Sunday, December 27, 2015


When I last worked on my character generator, I felt I was pushing the limits on my creativity.  In reality, however, that was only the limit on my energy, as putting together idea after idea is draining.  Primarily, I was interested in getting the whole thing together so I could use it for my games . . . so when some particularly difficult idea that would need a lot of programming occurred to me, I would shelve it and keep going.

This time around, however, I can lean on my earlier work as a crutch - giving me time to rethink and add to the tables.  One such add that occurred to me was that I had never included any possibility that the character being generated by the player might be a twin.

The way my character generation works begins with the rolls for the six stats, which the player arranges as desired, to play the character's choice of class (fundamentally AD&D).  The character than chooses their race and gender, both of which are needed for entry into the background generator.  That's really all I need, however.

I had a long chat with my players about this over Christmas regarding how the presence of twins would play out.  These I dutifully included into the new character generator (which we could call version 'CG 3.0,' I suppose).

First, I needed a determination for whether or not the twins would be fraternal and identical.  Demographically, identical twins account for 3 in every 1,000 births; depending on the part of the world measured, fraternal twins account for 6 to 20 in every 1,000 births.  There are other studies that produce slightly different numbers, but these are the ones I went with.  It works out roughly that fraternal twins are 2 to 6 times more likely than identical twins.

The next question becomes, how do the twins manifest?  First, I give a chance that the twin hasn't lived as long as the player character.  The twin most likely dies at birth or at the age of one - and if not then, at some time between age 2 and 14.  My minimum character age is going to be 15 going forward so this is a good, general range.  I feel that if the player does discover they have such a twin, that they should be able to seek out the grave as a small side quest - possibly leading to who knows what where resurrection is possible.  Anything that might be done would be up to the player character - but it is likely that I would run the previously-deceased twin as an NPC.

That is not the case where a living twin is rolled.  Here I got a lot of pressure from my players on the subject.  They feel strongly that if a twin result comes up and the twin is alive, then the player should be able to run that twin also.  I have acquiesced to this.  Therefore, a player would gain both twins as a boon.

An identical twin will, of course, be the same gender as the previously rolled character; a fraternal twin may be either gender.  The question arises, what will the twin's statistics be?

For me, the identical twin must have the exact same stats the player has already chosen, in the exact same order.  This does not mean the identical twin has to be the same class; so long as the stats don't change and the minimums are met, then I'm fine with the twins choosing different classes.  I also think that identical twins ought to start with the same number of hit points (though a fighter would get a slightly better bonus out of a 17 strength than a mage would - that's an AD&D thing).  As they leveled, even in the same class, their hit points would begin to differ.  They also might choose different weapons, wear different levels of armor or distinguish themselves from one another in whatever way the player chose.  I would want to give plenty of leeway there.

Fraternal twin stats would work differently (we talked about this a lot).  We know some fraternal twins in our circle of acquaintances and very often they are quite different from one another.  The suggestion the players and I agreed upon would work thusly.

Let's say that the first generated character has the following stats:  Str 16, Int 10, Wis 11, Con 17, Dex 15, Char 11.  In order, the numbers generated are 17-16-15-11-11-10.

The player then rolls a new set of six numbers, getting (again in order) 18-17-14-13-12-9.  These numbers are then arranged in the same descending placement as the original twin's stats - that is, the 18 must go under constitution, the 17 under strength and the 14 under dexterity.  The 13 can go under either charisma or wisdom (the player's choice) because those were both 11 in the original; the 12 must then go under the other not picked.  The 9 is then place under intelligence.

This allows for a moderate differentiation - one that could result in a twin having really much better stats or much worse, depending on how the player's second group of six rolls land.  As before, the player then assigns a class for the fraternal twin and gets to run both characters in the campaign.

There is one other possibility, which my players insisted had to be there - that's where the twins are separated at birth and that the other is an evil twin, out there somewhere in the world.  As before, the evil twin could be fraternal or identical - and would have stats and characteristics in keeping with the format described above.  The evil twin would know the character's twin was alive and out in the world also - and might be watching or manipulating events in true comic book tradition.  That's rather interesting and funny, to tell the truth.

So, something different for character's to play with.  I figure that the chance of a runable twin in my game is really high - 1 in 20 if the character's strength is 12 or more, not even possible if the character's strength is less than 12.  Why strength?  I use strength as a measure of choosing the character's family and background, based on the idea that a higher strength suggests a family that survives and proliferates, whereas a lower strength would be a family that will more likely have died out or been broken up.

I'll write about other new ideas I come up with from time to time.  CG 3.0 will be a good while in the making, depending on how consistently I'm working at it.  I fooled around with the first of two intelligence tables last night, spending a couple of hours hammering out results for players having fostered a child or being pregnant at the start of the campaign (depending on the chosen gender of the character).


Jonathon said...

Speaking as someone who has a fraternal twin but cannot remember ever encountering even the possibility in character-generation rules before, I applaud you (and your players) for this.

I particularly like the traits-in-same order aspect of fraternal twins; while there can be great variation it is a good way to reflect the probably-identical rearing they had. They would have had the same required chores, same opportunities for training or education, learned the same jokes at the same time, and so on. It's really well done.

There are ways I might consider meddling with it, but none that I wouldn't want to put more thought into before suggesting.

Fuzzy Skinner said...

Nice! You're absolutely right about the potential for interesting story elements; if a ne'er-do-well brother or sister (or cousin, etc.) might lead to an adventure opportunity, someone who is even closer to a player character could have even more possibilities for doing so.

I get the feeling that the chances of identical or fraternal twins might be altered depending on race; if so, how might this fit in to your campaign (not only for demihumans, but for other humanoids)?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Whenever possible, I don't balance any of the background issues for specific races or classes. Exceptions are appearance, issues with weapons (classes that can't use/do use) and spell abilities.

Sorry Fuzzy, I have zero interest in balancing twin possibilities in the favor of elves, humans or dwarves. ECH. Why say that any race is more "likely" to have twins?

Based on scientific evidence? Hmph.

As far as humanoids, perhaps. But I don't roll on the background generator for most of the mooks the party encounters (in fact, I can't think of an exception).

Jonathon said...

Bouncing back to this after rattling it around in my head and comparing it to my own life: if you wanted to tweak these rules further for fraternal twins, I might suggest allowing 2-for-1 point attribute trades between fraternal twins, but on the same stat. (E.g. Brenda increases her starting Charisma by one, Bruce decreases his by two.)

My twin and I, partly out of chance and partly out of a desire to differentiate ourselves, found ourselves designated as the 'lead' twin in different situations. Jeff was the social one, and took the lead in founding new friendships or planning events; I was the book-schooling one who went for the grades. That was a natural tendency, maybe, but the presence of the other one reinforced it: I didn't flex my social muscles until college in part BECAUSE I had someone there to pick up the slack for me, and vice versa. Supporting the weaker twin - doing the studying or social-networking for two (or theoretically other activities, like fighting the bullies or being the athlete or being the one with common sense and a cool head) is why I think this makes sense as a boost for one at the expense of the other.

I would limit this to one boost per twin: I didn't become socially inept because I leaned on him as a kid and he is a very smart guy who has become even more so after we became independent adults by putting his training and effort in there - but the effect was there so I figured I would share the thought.