On prescriptive and descriptive character-generation, where's the line?

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So the I present the Playbooks as "this what you get, and you get what's in here". Then everyone seems to enjoy making the characters, and Hx is almost always a blast*.

*) note: I haven't made characters more than 4 times, 75% is still good


So the Angel who considered making a backstory of delivering drugs to the population was told that he couldn't (start with it established). The Battlebabe who wanted a bar had to work (unpaid) there. I'm sure you can think of other examples from your own campaigns.


THE SET-UP: So in a game, after Hx is done and a scene were the Chopper beats up the Hocus and chooses to "impress, terrify or dismay" the Player of the Hocus instigates a scene were he tries to establish that they (the brothers!) have had a regular sexual relationship. The Player of the Chopper ups-the-ante and exclaims that it's the other persons turn. If there's pity on anyone, it's the player in the middle of the sofa.

However, and here's THE QUESTIONS: Where's the line between colourful character-building and shamelessly steeling authorship outside the Playbook?  I feel like that's not only  a way to break the archetype of the playbook, but it lesses the rules.

In Burning Wheel I've learned that a "generous GM" really lesses the character-building if she just let's everyone have shoes, clothes and a sword. Should I be worried - and more strict with the "this is what you get"-speech, or should I let players walk over the Playbooks to enhance their own enjoyment (at the expence of balance/and possibly others?)


I know groups that would not have enjoyed if I insited that my character and another had (any) sexual relations, though it happing in play is cool.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 11:23:51 AM by Maleficum »

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noclue

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I think you may be worrying too much about this stuff. Why do I care if the Battle Babe has a bar? Heck even with a maitre'd in the game with a rival bar. It's not like the BB gets any of the benefits from the other playbook. It's just a thing the BB has that's fodder for questions and fuckery. "How did you, a battle babe, acquire a bar? Who'd you kill or fuck to get it? What are you going to do about the other bar in town, its not like there's enough jingle in this place for the both of you?"

And the Angel is running drugs you say? Awesome! "So Core, what do you think Millions is going to say when she learns that you just ran out of jellybeans? More to the point what is she going to ask Balls to do to you?"

I mean, the game tells you to look for places they're not in control and push there. So they have a thing. So what?
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

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noclue

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There does seem to be something uncool going on in the Chopper/hocus interaction. At the very least, if a sexual relationship didn't come out of Hx, where did it come from? The Hocus can't create a relationship out of thin air. The GM might be able to get there through provocative questions, but there's no support for just declaring something true about another player's character.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER


Sure there is: you say 'hey, how about this thing is true about our characters' relationship?' and then the other player is like 'no, that doesn't make sense' or 'sure, okay' or some in-between variation.

I would also be reluctant to give the Battlebabe a bar, but having them work at one seems fine. Same with the Angel delivering drugs -- that sounds super juicy for fuckery. The 'gigs/moonlighting' combo is not the only way to have a job in AW, it's just the most mechanically clear-cut.

The reason 'having a bar' seems like too much mostly has to do with the status quos of AW. In my experience as both MC and player, it is challenging to create backstory for your character in a way that does not start to look like a status quo -- players tend to describe their character as always having been doing this one thing, or having been in the area for years and years, or having owned that bar since they were two, or whatever.

So it's fine to let people start with a job ongoing, but it's important as an MC to immediately put that under pressure in a way that suggests that it is impermanent and tenuous -- and since it's not really part of what makes the character, you can push way harder than you would if you were threatening an Operator's gigs or a Maestro D's establishment. Similarly, if the Angel weathers the difficulties with her drug-smuggling/distribution scheme for long enough -- either long enough to get an advance and buy 'gigs', or long enough that they have descriptively secured that activity -- then that should go on their character sheet and your attitude towards it should shift a little bit.

Because now they've earned it, basically. Playbooks start with some stuff pre-earned, but they also tend to point towards other things (with the Hx moves, generally.) If a player seems like they're trying to grab a lot of stuff in chargen that they haven't earned, then sure, you CAN just be like 'whoa, dial it back, that's not on your sheet' -- but you can also take it as the player establishing what their initial goals are going to be as a PC, and bring some MC pressure to bear until we find out whether or not that's really something they can pull off.

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Sure there is: you say 'hey, how about this thing is true about our characters' relationship?' and then the other player is like 'no, that doesn't make sense' or 'sure, okay' or some in-between variation.
Well, yeah if you're going to be all mature and discuss stuff and things.

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The reason 'having a bar' seems like too much mostly has to do with the status quos of AW.

My only problem with it is that it makes me question if the player really wants to play a battlebabe.

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In my experience as both MC and player, it is challenging to create backstory for your character in a way that does not start to look like a status quo -- players tend to describe their character as always having been doing this one thing, or having been in the area for years and years, or having owned that bar since they were two, or whatever.
I guess I just think this is a function of what questions the MC asks and when they decide to stop asking them.

"So, Azure this bar you've inherited from your father. Why hasn't Ralf come down with his hitters and put you out of business? Ah, you pay regular then? He must like that...so, when you woke up this morning to find the place had been rolled...where was it you used to keep your jingle by the way?...anyway, why would someone trash your place? Really? Jackson hates you that much...but would he really have strung Mouse up from the rafters like that, I mean she was your bartender and everything, but I thought everyone in town treated her like their big sis...Jackson must really want to put the hurt on you. When was it that Ralf was coming around for his cut again? Wonder how you're going to pay him this week.There's no way you're serving anyone without any hooch, let along unbroken seats."
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Only thing I would have an eye on is to keep things scarce. In my first game as MC I allowed the players a lots of cool stuff they authored in the world and - while it was cool - it was hard to keep up the scarcity as most immanent threat. So, yes, the BB has a bar, but its really only a broken shed, a table and some dirty glasses - barf apocalyptica.

Oh .. and one player in said game wasnt as creative and didnt get so much cool assets and felt left behind later on. I didnt realized that in time, but it came back to bite me later.


Thanks all! The last bit is what I'm worried about to, and off course retrofitting is a powerful storytelling tool which really is just magic for/to attain "what I want now".

The stuff about characters doing and having stuff regardless of moves is important. But there's setting-building and wish-listbuilding. The driver can have take a move to have a tank, but the gunlugger could easily make an apocalyptic-imagery-friendly backstory of travelling in a tank. Would that be allowed?

I'm thinking about, and realizing, that there's no "line" as the line is regulated by the playgroup and the current game-aesthetics. It's an interesting and important question to ponder, though. Thanks again for all help.


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Nic.W

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The stuff about characters doing and having stuff regardless of moves is important. But there's setting-building and wish-listbuilding. The driver can have take a move to have a tank, but the gunlugger could easily make an apocalyptic-imagery-friendly backstory of travelling in a tank. Would that be allowed?

I would probably suggest the player play a driver if their vision is to be a bad ass riding a tank around the wasteland.

I don't know. If there is no Driver, I don't see an issue with having a tank. Who else would be jealous of having a tank?

Leading questions can establish so much.

Like if the tank needs electronic components, who supplies them? If there is a supply, who controls it?

If someone owns a bar, who supplies the bar with alcohol? Who wants the bar? Does the Battlebabe have to fight of extortionists?

Because the game goes between 6 to 12 sessions, that's short enough to have complications and resolutions.

And if everyone has a tank, that leads to some obvious questions of where all the tanks come from.

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noclue

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If the player wants to be a badass with a tank, they should play a Driver because its not cool for the GM to really fuck with the driver's ride. As a fan of the driver, I want to see them drive around being cool. You know you are coming out of Hx with a functioning vehicle. Scarcity all over the place, sure, but you can still strut your stuff. The gunlugger takes a tank? I'm putting my bloody fingerprints all over that thing. I have no idea what it looks like when I'm done. If the player's cool with me burying the tank in sand and making an entire campaign out of them trying to find someone to weld the turret back on to the top of the thing let's rock! If they want to drive a tank around and blow some shit up, we've got a playbook for that.

Which is another way to say, my main concern is it sounds like the player doesn't want to play the Gunlugger here.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Re: On prescriptive and descriptive character-generation, where's the line?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2013, 01:19:56 AM »
In my current game (Which isn't straight AW but rather a hack) I just straight-up tell players, at least for the first few sessions of their character's lives: "If you just wanna go ahead and say you have a relationship to X NPC, even in the middle of play, go ahead."

The basic contract though is that when the character goes and meets said NPC, they might be surprised by who they find and the positioning of their guts relative to their body. Looking through crosshairs, no status quos, &c. It's cool to let characters have ties to the world that go beyond what the playbook explicitly includes - those things are also all the more justifiable to set on fire.