Shadow play – Part IV, loot and looters (further characters)

June 16, 2014

This has been quite a series of posts. First I spoke of the people in a post-apocalyptic game world, using character geometry and my own “loot tables” to understand the disposition and resources of the survivors. Then I described the shadow creatures let loose on this world, themed after our human failings of betrayal, exploitation, greed, sadism, and zealotry. Lastly, I spoke of the ethics of the game, of what I was asking the players to do in this world of desperation. This is important because, as I keep arguing, games are culture (I love how the URL looks like a follow-up comment) and thus game designers have an obligation to think of what they teach the players.

But I’m not just here to preach unto the skies. I’m here because writing is fun.

Today I’ll create more humans for the players to face, fight, and/or join in forwarding the plot. I’ll use the same point to the story, asking “Can the darkness ever truly leave our hearts?” Each will be based on character geometry as before, and equipped by my new-and-improved loot tables. I need to test these further because, of course, it’s basic to gameplay . . . and these tables were the reason I started writing any of this.

So, the tables.

I likely won’t post them because they are far too informal just yet. The key features are the divisions. My post-apocalyptic goodies fall into “food,” “weapons,” or “supplies” categories, and they can be “common,” “uncommon,” or “rare,” with things like household knives and bagged junk food down at the common end, and things like gas cans and sterile bandages at the rare.

A lone survivor gets one roll in each category. A gang for now is between 2 and 20 people (that’s 2d10, gamers) and gets one roll per member, with the assumption that the truly “common” results are then available in multiplicity. The commonality percentages are based on that fact that “common” really should be “common,” a simple lesson learned from Dungeons & Dragons. (Do I have to provide a link? Do I?) That is, 75% common, 20% uncommon, and 5% rare. Technically, there’s 1% out of that 5% for “very rare,” but in my game I just take that as two rolls in “rare.”

(An aside: though I base the logic of those percentages on Dungeons & Dragons, I cannot find this exact pattern in any book, just similar ones. I wonder where I got it.)

So, the people.

I’ll use RANDOM.ORG to generate two groups of gang members, being one-dimensional character classes, and two more two-dimensional characters. I get:

One-dimensional character class. 5 people. Food: 1 C, 1 R. Weapons: 1 U, 1 R. Supplies: 1 C.
One-dimensional character class. 13 people. Food: 4 C, 1 U. Weapons: 2 C, 1 U, 1 R. Supplies: 3 C, 1 U.
Two-dimensional character. Female. Food: C. Weapons: C. Supplies: C.
Two-dimensional character. Female. Food: C. Weapons: U. Supplies: U.

Sounds fun. Next I consult the loot tables for those rarities and smoosh the results together to tell a coherent story.

Now, I noted last time that fighting people is just part of the story, and otherwise the player wants to earn trust and negotiate peace. I didn’t define how to do that. Once the mechanism is set, all these “rival gangs” need some form of “trust mechanism,” like a quest or a topic of appeal. Meanwhile, we can just assume that appealing to or appeasing the personality trait I list here will get you on their good side. ( . . . Wow, looking back over the traits I chose, that will be a challenge.)

Again, if you are interested in anything I post and want to use it somewhere (such as in a tabletop gaming session), just ask me. I like to know where my children are.

1-D character class: Member of Gang 4.
Trait: Petulant.
Description: One of 5 people. Claims a territory of former fresh produce stores, since overrun with rats, which the group now farms for food. Supplements diet with the sugar from old canned soda. One individual has a bow for hunting and defense. Uses saws and bungee cords in a construction effort, reshaping doors, stairwells, and so on, corraling the rats, and stringing up a perimeter wall to slow down intruders.
Dialogue: Idle – “Why am I always the one to [incoherent muttering].”
Idle – “I’m not eating another rat!”
Fight – “Leave me alone!”
Fight – “Can’t anyone keep good watch?!”

1-D character class: Member of Gang 5.
Trait: Insular.
Description: One of 13 people. Claims an old school as territory, abandoned even before the apocalypse, now growing massive beds of plants and fungus. Primarily cultivates the growths for food, but has some canned food as well, and drinks rainwater. Has used hammer and nails to seal all entrances, remaining inside at all times, defended otherwise with improvised weapons. Has gathered bags of ammunition and batteries but has no use for them.
Dialogue: Idle – “This is how life should be. No one gets it like us.”
Idle – “Can’t we stay here forever? We need only each other.”
Fight – “Intruders! Intruders! Rip them apart!”
Fight – “No one invades our sanctum!”

2-D character: “Wild” Adrien.
Traits: Sarcastic, spiritual.
Description: A woman from complex background, used to hiking and survivalism by choice or otherwise. Has several glass bottles filled with collected rainwater, padded in bags, to sustain her or provide makeshift cutting tools as she seeks better supplies and armament.
Dialogue: Intro – “Hey, knight in shining armor! Come to rescue me from down here or just gawk awhile? It’s okay, I got heaven and earth on my side, don’t need anything else. Like a ladder!”
Idle – “Rummage more quietly, you’re drowning out the cosmic vibes.”
Idle – “It could almost be peaceful, really. A shame.”
Fight – “Pray!”
Fight – “Yeah, we’ll be buddies in your next life!”

2-D character: “Hermit” Henning.
Traits: Formal, restless.
Description: A business-suit-wearing woman staying on top of the rubble by never standing still. She keeps only small objects that will fit in her pockets, including a lighter and miscellaneous candy, plus a handgun in an inside pocket.
Dialogue: Intro – “Put down the weapon in your hand and I’ll stop pointing mine at the back of your head.”
Intro – “Thank you. The name’s Henning. Some call me ‘Hermit.’ Now I’ve already cleaned out this place so I’ll be leaving.”
Idle – “We’ve been standing around too long.”
Idle – “You’re very quiet, I notice.”
Fight – “Keep to my side or we’re both dead.”
Fight – “Let’s go, let’s go!”

. . . Interestingly, I found it as much of an invigorating mental exercise to string together disparate “resources” into a coherent “way of life” as I have all the other randomized elements in my posts. Though I won’t deny I did several re-rolls when things just didn’t make sense.

This occasion, by the way, marks an achievement: in a previous character design exercise, I had a list of 72 traits consisting of everything Dave Kosak used as examples or I used/mentioned anywhere on my blog. With the above, my list has grown to exactly 100 traits long. This should be handy for randomization as I do more exercises in the future, but for now I believe I’ve finished this series of posts.

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