03 July 2016

Doctor Who Observations Part 4

[This article is in support of my project to design an unofficial (and free) Fudge role-playing game adaptation of Doctor Who (the original show).]

Although all standard Fudge methods of character creation will be supported (and described or linked in the text), there will be one method — designed specifically for this adaptation — that I think captures the feel of Doctor Who better than the others, which I call interjectional character creation, which has some ideas in common with Ed Heil’s alternate character creation system. As usual, I'm in favor of allowing individual players in the same group to choose different methods if they so desire.

One thing I am trying to avoid, however, is confusing readers with too many choices. As with character creation, one method of combat resolution will be emphasized, which I will tentatively dub interjectional combat resolution, but story elements, simultaneous combat rounds, and alternating combat turns will be supported and briefly described or linked.

In all cases (and this is the overriding design principle in this project), the game play itself should be intuitive and the rules should be implemented invisibly. Nothing in the rules should interrupt the flow of the game. Ideally, if the recommended methods are used, this should be achieved. More experienced players may be able to achieve the same results using the other methods, but I want newcomers to gravitate toward the methods that will be likeliest to promote this sort of experience.

Recreating the atmosphere of the original Doctor Who, allowing players to feel as if they are stepping into that universe, is the ultimate goal of this game. I want the rules to be the portal, not the barrier, to this experience.

[Originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

02 July 2016

Doctor Who Observations Part 3

[This article is in support of my project to design an unofficial (and free) Fudge role-playing game adaptation of Doctor Who (the original show).]

The strength and weakness of Doctor Who as a role-playing game is that it is best suited for small groups, preferably of one to four players plus the GM. If the Doctor ever had more than three Companions at once I would be surprised, and more often he had only one. This is not to say that more Companions would be impossible, but it would certainly be a challenge to maintain the atmosphere of the show with so many main characters (and it must be stated here, if it was not already obvious, that one of the major goals of this game is to convey the atmosphere of the original show, regardless of whether the players are portraying characters from the show or characters they have created).

For those who have difficulty finding or starting a gaming group (or coƶrdinating the schedules of the members when a group is found or started), playing a game that offers the richest rewards for smaller groups is a blessing. Doctor Who thrives best when there are only a handful of characters. Violent solutions to problems should always be a last resort (except in the case of rare characters like Leela), and smaller groups will be less tempted to use force unless necessary. By the same token, if there are fewer player characters, each will have more opportunity to interact socially with the non-player characters. In general, the greater the number of Companions a Time Lord has, the more all of them will be overshadowed by the Time Lord. Fewer Companions will have more opportunities to participate, and each will be likelier to shine in a particular area of expertise or natural advantage, e.g. Zoƫ with her super high intelligence or Jamie with his bravery and decisiveness.

In my own experience running FASA’s Doctor Who, sessions with two players were ideal, but sessions with just a single player were quite playable and enjoyable. Entire stories (which in Doctor Who typically consisted of four episodes) could be run in a single session with no sense of being rushed. This would be perfect for convention events, were it not for the fact that convention organizers usually prefer role-playing events to accommodate at least six players. True, there are times when only one or two players will turn up at an event. The first time I ever ran an event at a convention (GenCon XVIII), two players showed up for the first time slot for my satirical take on the World of Greyhawk for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition). I could have cancelled it, but I decided to run it, and a fun time was had by all despite the fact that I had designed it for four to six players. For the second time slot, six players reported in, plus two more. Being too much of a softy, I allowed the two extra players in (I had had the foresight to bring additional pregenerated characters), but a combination of factors (including the length of the table, the loudness of the game room, and the unwieldy number of participants) made the experience less satisfying (especially for the unfortunates at the opposite end of the table at whom my descriptions often had to be yelled to be heard). As a result, the maximum number of players I will now accept at my events is six, and the number I prefer is four. With regard to this game, however, I think it might be best to run it as a free Fudge demo amongst one to four interested individuals at a time. I’m not sure of any other way to run it effectively at a convention.

In summary, this game will be aimed at maintaining the dynamics of small groups consisting of at least one Time Lord and one to three Companions (one of whom may also be a Time Lord) to better promote playability and preserve the atmosphere of the original Doctor Who.

[Originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

01 July 2016

Doctor Who Observations Part 2

[This article is in support of my project to design an unofficial (and free) Fudge role-playing game adaptation of Doctor Who (the original show).]

The problem of how to plunge characters into adventure was addressed in FASA’s Doctor Who with the invention of the renegade Celestial Intervention Agency, which kept an eye on Temporal Nexus Point Earth and sent field agents there in stolen TARDIS units to halt the activities of temporal marauders. The idea of an agency of Time Lords who share the Doctor’s ethics and guide the players from one adventure to another is a good one, although I have a different view of the form it would take and I don’t think it ought to be the only method of introducing a scenario. The following is an excerpt of a work in progress:

The Excuse for Adventure

Why do characters do what they do? Specifically, how do they manage to find themselves entangled in difficult situations that may involve the fate of nations, planets, or even the universe as we know it? In Doctor Who, the answer is typically a TARDIS misjump due to a faulty mechanism, a miscalculation, or the effect of a temporal phenomenon. Sometimes the TARDIS is drawn off course intentionally by a friend or foe intent on thwarting the Doctor or enlisting his aid. Often the excuse for adventure is pure coincidence. The Doctor and his Companion are off to this time or that planet to enjoy its rare attractions when they are unexpectedly thrust into the middle of one of the Master’s evil plots or an attempt by the Daleks to enslave or exterminate another species. Although it works well enough for a television programme, the premise may wear thin for players when every adventure begins with a holiday outing interrupted by interstellar conspiracy.

To provide a framework for continuing adventures without straining credibility too much, an element has been added to the Classic Doctor Who Universe (thus making it part of the Expanded Classic Doctor Who Universe): the Temporal Integrity Preservation Society.

The Temporal Integrity Preservation Society (or T.I.P.S.) is a “club” of independently-minded Time Lords concerned with threats to the timestream. Operating from a private headquarters on Gallifrey and numerous TARDIS units throughout time and space, its members monitor the natural and proper flow of time and actively correct any deviations that are detected. Each member’s TARDIS is equipped with a special device that enables members to communicate with and be located by T.I.P.S. Headquarters. In the event that a temporal deviation is detected, any member’s TARDIS can be contacted and given the proper coordinates for emergency action. Adventure can then proceed. Once the deviation has been corrected, Headquarters is informed and the member returns to standby status.

Occasionally, the players will be the first to detect a disturbance in the temporal flow, either from the instruments on the TARDIS or from personal observation whilst visiting a particular time and place. Under those circumstances, the players would immediately contact T.I.P.S. Headquarters, investigate the matter, and attempt to correct the situation (not necessarily always in that order).

It should be noted that not all temporal disturbances are the result of obvious tampering by time travellers. Temporal anomalies do occur, and sometimes only the wisdom and conscience of a Tipsy (as T.I.P.S. members are both fondly and derogatorily referred to) can determine whether intervention is permissible. Whereas the Doctor may oppose interference with the Aztec ritual of human sacrifice on the grounds that it would destroy the timestream, he may actively participate in defending Earth against a Rutan invasion that, according to his knowledge of Earth’s history, should not have succeeded in the 1890s. Whether his actions were the cause of his own knowledge of the events is immaterial. The fact that he knew that the Rutans must be opposed is proof that their failure to conquer Earth was the proper result in the time line. The fact that he knew that the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice until their conquest by the Spanish is proof that their continuance of the ritual was the proper result in the time line. One could argue circles around the subject of time travel indefinitely, but for the purposes of adventure gaming in a light science fiction setting, it is enough to know that the players ought to sense when it is right to intervene, and when it is wrong. If they know something didn’t happen a certain way in history, then they know they ought to preserve that outcome as members of the Temporal Integrity Preservation Society. If they don’t know something didn’t happen a certain way (such as an event in our distant future or on an alien planet), then they ought to proceed as if it were proper for them to be there and do the right thing (avert an epidemic, liberate an enslaved people, rescue the survivors of a crashed spaceship, stop a cult of alien vampires, etc.). This both captures the tone of Doctor Who and promotes playability.

[Originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

30 June 2016

Doctor Who Observations Part 1

[This article is in support of my project to design an unofficial (and free) Fudge role-playing game adaptation of Doctor Who (the original show).]

In general, I think the role of Time Lord ought to be assumed by a player, as it is in FASA’s Doctor Who, rather than the GM, as it is in Time Lord (which is an ironic title for a game where the players only get to be Companions). What fan of the show hasn’t yearned to have power over time and space and an extended lifespan in which to enjoy that power? It’s rather like creating a superhero game in which the players are only allowed to play characters like Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, or Alfred the butler. I can see a mixed party having potential for open-minded role-players, but I am doubtful of the attraction of a game where all the players are mundane supporting characters of the non-player character “star” who has all the exotic skills, gadgets, and powers. The player characters, in effect, are the non-player character’s fault or disadvantage: Dependents (Player Character Companions).

The inevitable problem is that one’s gaming group will consist of more than one player who wishes to play a Time Lord. There are several possible solutions, and I am hoping I will be able to think of more. First, one can have a rotating Time Lord. For the first scenario, Player A will play the Time Lord and everyone else will play Companions. For the second scenario, Player B will get the honor, and so on until everyone has had a chance to play the Time Lord of the group, after which the privilege passes again to Player A, etc. The advantage is that the integrity of the show’s social dynamics are preserved. The disadvantage is that it may be a long time before some players ever get to be the star.

The second solution is to allow everyone to play whatever role they desire, which would probably lead to multiple Time Lords or even groups of nothing but Time Lords. This precedent can be found in the fourth Doctor’s Companion, Romana, who was herself a Time Lord (or Time Lady, depending on your term of preference). It can also be found in various Doctor Who specials that temporarily united multiple incarnations of the Doctor in a single story under highly unusual and rare circumstances. The advantage, of course, is that everyone gets to play a Time Lord without waiting for their turn. The disadvantage is that there may be multiple Time Lords, but there is usually only one TARDIS. Whose TARDIS is it? Whoever has the TARDIS has ultimate authority regardless of how many Time Lords are travelling in it. If everyone has their own TARDIS, how is group cohesion achieved?

The third solution is to use the same cast of characters, but switch roles at certain intervals, once per session, or once per scene, or once per dramatic conflict. Or it could be timed: once per hour, or once per 5 minutes. Depending on the frequency, it could make the session seem more or less like a party game, which might make for a welcome change of pace, or possibly a suitable prelude to an informal Doctor Who-viewing festival.

I think this is something I ought to address in the rules, at least in terms of suggesting options, if not recommendations.

[Originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

02 May 2016

The Very Idea 2: More Variations of the Trait Ladder

[This article from 2011, which is the sequel of this article from 2006, addresses a perennial topic in Fudge that I discuss more seriously in One Step Beyond.]

What started as a joke continues as a joke, and I make no recommendations whatsoever to use any of these unconventional trait ladders in Fudge (except the first). In fact, I think it is counterproductive to introduce a multitude of different trait ladders as it does nothing but create confusion. Nonetheless, here are four more for your amusement.

The first is a slight modification of the Not-So-Very-Varied Trait Ladder. Some players don't feel quite right about not having a Legendary trait level, so instead of adding Very to each additional level above Superb, Legendary is situated above Superb and each level above that adds another Very. The same is done with sub-Terrible trait levels and the substitution of Abysmal.

Fudge Traits#Epic Not-So-Very-Varied Traits
Superb +4+7Very Very Very Legendary
Superb +3+6Very Very Legendary
Superb +2+5Very Legendary
Superb +1+4Legendary
Fair0 Fair
Terrible -1-4Abysmal
Terrible -2-5Very Abysmal
Terrible -3-6Very Very Abysmal
Terrible -4-7Very Very Very Abysmal

The All American Trait Ladder

Here is the trait ladder for Americans of the Great Depression and Second World War. This is the language of gangsters and coppers, flappers and mols, GIs and MPs, the Three Stooges and Our Gang. It's the Common Man's trait ladder, and it's Swell, see? And don't let any Lousy bum tell you differently. Besides, that palooka is only a So-So boxer and you're, well, you're O.K. with your mitts. Sure, you can take him. Oh, you mean the bruiser over there? He's Pretty Good in a fight. Nice knowing ya, pal. Good luck. Gotta go. So long!

Fudge Traits#All American Traits
Good+1Pretty Good

The Proper Lady's Trait Ladder

To suggest that a proper lady is only able to distinguish between what is proper and improper would be far from correct. A proper lady has an extensive vocabulary with which to describe her trials and tribulations as well as her triumphs. It would be most vexing indeed if one were limited to a mere two words; two words would be less than advantageous if they were one's sole means of supporting oneself in a cruel world. Turbulent is the life of a proper lady who is forced to contend with the daily indignities of dealing with Dreary household servants, common labourers with Ghastly manners, and nieces who are Atrociously difficult to match with gentleman callers. O, to be extricated from that undeserving fate and elevated to her proper place! -- such is the conundrum uppermost in her thoughts. A proper lady, a lady of society, ought to be able to expect, quite reasonably, to concern herself exclusively with attending Lovely parties in the company of other personages of importance like herself.

Fudge Traits#Traits for Proper Ladies

The Cold and Analytical Trait Ladder

[To be recited in a monotone.]

This trait ladder is stripped of unnecessary sentimentality. Do not expect this trait ladder to generate an emotional response or any other human weakness. The function of this trait ladder is to achieve Maximum efficiency. Inefficiency must be eliminated. To operate at less than Standard Capacity is to be inefficient. Most human capabilities are Below Standard; many are Well Below Standard. Therefore, humans are inefficient. Inefficiency must be eliminated. Now processing data...

Fudge Traits#Cold & Analytical Traits
Superb+3Maximum [Capacity]
Great+2Well Above Standard [Capacity]
Good+1Above Standard [Capacity]
Fair0Standard [Capacity]
Mediocre-1Below Standard [Capacity]
Poor-2Well Below Standard [Capacity]
Terrible-3Minimum [Capacity]

[Originally posted here in Fudgery.net.]

30 April 2016

The Very Idea: Variations of the Trait Ladder

[This article from 2006 addresses a perennial topic in Fudge that I discuss more seriously in One Step Beyond.]

From time to time one hears complaints about the trait ladder of Fudge being "broken" because the adjectives do not extend above Superb or below Terrible, whereas results may occur beyond these ranges, especially when characters possess Great or Superb traits. I consider any result above Superb to be an extension of Superb, and it only matters how Superb if one is involved in an opposed action in which more than one character gets a Superb or higher result. If it is a matter of combat, then I generally just deal with the numbers in order to arrive at a relative degree. If the conflict is not combat-related, then I merely state results in terms of one being "more Superb" than the other. Some may balk at such vague descriptions, so for those who desire "hard and fast rules" preserving the adjectival integrity of the trait ladder, I offer the following simple remedy that will extend the ladder without relying on numerical modifiers or adding more words to memorize. All one has to do is add "Very" for each level above Superb or below Terrible. That's all there is to it. If your Superb Swordsman rolls +3 in a fight against a Superb Axe-wielder who rolls +2, then you now know that your Very Very Very Superb result defeats his merely Very Very Superb result. And whatever you may say about a Terrible combatant who rolls -4, it's a Very Very Very Very Terrible result.

Fudge Traits#Not-So-Very-Varied Traits
Superb +4+7Very Very Very Very Superb
Superb +3+6Very Very Very Superb
Superb +2+5Very Very Superb
Superb +1+4Very Superb
Fair0 Fair
Terrible -1-4Very Terrible
Terrible -2-5Very Very Terrible
Terrible -3-6Very Very Very Terrible
Terrible -4-7Very Very Very Very Terrible

The Good, the Bad, and the Adequate

To be honest, all results really boil down to being either good, bad, or adequate, or degrees of the first two. To extend the idea presented above, one could center the trait ladder at Adequate, with Good at +1 and Bad at -1. For each level above Good or below Bad, one adds "Very." A Great result is now Very Good, a Superb result is Very Very Good, and a Terrible -1 result is Very Very Very Bad.

Fudge Traits#Good to Bad Traits
Superb +4+7Very Very Very Very Very Very Good
Superb +3+6Very Very Very Very Very Good
Superb +2+5Very Very Very Very Good
Superb +1+4Very Very Very Good
Superb+3Very Very Good
Great+2Very Good
Poor-2Very Bad
Terrible-3Very Very Bad
Terrible -1-4Very Very Very Bad
Terrible -2-5Very Very Very Very Bad
Terrible -3-6Very Very Very Very Very Bad
Terrible -4-7Very Very Very Very Very Very Bad

The English Gentleman's Trait Ladder

To reflect a more civilized point of view, one may opt for the famous capacity for both understatement and overstatement that is characteristic of the archetypical English gentleman. Whilst one may admit that French cuisine is Quite Sufficient, one can state with satisfaction that English cooking is simply Smashing. Similarly, whereas the Bataan Death March was a Rather Bad situation, the service in this restaurant is Appalling!

Fudge Traits#Traits for Gentlemen
Superb+3Quite Sufficient
Great+2Jolly Good
Terrible-3Rather Bad

Big Brother's Newspeak Trait Ladder

George Orwell's 1984, written as a warning of the dangers of totalitarianism, has a built-in trait ladder for those who wish (for whatever incomprehensible reason) to adventure in his nightmarish dystopia. Note that there is no equivalent trait for Fair in this trait ladder. The concept of "Fair" is a thoughtcrime. Report at once to the Ministry of Love.

Fudge Traits#Newspeak Traits
Fair0[not applicable]

[Originally posted here in Fudgery.net.]

31 March 2016

One Step Beyond

One of the things Fudge does very well is minimize jargon so players can concentrate on role-playing and creative problem-solving. Replacing numbers with adjectives is one of the ways this is achieved. This enables players and GMs alike to describe characters, actions, and situations in terms that are equally meaningful to both the player perspective and the character perspective. This breaks down, however, when a roll generates a result that is above or below the standard trait ladder. It defeats the purpose of the adjectival trait ladder if one must resort to jargon to describe likely results, such as "Terrible -1" or "Superb +2." Surely there is an alternative. This is the windmill at which many Fudge gamers have tilted, and now it is my turn. Again.

A common response to the problem is to extend the trait ladder with additional adjectives. Alas, this complicates matters, and makes it more difficult to memorize and internalize the trait ladder. One of my solutions was to arrange the extended traits in alphabetical order. Even with this fix the extended trait ladder is cumbersome and one is forced to resort to adjectives that are really only synonyms for Superb and Terrible. One of my other solutions was to add one "Very" for each level above Superb or below Terrible, e.g. "Very Terrible" or "Very Very Superb." This, of course, can quickly become ridiculous and distracting in itself.

Then it struck me like a song by Madness. What if we merely translated each extended level as "a step beyond"? Instead of Terrible -1, the character performed One Step Beyond Terrible. Instead of Superb +2, the character's achievement was Two Steps Beyond Superb. This is something characters themselves could pass off as a figure of speech, but which is directly meaningful in game terms and very easy to remember. Technically, the math is still there, but it sounds like something a person could say outside of a role-playing game. "That stunt wasn't just superb. It was three steps beyond superb!"

Four Steps Beyond Superb
Three Steps Beyond Superb
Two Steps Beyond Superb
One Step Beyond Superb
One Step Beyond Terrible
Two Steps Beyond Terrible
Three Steps Beyond Terrible
Four Steps Beyond Terrible

Maybe it's a stretch, but I think it's crazy enough that it just might work.

01 January 2016

The Future of Fudge Is Simplicity

Fudge fulfills its purpose best when it is expressed as simply as possible. I am sure it can be played satisfactorily as a substitute for GURPS, and it serves that function admirably well for those who are not averse to massive blocks of statistics, but is that degree of detail really what Fudge does best? In my experience, greater detail almost always equals slower play, and slower play equals decreased immersion in the role and the setting, because one becomes more distracted by the rules themselves. In other words, heavy rules systems impede actual role-playing. I'm not criticizing those who prefer a more detached style of play, but it would be disingenuous to ignore the fact that Fudge was specifically intended to be a game that emphasized the role-playing aspect and sought to eliminate or minimize any game element that might intrude on the act of role-playing. The default style of play in Fudge is subjective character creation, subjective character development, and combat resolved through "story elements." In its rawest form, Fudge is the essence of simplicity and the perfect game with which to introduce new players to role-playing.

Sometimes a little structure is helpful, too, which is why certain objective game elements can be used to reinforce the game's mission of facilitating good role-playing as long as those rules are minimal. They should serve as seeds of inspiration, not as straitjackets. Broader character traits lead to more creative implementation. Generalized combat rules lead to more imaginative tactics and stunts. Minimized rules lead to maximum ingenuity.

This is why I have been increasingly striving to simplify Fudge for my own design and gaming purposes. Anything that doesn't make intuitive sense or slows down the game I minimize or discard. Anything that contributes to decision paralysis I minimize or discard. Anything that causes my vision to blur I minimize or discard. Games such as Sherpa and Ghostbusters have been very instructive in my pruning of the game. Very soon, I'll have an all-purpose "minimalist" version of Fudge that I can adapt to any genre. Then all I will need is a good title.

13 March 2015

Quasi-Standard Descriptive Traits for Sherpa

This article is intended for use with Sherpa, a role-playing game by Steffan O'Sullivan published by Two Tigers Games. Access to Sherpa is necessary to utilize these rules.

Quasi-Standard Descriptive Traits is a supplement to Descriptive Traits (q.v.), which replaces Attributes, p. 3 in the Sherpa rules.

Descriptive traits provide an organic way of creating characters in Sherpa that can be liberating to one's creativity, but there are several shortcomings, most of which are rooted in the fact that there is no prescribed structure in the character creation process. For some this absence of structure is a benefit, but to others it presents a difficulty in conceptualizing their characters and/or balancing their full range of capabilities or lack thereof. To this end, quasi-standard descriptive traits may be used as an intermediate step in character creation, or they may even be used as attributes for those players more comfortable with traditional rules or for GMs who need to create non-player characters rapidly.

Quasi-standard descriptive traits use generic terms (or quasi-attributes) as a framework on which to build a character's descriptive traits. There are six:

Vocation represents a character's professional occupation, or, at any rate, the occupation by which he is primarily identified. It is the same as the Profession attribute in Sherpa, and like that attribute, it is specified.

Avocation represents a character's nonprofessional occupation or interests. It is the same as the Experience attribute in Sherpa, but unlike that attribute, it is specified.

Mind represents a character's mental capacity or intellect. It is the same as the Reasoning attribute in Sherpa.

Body represents a character's physical capacity or physique. It corresponds to the Strength and Health attributes in Sherpa.

Spirit represents a character's spiritual capacity or willpower. It has no corresponding attribute in Sherpa.

Reflexes represent a character's motor capacity or coordination. It is the same as the Agility attribute in Sherpa.

If it fits the character concept, the character may be assigned more than one Vocation or Avocation in the same manner as Dual Professions, p. 8, or they may be raised independently (see p. 24).

Once a character's Vocation and Avocation have been specified, the player allocates points in the manner described in Character Creation, p. 5. Once this is done, he then interprets the quasi-attributes in his own words, thus rendering them into descriptive traits.

The advantage is that the integrity of the character description is preserved, yet the traits, regardless of how specific they may be, can all be reduced to the quasi-attributes on which they were built, leaving no area ignored. (This avoids the potential problem of default level proliferation caused by players overlooking certain aspects of a character.)

Note: It is useful to list these traits in the same order, unless one wishes to add the quasi-attributes parenthetically.
Example: The GM is running a hard-boiled crime scenario, so she allots 10 points to each player. Player B prefers a more structured approach and opts to use quasi-standard descriptive traits. The character Player B has in mind is a crusading reporter by profession and an amateur aviatrix, which immediately translates into Vocation (Reporter) and Avocation (Aviatrix). The character is defined almost more by her extracurricular activities than her career (being an irrepressible adventuress), so 2 points are allocated to Vocation (Reporter), raising it to 6, and 3 points are allocated to Avocation (Aviatrix), raising it to 7. In keeping with her concept as an adventuress, Player B decides she is also a Crack Shot, having participated in marksmanship competitions all her life, and allocates 2 points to a second Avocation (Crack Shot), which makes it 6. The next thing to consider is the character's Mind. Player B decides she is Sharp as a Tack and allocates 1 point to Mind, raising it to 5. The character is a Tough Cookie, so 1 point is allocated to Body, raising it to 5. As far as her Spirit is concerned, she has plenty of Sass (and as mentioned earlier, she's Irrepressible), so 1 point is allocated to Spirit, raising it to 5. Player B has now allocated all 10 points before reaching the final quasi-attribute, Reflexes. As a pilot, her flying reflexes would be reflected by her Avocation (Aviatrix): 7, and as a markswoman, her hand-eye coordination as it pertains to firearms would be reflected by her Avocation (Crack Shot): 6, but in terms of all other activities involving Reflexes, her ability would be the default level of 4. Player B could reason that this is not acceptable for the character concept of an able adventuress and reduce another quasi-attribute in order to raise it, or it could be seen as an interesting handicap for the character to overcome. She may be Sassy, Sharp as a Tack, and one Tough Cookie who has an exciting career and a daredevil hobby, but in spite of all that, she just might be a bit of a Klutz. In fact, it might be more entertaining to make her a little Sassier and raise her Spirit to 6 by making her a little Klutzier and reducing her Reflexes to 3. For her Gift, Player B chooses Patron: Editor of a Big Metropolitan Newspaper (who, despite his gruffness, often bails her out of trouble and allows her keep her job when she disobeys him). For her Faults, Player B chooses Obsessed with Dance (which can be quite an embarrassment for someone who has two left feet, but is unaware of it whenever the music plays) and Recklessly Brave (which protects her from intimidation, but does nothing to protect her from her own foolhardy stunts).

Her intermediate stage of character creation, then, looks like this:

Charlotte Chevalier
Vocation (Reporter): 6
Avocation (Aviatrix): 7
Avocation (Crack Shot): 6
Mind: 5
Body: 5
Spirit: 6
Reflexes: 3
Gifts: Patron: Editor of a Big Metropolitan Newspaper
Faults: Obsessed with Dance (and Has Two Left Feet), Recklessly Brave
The character could be be played like this, for these are the underlying quasi-attributes, or the descriptive traits that are at the core of her concept could be substituted like this:

Charlotte Chevalier
Ambitious Reporter: 6
Daredevil Aviatrix: 7
Crack Shot: 6
Sharp as a Tack: 5
Tough Cookie: 5
Sassy and Irrepressible: 6
Klutzy: 3
Gifts: Patron: Editor of a Big Metropolitan Newspaper
Faults: Obsessed with Dance (and Has Two Left Feet), Recklessly Brave

[Originally posted here in Fudgery.net.]

12 March 2015

Descriptive Traits for Sherpa

This article is intended for use with Sherpa, a role-playing game by Steffan O'Sullivan published by Two Tigers Games. Access to Sherpa is necessary to utilize these rules.

Descriptive Traits, in this variant, replaces Attributes, p. 3 in the Sherpa rules. Instead of using six standard attributes to describe the capabilities of characters, descriptive traits are used.

All characters possess descriptive traits. A descriptive trait is simply anything that differentiates a character from others in a meaningful way. If a trait does not differentiate a character or is not meaningful in terms of the game, then it is not described as a trait at all. A descriptive trait may be considered anything that would be known in other games as attributes, skills, occupations, professions, vocations, avocations, areas of knowledge, areas of expertise, characteristics, statistics, classes, aspects, aptitudes, qualities, clichés, etc.

There are no predefined lists of descriptive traits. The player, upon being allotted a certain number of points by the GM, simply allocates those points to any traits he chooses to describe. Any trait he does not describe has a default level of 4 and is not listed on the character sheet. The maximum number of traits a player may describe is equal to the number of GM-allotted points. Fewer traits may be described, of course, and some traits may be lowered to raise others in accordance with Character Creation, p. 5. GM-approved Gifts and Faults (otherwise known as advantages and disadvantages) are specified as per the standard rules.

All other rules in Sherpa remain unchanged.

Example: The GM is running a hard-boiled crime scenario, so she allots 10 points to each character. Player A decides to create a police detective with the following descriptive traits: Damned Good Police Detective, Impressive Middleweight Boxer, Excellent Poker Player (and Therefore Bluffer), and Skilled and Fearless Driver. He allocates 4 points to Damned Good Police Detective, raising it to 8, and 3 points each to Impressive Middleweight Boxer and Excellent Poker Player, raising them to 7. He wishes to allocate 2 points to Skilled and Fearless Driver, raising it to 6, but he has already allocated his 10 points, so he must describe a new trait at 2 or two new traits at 3 each in order to afford it. He chooses to describe two new traits at 3 each: Sucker for Dames in Distress, which constitutes his chance to resist their hard luck stories and/or schemes, and Coffee Addiction, which means he must have sufficient quantities at regular intervals or he will be irritable, reckless, and just not as effective at his job. For his Gift he has a Photographic Memory, and for his Faults he Lives in a Bad Neighborhood (which presents all sorts of possibilities for the GM) and Suffers from Migraines (which afflict him in a debilitating manner, perhaps under circumstances negotiated between the player and the GM). Any traits that he has not described exist at a default level of 4, although some traits may be inferred from those he has described. For instance, he did not specify that his character is Strong or Physically Fit, but it may be assumed that an Impressive Middleweight Boxer: 7 has the strength, stamina, and coordination appropriate to someone of that description. Similarly, he did not describe his character as Keenly Observant or as a Shrewd Interrogator, but it may be assumed that any Damned Good Police Detective: 8 would possess those qualifications. On the other hand, if he were ever in a situation where he would need to land a plane, walk a tightrope, or operate an unfamiliar machine, he would have the same chance as anyone else: a default level of 4.
Oliver Rath
Damned Good Police Detective: 8
Impressive Middleweight Boxer: 7
Excellent Poker Player (and Therefore Bluffer): 7
Skilled and Fearless Driver: 6
Sucker for Dames in Distress: 3
Coffee Addiction: 3
Gifts: Photographic Memory
Faults: Lives in a Bad Neighborhood, Suffers from Migraines

[Originally posted here in Fudgery.net.]