Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Char. Gen.


This is a nano-game I designed in 2013 at the end of a session of A Penny for My Thoughts which had been particularly gruelling: we needed something light and fun to cheer ourselves up with, but we only had 30 minutes until the venue closed. Earlier during that convention, I had played Cheat Your Own Adventure, a nano-game concerned with the process of playing another game and I'd really liked it, so I quickly came up with one of my own. The version presented here is a faithful reproduction of the game we played that evening, which was flexible enough to allow players to drop in & out as their own games finished and a parade of convention attendees stopped by to ask us what we were playing. Please enjoy.


In this game, you're going to collectively generate a character for an RPG: as we create the character, we'll discover more about what game we're playing, which will likely surprise us. To start, place 10 tokens on the table where everyone can reach them; once this is done, proceed as follows:


  • The first player selects a quality for the character, such as an ability score, skill, trait, relationship, power, aspect, merit, flaw, hindrance, edge or whatever.
  • The player to their left determines the cost for that quality, from 1 to 3, and removes that number of tokens from the pool, justifying their decision as they do so, especially if challenged. For example, the first player selects 'Superhuman Strength' as a quality and the second player sets a cost of 1, justifying that because in this game, Superhuman Strength is the minimum practical level of strength a character can possess and anything less would be considered a drawback.
  • The same player then selects the next quality for the shared character and the player to their left sets the cost, but if there are tokens that have been previously spent, these may be added back into the point pool by setting a negative cost for that quality. For example, the second player's choice of quality is 'Allies in the Intelligence Services', but the third player gives this a cost of -1, because the game is about covert rebels trying to overthrow a corrupt government, so this character is walking a thin line between learning about the government's plans and exposing their own to scrutiny.
  • The player who sets the cost for a quality gets the final say on whether it has a positive or negative value in the game, but they must always justify their decision without overturning anything that has already been established.
Continue playing until there are no more tokens left to be spent: char. gen. is complete. It is important not to decide in advance what game the character is being generated for: allow all aspects of the game (setting, theme, tone, mechanics) to arise by implication via the char. gen. process, e.g. if superpowers get chosen, then it may well be a superhero game, but is lots of combat-related qualities and magical items turn up, then it's probably a fantasy skirmish-type game.