Part 1 of 2, by Jay Watamaniuk
I have been making characters for a very long time, and the process hasn’t changed dramatically over the years. Gaming, both tabletop and live, is a hobby I must admit I take very seriously after more than 25 years.
Recently, a friend pitched a long term Shadowrun game he wanted to run. His game would have two important house rule changes however: it would be a steampunk Victorian England era setting, and use the Fate rules. Still Shadowrun? In essence, yes, but some major differences needed to be taken into consideration for creating a character. I drew a complete blank for the character and needed some help.
Right away I started thinking about the setting: brick, brass, pipes, pollution, Dickensian clothing, old money, workhouses, poverty, English imperialism, emergence of modern science and on and on. I did not have a basic class concept of the type of character I wanted to play: fighter, spy/rogue, wizard/technology user, healer/support or a mixture. Sometimes I have a clear idea of what class I want to play and sometimes I don’t. Either way, I end up looking for inspiration in a variety of places. In the long, long ago era when the world was a primordial ooze before the internet I used magazines, art books, novels and movies for ideas. Today I add Google images to the mix. I work in pictures and always have. Even if I start knowing exactly what I want to play, I still go looking for pictures to get my thoughts in gear.
I used search terms from my list of setting descriptions: steampunk, clockwork, Victorian, and so on. I grabbed anything that struck my fancy in my searches, ending up with a folder of a few dozen pictures that seemed to resonate. How did I pick them? I don’t know, I just picked what I like without a definite plan. I have long since learned to trust my instincts when going through this process.
When looking at my folder I was drawn to two pictures in particular.
The picture at the left is taken from photographer Nadya Lev’s site. Please correct me if I am wrong but I believe the picture is of theatrical, scenic and costume designer Kit Stølen.
The second picture on the right is a sculpture created by French artist Pierre Matter I found on Gizmondo.
From the photo of the well-dressed man I liked the clothing, the small amount of dust, the odd bird-like dreads, and his departure from a typical Victorian Englishman. The sculpture, on the other hand, seemed like something from Dante’s Inferno with gears and brass. I looked at more art from the same artist and grabbed a few more for my collection.
Ideas began to percolate in my head now. I had the pieces and now I had to put them together.
Jay Watamaniuk has lived in such faraway and make-believe places like Thailand, Greece and Japan but has always returned back to Edmonton, Canada to put down some roots and to avoid the fricken’ huge insects that lived in those places. He has been BioWare’s Community Manager for over 7 years and has never once- not once- dressed up like a pirate at work. Shameful.