I mentioned that I found a kindred spirit in pencil and paper role playing games in a previous article. I’ll continue the story here.
I was about 15 years old. I met this guy in school who’s an enthusiast on RPGs, the dice rolling kind. He’s willing to be the game master, and he told me to get a copy of the rules book. Well, I was young and broke, and didn’t know any better, and he told me to simply go photocopy his book. And I did. Oh well…
The game was of the Palladium universe. The game master used the one with super heroes with super powers (flight for Superman, adhesion for Spiderman). And mutants with mutant powers (think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). And espionage and military and the like.
There were many rules. You had to know if your energy bolt was more powerful than a tank missile fired at you. You had to know if you’re flying, that if you’re still within range of an electrical force field that extends outward in every direction, including up.
You had to know what happens when two flying vehicles head toward each other in a “chicken out” situation. You had to know how to calculate damage to different parts of the vehicle to determine if it’s still maneuverable. You had to know how to determine the winner when an Aikido master meets a Tae Kwon Do master (never mind any pacifist nature of martial arts).
It’s a lot for a 15 year old to digest. I mean I had to think about what happens when an alien whose planet was stronger in gravity than Earth’s, landed on Earth (the alien would have higher mobility because he’s “lighter”. Hypothetically speaking).
But we never got around to playing it. There were supposed to be other players but I never got to meet them. I was excited, then confused by the rules, then sad that it took so long to meet, then resigned that we’d never meet.
What happens when you’re the only one?
You start making up characters. I prefer just one fictional character at a time. Since I’m the only one, I started uhm… cheating.
For the character stats that require dice rolls to determine, I uhm, used the uhm, maximum. So if Strength is determined by a 3d6 (meaning the sum of 3 6-sided dice rolls), I used 18. Basically, anything that depended on random chance, I removed the chance element and gave my character the best score (ever).
Then I chose the super powers. My preference is wingless flight (like Superman), advanced healing (like Wolverine) and being impervious (like… I can’t think of a super hero with it. Hmm…).
Then there were academic education and technical training. I chose a fair amount of scientific knowledge such as math (obvious, huh?) and biology. There were also skills such as lock picking, car mechanics and other skills that I don’t know in real life. Hey, just because I can’t tell the difference between a rear wheel drive and a front wheel drive in real life, doesn’t mean my character can’t in that fictional world. Oh, and I ramped up the skill level to 98%, the highest without breaking the rules.
After creating a few of these characters, I found them lacking in richness. A super hero who’s extremely strong, runs fast, deflects bullets, flies at sonic speed, throws energy balls and creates lightning fields, and is charming to boot, is boring. Perfection is boring.
The main goal of the game is not to create a character who can breeze through whatever challenges he face. It’s the trials and tribulations he had to conquer, and the solutions he used, that makes the adventure, the game, more enjoyable. Why do you think kryptonite exists for Superman?
And all this started me along the path of translating game statistics into character sheets. Which is the story, of another article.
[Update: The original title was “When lonely and bored, you max out character stats”. This seemed to have attracted some, uh, visitors, who were, uhm, surprised when they found that it’s not what they were looking for. Of course, they probably only looked at the first 4 words of the title… So I changed it.]