Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TnB RPG: Character Creation

Here's the second part of my presentation of the (much abbreviated here) Tankards and Broadswords RPG core rules. Today's post covers creating player characters.

Character Archetypes

Characters in the Tankards and Broadswords RPG come in three archetypes; Warrior, Rogue, and Scholar. By and large, most "adventure story" characters can be fitted into one of these three archetypes. Mechanically, there is little difference between the three; however, a character's archetype does affect which skills list they have preferred access to, as well as (if the campaign setting involves magic) the costs involved in learning magic. Aside from this, it is entirely possible for you to have a Scholar character who is a master swordsman, or a Warrior who is fluent in every campaign language - it just won't be as easy to get the character to that degree of proficiency.

(As an aside, the core rules do contain two different suggestions for creating archetype-less characters, if the GM doesn't want to use the three default character archetypes).
Character Skills

Each archetype has a set of associated skills.

Warrior Skills:
Athletics - running, jumping, climbing, lifting, etc..
Command - battlefield tactics and strategy, leadership, and charisma.
Defense - warding off melee, or in some cases ranged, attacks.
Melee - combat unarmed or with hand-to-hand weapons.
Ranged - combat with missile weapons, either fired or thrown.Reflexes - speed, timing, and coordination.

Rogue Skills:
Carousing - gambling, drinking, rumor-mongering, and other recreations.
Detection - powers of observation, analytical thinking, and using one's senses.
Persuasion - etiquette, oratory, intimidation, fast-talking, and other methods.
Stealth - moving quietly and unseen, hiding, ambush, the art of camouflage.
Survival - staying alive without the comforts and support of civilization.
Thievery - picking pockets, opening locks, fencing goods, the art of deception.

Scholar Skills:
Arcana - knowledge of secret societies, practices, arts, and histories.
Crafting - skill at creating art objects, tools, weapons, or other devices.
Healing - tending to injuries, using herbs, curing diseases, understanding poisons.
History - knowledge of people, places, and things, both past and present.
Languages - fluency in languages and a general understanding of linguistics.
Naturalism - the science of the natural world; flora, fauna, geography, weather, etc..

(Note: it's recommended that in modern-day or sci-fi campaign settings, "Naturalism" can be replaced with a more appropriate skill name such as "Science". The same may be said for any skill the GM wishes to tweak to better fit the nature of the campaign.)

Every skill has the following rating structure:

0 = Unskilled
1 = Novice
2 = Amateur
3 = Professional4 = Veteran
5 = Expert
6 = Master

Characters can distribute twelve skill ranks into their Archetype's skills list, and six skill ranks into each of the other two skills lists. It is recommended that starting characters are limited to a rating of 4 or less in any one skill.

If a skill is given a rating of 3 or higher, the character may take a Skill Focus (the Focus costs nothing). A Focus is a +1 bonus to the skill roll whenever the skill is used in a certain fashion. For example, a character's Melee skill might have a Focus in Unarmed Combat, or Broadswords, while a character's Stealth skill might have a Focus in Stalking or Camouflage. A character with a skill rating of 6 can take a second Focus in that skill, but cannot "stack" the bonus on the first Focus.

Peril Checks

Characters are often faced with perilous hazards or challenges that aren't associated with any given skill. For example, a character may have to leap out of the way of an explosion, or suffer through the effects of a crippling toxin, or withstand the mind-bending powers of an enchantment. These situations are known as Perils, and every character has three Peril attributes: Avoid, Endure, and Resist. Perils are rated from 0 to 6 just like skills, and starting characters have six points they can distribute amongst the three Peril attributes. Like skills, it is recommended that starting characters put no more than four points into any one Peril attribute.

Status Values

As a character goes on adventures and interacts with the world around them, they will (one hopes) gain a reputation for themselves and (again, one hopes) accumulate a degree of wealth and other resources. This is represented by a character's three Status values: Infamy, Renown, and Wealth. Infamy represents the character's negative reputation, Renown represents their positive reputation, and Wealth represents the resources and holdings, financial and otherwise, that the character has access to, either as part of their own personal fortunes or as favors and alliances they can call upon. Starting characters have three points they can distribute between the three Status values.

Finishing Touches

After the above steps have been completed, each character has twelve Character Tokens they can spend to customize their character:

- Skills (1 Token per +1 increase)
- Perils (2 Tokens per +1 increase)
- Status (3 Tokens per +1 increase)

It is still recommended that, even with the use of Character Tokens, a starting character's Skills, Perils, and Status remain at a rating of four or less.

Signature Gear

The T&B RPG is designed to be episodic, with no continuous, rolling session-by-session timeline. Because of this, there may be days, weeks, months, or even years in between adventures. Character equipment may change over time, but as with many "adventure story" characters, a few pieces of equipment will probably always be in the character's possession, such as a favored type of weapon or armor, a set of lock-picks, or a certain magical charm.

If the player doesn't spend all their Character Tokens adjusting character attributes, the remaining Tokens can be used to purchase equipment at character creation time, and this equipment will become part of the character's Signature Gear. This is equipment the character automatically starts with at the beginning of each adventure, regardless of anything else they wish to purchase. The cost, in Character Tokens, for each piece of equipment is given in the campaign setting's equipment list.

That pretty much sums up character creation. You pick your archetype, dole out points to Skills, Perils, and Status values, and then divvy up your starting Character Tokens to raise various attributes or buy Signature Gear. After a little practice, a character can probably be written up within 10 minutes.

Edit: I thought I'd post an image of what the draft character sheet currently looks like. Nothing fancy, but actually, that's how I like character sheets - nice and simple.


kathulhu said...

I like the way you broke down the skills. It sounds like an easy way to get a beginner started in RPG's. Is the T&B set in any particular world or is this just a different set of rules to be used in any worlds?

Badelaire said...

Glad you liked the skills breakdown. I sort of see this skill design as the direct opposite approach of classic D&D; rather than have just attributes and assume "skill" proficiency based solely on the related attribute, I just have skills and assume attribute proficiency based solely on the related skills (i.e., rather than determining how Athletic you are based on your DEX score, you base your DEX score on how Athletic you are). Neither is a perfect solution, but I just prefer my angle of attacking the problem better, so to speak.

As for the rest, the T&B RPG is my answer to "What sort of RPG would I build that best fits my strengths and weaknesses as a GM?". Because of this, it's fairly generic, can accept "plugged in" additional material for magic or sci-fi or what-have-you (or be used just for historical adventure gaming), simple to use with a minimum of "stat-box"-ing monsters or NPCs, and supports episodic games, i.e., Conan-esque "short story adventures" where some indeterminate amount of time has passed between adventures, rather than a "campaign as novel-in-progress" where each session's adventures follow right on the heels of the previous adventure.

I had been working on this sort of RPG since back in 2002, and it's gone through a vast number of variations. I had pretty much abandoned the project a few years ago when, as I started this blog two years ago, I began to use it as a sounding board for ideas, and began to rebuild the T&B RPG as a sort of GMing rules set / manifesto; kind of a distillation of what jives with me as a GM (which I talk about here a lot) into a RPG system which best facilitates those feelings.

Now, to actually answer your question, it's meant to be generic enough to use in different settings (historical adventure, fantasy, sci-fi) with "plug-ins" for magic and technology.

Some day, who knows when, I'll have the "core rules" as a whole PDF'ed, as well as "Campaign Primers" that apply those rules to a specific setting and introduce more detailed rules specific to that setting. For example, one of the first primers I want to write (and have pecked at some) is about adventure gaming during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The Primer will have rules for black powder firearms (and cannon) as well as GMing guidelines for handling PCs taking place in mass combats.

It's a work in progress, but I keep chipping away at it.