Characters in context
So since the early design stages of Soft Horizon there have been 6 major stats and when arranged in a grid:
Violence | Sorcery
Warfare | Courtesy
History | Piety
…we get two axes on which to generalize about a character. You can add up the values horizontally and determine whether the character is defined by (in order) Tactical, Strategic, or Abstract (Mental)? skills. You can add the columns instead and learn whether Substance or Essence dominates. Now in most games this would be interesting and help define the character, but in Soft Horizon, because we are looking to facilitate one-on-one play, the character’s focus becomes the context for the whole game. If a player will prefer some category of skill over another, then play will tend to be categorized similarly. At first I resisted this but then realized that this actually differentiates each campaign in a dramatic fashion. So let’s look at my Bus Notes.
A tactical character is superheroic in the individual, personal realm. Her allies are named sidekicks, similarly renowned. She bargains directly with gods and is comfortable threatening or defying them. She deals with beasts and spirits and men and not with nations or armies. Her adventures are personal.
Traits for a tactical character should talk to relationships — who does she care about and who does she hate? Wo loves her unrequited? Who does she pine for? Who seethes secretly, planning revenge. Similarly, her traits are also her things — her weapon, her armour, her artifacts, her clothes.
A strategic character is a great leader. Her allies are champions, lieutenants, special forces, cults and factions, nations and political parties, families and races. She deals with religions and not gods, nations and not kings. Her adventures are historic.
Traits for a strategic character should speak to promises and debts — who owes her and who does she owe and, more importantly, what is owed? Who struggles under oppression and looks to her as a saviour? Who blames her as the oppressor?
An abstract character is a sage or priest of great fame. Her allies are whole fields of study or alignments of gods. They are concepts like law or nature or they are entire ages of men. They are secrets and miracles.
Traits for an abstract character should speak to ideas and ideals, to facts and prophecies. What does she believe that no one else does? What great error can she never acknowledge? What fact does she know that no one can face?