Thursday, December 10, 2015

Paradise Island Character Generation Q&A

Posting this here as not only is it an easy link but some of you guys from overseas might be legitimately interested in how I do it as well.  Caution, though, this is a long one.

Advanced Warning: Grand Adventure!  Strange Mysteries!  Long dead civilisations!  This is not a game of gothic horror and terrible tragedy.  It is far more Magnum P.I. and Tomb Raider than a game of withering moral decay and inscrutable elders.  This is a low-powered primarily cooperative cross-genre campaign which departs from canon in many places. 

The game set on a tropical island where tensions between a few wealthy western resorts and the nearby slum city are at an all-time high.  It is a low-powered game where all supernatural characters enter with a base sheet while hunters gain extra dots in skills, attributes and merits and where the asymmetry between the power levels of certain character types is embraced as just another layer to the setting.  While PvP will certainly exist, it should be kept reasonably low level with social interplays, love triangles and petty rivalries taking the place of high level murder, treachery and annihilation of one's opponents.
Due to the very specific feel of this setting, there will be a few additional restrictions on character generation.  In part this is because in a game of potentially only 2 - 3 creatures of your type, you don't need to dilute the special nature of your species with further divisions such as covenant affiliations.  In part it is also to keep the asymmetry of the game from reaching staggering proportions -- which is why you can't start with a skill above three OR ever purchase the fifth dot in any supernatural power.


What creatures can I play?

Vampires and their ghouls (Blood & Smoke).  Werewolf: the Forsaken.  Geist: Sin Eaters (referred to as necromancers in this game).  Mage: the Awakening.  Changeling: the Lost. Demon: the Fallen (nWoD conversion).  Demon: the Descent.  Hunter: the Vigil (limitations apply).

I want to play a villain!  Can I?

Full PvP is possible, but villainous characters and treachery are likely to be short-lived as there are just too many routes to discovery and too little incentive to meekly accept a monster as an ally.  Bear in mind that many players who adore playing the villain often find the inevitable and often untimely and unceremonious defeat of their character rather aggravating.  No enemy that runs up against a dozen characters and deals with them on a day-to-day basis is likely to last long.  Creating an unassailable villain that cannot be dealt with by an entire group of PCs is not only highly unlikely in a cross-genre game but also incredibly boring and frustrating for everyone concerned.  You can portray a villainous NPC, however, whenever I need cast for them.

What about competitive PvP?

Go for it.  Portraying a bitchy character, rivalry for an NPC's affection, competition for authority or clashing over territory adds all kinds of zest.  Even relatively benevolent and friendly rivalries are great entertainment.  You could make one-sided deals, do little dodgy experiments such as coaxing a vampire to drink a coke, or otherwise make your own entertainment.  All of that is great stuff.  There's also nothing to say you can't be a bit suspicious of another supernatural type so long as you accept that they'll be sticking around.  Murder, frequent violence (primarily against non-regenerating targets like changelings, demons and humans), major theft from other party members and treachery will probably end with you dead or exiled. 

I've read the various character type documents.  Why so many restrictions?

Most games let you use pretty much everything in one game line.  This game lets you use most things in several game lines.  In a way, it's less restrictive than most.  Also while a certain amount of asymmetry between character types is expected, all characters need to feel relevant and for this game to really shine there's a certain style that needs to be followed during character generation.

Can I play a vanilla human?  No endowments?

It's one thing to play a less *powerful* character, it's another thing entirely to *only* have skills and attributes to fall back on -- especially if you're also playing someone with no extraordinary knowledge and skills to back them up.  You'll find your character swiftly becomes completely redundant because unfortunately a pure mortal (unless it's a set up for a sudden transformation later on) isn't going to offer anything that a supernatural can't since skills start to take a back seat when super powers can duplicate many of a skill's effects.  If you want to play ordinary human beings then I recommend joining as Cast because while a single mortal will find it hard to stay relevant each and every session, a dozen mortals will always have *something* to do and can create a myriad of meaningful stories that will allow you to explore being perfectly normal in an abnormal world.  And I can always use new cast!

So I want to play a supernatural who is also a military / scientific / law enforcement official with this really epic backstory….?

Sorry, let me stop you there.  Unless you're human, you need a mundane backstory.  The more ordinary your character's human history, the more incredible and fabulous the transformation into a supernatural will feel.  Finally your character is no longer ordinary!  Finally they are something special.  It's one of the few perks humans get and, more importantly, an epic back story means your character's colourful past will overshadow their present and potentially that of everyone else in the game.  Naturally changelings get a little more leeway during their durance but that's largely because much of their durance history is both blurry and fake.  After all, a changeling could *think* they were a fantastic physicist or epic engineer in Arcadia but what are the odds the Keeper bothers with real physics anyway when one can substitute math for magic.

So if the epic jobs are out, what's left?

Massage therapist.  Fire stick juggler.  Crèche worker and children's entertainer. Concierge.  Receptionist.  Swimming instructor.  Tour guide.  Tourists of various stripes.  Bartender.  Mechanic.  Taxi driver.  Gift shop clerk.  Tiki hut cleaner.  Artist.  Electrician.  Construction worker.  Cook.  Dancer.  Surfer.  Parent working two jobs.  Fisherman.  Boat pilot.  Charity fundraiser.  You get the idea.

What nationalities can we belong to?

The resort island is off the coast of Indonesia but was considered a little too far out of the way during the first tourism boom of the seventies and so after a decade it became really run down.  There's no one native to the island but there are second generation (and a few third generation kids) from those imported to work the tourism angle and then later a few cheap factories during the eighties when tourism slumped.  While rich tourists can be of any nationality, they will be mostly Indonesian, Singaporean, Malaysian, Chinese, Australian, and Japanese with French, German and UK visitors representing Europe and only a small proportion of Americans.  Some research into the cultural habits and demographics of your nationality would be good.  The poorer workers living here are primarily Indonesian and Chinese, who are incredibly reliant on the tourism trade and factories here as they can't afford to move.  You can read more about tourism over here:

How much experience points do I get?

Nada.  None.  Zip.  You're all meant to be very basic characters.  Hunters will get free dots in a few different fields but everyone else gets base sheets.
Can I have mortal relatives or friends?

Sure!  Buy them as a contact to reflect your connection to them.

Can I have servants or bodyguards as retainers?

Nope.  Focus needs to be on the PCs.  You can still have staff portrayed through your resources and can buy favoured ones as contacts but anyone you want to have a lot of connection to should be a PC.

VAMPIRE: What if I have a ghoul?

You won't know how to do that.  Unless you convince another player to be your ghoul and then we can have them be created by your sire as a gift so that you don't know how to make new ones straight away.

VAMPIRE: Can I blood bond someone to gain their loyalty?

You won't know about that property of your blood and the hunters may have some pretty white lies to tell you about that.  This is probably for the best.  Knowing your friend can wrap you around their finger forever with a few drops of blood is the best way to generate paranoia towards your character.  Something for later seasons, perhaps.

Can I have a supernatural mentor?

Nope.  That's what the hunters get to be.  All sires will be dead or missing.  No werewolves to teach you the ropes.  No changeling freehold to join.  The supernatural population of sentient creatures (i.e. playable races) will be almost entirely PC.

Why would we listen to hunters?

Simple, I'm only referring to them as hunters because they're from the Hunter: the Vigil book.  You'll know them as human experts in the supernatural who can help you understand what's become of you.  Until very recently, you thought of yourself as a human (for most of you, anyway) so you shouldn't have an in-built fear of other human beings.  Don't worry.  It's no longer a sin for werewolves or changelings to reveal themselves to mortals anymore.  In fact, where possible I'm removing the morality traits from every creature.  I might do something different with Harmony.  I haven't decided yet.

How fresh are we anyway?

All of you will be less than a month old as a supernatural (hunters excepted) with a preference for characters being between a week to a few hours after their change.  Changelings will be able to regain their old lives and will only have been missing for less than six months (no fetch) of real time though years may have passed in Arcadia.  We'll include everyone's preludes during the workshop process to ensure that people have some encounters with each other before their change as well.

Can I have been a ghoul / wolfblooded and get knowledge that way?

No.  No prior supernatural knowledge for your characters that would help them out.  Naturally minor encounters that fit the change can have occurred but you mustn't give your characters too much context.  A necromancer (i.e. sin eater) might have had to avoid graveyards and ghost tours pre-death due to a creepy feeling they always got.  A werewolf might have been sure they were being haunted shortly before their First Change because of spirit activity.  However no one mentored you in what happened beforehand and you don't get to know anything fancy.  You learn in-game.

Can I know pop culture references?

You sure can.  In fact, I absolutely and 100% encourage basing your knowledge off television and mythology where you can.  I might even change up the canon a little bit to make certain things true.

VAMPIRE: Won't I be forced out of sessions that happen during the daytime?

No, vampires will be given daylight rings by the Loyalists of Thule which allows them to spend a blood to stay awake and safe during the daytime.  They won't have access to any blood buff or disciplines during this time, but can still remain the tanks of the operation through quick healing and the fact they take bashing from most sources.

Can I enhance humans with my powers?
Yes.  Ghouldom is the only exception as it would wipe out their endowments, but you won't know how to do that, so it's fine.

VAMPIRE: Can I Embrace a mortal human?

You won't know how to do that so it'll probably end badly.  So please don't.  Unless the PC has entered into play to be your childe.  Then that could be amusing.

WEREWOLF: What about lunacy?  Will that affect the hunters?

Nope.  Lunacy will still be there, but won't affect anyone with a supernatural template or the Sleepwalker merit, which all of the hunters will have for free.

WEREWOLF: Won't pack separate me from the other supernaturals?

Other supernaturals and mortals can join your pack.  However they can't add to your Totem Spirit though they can reap some of the benefits.  Your totem spirit will be more of an adorable ally, though, rather than a heavy hitter.

WEREWOLF: Will I start with any renown?
Nope.  The first three dots will still be free but you'll need to earn it in-game, just like with everyone else.  It should be fun!  Don't worry I'm not depriving you of your free stuff just because "realism".  I'm doing it because it's a fun element of being a werewolf and will make it my mission to ensure that your pre-selected free dots are activated / earned in-game within the first month.

MAGE: Will I start with any rotes?

Yes, and no.  You won't enter play with them but you'll still get the six free dots to assign that you'll then need to learn in-game.  Let me know what rotes you want and I'll ensure they get to you in the first grimoire you find.  You'll need to find other grimoires to learn more rotes or spend considerable time researching them.  Again I'm happy to be guided by what you, the player, want to find but I'll also sprinkle around a few scrolls and the like to be gathered up and enjoyed that will discuss other rotes which may also provide greater knowledge of the island's secrets.

HUNTER: Will I get to pick my conspiracy?

You are all Loyalists of Thule.  You are also all ex-agents of other conspiracies.  At least other Loyalists think you are.  Is it true or not?  Who knows where your loyalties currently lie?  You can have been a member of the Cheiron Group, Lucifuge, or VASCU agent.  Alternatively you could be a pure Loyalist of Thule and take Relics as an endowment (typically belonging to another group who won't be included here).  Alternatively you can pick certain psychic merits and even low-rank rotes to fashion your own Endowments as a long-standing Loyalist so long as they fit an aesthetic and are no more powerful than Castigations.  No cheese.  This isn't a cheesy game. 

WEREWOLF: Does this mean I can't enter the Hisil much because no one can follow me?
You can turn loci into temporary verges to allow non-humans to cross.  You can then roll Intimidation so that all Hard to Ride mortals (i.e. hunters) won't be possessed by any spirits so long as they remain relatively near you.

CHANGELING: Can others enter the Hedge with me without getting torn to shreds?

Depends on the region of the Hedge you're hoping to enter.  Mostly they'll be fine and in the places where they wouldn't be you would also be under more threat than usual.  Luckily there'll be hedge fruit or trifles that can help you through.  You'll also have the Mirror Realm to worry about and that will sure be fun.

Will we still have rules booklets?

Yes, but it'll be doubly important to know what your powers do even if you don't know the mechanics behind them.  There'll be an in-game tutorial as part of your prelude and training by the Loyalists of Thule but from that point on it's up to you.  Since you won't have much in the way of experience points, you won't have so many powers to worry about though.

Can I buy five dots in a fighting style?

While tempting this would go against the idea of playing an ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary world. Unless you're a hunter, then you can go for it though I'd recommend prioritising ranged over melee since you'll be awful squishy.  Well, until the mages get enough Arcanum to cast a shield over you.  Then you'll only be as squishy as the mages.

What if I want to be a lone wolf and avoid others out of suspicion?

A logical reaction to the situation, but it's a LARP so you'll need to create a LARP character.  If changelings can justify joining Freeholds and vampires can justify going to court gatherings despite all the risks at either, I think you can justify hanging out with a bunch of randoms and clinging to them out of fear and confusion.  This is the character generation phase so "But it's what my character would do!" won't rub.  Create a new character.  One who'll give you a reason to attend the LARP.  Be suspicious, sure, but attend the gatherings and get involved or else you'll find yourself on the outside.  Those in the know (i.e. hunters) will have their hands too full to devote themselves full-time to encouraging your character to stick around.

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