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!

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!