Board Game Design Diary – The Characters
Let’s talk about the character you’re going to play for this campaign game. I think for a lot of people, that’s up there in terms of what people are looking for with a campaign game. You want a good story, but you also want to play as interesting and unique characters.
With that said, I want who you play in the game to be highly customizable. If you like the look for a character, you can play them how you want if it’s a dual weapon fighting tank, a slow moving shielded character, or a rogue who uses fancy knife tricks, all of those could be the same character you visually like. But, I also want to give it an RPG feel. It would be easy to give you just a blank character sheet and let you go at it, but I’ve found that those don’t work as well for board games as they do for something like D&D, mainly because no one fully knows the world like they do in a RPG, so no one can help guide how things are going to be created. Plus, you aren’t just your in game character.
So how do I propose getting around this issue, I’m going to split your character into two parts, there is the out of game character, this is supposed to be an MMORPG that is a death game that people are stuck in, that means that you not only have your in game character and persona, but you have your out of game life as well. My thoughts are that in game you can be anyone you want to be, if you want to be a tank or a rogue or a ranged character, a night in shining armor or slink around in the shadows, you can do that, but in order to give you some direction or something to base it off of but it is still going to allow you to do what you want in game, because in game the name of the game is survival.
I think giving some player backstory will help push people in a direction if they are feeling overwhelmed with options as well. A quiet mousy player might pick something similar to themselves or completely different, but you can choose, they probably are less likely to pick something adjacent. And I can give them real life skills and things like that which might influence what a person picks. Or maybe they are a big streaming celebrity, that will probably influence what they pick as well, maybe they will go really flashy, or maybe they are going “undercover” to try and get the scoop on a new game. And if this was an RPG, I wouldn’t do anything like that, generally RPGer’s have about 400,000 different characters that they have an idea for, but for a board game, they generally have more constraints, so for a board gamer, they might want more direction, and it also makes the game more accessible.
To make it even more accessible, I’d probably give a quick build guide as well. Like, if you want to be a tank, start with this at level 1 and then this at level 2. Or a rogue, agility with a side of agility and charisma is probably what you’re going to want to have. I know if I pull this idea together there is going to be a lot for it, so I don’t want it to be too intimidating.
Before I kind of run down specifically what I’m thinking with this, there is one more reason for having the player character set-up already. I want to add in story elements or story cards, however, it works, that are things which can come up in game, or maybe it’s just a narrative branching path that relates to who the person was in the real world. Or give the players hidden objectives based off of their character in the game. It wouldn’t be something like tank the party and get everyone killed or get this other character killed or anything negative, but something that would be able to open up something fun and cool specifically for that character that would allow it to feel unique and special based off of the backstory that you picked.
So let’s talk about specifics, what does this mean.
First, it means that each person is going to have two character cards, you’re going to have your real world character and your MMORPG character. The real world character is probably going to have some key words on it, these are things that they’ll know, so if you find something with that keyword in the MMORPG world, they are going to know more about, solve it, whatever it might be, faster than everyone else or better odds.
The in game character will get keywords as time goes on, but this will come from getting skills or items. And it’ll be about focusing your character how you want to play it. You have your basic sets of skills, strength, agility, guile, toughness, intelligence, and allure. These skills you can level up however you want, and they are going to influence game created challenges, you’d use your strength when swinging a massive hammer or you could get a better deal at an NPC shop because you have better guile or allure. And while sure some of the real skills will come over like I said with keywords, the in game skills are going to be not that useful when dealing with a player in the game, so another person stuck in the MMORGP, that’s going to be some more about those keywords again, or at least not influenced by in game stats.
Finally, I talked about story elements for the characters. This part can be tricky, because you want them to be important, but you don’t want them to be locking someone into a choice. So if you are playing Lily the Tank and you have a personal quest that connects you to someone or something that then leads you to The Rapier of the Lilies that kind of sucks, because you wouldn’t be able to use it. But if you unlock a skill, again the same issue. And anything else could feel like it’s a little bit lacking as well if it doesn’t offer some in game reward. One thought I have, if there are enough of the elements in there, to give each character a real life drama that they are unfolding and finding out about in the game. The trick with that is that it’s not the main focus of the game itself, so there needs to be enough to keep the thread going. This is still a work in progress as to how this will play out or if it’ll even happen, but I like the idea of character specific quests/bonuses.
We’ll talk more about leveling up characters, starting stats and skills, and more of that coming up, but that is a bit more into the nitty-gritty, and I’m not to that part yet in my design, at least not with characters. So I’ll be back later, sometime soon probably, with more design talk as I look at creating a campaign style board game.
Let me know your thoughts below. Would you like a rare item for a character specific thing, would you like a rare skill, something you can sell, or something to do with your backstory? What would be the most engaging for you?