[Do] What Remains of Character Creation

Just sent the first three chapters of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple to editing. If you've followed the development of this game over the years, you'll notice the biggest change is that there is no character creation. Well, at least not in the form that it once was.

At first, I was trying to emulate the "tutorial" process in Dogs in the Vineyard. Later, I added the relationships from Spirit of the Century. What followed was a very fun process, but one that was rather different from how the game actually played. Also, because I couldn't find much time to playtest, those precious first hours were occupied with character creation and not the game itself.

I came to terms with the fact that the Do I want to design is a storytelling game, not a role-playing game. I hate disappointing people who hoped for an RPG, but that's just not where I have fun designing.

So, I am taking all the "tutorial" advice from character creation and putting it elsewhere in the book, mostly in the Example of Play chapter. They'll be sidebars, commenting on the choices players are making in the running example.

As for the character creation process itself, that will be its own game with a different skin. The basic procedures will be the same, but with a new theme. For more on that, look for posts about Galaxy Camp in coming weeks. Actually, it may not even be called a game. More of an activity. Semantics. :P

What character creation remains in Do? For now, it's just creating your pilgrim's name and interpreting what it means. It is not its own chapter. Rather, it is simply part of the steps of preparing for the game, right along side gathering pencils and paper:

Creating a Pilgrim
To create your pilgrim, you will write a sentence about her on a slip of paper called the Passport. Creating your pilgrim is simply a matter of filling in the blanks in this sentence:
Pilgrim (Banner) (Avatar) gets in trouble by _______ and helps people by______.
This sentence describes everything you need to know to get started. Her history can be developed as you tell your story. For now the most important thing is to decide her pilgrim name and what it means.

Step 1: Choose your pilgrim's Avatar.
Write a noun in the second space of the sentence. The easiest way to pick your pilgrim's Avatar is to name an object in the room you're in.
For example: Ryan looks around the room and sees a window. He writes, “Window” in the second space of the sentence.
Step 2: Choose your pilgrim's Banner.
Write an adjective in the first space of the sentence. The easiest way to pick your pilgrim’s Banner is to describe the previously chosen object in one word.
For example: The window looks cloudy to Ryan, so he writes, “Cloudy” in the first space of the sentence.
Step 3: Describe how your pilgrim gets in trouble.
Using your pilgrim’s banner as inspiration, describe how she gets in trouble. Her banner is a metaphor for some personality quirk or recurring stroke of bad luck that leads her to trouble.
For example: Ryan interprets “Cloudy” to mean that his pilgrim is prone to daydreaming. She is often distracted by flights of fancy. He writes, “daydreaming on the job” in the third space of the sentence.
Step 4: Describe how your pilgrim helps people.
Using your pilgrim’s avatar as inspiration, describe how she helps people. Her avatar is a metaphor for the skills, tools or other abilities that let her help people, including her friends and herself.
For example: Ryan interprets “Window” as an opening in an otherwise solid wall. Using this as a metaphor, he writes, “creating windows of opportunity” in the fourth space of the sentence.
There are also some example pilgrims to choose from, that would look something like these contributions. And that's it. Hopefully people who enjoyed the former character creation system will still enjoy playing its new incarnation as Galaxy Camp. Meanwhile, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple can fly or fall on its own terms as its own game.

Update: Dang, a bunch of pop culture pilgrims over here.

9 comments:

  1. Hey Daniel! I was inspired by your blog post, so I wrote of it on my blog. It sort of springboarded into a big post on roleplaying design and improv, which was great fun. Check it out!

    http://imbuildingsomething.blogspot.com/2010/08/roleplaying-games-designing-with-yes.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dang, Arvid! Those are some really cool pilgrim names. Thanks for sharing. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  3. Daniel, I already posted this over on story-games, but in hindsight I thought it would be better to have it on your site itself. So I'm posting it again here. I hope you don't mind.

    I'm one of those people who wanted an RPG more than a storytelling game like Happy Birthday, Robot. I mean HBR is a great game, but with Do in particular I fell in love with the setting from the beginning, and started imagining it as a great place for the kind of roleplaying adventures I like. The whole "letters from heaven" idea is a great way to get RPG adventures going, too: it provides a starting point as well as a hint of how and when to end that story without dictating anything or providing a purely mechanical way of going about it. I would much rather play the story out to its fictional end rather than start wrapping up once someone has gathered 8 stones or whatever.

    On the other hand, I understand that you should design what you have fun designing! That's totally your right and I don't want to tell you to do something you don't want to do.

    So... how about this: Would you consider licensing your Do setting to someone else who wanted to design an RPG for it? Could you live with two Do games instead of just one, each with a different flavor?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for posting here! Definitely need more comments on the blog.

    Truth is, I've thought about asking one of the many game designers I know if they'd be interested in adapting the setting for a proper role-playing game. I bet at least one of them would be interested in the project.

    It's just a little premature to be planning something like that before we see how well the storytelling game does on its own. I'll focus on making this the best storytelling game I can for now. Any further developments will be announced in due time. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Everything I read here is awesome, so take this tangent as gently as possible:

    Forgive me if you've covered this before, but I'm not sure what you mean when you draw the distinction between "storytelling game" and "role-playing game". By extension, I'm not sure if drawing that distinction really says anything about the game.

    I mean, yeah, now your Pilgrims don't have Flying 4d and Getting Into Trouble 3d or whatever. But, a.) they never did even from the beginning, and b.) who cares?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Lenny! I only make the distinction because the actual gameplay more closely resembles something like Happy Birthday, Robot! Yeah, you have a character now, but the game is still played with this sort of distance. One of the things in the text is that you always say "my pilgrim does this" not "I do this." So in that sense, though you have authority over one character in particular, you're still looking at the story as more of an author than an actor.

    That's something people have been disappointed by, I guess. They didn't want Flying 4D, but they wanted to be able to say "I fly" instead of "My pilgrim flies."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Daniel, I already posted this over on story-games, but in hindsight I thought it would be better to have it on your site itself. So I'm posting it again here. I hope you don't mind.

    I'm one of those people who wanted an RPG more than a storytelling game like Happy Birthday, Robot. I mean HBR is a great game, but with Do in particular I fell in love with the setting from the beginning, and started imagining it as a great place for the kind of roleplaying adventures I like. The whole "letters from heaven" idea is a great way to get RPG adventures going, too: it provides a starting point as well as a hint of how and when to end that story without dictating anything or providing a purely mechanical way of going about it. I would much rather play the story out to its fictional end rather than start wrapping up once someone has gathered 8 stones or whatever.

    On the other hand, I understand that you should design what you have fun designing! That's totally your right and I don't want to tell you to do something you don't want to do.

    So... how about this: Would you consider licensing your Do setting to someone else who wanted to design an RPG for it? Could you live with two Do games instead of just one, each with a different flavor?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Daniel! I was inspired by your blog post, so I wrote of it on my blog. It sort of springboarded into a big post on roleplaying design and improv, which was great fun. Check it out!

    http://imbuildingsomething.blogspot.com/2010/08/roleplaying-games-designing-with-yes.html

    ReplyDelete

Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.