A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Character Concept Help

    Hey y'all,

    So I have a player with whom I play a lot of 1:1 D&D. However, recently I have built out a Western game and a sci-fi game, and she's coming up dry for character concept inspiration. Does anyone have any resources that would help with this?

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    Spamalot in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    I'd watch a bunch of sci-fi-western-themed shows and pick a character from one of those to base mine off of. Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Wild Wild West, Westworld, The Expanse etc.

    For example, you can be a hotshot gunslinger whose carefree disposition masks a wartorn past, a no-nonsense bounty hunter or enforcer who plays by the rules, an empathic yet politically skillful and well-connected madam, a talented doctor or wise holy man with dangerous secrets, a self-interested thief/conman perpetually on the lookout for the next big score, a wild frontiersman and loner who gets along with nature more easily than people, a brilliant inventor looking for a chance to put his new toys to the test, etc etc.

    You'll also want to figure out the major historical events of your world (was there a war recently? A mass migration of some kind? Are there multiple factions in conflict, or has one risen to dominate the others? What is the socioeconomic and class situation? etc) and tie your character(s) to those.
    Last edited by Psyren; 2021-08-25 at 04:40 PM.
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    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky McDibben View Post
    Hey y'all,

    So I have a player with whom I play a lot of 1:1 D&D. However, recently I have built out a Western game and a sci-fi game, and she's coming up dry for character concept inspiration. Does anyone have any resources that would help with this?
    Are these two separate games or one game?

    Also science fiction is a very broad genre, even when splitting off 'fantasy'. It covers Blade Runner, Start Trek, Revelation Space, Lensman, Foundation, Alien, The Windup Girl, Schlock Mercenary, Night's Dawn, Frankenstein, Blindsight, and many other stories, all of which would find vastly different characters acceptable (with overlap very variable). So if it is a separate game to the Western one it would be very useful to drill down and get more specifics.

    But at the end of the day nothing will actually help more than familiarity with the genre. While I can very easily create a SF concept (I'll start by trying to grab the party engineer or doctor) I've seen maybe one Western film and read none of the literature, I wouldn't have the faintest clue where to start (beyond native 'dude with gun and horse').
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    Ah, I see I explained it poorly. The Western setting and the sci-fi setting are two different things.

    My player's pretty good on genre savvy, so I'm looking for products that can help spark creative or unique concepts.

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    Psyren's Avatar

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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky McDibben View Post
    Ah, I see I explained it poorly. The Western setting and the sci-fi setting are two different things.

    My player's pretty good on genre savvy, so I'm looking for products that can help spark creative or unique concepts.
    My answer's still the same - books, movies and TV shows are full of archetypes they can leverage for both of these genres/settings.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Anonymouswizard's Avatar

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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    But at the end of the day nothing will actually help more than familiarity with the genre. While I can very easily create a SF concept (I'll start by trying to grab the party engineer or doctor) I've seen maybe one Western film and read none of the literature, I wouldn't have the faintest clue where to start (beyond native 'dude with gun and horse').
    I think I said it pretty well here (and Psyren said it better,).

    By far the best thing that'll help is familiarity with the genre (and in the case of SF&F more specific subgenre). Anything else would essentially boil down to you giving them a list of archetypes.


    Have you actually asked your friend(?) if they want to play in these genres? Nothing will kill the desire to come up with a concept more than disinterest. Sadly discovering that this is the issue at hand can sometimes be difficult, this is one of those times where being polite is tempting but bad. Thankfully there is a simple solution that is almost certain to work in this case, but requires flexibility on the GM's side.

    Play a genre that they want to play. It's why I own so many fantasy games.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky McDibben View Post
    Ah, I see I explained it poorly. The Western setting and the sci-fi setting are two different things.
    Firefly and Joss Whedon would suggest that you can fuse the two.
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    If you give them (and us) an idea of the story you want to tell, that might spark some character suggestions. Some campaign concepts allow for a very broad range of characters, while others necessarily tighten the group of appropriate character concepts. For example, if you were setting your campaign in the world of Cyberpunk, it would be totally appropriate to say "All your characters start as members of the same Nomad clan (though you won't be forced to stay with them once the campaign gets underway)". More focused concepts, like "You are all members of the same rockerboy band or their entourage" should definitely be part of a session zero discussion to make sure your players are on-board.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    Hey y'all,

    Sorry about the radio silence - had a sick kid to take care of. In any event, the basic outline of each is thusly-wise:

    Western: Exploration-based play; the formal pitch is this:

    "Out on the wild frontier, a storm is brewing. The native peoples, pushed back into the mountains for centuries, have re-established themselves and eye their former lands. The frontier folk, citizens of the great Parliament of Fiefs, are now exposed since the frontier legions have been withdrawn or weakened by war in the east. And to the south, revolution is brewing among the working classes since the fall of the dwarven empire. In the center of the New Agamemnon territory, a massive well of magical power bubbles, silver veins have been discovered, and now a lightning rail is being laid.

    Among the disruptions run charlatans, bandits, bankers, and magicians, all drawn to the promise of power, wealth, and greatness. And overhead, the storm clouds swirl as eyes peer from other worlds, drawn to weakness and empowered by fear.

    The Western relies on the promise of opportunity, if you're willing to pay the price, married to the doom of inexorable change. All that we have is right now, because we might all be dead tomorrow. So if you see a way to better yourself, you'd better seize it. If you don't, someone else will. The mood will oscillate from violence, to tragedy, to camp, to horror.

    Mechanically, this campaign will be more focused on exploration and combat than social dynamics. I'm actually creating a pretty good-sized hexcrawl that will act as the "exploration engine" if you will. Ergo, the Outlander background will be nerfed (it might just give you advantage on Survival checks). Magic exists in a weird place right now. Magic is widespread, meaning magic powers a lot of the tech people use, but almost no one knows high-level magic. Cantrips are almost universally known, and even bartenders might have prestidigitation. 1st-level spells are usually reserved for magicians and well-educated nobles. 2nd-level spells are quite rare and only adept magicians would know them. 3rd-level spells are almost unheard of; only archmages can master such pinnacles of magical might. Native shamans expand on this a bit, having access up to 5th-level spells. But basically, magic exists in a fallen state and the only source of more magic are Precursor ruins that are haunted by wicked undead, guarded by vicious traps, and watched over by murderous spirits.

    You might play as:

    An agent of the Arcane Collegium, a non-state group that basically runs all the magic in the "civilized" world. They have an acquisitions arm that specializes in finding and documenting Precursor ruins, and coming back with magic items or spells for them to document. They've sent you to New Agamemnon to find a hidden yet massive well of magic, as well to learn the powers of the Natives, and keep an eye on the Bayou Vermillion lightning rail company. (This would be a great way to play an Arcane Trickster, if that's how you want to go)

    A representative of the Bayou Vermillion lightning rail company (the folks building a railroad, basically). While they rely on the Collegium for the magic to bind lightning elementals into their engines, BV wants to be self-sufficient. They know there's a well of magical power around here somewhere. They think if they find it first, they'll come out on top. They don't necessarily need you to find it first, but they do need you to kill the people who did and claim the well for BV. (Assassin, Inquisitive, Mastermind, or Thief are all great options here)

    One of the People (native inhabitants) sent to scout out the frontier and see if the time is ripe for a counterattack. How you do this is up to you (infiltration, disguise, observation), but you will face expectations about your society and behavior. The People need you to do all sorts of other things, though, from sabotaging cannons to forging letters. Of course, you know that there will be a war coming, and you're liable to make friends on the wrong side of that line. How do you deal with trying to protect them when the hammer falls? (Assassin, Scout, or Thief are all good choices here)

    One of the Dethek (revolutionaries from the south) here to drum up support, steal resources, and evade the bounty hunters trying to collect your head. Did you want to be a revolutionary-in-exile? What happened to you to get you to New Agamemnon? How do you plan to get back across the border? Do you want to go back? You'll also face expectations around your society and behavior, but this adds in a fun linguistic element, because south of the border, the language everyone uses is Dwarven. (Scout, Swashbuckler [Zorro!], or Thief works well)

    Alternatively, you could play as an independent. The frontier heiress who dons a bandana and robs banks to keep her struggling ranch alive, or the tenderfoot fleeing trouble back east, or the frontier preacher who's handy with a six-gun are all delightful archetypes I would love to have at the table.

    Finally, if you're interested, there's one additional wrinkle here. No one likes sorcerers in this setting; they're seen as a plague that needs to be stamped out. The Arcane Collegium has literal Kill-Teams they send after sorcerers. Trying to keep your powers under a bushel while surviving the environment might be a bigger challenge than anything else!

    Influences: Red Dead Redemption, Magnificent Seven, Deadlands, Werewolf: The Wild West, Deadwood.

    Things I'd Need From You: Westerns tend to feature two types of protagonists, who are either those lured by opportunity to start a new life, or those fleeing their old one. Which one are you, and what happened to get you to come all the way out here, away from civilization, and try to hack a living out of the dead ground? Whatever happened to you, it will dog your footsteps going forward, and how you want to deal with that will be a key part of the story."

    Sci-Fi Campaign: Exploration-based play with a focus on discovery and survival. Formal pitch:

    "The galaxy is large and dark. Humanity believes itself to be alone in the galaxy, 200 years after humanity left Earth and began settling the solar system. Faster-than-light (FTL) starships are still quite new, but a few private consortiums are building them and funding pathfinding teams to identify lucrative colonization opportunities. Who runs these consortiums? What are their ultimate aims? They are curiously unregulated, as laws and governments race to keep up with developments already out of their control. Earth's existing colonies chafe under the yoke of the motherworld - colonies on Mars, Venus, and the asteroid belt grumble under mercantile trade restrictions and more forceful violations of their liberty. Many of these colonists actually consider themselves a new species, as the "spacers" underwent extensive genetic modifications. A new name has been bandied about for them: "Prometheans." And of course, where there's trade, there's crime. And space trade has its own version of criminal: pirates! Thus far, government navies have done more to fight each other than the pirates. Therefore, deserters and mutineers swell the pirates' ranks...and make matters in the Sector just slightly more desperate.

    Twenty years ago, galactic explorers activated the Tartarus Gate, opening up the dark space of the Tartarus Sector. The Sector has already attracted attention for the discovery of sorium, a potentially limitless energy source that can power anything from a lightbulb to a battlecruiser. Now a gold rush to stake claims on potentially rich worlds has started...but what lurks in the darkness? And why are explorers reporting strange ruins and ravenous living beasts? And why is there such a high percentage of these worlds that are potentially habitable....yet uninhabited?

    This one is going to be a somewhat gritty, hard science exploration run, striving to stay alive, dodging natural predators, battling pirates, and discovering aliens (yes, YOU GET TO DO FIRST CONTACT!!!) like a (hopefully less horny) cross between Dr. Aphra and Capt. Kirk. While fantastic elements will still be present (eg, psionics), they will be less prevalent than in the other options."

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Character Concept Help

    I generally recommend the "Central Casting: Heroes of X" books. There are 3: "Heroes of Legend" for fantasy characters, "Heroes Now" for modern characters, and "Heroes of Tomorrow" for sci-fi characters.

    They are basically extremely detailed random background generators that can be used to help come up with a character concept when you're stuck.
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

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