Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

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Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

Post by Tentacle Therapist on Sun Dec 20, 2015 12:55 am

This is going to stand as a possible option for creating consistency in character creation, matching of power levels, and giving players an easier time to at a glance compare how things would shake out in a fight between two characters. This does not attempt to work on things like character personality, character knowledge, or other non-combat capabilities; it assumes that all players are, in good faith, working in-character and acting appropriately for the situation at hand.

The basis for this system is to strongly define "generic" characters in a range of power levels, and then make comparisons between them that can be used to give someone a good idea of where their character stands. For this example, I'll be making five distinct "generic" individuals, and thus five points of reference for some characters that I've made previously. The number of points of reference, and how they interact, is something that we will have to come to some kind of consensus on, but I am making a simplified version here for convenience's sake. The generic characters will also focus mostly on traditional combat stuff, with only little bits thrown in to mention the magically inclined.

The five points of reference will be: Average, Experienced, Genius, Super-human, and God-like. Actual player characters will likely fall in the areas in-between these points, but they exist for context.

Average Person:
Spoiler:
The average person is likely a farmer, citizen, or other person of poor standing (a peasant). They will have reasonable physical fitness from having to scrape out a life for themself, but have no experience in a combat situation. They can sometimes dodge things thrown at them, and can probably avoid getting hit in a swordfight with another average person about half the time. Finesse and proper weapon handling are not things an average person will know, and ceding even small advantages in combat will drastically swing the outcome of a fight between two average people. They will quickly tire themselves out in prolonged fights, and stamina becomes a heavy deciding factor in the outcome of fights between average people. If they have any understanding of magic at all, they likely fear it due to an inability to effectively combat it.

Experienced Person:
Spoiler:
An experienced person is likely a soldier for hire, artisan, apprentice mage, or person with a reasonably extensive schooling. This person will have learned, either from being taught or from life experience, to act with levels of competence that require dedication to achieve, and this will show in combat. In a fight between an experienced person and an average person, the experienced person will win in all but the most extreme of situations. The experienced person has trained to adapt to the advantages and disadvantages inherent in combat, and poor circumstance is not likely to affect an experienced person enough to have them lose to an average person. In a fight between an experienced person and two or three average people, the experienced person is likely to come out of the battle with injuries, especially if the average people are working cooperatively. Fights between experienced people tend to be relatively even, but the specialties of the individuals will have a strong influence on the outcome. An experienced person who focuses on ranged attacks is likely to beat a melee attacker in open terrain, and a spear-wielder is likely to beat an experienced person with a sword. They can dodge thrown objects, usually dodge slung objects, and if they get enough forewarning can probably dodge an arrow, but will find it difficult to cope with being surprised by ranged attacks. Even if they aren't a mage, they will have at least dabbled with it enough to recognize when spells are being cast, and will consider mages a threat to focus on or beat a hasty retreat from. With their greater bodily training, many experienced people will choose to wear heavier forms of armor to protect themselves at the cost of increased battle fatigue.

Genius:
Spoiler:
Geniuses stand close to the pinnacle of human achievement, either through immense aptitude for physical activity, wielding strong magics, or having accrued powerful weapons, armor, or magical traits. It is not unusual for a genius to beat a group of five experienced people, nor is it unusual for a genius to slaughter average militiamen by the dozen. A genius usually garners some significant amount of fame as a legendary fighter, or as an accomplished mage whose arcane works can rout armies. The genius could probably swat an arrow out of the air with their weapon if they didn't feel like dodging it, but still has problems with the speed of bolts. They can fight on well past the point that most people could, due to fatigue or injuries, and still don't decline in effectiveness very much. They likely have enough wealth, skill, or luck to obtain powerful magical artifacts, and have probably picked up some unusual tricks or powers from the supernatural or arcane. They are likely versed enough in magic in general to recognize familiar spells and have plans to combat them if necessary. Fights between geniuses often end in mutually assured destruction or withdrawal from combat.

Super-Human:
Spoiler:
The super-human has through birth, magic, happenstance, or supreme dedication, risen to a level where the destruction they can cause is beyond the scope of most mortal means. A super-human is likely steeped in the arcane or supernatural, and has become as fast as an arrow, able to crush weapons with the force of their blows, able to casually throw around lesser magics, and become practically unkillable to even geniuses. Almost all normal humans could be reduced to a fine mist by a super-human in but a few moments, and super-humans have been known to de-populate entire kingdoms. It is not unusual for a super-human to be able to dodge all weapons of a mechanical nature, if they don't just simply shrug the blow off somehow. Fights between super-humans are uncommon due to their rarity, and it is nearly impossible for super-humans to be evenly matched; even slight differences in power are enough to crush the opposition.

God-like:
Spoiler:
The god-like are beings of ultimate power, and Ara'niel has likely never seen such a being arise from anything but Kar'kaish herself. More than mortals, more than legendary beings, a god-like is akin to a force of nature in and of itself. Physical actions have likely lost all meaning at this point, and even the grandest of country-rending magics cannot compare to the devastation that such a being could cause if they willed, nay thought, about it.
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Re: Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

Post by Tentacle Therapist on Sun Dec 20, 2015 3:18 am

With these generic cases defined, we can move on to useful derivatives that I'll be temporarily referring to as "traits". Since a character is defined, essentially, by what they are good at and what they are bad at, and traits are defined by the interactions between the generic point of reference characters, traits can be used to qualify a character's abilities in a way that allows the character to be considered of a certain strength.

Because the generic reference characters in this case cover an exponential gamut from normal scumbag to world-rending monstrosity, most characters will fall somewhere from Low-Experienced (because most average characters aren't interesting enough to seriously play) to the dead center of Genius and that's where I'll focus. This can be used as either a starting point for a character to be built off a generic character, or for a GM to place a character on the power spectrum by comparing what the player has written for the character, to traits. A character is then an average of their traits, with high traits pulling them up the power levels and weaknesses dragging them down.

I'll derive some traits from the generic characters as examples, with some hypothetical stuff that a player might use to describe a character.

Agility: How good a character is at outright dodging projectiles, performing acrobatic feats, and probably limberness. It also affects fancy swordplay stuff. A character using a non-traditional ranged weapon with any amount of effectiveness in combat (chakram, darts, knives, bola) is likely toeing the line between Experienced and Genius. Similarly, a character using non-traditional melee weapons with any amount of effectiveness in combat (sectioned staves, whips, epee, knives, or fists) also live on the line between Experienced and Genius. Characters that can dodge arrows without forewarning land in Genius territory, and characters that can dodge magic (depending on how fast it goes, I'm assuming near-instant stuff like electricity in this case) are likely reaching into Super-Human. Characters that can scale castle walls without equipment are Geniuses, while characters that can scale heavy gradients (25-40 degrees) easily are merely Experienced. A character that can fight on uneven ground, in mud, loose stones, in a forest with many roots, or on a sea-tossed boat with little problem is High-Experienced. A character that can fight easily atop poles, rampaging carriages, underwater, or on ice is a Genius.

Strength: Smashy smash smash. The amount of force one can put into weapons or enact upon your surroundings. An Experienced character can split a log or rock, or break down a wooden door, with an appropriate tool, but likely can't sever arms or legs in combat, even with a heavy axe. Though not spectacular, an Experienced character's melee hits are still frequently debilitating or lethal to the unarmored, and they will not likely have trouble physically wielding their weapons or armor. A Genius is strong enough to treat their weapons and armor as not there, assuming their chosen equipment is not unusually large or cumbersome, and is likely to cause fatal wounds even against armored opponents if their blows are not properly defended against. Bending iron bars is not impossible for a Genius, and wooden doors and weak walls are just suggestions. In the hands of a Genius most weapons and objects can be used to a decent level of lethality as bludgeons, even if they are not familiar with their usages. An Experienced character could easily draw a longbow, a Genius character could draw a crossbow by hand.

Endurance: The ability to continue performing demanding physical labor for extended periods of time, like manual labor or combat. An Experienced person without anything weighing them down can run at full speed for a couple minutes, about a mile and a half at a measured speed, or a half-dozen miles at a sedate pace before exhausting themself. Similarly, an unarmored Experienced person can manage a few minutes of heated combat before exhausting themself, or half that in armor. A Genius can run at top speed for five or six minutes, or two minutes in armor, four miles at a decent jog, or a mile in armor, and twenty-five miles at a sedate pace, or eight in armor.

Magical effects: Separate from actual casting of spells, this is more about supernatural abilities or effects, magical weapons and armor, and their power levels. Passive effects that don't greatly affect the normal usage of a weapon or armor can be considered Experienced. Examples of Experienced-level effects would be: Melee weapons that are unusually sharp or durable for their kind (a 'razor' sharp sword, or a weapon made of starmetal). Helpful utility effects that are unlikely to affect combat like armor that doesn't get waterlogged or generates eerie warmth, or weapons that self-clean or shed muck. Minor effects that are largely cosmetic, but could have corner-case uses like weapons that get hot, cold, crackle with electricity, or partially obscure the weapon with mist or darkness or what have you. Examples of Experienced effects intrinsic to a being are usually lumped in with one of the physical traits, but tend not to ever increase a trait enough to graduate it to a higher rank and tend to have specific requirements (being accustomed with a weapon will give you an advantage over someone who isn't, or having an unusual biology that gives you an advantage in a special kind of terrain). Genius effects are things like armor that doesn't have easily exploited weakpoints (without ruining mobility), arrowheads that burn white-hot for a few seconds when they hit a target, a sword that is constantly wet with Average level poisons, or a sword with sentience that can enact minor actions of its will upon the world. Genius level intrinsic abilities can temporarily increase one's physical traits by a rank under extremely strict conditions (only during the 3 hours surrounding the zenith of a full moon, only against beings of un-life), or allow usage of effects that are similar to the lowest levels of spells like sheathing objects you touch in flames, or small outbursts of rime, OR are effective natural weapons like spines, claws, or poisonous spit or spray.

Weaknesses: It is likely that a character will have some weaknesses not associated with another trait. These will likely need to be vetted on a case-by-case basis, and given appropriate values, but obviously these will reduce the rank of a character by some amount. Gaming the system by having a character with crazy powerful abilities and crippling weaknesses is in extremely bad taste unless it makes a spectacular amount of sense. Some examples of Genius-level weaknesses (aka stuff that severely impacts effectiveness) are: catching fire in sunlight, not having control of your actions a significant portion of the time (possession by an inept or particularly crazy ghost/soul/personality or insatiable bloodlust), being blind or insensate without any mitigating factors, suffering from a longterm, crippling, and dangerous addiction (have you seen what meth does to you?), or acute cataplexy. Experienced-level weaknesses might include things like: persistent exhaustion (from being pursued), frequent inebriation, bouts of high risk-taking (letting combat drag on to get more 'enjoyment' out of it, or other highly dangerous activities in combat), or especially extreme mental fixations (believing wholeheartedly that fights should be 'honorable', and thus always being completely blindsided by douchery, or constant paranoia and acting upon expected douchery that isn't happening but totally could be happening guys).
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Re: Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

Post by Tentacle Therapist on Sun Dec 20, 2015 4:27 am

Finally, as an example, I will break down and rate the power level of one of my characters. Specifically Aeliana and Gwynlyn because I like them go fuck yourself.

First is Aeliana because she only has a couple relevant statistics and won't be actively fighting.


Agility: Experienced (Dropped from High-Experienced)
She has a lot of poise and unusually high levels of agility for her age because she's spent the majority of her life doing things like practicing dance, and recent practice has transformed her dancing skills into a significantly less pretty, but practical means of moving in a combat situation. Aeliana's agility would probably be High-Experienced (which is spectacular for her age), but because of the nature of the two characters as a single unit in combat, it gets bumped down to just Experienced.

Strength: Low-Average
She's seven, she has lived the majority of her life in noble luxury, not much more needs to be said. Pretty much anyone could beat her in a contest of strength.

Endurance: Slightly Below Average
She's seven, and has lived the majority of her life in noble luxury, but has some minor experience in dancing and traveling now.

Total: Low-Average
That's it for Aeliana and combat, since she doesn't have anything else particularly special, and can't actively participate in any combat, she gets an overall Low-Average. Even though she has great agility, she has no actual staying power and can't meaningfully affect a combat.




Gwynlyn is a little bit more complex, and has some extra relevant traits.

Strength: Above-Experienced
She has trained her entire life to be Aeliana's bodyguard, and has trained her entire life with a rather heavy weapon. She isn't exceptionally strong, has no particular aptitude for strength, and because of that suffers a bit from the slight differences in muscle from gender. None of the nobles probably expected Gwynlyn to try as hard as she has.

Agility: Experienced (boosted from Low-Experienced)
Her manner of fighting doesn't require her to be particularly agile, but she's been having to step it up to keep Aeliana safe in battle with her. Before now she was only really interested in dodging into arrows aimed at her charge, and so only bothered training as much as she needed to do that. Her armor would affect this if it was actually made to protect her at all.

Endurance: Experienced/Genius Border
Extensive training and experience has allowed Gwynlyn to fight longer and harder than most. She's fighting for two, and Aeliana's noble background means there is no shortage of small groups seeking bounties on them. She also frequently acts as transportation for the easy-to-tire Aeiliana, and acts as a surrogate mother alongside being a fighter. She sadly has no particular aptitude, and has merely been forced through the harshness of life to reach the likely pinnacle of her stamina.

Average Advantage (Dirty Fighting)
Gwynlyn gets an advantage against foes that aren't expecting 'foul' play in combat.

Genius Advantage (My Master's Sword)
If they are backed into a corner, and Aeliana is under significant threat, Gwylyn gets an additional boost of half a rank to her physical attributes, in addition to the normal bonuses for 'fighting for your life'. In addition, Gwynlyn will not stop until she is dead, or Aeliana is safe, even if that would result in her own untimely demise.

Experienced Weakness (My Master's Shield)
If an attack targets Aeliana and it can't be stopped or deflected, Gwynlyn will take the blow instead.

Experienced Weakness (Dancing Combat)
If Gwynlyn and Aeliana are 'dancing' in combat, Gwynlyn's Strength functionally drops a rank to Above-Average.

Total: High-Experienced
Her physical traits are solid, and she has an especially good last-stand, but she'll likely be taking lots of injuries and dealing out very little damage if she has to keep Aeliana protected in a fight.
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Re: Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

Post by Admin on Sun Dec 27, 2015 5:34 pm

Whew. That's a lot of text. Thanks for the contribution, Tuv.

First off, I like the idea, and I like a decent bit of what you've written. I've got a number of criticisms, but I don't want my tone to be mistaken for anything other than "I like this, but I think it could be better or mesh better with the setting."

A few unimportant, nit-picky things to get out of the way:
1) Not a fan of the names for the different tiers. We'll think of something better later.
2) Description of the God-like tier doesn't mesh with the setting. Part of that is my fault. Barring some truly, incredibly ridiculous events, humans in RoKK will never reach the level of Created Gods, let alone one of the Kishae (Life or Death gods), all of whom are still once-removed from Kar'Kaish herself. Given the wide spectrum of power that Created Gods could have, it's possible for a mortal to surpass the weaker ones, and there are also mortals who are empowered by the worship of followers. Having absolute control of the inherent forces of the universe is restricted to the Elder Gods and equivalent beings (Elemental Lords in their own realms, nightmares in the Void, etc.). See references Realms of Kar'Kaish Primer, The Formation of Planes and the Elements. Then again, you may have meant for that tier to be used for playable gods and goddesses (and not mortals so powerful they punch at the same weight class), so I could have just misunderstood.
3) Some of the stuff under Magical Effects seem pretty hand-wavy. They could be justified using the logical system of magic we're trying to use, but they might be a bit of a stretch.

I think the first major thing I should comment on is the point of view applied to the power levels. Despite the history of RoKK being populated by powerhouses thanks to its origins, characters going forward shouldn't be miniature gods plopped down in a sea of peasants playing at soldiers and magic. See reference Multiple Characters, Character Death and Character Development. While average and below-average characters won't be fun or interesting in terms of combat or affecting the world at large, they are still useful for getting used to role-playing, and they can still contribute toward interesting stories. Characters that are above-average and higher will of course be the norm for players who can be trusted to effectively role-play them, but the rough scale you provided tends more toward an exponential rather than a linear. I imagine almost all characters would fall between Average and Genius, so having only three tiers to qualify them leaves a lot open to interpretation. That can be a good thing, given that's exactly what we're going for, but for the purposes of establishing a system to aid GMs with managing RoKK Characters, I don't think it helps that much.

The second thing I want to touch on is how this might be implemented, as with how you broke down your characters at the end. This is pretty nit-picky, but I think it's important just to get it on record. For the purpose of communicating your points and ideas, I get it, but in practice I don't want it to be so cut-and-dry. You presented it in a kind of "This character has this rank, due to this justification", which is very similar to the thought process of "My character has a strength attribute of ##, because... uhh... here's why". I'd prefer it if these tiers were not so underscored and highlighted to the point that a player is picking and choosing tiers of quality for their characters and then making the backstory from that. Rather, we should encourage something like "My character was born to unscrupulous parents, and as an infant was one day offered up for a life of service to the baron whom they had unwittingly stolen from. Surprisingly, the offer was accepted and the couple fled the realm alive. Once old enough to walk and talk, the child was made a peasant squire for the Baron's Knight Commander. The Knight Commander was a master of arms and keen at both strategy and tactics. He was a man accomplished in all the arts of war, and the boy was forced to meet his exacting standards. Years of grueling physical training and intellectual war games against the older knights and their squires molded the boy into a young man. Even after the days spent being knocked down into the mud changed to the grudging respect of his betters, he still strove for the approval of the Knight Commander, and poured his determination into every moment of his training. Finally, just into the second decade of his life, the bedridden Knight Commander acknowledged him, calling him "son", and the young new Baron appointed him as the new Knight Commander. Through such intense and methodical training, my character is a genius of all the arts of war. Fighting older, stronger, smarter opponents day after day provided him the challenges he needed to eventually surpass his opponents, gaining the strength, agility, and endurance to match or exceed even grizzled veterans. His understanding of strategy and tactics remains uncontested by anyone who will face him in imaginary or historical war games. Despite his prowess, the land has never seen war during his life, and as such his knowledge is all theoretical and his ability only tested in friendly bouts rather than battles to the death." I went really, really far into that tangent, but I wanted to impress the idea that these should only be a result of the character's life and experience, rather than one of the building blocks making up that life and experience.

Last, and also nit-picky but important, is that at the end you mention tier/rank modifiers in "My Master's Sword" and "Dancing Combat". I think the only time you mention something like that is right at the end, which is why this is a nit-picky criticism. Doing those sorts of rank-modifiers, especially in terms of absolutes like "a whole rank" or "a half rank" puts the whole thing into more of a numerical place-holder rather than a loose qualifier system. I think it's better to have those sorts of things reworded such that they imply such a drop rather than out-right stating it, and again as a result of life and experience rather than what makes up that life and experience. Impress upon the reader or the GM of just how dedicated Gwynlyn is and how far she will push herself to keep Aeliana safe rather than telling the reader or GM how far she will go. Again, a small criticism toward you since it's barely mentioned at all, but I want to make sure that the distinction is made.

So, I guess what it boils down to is "This needs more thought put into the spectrum we expect most playable characters to inhabit, and we should make sure we put the focus on the story and away from anything that might give the impression of a 'drag-and-drop' character builder or a bunch of words that are just placeholders for numbers."
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Re: Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

Post by Tentacle Therapist on Sun Dec 27, 2015 5:54 pm

In no particular order:

Admin wrote:You presented it in a kind of "This character has this rank, due to this justification", which is very similar to the thought process of "My character has a strength attribute of ##, because... uhh... here's why". I'd prefer it if these tiers were not so underscored and highlighted to the point that a player is picking and choosing tiers of quality for their characters and then making the backstory from that.

So, the way I handled the example was not as a player building a character to a tier, but rather me judging the character based off the criteria I put forth. It could in theory work either way, and it depends on how we implement the system when it's finished.

Admin wrote:I think the only time you mention something like that is right at the end, which is why this is a nit-picky criticism.

It's implied to reference other rules that we don't have. Specifically, I'm expecting us to have some kind of rule set in place to nudge characters towards surviving combat, and it was meant to interact with that.

Admin wrote:1) Not a fan of the names for the different tiers. We'll think of something better later.
2) Description of the God-like tier doesn't mesh with the setting.

I fully expect the entire thing to be re-written to fit RoKK. I made it pretty generic just so I could hammer out enough to show how it works as a way of applying pre-defined decisions we've made, and to show an example of how it would work.

The number of tiers, the name of tiers, whether or not there needs to be separate tiering-systems for people that do magic and people that don't do magic, the things we consider important enough to compare in the scales, all that stuff is mutable and we can tweak it as needed.

There's also the option of making the rating system completely opaque from the player's point of view, and only using it as a GM tool instead of public knowledge.

Basically we, that is to say RoKK developers, need to make decisions, and a lot of them.
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Re: Unified Character Theory: Basic Functionality and Example

Post by CromTheConqueror on Wed May 04, 2016 5:30 pm

Tuv wrote:Basically we, that is to say RoKK developers, need to make decisions, and a lot of them.

Agreed.

Now unto my comments.

1. I agree with Chaos that the names should be improved but that honestly isn't very substantive and will be easy to change.

2. I liked the general direction of descriptions for average, experienced, and genius but I think we could insert another category or two between experienced and genius.

3. It seems like strength should be represent power of maximum action and endurance should be predicated on length of maximum action. So strength would be the equivalent of the maximum power behind a sword swing and endurance would be the equivalent of how long you can keep swinging.

4. Agility and magic sound fine.

5. We will need to add some traits for non combat stuff? Or maybe not?


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