Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maximum Risus Fun

In Risus, players get an extra D6 for providing a Tale or backstory for their character. Often, however, my games seem to start out by writing up characters as we are beginning the adventure; many of my players thus don't have a clear idea about their characters' background when we begin gaming, so they don't get that extra die when the scenario begins. (I do give them to write up their Tale during the first few scenarios, as I allow some adjustments to their characters). After all, asking somebody to write up a few paragraphs of prose at a moment's notice is really a lot like schoolwork, and nobody likes a pop essay. What to do?

I could pass out a boring questionnaire about the character's background, with spaces fo the character's family tree, what are his likes and dislikes, his family tree, etc., etc., ad nauseam, but that's pretty boring. Many years ago, a few regulars on the Glorantha Digest came up with the principle of Maximum Game Fun: "in a nutshell, when writing, thinking, and gaming about Glorantha, you ask yourself, 'now, in this situation what will be the most fun?"... and then you go with it!' This eventually evolved into the even-lighter-than-Risus MGF Rules System , which is not actually what my post is about. I think that many of the principles of MGF can be applied to Risus as an aid in creating great background stories.

The part that interests me about the MGF system is the character generation system, where you basically just describe your character according to the followung criteria. Included as an example is a familiar Viking youth:

  1. Who Are You?
    Grolfnar Vainsson, high-famed sea-reaver, skald, and ravager of women!
  2. Where Are You From?
    Njordling Fjord, where the beer is the best, and the women are better than the beer!
  3. Why are you here?
    Looking for more beer and more women, aye! And to make the songs they'll sing of me to the sons of the sons of my sons!
  4. List five things your character does better than the average Viking
    Sing !
  5. List five things your character does worse than the average Viking
    Gets seasick
    Loses sword with alarming frequency
    Gets lost
    Looking for a meaningful relationship
    Gets the names of famous heroes mixed up
  6. List five things everyone knows about you
    Spends most of his time composing bad poetry
    Gambles away all his loot
    The wenches laugh at him
    .He's always last man off the boat
    Can't hold his mead
  7. List five things no one knows about you
    Secretly the slain King of Njordlingland's daughter
    Disguised as a boy to learn Viking skills necessary to avenge her father
    Pretends she's incompetent to allay suspicion about her true identity
    Secretly in love with the captain of the ship she's on
    Really is a great skald
  8. List three things you believe are true
    No one can tell I'm really a woman
    I am fated to win back my father's throne
    Freyja herself is my patron
Often the hardest pat of character design is actually figuring out what character you want to play. This process can help your player decide what he wants to play, and it's fun all by itself. 

How do you get players to really think about their characters' backgrounds? Feel free to let me know, or comment on this approach.

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