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Head: the Floating

The Hitchhiker April 1, 2000
 

A single problem has hounded role-playing since the conception of the hobby in the late 70s. That problem is the tendency to think of the character as a killing machine with interesting toys instead of a role, a well-developed person in its own right. In the past, I have merely lamented this sorry trend. I am a wiser person now. I shall solve it.

"Head: the Floating" is a revolutionary new RPG. The characters are a class outside of society, both outcasts and overmen. Normal people fear and shun the player characters, and for good reason. The player characters are heads in jars.

Surprised you, didn't I? That's the innovation that will make H:tF a best seller, save role-playing, and make me fantastically wealthy. The players are stripped of the trinkets and gewgaws that distract from role playing. No more +5 vorpal swords, no more Heckler and Koch machine guns, no more Bags of Devouring. The only elements of a character are the player, the Head, a few liters of fluid, and an inch of glass.

Shit. I'm even amazing myself. H:tF is almost Stanislavskian in its play. The players have to get inside the heads of their Heads and be the Heads. Motivations and characterization are everything. It's too much for me to contemplate. Let's avert our eyes from the dazzling beauty of these gaming revelations and turn to the more mundane. It's time for the rules.

In order to center the game on the story and the characters, H:tF will use The Window as the core of its rules. The Window is available at Methods in the Madness (http://www.mimgames.com/window). It is simple and adaptable to any gaming genre. A quick summary: all character attributes are rated as one of seven skill levels: d30, d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, and d4. When there is a chance of failure on a task, the player rolls the die that corresponds to the relevant skill. Lower is better. 6 or lower is normally a success. The target number is lowered for more difficult tasks. Accordingly, d4 is the highest skill level and d30 is the lowest. For contest rolls, all of the people parts involved roll their attributes and the lowest wins.

A more detailed but poorly written discussion can be found at "What is the Window?" (http://lightning.prohosting.com/~madlab/what/whatwindow.htm). Go and read it. I'll just watch the screen saver while you do.

So you've either finished the other article or you've decided to callously ignore my advice and skip ahead. Either way, good for you. I'll assume that you already have a brilliantly thought out and creative charcter concept, so we can move on to the duller but still necessary number crunching. In H:tF, each Head has seven major attributes. They are, in a particularly random order:

Intellect (Int) is the reasoning power and general knowledge of a given Head. Contests of wits and situations involving recall of random knowledge would use this attribute. A Head with d30 Int would be either an idiot, a moron, a cretin, or a connoisseur of lead-based paints.

Perception (Pcp) is the acuity of a Head's senses or sensing apparatus. Since it is difficult for a floating head to dine on anything but intravenous food or fish flakes, taste is usually atrophied in Heads. Smell is also out of the question. Therefore, Pcp is applied to tests of vision, hearing, or touch. On second thought, you can't feel anything through glass. Nix touch. Vision and hearing only. A Head with d30 Pcp would most likely be Helen Keller sans body.

Appearance (App) is a Head's basic attractiveness or lack thereof. Despite being disembodied creatures with stumps where their necks should be, some Heads can be compellingly beautiful. A d4 App indicates an exceptionally beautiful Head, perhaps a demigodhead. A d30 indicates the Elephant Head.

Buoyancy (Bcy) is a Head's talent at floating and moving around in its jar. Heads with exceptionally high Bcy ratings may have been swimmers or athletes in some sport that requires extremely strong neck and jaw muscles. Bcy can also be applied to surviving in water outside of a jar, but any Head that is removed from its jar is not long for this world.

Charisma (Chr) is comprised of the force of personality and speaking skills that a Head commands. Persuasion, lying, and seduction would all be encompassed by Chr. Heads with very low Chr are bound to be very lonely. Not only are they boring conversationalist, they are heads in jars.

Glass Thickness (Thk) is, literally, the thickness of the glass which makes up a specific Head's jar. Heads with a low Thk are wont to be grievously cracked at the slightest misfortune, while those possessing high Thk can be used as bludgeoning weapons by normal folks with few ill effects.

Luck (Luk) is self explanatory. Most Heads will have low Luk scores. If they were lucky, they'd still have bodies.

Saving the role-playing industry is toilsome work. I can go on no longer tonight. In the next installment, there will be information on skills and useful advice for constructing a convincing and multi-layered character. Until then, happy floating.

The Hitchhiker
hitchhiker@rpg.net

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