Core Rulebook cover

It Builds Character #5: Star Wars – Edge of The Empire

Welcome to the fifth in an occasional series called It Builds Character in which I use the character generation rules of various tabletop role-playing games to create a character and attempt to flesh them out into something distinctive.

It Builds Character #5: Star Wars – Edge of the Empire

The Game

For the latest entry in the series, I’ll be using the rules of Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire RPG, which is set in the Star Wars galaxy. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you have at least a passing familiarity with that setting.

Edge of the empire is one of three compatible games set in the Star Wars galaxy (The other two are Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny.) Edge of the Empire deals with those individuals who make their living in the shadier corners of the galaxy away from the prying eyes of the Empire, and aren’t necessarily connected to the Rebel Alliance. The default time line for this particular game is shortly after the destruction of the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin at the end of Episode IV: A New Hope but before the Battle of Hoth seen at the start of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

The Character

I have a sketchy idea of a character concept, so let’s see how well this system deals with creating them. Per the introduction to the Character Creation chapter of the book, this is a ten-step process, and as with earlier “it builds character” entries, the rule book itself puts the emphasis on narrative concepts over game-mechanic based ones, though we’ll definitely cover the mechanics as we go. I’m intrigued to see how the specialized Star Wars dice fit into this.

Step 1: Determine Character Concept and Background

While this step, to my mind, should obviously come almost entirely from the players vision, the rule book does present a few guidelines for getting that vision into playable character form. I want the character to be a doctor who is fleeing from a crime syndicate after botching surgery on the head honcho’s right hand man. It’s not much, but it is a hook to hang deeper characterization on.

The rule book first asks the player to consider their social background, and presents four broad strata to use. since one of those strata “The High And Mighty” actually mentions the idea of the character as a doctor (which I didn’t know going in) having fallen on hard times, I read that and see if anything in the descriptive capsule makes sense for the character.

The next section here asks why the character has found themselves on the murkier fringes of the galaxy far, far away. Since I already have the crime syndicate and botched surgery concept, I guess that’s already resolved for me, with the simple motivation of “run away!” so as not to be killed by vengeful criminals. Since we already have that established, I think we can move on to

Step 2: Determine Starting Obligation

As the rule book puts it “Obligation represents the debts a Player Character owes.” I’m assuming these debts go beyond financial into the realm of spiritual, mental, physical or pure intangibles like honor. Apparently there’s a mechanical component to this, as the character has to start with at least one Obligation. There’s even a d100 table to roll on if you’re not sure. Since I have a rough idea for the character, I’m opting not to roll, but instead choose a starting Obligation that fits the skeleton of a backstory that’s been sketched so far. The one that makes the most sense to me is Bounty as our doctor evidently has a price on his head. There’s also a magnitude associated with each Obligation, which, assuming I understand correctly, seems more of a way for the GM to use different party members Obligations in adventure hooks or gaming sessions. It looks like the average group of players has a magnitude of 40 points of Obligation. Assuming that the character would be a member of a four-player party, I assume that the magnitude of his bounty Obligation is 10 points.

There are various notes about group Obligation, how it can represent the party’s reputation both positively and negatively as well as ways to pay down Obligations. Since these all seem like something that would only come up in game after characters have been created and played for a while, I’ll ignore that here and jump to

Step 3: Select Character Species

Since the Star Wars  galaxy is positively teeming with life, both human and alien, I’m actually a little disappointed that the rule book only lists eight species options. Fortunately, one of those species options covers what I want this character to be. The good doctor is going to be a Rodian. (For completeness sake, I’ll mention that the other seven species are Bothans, Droids, Gands, Humans, Trandoshans, Twi’Leks and Wookiees.) What does the choice of species mean in the game? Well, for starters, a character’s species determine their starting characteristics and experience points. Certain species also confer other abilities on the character. Let’s see what that means for our Rodian Doctor, shall we?

His basic characteristics are –

Brawn: 2

Agility: 3

Intellect: 2

Cunning: 2

Willpower: 1

Presence: 2

Which gives further characteristics of –

Wound Threshold: 12

Strain Threshold: 11

As well as 1 Rank of Survival and 1 Rank of the Expert Tracker talent. On top of all that, he has 100 XP to spend on the character creation process.

Step 4: Select Character Career

Much like with species, the character’s career helps determine the character’s initial skill set. There are six career choices offered here: Bounty Hunter, Colonist, Explorer, Hired Gun, Smuggler and Technician. To my mind, the only one of those that makes sense for a doctor is the Colonist, so that’s what the character will be. That makes the following as career skills for him:

Charm

Deception

Knowledge (Core Worlds)

Knowledge (Education)

Knowledge (Lore)

Leadership

Negotiation

Streetwise

He also gets to invest  rank in four of those skills for free. I decide that our former crime doctor has ranks in Deception, Knowledge (Education), Negotiation and Streetwise.

Step 5: Select Specializations

Within each of the careers there are various specializations that add yet more career skills to their list. Within the Colonist career, the three specializations to choose from are Doctor, Politico or Scholar. Since I already have the character as a doctor in his back story, I go with the Doctor specialization.This grants the following four skills:

Cool

Knowledge (Education)

Medicine

Resilience,

And means the character can invest ranks in two of them. In this case, I put ranks in both Cool and Medicine. Incidentally, because Knowledge (Education) appears here and under Colonist, it would have been the only career skill the character could have two ranks in without having to spend experience points for the privilege. Of course, now it’s time to think about that as we reach…

Step 6: Invest Experience Points

The character has 100 Experience Points and four different ways to spend them:

  1. Increase Characteristics
  2. Purchase Skill ranks (may not have more than 2 ranks in a skill during character creation
  3. Purchase Talents within Specializations
  4. Purchase new Specializations

I feel like I need to explain that 3rd one. Each of the career specializations has a talent tree diagram with multiple rows and columns as a grid. some of the items are stand alone, and some are connected by lines. You can choose any box in the first row to spend XP on, and can also choose any box in the next rows that connect to that box. Here’s a picture of the Smuggler talent tree that I found online to clarify. (WordPress won’t let me upload it, so a link will have to do).

For example, the Doctor talent tree has the following top row options: Surgeon, Bacta Specialist, Grit, and Resolve. Of those four, Bacta Specialist and Resolve don’t link to anything, but Surgeon links to Stim Application in the second row and Grit links to Surgeon in the second row.

Since I’ve gone into this amount of detail explaining it, it makes sense for the character to spend at least some XP making purchases from the Tree. To that  end, I spend 5 XP (leaving me with 95) on that Grit talent, and via the magic of connectivity, use that to allow me to spend a further 10 XP (leaving me with 85) on the Surgeon talent in the second row. This means that in future, I could spend on the other top row talents, the second row talents connected to Surgeon (more Grit and Resolve, not sure if they stack) or the third row talent connected to Surgeon, which would be another Bacta Specialist. For now, though, I’m done with the Talent Tree, so let’s see where else I can spend those 85 remaining XP.

The first thing I opt to do is boost some of my characteristics. Each of the characteristics is from 1 to 6, but are capped to 5 during character creation. To boost a characteristic to a new value costs 10 XP times that value and is cumulative. So if I wanted to increase a characteristic from 2 to 4, I’d first have to spend 30 XP to increase it to 3, and then a further 40 XP to increase it to 4.

As it happens, I’m a little worried about the character’s low Willpower characteristic of 1, so I opt to spend 20 XP (Leaving me with 65) to boost the Willpower to 2. Since I feel that doctors are supposed to be smart, I also opt to increase the character’s Intellect from 2 to 3, at a cost of a further 30 XP (Leaving me with 35 to spend)

Now it’s time to invest in some skill ranks. Currently, I  can’t boost any skills above 2 ranks. It costs 5 XP to get a  Career skill (see above) to 1 rank, and then 10 XP to boost a 1 rank career skill to 2 ranks. For non-career skills, 1 rank  costs 10 XP and boosting a 1 rank non-Career skill to 2 ranks costs a further 15 XP.

Looking at the career skills the character has so far, I choose to boost his Medicine skill from 1 rank to 2, at a cost of  10 XP (Leaving me 25 to spend), I do the same for Negotiation (So now he only has 15 left). For non-career skills, I decide that the character knows his way around a pistol, and so purchase 1 rank of Ranged (Light) combat skill at a cost of 10XP (Leaving a mere 5 to spend).

Since the only thing the character can afford now is a single rank of a career skill, I opt to spend the last 5XP on a single rank of the Resilience skill.

Step 7: Determine Derived Attributes

This step uses the characteristics (including any increases from XP purchase to calculate four different values: Wound Threshold, Strain Threshold, Defense and Soak Value.

Wound Threshold is how many wounds the character can sustain before being rendered unconscious and is simply 10 (for being a Rodian) + their Brawn characteristic, which in this case gives a score of 12.

Strain Threshold is similar in that it shows how much mental or psychological damage the character can sustain before becoming dazed and confused. This is 10 (for Rodians) + the Willpower characteristic, which in this case is also 12. However, because we purchased that Grit talent, we get +1, so it’s actually 13.

Defense starts at 0 and changes based on equipment and cover. Since the character currently has neither of those things, his score is 0.

Soak Value determines the amount of damage a character can sustain before suffering a wound and is based on their Brawn characteristic, so in this case it would be 2.

Step 8: Determine Motivations

This is almost a companion step to the Obligations from step 2. In that an obligation is why they’re forced to the fringes of the galaxy, and a motivation is why they’re staying there. Like Obligations, Motivations can be picked out specifically or rolled for. I decide to leave the character’s motivations in the hands of the Force and roll for them. The first d10 roll determines what kind of motivation it is. Which in this case is a Cause, and a d100 roll breaks down what that cause might be. As it turns out the cause is Emancipation, so the character is an ardent believer in abolishing slavery and indentured servitude in wherever they rear their ugly heads in the galaxy. I decide that’s because he was an indentured servant of the crime syndicate he was forced to serve initially, and doesn’t want anybody else to have to go through that, which seems reasonable.

Step 9: Choose Gear and Description

Our character is starting to come together a little bit, but is currently rather under-equipped, not even having the clothes on his back yet! Since it would be nice to have some stuff to go adventuring with, he gets 500 credits to buy starting things. So, let’s spend some creds. The first thing the good doctor purchases is  a Light Blaster Pistol, which eats up 300 of his credits (Leaving only 200). Specifically, I decide it’s a BlasTech DL-18 despite that having no effect on the rules.

He spends a further 50 credits (leaving 150) on Heavy Clothing, which I decide is basically a thick scrub-like garment, almost a medical jumpsuit. This does increase his Soak Value by 1 up to  total of 3.

100 of the 150 remaining credits go towards an Emergency Medpac. After all a Doctor needs some tools and field dressings.

Of the last 50 credits, 25 go to a hand held comm-link, and he decides to pocket the rest just in case.

Now that he’s equipped, it’s time to figure out what this character looks like. We’ll go down each of the appearance categories in turn and see from there.

Physical Description

Height, weight and build: Rodians are generally a little shorter than humans, and this guy is no exception, he stands at 1.4 meters tall (About 4’6″). He’s also of a fairly slender build, almost lithe. Not sure what the weight would be , but something commensurate with that.

Hair and eye color: As a male Rodian, he doesn’t have hair, so no color there. His eyes are a deep navy blue that contrast strongly against his slightly mottled green skin.

Skin, scale or fur color: As established above, a mottled green.

Scars, tattoos or other identifying marks:  He has a black sun tattooed on his left shoulder, marking him as property of that crime syndicate. Since escaping, he’s tried to obliterate it unsuccessfully, so it has some fairly livid scar tissue over it, trying to strike through the design. If he had access to sufficient Bacta or a dermal medi-droid, he’d have it removed fully.

Personality: The good doctor is both fiercely dedicated to his independence and extremely paranoid. He knows that he has a price on his head, and every single new person he meets is just going to be the one who claims it. This does make him a little bit panicked as a negotiator as he tends to see things in the very short term, convinced that he’ll be dead within a couple of standard months. He’ll also very seldom forge alliances with people. He belongs to himself now, and that’s not going to change.

Since it isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the character creation, this is where I’ve decided to name our Rodian doctor, so say hello to Silugg Ceega, or “Sil,” to his very few friends.

Step 10: Group Chooses Starting Ship

Since the crew that would be the gaming party needs a home base, they need a ship. The rule book suggest 3 possibilities as good beginner starters, and I’m inclined to agree with one of their choices, so Sil is going to be the medic aboard a Wayfarer Medium Transport known as the Mynock Moon.


What do you think, loyal blog followers? Is this a series worth continuing? If so, are there any particular games and editions you’d like me to use to create characters?

Please leave some comments and let me know!

a goal

Of goals made and goals missed.

As 2016 winds down, I guess it’s a good time to review my 2016 resolutions and see just how well I did with keeping them and meeting the goals I set myself. (Spoiler: Not very well at all). After reviewing those, I’m going to touch on another few goals and challenges that I had set for myself and my progress therein. First, let’s take a look at each of the individual resolutions and how I did with four days to go.

New Diet

I feel like the main aim of this one (to eat out less) was certainly achieved, as I’ve definitely cooked far more often at home, and my wife and I have documented that on our food blog. Though we did go for a while without updating the blog until we kind of dropped an archive of some of the year’s recipes towards the end of November and December. The minor downside is that things became less collaborative between my wife and I due to health issues on both of our parts at various times, so it became more individual efforts with occasional contributions, which is a pity because cooking together was one of our bigger couples activities. Hopefully we can get back on track to working together in 2017 as our health issues start to resolve.

2017 Goal: Continue in the same vein, with less delays on the food blog.

New Weight

Still working on this. I’ve maintained my weight at around 220 lbs. I’m still shooting for 200 lbs, and I’ve remained committed to the gym for cardio exercise. It had been a lot of treadmill work and stationary bike work, but the treadmill work has fallen off in the last month thanks to my having a broken wrist. You wouldn’t think that would affect treadmill running that much, and it probably doesn’t, but because I’m paranoid, it means I can’t grip the treadmill handles or hit the emergency stop button in the rare cases where that might be needed. Soon I’ll be out of the cast and able to rededicate myself to treadmill running, which I enjoy greatly as a kind of zen way to clear my head. I also use the Zombies, Run! app on my phone to make things a little competitive because I enjoy the idea of metrics and leveling up with any challenge I face.

2017 Goal: Still shooting for 200 lbs, and I have a jacker picked out as a reward if I get there.

Communicate Better

Yeah, I’ve pretty much completely failed at this one. I need to reach out to my parents and sister more throughout 2017 to try and re-connect with them instead of just kind of ignoring the contact details I do have with an “I’ll get around to it eventually,” which is the utterly horrible approach I’m currently taking.

On the plus side, I feel like I’ve done better by my son communication wise. In additional to seeing him in person on a regular basis (at least until this past month where, once gain, the broken wrist has interfered and made driving exponentially more difficult), I’m able to reach out to him between visits thanks to some social media interactions. Notably, he’s became a big fan of Snapchat, so it’s been great to send him a quick picture or video message through that. I need to do it more frequently still, but there have definitely been strides made in that direction.

2017 Goal: Maintain & improve communication with my son. Establish regular communication with my parents & sister.

Blog More

 

Let’s see, my initial target was to add an entry to this blog at least once a week throughout 2016, and this is the 52nd week of the year. If I’ve counted correctly, this is my eleventh entry of 2016, which means that i only missed this goal by forty-one entries, so I made it a whole 21% of the way towards my target. Amusingly, one of the projects I called out was my Supernatural blogwatch project, to which I managed to add a grand total of ZERO entries in 2016.

2017 Goal: Attempt to hit that once per week target. Have at least one season of Supernatural blog watch finished.

Read More

At last, a goal that I was able to achieve! I’ve been keeping track of my reading thanks to the Goodreads app. One of the things i like about that app is that you can set yourself a reading challenge target for the year. again, big fan of numerical metrics and competitive goals to meet. I’ve been increasing my targets by five books each year. In 2014, that was fifty books, in 2015 it was fifty-five. Fans of pattern recognition will realize that means that my target for 2016 was sixty books. And per that very same GoodReads app, I finished my sixtieth book of the year (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) on December 21st. this is in a bit of contrast to 2015 where I was cramming a couple of short books in early on New Year’s Eve.

2017 Goal: Ready sixty-five books. More non-fiction and less graphic novels. join a book club to read titles outside my comfort zone.

Write More

This started with the best of intentions and fell by the wayside as different life things piled up (the aforementioned health issues, moving to a larger apartment). For the second year in a row, I failed to complete the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I was actually close to getting back on track with that with a solid four day writing binge planned over Thanksgiving weekend. Then I broke my wrist and was basically unable to type or write properly for the rest of November. That means my 2017 NaNoWriMo attempt is going to have a lot of making up to do (see the goal below). On the plus side, I’m revisiting the historical fiction idea I had, and now have most of a year to gather and read the research materials to keep it a little more organized.

Outside of NaNoWriMo, I did get some more things written, even if they were mostly flash fiction pieces (a few of which made up those eleven posts for 2016…) and I also got more disciplined at outlining and planning out my story ideas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to translate that into more output for 2017.

Another thing that helped here was the establishment of a weekly writing thread on the Fark.com new aggregator website that I’ve been a member of forever. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get a story into the Start of Farkness fiction anthology that arose from those threads though.

2017 Goal: Complete at least 150,000 words during National Novel Writing Month (Equivalent to the 50,000 for 2015, 2016 & 2017) as 1-3 stories. Successfully submit a short story for a hypothetical 2017 Fark.com fiction anthology. Also, write more short stories/flash fiction and potentially draft one novel outside of November. Possibly invest in a copy of Scrivener software.

Game More

Well, I did game more than I had in 2015, but I didn’t come close to completing the “12 video games in 12 months” challenge, unless someone can recommend 10 ultra-short games I can finish in the next four days. I managed to finish two games in 2016, mostly because I’m not a big gamer, so it’s seldom been a priority for me. I was able to finish Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the original Secret of Monkey Island. I’m also very close to finishing off the original Portal, so I might be able to claim 25% of the goal by year’s end. I have taken advantage of some Steam sales to buy/download a few games for next year. As someone who’s not been a computer/video gamer, I haven’t played a lot of these older games, so I can catch up now without having to buy a new system by playing new-to-me games which have been published since around 1999…

I’m also going to some more tabletop gaming. My wife and I did play quite a bit of Magic: The Gathering, a couple of games of Munchkin and a lot of the DC Comics Deck-Building Game when it came to card-based tabletop entertainment. I’ve also purchased some actual tabletop role-playing games in order to run some games in 2017. You’ve probably seen the fruits of these purchases as part of the It Builds Character sub-series on this very blog (A new entry of which should be coming before year’s end.)

I’ve also finally given up on Games Workshop’s miniature war games as they’ve finally priced themselves out of my comfort zone. Of course, I haven’t abandoned miniature wargaming completely and am switching over to the World War II miniatures game Flames of War. So far, I’ve purchased but not painted or assembled my first few British forces for an Airlanding Company.

2017 Goals: Attempt the 12 in 12 video game challenge again, run at least one tabletop gaming campaign (probably Pendragon) either in person or online. Purchase and assemble enough Flames of War miniatures for two forces so that I can play a few games. Start a small Star Wars: Armada force.

Goal stock photo by Sander van der Veen.

Light bulb

NaNoWriMo Thoughts: Ideas & Inspirations

Inspiration can strike in the strangest ways. This is probably why most authors hate the inevitable “Where do you get your ideas from?” question.

 

This is my attempt to answer that question: I get my ideas from the world around me. I think everyone does to a certain extent, which is why one of the most common mantras is “write what you know,” though I do think that advice is a little misleading. After all, if I’m writing a period piece or so me far-flung space opera epic, then what I know as an English computer dude living in Delaware really isn’t applicable.

 

So what can inspire you? One source is dreams, which is why it’s a good idea to keep a pen and notepad on your bedside table to jot down the ideas as soon as you wake, because you WILL forget if you decide to wait until later, as I’ve learned to my cost. An infamous example of the dream as inspiration is the “Terminator” franchise. It began when James Cameron had a dream that consisted of a metal exoskeleton walking out of flames (Harlan Ellison might disagree on that form of inspiration and there’s legal reasons for Ellison’s credit on the first film, but Harlan is infamously cranky and litigious so who knows?). That dream became the finale of The Terminator and is, in my opinion, one of the best “holy crap” film moments of the 1980s.

 

Another obvious source of inspiration, and one partially alluded to in my Ellison aside above is whatever you might be reading. I know one of my earliest short stories was inspired by me reading Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon and thinking “I could do better than this!”

 

Thankfully, there are no extant copies of that story online as it was typical of a new, young writer in that it was terrible. That’s beside the point though. I read a lot of non-fiction, and listen to a couple of different history podcasts. And one of my most frequent thoughts are generally “what if this happened instead?” which leads to alternate history ideas or cross-pollination between disparate historical events and genres. What would the Roman Year of the Four Emperors look like through the lens of a fantasy world? I don’t know, but I might well find out by the end of National Novel Writing Month as that seems like fertile ground for at least fifty thousand words.

 

My current plan for the 2016 edition of that exercise revolves around an eighteenth century naval battle with a commander who was very much conflicted about whether he was even on the right side, which means I’m going to be hip-deep in geographical and historical research for the next couple of weeks. And that inspiration came from a single line in one of the “…for Dummies” series of books.

 

I also have dumber ideas inspired by mass media such as movies or television. Like most of the residents of the United States right now, I’m drowning in Presidential election coverage. Watching bits and pieces of the debates not long after finally succumbing and watching The Silence of the Lambs has lead me to a short story parody idea which so far involves Donald Trump looking in a mirror and asking “Would you vote me? I’d vote me so hard.” It’s very stupid, and I’m not sure I need the mental image of Donald Trump as Buffalo Bill, but since I inflicted it on myself, I figured I’d inflict it on my loyal readers, as few as you might be.

The last source of inspiration I’m going to consider is people watching. As I type this, I’m sat in a coffee shop facing a large window that opens to the street. This is both because I’m clearly a terrible cliché and because it’s a fantastic spot to observe the small section of the world that is my street. For example, about five minutes ago there was an African-American woman in a purple halter top engaged in an animated discussion with an older gentleman in a wheelchair. I don’t know what they were talking about, but judging by the wild gesticulations, it was clearly something both parties felt passionate about. I created a backstory in my head that it was the first meeting in around fifteen years between a school custodian and an infamous vandal who made his work a living hell. They’ve both long put such things behind them, but were reminiscing about old times in the way that people who aren’t quite friend sometimes do.

 

So, how do you get inspiration for your stories? I submit that the easiest way to do that is simply to keep your eyes and ears open.

 

Lightbulb stock photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Aberrant 1st Edition Cover

It Builds Character #4: Aberrant

Welcome to the fourth in an occasional series called It Builds Character in which I use the character generation rules of various tabletop role-playing games to create a character and attempt to flesh them out into something distinctive.

It Builds Character #4: Aberrant

The Game

For the latest entry in the series, I’ll be using the rules of White Wolf Game Studio’s Aberrant RPG (Now owned by Onyx Path Publishing), which is a 1999 game set in the not too distant future of 2008. A quantum event has led to the eruption of “Novas,” individuals with superhuman abilities.

The game is basically a superhero game with strong conspiracy theory overtones and an arguable deconstruction of superheroes as beneficial themes that feel very much of a piece with the Watchmen graphic novel. Given that this was a White Wolf game, there’s elements of cynicism that abound and it definitely deals with shades of grey type characters rather than explicitly good or evil ones. There’s also a bunch of factions/organizations for characters to interact with, the main ones being:

  • Project Utopia: A UN-affiliated group that fosters co-operation between Novas and normal humans to improve the world.
  • The Teragen: A Nova-supremacist group that states that Novas can only be governed by Novas, so human laws don’t apply to them.
  • The Aberrants: A new, small, faction worried about potential corruption within Project Utopia
  • The Directive: A multi-government-aligned intelligence agency with controlling interests from The United States, Russia, Japan, The United Kingdom & Germany

As you might imagine, each faction is rather more complex than the public face described in the capsules above. This is also the middle game of the Trinity Universe timeline, with Adventure! set in the past, and Aeon/Trinity set in the future of the timeline, and so there’s an overacrhing plot that leads in those directions, but I never played those or read most of the sourcebooks so I can’t give any information on them.

 

The Character

Since this is a kind of a superhero game, I’m going to be basing my Nova character on a pre-existing superhero. And since a key part of the backstory is that all Novas share a genetic element that activates their powers at a time of great stress, I’m thinking along the lines of X-Men rather than my actual favorite superhero, who’s on the DC side of the house. Instead, I’m going to be attempting to create a character based loosely on this guy:

Nightcrawler. Art by Dave Cockrum © Marvel Comics

Nightcrawler. Art by Dave Cockrum © Marvel Comics

Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, is easily my favorite X-Man. He has teleportation powers, some religious humility and the swashbuckling attitude of a circus performer. His powers have also left him looking inhuman, with blue skin, a prehensile tail and two gripping toes on each foot.

PHASE 1: Human

In Aberrant character creation is done in two phases, firstly you create the character as the baseline human they were before the power-triggering event (“Eruption” in Aberrant parlance) made them a Nova. The second phase is the post-Eruption version of the character.

Step I: Concept

Since I’m basing this off of a pre-existing character, I already kind of have a concept in mind for the character, but let’s go through everything the rulebook suggests for creating the overall concept of the character, and who knows, maybe they will mutate away from being a straightforward Nightcrawler rip-off.

Under Concept, the rulebook has three separate categories: Concept, Nature & Allegiance. Concept in this case is a broad category that can be used to describe the character’s profession, personality or interests. I decide that this character is a  bit of a showman, and looking at the broad archetypes (and the rulebook does encourage you to come up with your own if you don’t want to pick from the list), I figure that the character concept that fits best is the Gambler, specifically the daredevil type. After all, what better fit could there be for a circus acrobat?

Nature is a further personality archetype that describes how the character perceives themselves. Again, the game recommends coming up with your own if nothing on the list fits. they also suggest that the character’s nature inform both how they are role-played, a little bit of the mechanics in how the character regains Willpower (more on that later), and how the Nova’s powers are manifested.

The final part of the Concept step is the character’s allegiance, which covers whether the belong to any of the groups mentioned in “The Game” section above, other smaller factions and generally how they interact with the larger game world. I’m keeping this character as an unaffiliated independent for now, partly because I don’t want to get too bogged down in setting detail, and partly because I’m not quite sure which group makes the most sense at this early stage of the character creation process.

Step II: Select Attributes

Now we get to the first crunchy bits of game mechanics for developing the character. Each character has nine attributes divided into three categories :-

Physical Attributes

  • Strength
  • Dexterity
  • Stamina

Mental Attributes

  • Perception
  • Intelligence
  • Wits

Social Attributes

  • Appearance
  • Manipulation
  • Charisma

Each attribute is measured in dots, and attribute scores for baseline humans can range from one to five dots for each. Characters get a free dot in each attribute to begin with. The next step is to prioritize each of the three attribute categories as primary, secondary and tertiary. Characters get 7 additional dots to spend on their primary category, 5 for their secondary category and 3 for their tertiary category. Based on the character concept so far, I decide that physical attributes will be primary, social attributes will be secondary, and mental attributes will be tertiary.

Thinking about the character as a circus acrobat, I spend four of the seven physical attribute dots on Dexterity, giving him a total of five, or peak human Dexterity. Two of the remaining three dots are spent on Stamina for a three dot score, leaving just one for Strength, which now totals two dots.

I divide the three additional dots for mental attributes evenly across the three attributes, leaving a score of two dots for each.

For the five dots of social attributes, three of them go into Charisma bumping that up to four dots, the last two extra dots go into Appearance, for three dots total. That leaves Manipulation at the default one dot, which isn’t very good. In fact, the rulebook describes one dot of Manipulation as “Poor: You rarely get what you want.” I decide that this is because the character is unfalteringly honest and straightforward, so he doesn’t try to manipulate people as a general rule.

Atribute Scores:

Strength ••

Dexterity •••••

Stamina •••

Perception ••

Intelligence ••

Wits ••

Appearance •••

Manipulation •

Charisma ••••

Step III: Select Abilities

Abilities are skills that are tied in to attributes. For example, a character’s Awareness ability is a Perception ability, so to take an Awareness test, the character combines their Perception attribute dots with their Awareness ability dots and roll that number of ten-sided dice (d10). Like attributes, abilities are rated in dots. However, abilities max out at three dots for humans. They also have a minimum of zero dots and don’t get any freebies. Starting characters have twenty-three dots that they can use to purchase abilities.

Tying a little into his backstory as a performer/acrobat, I put three of the character’s twenty-three dots into Athletics, an ability tied to his Dexterity. That leaves me with twenty to play with, two of which go on Drive, since I figure the character is likely to need to operate a vehicle under stressful circumstances at some point. I also add three dots of Legerdemain, figuring that a co-worker at the circus might have taught him a few sleight of hand tricks.

Two dots of Awareness, because he needs to be aware of his surroundings from the acrobatics thing , at the very least so he knows how and where to land. I also decide that a couple of dots of Linguistics wouldn’t go amiss as the character would have picked up some language skills in the nomadic circus life style. Either dialects that Cajun or Creole if he’s American, or some different European languages if he’s from overseas, like his inspiration, who is German.

I also decide that the character is a bit of an orator and poet, represented by two dots in Arts. He also has a certain sense of swagger as a human that gives him a little je ne sais quoi, represented by two dots in Style.

I also think that he’d be fairly good at scrounging things from people and finding out local gossip, represented by two dots of Streetwise. I also figure he’d be good at working the crowds, which I represented with two dots of Command. Finally, as he’s a but of  ham, I figured three dots of perform would be entirely apt.

Athletics (Dexterity) •••

Drive (Dexterity) ••

Legerdemain (Dexterity) •••

Awareness (Perception) ••

Linguistics (Intelligence) ••

Arts (Wits) ••

Style (Appearance) ••

Streetwise (Manipulation) ••

Command (Charisma) ••

Perform (Charisma) •••

Step IV: Select Backgrounds

Only seven dots to play with here. Theses categories are things the character has that informs more of the roleplaying aspect, but might occasionally need to roll against things. For example, an Allies background might require a roll to see if an ally can come to aid the character in any given situation. There are several backgrounds and each can have between zero and five dots. These were slightly easier to spend for me as the backgrounds are a limited selection and at least a few of them (notably Attunement) don’t make sense at this pre-Eruption stage of the character.

I opt to spend a single dot on Cipher, which means he has a couple of hidden secrets. I decide those are his real name, country of origin and true parentage. Basically much  of his pre-circus days info is hard to find.

He also has a smattering of minor contacts and a major information broker he’s in touch with. Not quite sure who the broker will be, but I have decided she’ll be female, a petty criminal of some kind, and the only witness to the character’s initial Eruption event. She’ll be the one dot of Contacts the character has. I also figure that the character is comfortable financially, but not spectacularly so, which translates into two dots of Resources. That leaves three more dots to play with and I’m not totally sure where to put them.

I figure that the character could be seen as a local celebrity, at least in a subculture (either circus performers or a theatrical community), so that’s a dot of Influence. For the last two dots, I put them into Node, which doesn’t mean much for a human, but will help him recover from power use once he becomes a full Nova in Phase 2 of character creation.

Cipher •

Contacts •

Influence •

Node ••

Resources ••

 

Step V: Phase One Finishing Touches

The first part of this is recording certain starting statistics, so let’s go ahead and cover those. Like all beginning characters, the starting Willpower is 3 points. In Aberrant, Willpower points can be spent to guarantee a success on a roll, or to resist certain things, or to “max out” a power usage.

Also, as all beginning characters, his initial power level is represented by a single dot of Quantum.

The next statistics are derived ones. The character’s Initiative is the total of his Dexterity & Wits, which gives this character a score of seven. Movement rates are expressed in meters and are partially derived based on the character’s Dexterity scores. I’ll not break them down fully, but you can see them listed at the end of this section.

Now we have 15 bonus points to spend on different dots. Costs vary, as it’s 5 bonus points for an Attribute dot, 2 for an Ability dot, 1 for a Specialty (which are limited to 3 per ability), 1 for a Background dot, 2 for a Willpower point, 7 for a Quantum point and 1 for an Initiative dot.

My first thought for the character is to look at the Specialties available for the Abilities he has and see which make sense. Under Athletics there are many Specialties that seem like they would work. In the end I go all out and give him three: Acrobatics, Dodge & Tumble.

That leaves 12 bonus points to work with. I spend 4 of those to increase his Willpower by 2 dots to a total of 5 (or “Certain” rating). I don’t really have ideas of what to do with the last eight points, so I arbitrarily decide to bump up his Quantum by 1 dot for a total of 2, and do the same to Initiative, which brings that to a total of 8. And we’re all spent on the Human side of things.

Willpower •••

Quantum •

Initiative •••••••

Movement

Walk 7 m

Run 17 m

Sprint 35 m

Bonus Point Purchases

Acrobatics (Athletics Specialty)

Dodge (Athletics Specialty)

Tumble (Athletics Specialty)

Willpower •• (For a total of •••••)

Initiative • (For a total of ••••••••)

Quantum • (For a total of ••)

Phase 2: Nova

 

Now we have the baseline human created, it’s time to make him a Nova (the in-game term for Superheroes), which is also done by a points buying system, but the first part of all Superhero type tales is of course…

Step I: Origin

…the origin story. After all, when you think of mainstream superheroes the phrases “Last son of the dead planet Krypton,” “bitten by a radioactive spider,” or “saw his parents gunned down in an alley” aren’t far from the public consciousness. Of course, this character won’t be anywhere near as iconic as those three guys. So, how did this character (who I’ve been thinking of as “Not-Crawler”) first manifest  as a Nova?

At the tender age of sixteen, Curtis Wallace was an acrobat touring with the Brazeley Circus. Brazeley were performing in Cleveland, Ohio and Curtis had decided to take a break and explore the city. He bumped into a street vendor along the banks of the Cuyahoga river. the vendor (falsely) accused Curtis of stealing some of his merchandise.

Curtis ran away rather than protesting his innocence. The vendor gave chase, and also called the police  on Curtis. Eventually, he had an angry mob chasing after him. As Curtis carried on running, he was experiencing major headaches as his Mazarin-Rashoud node began to swell with the stress of the chase. As he ran, Curtis did something he rarely ever did, and tripped. As he plunged towards the river, his powers manifested and Curtis teleported away from the area and back to the circus with no recollection of how he got there. 

It’s not a great origin, but at least it’s a start. I would probably work on it and expand it out if I was playing Curtis as a character in a campaign.

Step II: Nova Points

More points to spend on dots. This time, we have thirty points to play with. Since the one thing I’m aware that I want Curtis to be able to do is Teleport, I buy the Level 2 Quantum Power Teleport which costs 3 Nova points per dot. Curtis has become pretty good at Teleportation in the 12 years since his power first manifested, so I feel like three dots is appropriate. I also decide that he’s become pretty good at short, quick teleports, and to represent that, Curtis has the Combat Teleport Extra, which changes the cost from three points per dot to five points per dot, so that’s fifteen of Curtis’ 30 Nova points spent.  Combined with his Perception that gives Curtis a dice pool of five for using the power.  Since I also want Curtis to be able to teleport another human when he uses his power, I decide that he could use the full five points in the Attunement background, which costs another Nova point, so he has 14 points left. Since he wants to be able to use his power when necessary, Curtis decides to increase his Quantum by 2 dots for a total of 4 dots, which costs 10 Nova points.

Curtis only has 4 Nova points left. I decide that he has some pretty spectacular non teleportation powers related to being able to move quickly, represented by two dots of the Hypermovement Level 1 Quantum Power, which costs 2 of those 4 Nova points. I opt to spend those on two more dots of Willpower, bringing Curtis’ total to 7 dots.

Quantum •• (for a total of ••••)

Willpower •• (for a total of •••••••)

Backgrounds:

Attunement •••••

Quantum Powers:

Hypermovement ••

Teleport (with Combat Teleport Extra) •••

All done. So we have a rough outline of a character, though not quite as good a handle on him as I’d like. He also doesn’t have Nightcrawler’s significant appearance disadvantages, but based on the Taint system that Aberrant has, I think he could develop those through the course of playing the game.

What do you think, loyal blog followers? Is this a series worth continuing? If so, are there any particular games and editions you’d like me to use to create characters?

Please leave some comments and let me know!

Cover of 5.1 Edition of King Arthur Pendragon RPG

It Builds Character #3: King Arthur Pendragon 5.1

Welcome to the third in an occasional series called It Builds Character in which I use the character generation rules of various tabletop role-playing games to create a character and attempt to flesh them out into something distinctive.

It Builds Character #3: King Arthur Pendragon

The Game

For the third entry in this series, I’ll be using the rules of Nocturnal Media’s King Arthur Pendragon RPG (which I’ll be referring to as Pendragon hereafter), specifically the 5.1 Edition that was released in 2010. I’ve ran one game of Pendragon’s  third edition a number of years ago. I confess that I don’t remember a whole lot about it, so I’m mostly looking at this with a fresh pair of eyes. As something of an Arthurian lore fanboy, I’m seriously looking forward to going through this process.

The Character

By default, Pendragon’s character generation concentrates on the dynastic, feudal and heraldic dynamic within the kingdom of Camelot, which is a very different approach to other RPG’s (and therefore also to the previous “It builds character” blog entries.)

In the standard character generation rules, Pendragon assumes your character is a male vassal knight of the Earl of Salisbury, so that’s going to the basic skeleton which this character hangs on.

STEP I: Personal Data

The creating a character section starts off with information that’s not mechanistic or based on the rules and dice rolls. Instead we begin with some of the more basic facts of the character. First of all, the character needs a name. As we’re dealing with a somewhat anachronistic 5th-14th century timeframe in the best Arthurian tradition, the character only has one name. Pendragon lists a number of more obscure character names from Le Morte d’Arthur as examples. Since I’m creating this knight specifically for this blog entry, I opt for one of those choices: Gilmere.

Next up are the choices of Homeland, Culture & Religion. Homeland and Culture are assumed to be Salisbury and Cymric respectively, whereas Religion is a choice between Christian & pagan. I decide that Gilmere will be a Pagan, much to the disappointment of his father.

And speaking of his father, the next step is to decide on that father’s name. I opt for another from the list: Selivant. Next up, deciding on a title or honorific for the character. I decide that, since at some point Gilmere converted from Christianity to Paganism that he’s referred to as “the Lost” but taking a page from Malory, I decided to make it French (or at least French-ish, I’m not fluent) via the power of Google, so “Gilmere the Lost” is now “Gilmere la Perte.”

The next four items of personal data are all decided for Gilmere. Father’s Class is “vassal knight,” Son Number is “1” (being the oldest son is incredibly important in the age of primogeniture as it is really the only way an adventurer could afford to be such.), Liege Lord is Sir Roderick, Earl of Salisbury (Though I’m just saying Earl of Salisbury without naming a specific one because a lot depends on the timing of later steps in the character creation process. Current class is “squire,” but that will change as this process goes on. The next section is Current home, and for the first time, we’re busting out a die. Specifically a 20-sided die (d20) to see which of the twenty Salisbury manors will be Gilmere’s inheritance. I rolled a two, so Gilmere will be the heir to Berwick St. James manor.

The last section on personal data is Age & year born. We’re told to leave this blank as it gets filled in later, but I threw in what will be the default values. Gilmere would be 21 at the start of the campaign, which is in 485AD in the reign of Uther Pendragon. this means he was probably born in 464 or 465AD

Name: Gilmere

Homeland: Salisbury

Culture: Cymric

Religion: Pagan

Father’s Name: Selivant

Title: la Perte (“the Lost”)

Father’s Class: Vassal knight

Son Number: 1

Liege Lord: Earl of Salisbury

Current Class: Squire

Current Home: Berwick St. James

Age & Year Born: 21 years old. 465AD

 

STEP II: Traits and Passions

In the Arthurian tradition, many of the knights are driven by passionate goals and ideals. In Pendragon this is represented by various traits and passions on the character sheet.

Firstly, we hit on Traits, which are shown as paired virtues and vices. There are thirteen pairs to begin with. The total of each pairing has to add up to 20, so if one side of the virtue/vice pairing is 13, the other side has to be 7.

Initially, the Traits are influenced by the character’s religious background, with five of the traits ascribed as virtues within the Religion and assigned a score of 13. As Gilmere is a Pagan, he gets 13 in Generous, Energetic, Honest, Lustful & Proud.

Since Gilmere’s a knight and has undergone martial training. he automatically gets 15 for Valorous and a corresponding 5 in Cowardly. All the other Traits get a 10 initially, so we’ll do that now for Gilmere. Finally, a player gets to choose a famous trait, which the character is known for, and will likely heavily influence role-playing the character going forwards.  That trait gets 16, and so it’s companion paired trait gets a 4. in Gilmere’s case, I’ve decided he’s going to be famous for being Worldly, so that’s where his 16 goes, and the corresponding 4 goes to Pious. This might be connected to him converting from Christianity to Paganism, but I haven’t fully sketched that out yet.

The second part here are Directed Traits, but we’re told to leave those blank for now, presumably to come back to later.

So off we go to the third section, Passions. All starting Pendragon characters begin with five Passions – Loyalty to their Lord (or else the feudal system would break down), Love of their family, Hospitality, Honor and in the case of Salisbury residents like Gilmere, a Hatred of the Saxons. The first four of which are assigned values of 15, and the final of which is assigned a 3d6 value, in this case 11. But note that the Hatred of Saxons value will change if the character uses the optional Family History section as part of their character creation (which we will be doing, so that 11 is not going to be staying put). Starting characters also get 3 additional points of Passion they may assign among those 5 (though they don’t have to). I decide that Gilmere is going to spend one additional point on Hospitality, raising it to 16, and 2 points on Love of family, bringing that to 17

 

Traits:

Chaste 7/13 Lustful

Energetic 13/7 Lazy

Forgiving 10/10 Vengeful

Generous 13/7 Selfish

Honest 13/7 Deceitful

Just 10/10 Arbitrary

Merciful 10/10 Cruel

Modest 7/13 Proud

Pious 4/16 Worldly

Prudent 10/10 Reckless

Temperate 10/10 Indulgent

Trusting 10/10 Suspicious

Valorous 15/5 Cowardly

 

Directed Traits:

None

 

Passions:

Loyalty (Lord): 15

Love (family): 17

Hospitality: 16

Honor: 15

Hate (Saxons): 11 (3d6: 2,6,3)

 

STEP III: Attributes

Now we’re getting into the more mechanistic cores of the Pendragon system. There are five main attributes that each character has:

  1. SIZe
  2. DEXterity
  3. STRength
  4. CONstitution
  5. APPearance

I feel like these are mostly self-explanatory, but that’s never stopped me from explaining things anyway, so let’s take a look at each of these, and figure out how to divide up the 60 attribute points that Gilmere has to spend.

Size, is as one might expect a descriptor of just how large (height and weight wise) the character might be. As a Cymric character, Gilmere can have a size score between 8 (around eighty pounds) and 18 (closer to 215 lbs, or your author’s actual weight…).

Dexterity is a summary of the characters agility, balance and similar related qualities, and can range between 5 and 18 for Cymric characters.

Strength also ranges between 5 and 18 for Cymric characters and reflects the combat abilities, carrying capacity and movement rate, as you might expect.

Constitution ranges between 5 and 21 for Cymric characters (as to why it’s 21 rather than 18, Cymric characters get +3 CON as a cultural modifier.) and reflects how healthy the character is, at least in terms of how much damage he can take.

Appearance reflects how attractive/handsome the character is, which is of equal if not greater importance than combat statistics in this age of chivalry and courtly love that is the reign of Arthur. Again, this ranges from 5 to 18 for Cymric characters.

The rules strongly recommend that initial characters have a combined SIZ + STR of 21 and a minimum CON of 8, which becomes 11 thanks to the Cymric  modifier. I keep this in mind as I assign the initial 60 points among the 5 attributes.

I opt for a size of 13, making Gilmere on the larger size, but not gigantic. Since he’s on the larger side, a decent strength of 12 makes sense to me. I feel like being a little big probably affects Gilmere’s co-ordination and so he gets a DEX of 10. That leaves 25 points for CON and APP. I decide that Gilmere la Perte is a good looking chap indeed and assign 14 points to his APP. That leaves 11 points for CON, which the Cymric cultural modifier turns to a 14.

As well as the five core attributes, each character has a series of Derived Statistics calculated based on those attributes. In each case, the derived statistic is rounded to the nearest whole number. The first of these is Damage, which represents the amount of damage that the character can inflict on an enemy in combat. It’s calculated by adding together the character’s size and strength and then dividing that total by 6. Given Gilmere’s attributes so far, his Damage score would be (13+12)/6 = 4. Healing rate is to do with how many hit points the character recovers during a week of resting up. It’s calculated by dividing the combined STR & CON of the character by 10. For Gilmere that would be (14 +12)/10 = 3.

To calculate the movement rate of the character, the STR & DEX are totaled and then divided by 10. Gilmere has a Movement rate of (12+10)/10 = 2.

Hit points represent how much damage the character can take before being killed. It’s simply the total of STR & CON, which for Gilmere means 26 hit points. The final derived statistic is Unconscious and represents how many hit points the character can have remaining before losing consciousness and is simply the character’s hit points divided by 4, so Gilmere will remain conscious until he has fallen below 7 hit points.

Now that the statistics are covered, there’s one more part of the attributes step to consider, and that’s Distinctive Features, which could be done organically or mechanistically. Since I like rolling dice and will be using Gilmere merely as a sample character, I’ll go for the mechanistic approach. With an APP score of 14, Gilmere has two distinct features, which should be positive things. Rolling on the Distinctive Feature Detail table, apparently Gilmere has a very distinct face, as he rolled a facial feature and facial expression. I decide that these are high cheekbones and a disarming smile.

Attributes:

SIZ 13

DEX 10

STR 12

CON 14 (11 Points + 3 Cymric)

APP 14

 

Derived Statistics:

Damage 4

Healing Rate 3

Movement Rate 2

Total Hit Points 26

Unconscious 7

Distinctive Features:

2 – High cheekbones & Disarming smile.

STEP IV: Skills

Now we come to another mainstay of roleplaying character generation: skills. The skills in Pendragon come in two distinct groups: Non-combat skills and combat skills. Within those groups, certain skills are considered either Knightly, neutral or Non-Knightly.

Knights can take Knightly and neutral skills, but not Non-Knightly ones, which aren’t even listed on their character sheets. Cymric sons of knights, like Gilmere, start with the following non-combat skill values: Awareness 5, Boating 1, Compose 1, Courtesy 3, Dancing 2, Faerie Lore 1, Falconry 3, First Aid 10, Flirting 3, Folk Lore 2, Gaming 3, Heraldry 3, Hunting 2, Intrigue 3, Orate 3, Play [harp] 2, Read [Latin] 0, Recognize 3, Religion [Paganism] 2, Romance 2, Singing 2, Stewardship 2, Swimming 2, and Tourney 2.

As the Cymric son of a knight, Gilmere’s combat skills start at: Battle 10, Horsemanship 10, Sword 10, Lance 10, Spear 6, Dagger 5.

Now, Gilmere gets to personalize his skills somewhat in a multi-step process. First of all, he gets to decide which Knightly skill he excels at and make that 15. Gilmere is quite the rider, and plumps for Horsemanship.

Next step is to raise any three non-combat skills to 10 points. Gilmere chooses Heraldry, Flirting & Stewardship.

One more step is to heighten any four stats, with each heightening raising either a skill by 5, a trait by 1, an attribute by 1 or a passion by 1. For simplicity’s sake, I’m opting to use all 4 heightening options on skills, so Gilmere’s Romance, Read [Latin], Sword & Hunting all get boosted by 5.

Last of all, Gilmere gets 10 additional points to distribute among his skills as he sees fit. So, 3 of those go to Hunting, 4 to Intrigue and 2 each to Swimming & Tourney.

Non-Combat Skills:

Awareness 5 [K]

Boating 1

Compose 1

Courtesy 3 [K]

Dancing 2

Faerie Lore 1

Falconry 3

First Aid 10 [K]

Flirting 10

Folk Lore 2

Gaming 3

Heraldry 10

Hunting 10 [K]

Intrigue 7

Orate 3

Play [harp] 2

Read [Latin] 5

Recognize 3

Religion [Paganism] 2

Romance 7

Singing 2

Stewardship 10

Swimming 4

Tourney 4

Combat Skills:

Battle 10 [K]

Horsemanship 15 [K]

Sword 15 [K]

Lance 10

Spear 6

Dagger 5

Skills marked with a [K] above are considered Knightly skills

STEP V: Previous Experience

In this step, players can opt to age their characters between 1 and 5 years. Each additional year of experience confers two benefits in terms of Attributes, Skill, Traits or Passions. I opt not to do that for Gilmere as i want him to start at age 21, and also to use the Family History option that comes later on.

STEP VI: Other Information

While a lot of this section is optional, it’s mostly still worth doing to get a better idea of just what resources a starting character has.

The first part of this is to derive the character’s Glory score, which is the level of fame and renown he has within the kingdom. This is a hereditary score in that every son has a starting Glory that is 1/10th of their father’s score. Since i am going to use the Family History section later for Gilmere, we’ll derive it then rather than using the 6d6 + 50 starting value. The act of being knighted also confers 1,000 Glory points on a character, but Pendragon suggests using the first adventure session to confer the actual knighthood on to the character, so Gilmere will technically remain un-knighted throughout his character creation.

The next part is coming up with a coat of arms for the character. Since I’m fond of heraldry, I’ll likely come up with something good later, but for now, I’ll go with what heralds would refer to as “sable, a saltire or” as his blazon. To translate, that’s a black shield with a golden/yellow diagonal cross.

We also record Gilmere’s Joust Score. This is easy, since he hasn’t jousted anyone, so his score is a big fat zero.

As a starting character, Gilmere has four horses to keep track of. A charger (warhorse), a rouncy for himself, a rouncy for his squire (effectively, a rouncy is the horse equivalent of a “daily driver” in car terms) and a sumpter (pack horse) for carrying extra equipment.

Gilmere also has a squire to attend to him. Since it makes no difference in game terms, I decide his squire is 15 and goes by the name Elias.

By default Gilmer has the following starting equipment: Chainmail, shield, 2 spears, sword, dagger, fine clothing, personal gear, travel gear and war gear. He also gets one or more additional belonging representing a family heirloom or the like derived from rolling a 20-sided die. For Gilmere, that additional belonging turns out to be an additional £1 of money.

Next would be determining life and family events for Gilmere, but as a starting character, most of tehm don’t apply other than he was born in 465AD and squired in 480AD.

After that, Gilmere gets to roll a Family characteristic that represents something that the males in his family line have in common. Apparently Gilmere’s family are natural healers, so they get a +5 bonus to their First Aid skill.

Now that’s done, it’s time to figure out the army that Gilmere has at his disposal thanks to being the heir of a manor. Rolling various dice determines that Gilmere can call upon 4 middle-aged knights and 3 young knights, for a total of 8 family knights (including Gilmere himself). As well as knights, Gilmere can summon 9 other lineage men, (who are males of the family line who are not knights) and a levy of 53 able-bodied men from Berwick St. James manor..

Glory: TBD

Coat of arms: Yellow diagonal cross on a black shield

Joust score: 0

Horses: Charger, sumpter, two rouncys

Squire: Elias, a 15 year old blonde boy

Equipment: Chainmail, shield, 2 spears, sword, dagger, fine clothing (worth £1), £1 money, personal gear, travel gear and war gear.

Family Characteristic: Natural healers (+5 First Aid)

Army: 4 middle-aged knights, 3 young knights, 9 non-knight family men, levy of 53 able-bodied men.

That’s technically everything needed for Gilmere’s character generated pre-knighthood, but as I mentioned before, we’re also going to be looking at his…

STEP VI: Salisbury Family History

This is based on a lot of twenty-sided die rolls representing different years before the campaign start year of 485AD, and some of the things here will influence Gilmere’s current stats.

We begin with the year 439AD, when Gilmere’s father, Selivant was born. However, Selivant is too young to be accumulating much of a history or any Glory score yet, so we begin by seeing what Gilmere’s grandfather, Alein of Berwick St. James was up to. Alein’s starting Glory score is 1,144 (120 inherited from his father, 1,000 for being knighted and a further 24 for his knightly actions so far).

439: Nothing significant occurred

440: Served Garrison duty. Killed by Pictish raiders. End of Alein’s history. +20 Glory

So Alein of Berwick St. James died with a total Glory score of 1,164. Which means Selivant will inherit 116 Glory from his father.

Since Selivant won’t be active until 460AD, we skip to that year and see what Selivant is up to. Since it’s assumed that Selivant is knighted in late 459AD, he begins 460 with a Glory score of 1,116.

460: Served Garrison duty. Saw little or no combat.

462: Served Garrison duty. Saw little or no combat.

463: “Night of Long Knives” treachery. Selivant gains Hate (Saxons) Passion of 16

464: Selivant marries. Gains 200 Glory from his bride (Glory score is now 1,316)

465: Gilmere is born

466-467: Selivant fought and survived at the Siege of Carlion. Gained 90 Glory for participating (1,406 total)

468: Selivant fought and survived the Battle of Snowdon. Gained 60 Glory (1,466)

469-472: Selivant gained 50 Glory aiding Uther in fighting the Saxons, Picts & Irish (1,516)

473: Selivant fought and died in the Battle of Windsor. Gained 60 Glory (1,576). Gilmere gains Hate (Saxons) Passion of 16.

So, going into the first scenario of the campaign, Gilmere has an inherited Glory score of 157 (Which will increase to 1,157 after his knighting ceremony) and a Hate (Saxons) Passion of 16 in addition to everything generated in the first five sections above.

That’s all for Gilmere for now. I realize the Pendragon system is more than a little complex, and so the next It Builds Character entry will hopefully be looking at a somewhat simpler system for creating a character. My current thought is that it will probably be a Superhero character…

What do you think, loyal blog followers? Is this a series worth continuing? If so, are there any particular games and editions you’d like me to use to create characters?

Please leave some comments and let me know!

Shovel against a fence post

Flash Fiction: Three Good Reasons

“There are some things a man’s got to do himself.”

 

He’d heard one of those cowboy actors say that. It was either Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. Right now, Scott couldn’t remember which. Either way, he thought, they were wrong. Scott leaned on the shovel and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the flannel sleeve of his shirt. He was drenched. He’d give anything to have someone else dig this damned hole for him.

 

Scott thrust the shovel into the ground, more reddish mud spattered against the bottom of his ragged black jeans. He’d either have to get them straight in the laundry or just toss them in the trash. Stomping on the top of the shovel’s blade with a steel-capped boot and feeling it reverberate up his leg, Scott moved another shovelful of dirt.

 

As far as he was concerned there were only three good reasons for digging a hole. Here in the twenty-first century, Scott worked as a bank teller rather than a pirate of the Barbary Coast, and so was unlikely to be burying a wooden chest full of doubloons. Hell, he’d never even seen a doubloon and he worked with money literally every day.

 

That meant his first good reason, digging up buried treasure, no longer counted as good and hadn’t for close to three hundred years.

 

His second good reason would be to plant something. After all, there were always plenty of people using the allotments in the community garden center the city council opened last summer. Scott frequently saw women (it was nearly always women, for some reason) carrying shovels around. They had to be digging something. Based on half the cooking shows he caught on the TV, Scott figured the women were all planting some green weed called “kale.”

 

If anyone had ever said Scott had a green thumb, then either they were lying, or Scott had caught an unfortunate infection in the hand. He knew he wasn’t a gardener. Hell, even the cacti and artificial plants he’d tried to take care of withered and died.

 

That left Scott with exactly one good reason to dig a hole, to hide something. Scott chuckled to himself, as that was kind of the reason he had been digging for the past couple of hours. It also explained why he wasn’t able to hire someone to do this particular menial task for him. Another firm stomp on the shovel’s blade sent the vibration up his leg and the tool’s wooden handle bucked against his hand burying a splinter in the fleshy arc around the base of his thumb. Scott cursed, dropped the shovel, which bounced against the ground, and started to pull the wooden slivers out of his hand.

 

“No good deed goes unpunished,” Scott said, “No bad one either, I guess.” Scott manhandled the plastic-wrapped body of his wife into the freshly dug hole and started to shovel the red dirt back into place.

“They’ll never know you’re here,” he spat at the corpse.

The inspiration for this piece of 500-word Flash Fiction was a prompt I found online (I forget the site, or I would link it) that read “Three Good Reasons.” A It’s a first draft, but feedback and comments are always welcomed.

Shovel photograph by Mark Preston

fire-1399118-640x480

Flash Fiction: Suitably Warm

It smelled like pork roasting in a barbecue pit. The crackling sounded like the campfires of his youth in the boy scouts. If not for the searing pain as the flesh bubbled and burned away from Seth’s legs, it would be pleasantly nostalgic.

 

As things stood, though, being cast into the pit of fire was an exercise in pain tolerance. Aside from the agony as his lower legs burned through to the nerves and bone, Seth’s lungs screamed as he tried to breath through the belching plumes of jet-black smoke. He coughed, involuntarily and tried to hold his breath out of habit.

 

Intellectually, Seth knew that he no longer had a physical form that needed to breathe or feel pain, yet the spectral form he assumed was his soul thought otherwise. He knew himself to be as insubstantial as the black smoke that filled the pit, but somehow whatever remained of his brain was telling him that he was in an unending tumult of pain and fire. Seth clawed at his ethereal throat as once again his spirit tried to breathe through the thick, dark fumes.

 

How had he gotten here?

 

Intensive care nurse Sarah Chapel shook the thermometer, willing the mercury to settle at a saner temperature number. The red gauge in the thermometer was bubbling as the fluid began boiling. There was no way the patient had a temperature of over six hundred degrees and a regular heartbeat.

 

As Sarah went to dispose of the obviously faulty thermometer, the unmistakable smell of smoke buffeted her nostrils. She turned to look at Seth Adams’ bed as it erupted into flames. As the hospital’s sprinkler systems kicked on, she heard the distinctive whine of a flat line from the patient’s EKG monitor.

 

Nurse Chapel tried to help put the fire out, and wondered why there weren’t any doctors nearby to officially pronounce Adams dead.

 

What the hell had happened?

 

Seth reached a pain singularity. The inferno consuming him had overloaded his nerve endings and he could no longer feel pain, or anything else. His spirit was as numb as his spectral body. He stared ahead with dull, lifeless eyes.

 

The smoke wreathing him began coalescing into a coherent form. At first, two snake-like eyes formed level with Seth’s own. The thing took shape, starting with three spiraling smoky horns jutting from the top of its head. From within the noxious vapors, a fanged mouth distended into existence. As the form in the darkness developed wings of shadow, it spoke, its voice a multitude of sepulchral tongues speaking out of synch.

 

“Seth Adams,” it boomed with a thousand echoes, “your world has forsaken you as it has for so many before you.”

Seth barely managed to choke out a strangled “Why?”

 

The smoke form’s eyes bored into Seth’s own as a cacophony of its voices breathed, “You know why. Remember.”

 

Seth saw the naked crimson body of his wife with stab wounds in her abdomen. His hand held a bloody knife.

The inspiration for this piece of 500-word Flash Fiction was a prompt I found online (I forget the site, or I would link it) that read “Suitably Warm.” A It’s a first draft, but feedback and comments are always welcomed.

“Fire” photograph from Rick Cowan.