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  1. Ok so I have been thinking about this a long time. I wanted to wait to post for a number of reasons, some to do with wanting the board to dilute down to only the serious forum visitors, others because I wanted to wait until it was all fleshed out and maybe some other threads had touched on things. So what is the post/topic about exactly? Namely Character Creation, more specifically how many games do it wrong. Secondly it is about Alignment, how many games do it wrong, why it matters and should be in game, how to do it right, how it relates to character creation, and lastly how it should effect npc interactions in a fairly simple way. Lastly it is about "romance" but more specifically NPC relationships in general. Before you proceed I am warning you now. This post.... it will be long. First before I go into anything we need to touch on the idea of "Comeliness". Specifically the idea of a statistical number representing how attractive your character is. For a number of reasons I think this is important to good RPG's of all types and should exist in P:E. No it should not be a simple "stat" derived from your other character statistics. You might wonder "Kark why does this matter and why the heck are you mentioning it at all?" For a couple reasons. First, I don't know about you, but in the real world it is my experience that appearance not only forms a large portion of a persons first impression but it can also be deceiving. For believable and immersive NPC interactions you need to make certain inroads to allow for a partially realistic approach. Part of that is making NPC's react based on things that make sense and are logical. Example: How many times have you been wandering through the woods, follow a road, and get ambushed by some bandits who demand a toll be paid? Isn't it kinda silly that they don't bother noticing you are armed to the teeth? You have dude wearing archmage robes with a staff pulsing with power behind you but they don't care? It takes you out of the game because there are no rules to account for your appearance. "But Kark WAIT! Wouldn't simply having them do a level check count too?" Well yeah.... but I did say appearances can be deceiving right? Who is to say your current mode of dress or appearance is an accurate representation of your power? Forton looks like a psycho crack head but I bet he could beat the crap out of an average bandit. Here comes Zaotaichi the Blind Masseuse who kills people like it is going out of style. By looks he is just some blind dude with a cane in shabby clothing. Sure he could kill you easy, but he doesn't "look" like he could. So we can agree appearance is important to NPC interaction. Whether you are trying to woo the Baroness into the bedroom, intimidate a thug, smooth talk your way to discounted good from a merchant, or inspire a group of town guards with a speech as the goblins attack appearance can have an effect on this. A large part of that is "Comeliness". After all the Baroness is not going to get it on with someone who looks like they took a hoof to the face then got chewed on afterwards. Likewise though is the veteran town guard sergeant going to relate to a pretty boy Adonis as well as he would a guy who looks like he could be found at the pub? So this isn't a one way street. Beauty is after all in the eyes of the beholder. So this is important to relationships with NPCS for a number of reasons because it can help form an initial reaction as well as a guidepost for certain entry requirements for relationships if they are in game. Of course gear and such can also have an effect on this. You can hate the games all you want but titles like Saint's Row and Fable for example are actually pretty good at this and serve as great examples of how gear should effect NPC reactions. So you need two "measures" for appearance. 1: Comeliness. 2: Gear or clothing. Combine them and you have a general idea of what your character looks like and how people will react at first glance. This is nice because it also gives a valid excuse for those who like the idea of "town clothes". So clothing is pretty obvious. How do you get a "Comeliness" score if it isn't just a stat (which it shouldn't be)? Thus we enter..... Character Creation. Blank slate characters SUCK. Don't get me wrong, I love the new Fallout games like New Vegas. I put over 200 hours in Skyrim. For me though they are not "blank slate" games because regardless of whether the game realizes it or works with it or not I create my own backstory for these characters. Just like I did in Icewind Dale, just like I do in Baldur's Gate with the caveat that Imoen is my friend "maybe" and Gorion raised me. How do you avoid the blank slate but still leave the character up to the player. Well you take a dash of Mount and Blade, a pinch of Ultima, a sprinkle of sweet roll crumbs Morrowind, a peppering of the old 16 bit original Ogre Battle game, melt it all down, and pour it all over a cake made from the character creator options in Dragon Age Origins. Meaning... You do more than just say "Yhat sex are you? What race? What's your Class? What are your skills/special powers? GO!" You start with the basic stuff like male or female and what race. Then you pick your class. Heck let's even roll our stats now. Then you get to the part that matters. What subrace are you? Meaning are you a Elf from those woods to the east? Or are you one of those Elves who live in that swamp to the north? Make a social class be chosen, what did you do for fun as a kid, so when you got older did you take up a job or go to some school, ever have a important someone, yada yada yada. You ask a specific series of questions that pin down (in general) where you grew up, what your status was socially, why that was your status (did you get solid into slavery or was your parents a merchant etc), how were you raised, what did you choose to do when you became a adult, and so on. This gives a general framework for your character. NPC's can now make comments about your accent, you can be given flavor text about how you visited a place once, basically the game has a set of general info that it can use to more immerse you in the game while allowing you to have actual control of who and what you want to be. You could (but don't have to) even use this to determine what sort of starting scenario your character plays out ala Dragon Age Origins just better. Depending on how far you want to take it these answers could even effect your stats in slight ways or your options come actual character customization. Third we go into the morality spiel. Maybe you aren't the Avatar and I am not a Gypsy in some wagon but this is important anyway. Once we get to the point where "you are an adult and you found yourself at X point" part of the questionnaire we redirect and put the player in a scenario based on previous answers. Now you get the morality questions that range through different topics and scenarios. Straight forward right? Lastly we finally get to actually customize our character maybe with facial models, body type, hair style, skin, eye, and hair color, yada yada. Whats neat is the options you have right now are based on your race, your sex, and the choices you made leading to this point. You might get stuck with a scar on your right eye no matter what because of how you answered the questions. So on so forth. In the end we are done and the character is created. Why did it have to be that complex, well I am glad you asked, because it diluted down into what I call the "Big 4". They are.... 1: Comeliness: Little did you know while customizing your character look in the background you are being assigned a score on how attractive you are based on the options you chose. Go figure that a ratty afro is not as sexy as long flowing full hair like Fabio. 2: Style: Simply put how intimidating/crude you appear versus how stylish and debonaire you are. That scar on your right eye may not actually make you uglier, but it certainly makes you look a lot scarier and brutish. So a guy with a low score is Sarevok on a bad day while a high scorer is James Bond. 3: Perception: This is primarily scored by the first half of the questions you got asked. It is in a nutshell how society in general sees your character. Are you a law abiding member of the upper social graces or a dirty roguish thug with no respect for authority? This is broken into two sub categories. Society and Morality. Society being the Law versus Chaos dichotomy and Morality being plain old good versus evil. 4: Alignment: Guess what this is? It is exactly the same as Perception, except instead of it being what society "thinks" of you it is the cold hard reality of your character. Society may have looked at you as a lawless scum of low morals for stealing food from the castle kitchens, but in reality you did it to feed your starving friend who would have died to illness without food. So while you might not respect laws, it is not to the degree society likely thinks, and while society considers theft evil, you did it for a moral reason. Get where I am going with this? The most important thing is that all four of these "stats" are 100% hidden. You simply don't see them or know they are being created. Thus character creation is about making the character you want, while giving the game the tools to understand and work around that character in an immersive way. Why do you need two separate "alignment" stats? Because one is what people will think of you the first time you meet, when coupled with appearance you get a base starter "reaction score". IE: How much does this character like me? As you interact with that character the "Perception" score is slowly over time changed by the "Alignment" score. They no longer base their opinion on what they "hear" it is now based on what they "saw". Lastly, and probably the most important, these things tie into important NPC interactions in a key way. Like I said, why would the Baroness hop in bed with a ugly dude? This can effect everything from what NPC's will refuse to join you as companions, to who will be romance-able (sorry Jaheira and Viconia now have different preferences instead of just wanting to get with you cause you are the main character and a dude), how major story npcs will relate to you (turns out the leader of the thieves guild was a better friend than the King), and it may even effect the story itself in some ways. The whole point is it allows for "blank slate" design in that you can be any character you want, while also creating a system that allows the game itself to react to that character in a reasonable and believable way. End result is NPC's that feel more real, a character that is unique to the player, and a story and world that you care more about. Will this make it into PE? Probably not. Will you write in exactly detail how you could do all this? I don't have all week so probably not again though I could go into some detail if I had to. I am posting this because I want to share my thoughts on these issues and how they can be addressed and done right, that's all. Feel free to share thoughts and or flame as you feel needed.
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