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Fantasy women adventurers, varying odors

In January, my mention of the game Legendary Lives in one of my Design Curriculum posts led to a comment, that comment led to a for-fun character creation video, and that video led to the organization of a game.

The participants are our fearless organizer Ross, Rod, Robbie, and me. ... Yes, I know. The best association that we, the real people, could hope for is a particularly cute boy-band.

I've written and talked about this game's features quite a bit. You'll see it in action in my original Shining Star video and in the four-part character creation session. The sequence goes:

  • Choose or roll the character race. This sets a couple of skillls and a special ability.
  • Roll the attributes.
  • Roll the background: height, weight, and family background, which sets money and more skills.
  • With the attributes as limiting factors, choose one of the Types the character is eligible for. This requires a roll for Devotion value, sets more skills, and provides another special ability.
  • Find your race's religion, and in most cases roll with Devotion or otherwise to find the subset god and/or place in the hierarchy.
  • Roll the Religion lifeline event.
  • Roll tons of personal details, including hair color, eye color, hairstyle, what you value, what you idolize, what you treasure, a key feature, and two personality traits..
  • Roll five lifeline events.
  • Place the six lifeline events in a chronogical order, provide the details to make them a "before we start" story, and write one or more goals.

A friend in a long-ago game called this "no-fault character creation," considering there are so so many high-substance rolls and so few choices. I maintain that they are the right choices at the right times, making this game's pre-play process far better-designed than "roll on a bunch of tables." The results are very much yours and typically pretty compelling, as well as quirky.

The results for us bear quite a bit of discussion here. First, we have three guys playing three very hard-assed women, and not I might add the most hygienic. Plus their scintillant personalities, as rolled: Shining Star has ratty hair and is slovenly and rude; Cristabelle has bad breath and is flippant and jealous; and Grrl wears her dead boyfriend's ear around her neck and is emotional and violent. Our spontaneous individual description of the results included the phrases, "Did we just make the Rat Queens," and "Charlie's Skanks."

Second, is what sort of fantasy just appeared. It's syncretic to the point of parody: a D&D fantasy elf but with a merchant/prison backstory right out of a 90s action flick, a backwoods hillbilly gal in overalls who wouldn't be out of place in Li'l Abner, and a tall burly crewcut white-haired warrior woman who can turn into a wolf, or as Rod says, "I saw that movie in the late 80s." We're kind of wiggling our way into discovering our genre so it's not merely parody, although it can't help being a little commentary-ish on its varying source material, kind of like the Mane Cast do in that TV show.

Third, as Ross must contend with, is what sort of problems and adventures are involved. Does the setting in the book provide a baseline, or is the setting merely there so that such cartoony-diverse yet dramatically reasonably-strong characters can exist?

Anyway, the playlist so far includes the original video, our character creation session in four parts, and our first session in seven parts. The latter encountered video difficulties, so parts 1-3 are video and 4-7 are audio only, but with pictures.

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ross's picture

Meanwhile I'm going to point out that we set this game up using the oganize-for-play channel over in the Adept Play discord - you can do that too, see the Let's Play link in the sidebar of this very webpage.

Also viewers might be interested in reading the tragic backstories of Grrrl and Christabelle (hope that's okay guys) which I have put here:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1R9Gfmb6OqGiGbofAoQ5mkn3oLC7l0lKL?usp=sharing

 

There's plenty of material on Adept play about Legendary lives and I have not gone through much of it, so this question has probably been answered somewhere. A reference is as welcome as an answer.

How do characters mechanically change? There seems to be some kinds of checks or marks or whatever they were called that are gathered in play. Are these related to character change?

My motivation is that I am interested in games where characters advance in dynamical ways through play, rather than point assignments or pre-planned routes, and I am wandering if Legendary lives has something to offer on this.

Ross's picture

In Legendary Lives characters can advance by getting inspiration points, which are used to increase Skills - basically any number on your character sheet is a Skill in Legendary Lives terminology. These are gained in two ways. First, if acharacters makes a skill roll and gets either the best - awesome - result or the worst - catastrophic - then they earn an inspiration point against that skill. They can only get one point per skill per adventure in this way. In our play we actually played this as one point per session, partly becasue I am too nice and partly as we didn't exactly have defined adventures. Secondly, at the end of an "adventure", again in our play we went with the end of a session, the Referee awards Bonus Inspiration points to the players; the suggestion is up to 3.

At the end of the adventure / session for each skill they have an inspiration point for the player can make a skill roll and if the result is poor or lower, i.e. it is a failure, they increase that skill by one point. They can use their Bonus Inspiration points to do the same thing for any skill they choose, and potentially multiple times for the same skill if they have enough Bonus points. Alternatively they can save up 5 Bonus Inspiration and use it to get one of the Spell Skills that they don't have, although probably at a fairly low starting value.

The other way these skills can change is if the character receives a critiacl wound, in which case they have to roll on a table which determines a group of skills from which the character loses a skill point off each permanently.

Skill values can go from 1 up to above 20, but in play, as we have been discussing elsewhere, you probably don't experience a huge change in how effective your character feels with a particular skill after going up by a point.

So in summary the skills change over time, partly as a result of how often you use them, and how often the outcome is really notable - Awesome and Catastrophic results tend to have a significant impact on the course of the fiction.

Additionally, as an informal aspect of character change, in our game we also allowed players to rewrite the various traits, values, key features etc. that are randomly generated in Character Generation if this became justified by the events in the fiction. The opportunity to take a bath became very significant in our game in relation to this!

I don't know if any of this is of use to you in relation to your interest in dynamic character change, but feel free to ask more questions if you want.

Ron Edwards's picture

The only thing I can add to Ross' summary is that character creation ends with the player naming one or more goals for the character at the start of play. The goals have no particular mechanical function (e.g., bonuses to rolls, rewards for completion, et cetera), but conceivably would help the GM in preparing situations, or would at least permit the player to have some coherent direction to their decisions in the moment.

(Side note: this is why I had my character in our Gamma World game state a Minor Quest; partly because what he was interested in did seem like a practical concern, but also because it is a nice anchor for those moments in which he has some freedom to decide what to do.)

Anyway, in Legendary Lives, the characters' goals may be met (succeed or fail), or be abandoned, or proceed in a halfway finished or casual state for a long time. It seems to be open and rather informal in play partly because they are never mentioned again in the book after they are included in character creation. I imagine in some groups they would be a trivial or ignored feature, whereas in others, they (and their changes) would play a central role.

Thanks, Ross (and Ron) for the comprehensive answer. It does look like a quite interesting game from this perspective.

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