Far West: Phases and Aspects

Character creation for Far West begins along a similar line to the core SOTC system — progession through several phases, chosing Aspects during each.

There are 5 phases, each of which tells us something about the character’s life, as well as adding setting detail and giving the GM some NPC concepts to work with. The phases are:

  • Phase 1: Origin: This phase covers the character’s background and early life. The player writes down a brief summary of the events of the phase — details of family, education, early work, etc., which shaped the character. The player creates a setting location for this phase, and this setting is added to the campaign world (thus, each campaign setting will be unique to the playing group). The player then describes an NPC who was important during the events of this phase. The player then creates two aspects for his or her character that are in some way tied to the events or details of this phase.
  • Phase 2: Master:This phase covers the character’s training as a warrior. The player writes down a brief summary of the events of the phase — did the character learn at the feet of a wandering Master, or was the character a member of a Clan or School? At this point, the player can choose one of the example groups provided in the rules — The Knights of the Far West (the former lawmen of the defeated side in the Secession Wars, who are now outlawed) or The Imperial Army (the military force of the governing power) for example. The player then describes an NPC who was important during the events of this phase (this can be the character’s Master, but does not have to be). The player then creates two aspects for his or her character that are in some way tied to the events or details of this phase.
  • Phase 3: Virtues: This phase does not neccessarily reflect a particular time in the character’s life, but instead covers the virtues which all heroes in Far West have in common. In the wuxia genre, these are known as the Xia Virtues, although I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll be using that name here. The virtues are: Altruism, Justice, Individualism, Loyalty, Courage, Truthfulness, Disregard for Wealth, and Desire for Glory. During this phase, the player chooses one virtue which the character exhibits positively, and creates an aspect which reflects that virtue. However, the player also chooses one virtue in which the character is lacking, and creates an aspect which reflects that shortcoming. Over the course of play, the character will also earn positive or negative aspects for the other Xia Virtues.
  • Phase 4: The Wars: In the world of Far West, the world has been shaped by The Secession Wars (as you can tell from the name, this is our Civil War analogue for the setting). The specifics of these conflicts depend a great deal on the setting information created by the players in Phase 1. There will be a chapter on the Secession Wars giving some ideas for consideration. Regardless, two facts are concrete: One, the wars ended with the Empire as the victor; and Two: Warriors from both sides (including the characters), scarred by war and unsuited for the new peace, headed into the far frontier to make a life for themselves. The player writes down a brief summary of the events of the phase –which side they served, some of the critical experiences they had during the Wars, etc., and then creates two aspects for his or her character that are in some way tied to the events or details of this phase. They player also describes an NPC who was important during the events of this phase.
  • Phase 5: Nemesis: The worth of a hero is often measured by the quality of his enemies. In this phase, the player creates an arch-villain for the character — a nemesis with whom the character has previously fought (giving details of these encounters), and who will be encountered again (as the gamemaster rubs his hands in glee…). In addition, the player creates two aspects for his or her character that are tied to their experiences with this enemy.

At the end of this process, the character should have 10 Aspects, and will have handed the GM several bits of campaign setting detail, including 4 NPCs — one of which is a major villain.

More on character creation in our next episode.

Starting with this entry, I’ll sign off by leaving you with some bits of musical inspirado — tracks from the playlist that I’m using as my soundtrack for writing and playtesting Far West.

Massive Attack (feat. Mos Def) – “I Against I” and from Robert Rodriguez’ band, Chingon – “Alacran y Pistolero.”(Copy and Paste the links for best results)

See you next time.

10 Replies to “Far West: Phases and Aspects”

  1. Cool, and these aren’t criticisms, just queries:

    With Phase 1, is there an option for placing characters in pre-existing locations as well, or only new ones? And can two (or more) characters select/create the same place? Is there any benefit for that–for example, creating siblings?

    Can a player not have a Master? Is there an option for that, like a naturally gifted warrior?

  2. In answer to your first — I’m not sure. On the one hand, I like the idea of an consensually-created campaign world, but on the other, I know that gamers like setting detail. Right now, I’m on the fence as to how much of the latter to include.

    As far as benefits for the characters to be connected — I’m talking a bit about that in the next installment. (Short answer, yes, there will be benefits)

    In regards to your second — Not really. Everybody was taught by someone (this is part of the wuxia genre structure that I’m porting over — the master-student relationship is a MASSIVE part of the genre, as you know).

  3. Why I dig negative Aspects

    I like that in Phase 3 players get an Aspect of a Xia Virtue they excel at, and one they are lacking in. The hardest part of FATE that I had to wrap my head around was the benefit of taking negative Aspects because of the gaming tradition of balancing positive benefits with negative drawbacks, but of course negative aspects when compelled create Fate points, which are helpful to the character, as well as interesting moments of conflict.

    Incidentally, I was thinking of that gorgeous Jae Lee art from The Gunslinger: Born (only with a katana) while reading this, mostly because of the genre-bending cross-Western joy that is the Last son of Eld.

    On the question of Clans or Schools, will you be offering different suggested Aspects or fighting styles a la L5R?

    “A certain swordsman in his declining years said the following:
    In one’s life there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level, he is still useless, but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level, he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level, a man has the look of knowing nothing
    These are the levels in general, but there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way, but never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of pride but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyu once remarked, “I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.”
    Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.”
    -The Hagakure, Chapter 1

  4. Re: Why I dig negative Aspects

    On the question of Clans or Schools, will you be offering different suggested Aspects or fighting styles a la L5R?

    Yes — there will be examples which will include sample Aspects, the “house” fighting style, etc.

  5. I understand the dilemma about the setting. I’d suggest including at least a few places, though, plus a quick way to roll up details for others, for those players who either don’t want to do the work from scratch or simply don’t have any clue what they want.

    As far as the Master, sure that relationship is important, but there are the untrained, naturally gifted warriors, like Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai. Seems a shame to cut off that player-character option. On a related note, another question: can characters be in training during play? The grizzled veteran and his dewy-eyed apprentice are also a staple, but I’m also curious if characters can gain new Masters and thus new aspects through additional training.

  6. As far as the Master, sure that relationship is important, but there are the untrained, naturally gifted warriors, like Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai.

    That’s more evident in the Japanese chambara stuff than it is in Chinese wuxia, which is specifically what I’m shooting for here. Although, thinking about it, you could easily play somebody of that sort by simply defining their “Master” as a non-person…..for example claiming that “Nature” was their Master (they learned through observation of animals, elements, etc.).

    On a related note, another question: can characters be in training during play?

    Absolutely — although they’d be trained in new skills and stunts, not Aspects. Aspects are not taught, they’re characteristics which are at the core of the character.

    I could easily see one PC defining another PC as their Master, though. Easily done.

  7. I know some people for whom starting with a big, empty world would be overwhelming but if they had a place to start, they could come up with interesting details. They might even end up being from the next town down the road rather than the existing place, but a pre-existing location would give them a jumping-off point.

    Even if players started with a pre-defined place, by the time two or three characters were “from” there it would be distinctive and part of the consensual world.

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