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Wavinator

Playing Elderly (RPG)

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If you could play an aged character, either from the point of character creation or as a result of just reaching (or surviving to) an advanced age, what sort of gameplay options would you want and how markedly different do you think they should be versus playing a younger character? For the abstract RPG portion of the space game I'm working on I was thinking about what it would be like to be able to play a character of any adventure capable age. I was thinking of making the main trade-off center on stats and resources and their cost. Skills and ranks would be cheaper for an older character. They would be able to afford more background "packages," which would grant substantial bonuses like old friends that could help out with shelter, supplies or information. To partly balance this out I have in mind a fuzzy "maximum retirement age." So the older you create your character, the shorter an amount of time you have to affect the game universe. Because I want the game universe changes to persist between characters, I see this as a bit like a possible challenge you'd intentionally take on, knowing you'd have way more power than the typical puny level 1 18-year old hero, but far less time to use it (making every move count all the more). I'm undecided as to whether or not you should automatically accrue negatives as you age. I lean toward it as part of choosing packages-- such as, for instance, being a former spy giving you automatic enemies and alliances, or being a veteran giving you automatic negative social reactions with some groups. I was also thinking that it might be harder to upgrade your character: It could be explained, for instance, maybe as futuristic cybernetics tech not integrating with older minds, or maybe as you becoming more firm on your views of what's good and bad, leaving you to ignore all the new fads. Where else can I take this?

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You could do like what is done in Dungeons and Dragons (table top version). As you get older, some stats diminish at age thresholds. You lose strength and dexterity, maybe charisma. Perhaps integrating that in? In general, as a person ages they do lose strength and such, but that is once you reach a certain point.

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Darklands had a good character creation system that related to age.

Characters started at 15 and can choose an occupation to spend 5 years at or being adventuring. Each occupation gave you a number of skill points to spend freely, as well giving a number of skill points to different skills, and setting the maximum number points you spend in each skill, they might also give a piece of gear or other bonuses like alchemic formulas.

Being a hunter for instance might give 15 skills points, and 2 points in survival, 4 in bow, and allow you to spend a maximum of 5 in survival and 10 bow.

The player keeps choosing occupations some of which some are tied to pervious occupations or skill levels until they are ready to begin adventuring. The trade off is that after age 20 physical stats decrease exponentially after each interval so that at the max age of 60 all physical stats have decreased from a maximum of 40 down to 1. The older the starting character the better the characters starting skills and equipment, but the weaker they are physically.

You could also put in tech limits maybe older characters can’t use the latest techs either because they are too far behind the tech curve, or perhaps it is just the case that the old school cybernetics don’t work with the latest generate. You’ve got analogue parts in a digital world.

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I wish I'd played Darklands. The character creation stuff sounds like what I want to make a feature of in-game play. Stat degradation sounds like one possibility, though I might also reverse the cost system so that the older you are, the more expensive it is to have stats at a given age.

One tangential problem I've been thinking of is that I'd like some sort of heir system or handing off from one character to the next, though I haven't come up with anything I like yet. One exploit I can automatically see is "make a old character, play him a bit, let him die and then pass off all his cool stuff to a younger character."

I think maybe I have to think of this in terms of something you can do at an older age that you can't do when younger. Maybe you're better at diplomacy. Or maybe more of the world map is available to you, with locations marked simulating your past exploits. Or maybe there's more "old friend" encounters as you age.

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I saw a thing on PBS a while ago about how age impacts learning and expertise. They profiled an orchestra conductor who, at 70 or so, was world-class and considered the epitome of his profession. His brain was old, and had lost some of its ability to gain and retain new skills, but the things he'd learned in the first decades of his life, enriched by a lifetime of experience, were substantial.

So I think you're on the right track, letting players get large bonuses to expertise and "pre-fabricating" connections and status that might have been obtained had they played the game for half a simulated century, but penalizing the acquisition of new skills and knowledge.

I'd like to see it made possible to start a character at age 15 and then "grow" him into a 75-year-old character with awesome skills and gradually increasing "age penalties" and the wealth, resources and affiliations that come from a lifetime of heroing, or to just zip through a character creation interface that lets you pick and choose life experiences, yielding an elderly character with the same level of sophistication. Ideally, you could "rebuild" the type of character you remember enjoying in the past. "Man, I really liked that part of the game where I'd just been promoted to Commander and was leading small teams in covert ops, but I don't want to redo all the stuff leading up to it, and my current character's an admiral who just does paperwork all day and can't run like he used to, so I'll retire this guy and whip up a rough facsimile of him in his prime."

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
His brain was old, and had lost some of its ability to gain and retain new skills, but the things he'd learned in the first decades of his life, enriched by a lifetime of experience, were substantial.


This is very interesting. The physical / mental trade-off is a deep well to draw from and people understand it intrinsically. Throwing things into the future upends a bit of this with technology, though, and I'll probably have to figure out an easy way to incorporate that. Can you be an elderly cyborg, for instance? Or does your "beauty" stat degrade in a world of rejuvenations?

It would be cool to base some of this on where you come from and the world you live in. Maybe an expensive part of character generation is the starting world and your starting social class.

Quote:

I'd like to see it made possible to start a character at age 15 and then "grow" him into a 75-year-old character with awesome skills and gradually increasing "age penalties" and the wealth, resources and affiliations that come from a lifetime of heroing, or to just zip through a character creation interface that lets you pick and choose life experiences, yielding an elderly character with the same level of sophistication. Ideally, you could "rebuild" the type of character you remember enjoying in the past. "Man, I really liked that part of the game where I'd just been promoted to Commander and was leading small teams in covert ops, but I don't want to redo all the stuff leading up to it, and my current character's an admiral who just does paperwork all day and can't run like he used to, so I'll retire this guy and whip up a rough facsimile of him in his prime."


Yeah, I'd be far more motivated to play a new character after building up a substantially developed one if I knew I could do this.

You mentioned the concept of "state dependent" character gameplay in another thread (the example being a space marine, then a character who picks up a wounded soldier I think-- too lazy to triple check). I think your idea is a great one but my gut says it really needs to come with tradeoffs. There should be something you just don't get by skipping, else why would you ever play the lesser character?

Maybe there are three stages: Youth, middle age and advanced age, and these function almost like classes in a traditional RPG. Maybe youth grants you the ability to tailor all the relationships the game supports, and skipping it gives you a more random selection; mid age maybe is the opportunity to configure your relationship with the game world in terms of how it treats you, and this is less configurable if you skip.

Not sure. I want to tread the line between making the whole leveling process irrelevant and letting you play the kind of character you want to play, as you could in an p&p RPG.

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What if you make it a challenge for the player?

When young it is easy to create and maintain strength, and most agility as well. Why don't you make it nearly free for the young characters to gain stats, but later in life increase the cost to maintain them. The rate of decline can be the same or even increase but if the cost to maintain your skills increases the player has to sink more effort into keeping his youthful body. Parallel to that you can allow the player to gain skills more easily when young. Maintenance for skills learned before age 25 are free and every point gained after that age is harder to keep. Newer skills are harder to learn as well.

All this can be set against the advantages that nearly every encounter the player may have during his career is going to make someone like him more. That provides additional alliances as the character ages. Alliances can also mean cheaper training in skills, cooler tech, or anything.

So the player is basically giving early life to excel at nearly anything. Physical stats as easy to gain meaning he can have them and spend the majority of his effort is training skills which he will likely never forget or need to maintain. This is then an extended character creation phase. Later in life the character transitions into his adulthood where he has to expend effort on keeping his skills and stats instead of building them, bringing gains slowly down to a crawl by old age but at the same time he has been and continues to do missions and other activities that make him friends who can make this maintenance task easier.

Like this a character can then start out strong (in either skills or stats or both) and work his whole career to maintain them, or he can spend his adulthood and old age forging alliances and allowing his body to age, choosing to rely on his allies for assistance, or he can even spend his youth getting a head start on making alliances meaning he is basically playing like an old man by adulthood because he never build stats up, but by his true old age he is nearly untouchable because of his vast network of alliances while being physically frail and vulnerable.

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Original post by JasRonq
Like this a character can then start out strong (in either skills or stats or both) and work his whole career to maintain them, or he can spend his adulthood and old age forging alliances and allowing his body to age, choosing to rely on his allies for assistance, or he can even spend his youth getting a head start on making alliances meaning he is basically playing like an old man by adulthood because he never build stats up, but by his true old age he is nearly untouchable because of his vast network of alliances while being physically frail and vulnerable.


I think this is awesome, especially the tradeoff of dismissing the physical to excel at the mental. It's like the life of a politician versus that of an athlete, with the possibility that influence, fame and renown can come to both but maybe at separate times.

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Original post by Wavinator

One tangential problem I've been thinking of is that I'd like some sort of heir system or handing off from one character to the next, though I haven't come up with anything I like yet. One exploit I can automatically see is "make a old character, play him a bit, let him die and then pass off all his cool stuff to a younger character."

I think maybe I have to think of this in terms of something you can do at an older age that you can't do when younger. Maybe you're better at diplomacy. Or maybe more of the world map is available to you, with locations marked simulating your past exploits. Or maybe there's more "old friend" encounters as you age.


I actually think this idea of yours would be the best. Why? Well for one thinsg its quite interesting. Where you are an elderly person somewhere in his 50's to 70's. You go through the characters life and try to political diplomacy for the country you are helping or working for or something like this.

The main character passes away. Was it murder, just old age, an accident, suicide, hiding something, just dropped everyting and walked away. left clues, ideas, suggestions for his niece or nephew or even an apprentice to come up and solve the situation. Everyone in the country is baffled on the idea and are trying to make of it. Even if there is something sinister to the cause it would make a on heck of an ending or even a continuation of a game. The main elderly character as you have already mentioned he would have at least alot of playable room to do his research or running around in. The secondary character would have limited access until he or she figures out the other parts of the story to gain more access to the main character.

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The only problem with that Ghostknight is you just played the character that is leaving the clues so while the incoming character doesn't know everything, you the player do.

[Edited by - JasRonq on February 12, 2010 11:24:13 AM]

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