“Bildungsroman” is the literary term for a novel that traces a person’s development from their early life to their maturity. A well-known example would be “Jane Eyre”. The idea can be applied to the creation of Ghastly Affair characters, by role-playing a series of brief vignettes that explain their abilities and frailties. I make no claim that this is a new or revolutionary idea – I just propose it as an alternative certain groups might find enjoyable.
The Bildungsroman (First Draft)
ONE: As usual, decide upon a Character Inspiration, a Name, and a Most Memorable Characteristic. Consider what the character’s age will eventually be at 1st Level. Generally, this should be around 20, but a character’s initial age could be anywhere from 12 to 30. Gypsies and True Innocents might start on the younger side of that scale, while Magicians and Mad Scientists might begin at its older end. The determined age will serve as a goal for the remainder of the Bildungsroman. Also, at this point record the character’s Hit Points. Do not determine Basic Abilities yet – they will be determined one-by-one as as the Bildungsroman proceeds.
TWO: If any Special Abilities or Weaknesses necessitate Player choices (such as an Everyman’s Profession, or Magician’s Magical Implement), the selection can be done either before the Bildungsroman, or during the course of it. Also, consider what Assets and Afflictions (if any) you want the character to possess. It may happen, however, that in the course of playing out the Bildungsroman you will rethink the initially chosen Assets and Afflictions to better suit the evolving character history.
THREE: Decide the social status of the character’s family. The Player (or Presenter) then describes the circumstances of the character’s birth. If desired, the rules for Childbirth given in Chapter 4 of the Player’s Manual may be used to determine if the character’s mother survived.
FOUR: Determine the age at which the character began to acquire the characteristics of their Class. Generally this initial age should be around 10, but in the case of Magicians and Mad Scientists it may be may be as old as 20.
FIVE: Choose a Special Ability, Asset, Weaknesses, or Affliction to be explained (or explored). Also, choose a Basic Ability (or Perversity), and determine it by either taking a 9, or rolling 3d6. Apply any modifiers from the chosen character Class. In the case of Perversity, you may choose any score desired, remembering that True Innocents may go no higher than 6, and Libertines no lower than 12.
SIX: The Player and Presenter improvise a brief vignette that demonstrates, or explicates the acquisition of, the characteristics in focus. Any other Players present may assume the roles of the PC’s family members, friends, teachers, etc. Whatever Basic Ability has been determined, it should be used in an Ability Check as part of the vignette. In the case of a Magician, the vignette should probably cover their Initiation, and the creation (or receipt) of their Power Object. If a fight occurs, the PC does not enjoy any Damage Bonus.
SEVEN: Advance the timeline anywhere from a month to two years, keeping in mind the desired age of the character at 1st Level.
EIGHT: Repeat steps FIVE, SIX, and SEVEN until all the character’s Special Abilities, Assets, Weaknesses, and Afflictions have been explained, and their Basic Abilities and Perversity have been determined.
NINE: Equip the character with the items they will be carrying (or have easy access to) when the first Affair commences. Naturally this will be influenced by both the character’s social class, and the events of the Bildungsroman.
Naturally, the Player and Presenter should note any characters introduced. Likely, several will become recurring NPCs and SPCs in the ongoing Saga. In the case of Everyman PCs, characters created during their Bildungsroman will likely form their core Social Contacts. Obviously, a Player Character will not be killed during their Bildungsroman, so any fights or hazards will at worst result in temporary incapacity.
Playing out a Bildungsroman will result in extremely deep and detailed characters, but it requires both time and improvisational skills. Since there will always be at least seven vignettes (and probably more), you could spend a compete gaming session developing a single PC. Whether that’s a positive or negative will depend upon your group. Obviously, it can be great fun for groups that enjoy spontaneous creativity and heavy role-playing, but is not a good idea if the group has limited time and just wants to get to the action.
I’d love to hear your opinions. Probably, the Bildungroman would benefit from tables suggesting possible situations, keyed to the various Special Abilities and Weaknesses of the Classes. The Player could select a situation to be role-played, or the Presenter could randomly determine one instead. Of course, that could mean making 63 different tables, with perhaps 6 or more choices on each table. A daunting task!