Game Design: Character Factors
Last week, I mentioned how everybody in the game has Resource Pools to allocate to tasks in order to overcome challenges. When a character does this based just on the Resource this is called a maneuver. When a character has extra skill or power to put towards the task, this is called a factor emphasis.
Factors represent everything that a character can bring to bear to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. This can be a special skill, or an appropriate background that represents experience. It can also be objects or items they carry and know how to use, or it can be special powers that are outside normal capabilities for baseline characters. That means that in a space opera game, characters will often have skill groups based on training packages, while in a ninja game they will be either training, gadgets, or jutsus (i.e. powers).
So if a factor is a package that encompasses a character’s ability to apply experience, power or tools to a challenge, then the individual pieces that make up a factor are called emphases, or an emphasis in the singular reference. Here is an example Factor, a gunslinger ability similar to what might be found in Outlaw Star(tm) or Trigun.
Gunslinger 2 (Speed, Multi, Prop): 7 charges
This character is an accomplished shooter, but is also quick on the draw and capable of more than simple attacks when holding a gun in his hand. Usually this factor is used with handguns, but long arms are not an impossibility.
- Hot Lead (Attack-Mid): The gunslinger is a great shot and gets the most out of his weapons firing Hot Lead.
- Trick Shot (Doubler): The gunslinger can get double the allocated Speed versus tasks that can be overcome with shooting tricks.
The factor has a set listing of parts that tell us many things, most of them on the main line. We have a descriptive name, and a number which is the Strength of the factor. In parentheses, we have the Resource that powers the factor, and then keywords that apply to the factor’s emphases as a whole. Lastly on the main line, we have charges. This is the number of turns the character can use this factor in a single scene. I am not going to explain Multi or Prop right now, but you should understand that characters don’t always have infinite uses of a Factor’s emphases.
Each use of an emphasis doesn’t deplete a charge, each round of use does. So if a character uses the same factor twice in one action that is still a single charge. When a factor runs out of charges, it is no longer usable. However, there are a number of different ways to gain Refreshes, which add charges to factors of the player’s choice.
There is space in the factor listing for the player to describe how their character uses the factor, or what it means. There is also space behind each emphasis, on its own line, to describe the emphasis as well as write a reminder of what it does if it is non-standard. Attack, is a standard maneuver, and Mid refers to the range to which it applies. The ranges are Self, Close, Mid and Long. Self only really applies to things such as Defenses, a type of maneuver, but it is included because some characters can defend others at various ranges. Doubler is a special type of maneuver only available to factors which serve as expertise in a narrow range of applications. For example, this doubler makes it easier to overcome challenges with trick shooting. Others might apply to scholarly research, or gadgeteering. Doublers cannot inherently do damage, as they are not attacks, but a clever player can think of multiple ways to use them to advantage during combat situations.
All terms subject to change.