+10 in Dueling

When creating a character for a game, I tend to put a crap-ton of points (or whatever the resource is for that game) into Fighting (in whatever form that takes). I make characters that are good at fighting.

After listening to various insightful interviews with such indie-gaming luminaries as Ron Edwards, John Wick, and Fred Hicks (to name a few); I’m starting to realize why I do that.

As Fred is fond of pointing out, the character sheet is a love letter to the GM, telling them what you want out of the game. By putting a crap-ton of points into Fighting, I’m basically trying to tell the GM two things. One is obvious, the other not so much.

First, the obvious one: I want my character to get into some fights.

Second, the not so obvious one: I don’t want my character’s stories to be about fighting.

Ron put it well when he said that he built a character who was an incredible fighter, not so he could tell stories about fighting, but so fighting would be a non-issue for that character, thereby freeing him up to tell stories about everything else.

In the shower, I thought about it in terms of the Three Musketeers. The four protagonists of The Three Musketeers are all, very clearly, maxed out on Fighting. Yet their stories are never really about fighting. Whether or not they win or lose a fight is rarely, if ever, at stake.

Of course they fend off Richelieu’s thugs, but do they get to the ball in time to confront the Countess? Of course they trounce the upstart young nobleman, but do they impress the handmaiden enough to trust them with the letter? Of course they defeat the palace guard, but can they reach the assassin before he commits regicide?

So although the stories include a metric buttload of swordplay, the fights are just window dressing- an opportunity for the heroes to buckle their swashes and tear up the scenery being badasses in between, or around, the real conflicts- the ones that can’t be solved at the point of a rapier. They have +10s in Dueling, for crying out loud, of course they never lose.

Except maybe against each other. Or a particularly competent and dangerous villain. And when some guy we’ve maybe seen in a couple scenes flourishes with his blade and a sword goes clattering down the castle steps, and- holy shit, did that guy just disarm freakin’ Porthos?!, you know some shit is ON. It’s meaningful and startling and awesome because, did I mention Porthos has a +10 in Dueling?

If your dashing swordsman is getting disarmed every few scenes, then it’s… well, it may be meaningful in a different way, because maybe then his story is about fighting.

But that’s a different character.

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~ by oberon the fool on February 4, 2009.

6 Responses to “+10 in Dueling”

  1. I’m not sure what points I would assign where… I don’t have a lot of experience with the whole character generation thing, and I tend to, at least in writing, create characters that I personally identify with (or that exemplify some part of me, or something that I know really well). I’m not very good at fighting. *grin* But I get the whole feeling uber-competent physically thing. Will my story be slash slash? Or will it be “She picked up her weapons for the first time, but they fit into her hands as if they were made for her. And when Dorn attacked her, she moved as if born to the dance of the sword.” But yeah, wherever and whatever I’m doing, I want to be good at it.

  2. The other thing I always say, to explain why I don’t care for games with a high whiff-factor, is that I play games so I can pretend to be someone effective. If I wanted to play someone incompetent, I’d just pay attention to my own life.

  3. i’m going to link this one everywhere. because i can.

  4. Er… ok. I’m not sure why you would want to do that. But I can hardly argue with the mighty Stefficus.

  5. This is a good point. I tried the same thing, once, and the character’s story was all about fighting. I only half realised what I was doing, though, and the GM probably did not.

  6. […] +10 in Duelling (follow up) Some more thoughts on this post: […]

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