Monday, November 3, 2014

Decentralized Power in Character Design, part1

A few years back it occurred to me that the best way to build the three main PCs in Star Wars _on equal points_ is as follows:
Luke: high competent in most areas, strong piloting skills, either have a game mechanics where newbie PCs advance faster than others or have a pile of points set aside to justify rapid advancement.
Han: strong in most skills, plus points for purchasing loyal super strong sidekick (whom Han's player would control) and kick ass smuggling ship.
Leia: high competent in most areas, strong in social and knowledge skills, plus points for purchasing the entire Galactic Rebellion, which (Leia's player would control).

That's right, Leis' player controls the rebellion. Of course she does. Like any good pulp hero she's both in charge and out on the front lines doing the most important tasks - like stealing the plans for the death star, or leading the assault on the force field generator, or making the executive decisions around fleeing their compromised hidden base.

This is part of the general theory that in a high trust game, especially with experienced players, the GM should place as much control of the setting onto the players hands as possible. Yes, it's easy to run a Star Wars game where the PCs are agents of the rebellion who are given missions to execute, but there's a lot to be said for letting the players dictate the course of events. That's how we run d20 Fantasy Games, for example - Ed Greenwood commented on the need to lay out a dozen or so adventure hooks across the general vicinity so the players have real agency - if they decide to skip Waterdeep and head south due to rumors that the red dragon killed off the sword coast left behind a hidden but now abandoned hoard in Calimsham then so be it. (Just have a few 'on the road to the adventure' plots lying about to occupy them on the way there while you build the horde out from the single sentence you started with.)

The trick here is to start thinking of the parts of the characters under a players control as not just their physical person, or the person and their iconic gear, or the person, gear and one or two close allies but their entire spheres of influence. As I'll discuss over the next few posts that's can be a difficult transition to make.