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!

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!

It Builds Character #2: Pathfinder

Welcome to the second 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 #2: Pathfinder

The Game

For the second entry in this series, I’ll be using the rules of Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder RPG, which I confess I have yet to play and am mostly unfamiliar with it. In fact, creating a character for this post will be the first time I’ve cracked open the core rule book. From what I gather it’s a generic fantasy role-playing game that was marketed as an alternative to Dungeons & Dragons’ 4th Edition for fans who enjoyed D&D’s 3rd (and 3.5) Edition and felt that 4th Edition threw away too much of the baby with the bathwater.

The Character

As I said, I’m not fully cognizant of how Pathfinder works right now, so the only thing I know for sure about the character I’m planning on creating is that they are going to be a wizard or equivalent magic-user and also probably male. Everything else is up in the air

STEP I: Determine Ability Scores

The rule book lists five different methods for generating ability scores, four of which revolve around the number of dice rolled and how they are assigned, and the fifth one uses a points buying system (we’ll see an example of points buying in the next entry in this series) – For simplicity’s sake, I opt for the “Standard” method which is to roll four six-sided dice (4d6) and discard the lowest one six times and then assign those scores to each of the six abilities – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom & Charisma. The rule book notes that for Wizards (like I want to be), spells are tied to the Inst ability, so I’ll keep that in mind as I roll and assign scores.

The rolls

13 (6+4+3+2)

11 (5+4+2+1)

11 (5+4+2+1)

15 (6+5+4+2)

10 (5+4+1+1)

11 (4+4+3+3)

That gives me a fairly even spread of scores, and looking at the chapter on ability scores, it seems like 10-11 is treated as the baseline level, so I have four baseline scores and two above average scores. Based solely on the fact that I’m told that Int is an important ability for wizards, and that in most fantasy, wizards can’t wear armor, so they need to be a little tough to avoid getting killed if they are hit by anything, I assign the scores as follows:

Str: 10 Dex: 11 Con: 13 Int: 15 Wis: 11 Cha: 11

I opted to make Str the lowest score as I assume that’s more for melee fighting, and my wannabe wizard wants no part of that kind of action.

STEP II: Pick Your Race

In Pathfinder there are seven base races to choose from: Dwarf, Halfling, Elf, Human, Gnome, Half-orc and Half-elf. They appear to be pretty much your generic fantasy archetypes. Each of the races comes with modifiers to the ability scores generated in Stage I as well as various other traits that might provide bonuses and drawbacks. I hadn’t really considered which race I wanted to be, but for some reason, the idea of a Dwarf who has gotten sick of living underground, mining and fighting goblins and has so become sunned by his clan and turned to spell books for solace appeals to me, so my character is going to be a Dwarf. That changes some of the ability scores, so now he has Con: 15, Wis: 13 and Cha: 9. Being a dwarf also confers a few special abilities, including being able to see in the dark, expertise at stonework and gem appraisal, being slow but hard to shift, and being proficient with battleaxes, warhammers and heavy picks. Based on my emerging character concept, those weapon abilities shouldn’t matter much. One of the sample Dwarf names is “Grunyan” which I like, but I decide to switch it up a bit and name  him “Garnam Blackaxe” as a generic Dwarven name.

STEP III: Pick Your Class

Well, I’ve kind of already done this with my assumption that Garnam will be a Wizard, so I’ll concentrate on that class (Other options included  Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue or Sorcerer). Classes define the abilities that the character might have, and different classes grant different abilities, as well as the number of Skills and Feats a character has access to at different levels (We’ll be looking at skills and feats in later steps of creating Garnam). A Wizard class grants Garnam certain special abilities at first level (subsequent levels as well, but I’m creating him as a new character, which makes him first level).  Firstly he gains access to the following skills: Appraise, Craft, Fly, Knowledge (all), Linguistics, Profession & Spellcraft. Most of these sound self-explanatory, but I will be looking up what exactly the Fly skill lets Garnam do later.

As I suspected, wizards can’t use shields or armor, but apparently can use clubs, daggers, crossbows and quarterstaffs. I think I’d favor a light crossbow, but we’ll see what happens later.

Another class ability wizards get is the ability to learn spells. Based on Garnam’s Int score, he can cast 3 level 0 and 2 level 1 spells per day.

A couple of other features of the Wizard class are something called Arcane Bond, and Arcane School. Arcane bond either allows an animal familiar or an object with a bonus spell stored in it. I’m opting to use an amulet as the bonded object, and keeping it hidden beneath Garnam’s beard so that nobody can steal it from him easily. As for Arcane School, that allows wizards to choose a type of magic to specialize in which gives spell bonuses at the cost of making other types of spells harder to cast. I’m opting to keep Garnam unspecialized, as I prefer being more of a generalist when it comes to magical abilities. Garnam also has the ability to Scribe Scrolls at first level, which may prove handy as he discovers more spells. He also gets a spellbook with his initial spells known. For Garnam, that means all 0-level spells and four first level spells (which we’ll get to later)

STEP IV: Pick Skills and Select Feats

If I’m reading correctly, then Garnam has 4 skill rank slots to start off with. I opt to use 3 of those slots on some of the class skills, namely Spellcraft, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) & Craft (Alchemy). That leaves one slot for a non-class skill, and I opt Sense Motive, as I think Garnam’s a suspicious little bugger.

On to Feats. Unlike skills feats are less tied to race and class, and often represent innate abilities rather than trainable ones. As such, they’re rather less common than skills, so Garnam only gets to choose one to start with. He opts for a Metamagic Feat, specifically Enlarge Spell, which doubles the range of any spell prepared using that feat, though it does use up a spell slot one level higher than normal (so a level 0 spell would use a level 1 spell slot)

STEP V: Buy Equipment

Now that we have some idea of Garnam’s abilities, it’s time to outfit him with a few choice items. As a Wizard, Garnam starts out with a mere 2d6 x 10 gold pieces to spend on equipment. I rolled (4+4), so have 80 gold pieces to spend. Gaarnam already has basic clothing to wear for free, so let’s see what he can afford in the way of weaponry, as he’ll need something when he’s out of spells…

I mentioned before that I see Garnam packing a light crossbow, which costs 35 of his initial 80 gold pieces. 20 bolts to load it with costs another 2 gold pieces, so he has 43 to spend on non-weaponry stuff. 20 of those immediately disappear on buying a spell component pouch and a blank spellbook. Another 2 go towards a backpack to keep the spellbook in, so only 21 gold pieces left. A bedroll and a day’s worth of trail rations  eat up another gold piece, as does a flint and steel. A vial of ink, two inkpens and 4 sheets of parchment eat up another nine gold pieces, leaving Garnam with 10 to spend over the course of his adventures.

Also, since there’s no other good spot for this, I’ve decided to use this space to figure out what the four first level spells Garnam will have already learned are:

Mage Armor

Summon Monster I

Sleep

Ray of Enfeeblement.

These give a broad range of abilities that include combat usefulness (weakening an enemy, summoning a creature to fight, rendering enemies unconscious and protecting Garnam from damage).

STEP VI: Finishing Details

And now, time to try and round Garnam out as a character. First off, we have a few more mechanistic items to take care of, so let’s deal with those. The first thing to deal with is why Garnam stands on the traditional alignment axes of Law vs. Chaos and Good vs. Evil. I’ve decided that as a suspicious little bugger, Garnam is scrupulously honest, but also rather pragmatic in his approach to things. He has a code he adheres to, but it isn’t necessarily one of self-sacrifice. He will kill if he has to, or if his code demands it, which I think makes Lawful Neutral the best fit for his alignment, but alignment is more of a relic of Pathfinder‘s antecedents, so I won’t worry over much about it.

Next up, we have the vital statistics. I opt to take the most mechanistic approach possible and roll on the various tables for Age, Height and Weight. Turns out that Garnam is a sprightly young dwarf of 63, who happens to be exactly 4 feet tall, and weighs in at 171 pounds.

The rest of teh details are up to me, so i decide that he has ashy blond hair, slightly ruddy skin, and a two foot beard that he braids into a vaguely runic shape.

Disillusioned with his family’s mining business at a young age, Garnam dreamed of living to seek his fortune in teh world outside of his home citadel, but he knew his parents would never approve. Every night, after a tiring day in the rockface, he would study runes of magic in the darkness of his bedchamber and eventually, Garnam discovered he had an aptitude for magic spells. He was able to cast a few minor cantrips, The thane of his clan, Garnam’s grandfather discovered this spell-casing and banished him from the citadel for his dabblings with magic, which the clan forbade. Now out in the wider world, Garnam seeks adventure to pay for more research to hone his magical abilities so that one day he can return home and show the value of magic to the Thane and have his honor restored. After being banished for (as he saw it) deceit, Garnam never lies, and he despises dishonesty in others. This has led to him becoming very good at telling if people are lying to him. Those that do, often end up with powder burns or crossbow bolts in non-vital anatomical regions.

All done. So we have a very rough sketch of a character, I may try and adapt Garnam into a short story of his own in the future, as despite being somewhat cliche, I can see potential for narrative there..

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!

It Builds Character #1: Rogue Trader

Welcome to the first 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 #1: Rogue Trader

The Game

For this opening entry in the series, I’ll be using the rules of Fantasy Flight Games’ Rogue Trader RPG, which is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. That universe is essentially Tolkienesque fantasy grafted into a far future space setting and with all the grim darkness turned up to ridiculous levels. There are no good factions but the human viewpoint race, the Imperium is essentially a hybrid of the medieval catholic church and a Naziesque regime writ large across the galaxy. In Rogue Trader the characters are generally the crew of a merchant starship that operates semi-autonomously and mostly within the auspices of the Imperium’s territory. Think a cross between pirates and the Firefly crew.

The Character

I don’t really have a fully formed character concept in mind right now, so I’m just going to go through each of the stages of character creation outlined in the rule book and see what emerges.

STAGE I: Generate Characteristics

I’m doing this in strict order like the rule book says, so it’s rolling 2d10 + 25 for each one. Let’s go:

Weapon Skill: 35, Ballistic Skill: 38, Strength: 39, Toughness: 37 Agility: 33, Intelligence: 31, Perception: 33, Willpower: 31, Fellowship:32

The rules say I’m allowed to re-roll 1 characteristic, so I’m opting to re-roll the Intelligence score of 31, I get a revised Intelligence of 36 (if the re-roll was lower, I’d be stuck with it)

Going by the characteristics, my Explorer (the games term for Player Characterss) is strong, and a pretty good shot. However, he’s not got a whole lot of Willpower, so I’m going to interpret that as being easily swayed or tempted. Possibly a little over eager to prove his dead eye shot nature or something along those lines. It’s still a skeleton of a character. Let’s begin fleshing it out.

STAGE II: Origin Path

This stage is a little weird to me. It’s basically a flowchart. There are 6 rows on the flowchart and you start at either the top or bottom row. I’ve opted to start at the top row (Home World) and work my way down. I can choose any of the 6 options here. In the end I opt for Forge World (which, as its name kind of implies is a world dedicated to the production of war materiel, for example a tank manufacturer), as that choice appeals to me more.

This allows me some bonuses and penalties.

First -5Weapon Skill and +5 Intelligence. Leaving me with WS 30 and Int 41. So my Explorer is now a very smart guy, but a bit crap in a melee situation.
I get the following skills:
Common Lore (Tech)
Common Lore (Machine Cult) which are Int based untrained Basic skills
I also gain the Technical Knock talent.
I’m allowed to boost any characteristic by 3. I decide to boost my Ballistic Skill up to 41, so I’m an even better shot.
As a citizen of a Forge World I’m more familiar with the credo of the Machine God than the Imperial Cult, so I’m penalized -10 for test involving knowledge of the Imperial Creed, and -5 for any Fellowship test for formally interacting with members of the Ecclesiarchy.

For my starting wounds my T bonus is doubled and a get a 1d5+1 bonus, so that’s 11 wounds.
Rolling a d10 and consulting the book, I find I have 3 starting Fate points.

For the next row of the chart, Birthright, I’m limited to selecting the option directly below Forge World, or either option adjacent to that option.
Of the options presented, I like the sound of Stubjack, which sounds like a type of mercenary. This gives me:
Quick Draw talent
Intimidate as a trained basic skill
+5 to either WS or BS. I choose BS, boosting it up to 46
On the downside, it’s -5 Fel, bringing that down to 27
I also now have 3 Insanity points
The next row is Lure of the Void, and I’m limited as the previous row was. I opt for Duty Bound as it seems to offer more more storytelling opportunities and freedom than the others. Now, I have to choose the type of Duty. I opt for Duty to my dynasty, which gives:
Rival (Rogue Trader family) talent
-3 Toughness (To a total of 34)
+1 Profit Factor for the group

Next row is Trial and Travails which is limited as the previous rows. I opt for Calamity as my choice. This gives me:
Light Sleeper talent
Either Hardy or Nerves of Steel talent (I choose Hardy)
-1 Profit Factor for the group

Next row is Motivation, limited as before.
As my fledgling character concept seems to want to be known as the greatest shot in the galaxy, I opt for Renown
This gives me the choice of a Peer talent or Air of Authority. I opt for the former.

The final row is career path. I opt for Explorator as that seems the most likely for a a lad from the Forge Worlds to enter into.

STAGE III: Spend Experience Points.

So far, just generating the character has spent 4500 Experience Points (XP). This means that I have 500Xp to spend on skills, talents and characteristics. The available options are determined by the career path selected above. so let’s see what skills are advances are available to an Explorator

First of all, I get the following package:
Common Lore (Machine Cult)
Common Lore (Tech) which I already had, so they’re boosted a level.
Forbidden Lore (Archeotech)
Forbidden Lore (Adeptus Mechanicus)
Literacy
Logic
Speak Language (Explorator Binary)
Speak Language (Low Gothic)
Speak Language (Techna-lingua)
Tech-Use
Trade (Technomat)
All of which revolve around intelligence.

I also get to start with a Mechanicus implant. (Basically a cybernetic augmentation) I opt for a Respirator.
Basic Weapon Training (Universal) Talent
Melee Weapon Training (Universal) Talent
Logis Implant Talent

Also have some equipment:
best-Craftsmanship lasgun, good-Craftsmanship power axe, Enforcer light carapace, multikey, void suit, injector, sacred unguents, micro-bead, combi-tool, dataslate, Servo-Skull familiar

As an Explorator, I have the option of starting with up to two bionic implants. I decide to only take one, a Memorance Implant, but I do spend 200 of my 500xp upgrading it to good-Craftsmanship. This leaves me with 300Xp to spend on advances. I use them to purchase

Awareness
Drive (Ground Vehicle) and
Secret Tongue (Rogue Trader) skills.

STAGE IV: Giving Characters life.

This is mostly the non-mechanical aspects of fleshing out the character, and as such are much more subjective then the earlier stages. This is usually done more free-form and spit-balling with a GM, but here I’m just going to answer the questions posed and roll on tables presented. So it’s a mechanistic approach to a non-mechanistic section.

Name: I decide to use the naming tables, and opt for a Low Gothic first name paired with an archaic last name.
This leaves me with the moniker of: Harmon Siegmund which fits appropriately into the Warhammer 40,000 milieu enough for me.

Nature:
I tend to develop this during play, but for the purposes of this character, I’m going to go through and answer the questions presented.

What is your demeanor? Some of this I’d already decided upon. Harmon is going to be rather boastful, and prideful. So he has a big ego. However, that’s a front as he’s really rather shy, and is very quick to go along with other people’s suggestions.

Why are you a leader aboard a Rogue Trader vessel? this one is tricky. I decide that Harmon came with the ship, as it were as his ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus strike the Lord-Captain as very useful aboard such a complex machine with such intractable spirit. He’s also on board to explore…

Why does the Koronus Expanse call to you? Simple. Harmon seeks knowledge and lore that would be useful to the cult of the Omnissiah (The Machine God, an entity who is worshiped and sacrificed to so that all the equipment actually works). His personal quest is for unusual and exotic weaponry, particularly ballistic weaponry.

What will you sacrifice? Every scrap of my humanity to become the cold perfection of the machine. I’m willing to traffic with Xenos (aliens) and psykers (people with psychic powers, who are generally shunned in universe) in my quest for knowledge. However, I will not deal with those in the thrall of the ruinous powers (The dark gods of Chaos, personifications of humanity’s baser impulses, heavily influenced by the writings of Michael Moorcock). If Harmon suspects a hint of heresy of that nature, he will cease negotiations and begin targeting.

What is your ambition? It’s been covered above, but to be a legendary weapon wielder whose very name is spoken of throughout the Imperium in hushed tones of awe.

What are your hatreds? I distrust those who don’t hold the Omnissiah in the highest of regards. This has come to manifest itself as a hatred of Ecclesiarchs and other visible exponents of the Cult of the Emperor. As alluded to above, I also have a vast hatred for those who have traded knowledge of technology and ancient lore for knowledge and whispered promises from other, darker powers.

STAGE V: Ship Points and Profit Factor

Rolling on the table, the group (in this case just Harmon as there is no group) have a beginning Profit Factor of 60 and 30 Ship Points. Any Ship Points that aren’t spent on the initial ship are added to the Profit Factor, so let’s begin by constructing a ship and seeing what’s left, shall we?

Selecting a Transport hull, specifically a Vagabond-class merchant trader costs 20 ship points, leaving 10 for other components. Next it’s rolling for complications. It turns out this particular ship has an Ancient & Wise machine spirit. (-4 Hull integrity +10 to Maneuver Actions) and is a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing (-2 power, 3 components that either don’t register on scans or show as a different type)

For a plasma drive, I opt for the slightly bulkier and more powerful Lathe-pattern Class 1 drive, which costs me another Ship Point.
Warp Engines are the standard Strelov I, coupled with the normal Geller field.
Also opt for a single Void Shield array, and a Commerce bridge
Go for the Vitae pattern life sustainers, to avoid the worst smells on board. (Not an issue for Harmon and his respirator, but others in the group might be appreciative)
Voidsman Quarters are less cramped, so I pick those, and go with the Standard Mark-100 Auger Array for sensors.

That’s the required ship components built at a cost of 21 ship points. Leaving me 9 ship points, 11 space and 11 power for supplemental components (aside from a main cargo hold which was already included with the base hull.)

This ship needs some weaponry, so another ship point is spent to install some dorsal-mounted Mars pattern Macrocannons. Another 2 ship points are spent on reinforced interior bulkheads, increasing hull integrity by 3.
Also aboard are Librarium Vaults and Extended Supply Vaults at a cost of 3 more ship points.
The ship will be named later, perhaps.

That leaves 3 Ship points to increase the starting Profit Factor all the way up to 63.

STAGE VI: Select Equipment

As most of my equipment was included in the career path earlier, this is a short step. I’m allowed to roll acquire a single item of equipment without testing, assuming that it’s Acquisition Modifier is 0 or better. I decide that Harmon wants a side arm, which as a single man scale item is a +30, I want it to be of good craftmanship (-10) which means that I can choose one item that’s availability is no worse than Very Rare. Looking at the Armory, and deciding that it needs to be some form of projectile weapon as a variety for his energy-based lasgun.

After some contemplation, Harmon Siegmund adds a Ceres pattern Bolt Pistol to his inventory.

 

All done. So we have a rough outline of a character, I may try and adapt Harmon into a short story of his own in the future, one that’s not necessarily tied to the universe of Rogue Trader as he seems flexible enough to work in a few different science fantasy settings.

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!