One of the things that we often forget to do when we design games is to really put some of the mechanics through a practical run, and sometimes we design it without really giving voice to why we do things and stuff gets thrown in and kept even after its intended purpose is done.
With velotha’s flock, I wanted to do a quick overview of what makes a character unique and interesting with a character system that may, on its surface, seem to lead toward similar characters.
The Starting Point
Each character (korakthrope) has a core stat-block of Resilience 6, Violence 5, Allure 5, Swiftness 6, Techology 4, and Acumen 5.
The reason why I predispose the characters to having certain stats is simple; they need to have some things more than others in the game, and I want all characters to start at a certain point. Resilience is critical to staying alive; the game is very deadly in combat, and the PCs are supposed to survive more often than not (especially if they use their high Swiftness and natural abilities to get away).
Each archetype modifies a character’s stats by +2 to one attribute, +1 to two other attributes, and -1 to a final attribute. With the exception of the Fool, this can never overlap (and the Fool rolls at random).
Each archetype gives one strength and one weakness to a character; sometimes this is mechanical and sometimes it exists solely in narrative. The attribute bonuses also have fluffy descriptions (e.g. “+2 eager swiftness”) to put people in touch with the reasons why the characters do what they do.
One thing to note about archetypes is that I’ve been careful to steer away from Alignment-style stuff like you might find in D&D. They are strictly for changing numbers and giving special effects, and characters can play however they want despite their archetypes.
However, there’s the old adage about how having a hammer turns everything into a nail. Pinning down a character’s archetype from the start influences how they will make decisions in the future.
The inspiration for the archetypes system is, in part, Degenesis (which is an excellent game). However, in Degenesis the archetypes played a side-role and were often forgotten (though I rewarded my players for using them and they came up quite a bit).
In velotha’s flock, the archetypes are the single greatest factor in a character’s differentiation from others; that +2 bonus is quite meaningful on a scale of 4-9.
There are only three clan selections in velotha’s flock, and they’re each tied into the mystical nature of the korakthropes. There’s an Eden-Fallen World-Promised Land cycle playing out in the game, and the three clans are designed around that notion.
Each clan allows the players the choice of one of two abilities.
The Swiftwind clan is built on the notion of Eden (or rather its loss), and is fast but also forced to adapt to the mortal world, giving them either a boost when near death or an improved ability to pass as mortals.
The Aldbranch clan represents the Fallen World, with a natural synergy with violence and combat as well as manipulation. They are especially good at dealing with the supernatural enemies the korakthropes face, or noticing the difference between their world and the previous one.
The Summertwine clan represents the Promised Land, with songs that allow them to gather and speak to ravens and a song that improves everyone in combat.
Lifestyle is basically a +1 bonus to each of three attributes. This is actually relatively uninteresting, and is intended to serve as a final stage of mechanical differentiation more than anything else. However, as they are intended to serve as a sort of mortal occupation for the korakthropes, it gives a place where characters can define themselves.
Each PC has one role, a special duty they perform in the party. This opens up unique options for them in certain situations, or gives them a powerful boost that encourages them to play in a different way.
Right now I’ve got six written up, and they’ll probably change a little before official release (but maybe not, the Early Bird Edition is due next week).
Cleaner: Covers up messes, mostly by using mystic powers to erase memories and evidence.
Demon Hunter: Specializes in fighting the common enemies of the flock.
Elder: Established, conservative. Slightly stronger than others on a consistent basis by getting one free Token each session..
Fledgling: Encouraged to use Tokens, as they have a chance to not use them up.
Psychopomp: Speak with the spirits of the dead. Useful in many scenarios.
Seer: See mystical forces at work and identify demons for what they are, which is really nice.
Characters redistribute any attribute above 9 to an attribute of their choice. This gives another step for characters to go different ways, as even someone who chooses everything the same as another player will probably wind up with at least one ability above 9 and therefore get a choice to distribute differently.
PCs also get three abilities that are of use to various skillsets:
This is naturally useful to everyone else. Korakthropes can choose between a true form, a common raven form, and a human form. These invite a whole ton of opportunities.
This makes it easy for combatants to do their thing, but it also helps non-combatants who get hit in ways that would normally incapacitate characters with base or reduced Resilience while trying to flee.
Basically a save against death. This protects PCs from going under when they’re supposed to not die.