Creating Instant Relationships with Variance

During NorWesCon, I got to talking with Erik Scott de Bie about comic, which if you know Erik is not surprising conversation. He was talking about the Rising Stars series from last decade, about how it makes for an interesting superpower premise of growing up with the other hundred or so supers in the world. You pretty much know every other super, at least at that young age.

I thought it would be a neat thing to tie to a mechanic of some sort for such PCs in that world to have a relationship with all other supers. But, making a relationship map for a hundred characters, many of whom we won’t see on screen often or only for short blips, is ridiculous. Instead, imagine if each character had a little table that detailed the sort of childhood relationships they had, and when a new super is introduced, each player chooses a past relationship for the character.

Last week, I wrote down this idea seed. Maybe someone will run with it into a full idea.

Let’s take as an example a character who was (or is) a bully. He might have six slots that detail most of his old peer relationships:

  • Picked on x2
  • Picked on and secretly liked x1
  • Hung around with x1
  • Didn’t know that person at all x1

Or a quiet kid might have:

  • Admired x2
  • Afraid of x2
  • Opened up to x1
  • Didn’t know at all x1

As I’m writing these, I’m torn between whether these need to be entirely one-sided, or if they describe both ends of the relationship. Certainly “didn’t know at all” could be one-sided, since someone might be utterly beneath your notice. Either way, though, this is about a past relationship, not a current one, when you meet a super you haven’t seen (or barely seen) since childhood.

I originally envisioned this as a check-off, where you got to pick each time, but as you ran out of slots you also ran out of choices. Once all of them were spent, they would refresh. It could also be a table to roll on, where the random element is tempered with the check-off functionality (so that you get the same firm distribution). I suppose whichever sort of table dynamic you’re playing with would tell you whether it should be chosen or random.

Another possibility is that, upon refreshing, you could change the list up. I don’t know off-hand what that would represent, but the idea of changing with refreshing has some potency, as would changing the number from 6 slots.

Extending Further

From here, we could take this idea to any game where pasts are complicated and the dynamics are informed by character archetypes. I could see this using for a noir setting, where everyone has some history with everyone else, good and bad. I could see it for a political situation.

– Ryan