Easy yet diverse character creation

One of the design goals for Spark was for the character creation process to take the least amount of time possible while still retaining the diversity of character options.   I am pleased to say that I appear to have been successful, at the very least during my playtesting.   I had two of my playtesters over this evening specifically to examine the process for making a new character.  Each of them had some experience with the system and had previously made characters, yet they were able to achieve some impressive results.  Typically they would have more guidance in the form of setting specific documents but this was partially an exercise in improvisation.

Cantina Scene: I set the scene as the Cantina from Star Wars and asked the pair of them to make unique alien characters, with no other restrictions.   It took 30 minutes from conception to completion of the characters and both of them fit the bill.

Player A made Olivia the Octopod, a hard-drinking, fast flying, 8-tentacled pilot of a mid-size transport ship.

Player B  made Grog, a hideous ogre-like alien who has apparently liberated the plasma cannon from a fighter jet for use as his personal rifle.

Tavern Scene: After that success, I directed them to attempt a similar exercise within a standard fantasy setting and it took another 30 minutes to finish these characters off.

Player A made P’eri the Magnificent, halfling wizard with delusions of grandeur. She was a wizard with a talking and somewhat intelligent elephant familiar.

Player B made Hali-h’imam, an eternal water elemental who is spending his time one the dry lands to watch the solids and learn their ways. While he has a harder time affecting the physical world, his quasi-material state also protects him from many forms of harm.

Some useful feedback was given, but I am fairly pleased at how well the system is functioning.  Thirty minutes to make an unusual character is perfectly appropriate in my opinion.  I would be eager for new challenges though, if any of you fine readers would like to propose a type of character for me, I will try to see if the current system can accommodate it.  If it doesn’t, I will be happy to feature your character in the book.

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  • Bronwyn says:

    Have a go at this one, which multiple superhero systems have made really bloody difficult. (Silver Age Sentinels, Fusion, and some other variant of Tristat. Not touching Heroes as apparently it is much much crunchier.)

    In the setting used (custom, does NOT belong to any of the systems tried for it), a superhero is basically a shard of a god. So I treat it very intuitively and do someone who has open-ended but still limited power over ______. I’ve done two characters (multiple tries on one) in this pattern. One was an earth dragon, and the other was a modernization of Epona and so her element was ground-based motor vehicles.

    The way that I wanted to handle things was that she had a limited but very flexible pool of power, which she could move around as she pleased. Her abilities and limitations could be set according to the needs of the moment, and the nature of the task. Want to make a crumbling sand dune solidify? Sure…but either it won’t stay that way long, or you can’t do too big an area, or it’s going to take a lot out of you. Maybe even some of each. My plan was to come up with limitation(s) that made sense for the situation but didn’t kneecap her. Eroding some handholds in a cliff should be easy and probably permanent — the cliff was likely to do that on its own. The more the element in question “wanted” to do what she asked, the easier it was and the more power she had for extras like bigger area, duration, working at a distance…. But I didn’t have numbers for any of it really. I just approximated as I went along.

    This always drove our GM crazy. The system wanted everything, absolutely everything, to have numbers and be nailed down, and that was just not how I thought. The GM, unfortunately, went with the book, which meant either I made a recipe for a particular setup, or I couldn’t do much of anything. The system hurt my brain and I didn’t want to spend half an hour speccing out a new power for each and every situation.

    The lady who talked to engines worked very similarly, except that instead of being purely mystical the way the earth dragon was, Beatrice was partly just a really, really good mechanic, and partly she used psychic/magic powers. For example, motor vehicles performed much better for her than they did for other drivers. All her powers were governed by her mechanical understanding of vehicles. If she told an engine to break, there would be some kind of physical problem another mechanic could fix, unless she was specifically keeping it broken…and then the mechanic would find more things wrong until he said the engine was dead and it would just have to be replaced. And then something *else* would break, and so on. For some reason, working this way on machines was less of a problem for the system and the GM than it was for rocks. It still didn’t work very well, though.

    Trying to play something the system cannot handle is more frustration than fun, so I have given up playing superhero characters until and unless someone tries to accommodate ME instead of the other way round.

    • Jagash says:

      I am very pleased to say that Spark avoids that particular concern, chiefly by being structured on the principles of natural language for statistic. Your Earth Dragon might have Training in affecting the Earth, Rocky Terrain and Sandstone for instance. This means that she would be able to make the changes you stated, or be able to find a cave entrance, or be able to temporarily gain a skin of sandstone, or potentially be able to trigger tremors.

      Rather then being proscriptive (You can deal 2D6 damage from your fireball) it is based on a descriptive approach (You have experience in projecting fire). There are mechanics behind the final result of course, but it gains a great deal in flexibility. The difficulties of tasks are flexible on a 6 point scales exactly in line with character attributes. You can effectively treat all obstacles as if they were opposing NPC’s.

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