Thursday, 15 May 2014

Quest RPG - So what's in a character sheet....

Beginning today, I'm going to be putting out some of the artwork and details for Quest, my new game.  The first thing that I'm going to be putting out there is the Character sheet, because I believe it's the most important bit of artwork in the entire game.

Character sheet as artwork?


Because for all the fantastic artwork you can get in a book, that's the shop front, that's not the game, that's just showing you all the shiny so that you go in there and take a look around.  What matters for many is that the game can be played and played well without having to spend a lifetime giving your character a life...

But of things that you look at around the table every time you sit down to game, the character sheet is always there, and it needs to be something that people enjoy playing with.  It can be a whole list of numbers and details and lists of skills and everything else, but that doesn't give it personality, and it get you involved in the game, a group of adventurers in the wild would know what each of them was capable of, they would know where everyone was strong, or weak, and they would know who to look to in each situation.

So, for me, the point of a character sheet is to have a sheet that lets not just the player, but all the others around the table, know what they could do, and from that, make things easier for everyone to play.

The first draft for a character sheet for quest was this

It had everything you needed, including a complex honour and heroism scheme I thought was required to allow everyone to see the nature of the people around them.  Then I thought that perhaps people didn't want others to know what they'd been up to, and that's their right (just like in real life) to keep that a secret.  I have a core of playtesters, some who actually provide feedback, and a whole bunch who just like getting freebies.

Let me assure you, the ones getting freebies have all they're going to get, the ones who've given me the feedback I needed to make this better are the ones I'm taking with me when I set off.

Problems with this character sheet were that it wasn't immediately apparent which skills were with which stat, there were no delineations, the nature of Hazard, Honour, Heroism, Diplomacy, and Excellence were abstract concepts for most, and when the system came together, there was the understanding that you needed to have a place for everything.

This is where the feedback came in.

The character sheet now looks like this...

The top concepts have been removed, replaced with tangibles like Race, Homeland, and Origin, things that are central in character creation.  Some skills have been changed, Replacing Deft with Build. Some have been removed in favour of others that made a more rounded system, Throw (now a function of the Range skill) being replaced by Perform, which a number of people wanted in there.

The quadrants are now clearly defined with the colours being chosen to represent the particular statistic, Red for Muscle, the colour of the blood in our veins, the eyes of the animal above to counterbalance the green of the vines opposite.  Yellow for Verve, the colour of the sun and the time in which we train our bodies to do what we do.  Green for Mind, the colour of the world and all the things upon it, the vines and leaves representing nature. Finally Blue for Spirit, and the stars above that we look up to and dream of things beyond that which we can touch with our hands.

Weapons and armour now have sections all their own with space for the stats, and the experience point section has been shrunk down to allow space for the character accumulated wealth.

And so to the character itself

The primary stats govern those skills in their colour, the circle in the middle is derived from the primary stats, each character has the same points to spend at the start of the game, how they choose to spend their points is up to them. 

In playtesting, overwhelmingly the point has been made that the way the characters are generated makes for real feeling characters when you first pick up the book.  You may have ideas to make a Rogue or a Fighter, but there are no character classes in this game, you are what you are, what you choose to call yourself is up to you.

Ten points to spend in the primary stats, no stat below one and have a good reason if you want a six in something, it's possible to make Conan at character creation, but he'll be Conan the wanderer who's good with a sword and crap at everything else. Whatever points you put into the stat, you get four times that many points to put into the skills that the stat governs, with the first point in that skill costing a single point, the second double that, the third double that, and so on, so it's not possible at starting out to have a character that's got a level six skill in anything, you can get a level four and save your beginning experience to get level five quickly, but you've put all your points into it and everyone who looks at the character will know it.  Compare the two different character sheets here.

Put all the points and background options into getting a fighter and you get Oran the one Dimensional, sword for hire.

Anyone looking at the sheet can see you've got a few points in other places, but it's obvious where you put the majority of what you're doing.  If by contrast you make a reasonable character, you get Weylyn the well rounded, a fighter mage who's not that much worse at fighting than Oran and has a whole bunch of other skills to work with as well.

Evident even on the small scale that it's a more well rounded character and has a number of skills that will get it much further than Oran.  To be honest, the system was designed to favour more well rounded characters and while minmaxing can be done, it doesn't pay to do it in this system.  

However, it's possible for everyone around the table to see what your character can do, easier for the GM to plot the game in a way that everyone can contribute and be included.

That said, this is my opinion, I'm interested in everyone elses....