Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bethorm - making the first character

What a better way to get to know a rules set, and to get a feel for the book than to make a character! I took the dive, and Biyúnu hiViridáme was the result. Here are some thoughts that arose through the process.

There are eight different sections in chapter three, character generation.
  1. Clan
  2. Personal Info
  3. Religion
  4. Attributes
  5. Personal Traits
  6. Skills 
  7. Defence Values
  8. Contacts
I find it interesting that stats or attributes come first on the fourth step. So, first it starts with your clan. Anyone who knows even a little about Tekumel knows that its social structure is not like your pseudo medieval fantasy at all. The individual is not the central social unit, but the clan. Here is the first step wherein you have to start looking ahead in the book, and then go back again. You have a attribute called Prestige, and it's a sum of your clan influence, and your professional influence. But, you wont know the latter until much later in the procedure. To be fair, this is actually noted in the rules, that you will have to go back and forth a bit.

The step where you note down your personal information is where the prudes and close minded people who raged about D&D5 and its gender and race inclusiveness gets to go bananas. If you like you can roll on tables to get to know not only the biological sex, but also the gender identity and gender expression of your character. I'm almost disappointed the dice gave me such a middle of the road result.

Naturally the step about Religion will matter. Tekumel is, like Glorantha, not only a game where the gods are real, but religion affect all social interplay and interaction. This is my first stumbling block. To me, the gods of stability varies from staid and bland to slightly attractive and convincing in their outlook. Nothing really sticks out, and it feels like classic rpg pantheons. Then there's the gods of change, which varies from the grotesque to the repulsive. I have something of a hard time understanding why anyone would worship them. But, it's part of what makes Tekumel attractive, to make sense of its very different social mores. I also note that the author of Bethorm suggest most people are not all that ideologically engaged in their religion. Might make sense.

When we finally come to the stats it turns out there are not that many of them. Traits and Skills are also very unsurprising. It's a classic Advantage/Disadvantage system, and skills strongly based on their dependent stat. I did find the list of the former fewer than expected, and the latter more numerous than expected. By not focusing too strongly I managed to buy 7 skills.

Since Defences are bases on your skill rankings, it makes sense you calculate them after you have bought skills. But, I have a hard time figuring out exactly how it's supposed to work. Are your Melee Defense based on the lowest of those skills listen? An average? The highest? Dependant on what you use in a particular situation? This section could have been clearer.

Finally we have the most involved section, Contacts. Remember how I mentioned Prestige was something you had to go back and forth to calculate? Now you get to do it again, for every contact you buy and stat out. Sure, you can skip on the stat out part for them, but you need to figure out their clan, if they belong to a certain lineage and go all the way to the end of the book to find the listing of professional ranks. I think I managed to get the costs right on my three contacts. This probably is where a newcomer to Tekumel will stumble a bit. What kind of character do you want as a contact? Many different clans? All walks of life, or people who can help you professionally. The GM will have to guide their players a bit there I think.

After all that, Biyúnu hiViridáme the arrogant and hot headed merchant negotiator novice and worshipper of Hrü'ü was finished!

There are a few things in the character generation process I find interesting. The first thing you encounter is the clan. Before you even know a thing about your character you will decide what clan she belongs to. Then there's the Advantages/Disadvantages. I'm not sure I like them any more. Back when me and my friends generated characters for Ars Magica 2nd ed. we all thought it was great fun. One legged dwarfs, colourblind and with deadly enemies as well as humongous skill ratings gained from those odd ball flaws. Good times. But, there are some good hooks for role playing in there.

Finally, though, there are the contacts. It's interesting that those are not a Advantage you buy, but something everyone has. It kind of squares the circle doesn't it? You start with the social context, and end with the social context. If there's one thing character generation does, it is pointing the players in the direction for the playing of the game. This way it's emphasized that a lonely individual in Tekumel is an anomaly. If there's one thing I'm missing, that would be the "Fate fractal", where everything can be thought of as a character, with Aspects and Skills. Since that idea took root in my brain, any kind of social role playing makes me want to add stats and skills to organizations. Maybe it can be done within the confines of Bethorm, I have actually not thought that through until the end.

It was fun making a character! To exercise the system I will probably try to make a spell casting priest as well. But, that's all for now.
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