It is a strange sense of business acumen to demonize and dehumanize to attack your customers. Imagine if when confronted with a series of recalls, Ford Motor Company decided to launch advertisements and articles claiming the “Death of the Redneck”, labelled all Ford customers “redneck”, and brazenly declared “good riddance” to all of them because Ford no longer wanted their money anyway. Ford would, more than likely, get their wish and find that if they are not completely going out of business, then they are certainly enjoying a dramatic loss in sales and corporate worth. In short, it would be a decidedly stupid corporate move.
When the sordid details of Zoe Quinn’s sexual relationships, which included game reviewers, hit the internet, there were indeed the usual trolls that hit upon this issue and behaved in a sub-human manner. As I said before, I have no sympathy for these trolls, who thrive on doing harm wherever they can and to whomever they can. Those that have made death and rape threats deserve jail time, and I doubt you’ll find few people, including very few actual gamers, that will disagree with me on this point.
But beyond the trolls there was, and remains, a reasonable questioning of the integrity of some in the journalistic press. And, to be fair, some in the gaming media actually did revise their ethical practices, and even lay off some of the worst ethical offenders for such things as taking bribes, unethical collusion, and so on. And kudos to those members of the gaming press that chose their integrity over their ego.
Unfortunately, a large chunk, and certainly the loudest chunk, of the gaming press chose not to go this route. Instead a group of so-called ‘reporters’ and editors got together on their own mailing list to devise a plan to deflect all criticism away from their own behavior by equating any and all video-gamers with the internet trolls attacking Zoe Quinn (and also now Anita Sarkeesian). Within two days over one-dozen near-identical articles were released in the gaming press declaring gaming culture “right-wing”, “misogynist”, “tea-party-like” and, above all “dead”, along with the idea that the gaming culture itself deserved to die for being so incredibly evil.
And to a point, this cadre of propagandists successfully played upon very old and outdated stereotypes of the ‘college-loser-gamers’ to push the notion that the whole affair was not about how the media was acting, but about another chapter on the “war on women” with the virtuous feminists against the vile gamers. The relatively handful of vile tweets from the internet’s most disturbed was and is cited as proof of the ‘evil gamer’, and anyone who dared question the media’s role in all this was automatically thrown in with the worst misogynists.
Personally I think that this is the most disturbing aspect of all of the Gamergate controversy. What we have is a large segment of the ‘gaming press’ deciding to take the entire gaming culture, consisting of millions of fans worldwide, and making them social outcasts (once again). They’ve used the terrible behavior of a few dozen, at most, internet trolls and used that to justify the demonization and dehumanization of – quite literally – tens of millions of people.
So in closing up this whole sordid affair, I leave this as an open question: How is labelling all those who play video-gamers ‘right-wing misogynist would-be-rapist basement dwellers’ any different or any better than the internet trolling that has victimized Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn? Is degrading a whole and sizable subset of the world’s population really supposed to support the ‘feminist’ position, or this all a very juvenile response on the part of a chunk of the gaming media to deflect away from their own maleficence, even if it means destroying their own audience?
In the end, the so-called “Gamergaters” (and I do not mean the trolls) are really the only winners here, though it may not feel like much of a victory. The gaming press has revealed itself, and the good players – the ones that revisited their practices and treated their audience with some respect, will be the ones to carry the ball forward. For them, the beginnings of a much-needed journalistic reform have begun, albeit with great reluctance involving a great deal of kicking and screaming.
The losers, then, are those chunks of the gaming press that doubled-down, infuriating their audiences and alienating their sponsors. It’s hard to imagine that sites like Verge.com or Kotaku will ever command any level of respect that they once had, or even if they’ll survive the dramatic loss of their audience. But they should remember that journalism requires a high level of intregity, one that too many of them have failed to live up.
If you’ve followed video-gaming in the recent months you’ll more than likely have noticed the hashtag “#Gamergate” as well as some extremely harsh words and tones thrown around it. Gamergate has dominated the gaming media for some time, and its presence is felt in pretty much every corner of video-game discussion. Yet despite this prevalence, it’s become increasingly difficult to get facts or a sense of history as to how this controversy came about, who the players are, and what the ‘right’ side of the argument really is.
I’m going to try to lay out the very basics of this controversy and hopefully explain the role of the players involved. In the interest of full disclosure I’m going to admit to the world that I’m a white right-wing male Protestant. I’m also a former game writer and developer, game resource developer and consultant. On occasion I’ve even been a member of the gaming press. In truth, I’ve been around pretty much every angle on this story, and not for just the couple of months that the hash tag has been floating around, but actually for nearly twenty years. So I do have some very strong biases but I will try, at least in this article, to keep to the very basics and rein my personal opinions in just a smidge.
So what is Gamergate and why is it so confusing? Well, at the very heart of the matter is that Gamergate isn’t just one controversy, but several mixed up into a perfect storm of outrage, politics, and posturing. Individually, each of these controversies is serious on its own, but when combined turned into a maelstrom of pure gaming angst. For someone just stepping into the battlefield, it can be difficult to learn just exactly where to start.
The first, and most covered, aspect of this controversy involved is the very real and ongoing problem of blatant misogyny in some aspects of gaming. More than a small number of video games, generally marketed to high-school and college-age males, can be extremely demeaning to women. Though video games, as a whole, have made dramatic strides forward in this department, there are still quite a few games being made which present women as nothing but sexual objects to be exploited, sometimes even violently so. The second aspect of this controversy concerns the corrupt and unethical behavior of the gaming media, including web-sites and in-print magazines. The gaming media has not been a stranger to scandal, with accusations and stories of bribery, collusion, and score-fixing dating back even well before I was in the industry. Compounding this is that many in the gaming media had gotten very used to no one covering their maleficence in turn, until the rise of independent reporting on the internet. The ‘established’ gaming media are now simply threatened by independent players.
The third aspect of this controversy is unfortunately an all-too-common issue when dealing with the internet. There exists a large handful of people in the world that live to cause trouble when they can get away with it, and the internet affords them some level of anonymity with which to perpetuate their behavior. These internet “trolls” do not care about cause so much, if at all, as they do about “stirring the pot” and enraging others. These are the people that, when something bad happens, can be counted upon to make the situation even worse.
The last major aspect of this controversy is the existence of political opportunists, proving that in this day and age, there is nothing safe from this corrupting influence. I already stated that misogyny was an aspect of this controversy, so its crusading counterpart, the political feminist, jumped into the fray with all the vitriol and divisiveness they’ve shown in the past. Suddenly there’s an attempt to somehow portray all of these issues in a ‘right-wing’ versus ‘left-wing’ light, despite political persuasions not truly being a factor previously.
As I stated, each one of these aspects would warrant a controversy on their own, and honestly have many times through the years. Gamergate, however, as a mash of all these things, has mired itself into a level of confusion, vitriol, and self-destructiveness that does indeed threaten both the hobby and the industry as a whole, and has already severely damaged the gaming media. No matter anyone’s views on any of these controversies, the nature of the whole beast has become so toxic that it seems impossible for it to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.
Next: A bit more on the background and history of Gamergate.
Remember how in 1985 Nintendo created the first video game and how all of video game history was dependent on the game Super Mario Brothers? We all know that there were never any video games before that time, and any rumors to the contrary are just figments of the imagination by people who talk about Carter and Reagan, something about a Cold War, and the idea that Coca Cola would ever change their formula to completely fail to compete with Pepsi.
If your knowledge of gaming history comes from most modern sources, such as the trade magazines (“The 50 best games of all time!”) or internet sites, you might just be forgiven in making that assumption. According to even those inside the gaming industry, Nintendo might has well have been first to make video games, as the previous 15 years of gaming apparently just wasn’t important enough to warrant mentioning. Remember the Atari 2600? That whole craze from 1978 to 1983 apparently didn’t happen. Ever hear of PacMan, Space Invaders? They weren’t important enough to warrant a mention in these retrospectives. For video gaming, everything started with the launch of the NES.
Since I’m apparently now quite old, and outside of the gaming industry’s marketing concerns, all of that early history, along with my spending cash, is now completely inconsequential. The idea that history should include anything older than the Millennial generation is dismissed as ‘immaterial’. This is all, of course, despite the fact that the average gamer’s age is now approaching forty.
The latest culprit in this generational lapse is Greenheart games’ Game Dev Tycoon. To be fair to the game, it’s actually a fairly good casual simulation of the software industry. But, like most current ‘retrospectives’, the entire period of development from the Magnavox Odyssey through the rise of Commodore up through the C-16 is just forgotten. The C-64 is introduced in the game, thankfully, but as a bit of an afterthought as a competitor to the PC. The entire rise and fall of Atari, the age of the Colecovision, and the rise of Apple are just ignored.
Video Gaming has a long and rich history that dates back to crazy men in suspenders getting Space War to work on a mainframe, to the advent of the Playstation 5 and the Xbox One. Those claiming to be knowledgeable about that history, and want to draw upon it for their own projects, really should respect the accomplishments, and fans, from the years that happened before the NES revived the ailing market back in 1985. It’s frankly a little insulting to simply write off all those years as ‘too old for a young audience’. That just spreads ignorance.
Since I’ve started moving all my Trek-related stuff over to www.jaynz.info I’ve had to deal with a certain type of obsessive ‘fan’ called a ‘canonista’. These are the fans that interpret everything they see about any given franchise absolutely literally, and use that interpretation of ‘canon’ as a weapon against other fans to prove how ‘right-think’ they are and how ‘wrong-think’ other fans are. To a ‘canonista’, worshipping at the mantle of ‘canon’ is a religious calling.
‘Canon’, though, in the actual sense of the words really consists of what the writers in the franchie have to adhere to when expanding on the official fiction. ‘Canon’ was never something for the fandom. It became that, certainly, largely by the fandom defining it for itself (as in the case of Star Trek), and largely to establish a ‘pecking order’ within that fandom. Still, the actual canon, the ones that the writers have to pay to, probably won’t resemble any ‘fandom’ canon all that much.
Personally, I don’t really care about canon all too much. But I do care about believability and consistancy. This is, ironically, is why I don’t care about canon all that much. Why? The handlers of Star Trek, all the way back to the first season of the original series in 1966, absolutely sucked at it. That’s why the internet is full of the same discussions about ships, registries, warp drive, and all those tiny little details, that were around back on usenet before Al Gore invented it.
So, for MY purposes, yes, I get to use what I like, discard what I don’t, and that’s pretty much it. So long as I explain my rationale and try to be internally consistant, I’m golden.
One of my most frequently-revisited by never completed campaign ideas for Mekton is “Spychanger City”. Spychanger City is, basically, a reworking of the Transformers universe into something more consistent and suitable for gaming. The basic premise is the same as Transformers, with two groups of robots (the Autobots and Decepticons, originally) crash-landing on Earth and finding themselves needing to adapt to the modern world.
The heroic robots would adapt to various forms of civilian-vehicles, primarily cars, trucks, and the like, just like the Autobots did in 1984. Likewise, the villainous robots would adapt to primarily military vehicles, like jets, tanks, and the like, just like the Decepticons did in 1984. The villains would tend to be more powerful in combat than the heroes, but be far fewer in number. So to beat your basic “Blitzwing”, your party had to work together to bring him down.
If you’re read this far and thought “Aren’t you just ripping off Transformers”, then you’ve already identified part of the problem. Of course this campaign, as it was, was ripping off Transformers, and not just because it started as a “Let’s make a Transformers campaign for Mekton II” concept back when I was in high school.
The real problem is taking the very basic conceits of Transformers and making an original campaign out of rather than just making Transformers with the serial numbers filed off. It’s an enormous effort to rewrite the Transformers universe into something new that remains compelling, and it’s repeatedly met with failure each time it’s tried – all the way back to Hanna Barberra’s half-assed “Gobots” cartoon. Sometimes, in the hands of good writers, you can get something as good as “Beast Wars”, but this is sadly a rarity.
So, where did this leave Spychanger City? Despite my confidence in my own writing, I never could divorce the campaign concept enough from the Transformers universe to make it stand on its own. When doing so, I gutted too much of what I wanted out of the setting in the first place. Yet it obviously can’t be a Transformers setting as owned by Hasbro, Inc. Having two different, and conflicting, directives has stalled this project for some time.
For Spychanger City’s future, I’ll probably revisit it at least once more to at least do something with all the work invested in the project. Yet this is really a lesson to myself and to other writers and designers out there. Following coattails, no matter how big and nice the coattails are, isn’t likely to result in a quality product. Every writer and designer needs to make their project truly their own, and without that, they’re just not going to get anywhere with anything good.
This is an old post that I wanted to save from the burning remains of my old sites. It’s a small article about what really was going on during the first great crash, and the implications for the gaming industry at the moment.
For gamers, in 1984, the world ended. That was the year that the first major ‘video game crash’ destroyed the video game industry, ruining everything forever and forcing everyone back to the TVs to watch Superfriends and Bugs Bunny on Saturday mornings. It was all Atari’s fault and no one wanted video games anymore, nor would they ever again. Retailers, convinced of their reasoning, dumped all their video game products for pennies on the dollar. Games, like Defender, which had sold for $50 in 1983, was selling for a buck or two in the K-Mart discount bins. The fad was finally over, and retailers could take that precious space to sell real product, like those Polo shirts everyone wants.
Of course, twenty-five years later, we know how much of that wasn’t even remotely true, aside from how retailers took the ‘video game crash’. While retailers and business leaders simply felt that the ‘fad’ had passed, or was ‘maturing’ into that more-sophisticated home computer market, it’s important to note that the actual demand for video games increased during the crash. Total sales increased, and volume was good.
The problem, really, was that the supply of games exploded to an insane degree, with everyone from Kool Aid to Chuckwagon trying to cash in on the ‘fad’ of the time. Hundreds of cartridges were released for the Atari 2600 alone in 1983, and most of them were simply rushed piles-of-code meant to catch unwary consumers with inferior product. It was a bigger pie, but it was being divided into countless shares all fighting for an increasingly jaded consumer base. In other words, the video game industry actually killed itself.
While the Atari 2600 was the dominant console for this era of video-games, it suddenly found itself competing with a growing number of platforms. Not only could a consumer choose between the venerable 2600, and with the chief competitors Colecovision and Intellivision, but there were large number of ‘cloned’ consoles (mostly 2600 knock-offs), the ill-fated Vectrex, the Emerson, and a number of others. To complicate matters, both Atari and Intellivision were wisely cloning out their systems to Sears and Radio Shack futher cluttering the market.
It also didn’t help matters that the ‘big players’, notably Atari, couldn’t exactly be counted on for churning out good quality games. Atari had churned out the awful 2600 port of Pac-Man, which could have single-handedly turned the fortunes of the company around, but instead threw in a few hundred nails into Atari’s coffin as a rushed, badly sounding, badly played, horrid excuse of a ‘port’. Atari had also spent a fortune on making the video game version of the movie E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, which was basically an awful puzzle-adventure game which delighted a grand total three people with its masochistic game-play. Sadly, both of these games were produced in insanely high numbers, which didn’t sell (even at the $1 price-point the following year) and many had to be thrown in a landfill somewhere in the Southwest Desert, ready to be discovered by an intrepid archeologist in the future who will be left to wonder just what the hell the 1980s were all about anyway.
The last bit contributing to the crash, though, was just mere ‘obsolescence’. Coloecovision had already gained ground against the Atari 2600 with superior graphics and sound capabilities, but even that system was looking dated by 1983. The question was ‘how do we move forward’, and all three major companies were stalling and fumbling. Atari had a successful computer line (the 800 series) which seemed to pave the way forward. Intellivision and Colecovision both decided to ‘update’ their existing units into computer systems. Colecovision came up with the ADAM, a computer that boasted the innovative feature of perpetually erasing its own data. Intellivision came up with a lot of promises and never delivered.
While Atari seemed poised to move forward based on their 800 computer series, Atari had to prove to the world that they too were not without great incompetence. They were already working on a new system, the upcoming 5200. The problem was that the unit had limited game support, couldn’t play Atari 2600 games (a feature which helped propel the Colecovision forward), and had some of the worst controllers envisioned by mankind until that date. The loss of both prestige and funds was so great for Atari that even their successful 800 series would be impacted, and Atari, as a company, would never recover. The message to video gamers was clear “The future is coming, and we don’t know what the hell to do about it.”
With the nails in the coffin, the coffin in the ground, all that was left to do was to bury the body. This, of course, came with the rise of the ‘cheap’ computer, notably the C-64. The Commodore 64 was a ‘light cost’ computer, but still had superior capability to all the video-game consoles out, and generally a superior game library to boot. Many gamers that hadn’t already resigned themselves to their existing (and substantial) game libraries just went to the C-64 (making Commodore a giant for a few brief years). With that transition in 1984, the age of Atari was effectively over.
Retailers, of course, completely misread the audience and figured that the ‘fad’ was over. They were wrong, of course, but since they were stuck with millions of unsold consoles and cartridges anyway, it would have been difficult or impossible to convince them otherwise. The big players in the industry, of course, never really admitted their own culpability with their myriad of mistakes. Atari would struggle for a few years trying to push old technology at premium prices. Coleco went on to sell Cabbage Patch Babies and then promptly go bankrupt when they screwed up that line. Intellivision would simply just disappear.
That, then, was that, at least as far as most of the ‘intelligent’ people were concerned. Time Magazine famously declared the era of video games as over. No one wanted to be told otherwise. Oh, there was this little upstart company in Japan making something called the ‘Famicom’, but who wanted another video game? Confident in their genius, retailers and trade shows shunted out all video-game materials for a couple of years. Some kept to the C-64 and the fledgling IBM PCjr, to give the kids something to do when daddy wasn’t working on important flowcharts you see (every household made flowcharts and pie-graphs back in the 1980s, apparently), but the fad was dead.
Of course, the Famicom would get another name soon, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and another phase of video game history would be written, proving the stupidity of the same people who caused the video game crash in the first place hadn’t relented. But that’s really the lesson of the 1983 crash, isn’t it? Make enough bad decisions and you too can turn a pile of gold into a pile of salted manure.
In one sense, today’s topic is a bit like beating a dead horse. The fourth installment in the Indiana Jones movie series is a well-known disappointment. Millions of fans have echoed their disappointment in the film, enough so that it’s been cited as one reason why George Lucas is giving up film-making and seeking retirement. While it’s unfair to say that Crystal Skull was a terrible movie, it may be one of the most disappointing movies ever released. The real question is: “How did the movie fail so spectacularly?”
While much has been made of the “nuke the fridge” meme, and it certainly did the movie no favors, I’m going to skirt that this time out and focus instead on what is really the weakest part of the film: the overall narrative. The real plot of the film can be summed up as “Mutt Williams must recruit Indiana Jones to save his mother from Soviet Agents who are looking for the secret of the Crystal Skulls”. And that, honestly, becomes the main problem.
The plot of the movie is technically resolved about a third of the way in, where the Jones Boys meet up with Marion and have their reunion. The personal tension and character drama that the audience should be hooked with, as well as the primary motivation for the main characters, just completely disappear. Instead of throwing in a solid twist in that relationship and hooking the audience in deeper with Marion, the movie simply throws everything out there and calls it “done”.
What’s left after that point is a hodge-podge of unfulfilled characters (particularly Mac and Irina), a poorly-explained threat (the Skull), poorly thought-out gags (the Tarzan yell), and a very long chase sequence which movies absolutely nothing along. Worst yet, much of the dangling plot threads are just left hanging. The audience has so little invested in the characters of the movie by the end that when Mac makes his big sacrifice no one really cared. Even Indiana Jones himself seems utterly disinterested in what happens during the film’s climax. Like the audience, he’s more interested in figuring out his new family and the whole “Soviet Chick versus the Alien” bit is dismissed with him simply walking away.
The failing of the overall narrative is really what kills the impression of the movie. There were bad gags in the previous three films, of course. There were bad character moments and some very iffy scenes and plot threads as well. But each movie also had great and motivated characters, emotional sequences, and clear tension throughout. By relying too much on empty actions sequences, gags and sub-par CGI to pad the movie, Crystal Skull let itself and its audiences down.
This is actually something that’s been on my mind since the release of Mass Effect 3, and it suddenly became timely again with the insanely botched release of the new SimCity from EA Games. This is basically a big red button pointing out the serious lack of professionalism within the computer gaming industry. In a nutshell, it never looks good on your company that when something is botched, the first official response is “It’s the fault of our customer base”.
Understand, of course, that fans can be fickle even in the best of times, but it’s not the fan’s job to be loyal to a company, either. It’s the company’s job to keep the fan base (otherwise known as “paying customers”) interested and content with their purchases. A company disappointing customers with bad writing and seriously reduced features (Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age II) or with awkward interfaces and awful design choices, or serious bugs and terrible requirements (SimCity) is not a key to success.
But even worse than the above is when these issues are pointed out by paying customers, the official response becomes “Get over yourselves, we’re the game company here!” With Bioware, a once-giant in the gaming industry, the response was so abrasive that the company even included attacks on their (now largely former) fans within their games themselves! With EA, the response has even included threats to ban all game accounts to customers who dare complain about serious, legitimate issues.
It’s impossible to image Chrysler telling their customers “Yes, the car can’t go past 30mph, but you shouldn’t be driving that fast anyway and next time you call we’re taking the car back without a refund,” but that is exactly what EA has done. Can there really be a more asinine way to run a company than this?
I apologize if this is more of a rant than anything really solutions-based, which I normally try to do. Unfortunately the solution isn’t something that ‘one man ranting’ can accomplish. What it really requires is for millions of people to say “You know what, screw you too, game company” and just stop buying their product. The company may not learn their lesson, but at least people won’t be throwing good money after bad anymore.
One of the things I enjoy about learning new systems is to take an existing character and see how it can be shoed-into the new system. I’ve decided that my victims for this article will be the Tephra RPG from Cracked Monocle, and the Final Fantasy X-2 character Yuna. I’ve used Yuna as a steampunk character before, and her basic traits, that of a twin-pistol-wielding guncaster, are fairly easily-modeled in most games. Before I begin to put her into the Tephra system, however, let’s quickly look at what the character of Yuna is really all about.
History: Yuna is a mixed-heritage woman in a world where such relationships are heavily frowned upon. Her upbringing was strict and religious, giving her both an honorable and noble bearing and belief system, but also forcing her into the role of a would-be martyr. In her first exposure to the world at large, she began the question the need for martyrs at all and eventually rejected much of the trappings of her upbringing, while keeping her own faith and beliefs intact. As she’s gotten a little older, she’s adopted an adventurer’s lifestyle outright, doing what good she can while undergoing a quest for something far more personal, while using the singing skills she acquired in her former life to gain some fame, notoriety, and much-needed income.
Personality: Though she’s largely come out of her shell, Yuna is a quiet, slightly-submissive woman in her behavior and attitudes. She seeks always to do the right thing, even though it can cause her serious internal conflict and emotional stress when the right thing to do isn’t an obvious choice. While it’s common to see Yuna frustrated by others and in bad situations, it’s exceedingly rare to see her outright angry.
Appearance: Yuna is an attractive, mostly demure, young woman of slight frame and short build. She generally possesses cropped brown hair. Yuna is visually unusual in that she each of her eyes is a slightly different color. Both eyes are a color of aqua, with her left eye trending more bright blue and her right eye trending more green.
Equipment: Yuna doesn’t wear any notable armor, and her clothes, while stylish, are a bit to the ‘revealing’ side for polite society (she keeps more formal attire for these purposes). She carries two “Twin Bee” light box-pistols which have been modified for automatic fire and can house unique bullets of unusual properties.
For obvious reasons, I’ve skipped a lot of the specifics of the Final Fantasy X and X-2 setting and well as details on her previous role as a summoner. After all, we’re putting her into the Tephra setting and system, and she had abandoned her earlier powers outright at the end of Final Fantasy X anyway. So what we’re going to focus on is her Gunner form.
All right, so now we crack open the Tephra manual to get started, keeping in mind that we’re modeling a character rather than just rolling one up.
To keep things simple at this point, we’re going to assume that Yuna’s mixed heritage is only an ethnic one, and for game mechanics she’s simply a human with an unusual physical trait, her eyes.
As a human, Yuna gets to choose two racial traits and roll one random one. We’ll give her the “Favored Attribute” of Dexterity, the “Peerless” trait, to let her win ties, and, since we’re modeling a character rather than outright creating one, we’ll give her the “Emotionally Driven” attribute as well.
Though Yuna becomes a free spirit, she begins life as a noblewoman and uses that to her advantage at times. To keep things a little simple, we’ll assign Yuna to the Evanglessians and list her as a noble of that empire. Her mother was Paldoran, causing her father to be a subject of scandal for some time.
Now we start to choose her skills. Yuna, as a starting character, gets one skill at three points (her primary skill). She gets two skills at two points each, and three skills at one point each. We’ll chose the “Agility” skill as Yuna’s primary, given how she’s known for her grace and dynamic movements. As a gunner, she’ll also get the obvious “Marksmanship” skill, and we’ll give her the “Showmanship” skill to fill in for her singing prowess. These two will be her secondary, or two-point, skills.
Yuna’s background has also given her a bit of the “Faith” and “Grace” skills, gaining one point each in them. Lastly, her adventures thus far have given her a little bit of general “Expertise”, so we’ll wrap up her skill allocation with that.
Tephra determines attributes by adding together each of the skills taken in each attribute category. We’ve taken three points in “Cunning” skills, giving us a “Cunning” of three. So Yuna’s Tephra statistics are Brute:0, Cunning: 3, Science: 0, Dexterity: 5, and Spirit: 2.
Yuna gains three specialties at first level. Since we’re really going to focus on her relative speed and gracefulness rather than her firepower, we’ll start off with the “Free Movement” specialty. This lets her act more quickly (and slightly more often) in combat. She gains a +2 priority, a +5 speed, and a +6 HP bonus for this.
We’ll also give her “Instant Draw”, so that she can pull her two box-pistols out as needed. This gives her a +1 Accuracy, another +3 on her priority, and a +7 HP.
Lastly, just to keep with her ‘healer’ background, we’ll give her “Patch the Bleeding” which will allow her to treat wounds in the field. This also gives her a +2 DEF, +2 PRI, and a much-needed +11 to her HP.
All right, we’re nearly done now. Yuna gets 18 HP and 12 wound points as a starting character. She also starts with three action points, a 7 total priority, a 2 defense, and a 30 base speed.
Remember how I said we would get back to these? The Twin Bees are weapons that I tend to call “Guncasters”. In essence, they’re guns that shoot magic rather than bullets. This might be the trickiest part to convert to Tephra, so let’s get started.
Yuna’s guns are light, accurate, and automatic. They also can deliver magical effects such as fire, ice, and so on. This means, in Tephra terms, they’re accurate, crank-free weapons with the delivery attribute. Despite being ‘light’ pistols, they’re not derringers, so they fall under the “Medium Firearm” category.
So, computing the prices for each Twin Bee is just taking the market price for the gun, 5p, then adding the costs of its crafting modifiers. These come out to a substantial 175p. So, we’re at 180p for each Twin Bee, making Yuna packing seriously-expensive heat at a cost of 360p on the outset!
This pretty much wraps it up for our modeling experiment. Yuna isn’t known for armor (or much in the way of clothes, for that matter), so at best we’ll just give her ‘light’ armor for the time being. Other gear will be left up to the player’s imagination.
So Tephra can effectively handle making Yuna in her Gunner form, though it’s understandably not a perfect fit. Her Twin Bee guns are fairly expensive toys, which isn’t too surprising, and have to be somewhat kludged into the game. But it’s still a passable representation.
So how does Tephra stand up for character creation? It’s fairly simple to get together a character but it does involve a great deal of flipping around in the book to find everything. An ‘as you go’ character-building example would have gone a long way to help, if only to show where to find all your options. Mechanically it’s simple and elegant, if not innovative. The numbers and powers given give a good indication of what your character can do without being mired in gaming arcana.
Overall a fairly solid effort, and one worth revisiting, which I plan to do soon enough.