thread: 2005-07-28 : The Ars Magica Knock-off Fishbowl

On 2005-08-01, Vincent wrote:


As a group, brainstorm a good list of characters-to-be, and then divvy them out amongst yourselves.

Nobody owns any characters yet, and won't for a while. Everybody will get a full share of them, not just one single character. Also we still aren't distinguishing between the GM and the other players (although we will later).

So now DON'T continue around the circle. Instead, the chronicler goes through the list of pressures, reading each out in turn. For each pressure, as a group you need to position at least three proto-characters.

Here's the rule: For each pressure, you need at least one character on the outside of the sanctuary and two characters on the inside. The proto-characters inside the sanctuary must be people who have to deal directly with the pressure.

When you're done with the pressures, list the touchstones. For each, you need at least one person outside the sanctuary who knows of the touchstone's and the sanctuary's existance.

Now list them all, by their positions only. That's what makes them proto-characters. "A senior wizard," "the captain of our guard," "the Manor Lord," "our second undercook," "our librarian," and the like.

Divvying Characters

Put the list of proto-characters where everybody can see it. Now go around the circle again.

On your turn, a) take ownership of a proto-character, or else b) underwrite a character that someone else has taken ownership of.

When you take ownership of a proto-character, you need immediately to begin to establish him or her as a character. That means you need to do some or all of the following:

1. Give the character a name.

2. Give the character personal details: age, sex, race, marital status, sexuality, parentage, parenthood, background (broad strokes only!)...

3. Say a few words in the character's voice.

4. Respond in character to someone else's new character.

5. Choose a second proto-character to be this same character, if there's one appropriate. (For instance, "a senior wizard" from one pressure might also be "our librarian" from another: take both if you think it's good!)

6. Attach the character to one of the mirrors - one of the characteristics of a mirror is that someone loves it, right?

7. Attach the character to one of the touchstones, or even a second touchstone.

When you underwrite a character, you're saying that you think the character's cool and you're excited to test her and see what she's made of.

Keep going around until every single proto-character is owned.

Drawing the Sanctuary

Somebody has to draw the sanctuary. This is the chronicler's first opportunity to pass responsibility. If she does so, the person she passes to becomes the new chronicler.

You'll need a pretty big piece of paper.

The sanctuary is a big circle. The pressures are wedges cutting into the circle. The touchstones are arrows coming out of the circle. The mirrors are points inside the circle.

Don't write in the characters, list them down the side.


Put related items near to one another - for instance, if you depend on a Norman English Manor across one of your touchstones for your staple foods, put that pressure and that touchstone close together.

Now, you used to draw a circle and arrows when you were creating a town in Dogs too, but you don't anymore. This drawing process might turn out to be the same kind of unnecessary - useful primarily to me while I figure out how to proceduralize.

The GM

This actually comes after character creation proper, but I'm'a tell it here anyway.

The chronicler chooses who'll be the GM, by looking at the list of who owns and who underwrites what. The GM should be the person who owns and underwrites, in combination, the strongest threats to the sanctuary.

(And you know that that will occupy many pages' worth of explaining.)

I think I figured out how to realize my ambitious vision. This is the first step!


This makes JN go "New players later?"
Fascinating character creation model. Hmm. Wouldn't it be good to leave a bunch of loose ends for new players to grab hold of later, or for people to snatch up when a story opportunity presents itself? How cool would it be for there to be mirrors linked to unknown-just-yet people, and such? Etc.

This makes Lud go "Manipulable Campaign Creation!"
I really like the drawings -- it gives something concrete and relatable to folks who are not linguistic/verbal thinkers (which is a whole lot of your potential audience). If possible, I'd add manipulables, too -- write the proto-characters on strips of paper and shift them around to 'assign' them to pressures and mirrors and the like.

This makes JN go "Outside Characters"
Can "outside characters" be in either the whole world, or another sanctuary? Thus, they're simply outsiders - not mundanes, right? Furthermore, must these outside characters be humans? What about ghosts, faeries or infernals, monsters, curses, etc?

This makes JN go "Step 7"
"Attach the character to one of the touchstones"... Hmm. Mirrors, by their nature, make for natural attachment to a character. But touchstones? What kind of attachment did you have in mind?

This makes JN go "Feedback loops..."
It sounds like there will often be a feedback loop between the characters described in this stage, and the mirrors described earlier. That is, this stage *sounds* like it'll create a LOT of characters. Which means that, possibly, our list of mirrors will need to be amended to compensate. No problem, but this process seems to have that kind of "all lists are open!" feel to it. Which is as it should be, yah?

This makes JN go "Or even index cards."
This is quibbling, but I tend to agree with Lud. Each of these objects seems like it would work on an index card: mirrors, touchstones, pressures, proto-characters. Each lists its creator, underwriter(s), and description. Arrange on a tabletop any way that makes sense until things gel, and then get written in the chronicle.

This makes HS go "GM swaps as threats/chronicler change(s)?"
The current and/or new chronicler could re-evaluate the strongest threats and pick a new GM?

This makes MH go "Very cool stuff"
...that's all :) Somehow feels like I'm watching ArM 2.ed, 2005 version. Feels good.

This makes Chris go "Stakes"
The biggest threat(s) to Sanctuary probably ought to be measured by the stakes presented by the threats. Obviously, as HS mentioned- reevaluation allows folks to change the biggest threats according to what happens in play. So a minor threat(causing doubt an dissent amongst the people) compared to a big one (Demons attacking!), could later grow into (threatens all out war in the Sanctuary) as it grows with time.

This makes...
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