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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180716


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New Characters: The MoonHunter Way

There are various threshold of "acceptable death" found in various games; running the gamut from "you have to kill yourself" to "death lurks around every corner and every die roll". Each game system, chronicle, and troupe of players has a comfortable level or threshold for acceptable death. (*1)

Player death is an uncommon event in my chronicles, usually happening at the key dramatic moments - like the climax. The Chronicle Story Arcs and various plotlines revolved around my characters. One or two characters "go away" early on and the chronicle can wobble and spin out of control. (Yes, I have some redundancy built in but two is usually half to one third my character troupe. That is a lot of unsupported plot.) Still, it is a game and character lives are on the line. Sometimes it happens.

Sometimes I can't (or won't) save them. (*2) So, they are gone. Often leaving a gaping hole in my carefully laid plans.

So while I have to scramble around to make sure everything will work for the Chronicle, I now have a player without a character.

In high continuity/ story oriented chronicles, you don't just drop in a random person... who is magically accepted by the characters and just romp on. The new character needs to have motivations to join in at this stage and needs to inserted into chronicle story when it makes sense. Thus there is normally some lag in inserting the new character into the chronicle due to timing and planning.

Part of the delay is to remind character that Death has a cost and is meaningful. Thus the amount of "what the heck?!" and "confused whys?" related to the death might add a few penalty sessions. (Sheer bad luck subtracts sessions). Still, a player should work for their slot.

Now, unlike others, I do not just let them sit in the penalty box. (This is a recipe for bad feelings, players leaving, and retaliatory actions.) When a player does not have a character on stage, there is a lot they can do. I have them be assistant GMs running opposition/ monsters and such. Sometimes they are running action or an NPC on "another stage". I have also had them run notable bad guys in cut scenes because I hate talking to myself. Eventually, the new character can enter play.

Still, where does this new character come from?

Now I follow one of the Great Rules of Gaming: If it doesn't seem like something that could happen in a novel of the genre (or TV series, or well.. choose your metaphor), it tends not to happen in my games.

So, getting them to "fit in" to the braided plotlines and the current situation is tricky.

New Characters, done the MoonHunter Way, come from two sources.

Plan B
Smart Players always have a "plan B", an alternate character in mind for the chronicle when the characters and chronicle are created. These Plan B characters often start as a bit, or part of a plot line, (Bits collected could be Major or Minor NPC). These elements are then expanded into a full character. They have been vetted to some degree and ready for Moonhunter's process. These characters are actually built into the chronicle, so inserting them is relatively easy.

Some players actually build more than one character going through "most, if not all" the MoonHunter process for getting a character together. Some are potential major characters that didn't quite make it. Some are just cool people from the sidelines. These characters make both the GM's life easier (look characters I don't have to make and plotlines to go with them!) and allows a player to bank a character replacement (or two). Some players make them as minor protagonist characters they can play later. (Confused by that last statement? You really need to read this post.)

I do keep my players busy. There are many minor protagonist/non-protagonists characters that they have played on another stage and liked. They can be from either side, by the way, defecting villains happens in the fiction. They are usually involved in the chronicle and the core story arc, thus they can easily be "upgraded" into a player run major protagonist character.

That small percentage of times is option 3
It is rare when my troupe has to generate a brand new character with no other attachment to chronicle previously. When we do, the whole group works together to help them create a character with some linkage to what is going on. Sometimes they require some retcon, but keeping that to a minimum can make it easier for everyone. Still, we have salvaged many a chronicle with an Option 3 character.

Note: the favorite option chosen for new characters is a bad guy disgusted with the Big Bad or a villain who is being hunted down by the Big Bad and joins the heroes on the enemies of my enemy basis. Not only does it bring the roleplaying elements - built in trust drama, but they can bring plot clues with them. (Sometimes I wonder if some players toss a character, just so they can bring in one of these options and the plot information with them. It is a good meta gaming strategy if they are.)

Depending on how long the chronicle is scheduled to continued, a player can opt not to bother making a character and stick to aGMing. Even if there is a lot of play time left, some players just opt to be the aGM, running the other non-protagonist characters in the game, and all of that jazz, rather than being a straight player again. This is a minority decision usually, but it will happen.

I have had another odd option. Once a player just decided to hang out with us, doing nothing until the next chronicle or interval occurs. Usually, they aGM a bit, but most of the time they are just here for the camaraderie and sushi.
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These characters go through the entire MoonHunter process, making sure that there are plotlines associated with them, hooks, appropriate details, and so on. (*3) Did we mention they must have solid foundations (all 3)? Yep replacement characters are not ad hoc replacements the MoonHunter Way, but solid parts of the chronicle.

I put a lot of work into my chronicles, I expect my players to put in some sweat equity a well.

Once the character is ready and the other players are good with it, we set things up. Sure their might be a little wiggling of the setting/ situation a little (maybe spray some retcon to clean it up), but we are ready to bring them into play.

"And... when last we left our intrepid adventurers... "

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*1) I am going to write up an updated version of this old, old, article. But until I do, wander over to Strolen's and read the old one.

*2) Note: I tend to play games/ chronicles where resurrection is a truly miraculous event. Runequest II in Glorantha with its limited "rescue from death"/ Heal 6 is as close as I got to "easy resurrection". (Okay, a good excuse, some spare experience points, and a character rewite could allow it to happen in a superhero game. But "the radiation accident" meme is not the same thing.)

*3) Some of my players work much harder at keeping their characters alive in my chronicles. Making a character is more than just chucking numbers and some light ideas when you are gaming with MoonHunter. The character should be just as detailed as any character in a novel/ tv show/ movie/ comic book, with all those plotlines and hooks. If they aren't, there is always next week and you can still aGM this week. So, the precious are kept alive, often ingeniously.
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