We’ve covered many of the moving parts. Now we’re going to put them altogether with some others to walk through character creation. Between work and other projects, I have gotten behind on this series, probably because this would be one of the longest posts of the set. Another reason is that Krendel’s Quick Start guide covers character creation pretty darn well. It gives you the roadmap you need to make characters, including chapter references for more information.
- Gamer Contract
- The Core Mechanic
- Actions & Powers
- Character Creation
- Faith - spin-off
There isn’t much new about characters. There’s a lot of things a reader might recognize from other systems, and a few that may be unique. Chiefly, it is done in a way that I wanted. The main thing is that I front load as much of the dramatic aspects of the character as possible. You decide who your character is, build the concept and relationships, then, only when this is done, do you really get into mechanical aspects, such as skills and powers.
One point of interest is that early development had attributes/abilities that you might see in other systems. I played with several set ups: a 3x3 grid, the base 6, etc. I had settled on a 5 point star pattern with a couple of others taken up by traits. However, as development wore on, they became more vestigial. Attributes really just gave a way to min/max, even with the restraints I put in place (your power pool & well were originally equal to your lowest attribute). If you look at just about every system that uses attributes, there is always clear advantage to maxing particular attributes. Want to be a wizard? Make sure you have high intelligence. This is glaringly obvious in games where your dice pool or bonus is a combination of your attributes and your skill.
Eventually, attributes got sacked. The concept for them was instead rolled into traits. So you are assumed average unless you choose to take a trait that says you are stupid or agile. These traits give fairly broadly applicable bonuses that aren’t just a +1 to succeed. Adding a label to the attribute traits also proved to be extraordinary fun for players. It may just be a label, but now players had an easy way to describe their characters and to differentiate them from each other. This feature, inspired by the MET attributes, became one of the more entertaining features of character creation.
An exception to this is Strength. It’s a raw value that shifts easily with Scale. It was never a core attribute. Instead it was derived (originally from the Physique attribute). Its function was also different. It acts as a gate keeper for the weapons you can use and tells you what you can carry. Because of those functions, it remains, but it is now derived from species.
Another point of interest is that there used to be a lot more elective traits. Many of these were changed to powers to try to keep traits as things you can only gain at character creation. If it was something you could develop, then it became a power.
Every character starts with a concept. When considering your concept, think about your Gamer Contract. The Campaign Level and Relative Experience will impact available concepts, as will the game theme and setting. At this point you should also choose your species and your background. With all of these in hand, you should be able to make a two or three word phrase to encapsulate your concept.
Example: We’re going to make a neuman (species) pilot (background) named Charon, who will be based on one of my favorite NPCs for sci-fi games. She can pilot anything and will always get her and her ship to its destination… but that doesn’t say anything at all about the state of the ship or its contents. So we’ll summarize her concept as “The Ferryman”. This game will have a high campaign level and a green relative experience.
Next, you create your character’s personality and history. Don't think about stats, just think about who your character is, where she comes from, and what gets her out of bed in the morning. Why? Because Krendel is a role-playing game, and whatever stats you choose flow from the role you adopt.
Your personality is summarized by your motivation and temptation. If you’ve played a White Wolf game, think of these as your demeanor and nature. Motivation is how you portray yourself to the world while temptation is what you are really all about. They are labels for your character that guide role-play.
Example: Charon’s military. She adheres to discipline and likes things to all be in order. Her motivation is order. She’s one of the best and she knows it, or at least she believes it. Her temptation is pride.
Now we have some fun. We introduce our characters to each other and forge relationships. Start with a 3x5 card or just any sheet of paper. Write the first half of a background event on this. The event should include both characters and may be half a sentence or a couple of sentences. Don’t write a book. Pass this to the player on your left. They fill in the second half. Do this again for another character (e.g. the player sitting across from you) and repeat until everyone has a historical event with everyone else. Label these relationships with one or more of the key words that describe types of relationships (e.g. ally, friend, rival, etc.).
Example: Charon writes out “You tried to pick me up in one of The Ark’s cyber cafes and I turned your down.” She hands this to her left and the player there finishes it with, “I kept changing my avatar, trying to find something you liked, then my program glitched and I got stuck halfway between several different avatars. You got a great laugh out of this and this started our friendship.” Charon also gets the first half of a historical event from her right, which she needs to finish.
The two of these set up a push / pull relationship. Motivation and temptation push your character. When you pursue one of them to your detriment, then you gain a point of karma. Relationships pull your character. If you violate a relationship, then you can’t spend or gain karma. Thus the dynamic is one where your bonds with others keep your ambitions in check.
You can also set up a personal goal (a specific thing you want to accomplish), keepsakes (tokens of great personal meaning), and a company (formalized group structure). Each creates an ambition and/or a bond, making more ways to push and pull your character. These are optional, but can add flavor and direction to your game.
Example: The players agree that keepsakes don’t fit with the setting. They are a decidedly meat space thing that their characters wouldn’t have. They also decide to pass on personal goals. After some discussion, it is decided to defer company formation. Where one of their number is clearly put in charge and they have an infiltration theme assigned to them, the team hasn’t functioned together long enough to develop the group cohesion needed for a formal company. The Game Master agrees and everyone decides that they will raise the issue at the end of each game session.
At the end of this stage you should have a solid grasp of what your character will look like and how your character fits into the world. Where we have added some mechanics, the primary thrust so far has been building who the character is, not necessarily what she can do. That’s what we do next.
The first thing we do is take our species and use it to fill in some numbers. Strength determines your carrying capacity and what weapons you can pick up and use. Health tells you how good of a meat shield you are. Your movement is how far you can move with a single action. All of these are given by your species; though, your Health can get a boost from the campaign level.
Example: As a neuman, Charon’s Strength is 3, giving a base carrying capacity of 24. Her Health is 10, and her tactical movement is 4. With a high campaign level, Charon gets either determined or fortitude as a free power. Both of these give two additional Health. So we’ll take determined and raise her Health to 12. I should mention that a typical human’s Strength is 2 and Health is 8.
Everyone starts with a power pool and power well of 5 regardless of species. These fuel your powers. Your pool regenerates at the end of each encounter, and your well regenerates at the end of the day. If you need a quick boost, you can draw from the well, converting power well to power pool. All of these values can be adjusted by traits and powers.
Example: Charon’s starting power pool and power well are both 5. Easy peasy.
That’s the easy book keeping. No real choices involved other than what species you are going to be. The next stuff is full of choices.
Traits are tags reflecting inherent advantages and disadvantages. They can come from your history, your species, or just some accident of birth. Your species will typically award a couple of species traits. These traits are used to differentiate humans from dwarves from elves from orcs from neumans from whatever. The campaign level will also give you a point or two that you can spend to buy elective traits.
Elective traits can be positive or negative. Many of them describe your innate ability: Are you strong, clumsy, willful, or robust. These attribute traits can have a large impact, not the least of which is an adjustment to your power pool or power well. When you take one of these you also need to give it a description. Where Hideous (Ugly Stick) and Hideous (Never Bathes) are mechanically identical, they conjure completely different images of characters.
Example: Neumans are essentially enhanced humans, so we'll say they inherit the adaptable trait. We will also give them a new trait called digital body, that gives them a bonus to computer stuff when downloaded into a mainframe but a penalty in meat space. Charon gets these for free. The high campaign level grants her 2 points to buy elective traits with. To keep it simple, we’ll only take positive traits: Agile (Great Reflexes) and Perceptive (Eye for Detail). Of special note, the adaptable trait grants a free expertise or a free core power.
Next, you pick skills. The relative experience of the game gives you some base levels in the four skills associated with your background and some free points to spend. This helps ground the character in their upbringing, but also lets you tailor your character with ease. If you have any skill with a level of 2 or above, then you get a free expertise with that skill. We kind of already covered skills. So I won’t say much more here other than when picking your skills, it can help to look over the requirements for powers. You’ll need a skill level of 2 for related powers.
Example: In this instance, the pilot background is keyed to the skills Athletics, Intuition, Ranging, and Science. A green character starts with level 1 in two of these and level 2 in the other 2. Charon takes Athletics 2, Intuition 2, Ranging 1, and Science 1. She also gets 5 free points. She spends three of these to get Academics 2, and the other two to raise Science to 2. She also selects her free expertises, and will use the free expertise from the adaptable trait. This leaves her with Academics 2 (Tactics), Athletics 2 (Mobility), Intuition 2 (Urban, Wilderness), Ranging 1, and Science 2 (Computers).
After that, pick your powers. As with skills, you get a number of starting powers based on the relative experience of your game. You also automatically start with one language power. The Game Master may additionally rule that the setting automatically grants some power. We already talked about these. So I won’t say much more.
Example: Charon gets the language power for free, and she’s already chosen the determined power for the Health boost. Everyone agrees that neumans should automatically have literacy (computers) since they spend most of their lives as living software. She also gets 4 powers of her choice: aggressive piloting, basic tactics, driving (aircraft), and driving (land craft).
The last step is equipment. If the setting or scenario doesn’t lay this out for you, then its best to just work with the Game Master to determine appropriate starter gear. Generally, everyone should start with enough gear to practice each of their powers, if not their skills.
Example: Charon probably gets the most expensive equipment of the group as she gets a futuristic VTOL that she can fly around in with the rest of the characters. The VTOL is large enough that it can hold her second vehicle: a futuristic sports car. The VTOL’s computer gets a full suite of programs for keeping Charon’s tactical skills sharp. Even though she doesn’t have the skill or powers for it, Charon also gets the minimal communications gear, light body armor and a light pistol that all characters will get.
From the top level, character creation will remain the same: First develop who the character is, then develop what the character does. Though, there will certainly be refinements to the process. All the parts in the dramatic aspects section are being divided into ambitions and bonds (you may note that I used those terms above; though, they aren't in the rules themselves) and the details are being tweaked a bit to make it more fluid. Some of the traits and species are also getting fiddles with (I don't like that I gave dwarves Robust as a species trait. I was lazy, and with make them something else... or not since my fantasy world doesn't have dwarves... or elves... or orcs...). But these are the details with the devils. The broad strokes are all solid. I like them. I like how one flows to the next, and how they all come together to make a remarkably solid character, not just a skeleton upon which you hang a name.