Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Writing Tip #2

NaNoWriMo starts today! I'm seriously reconsidering what I'm writing. I fear I may have severely underestimated the amount of research I need to do in order to write a story that flows well enough to let me write 50,000 words in a month. Anyway, here's my next writing tip. Character development is one of my strongest points, so I'll be sharing lots of tips for that. I feel that good characters can make for an enjoyable book even if everything else isn't that great.

I'm using my character Dante as a reference, just because he's my most fleshed-out character. Dante's story is set in 2026 and he does lots of fighting in a realistic, essentially post-apocalyptic setting. He'll work for this example despite the fact that he is not at all a fantasy character.

Tip #2: Give your character Morrowind stats.

Yes, I'm aware of how silly that sounds. Morrowind is my favorite game. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's this big open-world RPG where your character is very customizable and such. Got it? Good.

There are three options here: combat, magic, and stealth. They're pretty self explanatory. Dante falls under stealth, as he spends much of his time in the shadows of dark alleyways both to hide from enemies and to sneak up on them. 

Favorite Attributes
There are 8 Primary Attributes that govern your character's skills. These are obviously designed for a fantasy setting, but they can be adapted to work for a modern character such as Dante. You choose two of these when starting out.

Agility - Ability to hit, dodge, be stealthy, and recover from a hit.

Endurance - How much damage you can take and you much energy you have to keep going.

Intelligence - Your magic in a fantasy world, and probably something like your resourcefulness in a modern world, if not just taken literally. In D&D, low intelligence means you can't talk properly.

Luck - This affects everything you do in a small way.

Personality - How much people like you and how well you can talk to people.

Speed - How fast you are.

Strength - How much damage you can do with a weapon and how much you can carry.

Willpower - Maximum energy you have available, and in a fantasy setting, your chance of successful spell-casting. In a modern setting, this could be literal willpower.

Dante's two attributes would be agility (he is accurate, stealthy, and easily dodges hits) and personality (he is able to gain people's trust very easily).

I'm just going to copy this chart from the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Wiki. There are 27 skills in Morrowind. Each has a governing attribute and a specialization. Blue boxes are Combat, yellow boxes are Stealth, and red boxes are Magic.

AttributeSkills Governed by Attribute
EnduranceHeavy Armor Heavy Armor (3)Medium Armor Medium Armor (2)Spear Spear (7)
StrengthAcrobaticsAcrobatics (20)Armorer Armorer(1)Axe Axe (6)Blunt Weapon Blunt Weapon (4)Long Blade Long Blade (5)
AgilityBlock Block (0)Light Armor Light Armor (21)MarksmanMarksman (23)Sneak Sneak(19)
SpeedAthleticsAthletics (8)Hand-to-hand Hand-to-hand (26)Short Blade Short Blade (22)UnarmoredUnarmored (17)
PersonalityIllusion Illusion(12)MercantileMercantile (24)SpeechcraftSpeechcraft(25)
IntelligenceAlchemyAlchemy (16)ConjurationConjuration (13)Enchant Enchant(9)Security Security(18)
WillpowerAlterationAlteration (11)DestructionDestruction (10)MysticismMysticism (14)RestorationRestoration (15)

I'm going to put each of those into simple terms for use in any setting.

Heavy Armor - Plate armor (think knights and such) and other armors that are very thick, heavy, and are very stiff and rigid.

Medium Armor - Durable but flexible armors, such as a modern day bullet-proof vest.

Spear - A pointy thing on a stick. A character who kills zombies with a shovel would be good with a spear.

Acrobatics - Jumping, climbing, scaling walls, falling and not taking damage.

Armorer - Crafting and repairing armor. In a modern setting, this can be expanded to general craftiness and ability to repair things.

Axe - For dwarves and lumberjacks.

Blunt Weapon - Clubs, chairs, and other things used to bludgeon people without cutting them or stabbing them.

Long Blade - Swords!

Block - Parrying incoming attacks.

Light Armor - Very thin and flexible armors, like chain mail or a thin layer of Kevlar.

Marksman - Bows, guns, throwing stars, etc.

Sneak - Ability to remain undetected.

Athletics - Running, swimming, and walking.

Hand-to-Hand - Beat people WITH YOUR FISTS. Also martial arts like karate.

Short Blade - Daggers, knives, and short swords. 

Unarmored - Take a beating while totally unprotected.

Illusion - Make things look to be something they're not, whether by magic or mad skills.

Mercantile - Bartering.

Speechcraft - Persuasion, taunting, and general skill in talking to people.

Alchemy - Mixing potions and cooking things up. Cooking is basically just modern-day alchemy. 

Conjuration - Summon minions! I don't know how to make this non-magical...perhaps by having lots of connections and being able to get help whenever you need it?

Enchant - Make magical items and use them well. For a non-magical equivalent, probably something like fine-tuning an engine to get better performance or building a better mousetrap.

Security - Lock picking and disarming traps.

Alteration - Magically allowing you to do things like carry more weight or breathe underwater. This may be impossible to make non-magical, now that I've reached it.

Destruction - Fire and poison all around! This is pretty easy to make non-magical.

Mysticism - Telekinesis and teleporting. This would a be a favored skill by someone who meditates a lot to reach a higher level of awareness.

Restoration - Healing and medicine. 

Your character has 5 major skills (skills in which they are very proficient) and 5 minor skills (in which they are moderately proficient). All the rest get pushed to the side so your character can focus on the more important stuff.

Dante's major skills would be Marksman (his primary weapon is a revolver), Sneak, Acrobatics, Unarmored, and Short Blade (his secondary weapon is a switchblade). His minor skills would be Athletics, Hand-to-Hand, Block, Speechcraft, and Armorer.

So that seems like a lot of work! It's probably too much work and I probably just spent two and a half hours typing this thing up for nothing. Actually, it was largely just to put off starting my novel only to see it fall to bits. At some point, I want to go over some D&D stuff, too, so watch for that if you actually liked this. Have fun! 

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