Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The trouble with stories

In Heroes By Trade I have been writing stories for various races as a sort of introduction to the sorts of things a new player would have to consider.  Two examples:


Kee was born to a satyr family with one of the greatest medical pedigrees in the world.  From a young age she demonstrated a shocking talent for surgery and was on track to be one of the foremost physicians anywhere.  Everyone was pleased with her progress but Kee often fought with her teachers over the ethical basis of medicine.  Her school felt that they should heal everyone regardless of the patient's actions or association but Kee was sure that greater good could be accomplished with medicine for some and destruction for others.  When a violent gangster came into her clinic Kee decided to murder him instead of healing him and she was immediately cast out of her order forever.

Never having been given a student name due to her young age Kee decided to reject taking a student name entirely and go only by Kee.  She knew she could use her Powers to destroy evil in the world and her healing skills to save those who deserved it but neither of those two aspects of her was right to be her only name so she decided to be Kee.  Not Killer Kee, not Surgeon Kee, just Kee.


Fwelli Swift  (True Name:  Light Blue Shade on the River)

Most sylphs take some time to recover from their fall out of the blue to figure out what to do with themselves.  They usually find some place to hide first and wait quite some time to begin interacting with the world, if they ever do.  Fwelli was exactly the opposite as xe immediately went out and found a niche carrying messages through the deadly Doran swamp.  There were many groups on either side of the enormous swamp that wanted small goods or messages brought reliably through the morass and Fwelli established xemself as the person to go to when something had to get through quickly and reliably.  There were other messengers but Fwelli had the advantage that xe was a deadly Hunter and xe could simply kill unruly creatures if they got in the way instead of running away or sneaking around.  Of course that also meant that Fwelli's services didn't go cheap.

Eventually Fwelli built up enough of a fortune that xe had no more interest in continuing to carry messages.  One day without warning xe simply walked away to look for something new and interesting to do and never came back.  Most people simply assume that Fwelli finally met something in the swamp that was too much for xem to handle and that no body would ever be found but the truth is that there were just more secrets to learn elsewhere.


The idea is to reinforce the ways in which the various races in my world are not human.  A big component of this is the ways in which the races name themselves.  Each race's naming structure is relatively consistent throughout their ranks thanks to them being created by a singular entity for a particular purpose so talking about how the example characters are named can give a lot of insight into their history.  Sylphs, for example, have neither physical sex nor gender so the way they interact with societies that assume gender is highly variable and sometimes includes using non gender binary pronouns like xe.  Satyrs are quite different in that their student name reflects the thing they are studying at any given time.

There is an issue with writing up a bunch of character synopses though... now I really want to *play* all these characters.  Kee is modeled off of a character I have already played so that is one bullet dodged but I want to write up 16 short characters stories in total and I don't have a huge backlog of characters to draw on that are already used.  So now I am spending my time coming up with fun introductions for a variety of adventures and can't possibly use them all.  I guess I need another couple of gaming groups so I can get all of these characters the life they deserve!  (Or the death they don't deserve, I suppose, dice being what they are.)

I am also finished with the baseline monsters and now I can actually let myself go when writing up new adversaries.  Before I was trying to make sure there were a good number of monsters at each point along the difficulty scale so I ended up modifying a lot of stats to make sure that happened.  Now that the monsters are sufficiently bulked up I can just build the stats that seem appropriate for a given beast and then use my spreadsheet to tell me what Encounter Strength to assign it.  I really prefer to build creatures that way, to let my sense of what they *should* do guide the design rather than my sense of how challenging a monster I need right now.

Fortunately designing monsters doesn't suffer from the same angst.  Though I can't use all those monsters to crush the players' dreams I don't feel the same sort of regret.  Missing out on the chance to roleplay a very special story seems to be a much more important issue than missing out on the chance to bash some faces with angry pegasi.

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