This Empire Earth, a Savage Worlds homebrew settingAfter we wrapped up our sandbox brainstorming session on our race of cat people Saturday night, I led my players in the first portion of character generation.   Over the last several years, I have made it a habit to lead character generation through email.  It takes such a long time to make characters that its seems a better use of our time to do all that outside of game night so we can get right to playing.  I’ve been mindful though that we’re starting a campaign and it would be nice to have the characters have some associated, common background before game play actually starts.

See, Rob, I listen to Bear Swarm!After having reviewed the races available and detailing what sorts of skills would be needed for the initial adventures, I had the players rattle off what they were considering playing:

  1. James had a couple of ideas, but settled on a Human mystic, a fellow who’s studied with the frontier’s aborigines – the Oenerans – adopting their ways and their philosophies.
  2. Josh chose a Duarn with mercenary tendencies, a fix-it guy whose tools double as weapons.
  3. Gary selected an android pilot.
  4. Jamie envisioned a Bigozian field medic and a sort of corrupt marshall of the law.
  5. Aaron selected an Ikati (heavy body type), combat trained/special ops certified.  He’s the team’s driver.
  6. Rodger hatched an Empusan computer specialist and pilot.

To start character generation, I stole a page – okay several – from Spirit of the Century (SOTC).

James and Josh write their novels...STAGE ONE – There is a great tradition of western, pulp novels.  As the players will be playing Rangers in the final frontier, SOTC’s novel approach to character generation is awfully organic.  STAGE GAMMA, then, involves the character’s first pulp novel, starring him or her! Each player comes up with a title for the novel starring his character, in a fashion reminiscent of the pulps. The general pattern is:

Character Name (vs./in…/and) Adventurous Thing!

An example might be Sgt Skullison and the ManCake Massacre!

Then, each player writes up a brief story to go with his title. The story doesn’t need to have a lot of detail – in fact, it should be no more detailed than the blurb on the back of the paperback.

Player Rules…

1. Write down the title and back cover blurb (a couple sentences at most) for your character’s pulp novel. Don’t nail down all of the details of it yet (you’ll find out why below).

2. Write down two skills or attributes or combination thereof that are in some way tied into the events of the novel.

STAGE TWO – At the beginning of STAGE TWO, the book titles are logged on individual index cards.  The GM shuffles the stack and hands them out. If a player gets his own novel, he should trade index cards with the person to his right until everyone has a title that isn’t theirs. The title of the book a player is now holding is a book that his character had a supporting role in. For each index card, the involved players – the player whose book it is, and the player who has just received that book’s index card – should discuss the story, and add one or two sentences to the description of the novel to reflect the supporting character’s role.

Player Rules

1. Add a sentence or two to the description of the pulp novel you’re supporting cast in.

2. Write down two skills or attributes or combination thereof   that are in some way tied into the events of the novel.

STAGE THREE – THREE is identical to TWO, with the sole caveat that no character can costar in the same book twice.

Player Rules

1. Add a sentence or two to the description of the pulp novel you’re supporting cast in.

2. Write down two skills or attributes or combination thereof that are in some way tied into the events of the novel.

So, here’s what the boys came up with…

Jacob Kilraven and the Crystal Maze (James’ novel)

“To further develop his psychic abilities, Jacob travels to the hidden Crystal Maze.  While studying there, he uncovers a plot to create an army of psychic soldiers.  Only Kilraven’s psychic ability, fighting skills, and mystic knowledge can save the empire!”

“Well, all of those things AND Rej and his rivet gun.  And thousands of rivets!” – Added by Josh

Psychic?! Hah! What a primitive way to gain knowledge.  Simply consume the right parietal lobe… simple and tasty.” – Added by Rodger

Rej Nacob and the Last Barfight on Asteroid McQueen (Josh’s novel)

“Rej changes the story every time he tells it, but these three facts are consistent in every version:

  1. He was winning the drinking contest;
  2. The automated drinking dispenser, which he built, was working perfectly; and
  3. Everyone knew that the asteroid had a deep transverse fault and was going to fall apart soon anyway.”

“Meanwhile observing the scene, Dr. Xu knew everything was going as planned.” – Added by Jamie

“Knowing the asteroid would soon collapse on itself, the daring robot pilot Wilco prepared himself for his most dangerous rescue ever!” – Added by Gary.

Dr. Xu (Jamie’s novel)

“Ming Xu, a Bigozian, is renowned in medical journals in his homeland for keeping a human being alive for several days with only the head and circulatory system intact.  He is known for his irreverent sense of humor, but keen investigative approach to medicine.”

“While he is skilled, I feel with help, he can achieve at least an apprentice Empusan’s level.” – Added by Rodger.

“Jacob hopes to exchange his mystic knowledge and non-scientific techniques for a better understanding of Imperial medicine.” – Added by James.

Wilco and the Narrow Escape (Gary’s novel)

“As the research station X-12 disintegrated, the brave robot Wilco pilots his gleaming starship rescuing the scientists and saving the secrets to one the universe’s greatest mysteries.”

“After completing his mission to blow up the covert bio-chem lab X-12, Kaliri stows aboard the ship piloted by his contact, Wilco.” – Added by Aaron

“Rej narrowly escaped the lab with the samples he was hired to steal, and the with the proceeds he built his rivet gun.” – Added by Josh

Alanck: Warrior, Poet, Sage (Rodger’s novel)

“I tasted his memories… and they were bittersweet!”

“Once again, I saved the group from certain disaster against with my superior intellect foiling The Benefactor’s efforts against us”

“With the assistance of the daring robot pilot Wilco, the two plot and scheme to vanquish The Benefactor once and for all.” – Added by Gary

“Using his black ops experience, Kaliri helps to plot the assassination of and escape from The Benefactor’s complex using his amored personnel carrier.” – Added by Aaron

Kaliri Shadin and the Rite of Position (Aaron’s novel)

“Through strength and stealth, Kaliri fights his way through his trials to gain his place in the elite of Ikari special forces.”

“To improve his chances, Kaliri seeks outside sources of martial arts.  Jacob teaches the Ikat martial and mystical techniques from his Oeneran instructors.” – Added by James

“Dr. Ming Xu kept watching over Kaliri’s progress with keen interest, knowing the mechanical heart he provided him with would fail when it would most suit his own agenda.” – Added by Jamie

I laughed my butt off over this one.

It had never occurred to me that one player might try and screw over another in this process, but sure enough Jamie did it!  Now, I could see how this might be a cool storyline.  Aaron would have needed to be in on it though.  He was not.  And he was not happy about the development.

We’ll be making an adjustment to that bit of action before game day.  No stomping on other folks’ fun.

Despite this rather startling – yet amusing – development, it was good for the guys to get a sense of the other characters in the game as they develop their own.  I could have done a better job explaining the shared-background-development.  In fact, next time?  I will demo it.

Generating attributes, skills, edges, etc.  will all occur in email.  Next time… we game!