Character Proposal Guidelines

last update 10 December 2002

(You may wish to view examples of past proposals.)

Most character concepts in the CG don't require any special approval. If you're playing a freeborn human, mahiri, dwarf, orc, or grum who doesn't have any special rank, you're fine. However, character concepts involving other races, noble rank, or upper levels of the clergy will require the Game World Committee (GWC) to first give you a thumbs-up.

Herein you will find some guidelines as to what's acceptable and what's not, with the aim of making all proposals that hit the GWC's table be fully kosher right from the get-go.

Overall Guideline

Things that are textbook cases will be easy. Things that are weird will not. Things that are weird have a chance of being relatively easier if they've been discussed in advance with Committee members.

When to Make the Proposal

At least a month ahead of time. The GWC does its work via e-mail, and usually takes two weeks from the time a proposal is introduced to the time voting finishes. However, the GWC also works on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we're likely to already be in the middle of something when you propose. Thus, a proposal brought up a few days before a game is unlikely to be voted on by the time the game rolls around.

The more complicated or contentious your proposal, the longer it is likely to take. A Status proposal using one of the "templates" below will usually not take long. A Status example without precedent will take longer, because we'll have to consider future impact. A new race will take longer yet, because it will have stronger effects on the game world, and because other players will be able to play a member of that race. New and radical concepts have been known to take two months to debate.

Making the Proposal

Present your concept in step-by-step process. For instance, start with a presentation of your concept, then any explanation about the concept (e.g. why you think it's ok), and then list any stats or rules details.

If your proposal doesn't pass the first time, listen to our feedback and work with it. If we say, "Sorry, but we're not comfortable with the part about the demon," and you then re-propose but leave the demon in, we're not going to be very receptive! Having the same argument twice slows us down, and takes up time that could be spent on dealing with other folks' proposals.

We process character proposals in the order we get them. This means that if you have to re-propose, you head to the back of the line, not the front; this is only fair to the other people who have proposals. So this gives you even more reason to make sure your proposal is strong the first time around. If you feel your proposal is contentious, discuss it with a Committee member before you actually propose it. This way you'll get valuable feedback before you send it to the Committee.

To submit your proposal, send it by e-mail to the CG GWC chair at cg-chair@quest.org (except for Honor Code proposals, which should go to the Rules Committee first).


Status

Characters with Status need GWC approval. (The Game World Chair can approve a Status concept the first time you play the character, but it is valid for that one event only, and will require a proposal and GWC approval thereafter.)

What kind of Status do I want?

Your Status concept must be appropriate to the character. For example, a boorish, loud-mouthed criminal type shouldn't choose knighthood, nor should characters with Peaceful or Pacifist. Non-mages shouldn't become leaders of a mage's guild. Those without pre-eminence in "polite" society should avoid Prominence, and so on.

When deciding which Status is appropriate, please consult the rulebook entries for both, which note that Prominence "represents a form of standing among 'polite' society" and that Social Distinction comes either from "a general reputation among the common folk" or "being conferred... rank by the ruling authorities." These are two separate skills, intended for different types of characters, so do not think of Social Distinction as "Status 1" and Prominence as "Status 2". Pick the one that fits your concept and fits the definitions, not whether you think you want "lesser" or "greater" Status.

Do I qualify for Status?

The GWC largely decides this based on precedent (who else has Status – is your character like any of them?) and the templates listed below (does your character fit into any of those?) The more your character fits into one of the templates, and the more your character is like someone else with Status, the more likely you are to be approved for Status.

Remember that Status is relative to the CG's culture at large. That is, the leader of a gypsy band might have the admiration of other gypsies, but s/he isn't going to have Status, because Hesket at large doesn't care for the gypsies. What's important is how Hesket at large will think of you, not your own band or your own sub-culture.

Also, Status should have some basis beyond "because other PCs like me" or "because I've been an adventurer a long time". Status comes as a result of having either a higher station or a positive, widespread reputation. Have the authorities given you a rank (knight, sheriff, archdeacon, etc.?) Or does everyone know your name, recount tales of your exploits, and offer to buy you a drink when they learn who you are? If the answer is "no" to both of these, you don't qualify for Status.

So an adventurer who is experienced and battle-hardened, but doesn't have any particular reputation in the world at large, won't have Status. (Note that "the PC collective" does not equal "the world at large", either. Just because many PCs consider you important does not necessarily imply that you should have Status in the world at large.) But an unknown knight will have Status, because it comes with the social and political station of knighthood.

Making a Status proposal

When you propose for Status, you'll need to tell us what the basis for the Status is. While character background, personal history, and exploits are helpful, the most important part is to communicate "I should have Status because I ______." Start off by listing which template (see below) you're using. If your character doesn't seem to fit a template, then explain the basis for your Status: your rank in society, or whatever else justifies your social standing.

New Characters

If your new character will not have authority over any other PCs, you can just make a straightforward proposal, explaining what your character concept is and why it warrants Status.

If your character will have authority over a group or type of PCs based on your Status, (e.g. nobles, knights, mahiri elders, heads of guilds), the CG GWC may consult with other members of that group to make sure your Status change is appropriate and will not cause problems with how that group functions. For instance, if you are proposing for Status for a mahiri elder, we might check in with other mahiri PCs. If you are proposing to be a knight in a knightly order, we might check with the contact person for that order.

Existing Characters

In addition to the above for New Characters, existing characters who are acquiring Status after character creation need to explain the change in the character's social standing. To do so, first spend half of the points to achieve the "halfway" version of Status (such as journeyman, first mate, squire, etc.). This conveys no in-game rights or rules benefits, but allows you to buy the full level of Status for the other half of the points six months later.

You may buy the "halfway" version of Status before you submit your proposals to the Game World Committee, although you should inform the GWC when you do so. (If the GWC turns down your Status proposal for some reason, you may reclaim those points to use elsewhere on your character.)

Status Templates

To get an idea of what makes a good Status proposal, consult the examples below. Your character concept should roughly equate to the examples given. Prominence often (although not always) indicates high birth or religious equivalent; Social Distinction applies to most knights, and to most others with Status based on positive reputations.

Knight: Social Distinction, Wealth, lots of Weapon Skill
Mage-Knight: Social Distinction, Mage Magic, Wealth
Courtier, Noble or Aristocrat: Prominence, Wealth
King's Ranger: Social Distinction, Wealth, Weapons, Lore (on monsters or the local area)
Abbot or Prior of a Monastery: Prominence, Cleric Magic, Peaceful, Charity
Wealthy Merchant: Prominence or Social Distinction, Lore (on items and artifacts), Wealth
Military Chaplain: Prominence, Cleric Magic, Weapons
Heroic Criminal (Robin Hood): Social Distinction, Honor, Weapon Skill, Stealth
Important Local Bureaucrat: Lore, Social Distinction, Sycophant
Revered Town Elder: Social Distinction or Prominence, Sage, Weakness
Physician/Chirurgeon: Social Distinction, First Aid, Alchemy, Lore, maybe Cleric Magic
Guild Master: Prominence, an appropriate skill such as Alchemy, Lore, or Mage magic
Folk Hero: Social Distinction, Honesty, Weapons or Magic
Renowned Scholar: Prominence, Lore or Sage, Mage Magic

Trouble Spots with Status

Social Rank

Quest hesitates to pass PC concepts that are upper nobility or clergy. Why?

As a general guideline, consult this table.

Rank Secular Religious
6 King/Queen, Emperor/Empress Presider
5 Prince/Princess, Duke/Duchess Collegiate, Vicar
4 Earl/Count/Countess Archbishop
3 Baron/Baroness Bishop, Abbot/Abbess
2 Knight, landed Lord/Lady Archdeacon/Archdeaconess, Prior/Prioress, religious Knight
1 Freeman/Freewoman Priest/Priestess, Friar/Friaress, Deacon/Deaconess
0 Serf (none)

(Heirs to a position subtract zero or one from the rank, depending on character concept; coadjutor bishops and similar clergy count as "heirs" to bishops. Non-heir children subtract either one or two.)

The GWC will not pass character concepts of rank 4 or up.

Aanyone of rank 2 or higher must have Status: knights will have either Social Distinction or Prominence (depending on character concept, but usually the former), and all the rest will have Prominence. However, Rank 2 characters will not likely cause much fuss.

Rank 1 requires no GWC approval at all. Neither does Rank 0, but since serfs are tied to the land, they make lousy PCs!

Rank 3

Rank 3 characters are passed only with considerable hesitancy; you should be sure that having this rank is very important to you, and you can expect considerable debate over your proposal. The GWC does not encourage these characters, because they can create game balance issues, and because some players (consciously or unconsciously) resent having high-status characters around.

Because the GWC is reluctant to introduce these characters, characters given approval for Rank 3 are subject to a review after having been played for two events at Rank 3. If your Rank 3 character creates problems, especially for GMs, you may be asked to give up your rank or retire the character regardless of the timeframe.

There are no hard and fast rules for proposing for Rank 3, but here are some general guidelines:

Your character should be well-established, and already influential. This should mean your character has already been at Rank 2 for some time. (Commoners don't jump overnight to bishops or barons.)

The promotion to Rank 3 should have a plausible story, and should ideally be connected to an "authentic" in-game event that justifies the promotion. By "authentic" we mean: an event with NPCs instead of PCs; one not part of an RPC plot; one that many other PCs had the opportunity to participate in; one where your character clearly outshone the other PCs; one where your character won the favor or attention of a person(s) in a position to advance your promotion.

Rank 3 characters should be helpful to GMs. This means warning them far in advance that you intend to play your character, so that they have time to prepare their NPCs to react appropriately to someone of your station. You should recognize that while your character might realistically have power and authority over other characters at the event, that authority might interfere with the NPC authorities and thus disrupt the game. Accordingly, you should not expect to actually be able to wield your true powers, and should work with the GMs to see which of your powers can acceptably be used. Lastly, while Rank 3 characters are realistically of high station and need not be polite to commoners, this can create out-of-game tensions, so you should probably downplay your haughtiness, or at least make it clear out-of-game that you are merely roleplaying.

Your character should fit the atmosphere of the gameworld. S/he should have an appropriately fancy costume, and should be accompanied by assistants, underlings, servants, and the like. You should probably take an additional level of Wealth, if just to represent the resources at your disposal. You cannot attend more than 1 or 2 games per year without GWC approval, since your character will need to spend time attending to court or church affairs.

Social Distinction: Fame and Heroism

The rules note that Social Distinction "can come from: (1) a general reputation among the common folk, usually through visible heroism or other impressive acts; or (2) being conferred some form of lesser rank by the ruling authorities."

It may help to think of these as "Robin Hood" and "the Sheriff of Nottingham". Either you have a widespread reputation for notable acts of heroism, or you have an official position.

The GWC sees plenty of the latter type: we've approved knights and the like. These are easy to judge, because they're objective. "Are you a knight who's not out-of-the-ordinary? If yes, you get Status."

The former route, the "fame and heroism" route, is far more subjective than objective. It's not just a matter of saying "Have you done something heroic?" After all, nearly every PC has done something heroic; that's what game plots are about. Instead, it's a matter of being famous enough and heroic enough. And that subjectivity makes it harder for the GWC to judge.

Criteria

A PC going the "fame and heroism" route has to qualify as having a "general reputation". It is important to remember that "the PCs" do not equal "Hesket". The PCs might all know you've done something important, but does the world at large know about it? The classic case is the Fallen Star Arc: the PCs saved the Collegium, in secret. No one but the heroes witnessed the event. So while this act was unquestionably heroic, it yielded no fame. Saving the Happy Horse Tavern will delight the locals there, but will not likely earn you widespread fame. Slaying a dragon at the Battle of Loch Meagan is a different story, and is the kind of thing that leads to Status.

The "fame and heroism" route means that your name precedes you. When you show up to a tavern and announce who you are, people react positively. People offer you their chairs, people buy you drinks, the innkeep gives you the meal on the house. So the question is: has your character done enough things that the whole world knows about, and is impressed by?

Existing Precedent

When you propose, the GWC will have to look at what other characters have qualified for Social Distinction through the fame route. (As of January 2003, there are but two characters who fit this.) How does your character compare to previous characters with "fame" Status? Do your exploits equal theirs?

Setting Precedent

Once the GWC approves someone for Status, a comparable character now has the right to Status as well. For instance, if an average knight gets Status, all the other average knights qualify as well.

This means that, when the GWC examines someone asking for Status, it has to consider not just your case, but all future cases. If your character is approved, then all other characters with similar resumes will now qualify for Status. The GWC will have to consider if that change is appropriate to the game world. Should that many PCs have Status? (If the list of relevant characters is two people long, the answer may well be "yes". If the list is forty people long, probably not...)

Legal Enforcement Powers

Technically, many characters with Status should have some form of legal enforcement powers. Nobles certainly do in their own lands, and sometimes in their home kingdoms; knights may in their home kingdoms, too. But remember that while this may be historically accurate, it can also really screw up game balance.

Unless you're a noble or knight, don't expect to have legal powers come to you automatically at each game. Even then, knights may not always have these powers anyway (knights of the crown will, knights of Nennite religious orders sometimes will, but other religious knights may not). And if you do have them, don't be pushy about your powers. Get GM permission out-of-game (and preferably before the game, and better yet before the day of the game) before asserting your legal enforcement rights, to make sure it's not going to screw anything up.

Of course, if a dispute arises and both sides are willing to let you adjudicate, hey, go for it! Anyone (Status or no) can act as a judge if both parties agree. Nothing will stop you then.


Honor Codes

Honor proposals need approval from both the Game World Committee and the Rules Committee. (The Rules Chair and Game World Chair can approve an Honor code concept the first time you play the character, but it is valid for that one event only, and will require a proposal and RC and GWC approval thereafter.)

You should first send your proposal to the Rules Committee, by emailing the Rules Chair. The Rules Committee will debate whether the proposal is balanced from a rules point of view. Their main point of comparison will be standard disadvantages and other Heroic Honor codes, so you should keep that in mind when writing out your code. Remember, Heroic Honor codes should be worth 0.5 points (although you can take more than one).

Once the Rules Committee has approved your proposal, you then send it to the GWC. The GWC reviews whether the Honor code generally fits into the world's milieu. For most human characters and groups, the GWC's review will be simple. For instance, if you're proposing a swashbuckler's code of honor, all the GWC has to do is decide if swashbuckling fits into the game world (which of course it does) and that the elements of your code fit the game world (which they likely will.)

On the other hand, honor codes for new races will require more scrutiny, because the GWC will need to see that the honor code fits the general feel of the race as a part of the game world.

Of course, Honor Codes for non-CG events also require approval, but only from the Rules Committee.


Innate Power

Characters with Innate Power need GWC approval. (The Game World Chair can approve an Honor code concept the first time you play the character, but it is valid for that one event only, and will require a proposal and GWC approval thereafter.)

Innate Power is more of a "catch-all" skill for oddball cases than it is a "mainstream" skill. If your IP proposal is part of a racial kit, you're more likely to get it passed, since non-standard races can easily justify having wacky magical abilities.

On the other hand, humans are not known for being able to shoot lightning bolts just as a quirk. Generally, if you're a standard race (human, mahiri, dwarf, etc.) with strange magical training, we prefer that you use Mystic, which is, after all, customizable for a reason. If you are proposing IP for a character who's from a standard race, you should have a detailed, rational explanation for why and how your character got these oddball abilities -- and you should explain why the standard magical skills (Mage, Cleric, and especially Mystic) don't work for your character. (Note that "because IP is cheaper" is not an argument usually given much credence by the Committee.)


New races

New races need GWC approval, and may need RC approval as well. (A GM or the Game World Chair cannot give approval for one event only; you must secure approval from the GWC and RC before playing the character.)

You should first send your proposal to the GWC, who will consider how the race fits into the CG world.

Quest accepts character proposals for new races, but only with considerable scrutiny. We don't want to stomp on people's creativity, but we also don't want to have a "Star Wars cantina" effect in which each and every character is of a different, freakish race. We may also hesitate on new races because we have a large extant library of information on existing races, notably the mahiri and dwarves, each of which have vast and detailed write-ups. As a result, we don't want this work to go to waste and don't want to detract from it.

Another consideration with a new race is its level of public knowledge. Why hasn't the world at large already heard of your race? Your species can't be that widespread, or players would already know of it. One common answer is that the species is geographically isolated: the race normally lives in a very small area, and thus is largely unknown; the PC in question is venturing forth from that enclave for a particular reason. Another answer is unique creations; some new "races" have been magical experiments such as Frankenstein-esque automatons or hybridizations. No matter what your solution might be, you should have some solution in your proposal.

Once the GWC has approved your new race, you'll need to get any racial kit(s) approved by the Rules Committee, so you should email the Rules Chair. If all the abilities in the kit are standard, approval will be simple: add the abilities, subtract the disadvantages, and you get the final kit cost. However, if you're proposing to have non-standard abilities or disadvantages, then the RC is going to have to look at them carefully to ensure that they're not unbalanced, and that they won't cause problems. The best way to speed up this process is to be able to compare your new ability with an existing ability, and show how the differences justify any difference in cost.

Cosmological Beings

Quest is hesitant to have PCs playing creatures of great cosmological significance, for several reasons:

Power Level and Social Level

Cosmological beings as PCs cause the same troubles as important nobility and/or clergy. Characters of these ranks would have vast social influence, and realistically they should have powers far beyond the reach of a mere 10 to 30 points.

For instance, someone playing a celestial as a PC:

Cosmological Knowledge

More importantly, there is a level of mystery about the divine. PC clergy can use divine power to cast spells, but the true nature of the gods remains beyond the complete understanding of mortals. This is useful not only because it has an aesthetic appeal -- but also because the less the gods are described, the more freedom there is for interpretation. One PC can claim that Rannash is a bloodthirsty berserker, while another can call him a noble knight -- and no one can prove it either way.

However, the beings further up the cosmological scale do have a greater understanding of the divine, or at least they should. And since we don't have out-of-game answers for these questions, such characters can't actually have this knowledge, and we can't realistically model these beings.

Thus, the CG does not allow "cosmological" PCs: celestials, demons, darklings, luminaries, gahllor, fae, djinn, etc.–any being directly related to a god or with direct knowledge thereof. Basically, any characters whose background means that the character would have a knowledge of the gods, the titans, the creation, or anything that's considered mysterious and undefined by mortals.

Cosmological vs. Immortal

An "immortal" (that is, a character who doesn't age) character is acceptable, provided that your race has no more cosmological knowledge than a mortal, has no special abilities that can't be represented within the scope of the rules, and has no other social advantages derived from your background. You need to have the same knowledge base as a mortal PC, and other PCs need to perceive your power level as being mortal or near-mortal.

Note, however, you can still expect considerable scrutiny if you propose such a character.


Holy Weapons

The GWC requires approval for Holy Weapons to keep track of the number of them active in the CG, and to make sure they're only going to characters who have a patron deity and are pious.

Your proposal should list which character wants to buy the weapon, and explain the nature of his/her faith.


Yamamotoan characters

Players will need approval from the GWC to play a Yamamotoan PC. The GWC expects that you will have read the Yamamoto packet before proposing.

The GWC requires this approval because we want to limit the number of Yamamotoan PCs active in the CG, and to make sure that the people playing those characters understand the basics of being a Yamamotoan.

Your proposal should outline your character, his/her background, and why s/he has come to Hesket.