Generation Games ~ pt.2

Before investing a large amount of time and effort in laying out the complete framework of a Generation or Legacy Game, I find it is best to consider the unifying concept or theme which will bridge the gaps in each generation to link each period together, and using that, work with your players to generate characters for the period you think will get the firmest grasp on their attention. If they have fun with these characters, the other characters spawned in the other periods will benefit by association, as will the stories for the connected periods. If the game fails to take off, you can retire the idea, and try something else.

With the right group, I really like the synergy and creativity that occurs when players generate characters which are the relatives, descendants, or ancestors of the other players in the group. Seeing which touches of the original character are brought forward as a representative family trait, and which elements of the original player’s style they choose to emulate – consciously or unconsciously. While a group can attain this to a limited extent by running characters in their own family lines, it’s just not the same. A key thing to remember when guiding character creation is to balance the new with the familiar. How distantly related will the characters be? How much exposure, and by what method, did later characters have to characters from an earlier period? How willing are they to be involved in the events of characters from earlier periods?

By the same token, the forces and personalities of the antagonists with which you will populate the world and eventually bring into opposition with the PC protagonists, need to have the same sort of similar and familiar differences that you will expect from the players’ characters across generational lines. The only thing less stirring than a 1-dimensional villain, is a photocopy of one, encountered again and again.

Clubs and Secret Societies, Journal entries, steamer trunks of artifacts, clipping services, deliveries of packages, documents, instructions, etc from legal firms, maps or other exotica hidden in picture frames, behind wallpaper, or under drawers, are just the tip of the iceberg for how to facilitate communication between periods. At first, you will have to plant a lot of seeds. Later, the players will take care of it for you. It is always intriguing to discover that at some point in your past character’s future, they planted a clue in your future character’s past, so that your future character could solve a problem in the future using knowledge from the past.

Still with me? The player can anticipate both the coming mystery armed with the prop and story hook from the past, but also anticipate getting to eventually play through the events in the past which led to the need to leave that clue in the first place.

Imagine the excellent dread when my character in Aberrant received a package from a law firm, which they had been holding for a number of years, containing one of the signature six-guns of my Adventure! character (a distant relative), some special ammunition for it, a sample of a curious alloy from which the ammo was made, and documentation of a wide-reaching plot which threatened the world. Having already played through the initial stages of the plot, and knowing that as far as the family knew the relative had disappeared on some fool’s errand to India in the late 20’s (because at the end of the previous Adventure! tale we had decided to go off on fool’s errand to India), that imaginary package came with a lot of real-world impact.

As the campaign gets its legs under it, the players will take on the role of deciding what information to leave for the unknown generations of the future, and how to ensure it gets there. They will build the club, and seek ways to ensure its continuance. They will document their trials, tribulations, and journeys, and they will become active forces in driving the plots of the future periods, based on how you lay the groundwork in the past. No matter which period becomes more popular with your group, and no matter in which period you start the first tale, everything starts in the past. Moreover, the way to motivate the players to take strong affirmative action to battle down through the generations, is to provide them with a palpable menace they both love to hate, and with whom they can realistically struggle.

In the next installment, we will look at Legacy Villains and how they get that way.

The Generation Games Series:

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