Lets Build a World: Part Fifteen: Rivers, Lakes, Races and Cultures

Having complete the weather and terrain for the region, we move on to rivers, lakes and other waterways.

Except for in the harshest of deserts and barren regions, each hex on the regional map will contain waterways of some form; creeks, streams, rivers, ponds or lakes. They are too small to be represented at the regional level though. Major lakes, inland seas and river systems do show up, and it is these we are looking at. These are things like the Nile, the Amazon, the Dead Sea, the Great Lakes, very large and prominent bodies of water.

Inland seas and lakes are fairly similar, with the exception that while both have inflows, only lakes have outflows. Inland seas tend to form in warm, arid regions where evaporation is in equilibrium with inflow. They also tend to form in low laying regions, depressions and basins and the like which traps the water in them. Lakes can form anywhere, even in mountainous regions, and generally in humid regions where there is plenty of water to feed into them and then spill over into an outflow.

For our map, we lack large arid regions that can result in the creation of inland seas. It is suggested that a region would have 1d6-3 (0-3) inland seas, of 2d8 hexes in size.

In general a region will also have 2d6 major lakes, each one of 2d6-2 hexes in size. We kind of lack much room for large lakes given the limited amount of land we have. It is humid enough that they could though, if we have more space.

I will be doing an example of a more land-based region in the future so that we can use lakes and inland seas on it.

What we can do is add some rivers. The suggestion is for 4d6 major rivers per region. We have less, for the aforementioned reason of lack of land. The ones that we will have will also be fairly short.

Rivers start at higher altitudes, in mountains and highlands and major lakes, and flow downhill following the path of least resistance. So on your map, start with connecting lakes to nearby seas or oceans, and then connect mountains to nearby bodies of water, whether seas or lakes. Rivers don’t cross mountain ranges (unless something very unusual is going on). In especially humid regions, a number of short rivers can parallel each other from the mountains to the sea.

Using these guidelines, I sketch in a few major rivers, mostly on the large island in the southwest, as seen below. And with that the waterways are done.

The final part of the regional map is to work out the Human Geography as the book calls it, by which they mean the people and cultures that call it home. It has several parts that can be rolled for, or chosen; races, cultures and kingdoms/states, as well as their locations on the map.

The first step is to work out what races are present in sufficient numbers to form states. Solitary monsters, non-intelligent creatures and those that don’t organise into political or tribal groups are not considered at this stage.

Firstly we work out how many races to roll for – each region has 0-2 (1d3-1) dominate races, 3-6 (1d4+2) major races and 4-16 (4d4) minor races. A dominate race makes up 25%+ of the sentient population of the region, a major race has 5-20% and the minor races are less than 5%. Some races, such as dragons, may skew these numbers, as they may be few in number but rule over a subject population.

Our rolls come up with 2 dominate, 3 major and 10 minor races. Table 19 in the book has a lot of races to roll from, all taken from 2ed. Some are well known, but others are more obscure, such as Tasloi or Wemics. While all races listed can be minor ones, there is a limited number who can be major, and even more limited as to who can be dominate. Of course, as with anything, you can change all that.

We start rolling up, sticking to as is listed. The rolls for dominant races come up with 28; giants and 15; dwarves. Giants are one of those races who can be of a more limited number but who rule over subjects.

The rolls for major races give us humans, tabaxi and giants again. Duplicates can either be rerolled or can represent a variant group. I go with a reroll and get bullywugs. The rolls for minor races give us kobolds, thri-kreen, orcs, ogre-mages, gnomes, aaracokra, tasloi, grell, beholders and ogres.

Given both giants and beholders can rule over subjects, I roll for each to see who they are. The giants end up with ogre subjects, which means there are two groups of ogres, some free and some subjects, which will make things interesting. The beholders end up with lizardmen slaves.

Each race has listed for them habitat types, where they can live. Some, like humans, can be anywhere, but others are limited. Yetis can only be found in mountains or arctic regions for example. If you roll up a race that has no appropriate terrain for it you are meant to roll again. To my mind, I prefer not to – if you just stuck with races being in their normal habitats we’d never have gotten the glorious setting that is Dark Sun. Thri-kreen are meant to only be found in arid tropical and sub-tropical regions but if I want to stick them in a jungle, where they hunt with blowpipes, springing from tree to tree and building mysterious stone temples deep in the jungles, then I should be allowed to. Actually, that sounds like a good idea that I am going to use with the thri-kreen we rolled up.

In addition to land based races, you can also roll from subterranean and marine races. Normally I don’t but in this case I will, because this region has a lot of water for marine races and also as a example of doing so. The seas have 0-1 dominate, 1-3 major and 1-4 minor races while subterranean sees 0-1 dominate, 1-4 major and 1-6 minor races.

There isn’t a whole lot of room on the map for subterranean races, so I only roll for major and minor races, getting 2 of each. Rolling on the subterranean chart gives up drow and duergar as the major races and grimlocks and troglodytes for the minor races. They may not have any contact with the surface world, or they may have plenty. We shall have to decide on that later.

For the marine races, I decide that there will be a dominate race, and roll up 3 major and 3 minor races. The dominate marine race is locathah, the major races are mermen, aquatic elves and giants and the minor races are tritons, ixitxachitl and tako.

So we know who the races are that live in the region and they are an interesting mix. Certainly not your typical fantasy setting, and the best part is no elves. Well, apart from the drow underground and the wet elves at sea, but no elf cultures on the surface. Maybe. They may creep in later, so we’ll have to watch out for that.

The next step is to work out the number of cultures/sub-races and realms that belong to each race. Dominate races have 1D4+1 seperate cultures or sub-races, major races have 1D3 and minor races have 1D2. Each culture/sub-race has 1-5 realms or kingdoms. Realms for dominate races are around 6d6 hexes in size, major races are 4d6 hexes in size while minor races are 1d8 hexes in size. Given we have less land than is normal and back in the world hook stage we got a very balkanised world with no large nations, we might have to adjust that a bit.

Some races, like elves or dwarves, have plenty of sub-races already, while others have none. In theory sub-races are meant to be culturally uniform, no matter where they are in the world, but this is another rule that I tend to play around with. Why would insular wood elves thousands of kilometres apart retain the same culture?

With all that we can start rolling, starting with the dominant races, working out their cultures, realms and then their positions on the map. How exactly you mark it on the map is up to you. You could only mark in where each culture is, or you could try and mark in all the kingdoms. That could result in a lot of them. As way as example, we start with the two dominant races in this region, the giants (with their ogre subjects) and the dwarves.

The giants roll up three cultures, with three, two and one realms in each culture, while the dwarves have four cultures, with four, two, one and two realms in their cultures. Thats seven cultures and fifteen realms already to place on the map. While the realms within cultures typically are close to each other, different cultures may be spread out.

The major races (the humans, tabaxi and bullywugs) each have 3 cultures, while for the minor races, the orcs, gnomes, tasloi and beholders (with the lizardmen slaves) have 2 cultures, and the kobolds, thri-kreen, ogre-mages, aaracokra, grell and ogres have 1 culture each. Between them all they have around 71 realms as well.

Table 20 lets you roll for where on the map the cultures are to be put if you don’t want to decide yourself. The settlement patterns they can follow could be hydrographical (along various water sources), favoured terrain (such as hills or grasslands), favoured climate (such as temperate or tropical), or simply a quadrant of the map.

We start rolling for the giant and dwarf cultures to see where they are. For the giants we get on a 1d100 5 (coastal/seafaring), 11 (riverine) and 18 (grasslands). For the dwarves we get 28 (marshes/swamps), 44 (sub-tropical), 73 (southeastern) and 19 (forests).

Now to fit them on the map. You may have noticed we have a lot of cultures, 30 to be exact, and even more realms, some 86 in total. The bullywugs ended up with the most, with some 12 realms across their 3 cultures, while the kobolds and aaracokra have just 1 small realm each. We also only have a little more than 200 land hexes to distribute them all across. The dominate races are meant to have realms 6d6 in size, but we are going to reduce them to just 6 hexes each. Likewise the major races will have just 3 for their 4d6 hex size realms and the minor races just 1 hex in size for their 1d8 sized realms. That comes out to around 215 hexes in total, so we can just squeeze it in, hopefully. This means there are going to be a lot of very small city-states scattered across the map, which is just fine for the balkanised nature of the world.

Starting with the giants and dwarves, we start to draw them in. The first giant culture, the coastal one, has three realms, making it around 18 hexes in size. The second, riverine culture, has 2 realms, so it will be around 12 hexes, while the third, grassland culture, has just the 1 realm, so it gets six hexes. We do the same for the dwarves. The end map for the dominate cultures looks like this;

1A is an giant culture of 3 realms, 1B of 2 realms and 1C of 1 realm. 2A is a dwarf culture of 2 realms, 2B of 1 realm, 2C of 4 realms and 2D of 2 realms. The dwarven culture that makes up 2C would appear to be some form of maritime power, with its four realms spread over four islands, and with a bunch of minor islands spread between them, which may be a point of conflict between them. From such placement on the map we can begin to form ideas.

Next time we will finish up the map, and the work on the region, by placing all the major and minor cultures, and possibly the marine cultures on the map. And that may get crowded.

Lets Build a World: Part Fourteen: Weather and Terrain

Now that the physical landscape of our region has been mapped out, we turn to the next stage, giving the region its weather, and through that, its terrain.

To begin with, we need to know the climate of the region. On a normal world, you have tropical regions at the equator moving through to arctic at the poles. Of course, various factors may make that differ. On ours, we have less of an axial tilt resulting in a smaller arctic zone. For worlds starting out at this design step you can roll for what climate bands are present. Given we are taking ours from the world map, we can work it out for this region from the world map. The polyhedral maps that come with the book have the climate bands marked on, and from that we can judge where they would be on our map. They end up looking like this;

It is quite a range of climates we have, from the cold subarctic in the north to the warm subtropical in the south, though it is mostly temperate.

Altitude also plays an effect on climate. Higher elevations are cooler than lower ones around it. A mountain range and its foothills, the highlands, drop one climate band, so that in a temperate zone they would be subarctic. The peaks themselves would be two climate bands lower, so in this case they would be classified as arctic.

The following map shows those regions on the map, with the highlands (one band cooler) in orange and the peaks (two bands colder) in grey.

Combining the climate bands, the altitude and the prevailing winds (which we have already mapped out) we can now work out the types of terrain that are present. For each block of terrain, usually between natural boundaries like mountains and seas, we roll to see what the predominate terrain is, based on the climate band and whether the prevailing winds are humid or arid. Arid winds are one that form over large land masses, which we don’t have, so the prevailing winds here will be humid.

The predominate terrain for each area isn’t the only type that will be present, it is just the most prevalent. For example, arid sub-tropical regions could have barrens, deserts, scrub/brush or grasslands. One will be predominant, such as scrub/brush, but the other types will be present in patches throughout it.

Starting on the large island, we roll for the mountain peaks, which are either humid/subarctic or humid/arctic, depending how you read the rules in the guidebook. As these are medium mountains in a temperate zone, at one point it says that they are treated as humid/subarctic while in a temperate zone, despite it only being one climate band down. We will go with that, which gives us options for marsh/swamp, light forest, medium forest, moors or glaciers. Of the options given, swamp/marsh is not allowed in medium mountains, but the rest are (though there might be some small patches of swamps in valleys.) On a 1D8, we roll a 5, which gives us Light Forest. The mountains are dominated by needleleaf evergreens, like in taiga forests. There might also be medium forest, moors and glaciers around as well.

The foothills to the east of it are humid/subarctic as well. On a 1D8, we roll a 6, which gives us medium forest, denser broadleaf evergreens. The interior of the island is turning out to be one larger forest, one that thins out the higher you climb.

We continue on doing the same for the rest of the map, resulting in plenty of forests, but also regions of marshes and moors and even some tundra, glaciers and steppes. The final map looks like this;

Next time we move onto the rivers and lakes of the region – and the inhabitants.

Lets Build: Pantheon #2 with the World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E)

Time for another one off world building exercise with the World Builder’s Guidebook, rolling up and designing another pantheon.

For this one I am skipping the first step – the type of pantheon it is. It may link into the previous one that I designed or it may not. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Starting with the size, we roll Small, and the number of deities in it comes out as 1 Greater, 3 Intermediate, 3 Lesser and 2 Demi-powers. 9 all told. A decent number to be working with.

The organisation itself rolls up as Racial. This means that each race (or culture) has one deity who embodies the virtues of that people. So the God of Oceans and Trade will be worshiped by a people who are sailors and traders while the God of Dwarves, if of the traditional variety, would have the portfolios of mining, crafting and war. A good literary example of that is The Belgariad. This sounds an interesting option. We can roll up a bunch of different portfolios for the various deities and work out what kind of people their worshipers are from that.

Our roll for the involvement of the pantheon comes out as Moderate. Basically an average level of involvement. Sometimes they are involved in their own affairs and sometimes they are looking after their followers. Their most important followers get guidance and help and while avatars aren’t common, they won’t hesitate to manifest in times of danger or opportunity. So they are around, as needed, but not all the time.

Now lets see who makes up the pantheon.

Greater Deity; We roll up 3 portfolios for them and get War, Death and Sun. An interesting mix. It has some Aztec vibes about it. It is made even more interesting when rolling up their alignment and gender. They come out as a chaotic-evil goddess. Chaotic-evil believes in might makes right, with strongmen ruling by fear. If the most powerful deity in the setting believes this, and she has the domains of war, death and sun, the neighbours of their culture had best be watching out.

Intermediate Deity #1: They have two portfolios which roll up as Agriculture and Fire, and they are a chaotic-good female deity. Agriculture and fire make it sounds like a civilised community, of growing crops and cooking food, and being chaotic would indicate a less centralised society. Shades of The Shire by the sounds of it.

Intermediate Deity #2: They have two portfolios, Prosperity and Guardianship, and they are a lawful-good female deity. Much more centralised than the previous deity, they value guarding what they have and building a well ordered, peaceful and prosperous society.

Intermediate Deity #3: They have three portfolios, Fortune, Earth and Magic, and they are a neutral-good male deity. Thinking about this, I can see a way to work them all together – the earth, or more specifically, the land, gives the people who follow this deity both magic and good fortune. Outside of that geographical region the effects of it are not as strong.

Lesser Deity #1: They have the domains of Moon and Wisdom, and they are a lawful-good female deity. In effect they stand in opposition to the Greater Deity, but they are much weaker, both the goddess and her people. In addition, they value knowledge and understanding over war, but unlike the greater deity and her followers, they have friends.

Lesser Deity #2: They have the domains of War and Fortune, and are a neutral-good male deity. His people are warriors and are seemingly blessed with good luck in battle. Things just seem to go right for them, or wrong for the enemy, which helps offset their smaller size.

Lesser Deity #3: They have the domain of Wind, and are a chaotic-neutral female deity. The winds are fickle, blowing a soothing breeze one minute and destructive storms the next. So too are her followers, possibly creatures of the air who never stay in one place long, and who are regarded with some suspicion wherever they go.

Demipower #1: They have the domain of Darkness, and are a chaotic-neutral male power. The shrouded lands of the dark are a place of dreams and of nightmares, wherein dwells the one who brought it into being. Not a true god, nor a mortal either, he walks the divide between..

Demipower #2: They have the domain of Oceans, and are a chaotic-evil male power. From the oceans come reavers and raiders, who strike the shores seeking plunder and bringing death and destruction. Like the power of Darkness, they are not a true god, but seek to elevate themselves through the death their followers reap.

So there we have an interesting collection of deities, and one that I can work with. In fact I plan on expanding on it in further posts, of the powers and the cultures and races that follow them. So keep an eye out for that coming soon.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Alien Character – Vasaati the Ghost

Previously we have covered the first three archetypes of Fading Suns characters – Noble, Priest and Merchant. Now we come to the last of them – Those Who Differ. The Aliens.

There are a number of alien species in the Fading Suns universe, but only three of them are an option in the core rulebook, those of the Obun, Ukar and the Vorox.

The Ur-Obun and the Ur-Ukar are technically the one species who followed and worshiped the mysterious Anunnaki long ago. There was some kind of schism or war between the Anunnaki and the loosing side took the Ukar from their homeworld and planted them on a harsher desert world millennia ago. Technically they are elves in space.

The Obun are a peaceful, philosophical race with a natural talent towards psychics. While most alien species are not well treated by humans, the Obun are generally respected as advisors and councillors, and one is a trusted advisor to the Emperor. They even have their own sect of the Church. So, yeah, your typical elf.

The Ukar are different. They are a warrior race, raised on a harsh world, only to fall foul of the humans and lose the following conflict with them. Embittered, divided and with long running feuds between clans, they are generally seen as violent, murderous thugs, assassins and criminals. It isn’t always without reason either, and those skills are valued. Think dark elves – and they even live underground as well.

The last of the alien races are the Vorox. Think of a cross between a lion and a bear with six limbs with poisonous claws, and just as big, all with the ability to think. Considered big dumb brutes with unwavering loyalty and trained as elite shock troops by many. They remove their poisonous claws to show their civilised nature, all except for the nobles who are allowed to keep one as a mark of their rank. Very much murder machines.

I’m not a fan of your typical elves, who have been overused and worse, which rules out the Obun. And while Vorox are fun (and borderline broken) we don’t need another combat specialist. So that leaves the Ukar, a race of embittered and touchy criminals and assassins, and that sounds fun.

Our character is going to be one of those sort; Vasaati the Ghost is a killer and criminal who fell in with Lady Isabel. Surprisingly she found a human that actual somewhat understood her people and could speak her language, and a person that had use for her skills.

All Ukar have the same Upbringing, which modifies their characteristics slightly from those of humans. They have a base of 4 for dexterity and tech and a maximum of 9 for both strength and endurance. Their upbringing gives them Strength +1, Dexterity +1, Perception +2, Passion or Calm +1, Psi 1 and Urge 1, Fight +1, Sneak +1, Knavery 1, Speak Ukarish, Speak Urthish and Survival 1. They have the blessing of Sensitive Touch (+2 Perception to discern touched objects) and the curses of Bitter (-2 Calm when dealing with humans) and Ostracism (Mild.) For Vasaati we go with Calm as I see her more as a cool and calculating type.

Next we come to her Apprenticeship. Ukari can join a guild her, going down the Merchant route if they wish. Otherwise they can choose between Chieftain or Warrior/Outlaw. I don’t see Vasaati as being the type who leads so for her it is Warrior/Outlaw. That gives her Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Passion or Calm +1, Dodge +1, Fight or Melee +2, Impress +1, Shoot +1, Knavery 2, Lore (Poisons) 1, Stoic Mind 1 and Survival 1. For her we choose Calm again and also Fight – Vasaati prefers using her hands to knives.

Early Career has the same two choices so we continue down the Warrior/Outlaw line. That gives her Strength +2, Dexterity +1, Endurance +2, Perception +1, Extrovert or Introvert +1, Passion or Calm +2, Faith or Ego +1, Dodge +1, Fight or Melee +2, Impress +1, Shoot +1, Knavery 1, Lore (Poisons) 1, Stoic Mind 1, Survival 1 and Benefice: Family Ties (3pts). They also choose between Jox Kai Von Kick Boxing (Martial Fist, Martial Kick, Martial Hold) or Kraxi Knife Fencing (Parry, Thrust, Slash). Vasaati goes with Introvert, Calm and Ego – continuing on with the cold and calculating route, but with a strong sense of self. Once more they choose Fight and take the martial arts options – Vasaati is deadly without weapons.

For her two extra stages, Vaasati goes with the Cohort Tour of Duty followed by Another Tour of Duty. That gives her 4 points to put into characteristics and 21 to put into skills. For her characteristics, she puts 2 points into Wits, 1 into Perception and 1 into Ego. For the skills she goes Sneak +4, Observation +3, Knavery +2, Search +4, Streetwise +3, Inquiry +3 and Lore (Poisons) +2.

For her two Worldly Benefits, the first is Promotions and Rewards (1000 firebirds rank increased by 1 level) and the second is Friends (choose 4pts from Ally, Contact, Gossip Network, Retinue, Passage Contact or Refuge). Vaasati puts 2pts into Refuge (the equivalent of a small farm), 1 point into Contact (a weapon and poison supplier) and 1 point into Ally (a Decados knight). One thing to note is that the core rulebook does not show the ranks that aliens can gain

She spends her starting money on a dirk (4 firebirds), a heavy revolver (250 firebirds) with 30 rounds (30 firebirds), studded leather armour with plastic studs (15 firebirds), a squawker (50 firebirds), 3 doses of plox blade venom (75 firebirds) and 3 doses of grixi poision (150 firebirds). That gives her 426 leftover firebirds. The plox blade venom can paralyse those struck by it, while grixi causes excessive bleeding in its victims that is hard to staunch.

Vaasati’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Strength 7, Dexteiry 8, Endurance 6, Wits 5, Perception 7, Tech 4, Passion 1/Calm 7, Introvert 4/Extrovert 1, Faith 1/Ego 5, Psi 1, Urge 1, Wyrd 7, Vitality 11.

Natural Skills: Impress 5, Melee 3, Charm3, Observe 6, Shoot 5, Dodge 5, Sneak 8, Vigor 3, Fight 8.

Learned Skills: Knavery 6, Survival 3, Lore (Poisons) 4, Stoic Mind 2, Search 4, Streetwise 4, Inquiry 3, Speak Ukarish, Speak Urthish.

Blessing: Sensitive (+2 Perception to discern touched items).

Curse: Bitter (-2 Calm when dealing with Humans), Ostracism (Mild).

Benefice: Cohort Charter, Rank (3pts), Family Ties.

Equipment: Dirk, Heavy Revolver with 30 rounds, Plastic Studded Leather Armour, Squawker, 3 x Plox Blade Venom, 3 x Grixi.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Merchant Character – Crosswire

Previously we have created Lady Ysabel, a Hazat Noble, and Brother Octavian, a Brother Battle Priest, so now we move on to Those Who Trade – the merchants.

Merchants is an inadequate description rally, as they cover a wide variety of professions. The guilds are the remnants of the corporations of the Second Republic (and dream of the Third), but have an important role in the Empire. Snubbed by nobles, seen as sinners by priests, nonetheless, the services they provide are ones that neither priest or noble can do without.

There are five main guilds, as well as many smaller ones, and even independents, freelancers beholden to none, though that leaves them without support should things go wrong. For freelancers, it is beast to make them through custom creation, but as usual, we are sticking with the main Guilds.

The Charioteers control the spacelanes. They hold a monopoly on the jumpcodes that operate the jumpgates, and are master pilots and master traders, travelling from world to world with cargo both legal and illegal. Since they can pack up and move so easily, often it is a case of buyer beware.

The Engineers (or Supreme Order of Engineers) maintain tech, recreate lost tech and discover their own innovations as well. Between that, and their habit of installing cybernetics in their bodies, they tend not to be on the best of terms with the Church. Regardless, when it comes to technology, they are the masters. Even if they have a few too many mad scientists in their ranks.

The Scravers started out as salvagers and reclaimers of old tech, often in ruins from the Second Republic, but have moved on beyond that. If you can’t find what you are looking for, legally, the Scravers can find it for you. At a price. They get involved with a lot of shady operations, and with the best enforcers to protect it. There is a lot of the mafia about them.

The Muster (or Chainers) specialise in the trade of people. They are a cross between a trade union, and intermediary job agency and a private military contractor, hiring out skilled workers like technicians, engineers, construction workers and mercenaries. However, it is their trade in slaves that most people associate them with.

The Reeves (or Grey Faces) are quiet, behind the scenes types who are reputed to be the richest guild around. They are a guild of lawyers and bankers, and as a result they have hooks in pretty much everyone. When they call in favours, few can refuse.

We’ve got Lady Ysabel to handle the talking and Brother Octavian to handle fighting, so what I’m looking for is someone to handle the tech. In other games I’ve played characters who were combat engineers named Crosswire, so we are going to continue that here. While Engineers, Scravers or Chainers could all work, we are going to go with the Engineers.

First off we need to find out where Crosswire came from in his Upbringing. There are two parts to that, the Environment and the Class. For the Environment, they could come from a City, a Town or the Country. For Crosswire, we are going with City which gives Wits +2, Perception +2, Observe +1, Inquiry 1 and Streetwise 1. The second part is Class, either Wealthy, Average or Poor. Crosswire started with nothing so for him it is Poor. That gives Faith or Ego +1, Knavery 1 and Streetwise or Survival 1. For Crosswire, he had to learn to survive on his own, so Ego and Streetwise are the choices we go with.

At some point Crosswire began his Apprenticeship, either in an Academy of the best and brightest, a Guildhall, or on the Streets, where they have to learn the hard way. The last, The Streets, fits Crosswire’s background. It gives him Dexterity +2, Wits +1, Tech +2, Shoot +1, Inquiry 1, Read Urthtech, Tech Redemption (choose speciality) 2, Science (choose speciality) 2, Streetwise 1 and Think Machine 1. It also has the blessing of Innovative (+2 Tech when trying to invent something new and the curse of Unnerving (-2 extrovert when dealing with serfs.) For his Tech Redemption he goes with Mech, allowing him to fix, upgrade or jury-rig al kinds of mechanical devices, from a simple as scissors to as complex as generators. His Science disciple is Engineering, relating to the design and construction of buildings, vehicles, etc. Or in his case, the destruction of them.

With his Apprenticeship done, Crosswire moves onto his early career, being commissioned into his guild and getting his first jobs. He can pick Starship Duty (Pilot, Engineer or Gunner), Mercenary (Soldier or Combat Engineer), Scholar, Scientist Or Seedy/Illegal (Thief or Spy). That choice is easy having already decided what type of character Crosswire is – Combat Engineer. That nets him Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +2, Wits +1, Perception +1, Tech +2, Passion or Calm +1, Combat Skill (Fight or Melee) +1, Observe +1, Shoot +2, Drive (choose speciality) 2, Remedy 1, Tech Redemption (choose Primary) 3, Tech Redemption (choose secondary) 2, Science (Engineering) 1, Warfare (Artillery) 1, Warfare (Demolitions) 1 and a Benefice – Rank (Associate).

For his choices, Crosswire picks Calm over Passion – having a steady hand when dealing with explosives is kind of important. Combat Skill goes with Fight, Drive is Aircraft, his primary Tech Redemption is Mech and the secondary is High-Tech, allowing him to work on things like Think Machines (ie Computers) and Starship Drives.

Looking at his Extra Stages, Crosswire also goes down the Imperial Tours, taking the Cohort Tour of Duty as Brother Octavian did, with the 2 Attribute points, 11 skill points and the Worldly Benefit. For his second he goes with something a little different – Cybernetics. That allows him to install 20 pts of Cybernetic Devices. The Church may not like it, but as he is a member of the Engineers guild and a Imperial Cohort they are just going to have to live with it.

For his Cohort Tour of Duty, Crosswire puts 1 point in both Dexterity and Perception for his attributes, and 2 points in Shoot, Focus, Science (Cybernetics), Search and Read (Urthish) and 1 in Think Machines. For his Worldy Benefit, he selects Rich Rewards, giving him 2000 firebirds in money.

Now onto the Cybernetics. They are a really interesting system in Fading Suns as you basically build your own. You start out by working out its function (what it does) and then add in things like how it was implanted, how obvious it is, what it is made of, how well it was made, how it is powered and more. From there you can work out how many points it takes to build, and how incompatible it is.

There is only so much cybernetics that a person can install, and that is governed by incompatibility. Your Ego determines how much incompatibility you can have between all your cybernetics. In Crosswire’s case, he has 4 Ego, which gives him 14 incomparability points.

There are some already designed in the book to use, or to use as examples, which is what we are doing. An Engineer’s Eye is designed to make people see better, and looks a bit like a monocle, but one that can easily be removed. Crosswire’s is a mostly the same, except his is an actual eye implant.

So lets start with its function. It provides +1 Perception, but only when using sight. Cybernetics is the only way to boost stats above the starting value. Normally increased attributes cost 2 points per boost, but it only functions some of the time, it is 1 per boost. In this case 1 pts total. In addition it costs 1 incompatibility per boost.

In addition it has magnifier/telescope in built, for 1 point and 1 incompatibility, and ultraviolet vision, allowing him to see at night, for 2 points and 2 incompatibility. Total so far is 4 points and 4 incompatibility.

Next we work out how it is attached. In this case it is organic – wired into the body, connected to nerves and the like. It can’t be safely removed or repaired without surgery, and damaging it hurts Crosswire. The device gets 2 points back because of that, reducing the cost to 2 points but still 4 incompatibility.

Lastly is considering its power source. In this case it is self-powered, at 1 point and 1 incompatibility. We aren’t considering other options, like hiding its nature, making it of advanced materials or improving its design. The final product costs us 3 points and 5 incompatibility, leaving 17 points and 9 incompatibility left.

For the second piece, we are going with something much better and something that would make priests foam at the mouth should they ever find out – proscribed Second Republic technology. In this case it was some old, but functioning, nanotech from the Second Republic era that Crosswire discovered called Gemini Body Conversion and that he injected into himself, devices that totally rewrote his muscular and nervous system.

Lets start with its function, boosting Strength, Agility and Endurance by 2. That costs 4 points and 2 incompatibility each. It is self-powered at 1 and 1. It is also nano-tech which costs 3 points and 2 incompatibility. Nano-tech devices are counted as hidden, so it is not obvious to onlookers. All of that so far adds up to 16 points and 9 incompatibility. That is rather expensive, so he reduces the cost by 2 by making it organic and 2 more by also making it proscribed. The more fanatical members (ie Inquisitors) are liable to burn first and ask questions later. The final cost is 12 points and 9 incompatibility.

Crosswire has now used up all his incompatibility, but only 15 of his 20 points. So what happens to the rest? Well, he can increase related stats by +1 for 3 points and skills by +1 for 2 points. Crosswire decided to put 1 point in Tech and 1 point in Science (Cybernetics).

Now comes time to spend his 2000 firebirds. First off he spends 500 on a standard energy shield. The basic ones only work with light clothing so he spends 300 on Snythsilk, the best that can be bought, rare second Republic technology. The energy has a rating of 5/10, meaning it activates when 5 damage is received and soaks up all damage up to 10 taken. Any more or less than that has to be stopped by his armour.

In addition he purchases a knife (3 fb), a set of mech tools (5 fb) and a squawker (50) before getting to the good stuff – weapons and explosives.

First is a Demolition rig for 200 firebirds, a set of explosives and detonators he can configure in a variety of sizes and power. It comes with 100 dice of explosives, meaning he can make a very big bang if he wants. In addition he purchases 2 regular grenades (50 fb each) and 2 more powerful plasma grenades (100 fb each).

For a firearm he takes an Imperial rifle (200 fb) with 60 extra rounds (20fb) and backs that up with a short range Flame gun (150 fb) with 5 extra canisters of fuel (25fb). On a 1 on a dice roll, the damage can leak through both shields and armour. it also does ongoing damage until put out.

All up that costs 1753 firebirds, leaving him 247 in reserve.

Crosswire’s final character looks like;

Attributes: Body 4(6), Dexterity 6(8), Endurance 5(7), Wits 7, Perception 7(9 with sight), Tech 8, Passion 1/Calm 4, Introvert 1/Extrovert 3, Faith 1/Ego 4, Wyrd 3, Vitality 12.

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

Learned Skills: Inquiry 2, Streetwise 3, Knavery 1, Tech Redemption (Mech) 5, Tech Redemption (High Tech) 2, Science (Engineering) 4, Science (Cybernetics) 3, Think Machine 2, Drive (Aircraft) 2, Remedy 1, Warfare (Artillery) 1, Warfare (Demolition) 1, Search 2, Focus 2, Speak Urthish, Read Urthish, Urthtech.

Blessing: Innovative (+2 Tech when inventing something new)

Curses: Unnerving (-2 Extrovert around superstitious people)

Benefices: Cohort Charter, Rank (3pts, Apprentice)

Equipment: Standard Energy Shield, Synthsilk, Mech Tools, Knife, Squawker, Demolition Rig, Flamegun with 5 canisters, Imperial Rifle with 60 rounds, 2 Grenades, 2 Plasma Grenades, 247 Firebirds

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 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.

Lets Build: A Dwarf Stronghold #2

After the last stronghold, I feel need to expunge the shame of it being a gully dwarf stronghold and make a proper dwarven one. For this, it will be a mix of rolls and choosing options, a perfectly valid option given in the book.

Stronghold Name

The stronghold name will contain three prefixes to go with the suffix. Our rolls net us Far, Nal and Nor. For the suffix we get Gak. Mixing them up we get Norfarnalgak. It sounds decent but I want a little more, so I make some miror changes to get Norzarngak.

Subraces Present

Rather than roll on the subrace table, I am going to choose – in this case mixed subraces. There are more than one type of dwarf present in this stronghold. I will still roll to see which is dominant, and how many, and what type, of other subraces are present.

We roll 58 on 1d100, which gives us Hill Dwarves as the dominant subrace. A 4 on 1d4 means 4 other subraces are also present, so a very cosmopolitan dwarf stronghold.

Hill dwarves have 3d100+100 adult males present. The roll for that gives us 188, for 288 adult males. That will also give us 144 adult females and 72 children in the fortress.

When other subraces are present, you are meant to modify the dominant race to reduce their numbers – in the case of 4 others, we are meant to reduce it by 75%, but I keep the old numbers. I want a big stronghold. Well, as big as a dwarf stronghold can be.

To find out who else lives in the stronghold, and how many of them, we roll on the Hill Dwarf Subrace Table. The first roll gives us 3d6 mountain dwarves, the second gives us 4d10 gully dwarves (we just cant seem to escape them), the third 2d8 duergar and the fourth 1d12 deep dwarves. We roll 12 mountain dwarves, 31 gully dwarves, 7 duergar and 10 deep dwarves. These are the adult males, so there will be more women and children.

If we had reduced the size of the dominate subrace as suggested, we would have 216 less adult male hill dwarves but only 60 adult males from other subraces, which would make a huge population drop. That is why I ignored it – there are few enough dwarves in a stronghold already to justify that.

Overall Alignment

An 8 on 2d6 for the alignment of the stronghold gets us Lawful Good – very much typical of the LG Hill Dwarves. That isn’t to say that everyone in the Stronghold is LG, but the overall outlook of it. Besides LG dwarves, there would also be Chaotic Good, Neutral Good and Lawful Neutral ones in smaller numbers. Other alignments might be present, but they would be very rare and would keep their alignment hidden.

As discussed in the next part, the other subraces have their own enclaves in Norzarngak, and these may have differing attitudes and ways of life than the rest of the stronghold. Rolling for them, the deep dwarves are overall Neutral and the mountain dwarves are Lawful Good. The duergar turn out to be Lawful Neutral, discarding the Lawful Evil ways of their subrace. The gully dwarves are also Neutral, being less chaotic than the rest of their kind. It seems the hill dwarves of Norzarngak have had a positive influences on their duergar and gully dwarf cousins.

Type of Stronghold

What is the size and importance of Norzarngak? One option we have is to have a primary stronghold for the hill dwarves, and have smaller, secondary ones for the subraces, as trading enclaves or family strongholds. These may end up wildly different to the main stronghold itself, which could make for some interesting adventure hooks.

For Norzarngak itself, we roll a 2 on a 1d100, which means this is a major stronghold, a capital city which may rule over other, lesser strongholds. It also means that the population is doubled – in this case 576 adult male hill dwarves, 24 mountain dwarves, 62 gully dwarves, 14 duergar and 20 deep dwarves. These are just the adult males, for a total of 696 adult males.

For the others, I decide that the mountain dwarves belong to a trade enclave, linking Norzarngak and their home civilisation. The duergar belong to a family stronghold, a single family of 14 males, 7 females and 3 children living in their own part of the stronghold.

For the deep dwarves, I let the dice decide and it comes out as an outpost – outposts have a 35% chance to be mines, and I roll an 01, so this is one of those. The deep dwarves (20 males, 10 females, 5 children) live in the deepest parts of the stronghold and control the local mine, which certainly gives them some power in the stronghold. The question is, what type of mine is it. An early chapter in the Complete Book of Dwarves allows you to roll up mines and see how rich they are. A 1d100 gives us 90 on the Mining Products Table – a silver mine. To see the quality of it, we roll a 1d10 on the Ore Quality Table and get 10, as good as it gets. A 10 allows us to roll again, and on a second 10 it is a pure vein, otherwise it requires smelting. Our second roll is only a 9. Close, but not quite. This mine produces smelted ore equal to 2000 silver coins each week per miner. This, then, is the main source of Norzarngak’s wealth.

The gully dwarves I don’t roll for. They live in the general populace, and I have a few ideas for them to expand on.

The Age of the Stronghold

A major stronghold has been around 2d10 generations. In Norzarngak’s case that is 12 generations, each of 350 years, or 4,200 years. Norzarngak is old, and well established. The deep dwarves mine has been around 1d6-1 generations, or 4 generations – 1,520 years. The mountain dwarf trade enclave has been around 1d4-2 generations, or 2 generations – 800 years. The duergar family stronghold has been around 1d6-1 generations. I decide they have been here 4 generations as well, or 1600 years. They arrived around the same time as the deep dwarves.

Government

On a 1d100, we get a 81 for government type. Checking the government table, that results in an oligarchy, an elite group of dwarves elected or selected on the basis of their wealth to rule. These could be drawn from nobles, guilds or merchants, the only requirement being wealth. As such, I can see some representation from the deep dwarves, on the account of their mines, and possibly mountain dwarves as well, in addition to the hill dwarves who remain the majority of the oligarchic council.

For the other enclaves, the mountain dwarves are a theocracy. A priest runs their trade enclave, obviously a dwarven god of trade. The deep dwarves are feudal. A deep dwarf noble is in charge of the mine and all its workers. Meanwhile the duergar are a guild. A guild master runs their small family stronghold, which means the family are all likely part of the same guild. Thinking it over, and trying to integrate them into Norzarngak, I decide that they are the Guild of Silversmiths. They turn the silver mined by the deep dwarves into works of value and intricate design. While each enclave is ruled in its own way, they all full under the jurisdiction of the oligarchic council of the stronghold. The gully dwarves are, as mentioned, just part of the general stronghold.

Attitude

Now to see how this rich, oligarchic stronghold interacts with the world beyond. Our first 1d20 roll gives us 15, isolationist, but our previous stronghold was one of those, so we are going to try again. Especially given we know that it trades with other dwarves at the least. A second roll is a 9 – friendly. Well, as friendly as dwarves get. They will most likely have more dealings with other races. Only 50% of the adult population is part of the militia, but given the size of the stronghold, that is still more than 500 basic members of the militia.

I decide that the enclaves may also have their own attitudes as well, which might make for a more interesting story for the stronghold. The mountain dwarves are expansionist, with 100% of the adults in the militia. Expansionists societies want to grow and move into new areas, even if it means going to war. It certainly adds an interesting new dynamic to the stronghold – the small religious trader enclave of mountain dwarves agitating for a more aggressive foreign policy to the friendly and more numerous hill dwarwves.

The deep dwarves are dispossessed – they lost their ancestral lands and, though few in number, still wish to reclaim. We need to roll on the war table to find out who drove them from their homes into exile. We actually roll 100 on 1d100, which means three races were involved. They turn out to be ogres, trolls and drow, though whether they were working together or separate we can work our later. Lastly, I decide that the duergar were also dispossessed – they arrived at around the same time as the deep dwarves, so it makes sense that some great war 15 or 16 centuries before in the deeper parts of the world drove the remnants of their civilisation to seek refuge elsewhere. Both the deep dwarves and duergar have 50-100% of their adult population in the militia. Given their background, and desire to reclaim their ancestral lands, 100% sounds appropriate.

Resources

Norzarngak is large and powerful, and probably wealthy. To see how wealthy we roll a 1d20 and add 2 for being primarily hill dwarves and 3 for being a major stronghold. The result is 24 – rich. There is great wealth there and even the lowest dwarf is exceedingly well off. Starting dwarf characters get a bonus +1d10x10 gp. A starting fighter normally gets 50-200 gp to start with, but one from Norzarngak gets another 10-100 on top of that.

I don’t roll for the enclaves in this case. The wealth of the stronghold is shared around between all, even the gully dwarves.

Relationship with other Player Character Races

As a friendly stronghold of lawful good alignment and with a lawful good race, Norzarngak rolls 1d20-9 to figure out its relationships with the other player character races nearby. They turn out to be friendly with humans, gnomes and halflings, meaning members of those races visit regularly, trade is brisk and some may even live among them. For the elves, they roll cautious but I downgrade that to merely indifferent. I’d rather steer away from the more antagonistic attitude between elves and dwarves that is often portrayed. In this case they are neutral and businesslike. Trade is done, and maybe a few elven merchants live in Norzarngak, but few other elves come to visit all that much.

The other enclaves have their own attitudes towards the other races. For the mountain dwarves, they roll a 1d20+1, due to their expansionist attitude, though their lawful good nature tones that down. They turn out to be indifferent towards gnomes and halflings, no doubt seeing little threat from them, but cautious towards humans and elves. While gnomes and halflings may visit the trade enclave, humans and elves generally aren’t allowed without close supervision.

The deep dwarves down in the mines roll an unmodified 1d20 due to their neutrality and attitude. They are friendly towards the gnomes, indifferent towards halflings and cautious about elves and humans. They welcome gnomes and their may even be some living down in the mines. If a halfling actually wanted to venture down in the mines, they would be allowed to but humans and elves would be frowned upon, though not actively barred.

The lawful neutral nature of Norzarngak’s duergar gives them a 1d20-1 roll. In something of a surprise, they turn out to be friendly to humans, indifferent to halflings and gnomes, but cautious to elves. None of the enclaves seem to be big fans of the elves.

The gully dwarves, once again, follow the attitudes of the general stronghold.

War and Peace with other Races

Just because the stronghold has a general friendly outlook doesn’t mean their can’t be war. Normally they roll a 1d20-5 on the War/Peace table, meaning they may be in an uneasy peace that may erupt into war, but additional factors have to be taken into account. The disposed deep dwarves and duergar would roll a 1d20+10 and the expansionist mountain dwarves would roll a 1d20+5, making peace all but impossible and war likely. However, having the enclaves be involved in wars but not the stronghold itself would make little sense. The more aggressive nature of the enclaves pushed the the roll back to a straight 1d20 for the overall stronghold I decide. The result comes up as 11 – an uneasy peace. Now to find out who the uneasy peace is – a roll of 1d100 comes up as a 17 which reveals the enemy as drow. That should have been a fairly obvious choice from the history of the deep dwarves and duergar. We also need to find out how long the peace has held. That is a 1d8 roll on the peace table, which is normally a 1d10 roll, meaning always have been at peace is out of the question. The roll comes up with 3d10 years – as recently as 11 years before there had been conflict between Norzarngak and the drow. A few more rolls finds out that war had gone on for 5 generations, or around 1750 years before comings to its end, a steady war of border skirmishers and raids during which time the homes of the deep dwarves and duergar were overrun.

Having problems with just one race doesn’t seem enough through. We need a bit more for the purposes of adventures, so I will roll up two more enemy races and find out what trouble has happened with them.

The first are beholders, always troublesome neighbors. Currently there is a peace with them as well, the conflict having ended 31 years prior after a 6 year long invasion.

Lastly are hobgoblins, and it turns out there is an active war going on with them, it having been going on 34 years currently. It started just after the war with the beholders began, so there may be a link there. Now the other wars have ended, the dwarves have more resources available and the war is escalating in nature.

Militia

There is a war going on and so we need to know what Norzarngak has to fight it with. While a friendly stronghold with only 50% of the adult hill dwarf population in the militia, there are still 864 adults (576 male, 288 female) in the stronghold. Half of that is 432 milita.

Hill dwarves have elite (13) morale and are normally equipment with chain mail and shields, but because Norzarngak is rich, they are able to outfit all of them in plate mail. For weapons, it is a mix, with each dwarf having two weapons. A fixed percentage of the militia is equipped with each combo, so for instance 25% of them have axes and hammers, and 10% have axes and heavy crossbows.

Hill dwarf leaders are equipped with full plate armour and shields, and there are the following ones; 10 2nd-6th level warriors, 2 4th level warriors, 2 6th level warriors, 2 3rd-6th/4th-7th warrior/priests, 1 8th level warrior, 1 7th level warrior, 1 6/7th level warrior/priest and 1 4/4th level warrior/priest. In total they have 432 militia and 20 leaders.

The enclaves have their own small forces of militia as well, ready to back up the main force.

There are 36 adult mountain dwarves (24 male, 12 female), all of who are in their militia. Given they are expansionist, they get +2 morale, increasing theirs to 15. They only get 1 leader, a 2nd-6th level warrior. The militia also have plate mail and shields, with the leader having full plate. In total they have 36 militia and 1 leader.

There are 21 adult duergar (14 male, 7 female), all of who are in their militia, all equipped with plate mail and shields, with elite (13) morale. For whatever reason, duergar and gully dwarf militias get a lot more leaders than the other subraces. This duergar militia has 5 2nd level warriors and 2 4th level warriors in full plate. In total they have 21 militia and 7 leaders.

There are 30 adult deep dwarves (20 male, 10 female), all of who are in their militia, all equipped with plate mail and shields, with elite (13) morale. In theory they aren’t meant to get any leaders until they have 40 members of the militia but we will give them 1 3rd level warrior in full plate. In total they have 30 militia and 1 leader.

Special Units

A stronghold can have special types of forces, basically the kits described in the books such as Battleragers and Hearth Guards, totaling 10-20% of the total number of male dwarves in the stronghold, which are in addition to the regular members of the militia.

Norzarngak has 346 adult males in the militia and I am giving them the full 20% they can have. Given how large and wealthy the stronghold is, they can afford it, and the current war also would obviously also mean more would be needed and available.

That gives them 69 special units, which can come from any subrace. I am not going to split them up as normally I would assign them from the pool as needed, but each subraces would have certain kits they would favour other others, as follows.

The Hill Dwarves favour warrior kits, like the Animal Master, Hearth Guard (a female warrior kit), Highborn (nobles and rulers), and Sharpshooters. There are also some Diplomats (thief kit) given their relations with other races, and the occasional warrior/thief kit like Traders and Vermin Slayers.

The only gully dwarves that serve in the militia are actually a few individuals who are actual special units, and they favour thief and warrior/thief kits like the Pest Controller and Vermin Slayer.

Given the religious nature of their trade enclave, the mountain dwarves favour priests and warrior/priest kits. I have allocated two members of the speical units to them – a Ritual Priest who rules the enclave and a Trader who oversees the trading done by it.

The duergar, being a bit more stealthy than others dwarves, like thief and warrior/thief kits, especially Wayfinders, warrior/thieves who specialise in exploring in an effort to find ways back down to their lost homes.

Like the hill dwarves, the deep dwarves favour warrior kits, and also have one assigned special unit – a Highborn, the feudal ruler of the mine enclave and the Uncrowned King of their lost stronghold who yearns to reclaim his birthright.

War Machines

With a bit more than 500 members of the militia, Norzarngak gets to roll 10 times on the war machines table, resulting in 9 war machines. We give them 2 grinders, pedal powered machines equipped with a number of huge rotating blades designed to roll down tunnel and chop up enemies, 2 heavy ballista and 5 light ballista.

Animals

In addition to regular dwarves, Norzarngak is also defender by brown bears, with 2d4 bears forming part of its defence per Animal Master in the stronghold.

Conclusion

There you have Norzarngak in all its glory, a wealthy, large and fairly open city full of many dwarves of different kinds. There are 576 adult male hill dwarves, 288 adult female hill dwarves, 144 hill dwarf children, 20 adult hill dwarf militia leaders, 24 adult male mountain dwarves, 12 adult female mountain dwarves, 6 mountain dwarf children, 1 adult mountain dwarf militia leader, 14 adult male duergar, 7 adult female duergar, 3 duergar children, 7 adult duergar militia leaders, 20 adult male deep dwarves, 10 adult female deep dwarves, 5 deep dwarf children, 1 deep dwarf militia leader, 62 adult male gully dwarves, 31 adult female gully dwarves, 15 gully dwarf children and 69 special units of various subraces. And some brown bears. That gives a total population of 1,315 dwarves in one of the largest, grandest strongholds in the world. Yeah, numbers in the book may be a little on the low side for cities, but you go with what you’ve got.

In addition to those dwarves, and bears, you’re likely to see a few small pockets of humans, gnomes and halflings living in Norzarngak, maybe a two or three dozen of each, just to give the city a bit of extra flavour. And if you are lucky, or unlucky, depending on how you few it, maybe a couple of elf merchants as well.

History

When the first hill dwarves struck the earth more than 4000 years ago and established Norzarngak in the Norzarn Caverns in the Silver Hills, they had little idea what their legacy would become. From the first days, Norzarngak grew, and from it spread out the Sons of Norzarn through the hills, founding colonies along its length.

Some three thousand years ago, the first primitive strangers began to appear on the plains below; humans, halflings, gnomes and even elves. It provoked interest in the dwarves of Nozarngak, and they went among the strangers and taught them, and from it friendship grew with most, though the elves held themselves apart and soon trade began to blossom and flourish between the dwarves of the Silver Hills and the growing cities on the plains.

And while there was peace for almost two and a half thousand years since the time of the founding of Norzarngak, it was not to last. Drow began to appear in the deep places , and war was kindled, not just with the hill dwarves but other dwarves too that lived beneath the earth. 150 years after it had begun came the first great tragedy of the war, for the drow brought together a force of trolls and ogres to aid them, and they overran the strongholds of the duergar. Those few that survived fled and threw themselves on the mercy of the hill dwarves of Norzarngak. While the hill dwarves did not fully trust their grey dwarf kin, yet when they saw the pitiful remnant before them, they took pity upon them and took them in, aiding them.

It was not to the be the last tragedy either, for a mere 80 years later the deep dwarves were destroyed by the drow and their allies, and the remnants of their people, lead by their last king, came to Norzarngak and there took refuge, but they were not alone.

With them came another band of dwarves, ones the deep dwarves had rescued from the hands of the drow, a people broken by torture and magic. Of what origins they were none could say, only that they had been reduced to a sorry state. Gully dwarves they were to be called, and ever fear of the drow lurked in them.

Shortly there after the alliance between the drow, trolls and ogres ended until only the drow remained and so a reprieve was granted upon Norzanrgak though the war yet went on, in raids and skirmishes through out the caverns and the depths. It was uncertain who turned on who first, but the three races all turned on each other, with the drow emerging triumphant.

During this period, the refugees settled into their new life with the hill dwarves. The deep dwarves, under their Uncrowned King, began to explore the depths below Norzarngak, seeking hidden routes to their old home, during which time they discovered silver in the hills and began to mine it. A change came upon the duergar, for a mix of loss, gratitude and the examples displayed by the hill dwarves saw them slowly drift from their darker ways, resulting in a small but respected enclave within the stronghold, devoted to the silvercraft and to the law. While the occasional black sheep cropped up still, the duergar were quick to deal with it least they loose the respect of the wider community, as they see it, though the broader stronghold would perhaps not be so quick to judge.

For the gully dwarves, the hill dwarves sought to rehabilitate their fallen kin, to mend the damage done to them. It was a hard task, with little success, but still the hill dwarves work at it, while the gully dwarves live among them, generally working as servants and in other simple tasks. Yet from time to time one emerges among the gully dwarves who show glimmers of their past selves, the most famous being ‘Chomper’ Dorin, one of the most dangerous battleragers to ever walk the deep caverns beneath Norzarngak.

For seven hundred more years the war went on, with neither side able to gain the upperhand. Then, from the distant Thunderpeak Mountains, from Holy Belnorkak, came envoys and traders from the mountain dwarves. Led by a priest, the religious mountain dwarves establish a trade enclave in Norzarngak, lending aid to the hill dwavres in their struggles with the drow, for to them it was a religious struggle.

Even for the long lived drow and dwarves, the war went on for a long time, for 17 centuries, and would, no doubt have continued further, but for an unexpected change. Into the caverns and the well worn battle fields came a new foe, hobgoblins, a disciplined and numerous foe, and they began to attack both drow and dwarf. Even so, the ancient enmity could not be so easily shaken.

Yet that was just a foretaste of what was to come, for a mere 3 years later came the beholders, seeking to dominate and enslave and they washed over the caverns in a full on invasion. Dire were the battles fought at the very walls of Norzarngak, and only through above ground routes was the way kept open. It was during this war that ‘Chomper’ Dorin came to fame, and while he helped break the invasion, he fell before the end came.

Both drow and dwarf were shaken by this invasion, and the still ongoing clashes with the hobgoblins, and so, a mere 14 years after the beholders were defeated, the war between them came to an end, though neither side particularly trusted the other.

11 years has passed since then, and the war against the hobgoblins is escalating, with all sides seeing out allies to aid them in the growing battles. The fate of Norzarngak, and indeed all of the lands around, both above and below, now hangs in the balance.

Lets Build: A Dwarf Stronghold with The Complete Book of Dwarves (AD&D 2ed)

One of my favourite things is random charts and rolling on them, to see what madness ensues. And of the core races in most fantasy games, dwarves are my favourite. Tough, stalwart, down-to-earth dwarves. And so it is luck that The Complete Book of Dwarves for 2nd ED AD&D just happens to have random charts, specifically to create a dwarven stronghold. And it was fairly balanced, unlike the Complete Book of Pointy-Ears, which should outright be banned.

We are going to go through the process, step by step, and create one with jut dice rolls and nothing more. While the book says that you can pick and choose if you want, we are going to let chaos and fate choose for us. One odd thing to note is that Dwarf Strongholds as presented in the books never get very big, with maybe a couple of thousand people living in them at most. Dwarven cities just aren’t a thing apparently.

First up is the name of the Stronghold. For that we roll 1d4 times on the Dwarf Name Prefix table and then roll on the Stronghold Suffix table, whack them together and mix to come up with a name. Sadly no meanings are provided, like in Dwarf Fortress. For us we get 2 prefixes, which are Bal and Kil, and the suffix of Hak. Balkilhak.

Next is to find out just which dwarven subrace lives there, and how many of them there are. There is a chance of a mix of subraces as well, but we don’t get that. Instead we roll a 23 on the d100, which turns out to be Gully Dwarves. Oh dear. They are unwashed, cowardly, degenerates who give all true dwarves a bad name. They scavenge in the refuses of others for their treasures and are dealt with contempt by everyone.

Why the dwarves get saddled with such a terrible subrace and a certain pointy-eared race doesn’t is one of the great travesties of gaming.

A gully dwarf stronghold has 1d100+100 males in it, plus half that number of females and one quarter of children. We roll a 49 for 149 men, 74 females and 37 children, for a total of 260 inhabitants.

We know that gully dwarves live in Balkilhak, but we don’t know the overall alignment of the place. For that we roll 2d6 and consult the Gully Dwarf column of the Overall Stronghold Alignment Table. We roll an 8 – Chaotic Neutral. Standard for gully dwarves, resulting in a stronghold teetering on the edge of collapse.

A picture is forming, but now we need to find out what type of stronghold it is, from a major one all the way down to a tiny one occupied by a single family. A roll of 44 on 1d100 results in a Secondary Stronghold, the standard size, and one without any population modifiers.

How old is Balkilhak? Dwarves think in terms of generations, not years. For a secondary stronghold, it has been around 2d6 generations, but because gully dwarves are involved, we subtract 2 from the roll. We roll 11 – 2, for a total of 9 generations. Somehow the gully dwarves have kept this place running for 9 generations, and given a gully dwarf lives for around 250 years, that is 2250 years the place has been standing. That is something of a miracle.

How has that happened? Perhaps the government type will give us some clues. For that we roll 1d100, but we add 10 to that for being gully dwarves and 10 more for being a chaotic aligned stronghold. A roll of 75 +20 = 95. Theocracy. Priests rule the stronghold, but what gods they follow we may not want to know.

Our next step is to work out the attitude of the stronghold, which impacts their military strength. A decadent stronghold is not going to be as strong as an expansionist one. In our case we roll a 20 on 1d20 – Isolationist. They avoid all contact with other races if they can help it, and 75-100% of their adult population, male and female, receive regular training. It is probably more likely that all other races avoid contact with them than the other way around. Just for the best really.

What about the resources that Balkilhak has access to? That is a 1d20 roll, -10 for being gully dwarves and +1 for being a secondary stronghold. That is a big penalty. We manage to roll a 19. Modified, that brings us down to 10, or average wealth. For gully dwarves, that is living in the lap of luxury.

Even an isolationist stronghold has some sort of relationship with the other races out there, and the first we roll for are the four other player character races – humans, elves, gnomes and halflings. For that we roll a 1d20, modified by +1 for being chaotic neutral. Isolationists treat all rolls of 4 or less as being a 9 – they cant actually be friendly with anyone. Humans are an 11 – cautious. Elves are a 7 – cautious. Gnomes are a 10 – indifferent. Halflings are a 15 – threatening. Balkilhak is neutral towards the gnomes, even allowing some to visit and maybe have a merchant or two live among them. For humans and elves, the relationship is strained, and any visitors are searched and watched closely. Halflings are warned off with threats of violence and are not allowed into Balkilhak at all, though they aren’t at war. They just really don’t like halflings for some reason.

What of other races? We need to roll on the War/Peace table for that. An unmodified 1d20 gets us 5 – peace. How long have they been at peace? A 1d10 gives us 7 – 2d6 generations, or 4 generations. 1000 years before Balkilhak was at war, and we need to find out who with. A 1d100 roll on the war table gives us 63 – lizardmen. Not your standard enemy, but gully dwarves aren’t your standard race. On the war duration table, we roll 1 on a 1d10, which gives us a 1d8 day war, or 3 days. To find out what type of war it was, we roll a 1d10, with a +1 modifier for being isolationist. The result is 10 – invasion. Sounds like the lizardmen came across Balkilhak, stormed it in 3 days and then found nothing of real value and so left again.

The last step of the process is to work out the type of militia that Balkilhak has. As we saw earlier, an isolationist stronghold has 75-100% of its adult population in the militia. The total adult population is 223. In this case we will go with the 75% value. Gully dwarves being the cowards they are, a quarter of them hiding or running away before the fight makes sense. That gives us 167 members of the militia.

Looking at the entry for gully dwarves, we find their base morale is 7 (unsteady), +1 for being isolationist, for a final value of 8. Give the base value for all other dwarves is 13 (elite), it gives you an idea how cowardly this lot are. They are only equipped with leather armour and shields, and whatever weapons they can scavenge. Probably only weapons like spears, clubs, knives (rusty ones at that) and not much else.

There are a few gully dwarf leaders who are a bit better than the average gully dwarf. For ever 4 members of the militia, there is a thief of level 2-6, for every 5 a warrior of 2-4, for ever 10 a warrior of 2-6, for every 50 a warrior of level 8 and for every 100 a warrior of level 10 and a priest of level 1-10. Except for the thieves, the leaders have chain mail armour and shields.

The final total for the militia is;

167 1st level dwarves, 41 2nd-6th level thieves, 33 2nd-4th level warriors, 16 2nd-6th level warriors, 3 8th level warriors, 1 10th level warrior and 1 1st-10th level priest. The leaders are in addition to the regular militia members, which means there are 95 more people in the stronghold, increasing the size of it to 355 gully dwarves.

Stongholds may have access to special forces, such as Battleragers and Hearth Guards, but it is unlikely gully dwarves would have any, or be inclined to risk themselves in such a manner. For ever 50 members of the militia, they might have a war machine. We roll 3 times on a 1d10+1 for being isolationist, giving results of 2, 7, 8. A 2 gives nothing, but the other 2 mean there are 2 war machines in Balkilhak. Ramshackled things no doubt, prone to breaking down, but present. From the list, we give them 2 light ballistas, as everything else is a little too complex for gully dwarves. Some strongholds may also be guarded by trained animals as well, but without specialist trainers it means Balkilhak doesn’t. Still, there are rats around. Lots and lots of rats.

Why the mad god Balkil decided to create the gully dwarves is unknown, but created them he did. Somehow they survived and clustered around the stronghold they called Balkilhak, a place that wobbled on the edge of anarchy and collapse throughs its long history. Guided, if it could be called it, by the priests of the mad god, laws and rules were decided on by whim and ever changing. Not that the gully dwarves paid much attention to them.

They are ignored, left to their own devices, and about the only ones that pay them any attention are gnomish traders who arrive from time to time to buy what ever items of value that the gully dwarves have found and sell them baubles in return. The day may come when the whims of the rulers decided that the gnomes are to be barred, just as the halflings are.

Should any be serious about it, the place could be taken easily, as the lizardmen once proved in a one sided three day war, but to date no one has the desire to do so, for their would nothing of value to be gained from it. Thus, their lowly and oft despised nature keeps the gully dwarves of Balkilhak safe for now.