Back again with another tip on using something from a newer game in an older one.
One of the biggest problems in most games has to be how the party got together and how they know one another. One solution that I have used many times is actually from an Old-School blogger, It’s a file called 100 Reasons and can be found here:
But I would like to talk about an alternative that a lot of people actually seem to enjoy. Group character creation. I’m not talking about everyone making there characters at the same time and making sure the party is well rounded. I’m talking more about creating a little background story along with character creation. I don’t always riff off of FATE games but they do have a lot to teach. This time I want to take a look at the 5 phases of Spirit of the Century and how
you might use this to make characters in D&D or any other game for that matter a little more organic.
A word of caution though, this probably isn’t a very good idea in Old-School play as characters tend to die very often. For that I would recommend the 100 Reasons mentioned above.
Lets look at the phases and how they might be used for a normal game of D&D or Pathfinder. Of course in FATE games they want you to choose aspects and skills that are appropriate for the phase in question. You could use this to justify why you have ranks in a certain skill or perhaps why you chose a particular feat.
Phase 1: Background
This one is simple enough, where did you grow up, where you poor, are you an orphan (ahem). What did you do during your childhood up until your teens.
Phase 2: War
Spirit of the Century takes place after World War I. A lot of campaigns include a war of some sort. Ebberon for example. This doesn’t have to be world changing and could easily be something else.
Sample questions to answer are, what did you do during the war, which side were you on. Did you go awol. If there isn’t a war in your game it should be simple enough to replace this with some major event. Perhaps a small peasant uprising took place before the campaign.
Phase 3: Novel
This is where it gets interesting and a bit fun. Write a one line sentence of an adventure your character has done recently. Make it reasonable as you are 1st level, but you are above the 0th level people so you have a bit of leeway. Examples from a previous game of mine: “Saved a girl from a circus lion”. Another one was: “Courted a beautiful noble woman”.
Phase 4: Guest Star
Spirit of the Century ask now to write the previous “novel” down and shuffle them and pass them around. Write a brief sentence explaining how you took part in the other persons novel. Get creative this explains how you became friends or at least acquaintances with the other person. Examples from my game. The ranger drew the fighters novel about the circus lion. They decided that the lion escaped and cornered a small child in the market and they beat it into unconsciousness with whatever they had at hand. Not really anything to use as a plot seed but definitely something to raise a pint to. The other example was the rouge drew the bards novel of courting the noble lady. They decided that they were courting the same woman along with a third person. This person was a weasel and a con and ended up winning the girl over. They put aside the fact they were after the same woman and put all their hatred upon this third person. Now I had some type of villain to use. My first instinct was they were going to be summoned to court for an adventure and it would be this person giving the quest, since he is a noble now. They hated this, and I mean this
in the best way possible.
Phase 5: Guest Star
This phase is exactly the same as the phase above. It is just used to create a more tangled web of friendship. Some cases it is probably not necessary, as I didn’t use it in the game I am speaking of.
Hopefully this will give you some ideas to use besides “You are all in a tavern, you’ve been friends for as long as you can remember.” or the infamous “You seem trustworthy.”
As last time, anyone use anything similar before? Have any tips or improvements you would like to share? One last thing, what game should I mine for gold next? I would really appreciate any suggestions and nothing is off limits!
Great article! Phase 3 and 4 are especially useful.
Michael that is awesome… I always try to encourage connections during character creation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If I had to look back and think the campaigns where the players have been most effective at this, it was an old AD&D 2nd ed campaign where all the players knew each other somehow, and the current supers campaign where players even wrote introductions weaved together between some characters, some went as far as narrating the same event from different perspectives, all very cool.
I hand out XP bonuses for writing a story before the game begins, also for images and connections between players. The carrot on a stick has proven very effective.
Liking these posts very much!