10 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 19) - All about the Bass

In Walkabout, I toyed with the idea of character points as a way to determine whether characters were "interesting". With three different aspects to determine a character, each player receives six points; all characters need a culture, an edge and a dance. Common aspects cost one of those six points, uncommon aspects cost two of those points, rare aspects cost three, and super unique aspects might cost four (if group consensus allows them in the game). If a character has any points left over, they may purchase a quirk (which adds a bonus and a penalty to the character). Since all characters need to fill in all three aspects, that means a player could choose to have a "rare" culture (3pts), but that means they'd only have point to purchase an "uncommon" edge or dance, while the other would have to be a common variety...or maybe they could pick up two commons and add a quirk. All of the various aspects are equally balanced mechanically, the point system is just to ensure characters are generally feasible within the setting, rather than combinations of bizarre outsider traits that don't make sense (half-elf/half-dwarf cleric assassin who specialises in obscure gnomish blowdart weaponry).

But there are other ways to reign in concepts like this... and in this particular setting, I'll be heading in one of those directions.


Synergies are used in many games through skills. If you've got X levels of this skill, you gain a bonus to that skill. If you've got trait X, then skill Y gains a bonus. But for this setting, I'm thinking of applying trait synergies to the social concept of status within the game.

Some cultures have a tendency to respect people more than others (typically racially defined cultures respecting their own people, or caste defined cultures respecting those who manifest the virtues and skills typically associated with the caste). Overall, characters ascend the ranks within their cultures, their castes and their other forms of influence, but some people seem to have natural edges.

For example, the warrior caste respects those who are capable in combat, those with stronger "Riven" blood in their veins gain natural abilities that provide an edge in combat...naturally, these more "pure blooded Riven" will be more highly respected by the warrior caste. We're not saying that all Riven have to be warriors, but instead that they'll find it easier to gain the respect of a warrior community than most other communities. Good stories are often told about the people who choose not to accept their birth destinies, but such stories are typically filled with trials, heartache, and the constant temptation to go back to "their people".

Perhaps "respect" or "status" within a community isn't the right way to look at things. As I think about it more, maybe "community notice" is more accurate. The nuance is specific, because notice can go both ways. A character can be noticed by a community for good reasons (thus earning status and prestige within that community), or they could be noticed for bad reasons (thus earning notoriety). Over time, a single played note (a single action) fades away, eventually only the most recent notes contribute to a character's reputation. Sometimes people may remembe great deeds, but not remember who was involved in them. 

It's not a perfect analogy, and possibly an excuse to say that when it comes to remembered deeds among the lawkeepers of the land "It's all about the bass", but it generally fits what I'm going for here. It also means revisiting the cultural groups and what they value. Some cultures may see "glorious battle actions" as positive to a character's status, other might see them as negative signs of risk...but either way, a "glorious battle action" will contribute to how well known the character is. I think I'll pull out the "caste" idea and integrate it with the elemental factions. It was sort of halfway there already, and this gives us a more coherent structure for determining which actions might fit best.

Khar-tui blooded individuals have racial traits that are valued by the Water factions, but mistrusted by Fire. the reverse holds true for Riven. Kithlings have traits favoured by Air (mistrusted by Earth), and Panaho have Earth aligned traits (mistrusted by Air). It doesn't mean that these races cannot join opposing elementally aligned factions, merely that they find it a more natural fit when they choose to associate with those who value their elementally aligned traits. When they join opposing factions, they typically have to work harder to attain the same levels of prestige, but this also means a character at a certain prestige level but possessing an unexpected racial trait, will probably have a lot more experience to back themselves up and will prove a far more formidable opponent.

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