Creating, in a less organized fashion

So after deciding to write a Tempeste RPG (which I’ve actually already done once, but trust me, the earlier version isn’t any good), I returned to deliberating over what to name base attributes. (If you missed my earlier post, I spent more time talking about the human soul than arriving at any conclusions). Thankfully, words come easily when mentally immersed in a world with a rich and complex aesthetic: discipline, finesse, grace, guts, nuance, passion, rapport, style, tenacity. Without even telling you about Tempeste, the words above begin to offer a sense of the world and the characters who inhabit it.

Initially, I thought I’d have a total of eight attributes, four that embody the four aspects of the soul (which, yes, will have its place in Tempeste) and four others for everything else. The four “soul attributes” were also to be called capacities and would relate to how much damage a character can take, e.g. physical damage, mental damage, etc. (to oversimplify)—but again and again, when I began thinking about what attributes would be used for what sorts of actions, I found that more than one attribute might be used for the same sort of action. In social contests, for example, should a character use Nerve or Anima? And what is Anima, anyway? I knew what it meant to me theoretically, but would it make sense to players?

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Entering the darkness of the soul

For over a week, I’ve been struggling with my next blog post, and I feel so stuck in the muck of it that I’ve decided to just start over.

The goal of my next post (this post) was to continue my reflections on my four-part soul concept, and to hopefully arrive at some conclusions. But I started doing what I told myself from the beginning that I need to stop doing. In fact, I even starting my blog post by writing, “Rather than continue to read, cut, paste, and organize”… (blah, blah, blah), I need “to explore and develop the concept.” And then I spent hours and hours reading about particle physics (which I don’t really understand) to develop a metaphor for the soul, comparing the components of an atom to the structure of the soul.

It still might be a good idea, but—without getting into quarks and gluons and all sorts of other things I don’t really understand—atoms contain three components, not four, unless I want to add some pseudo-scientific hocus pocus about dark matter (in which case, why am I trying to concretize my ideas in the scientific theory of particle physics?)

Rather than try to mash together and encapsulate potentially incongruous concepts, I need to concretize my own core concept. What I think is worth noting (from my first draft of this post): after last week’s post, I found myself reflecting more on Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, especially his concept of dust, the idea that consciousness and the fuzziness of reality may be linked to dark matter. Yes, I do want to utilize dark matter as a pseudo-scientific element in my soul theory. But rather than try to find magic in scientific theory, let’s start with the fuzzy hocus pocus and just create something that works for us, shall we?

dark_matter_pie_chart__still_1Let’s consider the possibility that, on some level, reality is created by consciousness. Or, our experience of reality is created by the singular perception of our consciousness. If we consider the possibility that many realities exist simultaneously, but we only perceive one, then perhaps this “singling out” of our current reality explains why our universe is comprised primarily of dark matter and dark energy—stuff we cannot perceive on the electromagnetic spectrum. What if visibility (perception) is what defines reality, and thereby also the soul? Does this plummet us back into a light and darkness duality? Or can we find a subtler and more complex truth?

 

 

Attributes: quantifying the Body & Soul

bc0b7fa1d9e4041fe4c3a165733ca487I’ve always been obsessed with the number four and four-point scales (or by extension, eight-point scales). Whether rating men or movies, what further delineation does one need than 1=below average, 2=average, 3=above average, and 4=exceptional? Yes, I use half points (and therefore, technically, an 8-point rating system) because let’s be honest, I’m one of those critics who rarely awards a perfect 4 (Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, 4 and 4). Nonetheless, sometimes you’ve got to give a 3.5 where it’s due (Hugh Jackman in the first X-Men movie, for example).

So anyone who knows me well won’t be surprised if I adopt a 4 or 8-point scale or rating system for my RPG. Because I want to include superhuman, almost godlike abilities, an 8-point scale feels more appropriate, with 1-4 representing normal human abilities. (Without going into too much detail, it’s helpful to think of the scale as exponential rather than linear, so 8 isn’t twice as good as 4, it’s sixteen times better).

But this post isn’t really about numbers or statistics. The trick for creating the right “feel” for an RPG isn’t in the numbers as much as it’s in the words we use to define characters’ capabilities. How do we divide people up into universal attributes so we can quantify and differentiate their aptitudes? And more importantly for me—how do I implement my multiple-aspect soul concept while keeping attributes relatively simple? No one wants six to nine basic attributes, then four more special “soul” attributes piled on top of that. (Or at least, I don’t.) I loved the concept behind virtues and humanity when Vampire: The Masquerade was first released. But nine attributes, a health stat, a blood pool, a willpower stat (permanent and temporary), three virtue stats, and a humanity stat—it was a bit overkill. I find the more stats that comprise a character (attributes, abilities, whatever you’d like to call them), the less significant some of them become. And sadly, one or more (or all) of the virtues were often neglected by Storytellers.

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