Category Archives: GoldenCentury

Golden Century: Badass

Swinging back to Golden Century, the first question I ask myself is how to handle the various flavors of badass within one system. For the moment, I’m assuming a flavor of Fate because, hey, it’s a pretty robust platform.

Cecil is easy. He’s unstoppable, so whatever wound system I use, he’ll double it. I could fiddle around with alternatives like armor-equivalence, but that seems to complicate things unnecessarily. The idea is not that he doesn’t get hurt, it’s that he doesn’t stop coming, so a longer wound track totally does the job.

The Butcher is similarly easy – his fighting and intimidation will come out of the same pool, easy peasy. The guy is terrifying, and much of his badass will be expressed through people’s unwillingness to fight him, so it’s just a matter of remembering to respect that. As a GM it specifically means that I need to remember that “The other guy chickening out” is a reasonable (or even likely) outcome for scenes.

Sandon and Eira are a bit more interesting. Sandon has the fantastic situational awareness, and Eira has the classic Old Master schtick, both of which are potent but are also too colorful (and nuanced) to wave off with a simple bonus. Sandon suggests to me that his ability might interact well with the idea of scopes – he should have some bonus that relates to bringing in aspects in the environment scope.

Possible approaches include making the bonus for environmental aspects bigger for him, reducing the difficulty of creating new environmental aspects, or giving him more free tags of environmental aspects. The end result I’m looking for is that I expect him to be using the environment virtually every time he acts, so I want to reward that.

The main answer, I think, is that I will let him freely create and use environmental aspects without needing to roll to set them up and find them – so long as he describes using the environment in a colorful and reasonable fashion, he can spend a fate point on that aspect. This is pretty potent – free and open use of another scope means his bonus can get pretty high – but that also means i can afford to be a little bit strict about it. The environment has to be used in a way that directly impacts what’s being done – actions that just happen to use the environment are less likely to be usable.

The downside of this approach is that it does not quite make things full on wild-and-woolly Jackie Chan style environment use (which would really require more free tags). Instead it allows for spiking efforts by bringing in the environment without any preparation or planning, and I think that captures the idea.

Thinking about Sandon also gives some insight into Eira. I can apply similar logic to suggest that her real area of strength is also a scope, specifically, the scope of the other person. As with Sandon, opening up another scope to casual use allows for badass spiking, but the mechanic needs to be a little bit different, simply because people are not quite as willy-nilly as the environment.

I think what I’d like is for her to be able to discover other people’s aspects by fighting them. That has a mechanical benefit, but it also plays nicely into that old master vibe of figuring out that you carry a lot of regret around by how you hold your sword. It shouldn’t be instant or transparent, but it should be fairly easy. My thought is this: If Eira wins an exchange (that is to say, would cause damage), she can forgo the damage and instead reveal one of her opponent’s aspects. This will be treated like a successful maneuver, so she’ll get a free tag on it (which should make up for forgoing the damage). If I, as GM, don’t have an aspect to reveal, she can make one up.

My one fear with this is that, depending on how I handle injuries, then she’s potentially forgoing a different exploitable aspect (the injury) to do this, which may not mechanically balance out. If that proves to the case, ti will probably make discovery easier, maybe only requiring a single step.

I think I’ll also broaden this a bit so that she can do something similar out of combat with almost any thoughtful activity (pouring tea and whatnot). That is to say, her particular badass will be usable outside of fights to discern the aspects of others, though there may be some color limitations on that.

Ok, that’s all 4. Feeling good about this.

Oh, as a total aside, here is the reason Dragon Age totally won for me.

One of the starting paths is an urban elf. Elves were slaves until a few hundred years ago, and they’re still second class citizens, living in ghettos called alienages. You start in the alienage in Denerim, the capital city, waking up to discover that today is your wedding day. It all goes horribly, horribly wrong, but that’s arguably less important than the context it goes wrong in. They do a wonderful job of giving you the clear sense that you are connected to the community, through ties of friendship and family. Later on in the game, when you get to come back to the alienage, those ties are reinforced, with nods back to the events at the beginning.

All this is prelude to some events in the endgame. I won’t spoil the details, but something bad happens in Denerim, and you have to deal with it. It’s presented as a strategic problem and you have a number of ways you could approach it. and I was thinking about it in those terms until the map of the city popped up, and one of the hotspots of trouble was the alienage.

I did not stop to think before clicking on it. There was no analysis or consideration, simply an utterly primal gut reaction of “MY FAMILY IS IN TROUBLE” and the need to do something about it. I don’t know if that sounds as awesome as it was, but for me that kind and quality of visceral emotional reaction to a game is hard to come by, and I can’t praise Bioware enough for their handling of it.

Golden Century Chargen

We did chargen for Golden Century this weekend. Started with 4 players, but if this gets some legs, part of the point of the GC concept is that it will be easy to add additional cast members, in the form of other members of the golden century, to facilitate pickup play. This was the same thinking that lead to the creation of the Century Club in the game that became Spirit of the Century, so I have reason to think it’s a good model.

As a warning, this is some pretty serious “Tell me about your character” stuff, but it’s necessary to get it out there so I can then start discussing what I’m going to do with it.

One curious thing about this character generation is that when we started, I had no idea what system I would be running the game in. There were a few strong contenders – Savage Worlds or mods of Cortex or Fate were all in my mind – but none of them were the definite winner. I mean, I knew whatever I ended up with would have some version of aspects, but I can port that to nearly anything, but beyond that I wanted to see where the players took things and choose a system based on that.

Our four characters are Sandon, Balin, Cecil and Eira. I actually got their names later in the process, but it’s easier to explain things with names. Anyway, I had a few questions in mind regarding how they’d gotten where they are, things that had happened to them and so on, but I ended up starting with a question I haven’t used before, but which I am very pleased with in retrospect. It laid out a clear expectation for the game, revealed really useful things about the characters, and gave me a sense of what sort of mechanics I’m going to need to support. That question was: How are you badass?

Sandon Korga has a brilliant, instinctive sense of situational awareness. This makes him a fantastic battlefield commander, and lets him really exploit the environment in fights. Unfortunately, it is really only something he excels at in the moment – he’s not the guy you want making plans or offering leadership, though his success in battle means such things are often thrust upon him.

Balin, “The Butcher” is a psycho, plain and simple. He’s got knives, and he knows how to use them, but the real problem is that the crazy comes off him in waves. He’s one of those guys whose indifference to the fact that he might just cut you open is so apparent as to be downright scary. Scary as he is, his reputation is even scarier, and the rumor is he ate dead soldiers at the Siege of the Dragon’s Tail.

Cecil is unstoppable, simple as that. He is relentless and pushes on past any point of rationality.

Eira was a great swordmistress in her youth, but in her age the speed and strength that came with that have dwindled, but her knowledge remains. She has an old master’s understanding of fighting, and has the experience that allows her to defeat foes many years her junior.

The next question was: How did you end up at the Dragon’s Tail? This was followed up by a personal question to each one, based on his background so far.

Sandon, a career military guy, had done something that embarrassed his commanding officer badly enough that his C.O. had gotten assigned there, and Sandon got dragged along. Sandon, it turned out, was from a family of cobbles, and much of his military paycheck was going home to the family.

Balin had killed a man, a priest, and was there with a group of penitent brothers (Church prisoners conscripted for suicide missions) en route to the north. Balin had grown up in the slums of the capitol, with a sister sold off into slavery and doing occasional work as a thug until he killed the priest. There is a boy, his landlord’s son (9 years old at the time, 14 when we start play) who thinks he’s a hero.[1]

Cecil’s wife had died, but had also apparently then gotten back up. He had been on her trail, and this was the last stop. We discovered that Cecil was a noble and that this was a politically important arranged marriage that both parties found tolerable, though there were no children.

Eira has working as a teacher for a scion of one of the great houses. The kid had been sent here for his safety and vanished in the last days of the battle. I asked her what she had done when, as they were heading north, she was offered a large sum to make the scion disappear. She said no, of course, but her report of the matter never made it back to the great house, so the rumor is she did him n.

I asked them to briefly give a sense of what the battle looked like from their perspective.

For Sandon, it was a blur – too hurried for any details to stick.

Balin spent much of it in the larder, acting as cook, and doing terrible and demonstrative things to the enemy bodies (hanging them from the walls, like meat). He killed a lot of men at one point when an enemy push made it to the kitchens.

Cecil very nearly died holding off the last push, and was so badly injured that he was still recovering when he got he award.

Eira spent the time protecting her ward, only losing sight of him towards the end when she was called out to a duel by one of the enemy leaders.

The next question, “what have you done with success?”, was important to me because it’s part of the heart of the darkness of the game. These guys are all former lottery winners, for all intents and purposes. They were heroes of the realm, and could have nearly anything, but that was 5 years ago – what have they done with it. Implicit in this is the assumption that all the glory and wealth has not improved their lives, and has possibly made it worse.

Sandon was given command of a personal unit of imperial legionnaires who mutinied during his first battle when he gave a command that would leave their families endangered (because it was tactically necessary – Sandon is incredibly unsentimental when in battle) . Their mutiny meant that they died with their families, while Sandon and his handful of loyal troops managed to hold out. By the accounting of things, it was a massacre, and Sandon’s refusal to report the mutiny (to protect the honor of the dead soldiers) meant it was all on his head. Since then he’s spent some time as a mercenary, but when pushed into command it tends to go badly and over time he earned the nickname “The Curse”. These days he tends to take guard work under a pseudonym.

Balin was pardoned, and while he has his penitent brand on the back of his right hand, he wears his Century medal strapped to the back of the other. He tried to open a business (a restaurant, which quickly failed) and has tried to fit in with the upper crust of society with a dogged determination and a certain amount of obliviousness to his perpetual failure.

Cecil founded an order of knights dedicated to hunting the undead (and by extension, to find his wife) but he mismanaged it badly. The knighthood went broke and its command was usurped from within, and today is a fraternal order that is seeing reasonable success without Cecil.

Eira could not escape the assassin’s reputation, and has sought a life of obscurity to avoid both misdirected attempts at vengeance and offers of employment.

Because it’s one of my games, we came up with a quick connecting story for each of the characters:

  • Cecil served under Sandon at the massacre. Sandon was also the person who put Cecil in the position to get nearly killed at the Dragon’s Tail.
  • Eira trained Cecil in sword after the battle, and made used of the knighthood while it was intact.
  • Balin disposes of bodies for Eira, when her attempts at obscurity fail. As an aside, he actually delivers them to someone else to dispose of, but everyone just assumes he does terrible things to them.
  • Sandon and Balin drink together frequently, and Balin thinks that Sandon can offer great insight into the court and is a boon to his social climbing. So Wrong.
  • Sandon and Cecil were once hired to hunt down a dangerous assassin who, after a bit of confusion, was revealed to be Eira. The three then turned on their erstwhile employer.
  • Cecil arranged for a marriage between Balin and one of his cousins. On paper it worked out well for both of them, but in practice it’s an emotional minefield.

In a nod to Chuck, I asked what each character wanted and feares.

Sandon wants financial security for his family (who are the worst sort of nouveau riche after their bump in status due to him, but are now in steadily accruing debt). He fears responsibility.

Balin Wants to be respected as a right proper gentleman, and he fears losing his wife.

Eira wants fame and glory – she wants to be a legend. She fears death through creeping old age.

Cecil wants to put his wife to death, and fears the lure of eternal life might make him like her.

Lastly, I got 4 aspects from everyone – one was supposed to be the BIG aspect, the one they woudl have if they had only one.

Sandon: Korga the Curse, Unswayed by Sentiment in Battle, ‘I’ll Apologize Later’ and Burdens of Family
Balin: Butcher, Branded, Striving for Respectibility, Intimidating
Eira: Old Master, Assassin’s Reputation, Great House Connections, Last One Standing
Cecil: Unstoppable, She’s Missing, Unwavering Resolve, “I can take anything, but not that”

That’s a lot of stuff, but I feel like the characters are very solid. I can see a few gaps and disconnects, but they’re ones I can work with. It now falls on me to think about hwo to make the world equally solid, and how to make this all work mechanically.

1- This particular harpoon (“who thinks you’re worth saving”)did not sink in as well as it could have – the answer is a little too protected. Not sure how much mileage I will get out of it.