I’ve spend the past two weeks suffering through one of the worst cases of sinus problems I’ve had in years. I don’t know what’s in the air but I wish it wasn’t. I haven’t gotten much done on Microlite81. Most days it has been all I could do to drag myself to work and drag myself home. I have, however, had a chance to look through borrowed copies of a couple of new “very new school” games: 13th Age and Numenera. Numenera has an interesting setting, but the game system doesn’t do much for me — mainly because I don’t see any reason for it. I could run the setting with a few pages of house rules for D&D. 13th Age is more interesting in that it has a gridless variant of 3.x combat rules. I may borrow some of the 13th Age combat positioning and movement rules for a “advanced” combat system for Microlite74 and Microlite81 at some point in the future. Otherwise, the rules did little for me as they are too new school and too narrative-focused for my tastes.
For example, every character in 13th Age has “One Unique Thing” — one unique feature that no one else in the entire world has. It can’t be something that affects combat, but just about anything else the player wants is fine. Some examples given in the book seem okay to me (e.g. “I cut off my own arm to show how tough I am” or “I am a former cultist”). Other examples seem a bit much (e.g. “I am the oldest elf in the world” or “I’m the only human to be called into the dwarven priesthood — ever”) and some just seem completely over the top (e.g. “To you I might look like a halfling sorcerer, but I’m a dragon that’s been stripped of its mighty form and power. Not that I’ll ever tell anyone that” or “I am a deathless pirate whose soul is trapped in a gem controlled by the Blue dragon.”). As far as I can tell, the player isn’t even limited to things that exist in the DM’s campaign, the player can add new stuff (up to and apparently including new countries and peoples).
The “One Unique Thing” rule in 13th Age seems to be a rule designed to that every player who wants the “most special special snowflake” character ever can be sure to get that character. That’s not something I’d want a campaign I run. However, 13th Age’s “One Unique Thing” rule did remind me of something vaguely similar I used to do back in the 1970s when many of my players would just reuse the characters who died — just under a different name (or sometimes “junior”, “the III”, etc.). I had each player select a “character Tagline” — one fairly unique feature in the character’s personality or background. Something to set the character apart from other similar characters (living or dead) in the campaign. I’ve recreated that rule and am adding it as an optional rule in Microlite81. From the following draft version of the rule, you can see it is intended to be far more limited that the 13th Age‘s “One Unique Thing” rule even if the idea behind the two rules are similar: ensure characters are unique.
Character Tagline (Optional)
Each character should have one fairly unique feature in his personality or background that sets him or her apart from other characters and npcs in the campaign (and from other characters the player may play or have played in the campaign). This feature should not be something that would give a mechanical bonus in play, but something interesting and unique in the character’s personality, background, or history. The GM should work with the player to ensure the character’s tagline is appropriate to the campaign setting. A tagline can also be a “catch phrase” that sums up the character in some way.
Some examples of simple character taglines for characters from history and literature would be “never tells a lie” for George Washington, “lion hearted” for Richard I of England, “demands his martinis be shaken not stirred” for James Bond, “cultivates a grandfather image but quietly manipulates others to achieve the greater good” for Dumbledore, and “I didn’t do it, nobody saw me, you can’t prove anything” for Bart Simpson.”