Monday, 21 July 2014

Week of Synnibarr, Day Five: The Werewolf comparison (and character creation part 2)

As you may know, I have been struggling through the process of World of Synnibarr character creation for the last couple of posts. A video recording of the second stage of my progress can be found below.

In response to these videos, a friend commented: "And I thought Rolemaster was slow setting up... "

Well, maybe. But although the character creation is taking me a hell of a long time, I'm not sure World of Synnibarr is really all that slow. There's certainly a lot of stuff, but part of it is that I'm unfamiliar with the terms and part of it is that I'm learning the setting as I go. So, for instance, I spent a good couple of minutes just learning what a Shadow Warrior was in the first place.

Consider another game from around the same time, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, which came out in 1992. The first time I create a new character, assuming it's a werewolf and not something else, I need to:

  • Choose my Nature and Demeanour from a big list. 
  • Prioritise and buy stats. 
  • Prioritise and buy skills. 
  • Choose a Breed.
  • Choose an Auspice (which means learning what they are).
  • Choose a Tribe (from a dozen or so, which again I need to learn).
  • Select some Gifts.
  • Assign Gnosis, Rage and Willpower.
  • Take Merits and Flaws (from a great big list). 
  • Explore some of the other Merits in more detail (e.g. Rites, Fetishes)
Is there anything else? I guess equipment if I have any, though that's a less important part of the game. 

I don't think it would surprise me if that took a good hour or hour and a half the first time I did it. 

The big difference is that the Synnibarr character creation process is much less interesting. When I am creating my Werewolf character, I'm making choices every step of the way. I decide what skills to buy, what Gifts to take, and so on. I'm choosing what I have. In the Synnibarr character creation process, I'm just looking shit up on tables or rolling randomly for it. From the moment I choose my class to the moment I go shopping -- which must be about 30-40 minutes at least -- I don't make a single decision, I just find stuff out and write it down. It's the kind of process you could automate. 

Now, there are successful games that have character creation systems where there is a ton of randomness -- classic versions of D&D are the most obvious example -- but by contrast, their character creation processes are relatively quick. I rolled up my first AD&D 1st ed character in probably less than 20 minutes, of which easily 10 minutes was shopping. I do like shopping. 

I guess what I'm saying is: 
  • Next time (hah!) it will probably go faster, but
  • It's not so much that this process is slow as that it's not very engaging. 
Shoping might be more fun, though -- I haven't done that yet!


  1. Technically, in Apocalypse you don't assign Rage, Gnosis and Willpower; they are determined by your previous choices of Auspice, Breed and Tribe (Ahroun, Lupus, Stargazers; they're just better).

    1. I suppose that's true. But looking it up and writing it down is still a step, just like writing down all these bloody modifiers in Synnibarr.

  2. This is much better than White Wolf. You look up the random crap, and at least it explains what it is, and what it does, and random doses of backstory. To create a character in WoD you have to read through piss-awful amateur poetry and try and figure out what wavy-hands concept they are trying to ram down your throat.

    Here, shadow warriors are obviously guards who go and guard shit out of a moral code based on a thousand years serving elite masters led by a mysterious knight and an Oxford don God. Easy.

    Don't like the name though. Sounds like a food court stand that sells cinnamon buns.

    1. Well, if you think that Synnibarr is not full of both bizarre complexity and unhelpful ambiguity, I am not giving a very clear picture of it.

      If the system were less complicated, though, it would be a hoot to run occasionally.

  3. I think it's as bizarrely complex as any other system. The unhelpfulness I might not be getting, apart from the dumb use of calling everything Fate.

    I guess I just view it as... you should RP within the paradigm of whatever universe it is. I mean it's OK to have fun and go nuts, but it has to be within the rules of the universe. So there's some things I would complain about in WoD as sheer dumbness because it doesn't fit within the setting. Whereas this setting is fronted by a dragon fighting a jetbike, written by a guy in a mullet. Balls Rad is a legitimate character name.