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:



Knowledge (Core Worlds)

Knowledge (Education)

Knowledge (Lore)




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:


Knowledge (Education)



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!

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



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:




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.


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


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!