Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Character Generation Project: Burning Wheel Gold

It's been a while, so if you don't know what this "Character Generation Project" thing is, follow this link. Steph wrote about her usual process here. If you want to see past posts in the project, there is a link in the sidebar to the right.

The questions are in bold text, Steph's answers are in plain text. My comments are italicized.

It's worth noting that there are two versions of the character sheet - one version is for short campaigns of a dozen or fewer sessions, the other is for longer games. We used the shorter version (in part because it's fewer pages and is, therefore, less intimidating for people new to the system).

Which game is this for?
This is one of those games that I really like. On paper. It's a game I desperately want to try to play sometime, however. I'll write more about it further in.
Note the empty "second" page, here?
Those blank sections are mostly used
for character advancement. Theoretically,
she should have 1 Fate and 1 Persona.

How long did it take you to generate the character?
2 hours

What was your character concept going into generation?
Cherie Littlebottom from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series  
When Steph told me this, I figured she was trying to make a character similar to Cheery Littlebottom. I hadn't realized that her goal was to exactly recreate Cheery.
A note on spelling, here: Sometimes it's Cheery, sometimes it's Cheri, and sometimes it's Cherie in Pratchett's writing. So the fact that Steph spells it one way and I spell it another is not an error on either of our parts. She was initially Cheery, but once she decided that presenting as female was not shameful, it changed. It may also bear noting that even Female Dwarves on the Disc are bearded, so the "Bearded" trait isn't even a little unusual for Dwarves.

Did you feel like character generation captured the flavor of the setting?
The setting seemed pretty divorced from the system, except for the life paths.
 This is a game that is very much like Dungeons & Dragons in that respect - while it doesn't include a setting, it is built around a set of specific setting conceits about how (for example) Elves and Dwarves behave (and interact with one another).
This is the second page of the sheet. It's where the
mechanical stuff appears - stats, skills, etc.
An interesting decision.

How much control did you feel like you had during character generation?  
A fair amount
Any time a character generation system is diceless, the player has more control over the outcome. This game has no random elements during character generation, and so Steph had complete control over her outcome - barring her wanting something crazy like having her Dwarf character take an Elf lifepath or something similar. As a GM, I might have allowed her to take the (human) City Guard path, had she asked - but she found paths that did what she needed without needing to ask for GM intervention.

Did the game help you make the character you wanted, or did it feel like you were fighting the game?
I felt like I had enough control to make the character happen.
This is both a strength and a weakness of lifepath-based character generation systems - sometimes, the path you want to take is supported by the system. Sometimes, you need to "jump the tracks" to get to the path you want. Burning Wheel has a way to "jump the tracks," but Steph didn't need to use it - her desired lifepaths flowed from one to the next seamlessly, and seem to have done what she needed them to do.

Do you like the character you ended up with?  

Do you think your character fits your concept?  

Do you feel like your character would be effective and/or useful in a game?  

Was there anything in particular that you struggled with mechanically?  
The layout of the book and the helpful worksheet didn’t match up, which led to a lot of flipping back and forth. The traits and skills weren’t spelled out particularly well, and took more time than I expected to figure out how to spend my points appropriately.
The "helpful worksheet" is the character burning worksheet from's wiki. Its steps six through eight are different from the steps six through eight in the book. They do the same thing, but in a different order.

Did anything run more smoothly than you had expected?  
Not really
But there weren't any huge obstacles, either, which is good. Especially as this is the crunchiest system we've done so far.

What changes would you have made to the character generation process?  
Having the worksheet line up with the sections of the book; having a clear explanation of what needs to be spent for each skill.
It doesn't help that the Burning Wheel guys use the most pretentious language throughout the book. It's - honestly - a bit off-putting.

Did anything leap out at you as obviously broken or unbalanced?  .

What led you to choose this game as the next one to make a character for?  
It’s a more character-driven game, as I understand it, and I am always looking for something of that nature.
Beliefs and Goals and Instincts having actual mechanical effect goes a long way towards pushing this game in that "character-driven" direction. In theory, any game can be character-driven, but very few games actually push character mechanically.

Looking at Steph's Beliefs, I think that "Presenting as Female should not be shameful" is one belief. "I will become a great Watch officer" is another. If I were running this as a game, I might ask her to split this into two separate Beliefs.

How would you compare your experience with this game to your experience with other games?
This took longer than I expected, and seemed more complex that I had anticipated.
This is the "crunchiest" game we've made a character for so far. In general, I tend to prefer games with "lighter" character generation - but a bit of crunch never did harm to anyone.

Is this a character you would be willing to play in a campaign?  
Worth noting: If I were to run a Burning Wheel campaign, I'd force her to make a new character, because I want to see her character, not Terry Pratchett's character. Although she could probably change the relationships and make this work.

Does this character make you want to play this game?  
I don't know if I've said this before, but I consider this to be the most important question that Steph answers on the questionnaire. Character Generation should always be one more hook into a game - if CharGen turns you off of a game, then it doesn't matter how good the game is or how smooth it is in play, you'll have lost a player before you even start. And this game requires a fair amount of player buy-in right off the bat.

Do you have any other questions, comments, etc.?  
I think the life path mechanics is a great way to open up the character generation process, and the beliefs and instincts are a solid bit of character development in-game as well.

Have you given any thought to what game you'd like to do next?  
Probably Star Trek
By Star Trek, she means FASA's old eighties version of the game, not Last Unicorn's or Decipher's versions - or even Prime Directive - although we do own all of the above (and I may ask her to attempt to re-create the same character in one or more, just to see what happens).

1 comment:

  1. You should give Far Trek a look. It's a free download, and it's got great talents like Ripped Shirt, Miracle Worker, and Redshirt (bring a dead character back to life by changing their name)