Author Topic: Anatomy of a Focus  (Read 1097 times)


  • Posts: 1371
Anatomy of a Focus
« on: November 05, 2018, 07:30:55 AM »
So...I don't play a lot of dwarves.  In my entire time on Arm, I've probably played two at the most.  I can only remember playing one previously.  It's always been elves, half-elves, and about that order of popularity, in fact.

In my triumphant return to Zalanthas, I tried to take a dive into the deep end of dwarfdom as my first character in the new era.  For the first time since my early days, my app got declined due to the focus not being more expansive.  So I resubmitted the app with a focus I thought was more in keeping, but it was returned.  I realized I was clearly doing something wrong, so i went ahead and tried something else.

But I'd like to revisit these thoughts a bit.  So, for anyone who plays dwarves regularly, and has had foci routinely approved, tell me: How do you make a focus?  Do you have some examples you can provide that are not ic-sensitive?  No guesses, please.  I'm looking for the cold, hard facts here.  At some point in the not-so-distant future, I'd like to give that app a go again.
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  • Posts: 1873
Re: Anatomy of a Focus
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2018, 08:38:34 AM »
I haven't played many dwarves over the years because I find focus to be quite important. If I don't have an interesting focus then the character is boring or, worse, becomes a chore to play. That said I have put in some thought over the years to what makes a good focus and I think there are two main points to make about them.

* Don't make the Focus about game mechanics.

This almost isn't worth saying but I'll say it anyway - a focus shouldn't be trivial and any focus that revolves around game mechanics is easy given enough time. The stereotypical focus of "Make 10,000 coins" or "Master combat" are almost a certainty if you play your character long enough: make the same silk dress a few times every time the game reboots and live off scavenged food or just spar every morning until you've banked 10,000 coins or got Master in every combat and weapons skill. If you want a focus like these make them a little more vague and a little more demanding. "Become powerfully wealthy" or "Master a new combat style" - Focus like these are a little more demanding than simple game mechanics and require RP and creative thought to achieve.

* Don't make the focus too specific

The biggest problem I've had is making a focus too specific. If your focus is specific but you play your character and find the focus is not as interesting as you had thought in character generation then you have very little options to change it. For example if your focus is "Create the perfect recipe for a Fale party" but when you go in game you find that the current Fale players play at different times to you but the Oash nobles are playing at the same time as you and have expressed interest in your cooking - well that's too bad. If your focus however was "Create the perfect recipe for a Highborn party" you could easily switch from planning to cook for Fale and cooking for Oash instead and still be playing your focus.
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  • Posts: 1700
Re: Anatomy of a Focus
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2018, 02:57:37 PM »
I love dwarves.  I'll try and search-fu up the original link that I drew my inspiration from, but my dwarf focus is always written up as my first bio entry to flesh out whatever I put in the objective to indicate the focus. 

The one-liner of the focus is easy, then add the Actual Elements - Outcomes that need to be achieved as little steps towards your focus.  Finally, using those 3-4 elements, put in place an outline of the activities you'll look to undertake in order to push those elements forward.  Finally, as you play your dwarf, look at the actions they are taking, determine if those are driving the elements of your dwarf's focus and if not, ditch them.

Here's one from years back:

Focus: Join a gith clan
Actual Elements:
Survival Skills.
Cultural Acceptance.
Be the Gith.

Steps to achieve:
1.Survival Skills:
Build basic wilderness survival skils.
Establish where Gith congregate.
Learn the geography.
Learn to forage and survive in that area of the world.

2.Cultural Acceptance:
Inquire with those likely to have some knowledge of Gith culture.
Learn to communicate with the Gith: Learn Heshrak, Allundean as a precursor?
Watch and Observe the Gith in the wild.
Learn their ways, traditions, and mannerisms

3.Be the Gith:
Live where the Gith Live
Dress as the Gith Dress
Mimic Gith behavior outside of Gith lands.

Result is a dwarf who needs the support of civilized folks to get started, but ultimately does not want to live amongst them. He will be quick to join any expedition through gith lands, asking questions the whole way about how do the gith attack, where, what do they take. Believing Heshrak to be a form of Allundean he will befriend Elves or even barge in on conversations between Elves but only so long as they speak Allundean. He will gather up the Gith gear left in the sands, repair it, and then endeavour to trade it back to the Gith in order to curry favor. Eventually he will be less and less seen in civilized areas, more often roaming Githlands until he finds himself attempting to live within a Gith base of operations.
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  • Posts: 761
Re: Anatomy of a Focus
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2018, 08:14:04 PM »
I like to come up with a simple goal, and then make it about everything. Such as Explore the entire Known, or taste everything in the Known. I choose goals like this because they're open ended, but they're full of hooks for RP that can easily drive your character into new situations.
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  • Posts: 1999
Re: Anatomy of a Focus
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2018, 07:58:00 PM »
I have no advice since I have trouble playing dwarves, too. But I'm curious what the rejected focus was.
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  • Posts: 2252
Re: Anatomy of a Focus
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2018, 02:47:59 PM »

I like my dwarves. If there's a fantasy game out there with dwarves in it ... I want to play a dwarf.

So ... focus ... I think some of you make it harder than it needs to be.

Go open-ended. Form an adventuring company. Establish a dwarf-only mercenary company. Build up a trade empire. All good, open-ended foci that you can justify pretty much all game activities while giving yourself a goal to work towards.

Often I look at dwarves in other fantasy settings and build a focus around what they have that Arm dwarves don't. Dwarven kingdoms abound in Tolkien. Why doesn't Arm have them? Focus then would be to discover whether any of the ruins in the game world ever belonged to dwarves.  Or to establish a mountainhome somewhere for only dwarves.

And don't forget those dwarven mutations! My head canon is that human sorcerer-kings and the slave houses have been manipulating the dwarven bloodlines so long (to breed better slaves or even different types of muls) that all manner of genetic weirdness is present in the dwarf genome. Tusks are popular, as are fantastic skin-hues. Always happy to see a funky colored dwarf.