Sunday, October 02, 2011

Lords of Creation - Creating Characters

After the one-page intro section, Lords of Creation moves to what I often considered the most important part of an RPG during the days of my youth - character creation.  When I first started gaming I would often sit and create character after character just to get the hang of a new system.  I don't do that so much anymore, mostly because the character creation process in modern games isn't as much fun.  Often character creation in games these days boils down to a process that is only slightly more fun than filing my annual income taxes.  I think that this is because most modern RPGs have taken their character creation process directly from Champions, where no randomness is allowed.  While this allows players to realize the exact character they have in their heads, the character creation process loses aspects that I have always found fun - that bit of randomness that spontaneously generates a character you would never in a million years have conceived of yourself.  This is one of the things I love about the new Gamma World - the random character creation process that has a bit of a "throwback" feel to earlier days.

Like most games of its time, Lords of Creation has a semi-random character creation process.  Every character has five basic attributes that feel very familiar to folks who grew up on D&D - Muscle, Speed (which covers "muscular coordination and manual dexterity"), Stamina, Mental ("intuition, logic, and willpower") and Luck.  The first four of these map to 5 of the six standard D&D attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and a mix of Intelligence and Wisdom), and are generated with scores between 2 and 20 for new characters.  Which again makes for very familiar territory, though unlike D&D the scores are generated by rolling 2d10 rather than 3d6.

Also like D&D, each attribute in LoC grants a modifier.  Unlike D&D, where the modifiers spread from -3 to +3 based on ability scores (with an average score granting no modifier), in LoC the modifiers are always positive.  Each ability score is divided by 10 and rounded up to generate its associated modifier - so a score of 1-10 is always a +1 modifier, 11-20 is +2, etc.  This means that starting characters will always have modifiers of either +1 or +2.  The various modifiers are Close Combat Damage Bonus (based on Muscle), Initiative Bonus (based on Speed), Healing Bonus (based on Stamina), Power Modification (based on Mental) and the Luck Roll (based on Luck, and is computed as 5 + the Luck modifier).

In addition to the modifiers, another derived score called the Physical Score is computed.  The Physical Score is the average of the character's 3 physical attributes and gets used in combat.  The Lords of Creation combat system seems to be a modified version of the D&D combat system, and one of the modifications is the Physical Score.  This attribute is what a character needs to roll under in order to hit an unarmored opponent - LoC has a "roll under" combat system rather than a "roll over" system.

Once abilities and modifiers are computed, the character's Personal Force is tallied.  Instead of using a direct leveling mechanism like D&D, LoC uses a derived attribute called Personal Force to determine the power level of characters.  Attributes are summed and divided by 10 (rounded up) to determine the character's Personal Force.  Every 10 points of Personal Force gives a power rank for characters, along with an associated title - Personal Force of 10 or less gives the character the title of Neophyte, 20 or less is Apprentice, 30 or less is Master of Space and so on.  In addition to the change of title, each level of Personal Force grants a number of other facets of a character.  The Experience Table, that shows what each level in Lords of Creation grants, is reproduced below:

The "# of Powers" column indicates how many powers a character's Personal Force level grants him - powers don't show up in Character Creation because the maximum Personal Force that a starting character is capable of having is exactly 10 (if all 5 attributes have a maximum score of 20), which means that all starting characters, no matter how well the dice roll, will be Neophytes.

The "XP to increase" column gives a hint as to the advancement system of Lords of Creation.  Basically, as each character earns experience points (XP), they can spend it to increase ability scores.  Interestingly, ability scores are increased semi-randomly - the player chooses which ability he wants increased, pays the XP cost based on his current Personal Force, and then rolls 1d6 and increases the chosen ability score by the amount on the die.  I honestly can't think of another game that has even a semi-random advancement scheme like this one, and I wonder how frustrating it gets for players.  Interestingly, two characters who have earned the same XP could end up with fairly radically different advancement paths depending on how lucky their players are (at least in the short term - in the long run things should even out, though we all know some players who always seem to be able to roll sixes when they need them...)

That last column is an interesting one - the "Abilities" column gives what the game calls "Title Abilities".  The game explicitly says that these work "only at the discretion of the GM".  Most of these seem to be designed for the GM to create world-hopping adventures, like Space Travel (that allows a character to teleport through interstellar distances with 10 minutes of preparation) or Dimensional Language (that allows a character to speak whatever local languages exist wherever they land).  This whole section gives off a "Time Lord" vibe to me, down to the fact that one of the powers is Transmigration, which grants the character the ability to resurrect after death into a new form that sounds a lot like a Time Lord regenerating into a new body.  In fact, if you move the various Projection and Travel powers into a device, you'd have the basis for a Time Lord campaign (whether you call the device a TARDIS or not).

The last power in the list is an interesting one - Construction grants the character the ability to create new universes and the suggestion is that a player whose character reaches those levels of Personal Force should become a GM, design worlds and run games in the worlds generated by their Lords of Creation.  Which is an interesting suggestion, but I don't know how well it would work in practice.  And that's before we get to the fact that characters with a Personal Force of over 100 would have ability scores in the 200+ range, all raised 1d6 points at a time from their starting level in the 2-20 range.

Anyway - back to the mundane Neophyte creation process.  The next step is to generate the character's starting funds by rolling d100 and multiply by $10, which should immediately be used to purchase equipment.  If they buy Armor, they should use note the bonus the Armor grants for combat.  Life Points are determined as the character's Stamina plus 1d10 per level, which means that as a character levels up he's going to get Life Points from two places - the Stamina attribute that needs to be raised to get that increase in Personal Force and the additional d10 from leveling up.  It seems like the Stamina attribute is going to quickly start to dominate the Life Point total within a few levels and the d10 points are just added bonus.

The game then notes "Characters should begin the game as individuals in the 20th century society and should choose their skills and equipment accordingly."  Interestingly enough, the game hasn't said anything about selecting skills at this point, but it turns out that the number of Skill Levels a character has is determined by  his Personal Force on a one-to-one basis (i.e. a Personal Force of 7 gets a character 7 points to spend on skill levels).  This gets covered with more depth in the skills section (part 3), but a nod here would have been nice.

The section ends with a walkthrough showing how to create a character and gives a sample character sheet, along with a step-by-step summary for how to create a character.  Interestingly, the numbered steps don't exactly correspond with the order that tasks were laid out in this section, and I actually prefer the clarity of the numbered steps to the structure laid out in the section.  The character creation walkthrough is actually a really good example of character creation, and were I organizing the book I might have led with the step-by-step example of character creation and put the details about attributes, character advancement, and the rest after it.

The section ends with a sample character sheet generated by the character generation walkthrough - Virgil "Doc" Fortunato, a stage magician and cat burglar turned adventurer:

Apparently the game did not come with blank character sheets - from what I've read online the game came with dice and two books (the main rulebook and the Book of Foes).  The way the rulebook is written, it's clear that originally the game was supposed to ship at the very least with a sample adventure ("The Horn of Roland", turned into a separate product) and probably with a pad of blank character sheets.  It looks like Avalon Hill changed the format and eliminated these from the package.  This seems like a pretty cheap move by Avalon Hill to me - the books are already on low quality paper and the game apparently only came with 3 polyhedral dice (the rules say the box should have a d6, a d10, and a d20 - it even explicitly says to roll the d10 twice for percentile rolls).  On the upside, though, you don't need much for a character sheet - the sample character sheet can be easily reproduced with a sheet of notebook paper (or these days a few minutes in OpenOffice or Word).


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MisterMephisto said...

This is a very late response, but I thought it worth mentioning that the core rulebook actually did treat the Horn of Roland adventure and the tablet of Character Sheets as a separate product.

There are more than a couple different mentions of them in the text of the rules, but always in a form very like that of (A)D&D products that recommend the purchase of another product to "better enjoy/understand/use the game".

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