Game Master Diaries #5: My Characters Concluded
Today is the final installment of the character close-ups that focus on the character creation and backstory process for each of the five player characters in my one-shot. Next week we will move on to a new aspect of Game Mastering, either making maps or dungeon design, I’m not sure yet which will be first. In the mean time, sit back, relax, and let me introduce you to Dmitri Hillseeker, the half-giant ranger, and Stanley Upton, the young human monk.
One of my players didn’t give me any feedback on what he would like to play, so I was able to build the type of character that I would want to explore if I were playing in this adventure. I’ve tried before to make a ranger character in GURPS, and it often feels like it turns into just another fighter, but who also has a bow. I wanted to see if I could emulate more of the feel of the D&D class and give it a fun twist. That’s where the race came into play. Half-giants, with their enormous strength normally make for formidable warriors and barbarians, but I figured it would also give him a much larger range than your typical archer, and the idea of a huge, hairy woodsman in the vein of Paul Bunyan or Hagrid just seemed like a blast to play. The half-giant template that I used came with a huge boost to the strength score, but with a corresponding hit to intelligence. To make it easier for our large ranger to do well at ranger things, I bought up his perception score separate from his intelligence, since the majority of survival and tracking type skills are governed by perception rather than intelligence. I gave him pretty much every outdoor skill available, along with a ranged and melee weapon skill. To really cement the ranger flavor, I found a way to emulate the animal companion feature of the D&D class by giving him an ally with whom he has a special rapport. Thus Boris the Black Bear came into the game. I figured that an almost 9 foot tall character would need a fairly large animal to even be able to keep track of it, and the alliteration available with black bear was just the icing on the cake.
For my final player character, I had even more freedom to explore and experiment, because this was the character for my dad, the only experienced player in the group. I asked him what he wanted to play, and he said to give him whatever the group needed. Since there was already a good mix of skills in the party, I decided to make him a bit of a wild card and try something I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while now: a monk. There were several directions I could take the concept, and I decided that rather than giving him an odd race, I would make the monk the only human in the group, but rather than a wizened master or a brash warrior, this monk would be a minor, barely old enough to leave the monastery unattended. GURPS has no shortage of cinematic martial arts skills to choose from, but I didn’t want to simply make my monk a kung-fu master, I wanted to emulate the mystical powers of the D&D class with a little Avatar: The Last Airbender flavor thrown in. To this end, I took a mix of the stylized martial arts skills and some of the cool melee spells that I had been wanting to try out in the magic book to make a monk who is equal parts Karate Kid and Avatar Aang. The final twist to the archetype came when my dad requested that this young monk also be an aspiring bard. This added a few more skills to his already large list, and I knew that he was going to end up having to pick a couple things to be great at, and a lot of things to be only half-way decent at. This worked well for the character concept, however, so I embraced it. I gave him a decently high skill in his base martial arts skill and his public speaking skill, the two foundation skills on which the rest are built, and the rest were of a lower level, representing a precocious kid who has dabbled in a lot of things, but hasn’t had time to master any of them yet. The final result is more of a cross between Aang and young Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle.
I got to play around a lot with these characters, and I apologize if I got too into the specifics of the character creation on these two, but this is my blog, so I don’t apologize too much. Anyway, let’s get on with the backstory sketches.
Dmitri was raised by his hill giant mother until he was weaned, at which point she took him to live with his human father so the other hill giant children wouldn’t accidentally harm him in their roughhousing. Peter Hillseeker, a woodsman by trade, did his best to raise his abnormally large son, teaching him the ways of the woods and bringing him along on his journeys whenever possible. Without any formal schooling, Dmitri never learned much beyond some rudimentary reading skills, but that didn’t matter to him, since he preferred to be outdoors as much as he could. He always loved animals, and assumed that any animal he met wanted to be his friend. This resulted in quite a menagerie of pets that Peter sometimes had trouble keeping up with. As Dmitri got older, he began to help his father with his work, eventually striking out on his own to establish a name for himself. It was during the first week of his independent ranging that Dmitri came upon a dying black bear with her young cub whimpering by her side. She had been the target of some hunters who had paid dearly for their attempt on her life. Dmitri did his best to comfort the bear in her final moments, and took her cub in as his own. From that moment on, the two were inseparable. Dmitri never did anything without Boris, and Boris followed Dmitri around like a loving, loyal puppy. Times have been hard recently with the increase of bandit activity, and Dmitri decided to head to Al Azar with Boris and offered his services to International Protection League in the hope that he can help them make the woods safe again.
Stanley was abandoned on the steps of the monastery of the Order of the Way after his parents died when he was young. Since then, the monks have raised him and trained him as one of their own. Master Ting, the Master of the Way of the Willow took a special interest in young Stanley and trained him as his apprentice. Stanley’s only remaining possession of his parents’ is his father’s zither, something that he has taken to mean that his father must have been a great bard. He spends almost as much time practicing his zither as he does meditating and training, and he wants to be the monastery’s first warrior bard. The brothers of the Order of the Way all take a position outside the monastery to serve the community before they can progress from apprentice to initiate. Normally this is done when an apprentice comes of age, but Stanley has already been training for longer than most other apprentices, and his impulsive, playful nature causes the monks a considerable degree of consternation. Because of this, the Masters agreed that he should undertake his external service a few years early. They worked out an arrangement with the Order of Saint Alphonsus under the Ecumenical Accord to have Stanley join International Protection League for his external service, and it’s hard to tell who is more excited about this new adventure, Stanley or the other monks.
So there we have it, the last of my characters. What do you think? Any avenues you would have explored differently? Do you have any more interesting combinations or twists on archetypes I should pursue in the future? Stay tuned for next week, when we leave the world of characters behind and step into the graph paper of map making, or the finer points of dungeon design. Either way, it won’t be the same without you, so y’all come back now, ya hear!
Tags: Aang, Avatar, Black Bear, Game, Game Master, Game Master Diaries, Games, GM, GMD, GURPS, Half-Giant, Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe, Martial Arts, Monk, Ranger, Roleplaying, Roleplaying Games, RPG