mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Origin of fictional species.

I like hominids. A bunch. & so I'm trying to work them into my Oubliette campaign. Well, they have been worked into it, from the start. I've recently gone ahead & "revealed" that the Karnaks are Neanderthals. So that is one. I have some notions about others, but let me take a bit of a side-tactic to explain how my mind works. I was talking about this at lunch with Marie, & I used an allusion to haiku at my kick-off point. I like restrictive poetry. Working inside of strictures forces a text to sort of morph & mutilate itself, introduces chaos that can end up being strange & unknown fruit. The lateral thinking that you kick up to make square pegs & round holes ends up making a beehive of hexagons; things get crazy & organic. I use this to illustrate why I like to work game mechanics & story elements together. I like that the pomo nature of roleplaying games allows randomized numbers & mathematical simulations to effect the story; I don't want to abandon that, I want to work with it. I want elegance in design.

Well I bring this up because I'm wrestling with the species I want players to have available in the next campaign. A quick breakdown of World of Darkness character generation, typically: you have nine attributes, in three categories. MENTAL (Intelligence, Wits, Resolve); PHYSICAL (Strength, Dexterity, Stamina); SOCIAL (Presence, Manipulation, Composure). Skills are similarly broken down into MENTAL, PHYSICAL, & SOCIAL. People get to choose how they want to allocate points to their attributes by prioritizing categories; they have five dots to put in their highest category, four in their second pick, & three in their third (5/4/3). Within they can spread it out; if you pick Physical as your top, you could put four points into Strength & one into Stamina & be a real beefcake; if you did the same you could put four into Dexterity & be an acrobat; or whatever. Skills are separate from Attributes, but similarly laid out in priority, but this time 11/7/4. They don't have to match up; you could be the high physical attributes character who got a sports scholarship & worked really hard at college, thus having high mental skills; or you could be the serial killer with high social attributes & high physical skills (like melee fighting, stealth, larceny, etc). Besides all that, you get seven (7) points for "Merits"-- extras, from knowing special Kung-fu moves to owning a mansion to being the mayor of a city.

So, for shorthand, I could say humans are 5/4/3; 11/7/4; 7. With me so far? Good! So, in the real world, Neanderthals had bigger brain capacities than modern humans & where more robust. Okay; well, we're still within a pretty reasonable range here. On top of that, one of the prevalent theories of the moment regarding neanderthal extinction is that they were generalists; in particular, along gender lines. That is, there wasn't a gendered division of labor-- women didn't gather, men didn't hunt; they all hunted, & gathered along the way. Put your eggs in one basket, & a famine can really get you. Anyhow; even if this theory isn't right on, it does highlight the lack of sexual dimorphism & spurred me with an idea: what if the Karnaks (my advanced, non-extinct neanderthals) were generalists? Not just socially, but, well...mechanically. Sure, they had big brains, broad shoulders; what if that means that the average karnak/neanderthal was stronger than the average human...but the stronger human was...well, stronger. I wanted to leave some wiggle room in skills-- let characters be different, not just clones, & so for karnaks I ended up with 4/4/4; 10/7/5; 7. Totally a playable racial option! I might fine-tune it by messing with their Willpower or something, but there you go!

Alright, so who else do I want to have: I definately want to have Alphas, sort of "super people" by which I mean, taller, fitter, stronger, smarter. Whether they are super soldiers or bred messiahs or true nobility, that is immaterial, or rather, cultural. So okay, this is pretty easy to create rules for: you can sacrifice skills for more attributes. Using somewhat arcane mathematics (based on the cost of increasing skills or attributes after characters are created) I jiggered them around to 6/5/4; 9/5/3; 7. Less skilled, either through youth, inexperience, or reliance on natural (or unnatural) gifts, but big in the stats.

Easy peasy, right? Well! What is the next obvious correlary? Flip the math! More skills, less attributes. 4/3/2; 13/8/6; 7. Now I'm starting to get stuck. My first impulse was to make this the Demi, the starchildren, the space people. The remnants of a collapsed space faring civilization. Sort of the "couch potato" futurist idea; in the future, people will be dumb & weak, because all they will need to do is push a button or ride a train. Sure, maybe those people will be hyper specialized, will know all kinds of this & that, they've just...atrophied. I still might go with this impulse; my other idea is trogs, just make Homo erectus; & then give them, what, race memory? Have there be cavemen! Except well; H. erectus wasn't small or weak or even really dumb; their brain size overlaps modern man's at the upper reaches. Still; tricky, & probably not correct. So; lets say (in pencil) this is the Demi.

Then I guess the other option is: what about tons of merits? Something like 5/3/3; 10/5/4; 14. Whew! That is a lot of merits, isn't it! I was thinking about having this be the Demi; make it easy for the old race to have whatever, pet pterodactyls & ray guns & whatever. That being said, I'm sort of leaning towards this being the Cacogen, the...the people who are something...other. The tiefling-like cambion, virgin birth'd with horns & a tail. The attercop girl with six arms from a race of spider people. The homunculus made by an alchemist. With plenty of merits, they have room to be weird.

What other ideas do the rules naturally lend themselves to? How about exaggeration, imbalance? 7/3/2; 11/7/4; 7. & also the same for skills, 5/4/3; 15/4/3; 7. Or I guess you could combine them, but that way lies trouble, min-maxing. Too deeply flawed & broken. Well, one impulse says to make these goblins, or rather Hobgoblins & Goblins, respectively. On the other hand, I have the idea that I might rather have "Goblinoid" be a whole 'nother class of character generation, maybe even having all their rolls be 9s again with 1s subtracting (don't worry about it). I definately will be flipping their Virtue/Vice, so they receive Willpower opposite of other characters. Plus, having two goblinoid options is...probably too much; one would be enough. I can't say; I'm trying to think it out! Not to mention I would like to have Homo floresiensis & Homo erectus appear, maybe? I like hominids, like I said (which also feeds into liking there being a division between hominid & goblinoid...). Besides this, I like the idea of making a race that, rather than Mental/Physical/Social, distributes their attributes via POWER (Intellegence, Strength, Presence), FINESSE (Wits, Dexterity, Manipulation), RESISTANCE (Resolve, Stamina, Composure) but I don't know how different it would play or feel; might be a nice touch for a category like "Hominid" or "Goblinoid." Anyhow, these are the kind of things that keep me up.
Tags: house rules, oubliette, races, setting
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