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Creating a Character, Part 2

 

 


Now that you know who your character is, it's time to figure out what your character can do.





Inherent Traits

Even in the real world there are some abilities which everyone has and are often challenged, things like strength, perceptive powers, and health. In a Window character, these common qualities are called traits (often known as "stats" in other systems.)

Every actor on the cast will need to define these inherent traits for their character, as they will most likely be tested several times during the course of a chapter.

Following is the list of traits recommended for most roleplaying genres. They are delineated from other abilities and skills simply because they are present in everyone and are common tests for GMs to call for. The GM should modify this list to fit their own style and the genre they are playing in. For example, if you are playing in a very nonaction oriented world where physical tests are few and far between, the GM might opt to do away with strength or even agility. On the same token, it isn't uncommon for a GM to add their own traits to the list to reflect the setting the characters come from.





Basic Traits

Strength

This is the raw physical power which the character possesses, and it is tested in those situations where the character must lift, move, push, pull, or throw something which is unusually large or heavy. It also includes the character's ability to crush or break sturdy objects, hold down an enemy in combat, or other such trials of might.


Agility

People who are highly agile are good at jumping over pits, swinging from ropes or vines, escaping from bonds, and picking pockets. It has to do with balance, manual dexterity, handtoeye coordination, and limberness, and it can be tested quite often in action oriented Anthologies.


Health

Not only is this how good the character is at resisting disease, but also how good they are at running long distances, dealing with poison, holding their breath, etc. Health rolls are very important should the character be wounded to determine how well they resist shock, pain, unconsciousness, and even death.


Knowledge

Often referred to as "knowledge of the world," this is a general measure of how much the character has experienced and how much education they have received. Older, smarter, or more travelled characters usually are more knowledgeable, and this ability is tested when a character needs to see if they know important information on government organizations, how a steam engine works, or similar feats of experience and wisdom.


Perception

Often called "powers of perception," the GM will call for tests of this ability when the cast has a chance to notice something in a scene that isn't readily apparent. This includes seeing hidden or obscure clues, hearing distant noises, or smelling that telltale whiff of poison...


Luck

Luck represents that unexplainable tendency for good things to happen to certain people without their effort or awareness. This is a rule which used to be a part of the core Window mechanics, but has now been relegated to the status of an optional rule. The reasoning behind this is that the luck trait works slightly differently than other traits...

If the GM wants to use luck in her stories, she could add it to the list of traits that all of the castmembers must define, or she could allow it as a skill just for specific characters. It works the same in either case.

Luck rolls are called for when chance is all that stands between two paths for the story to take, or immediately after a failed success roll to give a character that one last chance... Another use for luck is to settle minor questions which have little bearing on the story, such as whether a character happens to be wearing a hairpin or carrying a lighter. Luck can be a character's best friend. If he makes his luck roll he can save himself after a particularly dismal die roll, a feature which allows for a certain heroic confidence when entering dangerous scenes. Luck can also be the GM's best friend. For her, it can be a way to maintain the cast's sense of hope in hopeless situations, and it provides a good way to solve many minor arguments that arise between her and the actors...

Luck rolls are identical to basic success rolls in how they work: the GM sets a target number and ifyou roll equal to it or under, you succeed. If no target is specified, you must roll a 6 or less. By the way, luck can also be called something else if it better fits the setting. In superheroic roleplaying, for instance, luck could be called "heroism," since those sorts of characters rely more on their extraordinary abilities to save them in times of peril. In a setting which is populated by gods or guided by astrological forces, the GM could opt to call it "fate."


Trading Luck

There comes a scene in a character's life when he's hit bottom, when the situation has become so grave that nothing short of a miracle can save him now. In the Window, the luck trait allows one final recourse to turn the story back into his favor...

If such a case occurs where you've failed a luck roll that was really important, you may at that moment choose to "trade" some of your permanent luck to change the roll to a success. This choice causes your luck trait to drop a permanent rung on the competency ladder, but at least your character is still alive and kicking. Trading your luck in this way can keep your character alive and on top of things for quite a while, but remember, everyone's luck has to run out sometime...


Skills

Any ability which a character possesses that is not an inherent trait falls into the category of a skill. Skills can be anything from knowing how to aim a bow to being an expert in a scientific field. They can be magical spells or psionic powers. A skill can be a profession which the character practices, a knowledge of a geographic area, or even something as broad as being an Native American. Skills can cover very wide areas of knowledge or they can be minutely specific. Exactly how individual skills are defined and what they "cover" is up to the imagination and common sense of the actors andthe ruling of the GM. It is far more important that a skill describe a character well than be exactly clear as to what they allow them to do.

For example, if your character were a private investigator, you could choose to list two dozen specific skills describing his strengths and weaknesses or you could simply put "very experienced private investigator." You should include enough detail to represent the image you have of your character without bogging yourself down with minutia.

Again, the idea behind skills is that they should accurately represent how people perceive your character and what they can do. If your character honestly knows six different ways of cooking an omelette then feel free to list them all singly; it's up to you to decide what's important toward understanding your role When describing a skill, you can use whatever adjectives fit your vision.

Following are some examples:

Professional UFO investigator.
Incredible acrobat.
Poor at math.
Fluent in french and italian.
Able to operate a computer.
Student chemist.
Irresistible seductress.
Chess champion.
Well trained pianist.
Loves Elvis trivia.
A crappy cook.
Expert diplomat.
Knowledgeable about trains.
Licensed helicopter pilot.
Raised Catholic.
Tireless housekeeper.
Right sexy bastard.


Powers/Magic

Magic

Concepts by Benjamin Baugh(BaughBL@FLAGLER.EDU)

Roleplaying was born out of the fantasy genre, and no matter how far we've come from those first faltering steps, it seems that there is always something calling us back to those realms of wizardry where anything is possible. The following rules provide guidelines for using magic with the Window.


The Precepts of Magic

Like the Window's three precepts from which these are derived, the precepts of magic provide a core philosophy for the use of magic in any anthology. These precepts (in addition to the three essential precepts of the Window itself) help provide a practical way of dealing with magic in a mature, story affirming manner.

The First Precept of Magic: "Magic must be an extension of character."

Magic must reflect in all its aspects the character who invokes it, his mental state, situation, and outlook. The actor in a magically active role must be willing to take the extra steps required to define his character's power in his own terms. No two magicians will be exactly the same, and thus no two magical methodologies will ever be exactly the same. Styles may be similar, you can have any number of elementalists say, but each will have a unique take on the common magics. If magic ever begins to overshadow character, then it must be reassessed. Magic should not distract from the character's essential core, but should enhance it. The character's powers must be woven into his background and taken into account when defining his personality. Magic shapes the character and is shaped by him.

The Second Precept of Magic: "Magic must advance the story."

Like any aspect of a maturely played character, magic must advance the story to the satisfaction of all involved. Too often actors refuse to be flexible in their interpretation of their character's actions and it destroys group coherency. Few things can disrupt a cast faster than one member who employs his magics irresponsibility. Magic should never overshadow the wielding character and should also never overshadow the other actors. Magic has a place in all fantastic stories, and it is the responsibility of the actor and GM to reach an understanding of that place. The actor should be willing to adjust his character's sorcery to fit the story and the GM should make allowances for well roleplayed magics even if it requires some alterations to the plot. In short, the GM should be careful not to steal the character's thunder and the player should be responsible enough not to abuse her character's power.

The Third Precept of Magic: "Magic must never become routine."

Magic must always be... well... magical. A sword will kill a man, even do it with style, but nothing is quite so awe inspiring in personal combat as Lodendrake's Cage of Spines. Magic is really just special effects, and any good movie director knows you can only use a certain effect so many times before the audience begins to take it for granted. Players should be rewarded for producing interesting, vital, and original effects with their mystic powers. Certain effects may be used repeatedly so as to deliberately make them routine, but only for a specific purpose such as to advance the Second Precept in character development, or in story development as dictated by the Third Precept.


How it Works

Characters who wish to employ magic must start by defining their basic ability to use it. This is represented by an additional inherent trait which the GM might call wizardry, witchcraft, sorcery, or faith, depending on the world. For the purposes of this discussion it will simply be called magic. This trait plays an important role in the application of spells and rituals. When a magic user summons mystic power he forms it by using his natural potential (represented by the magic trait) and the techniques which he has developed through training or talent (represented by more specific spell skills). He may employ one of his old comfortable spells, or he may take risks or desperate measures and improvise an enchantment. During character creation, the actor invents the specific spell skills. What is required is a detailed description of each and a realistic evaluation of their parameters. Understand that there are as many possible areas of magical endeavor as there are practitioners, and many more besides. No comprehensive list is possible. It's up to the GM to give you an understanding of how magic works in the world, then within those guidelines you must strive to create a character image which is your own.

For example, if you are creating a priest character you must first choose the deity your character is connected with and weave this all important choice into his background. When did the first great epiphany of connection occur? How has it altered his experiences? His outlook? Make sure your choice of deity lends itself to the character's development and is not just done for the neat abilities. Now record the sorts of spells he's mastered. When were they first realized? First used? Detail the exact relationship the priest has with his god and consider the spells in this context. Before finishing you have to define a competency adjective and rung for his magic trait and for each spell. Once you have defined your character's magic trait and spells, you're ready to play. Spell rolls are used for activating well known effects, while the magic trait is used for maintaining spells, resisting magical attacks, and crafting variations (or entirely new spells) on the fly. The GM uses his best judgment to determine the difficulty of a given magical task, taking into account the creativity of the player, the needs of the story, and the individual situation. Following the Third Precept of Magic, it's up to you to describe your character's magic as richly as possible. When adjudicating magical conflict, the GM should use the philosophy that the specific and unique will always win out against the vague and general.


Exhausting Magic

Just like health and sanity, your character's magic trait can drop competency rungs if she is using it a great deal or is up against a particularly draining challenge. The GM can ask for such magic rolls whenever it makes sense in the story. The idea is to represent the oftentimes fatiguing nature of handling mystical power. The means by which your character regains her magic depends on the world and her particular kind of magic.

If your character's magic drops completely off the competency ladder then she is totally drained. At that point she can still use magic, but all magic rolls are made on a D30 and any further drops in magical competency effect her health trait instead. It is very possible for a magic user to kill themselves by pushing it too far.


Shebang!

One problem which arises in representing truly amazing abilities is how to fit them onto the competency ladder. Obviously there wouldn't be much variety if the actors were sitting around rolling D4s for everything contest rolls would be tied too often and success rolls would be mostly pointless.

The basic competency ladder only represents the levels of ability that a human being can achieve; what happens when the character in question isn't really human at all?

To address this, the Window uses a second competency ladder which is "above" the normal one. A simple system called the Shebang! notation (with a nod to Larry Wall) is used to delineate these amazing traits and skills from normal abilities. It works by placing an exclamation point (!) after the die and including more specific descriptions of what the character is able to do.

For example, a character with superpowered physical strength which allows him to lift up to the weight of a car would have the following trait listing:

Amazing strength. Able to lift a car. (D12!)

The Shebang! lets you know that his strength is "superheroic," which means that he would never have to make a strength roll against "normal" tests; if he wanted to break down a door or carry a companion to safety he would simply succeed. However, if he were going up against a challenge that itself was "superheroic" in magnitude (perhaps he's wrestling with a powered up supervillian), he would use a D12 to make that roll. The idea is that superheroic or unearthly characters exist on a level all their own. They are so astonishing that competition is only meaningful if it is against someone (or something) in their own league. The important thing to do with any Shebang! ability is to describe the power sufficiently enough that it's at least somewhat clear what is possible with it. From there the actors and the GM can roleplay through superheroic encounters without much slow down.


Multiple Competency Rungs

With some powers, it is difficult to assign just one competency rung and still represent the power accurately. One such case is an ability that is extremely "powerful" but rather hard to control (or viceversa). Another is a power which works very well in certain situations but very poorly in others. In such a case, two or more competency levels can be used, each describing a different aspect of the ability. For example, imagine that your character has the ability to throw fireballs from her hands. These fireballs are extremely deadly just about anything they come in contact with will be immediately vaporized (D6!). However, she's not very good at getting the things to hit where she would like (D20). Having two different rungs like this allows the GM to test the aspect of the ability is in question in any given scene.


Wealth

Concept by Justin Forman (firedup@warwick.net)

One of the goals of the Window is to free the actors from bookkeeping minor details. Who in their right mind wants to bother with encumbrance, hit points, or damage dice when there's roleplaying to be done? All that these do is add up to more number oriented thinking, and that goes against the philosophy of the first precept.

That being said, there is little in this world which is more number oriented than money, and while first generation roleplaying has a healthy tradition of recording cash down to the last copper piece, some actors would rather not bother at all. On the same token, in some settings it is important to have an idea of how wealthy a character is.

To deal with this problem, the GM can choose to define an inherent trait called wealth. If a situation comes up in the story when limits in a character's monetary resources become a concern, the GM could ask for a wealth roll. A success means that the character has the money available for the task, while a failure means he's short. Like always, this rule is one that requires intelligent interpretation by everyone involved.




Competency

The Window uses 7 different dice types: D30s, D20s, D12s, D10s, D8s, D6s, and D4s. Each of these dice corresponds to one of the seven "rungs" on the Window Competency Ladder, and each rung represents a loose level of skill that your character can achieve.

As we have already explained, every ability a Window character possesses, be it an inherent trait or a skill, will be associated with an appropriate adjective or brief description. Once you've got an adjective, it should be a simple matter to decide which rung that ability falls into. Once you've got a rung, you've got a die. (In the Window, low rolls are always good, so obviously a D4 is much better than a D30.)


The Competency Ladder

Incredible (D4)
This is the highest rung of competency, and it is generally reserved for those characters who are absolutely unique or singularly masterful at what they are doing. It is extremely rare to find a person with any ability at this rung. Skills of this magnitude could be described as unbelievable, grandmaster, superhuman, supernatural, or even godlike.

Very High (D6)
This level is generally the highest that a "normal" human can achieve. At this rung, one may assume that there are only a small population of people with a similar trait. Einstein might have been on this rung of intellect, or perhaps Bobby Fischer would fit in here with his chess talents. An ability adjective at this rung might be termed as a master, astonishing, remarkable, amazing, stupendous, a prodigy, or unequalled.

High (D8)
This rung is where a typical "expert" would fit in. It is not uncommon to find a skill or two at this level for those people who are exceptionally practiced at their chosen profession or area of study. A few descriptive terms which work well at this level are expert, highly skilled, very good, highly accomplished, a natural, and elegant.

Above Average (D10)
This is the level of competence where those "good, but not particularly good" skills fall into. The typical person would have perhaps one skill (generally their profession) which would be at this rung. Abilities of this level could be described as professional, impressive, talented, skilled, proficient, or practiced.

Average (D12)
This rung is the "average" level, and it could be considered the norm against which the other rungs are compared. Generally, a person will have several of these skills, mostly in those mediocre abilities which everyone has a chance to pick up as they go through life. A few adjectives which fit well could be average, competent, fair, not bad, pretty good, decent, mediocre, and commonplace.

Below Average (D20)
A person could expect to be at this rung on any skill they have begun to practice but not quite mastered. The normal character would have a few of these, be they hobbies, or things they did a long time ago, or skills they just can't ever get the hang of. Some good descriptions of this rung could include below average, amateur, beginner, hobbyist, struggling, and unreliable.

Low (D30)
This rung is the bottom of the barrel, and it is only used for those abilities which are markedly horrible. Please note that everyone has almost every "skill" imaginable at this level of competency. (Even if you've never driven a car before in your life, that doesn't mean you couldn't try!) Skills here could be described as low, unskilled, incompetent, poor, crappy, nonexistent, or bungling.




<< BACK TO PART 1

 

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