Friday, August 24, 2012

The Character Creation Cardgame

One of the problems that's kept me from breezing through the creation of my system (hah) is finding a good way to determine how much a character gets at start.  I was stumped until lately, when listening to podcasts on tabletop gaming, I was reminded of Traveller, which has a game as part of character creation.  Never one to miss an opportunity to latch on to a good idea, I tried making my own.

This is still early days--I'm not really finished with the prototype yet, and by prototype I mostly mean an application to let me gather data on how viable the system seems.  But it is interesting.

The current system uses a method akin to poker, or perhaps Gin Rummy--there are four suits numbered 1-10, those being "Items", "Skills", "Attributes", and "Contacts".  Additionally, there are Aspect cards that both serve as wildcards (guaranteeing more matches), and at the same time, constrain the result.  The objective is to lay down a run of cards that is either a set (3,4, or "5" of a kind), flush, or straight.  Each score gives you a small number of points, and we want a lot of matches, so you keep drawing until your deck runs out.

Suppose for example you have the 2, 3, and 5 of Contacts, a Mind Aspect card, and the 7 of Items in your hand.  Because the Aspect card is a wildcard, you can play the 2, 3, and 5 as a small straight flush -- however, this determines something about your character, right away!  Not only does your character have  new 2-point contact, that contact must be associated with the Mind aspect; either a highly intelligent person, perhaps a scholar, or just a deep thinker that's good at giving advice.

There are a few other rules, and I'm sure I'll be changing them and adding things as I go along.  For example, the 10 of each suit can always be played on its own--or if you're particularly lucky or into hoarding, you get substantial bonuses for playing a set of 3 or 4 tens.  The most points from one hand would be all four tens, plus a wildcard, which gives you seven(!) points to spend on one thing in any suit--as long as it's within that Aspect's domain.  Considering you can't really combine other scores, that's a pretty amazing to have with your starting character.

Speaking of starting characters, I expect the system to work well with making characters at different stages in their life.  Say, for instance, that a decade's worth of boring life (or a couple years adventuring) allows you to reshuffle the deck when you're finished, and play another round.  What new contacts, or items, or skills will you gain in that time?  Will it change the way you view your character?  It's hard to know, because a lot could change.  Sometimes, your character gains skills in areas you wouldn't expect, simply because it comes up in the cards--and sometimes that progress is far greater than you expected.

I think it'll be interesting moving forward.  And it's one of several things that makes me believe that the Aspect system is a good idea; there are lots of little things like this where the effect just seems right.  Hope I get to tell you about other such things in the future!