Lets Create: Fading Suns Priest Character – Brother Octavian

In our previous Fading Suns character creation, we designed a noble, Lady Ysabel of The Hazat, and this time we will move onto the next roll, one of Those Who Pray – a priest.

The Universal Church of the Celestial Sun has a number of sects that a character can come from – The Orthodox, Brother Battle, Eskatonic Order, Avestites and Amaltheans. Through character creation, you could also go for a Mendicant Monk, one of those who wants nothing to do with politics. For this one though we are sticking with the five main sects.

The Urth Orthodoxy is the largest of the sects and the backbone of the Church, with members ranging from simple priest all the way through to powerful bishops. They tend the flock and defend the faith from threats and evil both outer and inner.

Brother Battle are, basically, the Knights Templar. They are warrior-monks who were initially founded to defend pilgrims but evolved into an elite military force, one of the best around. Also like the Knights Templar, there are rumours of heresy and usury.

The Eskatonic Order are mystics, heavily linked to theurgy and often considered wizards by common folk. They scour the universe for hidden lore, some of which is better not found. Once considered heretical by the Orthodoxy before being admitted to the fold.

Avestites are, well, the Inquisition. They are fundamentalist fanatics who often can’t even read, and they love purging with fire. They aren’t too fussy about who either, or even how minor the sins. Heretics, aliens, people who look at them funny. As a result they are feared and hated and have to travel in groups to avoid being dragged into back alleys and given a good kicking.

The Amaltheans are a healing order, devoted to aiding those who need it. Most of them are pacifists as well. Unlike the Avestites, they are beloved by the common folk. Turns out helping people out of the goodness of your heart goes a long way to making friends.

Its kind of hard to go passed the Knights Templar in Space, so we are selecting Brother Battle for our sect, creating a holy warrior who smites the enemy with righteous fury and shows no fear.

Like the nobles, we start with the Upbringing. Normal priests (and guildmembers) make two choices – whether they are from the City, Town or Country environment, and whether they came from a Rich, Average or Poor class. Brother Battle Warrior Monks are different. They are given to the monastery at a very young age and commence training. They don’t get a choice. Their Upbringing gives the characteristics of Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Faith +1, the skills of Dodge +1, Fight +2, Melee +1, Shoot +2, Vigour +1, Focus 1, Remedy 1 and Stoic Body 1. They also get the Blessing of Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations) and the curse of Clueless (-2 perception to notice social clues.)

The Apprenticeship of regular priests sees them choosing whether they were trained in a Cathedral, a Parish or a Monastery. Those Cathedral trained tend to have a better eduction, those Parish trained better relate to people and those Monastery trained are a more reflective lot. Once more the Brother Battle doesn’t get a choice, and all Brother Battle Characters get the following; Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Faith +1, Combat Skill (Fight or Melee) +1, Shoot +1, Remedy 1 and Stoic Body 1. Our character, whom we are calling Brother Octavian, chooses Melee and gets the Combat Skill abilities of Parry, Thrust and Slash as a result.

Finally the priest starts their Early Career, choosing from Preacher/Pastor, Monk, Missionary, Healer, Inquisitor or Brother Battle Warrior Monk. There isn’t actually anything saying you have to take the Brother Battle Warrior Monk early career, but I think its implied you are meant to. Anyway, that is what we are going with.

From it we get Strength +3, Dexterity +1, Endurance +3, Passion or Calm +1, Extrovert or Introvert +1 and Faith +1 for attributes, and Dodge +1, Combat skill (fight or melee)+2, Combat skill (fight or melee) +1, Shoot +2, Physick 1, Focus or Stoic Body 2, Survival 1 and Warfare (Military Tactics) 1. We also get the Benefice Rank (Apprentice) and a choice of one of the following; Mantok Martial Art (Claw Fist or Tornado Kick) or Sword Fencing (Disarm or Feint.)

For Brother Octavian, we put the +1 in Calm and Introvert, while Melee and Stoic Body get 2 ranks and Fight gets 1. Given we are favouring melee, we choose the sword fencing ability, taking Disarm.

Up to this point, most Brother Battle characters are going to look very similar. Now we get to the Extra Stages where we can expand them a bit and make them stand out a little. For his first one, he selects Imperial Tour, gaining the Cohort Tour of Duty. It was here that Brother Octavian joined up with Lady Ysabel. Cohorts get 11 skill points, compared to 10 for Nobles, +1 to two attributes, a Worldly Benefit and a Cohort Badge. It is mostly the same as the Imperial Charter nobles receive but only comes with 100 firebirds as a stipend. For his second one, Brother Octavian chooses Theurgic Calling in Occult Powers. He can now perform miracles. He receives Theurgy 3, Wyrd +2 and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd level rite, as well as a +1 to 1 skill related to a rite.

For his two attributes, Octavian increases both Perception and Calm by +1. He wants at least some ability to spot people coming, and remaining calm in combat – and other situations – is a must for a disciplined warrior monk. For his 11 skill points, he puts 2 each in Focus, Stoic Body, Stoic Mind, Remedy, Dodge and 1 in Melee. He takes High Promotion for his Worldly Benefit, which increases his rank by 2, to Acolyte, and comes with either Good Riches, or 600 in cash. Octavian takes the cash, rather than having some holdings as that seems better for a humble warrior-monk.

Next comes Theurgic Calling, in the Occult Powers. We haven’t had a look at them yet. Basically, there are two forms of occult powers, Psi and Theurgy. The first is psionics, more or less, while the second is more akin to clerical magic, just without the need to pray for spells. Mechanically they are very similar, and share the same attribute+skill roll for powers and rites that normal skills do.

There are differences though. Psi is largely powered by Ego while Theurgy is largely Faith based. It is possible to learn both, though not at character creation, but it is hard given that Ego and Faith are opposed spiritual stats and the Church also tends to take a dim view on it.

Theurgy also tends to be more powerful than Psi, but has the drawback that it takes longer to perform, needing rites and rituals performed while Psi can be performed near straight away.

There is a downside to both as well. All who delve into the occult gain a stigma, a mark that shows them as different from common humanity. Maybe their eyes are near totally white. Maybe they grow hair where it is not meant to grow. Maybe they sleepwalk. For those who use Psi, it tends to make them feared by superstitious peasant, whereas Theurgic stigmas tend to be more religious in nature and sees them more likely to be held in awe by peasants. They can still be feared as well, as even the chosen ones can have trouble following them.

And that is not all either. There is a dark side to the occult. Whenever an occultist critically fails a power roll (or experiences or performs some dark act), they gain a level of Urge (if they use Psi) or Hubris (if Theurgic.) Urge is basically the evil twin of the Psi users, the repressed darkness of the character coming to life and causing problems for them. At the highest level it breaks free into a seperate physical being let loose on the universe. For Theurgists, their dark side is Hubris, overwhelming pride. It isn’t a dark side, but more an overwhelming pride at being able to call forth miracles. At its worst it can curse the very ground the Theurgist walks upon, spreading plagues and even laying waste to entire planets. Not good stuff. The good news is that, with effort and hard work, you can reduce the dark side.

The Occult is powered by Wyrd, a spiritual energy that all have. Wyrd doesn’t have to just be used for Occult powers, but also things like inciting passion or calm. Non-occultists have Wyrd points equal to their Passion or Calm, whichever is their primary. Psi uses Extrovert or Introvert, which ever is primary and Theurgists use Faith.

Looking at Theurgic Calling, Octavian gets 3 rites. With Theurgy, each sect has its own rituals and there is also a group of rites common to all sects. Learning rites that belong to other sects can be done, but it is hard. Octavian is going to stick to general Church rites as well as Brother Battle Rites.

First level is either Prophet’s Holy Blessing, which aids a companion in a task, or Soul’s Vessel, which aids the character perform a physical task, like running or jumping. Octavian, being the helpful person he is, goes with Prophet’s Holy Blessing.

Second level is either The Devotional Litany, which boosts morale for those that hear it before battle, or Rightfully Guided Hand, which boosts the character in battle. Octavian is good in battle, but could be better so he goes with Rightfully Guided Hand.

The third level rite is either The Laying on of Hands, which allows the healing of wounds, or Armour of the Pancreator, which functions much like a energy shield. Both are useful, but being able to heal his companions seems the better choice for Octavian, so he goes with The Laying on of Hands.

He also gets 1 point to assign to a skill related to one of his rites; Focus for Prophet’s Holy Blessing, Fight, Melee or Shoot for Rightfully Guided Hand or Remedy for Laying on of Hands. For this, Octavian goes with Focus, to aid when he needs to deeply concentrate on a task.

For his Wyrd, Octavian gets a base equal to his Faith, 6, and a bonus 2 from Theurgic calling, for a total of 8 Wyrd Points. His vitality, how much damage he takes, is equal to a base of 5 plus his Endurance, or 13 Vitality.

Finally there is outfitting Octavian. He starts with 600 firebirds to spend. First up is an electrified two-handed sword, so when he hits things, they stay hit, at a cost of 60. He adds a knife (2 fb), an imperial rifle (200 fb), 30 rounds of ammo (10 fb), plastic half plate armour (60 fb), a squawker (50 fb), a medpack (20 fb) and an Elixir Injector (25 fb) with 5 doses of Elixir (50 fb). The last is a healing drug which he keeps for emergences for when his Theurgy isn’t available. He has 123 firebirds remaining for use on his adventures.

Octavian’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Body 8, Dexterity 8, Endurance 8, Wits 3, Perception 4, Tech 3, Passion 1/Calm 5, Introvert 4/Extrovert 1, Faith 6/Ego 1, Theurgy 3, Wyrd 8.

Natural Skills: Impress 3, Melee 8, Charm 3, Observe 3, Shoot 8, Dodge 7, Sneak 3, Vigour 4, Fight 6.

Learned Skills: Focus 4, Remedy 4, Stoic Body 6, Physic 1, Survival 1, Warfare (Military Tactics) 1, Stoic Mind 2, Combat Skills (Parry, Thrust, Slash, Disarm), Speak (Urthish)

Blessings: Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations)

Curses: Clueless (-2 Perception to notice social clues)

Benefices: Rank (7pts, Acolyte), Cohort Charter.

Theurgic Rites: Prophet’s Holy Blessing, Rightfully Guided Hand, The Laying on of Hands.

Equipment: Shocker Two-Handed Sword, Knife, Imperial Rifle with 30 rounds, Plastic Half Plate, Squawker, Medpack, Elixir Injector and 5 Doses of Elixir, 123 firebirds.

Lets Write: Wire in My Soul – Cyberpunk Poem

Found this old poem that I wrote about five years back on a cyberpunk theme, channelling my Cyberpunk 2020 RPG days.

I've razors in my mind,
fire in my veins,
wire in my soul.
Living on the edge,
between neon's glare and desolation's black.
Jacked in, jacked up
take the plunge,
make the run,
beyond the edge.
Searchlights sweep the rainy streets,
above the crowds the call to prayer,
to worship at the corporate altar
of the consumable,
the expandable,
the cheap.
Sirens scream,
muzzle flash reflected in mirrored eye,
the metal and the flesh they sing.
Flatline.
The beat ends.
No time for remorse.
Another day.
Another job.
From coffin to coffin,
fuelled by the synth.
Carry what you own,
own what you can keep.
All around the throng of crowd,
the pulse of the city,
riding the disconnect between reality and reality.
All of them
Alone.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Noble Character – Lady Ysabel Maria Sophiana de Vera Cruz.

Time to create our first Fading Suns character, starting with the first one listed – Those Who Rule (Nobles). We are going with the lifepath method for now.

Our first choice is to which house we belong. There are five great houses (Hawkwood, Decados, The Hazat, Li Halan and al-Malik.). There are also numerous minor houses and if you want to play one of those you can either choose the build options from one of the Great Houses that matches your concept or use the points buy method. For this example we are going to stick with one of the main houses.

So which one?

Well, first we will look at the houses and see what they are like.

House Hawkwood is proud and honourable, with all the strengths and weakness that come from that. They are taught from a young age that their House has a destiny, and to do the right thing, which includes treating their peasants well. Secretly, many Hawkwoods doubt that they are true Hawkwoods given the standards they have to live up to, but a Hawkwood never gives up. If you consider them as the Atreides from Dune, you wouldn’t be far long.

House Decados was once a collection of intelligence personal from various houses that game together, rising to power. If Hawkwood are the Atreides, then Decados is the Harkonnen. They are decadent and amoral but also devious and cunning and have a vast network of spies and assassins. And they don’t care who knows it.

The Hazat are headstrong and militaristic. They came to power by turning the army of House Chauki against them and (supposedly) wiping the family out. Also have a reputation as not being the sharpest tools in the shed. The other houses called them The Hazat (rather than House Hazat) as a bit of an insult to imply they weren’t true nobility, but they took it and ran with it.

House Li Halan were once so debauched that it shocked even the Decados. Then overnight they converted to the Church and have been its staunched supporters ever since. Strict and pious, they believe that everyone has an ordained place they were born into and will die in, resulting in a very rigid caste system.

House al-Malik keeps to itself most of the time and tend to speak in metaphors. It sometimes seems that the only time an al_Malik is comfortable is when speaking with their traditional Merchant League Allies. They are generally better educated, have access to better tech – and draw the attention of the Inquisition far more than other Houses, though normally without anything to show for it. There are also persistent rumours that they seek to bring about a Third Republic, working with the Merchants to do so. Of course they deny it but the rumours persist.

Of course these stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. It doesn’t apply to everyone in those Houses. You can get pious al-Malik, devious Hawkwoods, honourable Decados and all sorts of other types.

When playing Emperor of the Fading Suns, my go to was always the al-Malik, so for this I am going to try something a little different. Hawkwood and Decados are too obvious, so what I am going with is The Hazat. One as hot-headed, tempestuous and impetuous as the rest, but whose passions run a little different to norm. Not a warrior, but an explorer and adventure archaeologist type. Kind of like an Indiana Jones in Space character.

So, we have a concept and a House for our character. Now it is time to build them.

We start off with their Upbringing, the period of life between birth and age 8 or 10, where they are moulded by their House’s traditions and family expectations. There are three options to choose from here – High-Court, Rural Estate and Landless. High-Court sees the child raised in a palace, attended to by servants and tutors and meeting foreign visitors but with high expectations placed upon them. With Rural Estates, they are raised in a manor or castle, far from the important doings of the High-Court. While they do have tutors, they are often busy with other tasks, leaving the children to find their own way at times. For Landless, their family has no home and must rely on the charity of other nobles for lodging or fostering. They often live in many homes and defend themselves from the insults of higher-born children.

For our character, whom we are calling Ysabel Maria Sophiana de Verz Cruz (Hazat characters often have Hispanic names), I am going with Rural Estate. High-Court doesn’t fit the concept I had, and I would prefer her not to be Landless. Rural Estate it is then. THis gives us a number of points to apply to our character. For stats we get Endurance +2, Perception +2, Passion (Primary) +1. For the spiritual pairing of stats, one is designated the primary and starts at 3, while the other is at 1. So Ysabel is tough, perceptive and passionate already. For skills we get Impress +1, Melee +1, Etiquette 1 and Read Urthish. We also get a Blessing (Disciplined: +2 Calm in combat situations) and a Curse (Vengeful: -2 Calm when honoured impinged, will never forget a slight.) Given our current low Calm, a boost in combat is helpful, but we are very, very touchy about our honour.

We next move onto our Apprenticeship, that stage between youth and coming of age. Normally at this stage it has been planned out by the character’s family and they have little choice in it, but as players we do get to choose. We can go Military (Solider or Starman), Diplomacy/Intrigue, Leisure (Duelist or Dandy) or Study. While Hazat generally gravitate towards military pastimes, Ysabel is not your standard Hazat. Going with the concept of a touchy explorer type, Diplomacy and Study don’t fit either, which leaves Leisure. That gives a choice of Duelist or Dandy. While being a Hazat means she is taught to fight, that isn’t her strength, so I choose Dandy, but slightly reflavoured. She isn’t lazy or foppish, but it is more that she is self-raised. As the fourth child (and only daughter) or her family, the family tutor didn’t have much time for her, and so she made her own way, being largely self-taught and choosing her own interests.

For stats, Dandy gives Dexterity +1, Wits +2, Perception +1 and Passion or Calm +1. Due to our concept, we go with Passion (which means it is up to 5 already). We also get a pile of skills; Any Skill +2, Charm +1, Observe +1, Shoot +1, Arts (choose a favourite) 1, Drive (aircraft or Landcraft) 1, Empathy 1, Gambling 1, Ride 1. For our Any Skill, we go with Charm. Ysabel is fiery, passionate and charming. Our Art skill will be Drawing and our Drive skill Landcraft (bikes, cars, skimmers etc).

Next, we have the Early Career. This is the role they fulfilled for their House after coming of age. The options are Military Command (Solider or Starman), Court (Duelist or Ambassador) or Questing. That is a very easy one given our character concept – Ambassador. Hah, no, Questing.

Questing gives us a lot more choice of stats than the other picks, which all have set stats. We get one body characteristic at +2 and the other two at +1, one mind characteristic at +2 and another at +1, one spirit characteristic at +2 and another at +1. I see Ysabel as quick, both of mind and body, as well as being passionate, so I give her the following; Dexterity +2, Body +1, Endurance +1, Wits +2, Tech +1, Passion +2, Extravert +1.

For skills she gets Charm or Impress +1, Dodge +1, Combat skill (Fight, Shoot or Melee) +2, Combat skill (choose secondary) +1, Observe +1, Sneak +1, Vigor +1, Drive (choose craft) 1, Inquiry or Knavery 1, Lore (People/Place Seen) 1, Remedy 1, Speak (choose Dialect), Streetwise 1.

Ysabel already is rather charming, so I choose Impress so that she really stands out. The combat skills get +2 to Melee and +1 for Shoot so she can handle a blade like a good Hazat should and shoot as necessary, Drive goes into Landcraft again, and she chooses Knavery over Inquiry, which allows her to fast talk her way out of trouble and lie with a straight face. For the dialect, I go with Vera Cruz, the dialect of her home planet.

Ysabel also gets a Benefice: Rank (Knight). It is the lowest rank that a noble can have, but it marks her as now being an adult and a noble.

Ysabel now moves onto the next, and last, stage of her life before starting adventuring proper as a player character – the Extra Stages. She can choose two from Tour of Duty, Another Tour of Duty, Imperial Tours, Occult Powers or Cybernetics. Each has various options to choose from in it, such as the choice of faith based Theurgy or ego based Psychics in Occult Powers.

Ysbael takes the Questing Knight Tour of Duty from Imperial Tours. Ysbael has sworn fealty to the Emperor Alexius and has joined the Company of the Phoenix, charged with heading out to explore and expand the Empire. The bonuses for it are the same as for a regular Tour of Duty, but they only get 10 new skill points instead of 14, and the Imperial Charter benefice. It comes with a small stipend of money a year and free transport on Imperial Navy ships, though they do have a code of behaviour and an oath of fealty to the Emperor, so they can be called upon to undertake missions on his orders.

Ysabel gets +1 to two stats, the 10 skill points mentioned and can choose a Worldly Benefit (Promotions and Rewards, High Promotion, Rich Rewards, Friends or Promotion and Friends).

For her second choice, she goes with Another Tour of Duty – basically an extension of her Imperial service. She gets another +1 to two stats, 10 more skill points and More Worldly Benefits (Promotions and Rewards, High Promotion, Rich Rewards or Friends.)

Spending her points, Ysabel assigns +1 to Wits, Agility, Perception and Extrovert. For skills, she spends 2 points to learn the Ukar language, 3 points to learn the first three Combat Skills (Parry, Thrust and Slash) and puts 1 point in Etiquette and 2 points in each of Charm, Impress, Observe, Empathy, Knavery, Search, and Xeno-Empathy (Ukar).

This all helps to emphasis her strengths, the quickness of mind and body, her ability with people, some basic combat training and on top of that I added a bit of an understanding of the Ukar alien race, who we will learn more about later.

For her Worldly Benefit she takes Promotions and Rewards. This bumps her rank up one place, from Knight to Baronet, and allows her to pick either starting with 1000 firebirds or to have Well-Off Resources, which gives her an income of 5000 for a year and 500 starting money. For her efforts in her first tour, she was rewarded with an increase in rank and a small estate that provides a steady income.

For More Worldly Benefits she goes with Friends. That gives her 4 pts to spend on Allies, Contacts, Gossip Network, Passage Contract or Refuge. 3pts are spent on giving her a Gossip Network across all Hazat House Holdings, so that wherever she goes among her House Holdings, she can pick up information and gossip. The last point she spends on getting a Retinue, in this case a Butler. When she travels, it is in style.

Ysabel also decided to round out her character by taking an affliction – a Vendetta. For two points she gets a group who wants to make her life miserable but aren’t out to kill her. Those two points allow her to take the Bold blessing, which gives her +2 passion when acting while others hesitate.

For her vendetta, I decide that the group is her brothers. Despite being the youngest, she has outshone them, and they resented that. Words were exchanged and, being Hazat, it got heated. While they aren’t out to kill her – she being their sister and all – they do want to take her down a peg or two.

To calculate her vitality, how much damage she can take, we add the base of 5 to her endurance, or 11. She also has Wyrd, which we shall explore at a later date. Not being an Occult user, it is equal to her passion or calm, whichever is her primary, so for her it is equal to 6.

Ysabel has 500 firebirds to spend on gear; she purchases a Heavy Revolver (250 fb) and 30 rounds of ammunition (30 fb), plastic studded leather armour (15 fb, 5d defence), shocker rapier (40 fb, electrified, +3d damage), a knife (2 fb) and a squawker (50 fb, a radio). That gives her 113 fb left over for expenses as she starts adventuring.

Ysabel’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Body 4, Dexterity 7, Endurance 6, Wit 8, Perception 7, Tech 4, Passion 6/Calm 1, Introvert 1/Extravert 5, Faith 1/Ego 3, Vitality 11, Wyrd 6.

Natural Skills: Charm 8, Dodge 4, Fight 3, Impress 7, Melee 6, Observe 7, Shoot 5, Sneak 4, Vigor 4.

Learned Skills: Etiquette 2, Art (Drawing) 1, Drive (Landcraft) 2, Empathy 3, Gamble 1, Ride 1, Knavery 3, Lore (People & Places Seen) 1, Streetwise 1, Search 2, Xeno-Empathy (Ukar) 2, Speak (Urthish, Ukar, Vera Cruz Dialect), Read Urthish, Combat Actions (Parry, Thrust, Slash)

Blessings: Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations), Bold (+2 Passion when acting when others hesitate).

Curses: Vengeful (-2 Calm when honour impinged, will never forget a slight)

Benefices: Rank (5pts, Baronet), Well-Off Resources (5 pts, 5000 income/500 starting cash), Gossip Network (3pts), Retinue (1pt), Imperial Charter.

Equipment: Heavy Revolver with 30 rounds, Plastic Studded Leather, Shocker Rapier, Knife, Squawker, 113 firebirds.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Characters

My first introduction to Fading Suns, came about via the 1997 computer game, Emperor of the Fading Suns, a 4x game that was a lot of fun, if a bit buggy. With some fan patches, it is really good, with an amazing soundtrack. It still ranks up there with my top games of all time.

The computer game was based on the Fading Suns RPG setting – I have the old 2nd edition version, from 1999. There has been since a d20 system and a new edition has recently been kickstarted, though I don’t have either yet.

The Background

So what is Fading Suns? Think Dark Ages in Space. Quite literally. It is a bit of a cross between Dune and Warhammer 40K and, well, everything else you can think of, but you get an idea. This is the description from the game itself;

It is the dawn of the sixth millennium and the skies are darkening, for the suns themselves are fading. Humans reached the stars long ago, building a Republic of high technology and universal emancipation — and then squandered it, fought over it, and finally lost it. A new Dark Age has descended on humanity, for the greatest of civilizations has fallen and even the stars die. Now, feudal lords rule the Known Worlds, vying for power with fanatic priests and scheming guilds.

Basically, a long time ago, humans found an alien artefact at the edge of the solar system – a Stargate made by a mysterious lost alien race, the Ur or Anunnaki. They used it to explore, colonise – and oppress less advanced alien races they came upon. The First Republic, which ran humanity, was ruled over by megacorporations but this diaspora saw them loose control over the colonists, who declared independence. These independent colonies were often led by charismatic individuals who were the founders of noble houses.

During this Diaspora, a priest called Zebulon took to the stars, looking for a sign. He found it and more, becoming the Prophet of a new religion, the Church of the Celestial Sun. It was very much Space Catholicism without being Catholic.

Fast forward a couple of centuries and the Diaspora began to reunite, forming the Second Republic, the high point of technology, progress and understanding.

But it was not to last. Though it did carry on for hundreds of years, internal problems, high taxes, lack of work and science experiments going too far began to cause border worlds to leave. It was here that the noble houses took up arms to fight the separatists. Not for the Republic though. For themselves. After taking out the separatists, they conquered the seat of government itself and the Republic fell.

What followed was a dark ages, with most people turned into simple peasants slaving away for their noble masters. The Church prohibited advanced technology, at least for most people. The remnants of the Republic banded together into the Merchant Guilds. The advanced technology of the past was lost and that which remained was often irreplaceable.

Oh, and the stars began to literally fade and die, which the Church claimed was due to lack of faith.

Known Space shrunk as the nobles, merchants and priests squabbled over it while barbarians of former separatist regions raided. Then one man, Vladimir of House Alecto, arose, uniting the Know Worlds and proclaiming himself Emperor, only to be assassinated by unknown hands during his crowning.

He left behind the administration of the Known Worlds, but no Emperor – and squabbles for the Throne. Centuries later, one claim unleashed a five-way war for the throne, with the five remaining great houses fighting for it, and the Church and Merchant League watching on from the sides to try and take advantage of it. Finally Alexius of House Hawkwood gathered the support of the Church and Merchant League and made alliances with two other Great Houses, Al-Malik and Li Halan, defeating his opponents and crowning himself as Emperor Alexis the First.

And that is where the game starts, with peace finally at hand, the Emperor rebuilding the Known Worlds and looking beyond the Known Worlds for new worlds and opportunities. It is a dangerous place out there, with aliens and monsters and, if you believe the Church, daemons.

The System

And now for a quick, brief look at how the system works. As normal, you have statistics and you have skills. Add the two of them together and try and roll equal to or less than that number on a 1d20. The GM can give modifiers to the target number, of up to +10/-10 depending on whether something is routine or almst impossible.

Of course there is a little more to it than that. The higher that you roll, the more victory points you gain, which translates to the degree of success that you obtain. Rolling a 2 means you barely accomplished your task, but a 14 would mean you did a very good job at it.

But it doesn’t stop there. If you roll the exact number of your combined skill and stat, you score a critical success and double the number of victory points you would earn. Which means about 1 in 20 times.

There is a down side to it, as well. No matter how high the number is you are rolling against, a 19 is always a failure and a 20 is a critical failure. As in not only did you fail, but you failed really badly.

That means, no matter how good you character, you will automatically fail 10% of the time you attempt anything. Like hitting a tied up enemy or tying your shoelaces. In part that is why I’m not the biggest fan of D20 systems. You automatically fail (or critically fail) far too often.

If characters are opposing each other you can have contested rolls. In such cases the person who has the most victory points wins. They subtract the number of victory points the loser has to work out how successful they were. So if one person had 3 victory points and the other 2, the first person succeeds with 1 victory point, or only just.

Combat, of course, is a little bit different as well. If you are successful in an attack, the number of victory points you get turn into victory dice. This is added to the base damage dice of the weapon you are using. For example, a sword does 6d damage and if you make a successful attack with 3 victory points, you add 3d to your roll, for a total of 9d. The dice are all d6s and on a 1-4 you do 1 wound to your opponent.

Armour also has a dice rating, and works the Same way. For each 1-4 you roll, you take one less wound. There are also personal body shields and various special maneuvers as well but that is for another time.

Character Creation

There are two ways that you can make characters in Fading Suns. One is a points buy system, which gives you way more options but also is a bit slower to do, especially if you are new to the system. The other is a lifepath system were you choose from various packages depending on what type of character you are. Each package gives some preset stats and skills, plus a few options for you to choose from, reflecting how you lived your life prior to starting adventuring. A noble who grew up in court is a little different to one who grew up landless. Even so, it is a bit more limited than points buy as you can imagine.

There are four groups that your character can come from; Those Who Rule (nobles), Those Who Pray (priests), Those Who Trade (merchants) and Those Who Differ (aliens), at least for the Lifepath version of character creation. There is nothing stopping you creating a peasant through the point buy method, but the setting being what it is, that would come with some major flaws to it.

Everyone has three groups of stats – body, mind and spirit. Body and mind have three stats in each of them – for body it is strength, dexterity and endurance, while for mind it is wits, perception and tech. These all start at a base value of 3 and can increase to a maximum of 8 during character creation (with one exception, one of the alien races can get strength to 10.)

The spirit characteristics are a little different – you have three pairs of stats, those being extrovert/introvert, passion/calm and faith/ego. Each pair can only reach 10 combined, so if one is at 7, the other can only be a 3. You have to decide, then, if you are going to go balanced or favour one over the other. Given that various abilities are keyed off a stat in the pair, you could end up good, bad, or average at them depending on your choice.

For skills you have both natural and learned skills. Natural ones are things like dodge, observe and impress, and everyone starts with 3 ranks in them. Learned ones, such as knowledge skills, crafting, piloting and so on, start with no ranks and require you to train in them first.

That is just a brief run down on how it works without getting into things like psychic abilities, fighting styles, benefices and curses and more.

Next time I shall start on the first character, a noble, using the lifepath method.