One of my favorite pieces of artwork in a RPG book is from Exalted, Second Edition corebook. It’s just a perfect montage piece of Harmonious Jade growing up. The symbolism is exceptional. I just have to share it.
Another reason this is one of my favorite pieces is because it embodies much of what Conjecture Games strives to share. It does not take much at all to really deepen and color a roleplaying world. Do we know the whole story of Harmonious Jade? No. There is some question as to how she went from a slave to a martial artist student. Was she a slave? A guard for a merchant? The juices are working.
In this tutorial, I will use BOLD to create a montage of a character’s life. It’s based on the tutorial in BOLD, but it adds a few more complex elements.
Step 0. Grab a character in a setting. It can be your PC. It can be a favorite NPC. The setting is very important because the idea is to hook as many setting elements as is possible into the character.
I will use one of my favorite characters in the Exalted universe, Shepherd of the North Star. His moniker is “the friendly stranger”, and his heavenly task as a sidereal exalted is guide travelers and explorers. His motivation is to “bring all of Creation’s cultures in to contact”.
His history is that he grew up in Whitewall – a relatively safe northern city – and became an apprentice cartographer. He exalted during a blizzard as he guided a lost caravan to a nearby city. (Full history and stats can be found in the Scroll of Exalts book.)
Step 1. Roll a BOLD Waylay with a Waylay Solution to determine something dramatic that happened during the character’s childhood. Use this Waylay to represent a scarring.
BOLD: Valuable friend-in-need overcome by weak attribute (strength or manipulation).
I am going to say this is pre-apprenticeship. I am going to hook “valuable” to the eventual gaining of the apprenticeship, though. The “friend-in-need” was the master cartographer’s daughter. I don’t know why she was “in need” so I will roll up a nested Waylay: deceiving ascetic.
One of the girl’s tutors was “false”. I’m not sure how, but I know that Shepherd helped the girl. Perhaps, his friend came to him to tell him of the tutor’s secret that no one would believe. She was scared, and she had told her father to no avail. Shepherd devised a way of getting both the father and the tutor in the same place, and there he created for his friend a test that the tutor should have known. Her father saw right through the tutor’s deception. Later on, the girl credited Shepherd with the plan.
Shepherd is however scarred with trusting teachers that seem to have no other place in society (tutors, governess, etc.).
Step 2. Roll a BOLD Waylay with a Waylay Solution to determine something dramatic that happened during the character’s teenage years. Use this Waylay to represent a grievance.
BOLD: Fragile traitor overcome by a favored skill (socialize).
Now, Shepherd is in his apprenticeship. The “fragile traitor” seems like it could be a person that has been charmed by the Fair Folk. The Waylay is personal though instead of a combative enemy. I feel like keeping with the theme of knowledge and cartography this was a junior cartographer under the employ of Shepherd’s master.
The traitor was creating dangerous maps that would lead the good peoples of Whitewall to their capture by the Fair Folk. Shepherd used his growing skill of being able to bend people’s ears easily to get those of authority to double-check the traitor cartographer’s work. It was easily noticed what the traitor was doing, and he was exiled to the wastes to likely become a plaything for his Fair Folk enchanters.
Shepherd has carried the grievance of the Fair Folk misleading people with him to this day, and he will seek to undo any such Fair Folk mischief at any cost.
Step 3. Roll a BOLD Waylay with a Waylay Solution to determine something dramatic that happened right before the current state. Use this Waylay to represent a current direction of the character.
BOLD: Amusing labor overcome by the people.
Now, Shepherd has started in the Bureau of Destiny, the Division of Journeys, in Yu-Shan (heaven). However, most of the young Sidereal Exalted’s time is spent fixing things in Creation. Something changed in Creation. The maps that the Bureau had were not correct so they sent Shepherd to go make sure that things were where they were supposed to be. In short, he was to go mapmaking. It was “amusing” to someone in Yu-Shan for an Exalt to go mapmaking.
Shepherd couldn’t have been more delighted, and he took his time doing the work because he would stop and talk to the people’s of Creation along the way. After just a few discussions he was able to learn what had changed so abruptly in this part of Creation that had gained notice of Heaven. Shepherd sent many prayer reports of serious changes in Destiny to his superiors, and in doing so he was able to stop more collateral damage.
This easily set him on the direction he is still on today of walking Creation and meeting with the people.