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March 2, 2009

Helvetica post-mortem

Tags: , — inky @ 12:07 am

Recently our group finished the Helvetica campaign that I was a player in. Overall it was pretty awesome — there was plenty of fighting and disguising and lying to NPCs and burning stuff down and crashing through the gates at the last minute (there was a good bit right at the end where we’re fighting over a book on the second floor of a building, and finally one guy grabs it and tears out of the room, and everyone else jumps out the window and we’re wrestling over it in the streets and then my guy rolls up in a carriage and we make tracks out of the city).

Things weren’t always totally smooth. Besides the inevitable scheduling issues (though we did do 19 sessions in 10 months, which is pretty decent), there’s a lot of working out how much the GM’ll allow and what the vibe of the playing group is. One thing about our play setup on the mud is we’re always rotating players and GMs, which means every campaign is basically working out a new set of rules. But oh well, on the whole it worked out pretty well. My preference is for big elaborate slapstick action sequences but I’m not actually good at building them; we did manage to get a few to come up organically, though, so I was happy about that.

Another player wrote about the game in his livejournal and also we had a wiki. The latter is because the GM was totally nuts about references; basically every NPC was a ref to one or more characters from a book or a movie — like there’s the Pervenche family, with dad Rodolphe and kids Pierre, Suzanna, Edmond, and Lucille, the last of whom disappears into a magic wardrobe. Then later Rodolphe turns out to be the identical twin of the Baron and ends up impersonating him when bad guys take over the government, and the bad guys find out at the last minute and try to expose it by making Rodolphe shoot an apple off Suzanna’s head .. Anyway, good times. When the campaign was over we sat around for a while just talking about all the refs we’d caught and missed (and right up until the end there were “oh, man, I can’t believe I didn’t notice that” ones). (Oh, and we were based in the town of Geneva in the province of Helvetica — which was also a Switzerland analogue.)

Anyway, since I am still thinking about that 7th Sea to Spirit of the Century conversion, here’s our group:

  • Hans: skills include Superb Heavy Weapons, Great Resources, Great endurance, Good Riding, Good Athletics; aspects include Short but can still kick your ass, Eisen noble, Not that bright, Engaged to Gert; stunts include Dracheneisen panzerhand (gadget, probably gives an extra physical consequence), Eisenfaust (+1 to disarm, lets you use panzerhand with Heavy Weapons rather than Fists)
  • Gert: skills include Great Heavy Weapons, Great Might, Great Fists, Good Survival, Good Athletics; aspects include Large, Invisible College member, Engaged to Hans
  • Cat: skills include Great Resolve, Great Rapport, Great Deceit, Good Empathy, Good Pistols; aspects include Overconfident, The most important things you learn in school are generally against regulations, and My irritating parents
  • Arvid: skills include Superb Academics, Great Burglary, Good Deceit, Good Sorcery (but he’s not a sorcerer); aspects include Usually drunk and Invisible College member; stunts include Sucker Punch (use Deceit instead of Fists for the first attack against a distracted opponent)

For comparison, here’s my 7th Sea sheet. What’s interesting to me after looking at this writeup is how few skills you actually need to define someone .. but only after the fact. Like, going in I didn’t know whether this campaign was going to require knowing a bunch of different languages, so I had to buy a bunch of them because Arvid would be able to speak them. And I wasn’t sure whether I’d have to impress some other scholar, so I had to buy up his specialty (History). And maybe I’d have to forge a document, and that would again be something he could do, so I spent some points on Forgery. None of those things actually came up so the points were wasted, which is kind of lame (and then at various points I wanted the Occult Knowledge and Disguise skills, which I hadn’t bought and would probably have been in-character).

I’m not sure the best way to avoid this issue; SotC’s approach is to have fewer broader skills and make characters more competent (and throw in aspects to cover weak spots in another way). It seems like you could maybe keep most of the core 7th Sea system if you just let people create on the fly, though. Like, say you switch everything to an xp model (to make accounting easier) where normally you buy a skill for 10xp. So let people pay 2xp any time they want to use a knack they don’t have, and they can use it that once (or for that scene) as if they had it at rank 1. And you track the xp they spend, and when they’ve spent 10xp on knacks from a particular skill, then they get the skill permanently and don’t have to spend on it any more.

Anyway, yeah, that was the Helvetica campaign. Good times.

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