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.

30 Years of Dark Sun

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of my favourite fantasy setting. October 1991 saw the release of the Dark Sun boxed set by TSR for AD&D 2ed.

When I say favourite fantasy setting, I don’t just mean for gaming, but overall. Books, movies, gaming, this is my favourite fantasy world.

I remember picking up the boxed set in my local (long since closed) gaming shop and being intrigued by it. When I got it home and opened it up and read it, I was amazed. Here was a world so unique, so different to any other fantasy world I had come across before. At the time, most fantasy was very similar, a fantasy world of vaguely medieval European influence. Dark Sun was nothing like that.

Here is the opening of the campaign setting journal that came with the boxed set;

I live in a world of fire and sand. The crimson sun scorches the life from anything that crawls or flies, and storms of sand scour the foliage from the barren ground. Lightning strikes from the cloudless sky, and peals of thunder roll unexplained across the vast tablelands. Even the wind, dry and searing as a kiln, can kill a man with thirst.

This is a land of blood and dust, where tribes of feral elves sweep out of the salt plains to plunder lonely caravans, mysterious singing winds call men to slow suffocation in a Sea of Silt, and legions of slaves clash over a few bushels of mouldering grain. The dragon despoils entire cities, while selfish kings squander their armies raising gaudy palaces and garish tombs.

This is my home, Athas. It is an arid and bleak place, a wasteland with a handful of austere cities clinging precariously to a few scattered oases. It is a brutal and savage land, beset by political strife and monstrous abominations, where life is grim and short.

That description right there just invokes everything you need to know, of a inhospitable world where survival is a struggle. And it was amazing. The artwork that went with it too, especially from Brom, really helped get a feel for the world.

For those who haven’t run across Dark Sun before, it is well worth. Athas, the world of Dark Sun, was once a pleasant world, but magic was fuelled by life energy, and spell casters plunged the world into an ecological disaster through rampart and greedy use of magic. Civilisation, what remains of it, clings on in a few city-states on the few remaining patches of fertile land, ruled over by tyrannical and all powerful Sorcerer-Kings and Queens. The races, those that have survived, bear little resemblance to their traditional fantasy counterparts. Metals is rare and water is a precious resource to fight and kill for. And everywhere there are deserts.

Yeah, a very different world. The creators of the setting, Tim Brown and Troy Denning, and its best known artist, Gerald Brom, were recently interviewed for the 30th anniversary of the release of the setting, going into how it all came about as well as other thoughts on Dark Sun, including thoughts on if it could have been released in current times or not, and on the direction the setting took after they were no longer working on it.

If there is one world that I wish I could have created, it would have been Dark Sun. Of course, my version would have been a little different – I tend to stick to a vision of it as first seen through the original boxed set. A lot of what was released later on, including the metaplot and revealed history of the setting I would have ignored, but most of that is fairly irrelevant when playing the game. When you are out on the desert with no food or water, being stalked by hungry braxat, the history of the world doesn’t matter much. In this regards I am a bit of a original boxed set purist – or heretic, depending on your view.

But one thing the setting did do is heavily influence my view on what fantasy could be. It didn’t have to be knights and castles and dragons in a psuedo-European setting. It could be something else entirely. And ever since then it has fashioned the way I have GMed and written. It may not always be front and centre, but something of Dark Sun seeps into the fabric of all those worlds I have played with and made them different.

And it is for that reason I am eternally grateful for Dark Sun. It may have been a brutal world where life was cheap but it made me a better GM and writer for it.

Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters – The Bad Guys

I’m going to do one last batch of Urban Jungle characters before moving on to look at the next system, and these are the bad guys. Yes, you don’t have to be the good guys – you can be the mobsters, the crooks, the hitmen and the like if you want. I’m not going to go into the detail of this last lot as most of it has already been covered already. Anything new I will pick up on though.

So without further ado, here they are; Chris Cutter the Crooked Crocodile Politician, Mabel May, the Lucky Mouse Mobster and Big Bad Barry Bodrov himself, the Boss Badger Bootlegger.

Chris Cutter – Crooked Crocodile Politician

Christopher “Just Call Me Chris” Cutter has his fingers in every pie he can gets his hands on, using his political connections to do so. Just watch out for those tears if he ever gets caught…

Traits: Body D6, Speed D4, Mind D8, Will D6, Species D6, Type D8, Career D6

Skills: Deceit (D8+D6+D6), Negotiation (D8+D6), Questioning (D8), Endurance (D6), Fighting (D6), Academics (D6)

Gifts: Leadership, Brawling, Swimming, Bribery, Diplomacy

Soaks: Sneaky Soak -2

Gear: Three bobby pins, a pocket knife, a soft handkerchief, fancy outfit, campaign buttons.

Personality: Greedy

Initiative: D8. Dodge: D4. Rally: D6.

Chris Cutter is very good at lying, cheating and conniving, as would be expected, but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty if needed, with a little physicality should it be called for.

Academics is used to cover book learning – maths, history, geography and so on.

Swimming gives Chris Cutter a bonus D12 on Athletics rolls for swimming.

Bribery is used when you try to offer a bribe on a Deceit, Negotiation or Presence etc roll, giving a bonus D12. In addition, if you fail the roll, you don’t automatically offend the target.

Diplomacy also gives a bonus D12 to Deceit, Negotiation or Presence rolls that take place in a diplomatic setting where you have at least an hour to talk to the target, and also on a failed check doesn’t offend the target.

Sneaky Soak reduces damage by 2 and recharges when you hide.

Mabel May – Lucky Mouse Mobster

Maybe she was born with it, or maybe she made her own luck, but whatever the case, everything always seemed to fall in Mabel’s favour. In her line of work, she needs every bit of luck she can to survive.

Traits: Body D4, Speed D8, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D6, Type D6, Career D8

Skills: Athletics (D6+D6), Craft (D6), Evasion (D6+D6), Observation (D6), Negotiation (D8), Presence (D8), Shooting (D8)

Gifts: Luck, Contortionist, Coward, Bullet Conservation, Streetwise

Soaks: Hurt Soak -3

Gear: A pocket bible with a bullet stuck in it, fancy outfit, pocket pistol, challenge pin.

Personality: Sneaky

Initiative: 2D6. Dodge: D4+2D6+D8. Rally: D6.

Mabel is very good at keeping out of trouble, at dodging danger and trouble, as well as navigating her way around the seedy underbelly of the big smoke.

Craft is the catch-all for working with your hands, be it building, making new things or repairing.

Luck allows you to re-roll any or all dice once a chapter, though you have to take the new roll. If it was an opposed roll, you can also make the opponent re-roll as well.

Contortionist gives the special Contortionist Attacks of Wriggle and Squirm, used to break free of holds or restraints, and also gives a D4 Cover bonus when dodging.

Bullet Conservation means that you raise your ammo dice by one level (from say D4 to D6). When firing a gun, a roll of 1 means the ammo counter goes down so you get more shots than normal.

Big Bad Barry Bodrov – Boss Badger Bootlegger

Barry may have started out as a humble bootlegger but has now progressed to running all the bootlegging operations of the city, and woe betide anyone that gets in his way because this badger has one mean streak.

Traits: Body D6, Speed D4, Mind D6, Will D8, Species D6, Type D8, Career D6

Skills; Endurance (D6), Fighting (D6), Presence (D6+D8), Negotiation (D8), Tactics (D8), Deceit (D6), Evasion (D6), Transport (D6)

Gifts: Brawling, Stealth, Entourage, Chemistry, Streetwise

Soaks: Distress Soak -4

Gear: Fancy Bowler Hat, Rough Outfit, Holdout Shotgun

Personality: Mean

Initiative: D6. Dodge: D4+D6. Rally: 2D8.

Big Bad Barry is a bit of a generalist, able to do a lot of different things well, without being exceptional. He can fight a bit, talk a bit and get around a bit.

Transport is used to operate any vehicle – bot, car, train, plane or whatever. In addition you can also attack better from a moving vehicle.

Stealth results in a bonus D12 to evasion checks for hiding and sneaking. You can also claim a bonus D12 to observation checks when suffering penalties due to concealing darkness.

Entourage is used to collect a group of hanger-ons to help you, either gang members, admirers or even extended family, depending on the situation. You get a number of dice, based on the type of follower you are trying to recruit. You get a follower plus one additional follower per success, once per episode.

Chemistry gives a D12 to Academic, Craft or Observation rolls that involve chemicals.

Distress Soak reduces damage by 4 once an episode, and rallies your friends on 1 success.

So there we have it, the collection of Urban Jungle characters. Coming up soon will be another system, and more (hopefully) interesting characters.

Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters In Action

And now for a brief look at the previously crated Urban Jungle characters in action.

(But first a note of warning – I am not an expert on the system. Any and all errors made are unintentional. But then again, I still make errors in games I know well. So it all evens out in the end.)

—-

Felicia Flair’s childhood friend, Kitty Sullivan, now a fearless reporter, has gone missing while investigating the dealings of a notorious badger bootlegger, Big Bad Barry Bodrov. Fearing for her friend and not getting much help from the police, she approaches a Private Eye, Douglas Danger, to help find Kitty. Douglas brings along an acquaintance, Bruno Brown, thinking the big bear may be of some help.

Douglas decides that the best place to start digging for information is The Jiving Hive, a notorious drinking spot that Big Bad Barry is known to frequent. The problem is that Felicia is determined to come along as well, but she is too famous to visit such a lowlife location and not be recognised. Felicia decides that a disguise is in order and that her acting ability will help facilitate the disguise.

The GM decides on a Will + Deceit check for this. Felicia asks to use her Performance gift as well, as she will be putting on a show, which the GM allows. Felicia rolls D6+2D8+D12, getting 4, 3, 4 & 9. 3 successes. Even Douglas, as suspicious as he is, is impressed at how well she slips into her role.

(To see through the disguise requires a contest, in this case it would be a Mind+Observation roll, comparing successes, highest roll vs highest roll. The person with the highest roll wins, and it can result in multiple successes. If Felicia walked into a room with Douglas in it, he would roll D4+D6+D8, which means he wouldn’t be able to roll high enough to beat Felicia. If, however, he was suspicious and got his bonus D12 for his personality, he might be able to see through her disguise.)

As they enter The Jiving Hive, there is not much response from the patrons. Douglas and Bruno blend right in – it is their kind of place. Felicia, the flamboyant actress she is, does attract a couple of looks. After all, she is a good-looking fox, but she doesn’t look out of place, especially not with the company she keeps. While Douglas and Bruno begin to ask around, seeking out news, she settles in for a drink.

Douglas and Bruno both make Will+Questioning checks. Both get their Streetwise bonuses due to gathering information about criminals and Douglas also gets his Gossip bonus. Douglas rolls 1D4+1D6+2D12 getting 3, 5, 10, 10. 3 successes. Bruno rolls D6+D12 getting 5, 8. 2 successes.

Two successes is something a professional could do, getting information that only people in ‘the know’ could supply, while three is at the level of a master and would dig up some serious secrets.

That is more than enough to find out what they need to know, that Big Bad Barry has a factory on the outskirts of town, and in addition it is where he is known to interrogate – and then dispose of – rivals and those who cause him trouble. Given that, it is imperative they get there, and soon, before anything happens to Kitty.

But before they make to leave, their is trouble.

A tipsy cat customer swaggers over to where Felicia sits. “Say, doll, you look like you could use some company.”

Felicia looks him up and down. “I am here with friends,” she states sternly, “I suggest you leave.” As if on queue, Bruno looms large, cracking his knuckles.

Felicia is trying to make the drunk back down, which is a Body+Will+Presence check vs his Body+Will+Presence. Bruno is trying to provide an assist. For an assist, they make the same check and if they get at least one success, the person they are assisting gets a bonus 1D8 (or 1D12 if they have the Team Player gift.)

Bruno rolls 2D6+2D8 getting 2, 1, 5, 3. One success.

Felicia rolls 1D4+1D6+3D8 (including the bonus assist dice), getting 3, 3, 1, 8, 8.

The drunk, being a minor NPC, gets only D6s to his traits. They don’t get a type, just species and career – in this case a Cat Burglar. Neither of these give him presence so gets just 2D6 for his roll, getting 3, 2.

The Cat got no successes, while Felicia got two. Normally you would compare dice to see who did better but there is no need in this case, so Felicia ends up with Two Successes. Between her and Bruno’s assist, they really scare the Cat.

The Cat turns white and backs away, hastily stammering out apologies, all but tripping over a chair as he does, much to the amusement of all in the drinking hole.

With the Cat gone, Felicia, Douglas and Bruno make their way to factory on the outskirts of town, a big place surrounded by high walls, just as night is arriving. The problem isn’t as much getting over as it is in getting over unseen. Big Bad Barry has goons patrolling the compound and it will take some skill, and not a little luck, to slip by them and into the factory without raising an alarm.

Climbing is an Body+Athletics check but in this case the GM says it is an easy task that they can complete by rote. Except in cases of contests, on fairly mundane tasks and to speed up play, you can take 1/2 a success per dice. Felicia and Douglas both have two dice plus a bonus dice from Bruno assisting them due to his Giant gift meaning they have 1 1/2 successes, enough to climb the wall. Bruno only has 1 dice from his Body, but he gains a bonus dice from his Giant gift, as the GM says he can just reach up and pull himself over, giving him two dice, or 1 success, enough to get over.

Dropping down over the wall, they find themselves behind piles of crates, but to get to the factory will require leaving cover and making their way across fairly open ground, with goons keeping an eye out and lights shining about. Trying to judge the best time, they make a dash for it, hoping to avoid detection.

In this case, the GM announces they need to make a Speed + Evasion roll to sneak to the factory without being spotted, but it is more difficult than normal, because of the goons, meaning they need 2 successes to make it. Which cause problems.

Douglas volunteers to go first. He doesn’t have Evasion but asks to use his Suspicious personality trait for its daily use, saying that he will be extra wary and alert for trouble. The GM allows it, so he rolls 1D8+1D12, getting 4 & 10. 2 Successes. Douglas makes it safely to the factory.

Bruno follows. He has 2D6 for his roll, a risky endeavour, but manages a 6 and a 4. 2 successes. A close thing, but he reaches Douglas safely.

Quickly and quietly, the dog and the bear dash across the open ground between the crates and the factory and reach cover unseen. There they wait for Felicia to join them.

That leaves Felicia, who only has her Speed dice, which isn’t enough to get two successes.

Douglas and Bruno say they want to assist her. The GM asks how they mean to do so without attracting attention. They say they will do it with hand signs, motioning where to go and when to stop. The GM allows that, but says they need to make a Mind+Evasion check.

Douglas has 1D6 for his mind and rolls a 3. No success. Bruno rolls 2D6 for a 2 and a 5. 1 success, which is enough, just, to give Felicia a bonus 1D8 to her roll.

Felicia watches as the other two makes motions with their hands, trying to direct her movements. She can’t make much headway with what Douglas is doing, but Bruno’s makes more sense. Psyching her self up, she prepares to cross.

Felicia makes her attempt, with 1D6 for Mind plus the bonus 1D8 for an assist. She rolls a 1 and a 4. Just barely 1 success and not the 2 required.

Felicia scurries across the open ground and reaches Douglas and Bruno, but something caught the attention of one of the goons and he comes to investigate.

And that is when their trouble begins…

Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters – Douglas ‘Digger’ Danger

Before having a quick look at the mechanics in action, I thought I would add a third character to the mix, as the previous two, Felicia Flair and Bruno Brown, were not suited towards fighting should matters turn physical. Though in Bruno’s case that was more because of his pacifism.

So to fix that I am building another character to aid them should the need arise.

Douglas “Digger” Danger – Hard-boiled Dog Detective

Douglas “Digger” Danger is a dog with a nose for trouble – and the dames. Even though he is new to the Private Eye game, he has seen and done much in the seedy underbelly of the big city.

There is little that is more quintessentially noir than a hard-boiled private eye, the tough-as-nails type who has seen the worst of the city and doesn’t get easily spooked or surprised anymore. So the choice of Hard-Boiled for Type and Detective for Career. And for species, it is hard to go passed a Dog both for the alliteration and the fact they are good at tracking and sniffing out things.

Dog gives him the skills of Athletics, Observation and Tactics and the gifts of Brawling and Tracking.

Hard-Boiled gives him the skills of Endurance, Presence and Shooting and the Soaks of Winded-Soak and Hurt Soak.

Detective gives him the skills of Deceit, Observation and Questioning and the gifts of Gossip and Streetwise.

Assigning the dice for him, I give him D8 for Species – he is a good dog, yes he is – and also Speed. Like many dogs he is always on the move and finds it hard to stay still for long. For his poor dice I stick that in Career. He is only just starting out in the P. I. game and beginning to make a name for himself.

Traits: Body D6, Speed D8, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D8, Type D6, Career D4

Most of the skills are already covered when creating the previous two characters, so the new skills and gifts work as follows;

Shooting is what it says on the tin – it is used for ranged weapons, like guns and bows. Unlike most other skills, it is only ever paired with Speed.

Questioning is the skill of gossiping to find our rumours, to seperate those rumours from facts, to interrogate people and to piece it all together.

Brawling gives Douglas bonus attack moves – Grapple, Pummel and Overbear – which are superior to simple unarmed attacks.

Tracking means Douglas gets a bonus D12 to Observation checks when trying to follow someone – or to Evasion to avoid being followed himself.

Gossip gives a bonus D12 to Questioning, but takes a lot of time and requires numerous people.

Winded Soak allows you to ignore 1 point of damage, and can be recharged by taking a recover action in combat.

Hurt Soak reduces damage by 3, and can be used one per scene, which is about once ever 5 minutes.

For his personality, Douglas is Suspicious – he suspects everyone and everything. Whenever he is in a situation where suspicions are up he gains a bonus D12.

He receives for his Gear a Hip Flask, a Rough Outfit, a Service Pistol and a Magnifying Glass.

His derived stats are; Initiative: D4+D6+D8, Dodge: D8 and Rally: D6+D8.

With that all done, we can get a picture of what Douglas is like, someone who is very good at finding things out and finding people, places and items, especially where the criminal underbelly is involved. And if all that sniffing around leads to trouble, he can take care of himself in a fight.

Douglas “Digger” Danger – Hard-Boiled Dog Detective

Traits: Body D6, Speed D8, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D8, Type D6, Career D4

Skills: Athletics (+D8), Observation (+D8+D4), Tactics (+D8), Endurance (+D6), Presence (+D6), Shooting (+D6), Deceit (+D4), Questioning (+D4).

Gifts: Brawling, Tracking, Gossip, Streetwise

Soaks: Winded Soak -1, Hurt Soak -3.

Gear: Hip Flask, Rough Outfit, Service Pistol, Magnifying Glass

Initiative: D4+D6+D8. Dodge: D8. Rally: D6+D8