Monday, 8 June 2009

shemps, templates and lifepaths

Over at UncleBear, there is a recurrent concept of 'shemping' after Shemp Howard (really Samuel Horowitz, pictured opposite), recurring character in the Three Stooges movie.

This involves getting the same individual to play different parts - Berin has extended this to stat blocks for NPCs and monsters; a fine and noble tradition alluded to by Jeff Grubb in Spelljammer and even earlier than that during the time when people brought in characters based on people they knew in stories.

Berin hints at levels of Eternal Champion-style recursion when he suggests bringing story arcs into the back story for the shemp when they move from system to system. If the bodyguard in one story loses their ward, perhaps in another story when they are used as a gruff war veteran, they have a facial scar and lost a friend in a fierce firefight. You can extend these stock characters to have their own mythology.

So, can this process be automated in a system-free manner?

I say "...and why not?" Sci-fi games like Cyberpunk 2020 and Traveller use a lifepath method of providing characters with skills and backstory. So why not use a system-free method to give a character additional depth without intensive amounts of scripting or even a hugely detailed background. As you'll only really need to know maybe three or four major things... so maybe this could become some kind of random generator. Have to write this one out I think.

Care would have to be taken to avoid obvious transplanting or cliché with the generator; so a visit to TV Tropes may be in order to prevent this from sinking into stock (even though that's what we're after) so we need to finesse some things into the mix. Is this a viable concept?

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