Episode 123: Determinedly Cheerful Or Just Obtuse

This month, Mike and Roger ask what makes a hero, and look into the benefits and drawbacks of doing character generation as a group (thanks @DrBob!).

We mentioned:

The One Ring 2e starter set at the Bundle of Holding (until 6 March), Numenera in D&D5 at the Bundle of Holding (until 13 March), Roger’s Cthulhu Eternal WWII SRD, Valhalla: Absent Without Leave by Lee Gold The Maltese Falcon, Dunbar’s Number, Randolph Scott, Billy Batson, the article Mike couldn’t find, Full Frontal Nerdity, Traveller, bluebooking, Mongoose Traveller, Roger’s MgT character generation cheat sheet, 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars, the Central Casting series by Jennell Jaquays, Reign. and Powered by the Apocalypse.

Here’s our tip jar. (Please email or leave a comment as well; they don’t always tell me when money’s gone in.)


At about 40:45 minutes in somebody starts playing a bassoon while I am trying to listen to Uncle Mike tell me to “notice the heroic tendency when it shows up”. Orchestral effects obliterate Our Mike’s observations until about 41:00. Fifteen precious seconds lost in time, like tears in rain.

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Looks as though the interstitial music (and the rest of the show) slipped when I was making room for the Cthulhu Eternal WWII plug. Fixed now; thanks!

I don’t mind the interstitial music. It’s the occasional sirens in the background I find disconcerting while driving my car. :astonished:

I have two gardens, someone else’s house, and most of my own house, between me and the main road where the police go to play. Mike, alas, does not.

Bucks County Council remains inexpliicably hostile to my plans for an underground lair.


It would become an underwater lair… swiftly. Though that’s not all bad…

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Oh dear. Roger’s merchant isn’t going to pay the rest of our Traveller characters? One of Ant’s characters got zero money in character gen and one of mine only has enough money to eat for 2 months. Less if he buys a mobile phone or any bullets. We may have to mug Ant’s other character, who is fabulously wealthy! :slight_smile:

I like lifepath stuff but not if the result of the roll means it makes your character NOT FUN TO PLAY! I hate the randomness which means there is no game balance in stats, or skills, or equipment. Anyone who says “But real life isn’t balanced” can bugger off and roll up a ‘real life’ PC like an accountant, primary school teacher or call centre worker. And then not go on adventures and not be a hero.

Character connections as a group are good, and usually great fun to invent.

My ‘face man’ (who pines for the asteroid mines) is at -1 on all Social rolls! I’ve no idea why Roger’s merchant hired him, because his function on the ship will be:

  1. Either he’s the chicken soup nozzle cleaner, with his Mechanic 0.
  2. Or he’s James Holden from The Expanse. He has all the talking to people skills, but is at penalties on his dice rolls, so causes solar system wide chaos every time he opens his mouth! :slight_smile:

The best sort of connections/back story are ones which generate plot… you have an enemy hunting you down… your sweetheart is missing in action… your childhood rival is trying to ruin your reputation…

The ship mortgage payments alone will bankrupt him in less than a month unless we make lots of profit. If we do, sure, gold-plated cats all round.

I’m convinced, to the point that I may actually give it a go, that it could be fun to take the output of something like Traveller or Central Casting character generation and then build it in something like GURPS that gives all characters the same budget for starting awesomeness.

Cyberpunk 2020 was good for this. No inter-PC connections, which was why we didn’t talk about it in the show, and it also suffered from random bad crap happening to you, but it did at least give you connections with NPCs.

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We recently (well pre-pandemic) played Cyberpunk 2020 for nostalgia’s sake. The character background I ended up with was a bit odd…

My PC: Oh woe is me! I am an orphan, raised on a corporate farm!
NPC: Hey, I’m your long lost rich uncle, come to rescue you.
My PC: Where the hell have you been for the last 7 years? My parents died ages ago.
NPC: Um, I was busy… Anyway, now I’ve found you, do you want to shag me?
My PC: No!
NPC: Then I shall be your enemy forever! Bwah hah hah hah.

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The secret of Traveller, both in chargen and in actual play, is that if you don’t want your character you get them killed and roll up another. This is why Traveller doesn’t need an experience system.

It’s a cruel game. Harsh, but…. No, not fair either.

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Eating is overrated :slight_smile:
Players are always moaning.
“The only treasure in this adventure was a spell that let you get on a horse if it wanted you to.”
“Are you supposed to have less money at the end of an adventure that you did at the start?”

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In this version (Mongoose 2nd ed) you can’t die in character gen.
And there is sort of an xp system… your PC spends their downtime doing correspondence courses or watching YouTube “how to” videos or something… and when you’ve racked up enough weeks of study you can put a skill up.

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Ah I have fond memories of the Hawkmoon adventure where the treasure was… a working flush toilet.

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That’s better than a homebrew fantasy game I played where you could only learn anything useful via formal training. The author worked for IBM and seemed to have absorbed their worldview a bit too thoroughly. Training was expensive, and paying for it was the motivation for adventuring. Yes, all the holes you can see were there.


That one was at least not my fault. That was entirely down to Chaosium :slight_smile:


I think some GMs/designers confuse player motivation with character motivation.

Q1: Why do we all gather at John’s house once a week?
A: To play RPGs and go on adventures!

Q2: Why has this system landed you with crippling debt and a curse laid by a wizard that means your eyeballs will melt if you don’t earn £1000 a week FOREVER?
A: Because that system contains badly written adventures that no sane PC would ever go on (Attack the Death Star armed only with a small fruit knife; attack across the minefield under cover of daylight, etc etc).

Q3: doesn’t the answer question to question 1 mean the premise in question 2 is irrelevant?
A: Yeah we’ll moan in character but attack the Death Star anyway. Otherwise why bother coming to John’s house?

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This is definitely a thing in Call of Cthulhu – though I’d argue that if you get to a place of safety, then go out to face more monsters, it’s not a horror game any more, it’s a paranormal investigation game. YSDC’s run of Walker in the Wastes suffered from this: at the end of the first chunk of the campaign, a bunch of the players said “I don’t see why [PC] would continue to be involved with this” and ended up generating new characters.


If I recall correctly, that was there in the game at least as far back as MegaTraveller?