Let’s think of a general case for character creation. There are two approaches: qualitative, and quantitative.
In the quantitative approach, you generate some absolute numbers (randomly or by point-buy) and apply them to your character sheet according to what competencies you want your PC to have. Min/maxers, OSR players, and anyone thinking of generating a functional character to fill a niche in a party might take this approach.
In the qualitative approach, you start by thinking of the character you’re going to play, and what they’re good and bad at. Effete gothic artsy types might take this approach.
Of course this is gross stereotyping; it’s a guiding preference, nothing more1 and real people sit somewhere between the two poles. Anyway it doesn’t matter which end you started from or why; at some point in the process you’ll incorporate the elements from the other end and the result is a functional character. Hurrah!
I like RPG theory, but I don’t think it’s half as useful as identifying preference. Preference is what drives the GM’s customers–our players.2
I like Everway because it does character generation in a very simple but open way. I think whichever end of the preference scale a player begins at, they are encouraged towards the middle. The qualitatives–players who like to start with cards and images, as the book suggests–shouldn’t have a problem translating that to Elemental bias. The quantitatives have it even easier–they choose their Elemental skill set then structure their identity around it. It’s all pretty transparent.
I mentioned previously the one job a system must do is bring the PC to life. Now, as much as I love Everway it is not a granular system; it’s almost cartoonish in its application of four stats to define a hero. Much of the nuance of Everway PCs comes from the fortune cards picked as Virtue, Fault and Fate, the images the player selects, etc. The qualitatives will be satisfied; what about those literal-minded quantitatives?
The hero’s identity, their ability to influence the game world, is not just about the strongest element. It’s about priority given to the elements.
- The element they ranked highest is the area they want the highest level of competency. More to the point, they want their competency acknowledged by the game world, players and GM. It defines the PC.
- The second-highest element is not just a secondary competency; it’s also a modifier to the primary element. It also forms a key part of the PC’s identity.
- The third-ranked (second lowest) element is the least important. It’s something the player doesn’t want to be a deficiency, but it’s not strong enough to make it a factor in play. It’s the second cheapest wine in the restaurant.
- The lowest priority element is the real concern. It’s either a compromise (i.e. the player accepts a weakness, and de-emphasises it) or it’s a conscious expression of weakness that becomes a roleplay motif.
I imagined the City Accelerator using a four-axis system because people identify with the number four (including of course its elemental connotations). That’s a system of convenience designed to sort the high value from the low value detail and get the most from the city design–so by definition, you pay attention to the two highest priorities, and just ignore the others. That approach works for Everway characters, too.
The question then is how does the second highest rated element influence the behaviour and identity of the highest rated element? Since I’ve been banging on about combat in Everway, I’ll use the example of a fighter. With the highest priority in Fire, how do the other elements modify the character?
Let’s consider a rudimentary map, with Fire at the centre (as the highest priority):
Now consider how the player might see their character, depending on which element is the second-highest priority:
Some of these labels suggest how your fighter goes about fighting; others suggest history, a mental state, or a vocation.
Now consider how your fighter goes about fighting:
This is more focused on the act of combat. Some words will strongly affect the outcome in certain circumstances; others have absolutely nothing to do with the act itself, but could determine how the PC deals with the outcome (e.g. “Code”, “Empathy”).
Both of these are important for how a player sees their character, and how they present themselves when doing certain actions.
The goal here isn’t to teach experienced roleplayers to suck eggs–they know how to answer all these questions and present a solid, three dimensional character. I’m suggesting a way for the GM to invite the players to talk about their characters and present them as not only I am, but also I do.
There are 20 questions here to encourage thought about a character. There are five per element. To answer, consider how a dominant element might affect your action. For the questions where the character is strong in that element, the secondary element might come into play. For others, the character’s strongest element might dominate–but if it doesn’t, why not?
- How would I ride a horse?
- How would I climb a hill?
- What sport would I play?
- What musical instrument would I play?
- How do I fight?
- How would I address a crowd?
- How would I solve a puzzle?
- How would I stop an argument?
- How would I communicate if I didn’t know someone’s language?
- How do I look for information?
- How would I attract the opposite (or same) sex?
- How would I sing a song?
- What’s the first thing I look for or notice in a room?
- What do I like to read?
- What pet do I keep?
- How would I move a large object?
- How would I cook a meal?
- How would I go on a long journey?
- How would I build my house?
- How do I make money?
p>If you want to create new questions, why not adopt the spirit of the Everway vision cards? If the player has generated imagery, use it to inspire questions (because the player probably already has answers).
1. And if you think about it, the first decision a D&D player makes is “what class do I want?” which is a qualitative choice.
- I strongly believe this. I do not subscribe to the notion that the referee is simply “another player with a stewarding role”. We GM, we get adulation from our players, it strokes our egos. We should treat our players as customers.