Friday, February 12, 2010

Warlock High returns!

My last attempt to run a playtest game of Trigger Discipline with this Harry-Potter-meets-Rival-Schools premise quickly fell flat, in large part because we wound up not having enough players. This time, I don't expect that to be an issue- since I had 10 people applying for the 4 slots available.

I handled the selection process by running with an idea I'd put forward when I first announced the game- that the image above (taken from a panel showing various background characters in the Air Gear manga) was the class the protagonists were in. Everyone would be picking one of the characters in that picture as the person they would play as.

So for tryouts, I had everyone submit a short pitch (about two paragraphs) for a potential character- one that included notes on their fighting style (in a genre like this, a good half of a person's characterization consists of how they kick ass), personality (Trigger Discipline PCs lose chances to earn GAR Charge if they can't produce entertaining character interactions on a regular basis), and motivations (I didn't want too many mild-mannered types who'd always be trying to stay out of fights, since that'd mean I'd have to constantly come up with ways force them to participate in the gameplay).

I made it clear that people didn't have to worry about overlapping with other pitches; I wasn't selecting characters here, I was selecting players based on the quality of their concepts. Limiting the final pitch to a relatively short length let me see who could distill their character concept down to the key elements and communicate those elements effectively. Even then, deciding between these applications wasn't easy. Here are the pitches I received...

Character: 3 (where the character on the far left is #1 and the girl on the far right is #14)

Makua is a young, impressionable kid who's been picked on his whole life. He someday dreams of becomeing a badass hero like in his videogames and cartoons but understands that such a lofty goal is impossible for him to attain... or is it? Akuma, Makua's alternate ego, is a rash, headstrong and terrifying demon who represents all that Makua desires to become. Makua wishes some day to be the badass, Akuma IS the badasa. Makua has no idea that he has this innate power within him. But Akuma is keenly aware of Makua's shortcomings and wishes to make his prescense known to people so that he may properly put them in their place.

Makua's main hobbies include playing games and hanging out by himself. He's recently shown interest in learning how to fight. But Akuma is the real power behind Makua and when the demon makes his presense known he's only interested in one thing: bringing down everyone in his path. Akuma's fighting style is a fluid mix between hand to hand brawling and improvising various items on hand into various weapons. Because of Makua's love of games it's uncommon to see Akuma battling opponents with billiard balls or marbles.

Luis Castaneda
Character: 6
Luis has always had a mistrust of authority; The Man has always been up to some kind of shennagins in the back of his fertile imagination. This attitude solidifed one evening when Luis and Romero, his father, had an argument over sneakers, of all thing, before Romero went out on his evening beat. Luis has never forgiven himself for his last words to his father being so stupid, and while he does not wear this pain on his sleeve, the guilt and shame have guided his life since. Overall Luis is not nearly as misanthropic and bitter as he acts, but prefers to keep his compassionate side as buried as possible.

Luis works for the school paper; he thinks that everything is a story, and everyone has a hidden angle that he can discover, and Luis pursues them passionately, not being above using his natural knack for sensory magic and gift for 'talking' information out of inanimate objects to fill in the blanks on a story. His fighting style reflects this attitude, as Luis prefers to evade and confuse opponents until he is certain he has detected a weakness, and then use his mastery of the terrain to strike with back alley brutality. While Luis doesn't have the heart to really cripple or brutalize someone, he does believe in fighting smart rather than fighting fair, and isn't above an eye gouge, hair pull, or whatever else will finish the fight-after all, you never know who might be crazy enough to pull a knife on a prospective doctor of journalism.

Leon Hargrave
Character: 9
The poor kid who never has anything going for him. He tends to be clumsy, socially awkward, and overall not very impressive. Everyone pretty much takes the piss out of him. The fates deemed him unable to be happy. In fact, he’s not even supposed to be here. A paperwork mixup sent him here by mistake, and there’s no way to correct it. He tries to remain upbeat about it, though. This may be less optimism and more denial. He’s a bit of a wisecracker, and he has an unhealthy obsession with his weapon of choice. An aluminum bat that he’s dubbed “The Baseball Bat of Justice”. He talks to it.

In essence, Leon is a bright kid. He’s more the tactician than heavy bruiser. He has the power of “cut-and-paste” and “drag-and-drop”. Much like the MSPaint feature, he can trace an outline around an object and effectively remove it from the universe. He can then later “paste” the object back into the universe at any given time. He can also telekinetically move those objects around, which he does to create platforms for his acrobatics. He’s a springy bastard, he tends to hop around, smash your face in with his Baseball Bat of Justice, and then get out of range of your attack.

Angus Wicque

Character: 13
Angus is, despite his physique hinting to a football or rugby player, is a theatre actor, and a bit of a ham. He tends to be friendly to EVERYONE, even when it's a little inappropriate for the situation. He often likes to flaunt his "wordly knowledge," which may or may not be real or even applicable to the situation. He does have his moments of insight, but it's not like he's stupid when he isn't, it's more of an exuberant, theatrical need to break silence. He gets in fights fairly often, more for the HONOR OF A COMRADE or FOR GLORY AND SOME GOOD OLD FASHIONED VIOLENT SPORT than for a motivating cause.

His way of fighting is fairly straight fisticuffs, but since he dances a lot, he gives it a pretty entertaining flair (Pirouette, kick, turn, FIST IN YOUR GUT, and jazz haaaaands). He's just as amiable in fights as he is out of them, and he likes to talk about the weather with whoever he's fighting. Since talking isn't always a free action, though, he does need to incapacitate or hinder his opponent to allow him to catch his breath. He does this via his Sense magic: He tends to dull his senses slightly so that he can't be easily blinded or overwhelmed by sound or smell, and overloads his opponents by exponentially increasing their own senses. While they're seeing in over a hundred different colors at once and flailing at every single movement in the nearest 50 yards, he tends to either end it quickly or try and think up some improv to continue the fight with while catching his breath. Despite this fairly foul play sort of style, he upholds his own sense of honor, never hitting them below the belt or physically attacking their eyes or ears.

Fujimoto Kuniumi
Character: 12
Fuji is the second generation son of a local convenience store owner and his wife. He's a guy who couldn't care less about things like "responsibility" and "honor" or all the other bullshit his parents yammer on about. Instead, he's taken up partying, and when that isn't enough, picking a fight with whoever happens to piss him off at this very moment. He will probably not take the fight very seriously, as he's just funnin' around. Fighting someone is like knitting or baking a pie. Some people may suggest to him that he does this because of the empty hole in his soul. That person will then probably be blasted.

When Fuji fights, he will brawl and use his bokken. While brawling, he uses his Mind magic to do things such as slow down the opponent, or simply fill their mind with so much junk that they will stop fighting, leaving an opening that Fuji will gladly take. When that doesn't work, he uses Force magic, using the bokken as a focus, to blast pure energy at the opponent.

Chloe Walken
Character: 8
Chloe Walken, 14, is the second born daughter of her lawyer father and, near predictably, the black sheep of the family. With an older sister who’s an Honors Student at the prestigious Cowfreckle Academy, Chloe’s gone a more decidedly violent route. In middle school, two weeks before the end of the eighth grade, Chloe decided to finally usurp the school’s “Queen Bitch,” Miranda Solheim, apparently for the hell of it. She is every snide, smartass popular girl you ever hated in high school, except she’s telekinetic and wickedly ambitious. She’s got her greedy eyes set on taking over the whole school and it will take an act of God to shut the girl down.

Her preferred type of magics are force and matter. She is a “full body” spell caster, meaning she tends to be very kinetic in battle. She will gesture, spin, and generally bound about while transmuting plastic lunch tables to solid metal to be properly thrown about. When she’s not tearing apart the floor or throwing someone halfway across a room, she’s wailing on anyone who will sit still with some wooden sword she stole from the gym. Her hobbies include making fun of Leon’s cap, waiting for someone to start shit with her, and watching old 80’s movies.

Character: 11
Spencer's got something most other kids don't: rhythm. Rarely seen without a pair of headphones on, he's off in his own little world, carefree and easy-going. Quiet and collected, Spence is the type to analyze a situation and pick it apart precisely; his actions speak louder than words. Not quite a mute, he's personable and by some standards, even nice - just don't fuck with his groove.

While other students might focus on more subtle ways of solving their problems, Spencer's straight to the point. When things come to blows his rhythm comes into play; Spencer's a boxer, plain and simple. Footwork, speed and a mean inside right get the job done. His magical affinity tends to give him the label of a "tank." Straight and simple, with a touch of flair. Body movin', body body movin'.

Sarah Van Allen
Character: 14
Sarah doesn't look like your average Warlock High student. Rather, she looks like the sort of person who people get transferred to Warlock High for bullying. And up to a point, this is correct: she is timid, shy, and easily pushed around. That is, until other people need her help.

While a lifetime as a bullying victim has made her virtually incapable of standing up for herself, for whatever reason, the same does not apply when other people are the victims, or otherwise in need of help. She will, in those cases, transform from her usual, timid self, into a determined figure dead-set on protecting others.

She is not terribly physically imposing by nature, and so does not favor direct combat if she can avoid it. Instead, she uses Matter magic to reshape the walls and floors into weapons, creatures, platforms, or whatever she needs to lay a hurt down.

Kyle Kairen
Character: 1
Personality wise: Intelligence but antisocial. Particularly pissed off at authority figures. All in all, just has a rather large chip on his shoulder.

Combat: The words on that large ass jacket are each tied to spells. Think of them like advanced rune spells that come off and activate when they leave the fabric. About half of them are odds and ends he picks up from other people but they aren't usually as effective as if someone else just cast the spell. The other half are summoning spells he makes for himself. Pretty much all of them turn into stuff like baseball bats and brass knuckles and the like for whatever situation he might need them for. Doesn't do well with weapons with moving parts though.

Spends a lot of time sewing the words onto his jacket, and is quite adept at needlework, but gets more than a little pissed off if anyone mentions it.

So who'd I select? I stuck with what I'd said going in, and chose 4 players- the ones who'd come up with the pitches for Luis, Angus, Chloe and Fujimoto. I gave the first two places on the waiting list to the players behind Spencer and Leon, and asked them to stick around- my plan is to quickly determine whether the format and new version of the system can support a 5 or 6-person group without getting weighed down.

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