March 10th, 2004

userinfo senji
2004/03/10 22:32:00 - On character reification...
Well, imago seemed interested, so I'm going to assume you all are, but I'll be fiendly and write in an <lj-cut> tag anyway...

"On the process of moving a character from platospace to words on paper..."
...being a walkthrough of the processes my mind has gone through to create the character that I am currently creating.

Well, this odyssey started when requiem_17_23 said here on ToothyWiki that there would be a follow up to his Candle campaign. I had spent most of the year playing in another CURS campaign; All's Fair In Love And War; STed by ilanin, and I got the feeling that Candle II would be interesting.

Candle was the Solar Exalted campaign advertised as "The GM will screw the players over", however it soon transpired that the players did a good enough job on their own!

At this stage though, I had no emotional commitment to the campaign, although I did post a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment to the Wiki page. However, like these things do, the potentiality had got itself stuck in my brain, and within 24 hours I'd had an idea.

Usually my ideas are based about a single, reasonably simple concept, and once I've got the concept the next stages are a comparatively easy job of sticking numbers on it, exploiting clichés and subverting stereotypes.

Alicia from the Raven campaign was based on the concept of an unstoppable military type with so little understanding of risk that she got "promoted" to a desk job for excessive casualties.

However, in this case my seed idea was a story, or rather it was also the seed-idea for a story. Simple plotline really; young washout Dynast exalts as a Solar and has to flee his home, but is aided in this endeavour behind the scenes by another exalt (this time a Sidereal), whom his family thinks is a "normal" Dragon Blood, to escape because she knows what's going to happen.

Now, my first rule at this point is, to quote David Eddings, everything hangs on the name. Picking a name for a character is one of the hardest jobs after picking an idea; particularly since things often change a bit during the rest of the process, but by the time you come to the end it's too late to change the name to reflect those changes, because you've got used to it. This is why Kira ended up with light-blue (Air-Aspected) hair, despite having a name that means "Dark Haired" (my initial thoughts had her Water aspected, but her background sort of strongly suggested Air).

To aid me in the name-picking job I have a book of babies' names which usually lives on my desk at home. This time I was thinking at work though, so during my lunchbreak I used Google to find some Boy's Names websites, and plumped for Vasily (which apparently comes from the Greek meaning royal).

Meanwhile I've been thinking about the character of this poor kid. He's a bit of a doing-thinking sort of type (as opposed to a hitting-peoples type or a desky-type), which seems to make him naturally Twilight caste. And I can't see him being much of a shot with a bow, or a throwing knife, and no-holds-barred fighting really isn't his style. Since I feel that all characters benefit from some combat ability (particularly in the Exalted setting!) this leaves him with Melee (normal hand to hand combat) or Martial Arts (what it says on the tin).

So, thinking back to the story, Vasily probably has siblings and, given the age gaps between the children of Dragon Bloods, it seems reasonable that an elder sibling might be an Immaculate Monk.

Female Dragon Bloods take an entire year to bring a baby to term, and this is such a weakening experience that they typically have at most one child every five years!

A bit later I decide that he also needs an elder sister who's in training to be a Sorcerer, and name her Sofia. Anyway, the advantage of having an elder brother whose an Immaculate from character creation point of view is that he is likely to have encouraged Vasily's first moves towards learning Martial Arts, and can also have provided him with the means to learn the Dragon Blooded Five Dragon Style.

Exalted Martial Arts are more generic than other things, meaning that given suitable tuition any character can learn any style other than the (high-level) Sidereal ones. The standard Solar Snake Style isn't really suited for the application here though, and requiem_17_23 suggested the Five Dragon Style.

After a bit of agonising over names for this brother he gets called Alexey.

So far Alexey has no further role to play in this process. Sofia got created because I needed someone of a similar power level for Vasily to run into whilst leaving their home, since either of his parents would have a good chance of capturing or killing him when he is unsure of his powers. This incident provides an important insight into the way his mind works, as he is unwilling to leave Sofia until he is sure both that she won't follow him, and that she won't die of the wound he inflicted on her.

As you can probably tell, by this point I've got a fairly good idea of the basics of what makes Vasily tick, and I've written this story (which hasn't had any proofreading or revision, it's just a dump of thoughts onto page).

Now to numbers on the page. Here, we start off with what we know. In this case I've pretty much already determined Backgrounds. I have 7 points to spend here, and they go:
  • Artifact: 2 (Butterfly Automata Assassin)

  • Mentor: 2 (Kira)

  • Resources: 2
This leaves me with a point left over. Depending on what requiem_17_23 thinks this might want to join the other two in Mentor. Alternatively, I note that if Vasily was actually the Dragon Blood that his Dynastic background would suggest then he'd have Breeding: 2, however this background has no statistics advantage to a Solar, but it might make sense to spend my last point there as a nod to that. (This breeding has the side effect of giving Vasily slightly green skin, and green highlights in his hair). I decide to leave this last point until later.

Next up we think about Attributes (that is things like Intelligence and Stamina). All attributes start at 1, then you have 8, 6 and 4 points to divide between the Physical, Social and Mental attributes. Vasily's choice of weapon requires him to have a Dexterity of at least three (above human average), and I need to have Stamina at least 2 to give him an unarmoured soak against bladed weapons. I can see arguments for each possibility between 2 and 4 so I shelve this question, deciding only that the physical attributes should get the 6 points. Since he's the thinker-doer Twilight caste I probably ought to put the 8 into the Mental grouping, and (after being reminded that most Sorcery is Perception-based) I divide those so he gets Perception and Wits 4, Intelligence 3. Social-wise, he seems to be a quite likeable chap, but rather straightforward; which suggests putting no extra points into Manipulation, and dividing the other two equally between Charisma and Appearance.

Charms is one of the 'magic' systems of Exalted. They're kind of like D&D3e's feats, except you get more of them, and they have complex dependency trees.

At this point I stop and think about what his "Signature" Charms should be, since meeting the ability requirements of those will be important. We've already decided on the Five Dragon's Style for Martial Arts, so checking that I note that all of the first four have a MA minimum of 3, and the Form charm has an MA minimum of 4. Form charms are generally a good think in MA trees, so I make a mental note that MA 4 might be good, but I need to spend Bonus Points to get an ability above 3, and don't want to do that at this stage. I pencil in two MA charms on my charm's list.

Stealth is going to be my other major out-of-Caste ability at this point, so we look at those charms next. Two of these would be nice as well, and the choice of the first one is easy, since this tree has a single root. However I have a choice of the second, between two quite plausible looking charms. Mental Invisibility Technique has a higher Stealth minimum (4), but it is the prerequisite for Vanishing from Mind's Eye Method which is really quite funky (and which Kira would approve of), so I make a mental note that if I've got the Bonus Point to spend on Stealth then I'll get that.

Two other things I definitely want are the Craft charm Flawless Handiwork Method (minimum 1) and the Occult charm Terrestrial Circle Sorcery (minimum 3). TCS enables one to cast Spells (the other major 'magic' system). Spells are purchased during character creation as if they were charms, and I pencil in for two of them; Death of Obsidian Butterflies (that Vasily has seen Sofia cast), and one or the other of Infallible Messenger and Emerald Countermagic (which do about what they say on the tin). At this point I've used up 8 of my 10 starting charms, and I think it would be wise to leave the other two until the end. If I wanted I could purchase additional charms with Bonus Points, but I'll consider that later.

Every Solar has 5 Caste abilities (determined by their caste), and 5 Favoured ones (chosen freely from the other 20). Advancement in these abilities is easier and cheaper. We're evidently going to want MA and Stealth, but I haven't decided on the other three yet.

I have 25 points to spend on abilities, but I've already used most of them! Since Vasily is a dynast I'd like to start with the dynastic minimums which use up 10 of them, and the minimums I've already mentioned use up another 9. The remaining six I put into Awareness, Dodge, Survival, Investigation, Medicine and an additional point into Lore; most of which are for the simple "surely he must know some of this to have been surviving on his own, hiding" reason. At this point I realise that I've not given him any dots in Linguistics, which means that he only knows one Language, his native one, which will be either High or Low Realm. However, to do Sorcery he must have Old Realm, and it would be unusual for a Dynast to not know both High and Low, so I use up two of those Bonus Points for points there (actually, since Bonus Points are cheaper to use in Favoured or Caste Abilities I note that two of the points I put in Stealth were from this source instead).

This just leaves me (other than the stuff that I've deliberately left uncertain) with Bonus Points and Virtues. I'll do Bonus Points first because they're comparatively easy now. I have 15 of these, and I'm going to start out spending 7 on Essence. Essence is a measure of how in-tune with creation and its natural energy flows you are, and some of the Charms I want require an Essence of 3 (the default for Exalts is 2). I've also already spent two points on Abilities, so that leaves me with 6 points remaining, which could buy me two more Virtue dots, or some more abilities and a Virtue dot, or lots more abilities. At the moment I'm leaning towards a Virtue dot, a MA dot, a Stealth dot and two Specialties, but that's subject to change.

Virtues are four ratings that sort of define the character's character -- Compassion, Conviction, Temperance and Valour. There are 5 points to be divided between them and again you aren't allowed to go above three in each one without spending bonus points. I feel that Vasily is very closely balanced between Compassion and Conviction as his guiding virtue(s), so put two points into each to make them 3. He doesn't appear to be particularly Valourous, so the last point goes into Temperance. As I noted above I could spend the rest of my Bonus Points on two more virtue dots, which would be Compassion and Conviction; however I feel that requiem_17_23 would probably kick me if I tried to have an even vaguely Sorcerer character with Willpower 8 (Willpower is an important resource for Sorcerer, and starts at the sum of your two highest virtues), and I also don't feel that I can have one at 4 and one at 3, so the extra point I am thinking of taking will go in either Temperance or Valour; and I'm still weighing up which.

The other side to Virtues is that the Solars have been cursed. The form of this curse is that when they witness or do one particular thing related to their highest virtue a lot then they crack, and end up being governed entirely by that virtue, or it's antithesis. (Thus a Compassionate Solar might try and save people from danger regardless of personal safety). However the problem I have here is that this will require me to break the Compassion/Conviction symmetry, so I've yet to come up with a good 'VirtueFlaw'. The other thing I have to do is decide which of the various Natures fits Vasily best (your Nature is essentially your most fundamental way of reacting to situations, like being a Follower, or a Critic).

So, as yet this character isn't finished in even a statistics-on-paper sense, but he's quite close; and I already feel that I know how he's reacting to things.
Current Mood: [mood icon] accomplished
Current Music: 100 Reasons -- Answers

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userinfo hesadevil
2004/03/10 15:05:13
Senji, I think something has gawn awry with your cut tag. I'm not seeing all your entry and it is spread across an incredibly wide (requiring horizontal scrolling) screen.

Perhaps your typo where you wrote I'll be fiendly has something to do with it? LOL
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userinfo senji
2004/03/10 15:13:28
Hmm, I knew that being clever would get me problems. Are you using the "style=mine" thingy? If so try reading it in my style:

Otherwise, which web browser are you using?

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userinfo hesadevil
2004/03/10 15:16:36
I can see everything fine now, and I haven't changed anything.

Don't understand what you've written, mind you, not being steeped in whatever it is you are doing here. (It has something to do with creating characters, that much I get - otherwise nada.)

Have a good evening.
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On character reification... - Squaring the circle...

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