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Scott Ruggels

In Need of Some Examples and Recommendations

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So, I am steadily working through the art pieces on my Multi-system race book. art is going very smoothly (I will have something to show in the other thread, soon,)  Well I went through some of the written material, and while the writing of my collaborators is very good. Looking back at my own, well, after a year away from looking at it, my is it awful.  Why use 5 words when 20 will do, seemed to have been my guiding principle back then. I winced reading it.  So, knowing that this board is full of some very strong opinions, I decided to ask here. 

What Fantasy Race materials for HERO, or any other system, do you feel were well written?

 

How much, or how little background, should be provided?  

 

Of HERO "Fantasy Race Package Deals, Which ones do you think work  well? 

 

Which one's do you think worked poorly?

 

What I am looking for are good examples of Clarity, or Brevity, or evocative writing wit in the limited formats.  Generally, this is going to end up as an art portfolio piece, but I also wanted to share something that has been a lot of fun for our group of players.

 

Any recommendations?

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Hm. I've never paid much attention to the published Fantasy HERO stuff, sticking exclusively to homebrew. I've also never paid much attention to package deals. If you like, though, I could post a few samples of writing I did for Exalted (and got paid for!) that people told me were both evocative and concise. (And it will have to be brief, sense posting more than a few paragraphs of material that other people now own goes well beyond Fair Use.)

 

As for wordiness: I feel your pain. I have felt it many times.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Regards the flavour stuff:

 

I'll be honest I find most of the published fantasy race stuff kinda crap. Cliched rubbish.

 

A lot of it is clearly based on other generic fantasy race stuff from other games, that itself is based on stuff from yet other games, etc. Very little ever goes further back than the stuff that was written early DnD.

 

Laziness is not the only reason it's like this. There's a desire to appeal broadly, to keep everything generic, to avoid specific styles that might only suit some campaigns.I'm guilty of having done it myself in my Fantasy Hero Basic pdf.

 

I find that the amateur stuff you get on world building forums much more imaginative. Not always good, but at least it's different.

 

Re. mechanics:

 

Something that bugs me is how many (not all, but many) designers seem to think that being a given species comes with innate skills like knowing how to use a longbow. I really appreciated how 4th ed. Fantasy Hero broke races up into physical and cultural packages.

 

When it comes to physical traits of a species it occurs to me that, given the nature of HERO, it doesn't really matter if you say Dwarves get +2CON. A player will buy up the CON if they want high CON, or buy it down if they don't. The only reason to include stuff like that is to give an idea of what a generic version of what the species looks like.

 

Other abilities (actual powers) like Light Sleep, Infravision, etc. are much  more indicative of a given species' uniqueness. At least to me.

 

 

Sorry, but I can't really think of any really good examples of this sort of thing.

 

 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, drunkonduty said:

Regards the flavour stuff:

 

Actually, you bring up good points, though a lot of this generic feel of game products is because they also want to avoid Campaign specificity, to make things more utilitarian for broader audience interest. I may have restated what you said, but it's also a concern for the business side of things.

 

26 minutes ago, drunkonduty said:

Sorry, but I can't really think of any really good examples of this sort of thing.

 

 

Actually, you bring up good points, especially when looking at things in a nature vs. nurture frame of reference.  I am taking this approach as to making the stats and powers package the baseline for the race, and sub races, and dropping basic , and specific cultural packages depending on where they are from.  I just need to know how much or how little text do I drop in for the package descriptions.

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7 hours ago, DShomshak said:

Hm. I've never paid much attention to the published Fantasy HERO stuff, sticking exclusively to homebrew. I've also never paid much attention to package deals. If you like, though, I could post a few samples of writing I did for Exalted (and got paid for!) that people told me were both evocative and concise. (And it will have to be brief, sense posting more than a few paragraphs of material that other people now own goes well beyond Fair Use.)

 

As for wordiness: I feel your pain. I have felt it many times.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

Sure!  glad to look at things. The ease of formatting and length for Pathfinder, and 5e is because of a very strict 1 page format, though sometimes it has supplemental information elsewhere in the book.  The problem I have is that the formatting of Hero stuff was all over the place in the 4e days, other than the two column text, and the package boxes.

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My suggestion for examples would be Talislanta, a unique fantasy game setting noted for its huge number of distinctive, non-cliche races and creatures. The game has gone through five editions over more than thirty years, and a copious number of published source books covering a wide range of subjects. One of the greatest things about Talislanta is that its creator's home website now hosts almost all that published material as free downloadable PDFs, completely legally.

 

Because the player-character races don't closely match any of the common types found in other games (their most common promotional tag-line is, "Still No Elves!"), every race needs enough description for a player to understand how to play a character from it, and to make it sound interesting to play. But because there are so many PC races (thirty alone in the core players' book, plus dozens more optional ones), their write-ups need to get to the point fairly directly to save space. That would seem to match what it sounds like you're looking for.

 

For your purpose I recommend downloading the Talislanta Fifth Edition Players Guide. "Chapter Three: Character Creation" has all the core PC race descriptions and game stats. But there's a great deal more cool stuff to explore in that book and on the website, should you have the inclination and time.

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On November 29, 2018 at 9:17 PM, drunkonduty said:

Something that bugs me is how many (not all, but many) designers seem to think that being a given species comes with innate skills like knowing how to use a longbow. I really appreciated how 4th ed. Fantasy Hero broke races up into physical and cultural packages.

 

This.  High holy Hannah, this, ten thousand times!

 

I'm half-forestdwellingthing, so I can speak the language of the birds!

 

I'm sorry; you can only speak half of it.

 

Jokes aside, yes: pet peeve of mine since I first saw such nonsense as a kid in children's books.  It makes no sense: if you have to learn it, it's not genetic, and therefore not racial.  Now there might be something about the race that means you have to be one in order to learn in (perhaps it's a martial art that requires seven limbs or something), but it doesn't mean you were born knowing how to do it.

 

 

 

On November 29, 2018 at 9:17 PM, drunkonduty said:

 

When it comes to physical traits of a species it occurs to me that, given the nature of HERO, it doesn't really matter if you say Dwarves get +2CON. A player will buy up the CON if they want high CON, or buy it down if they don't. The only reason to include stuff like that is to give an idea of what a generic version of what the species looks like.

 

That was always my assumption with racial Package Deals: here's a list of typical adjustments made to a standard character sheet to represent a Dwarf.  Typical Dwarfy-type Disadvantages, and a couple of well-known physical traits of Dwarves.

 

And as such, I've never had a problem with them.  Essentially, it's "just in case the sample characters aren't doing it for you, here's how you can make a dwarf: build the character you like, then drop this on top of it."

 

 

On November 29, 2018 at 9:17 PM, drunkonduty said:

 

Other abilities (actual powers) like Light Sleep, Infravision, etc. are much  more indicative of a given species' uniqueness. At least to me.

 

Absolutely critical for a Package Deal or Racial Template or whatever it is they're calling it these days: you need  a list of the unique abilities of that species.  Goes without saying.  And don't forget that they don't all have to be _in_ the Package Deal.  Maybe not all Blood Hounds are good trackers, but a typical one has abilities that suggest it.  Maybe only half the population is born with Bump of Direction.  In cases like these, make a list _separate_ from but closely located to the Package Deal.  I hate having to wade through the text to remind myself what percentage of a race is psychic, for example.

 

 

 

 

21 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

their most common promotional tag-line is, "Still No Elves!"

 

Sign me up, and I mean right _now_, Mister! :D  No elves!  No Tolkien!  Oh, what a wonderful world it be!

 

(actually no; tried it many years ago, under the first or second edition (the one with that 60s-sci-fi-novel-psychadelic-guy-made-out-of-colorful-other-things cover that turned me off to many, many other possibly enjoyable things over the years).  It might have been my fantasy niche, but my GM was a total dicebag, and kept shoe-horning in Tolkien, which left a bad taste in my mouth.

 

But I digress!  This is Scott's thread, and with all apologies due him and everyone else, I will move on! :)

 

 

21 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

 every race needs enough description for a player to understand how to play a character from it, and to make it sound interesting to play. But because there are so many PC races (thirty alone in the core players' book, plus dozens more optional ones), their write-ups need to get to the point fairly directly to save space. That would seem to match what it sounds like you're looking for.

 

And I almost agree.   Except that he said this early on:

 

 

21 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:
On November 28, 2018 at 8:28 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

So, I am steadily working through the art pieces on my Multi-system race book.

 

He's not working on a genre book or a campaign setting.  He's working specifically on a race book, about what appears to be a small selection of races.

 

With that in mind, I would think the more detail the better.  However, as with my suggestion a couple months ago about posting older-edition stats somewhere in an appendix, I would suggest an information bullseye pattern, something along the base structure of an essay:

 

Start with a super-concise, perhaps one page condensation of _everything_ someone needs to know to drop them in as background characters.

 

This is surprisingly less information than you think.  You've done it as a GM, I'm sure.  Just some background.  You need enough to answer basic player questions:

 

What are they?  Where do they hail from?  Are they tough / fast / smart / savvy / industrious / breedable (this question is almost entirely cloistered in fantasy genre, in spite of Kirk) /  wealthy?  What is their family structure?  Town structure?  Favorite climate and terrain?  How are they named?

 

 

More or less done with that.

 

You've got 3/4 page or so of just what you need to use the new race as eye-candy, window-dressing, or NPCs with some rudimentary knowledge of just what the Belgium they actually are.

 

Then get crazy-go-nuts with all your ideas. Just make sure you follow a similar layout: race, physical attributes, family structure, climate---- whatever you pick, stick with it for consistency.

 

 

I have nothing to point to as an example except for the progression of the Enemies books.  Remember those first few pack-in villains?  One-to-three paragraphs, period.  Not very cussed big ones, either.

 

As the books kept coming, the backgrounds got more detailed.  We moved from origins to background, to personality, to motivations--

 

most of the people who might tell you "keep it super-short" are the same ones who were happiest with two-page historical write-ups of what amount to "books of characters most likely to never see the light of day in my campaign, or end up being one-episode wonders if they do."  No one _needs_ two (or more; Steve Long has been writing this stuff the last few years.  I am sure there are characters with their own stinking _books_ by now) pages of info for a character who will likely never be of any use to them, but most all of us _want_ it, none-the-less.

 

And what you're undertaking is _more_ than a character.  You are talking about races!  Entire civilizations!  How do they interact with race X?   Race Y?  Why are they so hell-bent on killing all the giant elves?  Is it just moral outrage?  What religions are known among them?  Why?  Superstitions?    All that information actually becomes _more_ vital simply because it's not just one guy anymore.  It's a community.  It's multiple communities!  

 

Wait!  I want to play one!  Tell me about the history of my people!  Well, now you need one of those, to.  And what would be different, genre to genre?  In Traveller, they're Vargr.  In Horror HERO, they're werewolves, so now they need "nards," if old movies are as factually-accurate as I suspect they are.  That sort of thing.

 

 

But no matter _what_ you chose to include or not include, remember _always_ to start with the page-or-less summary of how to drop them into an existing game:

Living in the colder, icier regions of Campaign, these nomadic weasel flossers travel seasonally in moderately-sized bands composed of three-to-five families, extended out from grandsires to second or sometimes third cousins, following the migratory patterns of the Gingivitis Weasel, whose gums, when pink and healthy, are priced by the aristocracy of the Southern Reaches for making velvety coin purses and leather steeping balls for tea leaves.  While no one family is considered superior to another within the band-- in fact, many smaller bands have become so intermarried as to effectively become a single family, with many of the youngest children having severe chromosomal issues), a band is generally lead by one of the grandsires.  Usually, this will be the one who either heads the largest family group within the band, or who can floss the most weasels using only one hand.  He will head a small council composed typically of the other grandsires and their eldest sons. 

 

Leadership within the band is fluid, and during Festival times, which occur at each end of the migration, when as many as a hundred bands may gather for the season upon the same plain, families intermingle and entire bands may fall apart and reform again with entirely different family groups when it is time for the return migration.  There is little class distinction; even money is a communal affair within the bands: as elf hide and weasel gums are sold, generally the harvesting family keeps only half for itself, and the rest is given over to the council of sires to be either distributed throughout the band or hoarded for Festival seasons, when it's time to purchase spouses for those young ladies who have come of age.

 

The weasel flossers are not especially gregarious; theirs is a hard life, traveling from one chilly shore the continent to the other, but they are generally upbeat and happy people, and willingly share their cook fires with passing travelers who are willing to do the same.  They do not seek out the company of strangers, but do not shun it, either, as they are shrewd businessmen, but they will brook no insult or theft.  Many a sly traveling pickpocket has found himself near-death from blunt trauma injuries (the weasel flossers prefer weapons that do not damage the gums, even when used vigorously.)

 

 

Well, you see where this is going:

 

A page-ish of generic, "just-enough-that-anyone-can-use-it type info.  If it doesn't make it to the bottom of the page, then drop in some art.  At the bottom, of course.  You want to separate the basics from the good stuff.  Make them turn the page for the good stuff.  If they see it all at once, it suddenly becomes "too much stuff," just because they kick into "I don't want to read all that" mode.  Let them read the basic stuff, then think "Man, I wish there was more.  These guys are really interesting."

 

Then just nail it down tight. :)

 

 

 

But as to your original questions, I'm afraid I really can't help you.  I am sorry.  Well, I guess I can _sort_ of help you:

 

No matter what you're thinking about, HERO does _not_ need yet another "spell college."  Those things just don't get less ridiculous.  Stay out of it entirely.  If you want to create themed magic, that's fine.  Just stay away from the whole "spell college" idea.

 

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Duke, I'm sorry your GM put chocolate in your pean... um, Tolkien in your Talislanta. But if that was the source of your dissatisfaction, you might want to give Tal another look, since that's not what it's about. Especially since it's free. :)

 

Hey, Scott himself raised concern about his being too wordy -- I just tried to give him examples like what it sounded he was looking for.

 

(But I like spell colleges.) 😥

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1 hour ago, Lord Liaden said:

 

(But I like spell colleges.) 😥

 

 

You're right, of course.

 

And let me put better perspective on my Spell Colleges thoughts:

 

I do not mind the various spells.  Magic is a major part of the genre.

 

But all the "colleges" are is a pre-generated set of special-effects for the same spell.  And you have to use that SFX (what's the singular of "X"?) for every one of them, because that was your special school's uniform. It's just saying "to use magic in this genre, you have to make sure it matches."

 

Fantasy HERO, featuring magic by Garanimals.

 

See what I mean?  They can't just openly admit that they love Elemental Control for magic.

 

 

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8 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

You're right, of course.

 

And let me put better perspective on my Spell Colleges thoughts:

 

I do not mind the various spells.  Magic is a major part of the genre.

 

But all the "colleges" are is a pre-generated set of special-effects for the same spell.  And you have to use that SFX (what's the singular of "X"?) for every one of them, because that was your special school's uniform. It's just saying "to use magic in this genre, you have to make sure it matches."

 

Fantasy HERO, featuring magic by Garanimals.

 

See what I mean?  They can't just openly admit that they love Elemental Control for magic.

 

 

 

C'mon, Duke, you know that there is a long and bitter rivalry between the Vesuvian Fire Mages and the Thunder Mountain Storm Wizards. They meet every year on Thanksgiving weekend for their annual grudge match, the Toilet Bowl, for bragging rights. Who would ever speak ill of this long tradition of the Spell College Subdivision?

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1 hour ago, Duke Bushido said:

Well, I _do_ like that it's not D&D "memorize and forget" magic.... 

 

That's just not right. 

Fortunately, D&D doesn't do that anymore. Yes, spellcasters have a certain number of "spell slots" that say how many times per day they can cast spells. And characters have lists of what spells they know, which some classes can change each day according to what they think they'll need. But you can use a spell slot to cast any spell you know that's of appropriate level.

 

(D&D magic is still about resource management. Just like so much else in D&D. But it's not as extreme as it used to be.)

 

End of digression; back to Scott's thread.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Okay, here's a bit from my very first Exalted writing job, for the 1st edition Storyteller's Companion. The job was to provide background for the Scarlet Dynasty, the aristocracy of the Scarlet Empire, a.k.a the Realm, which has dominated the world for centuries. Dynasts are Terrestrial Exalted, a.k.a. the Dragon-Blooded, set apart from mere mortals by their elemental powers.

 

Since this was the first supplement after the Exalted corebook, there wasn't much more defined about the Scarlet Dynasty. And since it was a short chapter, writing had to be tight. The developer rightly rejected my first draft as derivative drivel. For my second draft, I decided to structure the chapter as a look at the lives of the Dragon-Blooded from childhood to death. Forego the systematic encyclopedia-speak, give the barest outlines and then illustrate through evocative detail. Get at the experience if being a Dynast. As Duke Bushido says, sell the reader on the Dragon-Blooded. Along the way, slip in a few ideas for how to use Dynasts in stories. Other people can work out the details later.

 

As an example, here's a bit about late youth for Dynasts. Anime is a big influence on Exalted, and I gather that school drama is a significant subset of anime, so I gave the Scarlet Dynasty boarding schools:

----------------

YOUTH


After primary school, young Dragon-Bloods attend six years of secondary school. The parents have considerably less choice about the school their child attends. Just four academies cater to Exalted students alone. The headmasters of these schools, called the dominies, accept what pupils they will. The mightiest Dynast must still petition for a child’s acceptance, with letters of recommendation, cash donations and the pomise of more grants to follow. (The four academies do not charge fees for services; they expect gifts to honor their labor.)

...
Two secular academies claim the Empress herself as their sponsor—or the Regent in her absence. The House of Bells emphasizes the arts of war; its name refers to the clash of swords on shields and armor. This academy occupies a sprawling estate on the southern coast of the Blessed Isle, not far from the port of Arjuf, where warships and legion troop-ships depart for the mainland. Every year, veteran officers re-create entire battles at the House of Bells using cadets as junior officers and people from the nearby villages as make-believe soldiers. The estate’s varied terrain lets young warriors practice combat and related arts in diverse environments. Three times a year, the students hunt condemned criminals through the grounds as a way to burnish their tracking and riding skills.
------------------

So yeah: You don't know who runs the House of Bells, how it's administered, the layout of the place, blah blah blah. But if you're playing a Dragon-Blooded character, I hope you have some idea what it would mean that your character attended the House of Bells, and based on that you could hand your GM (pardon me, Storyteller, la-de-da) a few bits of personal history to work into adventures. And as GM, you have a few ideas about why PCs might visit the House of Bells and what they might do there.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

PS: How do I do a quote box, other than quoting someone else's post?

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The problem with Tolkein, his elves, and his setting are that they are tied to the English idea of aristocracy and that having a "good" bloodline means something along the lines of "you are better than others".

 

His elves were thinly-disguised aristocrats, the hobbits were the Welsh folk muddling along doing their own thing, humans were the common English folk who needed to be led by an aristocracy, and the dwarves were Scottish miner/engineer types who were either good or evil (in the books) as the mood took them. If that kind of thing grates on you, perhaps because you didn't grow up in a society which values an aristocracy, Tolkein might not be your thing because even the elites of the other groups aren't going to measure up to the people who have the "right" blood.

 

====

 

< mini-rant >

 

As for package deals, I've never seen the point of the deal. If someone wants a character who has most of the features of an elf, he should pay for it, in my opinion. If I want to play an independent

On 11/28/2018 at 7:28 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

 

human con man who is not bad with a sword and who has access to some magic, I'm going to have to go through hell to qualify for some package deal, even though those kind of characters show up fairly often in fantasy literature. Package deals too often boil down to "if you character is easily pigeon-holed, you can have a break on the cost".

 

So I would argue that package deals all work fairly poorly. :) 

 

< /mini-rant >

 

 

IMO, if you are going to have racial package deals for various fantasy races, don't forget to write up a human package deal so humans can get a break on the cost for being human just as an elf gets a break on the cost for being an elf..

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I'm not sure of the earlier editions, but I know with 5th they had the name "Package Deal" but there was not actual savings involved. It was just a hold over naming convention I assume. In 6th they fixed that and just called them templates, again, with no point savings, just suggestions on what the races/careers/cultures would have. 

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47 minutes ago, archer said:

The problem with Tolkein, his elves, and his setting are that they are tied to the English idea of aristocracy and that having a "good" bloodline means something along the lines of "you are better than others".

 

But most fantasy, and myth/folklore, revolves around people born special in some way: "rightful" kings, children of gods, heirs to special powers, prophecied heroes. Very few significant figures raise themselves up out of humble beginnings. Fantasy harkens back to eras when aristocracy generally were viewed as being better than others.

 

When modern fantasy authors have chosen to subvert that trope, they often just substitute a different group. For example, Robert E. Howard's Conan was a commoner among his people, but his people were "barbarians," who in Howard's conception were better in many ways than "civilized" men.

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