character. It’s for that reason alone that I’m willing to accept the situation; I trust my GM. Despite this I’m curious, is this approach common to other gaming groups? Is it something encouraged by particular games? I’d be interested to hear what everybody else does, even if it’s unlikely to change my own preferences.

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Project Cassandra – More characters

Until I started working on Project Cassandra I don’t think I fully appreciated how difficult it was to write ‘normal’ individuals for use as player characters in an RPG. While Agent Sarsin was relatively easy to write I now suspect that was because they fall into a more typical PC role, that of the special agent. The rest of the characters are more normal and hence more difficult to write, so I’ve fallen behind my tentative schedule to have a first draft of each ready by now.

The other aspect I hadn’t counted on was how difficult the skill trees would be to generate, keeping the higher branches sufficiently broad yet also making them logically flow to the lower levels has been quite the challenge. While I may alter the approach later on I like the concept enough to keep them in until I’ve playtested them. So without further rambling here’s v0.2 of Agent Sarsin and in addition to v0.1 of Brian Whitford and Karen Jones.

Agent Sarsin v0.2

Brian Whitford v0.1

Karen Jones v0.1

Project Cassandra: Veteran Sarsin

sarsinSo progress continues on Project Cassandra, to the point that I’ve now got the basic rules pinned down and thus have been able to put together a draft of one of the five characters that I’m planing. Working on this has really made me appreciate the elegance of the Lady Blackbird characters, which manage to get both character stats and a rules summary on a single page. While I doubt I’ll manage to get it down that far due to the skill trees the layout definitely needs work.

Oh and obviously playtesting, which will require the rest of the characters.

Planning for the Nationals: The Final Characters

Okay so I forgot to hit post on this on Friday before I left for the Nationals so ignore the ‘Hopefully the players enjoy these as much as I do’ as they all did and most of them wanted to keep their character sheet at the end of the game.

I’ve been posting up the progress and design of my character sheets for the Nationals over the last few weeks and the big event is now mere hours away (it’s Friday morning as I write this and this post should go up on Saturday while I’m away). As the final planning for the nationals post I feel its only appropriate that I post up the final artwork and character sheets my players will be receiving. I’ve always found that the character sheets are an often under appreciated component of convention games. A good convention sheet should be look good, contain enough detail for players to get into character and also have enough details on the mechanics that players can easily tell what their character is capable of. Finally any aspects of the system that are not being used during the scenario should also not be present on the character sheet, a section for spells for example is a wasted space if you’re not playing a mage. In taking this approach I therefore took the approach of dividing the pages up into mechanics, character and extras.

Mechanics became the main page, listing the attributes, skills, initiative and life points arranged around a small version of the character portrait. I chose to include the portrait on this page (in addition to a standalone A4 page) to serve as a visual reminder of the character given I expected this page to be the one players would have in front of them most of the time. This main page also include the names of the character, one male and one female so that each player can feel free to play any character rather than feel they are directed to play a particular gender.

The next section, character, came to two pages in all. The first was the aforementioned full page portrait, there to provide a visual representation of the character. I was lucky in being able to get a friend (Andrew Docherty of Imperious Press) to draw the characters and hopefully the players will enjoy them as much as I do. Personally I think the inclusion of the portraits elevates the sheets to another level and it is certainly something I will look at providing when I run convention games in the future. The second half of ‘character’ was the bio page, which included both a short biography in addition to the assets and complications which provide mechanical encouragement to stick to character. Finally are the extras, the pages which don’t fall into place easily. For most of the characters this was simply the equipment list and a space for players to make notes. For the mages in the party this also included a page listing their spells, each of what are unique to their style of casting.

So rather than ramble on further here’s the final portraits and sheets. In case any other Demon Hunters players happen across this then please note that the assets and complications have been rewritten especially for this scenario. The animate ability in particular has been extensively rewritten as previous experience has suggested the version in the core rulebook is significantly overpowered for its cost.

Blayze (character sheet)
Doyl (character sheet)

Dr Hatter (character sheet)
Rahul (character sheet)
Shrub (character sheet)
Stephanie (character sheet)

Planning for the Nationals: More Character Portraits

I’ve written already about my desire to present my players at this year’s nationals with a visual representation of their character. Today I received a complete set of drafts for the characters and while I should probably wait for the final versions before I post them I’m too excited to bother with that. So without much ado I present Chapter Tau 19 of the Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch.

Deadlands Noir Character Concept: Jimmy Davis

Jimmy Davis is very much a product of the times. He was excluded from the failing city school system at an early age, partially due to frequent bouts of truancy but also due to his regular habit of climbing to the roof of the school building in order to shout abuse at the harsh (in his opinion) teachers. His education has, therefore, been dominated by that of the street where he has made a name for himself locally as a capable errand boy. This has included work for the local gangsters (The Black Hand), though Jimmy’s illiteracy and small stature have scuppered his chances of becoming a bona fida member of the organisation. Continue reading “Deadlands Noir Character Concept: Jimmy Davis”

Planning for the Nationals: Character Portraits

One of the components of my Nationals planning this year has been to commission a series of character portraits of the characters for my Demon Hunters game. While this has an obvious cost attached to it I felt that the characters for the game were unusual and wacky enough that the players would greatly benefit from the visuals. One of the PCs is, after all, a mystically animated plastic Christmas tree that also happens to be a ninja.

Today I received the draft image for the first character, Doyl the coffee mage. Being honest it was the character I was most worried about, not because he’s a difficult character to draw but because he is my PC on the few occasions I get to play Demon Hunters. Luckily for me the sketch has come out brilliantly, capturing the concept of Doyl perfectly. I’ll probably post up the rest of the characters once I get them but for now here’s Doyl:

doyl-draft