Lets Create: Dark Sun Characters (AD&D 2e): Planning the Character Tree Part Two

In the previous entry on creating Dark Sun characters and a character tree, we discussed how it worked and rolled up four sets of stats to use to actually create the characters.

Now the time has come to actually create them.

Our very first choice is about as iconic as you can get for Dark Sun – a mul gladiator. You almost kind of have to have a mul gladiator at some stage.

Each race and class has various ability requirements that have to be met For a mul, we need the following before racial adjustments; STR 10, CON 8. For a gladiator it is STR 13, DEX 12, CON 15. So for this character we need STR 13, DEX 12, CON 15 and the rest can be anything.

The stat array we are going with is 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4.

We could go a couple of ways – one purely stated towards combat, putting everything in strength, dexterity and constitution, or one a little bit more rounded out. In the end I choose the later, assigning the dice as follows;

STR 4, 4

DEX 3, 3

CON 4, 3, 1

WIS 3, 2, 1

This gives a base of STR 18, DEX 16, CON 18, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 10. When factoring in racial modifiers (+2 STR, +1 CON, -1 INT, -2 CHA) we get;

STR 20, DEX 16, CON 19, INT 9, WIS 16, CHA 8.

He may not be all that smart and is a little bit crude, but he is cunning and very athletic. There are a number of very useful proficiencies that key off wisdom for him.

That is our fighting expert out of the way. Next we will go with one who is more adept with people and in the cities, and for this I am taking full advantage of the many multiclass opportunities available in Dark Sun – a half elf bard/preserver/psionicist.

For a half elf we need a minimum of 8 DEX, a preserver needs 9 INT, a psionicist need 11 CON, 12 INT, 15 WIS and a bard needs 12 DEX, 13 INT and 15 CHA. So we need a minimum 12 DEX, 13 INT, 15 WIS and 15 CHA.

Obviously charisma is very important to the character concept. Intelligence is needed for the preserver but also for the psionicist. Psionicists powers are keyed off one of three stats – CON, INT or WIS. We will concentrate on the WIS and INT powers and mostly ignore the CON ones, as they are more combative ones.

Our stat array for this one is 1, 1, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 which we assign as follows.

DEX 4, 3

CON 1, 1

INT 4, 3

WIS 4, 3

CHA 4, 4

This gives a base of STR 10, DEX 17, CON 12, INT 17, WIS 17, CHA 18. With racial modifiers (+1 DEX, -1 CON) , that turns out as;

STR 10, DEX 18, CON 11, INT 17, WIS 17, CHA 18.

Not a very physical character, but quick, sharp and very likeable.

This character covers a range of options anything to do with people, cities and magic. Now we turn to a character who can do well in the wilds, and that means a thri-kreen. Specifically a thri-kreen ranger/druid. Okay, that might be a bit of a controversial choice for some who say that isn’t a valid option. Druids need to be neutral and rangers need to be good aligned but I have always read it that they can be any kind of neutral and not true neutral as the rules don’t actually specify that. So neutral-good is an allowed choice. Besides a ranger/druid is thematically very appropriate. That’s my view at least and how I’ve always run it.

The requirements for a thri-kreen ranger/druid are fairly steep. A thri-kreen needs 8 STR and 15 DEX, but can only have a maximum of 17 CHA. A ranger needs 13 STR, 13 DEX, 14 CON and 14 WIS. A druid needs WIS 12 and CHA 15. Why such a high charisma is needed for a druid I do not know. But it makes having a thri-kreen druid tough. They have to roll a 17 for CHA, because that is the most they can have before their racial modifier of -2, which means the actual highest CHA they can have is 15, not 17. And 15 is the minimum required for a druid.

Our stat array is 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 which we assign as follows;

STR 4, 2

DEX 4, 1

CON 4, 1

WIS 3, 3

CHA 4, 3

This gives a base of STR 16, DEX 15, CON 15, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 17. With racial modifiers (+2 DEX, +1 WIS, -1 INT, -2 CHA) , it turns out as;

STR 16, DEX 17, CON 15, INT 9, WIS 17, CHA 15.

Not exactly smart, but well rounded otherwise. They can do the whole wilderness exploration and survival thing, as well as handling priestly magic and being able to fight fairly well on top of that.

On to the last character and given we have covered most of the different areas you might run into, so this one is a bit more of fun, while still being useful. We don’t yet have a half-giant, so we are going to take one. Rather than the obvious, a half-giant gladiator or fighter, we are going a multiclass psionicist. The other choices for multiclass for a half-giant are fighter, ranger or cleric. While the idea of a half-giant ranger is tempting, having them sneak around dual wielding two handed swords, we are going to stick with a fighter/psionicist, mostly focusing on the CON based psionics powers to boost their combat potential.

A half-giant requires a minimum of 17 STR and 15 CON before modifiers, but can’t have more than 15 DEX and INT and 17 WIS and CHA. Before modifiers. A fighter needs just 9 STR and a psionicist needs 11 CON, 12 INT and 15 WIS. So we need 17 STR, 15 CON, 12 INT and 15 WIS.

Our stat array is 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 which we assign as follows;

STR 4, 4

DEX 2, 2

CON 4, 4

INT 4, 1

WIS 4, 3

This gives base stats of STR 18, DEX 14, CON 18, INT 15, WIS 17, CHA 10. With racial modifiers (+4 STR, +2 CON, -2 INT, -2 WIS, -2 CHA), that gives us;

STR 22, DEX 14, CON 20, INT 13, WIS 15, CHA 8.

While fairly average intellectually compared to other races, for a half-giant he is a genius, as wise and smart as they come. On top of that he is still physically imposing.

So that is how they have turned out stat wise. Next time we will start the builds proper.

Lets Create: Dark Sun Character (AD&D 2e): The Charismatic Fighter

In my previous post about setting up Dark Sun character trees, I made mention of how you could make high CHA, high INT fighters in 2e and that they could be the social face of the party as a result, unlike in later editions.

Thinking it over, I wanted to do just that to show how effective it could be, and decided to go with a Dark Sun character given that it what I was already working on . This character isn’t part of the character tree, but another one off example. Besides INT and CHA being the best stats, I am going to make STR the worst one.

That may sound crazy, but for 2e it is not an issue like with later editions were you needed to max out your primary stat to remain viable. In 2e, the difference between 9 (the lowest a fighter can have) and 17 STR was +1/+1 hit and damage. Admittedly, it could get a little crazy when you hit 18 or higher STR, which was very possible in Dark Sun, but not so much in vanilla 2e.

For races, there are only three options really; elves, half-elves and humans. The other races (dwarves, muls, half-giant, halflings and thri-kreen get a penalty to CHA. Half-giants, muls and thri-kreen also have penalties to INT to go on top of that.

Elves do get a bonus to INT but they also have a penalty to WIS. Plus you’d have to play an elf.

That leaves humans and half-elves, and given half-elves in Dark Sun have no level limits for being a fighter, that added with their other benefits gives them an edge. So half-elf it is. You get to be the moody loner wandering into town and rallying the locals to your cause through sheer charisma and intellect.

For stats, I am going to use the 6d4 drop the lowest and assign method. The end result is 13, 13, 17, 17, 17, 19 which are arranged as STR 13, CON 17, DEX 17, INT 17, WIS 13, CHA 19. Half-elves get +1 DEX and -1 CON, giving us STR 13, CON 16, DEX 18, INT 17, WIS 13, CHA 19.

STR 13 gives no bonuses.

DEX 18 gives +2 to reactions and missile attacks and -4 AC.

CON 16 gives +2 HP a level.

INT 17 gives 6 bonus nonweapon proficiencies.

WIS 13 gives no bonuses.

CHA 19 gives 20 henchmen, +10 loyalty base and +8 reaction adjustment.

While he might not be a beast in combat, he is still difficult to kill, and those that fight for him are exceptionally loyal.

Varus never knew his father. He had been a trader that had encountered his elven mother’s tribe but had moved on before even knowing she was pregnant. When he was born though, the tribe had driven his mother out with the newborn Varus for dishonouring the tribe. They were luck that his mother was able to find refuge in a small village of escaped gladiators, under the protection of a preserver/druid, Thaxar Stonehand, a half-elf like him.

Varus grew up in the village, learning all he could from Thaxar, though the druidic and preserver arts were beyond him. He likewise learned all he could from anyone else willing to teach him, whether trader, psionicist or gladiator. He trained with the local militia, becoming a competent fighter, helping defend against slavers, raiders and wild beasts. It was here that his natural talent at leadership and inspiration came to light, his quick thinking and way with words.

As he grew older, it wasn’t enough to simply defend the village though. While Thaxar was content to stay with the village and defend it and his guarded lands, Varus wanted more. He wanted to make it safe, to go beyond the village and provide its security for the long term. And so he has set out, armed for battle with spear and shield, intellect and charisma, to make his mark.

As a third level fighter, he gets 1d10+2 HP a level. We roll 5, 7 & 7, which, adding the bonus HP, comes to 25 HP.

For his wild talent, we roll a 63 – Life Detection. In effect we can scan for living creatures like a radar. The power score is INT-2, which is 15 for us. Initial cost is 3 with a maintenance cost of 3/rd. We start with enough PSPs to activate it once and to maintain it for 4 rounds, for 15 PSPs, and 4 more per level, for a total of 23 PSPs. Interesting talent, though fairly situational.

Saving throws for a 3rd level fighter are; PPDM 13, RSW 15, PP 14, BW 16, SP 16.

Fighters start with 4 weapon proficiencies and gain another at 3rd level, for a total of 5 proficiencies. I am using the Complete Book of Fighters, which has more options. He spends 2 slots on the Spears tight group, giving him proficiency in things like spears and javelins. He spends one slot on specialisation in Spear. The Complete Book of Fighters changed up spears (and added Long Spear as well), making them able to be used 1 handed or 2 handed. So it can be thrown, used with a shield or used 2 handed for extra damage.

For the last slot we are going with Two Handed Specialisation from the CBoF. When a weapon is being used two handed, the weapon gets -3 to weapon speed, making it faster. So a spear used two handed becomes speed 3 and does 1d8+1 damage, though it does lose the AC from not using a shield. All up it gives him a lot of flexibility with spears.

Fighters start with 3 NWP slots and get 1 every 3 levels. We also get 6 bonus ones from our INT, for a total of 10 NWPs. Fighters have access to the General and Warrior groups of NWPs, but can buy from the other groups (Priest, Rogue, Wizard) at the cost of 1 extra slot.

So, going through the Dark Sun book and the PHB, we go with the following NWPs; Etiquette (CHA), Heraldry (INT), Gaming (CHA), Bureaucracy (CHA -2), Heat Protection (INT -2), Armour Optimisation (DEX -2), Sign Language (DEX) & Modern Language (Elven & Thri-kreen). Bureaucracy comes from the priest group so it costs us 2 slots. In addition, at level 3 half-elves receive a bonus Survival (INT) NWP in one type of terrain. For this I go with Stony Barrens, one of the most common terrain types in Dark Sun.

Heat Protection and Armour Optimisation are mostly about surviving in the harsh world, but the rest are about various forms of communication and knowledge when dealing with people, especially in cities. Thri-kreen don’t start with the common language that others do (they have to buy it, as do halflings), so there will be plenty of them around who can’t be spoken to unless someone knows their language. And his heritage lends himself to taking Elven – plus elves can be a little bit difficult so them refusing to speak common wouldn’t be that uncommon.

For equipment, fighters start with 5d4 x 30 cp. We roll a 14, which comes to 420 cp to spend. For the basics, we go with a set of inix scale armour at 120 cp and a leather medium shield at 7 cp. A spear costs 8 sp in the phb, or 8 bits in dark sun if not made with a metal spearhead. We have enough to afford one of those, as it works out as 80 cp. Javelins are just 5 bits each, so we get 4 non-metal ones at a total cost of 2 cp. We could afford iron headed javelins at 50 cp each, but there is a risk in throwing iron headed weapons at an enemy, in that they may not come back. We go with bone tipped javelins. That still gives him a lot of money left over for other items, such as clothes, mounts, adventuring gear, bribes and the like.

Combat wise, his AC with the scale armour, shield and dexterity is 1, meaning he is rather hard to hit. Without the shield he is still AC 2.

His base THAC0 is 18.

Wielding the spear 1 handed he is THAC0 17, speed 6, doing 1d6+2 damage and can make 3 attacks every 2 rounds. If he throws it his THAC0 is 16 but damage is just 1d6 – specialisation bonuses only apply in melee except for the rate of fire, but he does get a bonus to hit due to his high dexterity.

Wielding the spear 2 handed he is THAC0 17, speed 3, doing 1d8+3 damage and can make 3 attacks every 2 rounds.

Throwing his javelins he is THAC0 16, speed 4, doing 1d4-1 damage and can throw one per round. As it is bone tipped, it normally has -1 to hit and damage but the to hit penalty doesn’t apply to missile weapons. If he used it in melee it would apply. The benefit of the thrown javelin over the thrown spear is that it is faster and also longer ranged, with twice the distance of the spear.

Finally, age, height and weight. Half-elves are 70+2d6 inches tall and 120+3d12 pounds in weight. We roll a 7 for height and 29 for weight, making him 77 inches (6′ 5″) tall and 149 pounds in weight. Average half-elf height but slightly stockier than normal. For age, half-elves start at 15+2d4 years old and live to 90+2d20 years. We roll a 5 for starting age and 39 for maximum age. He starts at 20, again average for a half-elf, but will live to 129 years if he survives, about as old as a half-elf can get.

Of course, this is all put together in Dark Sun, so the stats are slightly better than normal, but the principle is still the same if playing in a vanilla campaign. A charismatic fighter can work just as well as just about anyone else, with the exception of a bard who gets an influence ability. You could go through the various source books looking for kits, other NWPs or the like to adapt it, even shop for magic items but the principle remains the same.

Varus: Ftr 3; AL NG; AC 1 (Scale, shield & dex); MV 12; HP 25; THAC0 18 (17 with spear, 16 with thrown spear or javelin); #AT 3/2 (iron spear), 1 (bone javelin); DMG 1d6+2 (1 handed spear), 1d8+3 (2 handed spear), 1d4-1 (bone javelin); Str 13, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 17, Wis 13, Cha 19.

Psionic Summary; PSPs 23; Wild Talent – Life Detection (PS Int -2, Cost 3, Maintain 3/rd).

Saves; PPDM 13, RSW 15, PP 14, BW 16, SP 16.

Weapon Proficiencies; Spear Tight Group.

Weapon Specialisation; Spear, Two handed.

Non-weapon Proficiencies; Etiquette, Heraldry, Gaming, Bureaucracy, Heat Protection, Armour Optimisation, Sign Language.

Languages; Common, Thri-kreen, Elvish.

Gear; Scale armour, medium leather shield, iron spear, 4 bone javelins.

Lets Create: Dark Sun Characters (AD&D 2e): Planning The Character Tree

Athas is a brutal, unforgiving world, and death is not uncommon, even to player characters. Loosing a character, especially an advanced one, and having to shoehorn in a new starting character is never easy. And low level characters are going to have trouble surviving what high level ones can.

So Dark Sun introduced the Character Tree. For it you roll up four characters to form the tree – at the start of any adventure you decide which is the active character and which are the inactive ones. When a new adventure starts you can switch characters or keep playing with the current ones.

There are some rules though. While any race and class combination is allowed, there are alignment restrictions – all four characters must be good, neutral or evil. The lawful-chaotic alignment doesn’t matter. Which means they are all either LG/NG/CG, LE/NE/CE or LN/N/CN.

While the characters do know each other and are assumed to be working towards similar goals, their gear is their own. No swapping gear between characters – the other characters need it to survive themselves after all. They aren’t going to be giving up that precious magic sword of theirs for anything.

Character swapping is limited to a few situations. Firstly, at the start of an adventure. Second, during an adventure, but only at the discretion of the DM, and usually with a 3d6 day delay to represent sending messages and the other character journeying. Swapping characters when they are in distant cities should not really be considered, but if they are both in the same location it would make more sense. And also when an active character dies. An inactive character arrives within one day to take over and the player rolls up a new 1st level character.

As an active character adventures and earns XP and levels up, the player may advance one of his inactive characters 1 level. It does get a little tricky when dual and multiclass characters are involved, as multiclass characters can only advance one of their classes.

So what to put into the character tree? You could go with four gladiators but that is kind of redundant. The dice rolls do determine the exact make up but a spread of characters able to handle a number of situations would work best. You could have one for fighting, one for wilderness travel and adventures, another for city adventures, someone good at magic or psionics or whatever you decide. Some character may cover more than one area, such as rangers, who can both fight and survive in the wilderness. Given the way 2e works, you can have unusual characters covering various aspects for the group. A high INT, high CHA fighter is feasible in 2e, able to be the social face of the party in a way that isn’t really possible in later editions.

I do have a number of ideas in mind for this character tree, but first we need to roll the dice to see what we get. There are a number of options for how to do it, with more or less control over what we get.

The basic option is rolling 4d4+4 6 times, once for each stat in order. It gets good stats, on average around 14 per stat, but lacks control.

Option 1 is rolling 5d4 twice for each stat, keep the highest.

Option 2 is rolling 5d4 6 times and assigning them as desired.

Option 3 is rolling 5d4 12 times and assign the 6 best as desired.

Option 4 is rolling 6d4, discarding the lowest dice, 6 times and assigning as desired.

Option 5 is each stat starts at 10 and rolling 10d4, with dice assigned as desired. No score can be higher than 20 and all points on a dice must be added to the same stat.

The basic option will probably give you better overall stats than the first three options, while the other two will be about the same, on average.

As an example, I used option 4 to roll 4 lots of stats and got one with 19, 19, 17, 16, 14, 13 and one with 16, 15, 14, 14, 10, 8. It is a shame that first was a test run as they would be a very powerful character.

In the end I go with option 5 and get the following 4 sets of dice rolls;

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4.

1, 1, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4.

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4.

1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4.

Those are above average, yes. I do have some character ideas in mind that will require them for prerequisites though.

And next time we will start creating those characters.

Lets Create: Dark Sun Characters (AD&D 2E): Thakur Swiftstride

After the long post about the changes and options for character creation in 2nd ed Dark Sun, it is time to make a character.

Normally we would make four characters as part of a character tree, and we will do that, but first we will do a one off character, using the basic rolling method of 4d4+4 once for each stat.

Six rolls later and we get Str 11, Dex 17, Con 16, Int 15, Wis 16 and Cha 14. A little above average, but not anything exceptional.

The first step to do is to see what we can’t play; the races and classes have various minimum stat requirements needed to play them.

For this character, their low strength means they can’t be a half-giant. They also only just qualify for dwarf and mul, but it is unlikely I will choose them either. The other races are all available.

For classes, we also lack the strength to be a ranger or gladiator, and the charisma to be a bard or druid. That leaves fighter, thief, cleric, templar, defiler, preserver and psionicist available.

It does give us some choices. For this character, though, I am thinking of doing something different to normal, and that is to design a really evil character. The best choices for that are templar and defiler. A templar can be a human, elf, half-elf or dwarf, while defilers are humans, elves or half-elves.

There is only one really option for an evil backstabber, and that is an elven templar/defiler. Elves are duplicitous, templars are power hungry and defilers are plain evil. Together you have something truly unpleasant.

The first choice I am going to make is the characters alignment, as it might help with later choices as to how the character is built. We know they are evil, but what variety? AD&D has an alignment system built on two axis – law-neutral-chaos and good-neutral-evil. That gives us three options – lawful-evil, neutral-evil and chaotic-evil.

Chaotic-evil characters act on evil impulses, do not value any laws and value their own freedoms over everything else. They tend to be a bit psychotic. It doesn’t really work for this character, as, while being a templar gives them some protections, there are always those above them ready to step down hard if they get out of hand.

Lawful-evil characters have moral codes and belief in laws and order and even honour, but it is bent towards evil, repressive outcomes. Peace through tyranny. Again, not I think for this character, as elves tend to be a bit more free spirited.

Which leaves neutral-evil. NE characters are out for themselves, and will do whatever it takes to get what they want. If that involves following the law and working with others, then they will do so, but the minute that is no longer convenient, they will abandon or even betray them. Perfect for an elven defiler/templar looking out for themselves.

Thakur Swiftstride was one of the city elves of Tyr, living in the elven slums there. Always ambitious, always on the look out for a better way, he could see that slum life would never see him obtain the power he craved, and that the only power to be had came through the ruler of Tyr, King Kalak, the mighty sorcerer-king. And so it was that Thakur pledged himself to Kalak, becoming one of his feared and dreaded Templars. Thakur had a secret though – he also was a defiler, a status he kept hidden from all. Through templar magic and defiler magic, Thakur had great ambitions to rise high in the ranks of service to Kalak – and perhaps even higher in time.

So we know his alignment and a bit about him, we are going to look at his stats and what they provide.

Elves have the stat modifiers of +2 DEX, +1 INT, -1 WIS and -2 CON, giving us final stats of STR 11, DEX 19, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 15 and CHA 14.

STR 11 gives no bonuses to combat and a fairly limited carrying capacity. Thakur is on the weaker side for a Dark Sun character. Not that it bothers him – he has no desire to be in combat or to carry much. That is what other people are for.

DEX 19 is quite good, giving +3 to reaction adjustment and missile attack and -4 to AC. He is less likely to be surprised, a definite bonus in the backstabbing world of Templars, is harder to hit and, if it comes to combat, he is better with ranged, which is the only place an elf would want to be.

CON 14 is average, providing no bonus hit points – it would have done without the elven CON penalty. The system shock resistance is 88%, which at least is good, should it ever come to that.

INT 16 provides 5 bonus non-weapon proficiencies, giving him plenty of choices. He can also learn up to 8th level spells, can know 11 spells per level and has a 70% chance to learn a spell.

WIS 15 gives him 2 bonus 1st level clerical spells, and 1 bonus 2nd level (when he can cast them), as well as +1 magical defence adjustment for saves against spells that attack the mind.

CHA 14 means he can have up to 6 henchmen, and that they get a +1 loyalty bonus. He also get a +2 to reaction adjustments. He has some charm and the ability to swift talk others, to get them to do what he wants.

A single class character starts at 3rd level, but multi-class characters start with enough XP to be second level in their most expensive class.

Priests need 1500 xp for first level, while defilers need 1750 xp, so he start with 1750xp in both classes and at level 2/2.

Hit points are calculates as follows for multiclass characters; at first level, add the dice rolls for the classes, then divide by the number of classes before adding bonus HP due to CON. After than, when a class gains a level, roll the appropriate dice and then divide by the number of classes. You round down in all cases which means bad dice rolls can really hurt.

Templars get 1d8 HP and defilers get 1d4 HP per level to start with. For first level we roll a 7 and a 3, totaling 10. Dividing by 2, we get 5 HP at first level. We roll again once per class as both have leveled up. For the templar we get a 3, divided by 2, for 1 HP, and for the defiler we get 2 divide by 2, for 1 more HP, for a total of 7 HPs.

As we are not a psionicist, we get a wild talent. For that we roll a 1d100 on the chart in the psionics hand book to see what we get. Our roll is 80 – Dimensional Door. To activate it requires a CON-1 roll (13 in our case) and allows the opening of a portal to a nearby location briefly. For wild talents, characters get psionic strength points (PSPs) enough to activate it once, and bonus points if it requires maintenance to last for 4 rounds. Dimensional Door requires 4 points to activate and 2 points per round to maintain, which mean we gain 12 PSPs in total. Each time he levels up he gains 4 new PSPs, bringing the total to 16. Its a situational wild talent but could be of use from time to time.

For saving throws we get the whichever is best from our two classes, giving us the following; paralyzation, poison or death magic: 10; rod, staff or wand: 11; petrification or polymorph: 13; breath weapon: 15; spells: 12. Those are the numbers we have to roll equal to or above on a 1d20.

We have two types of proficiency; weapon and non-weapon. Weapon proficiencies enable us to use a weapon without penalty. For both of them we receive whichever class has the most, which is 2 weapons for the templar, and 4 non-weapon for both classes. We also receive 5 bonus non-weapon proficiencies for the high intelligence, giving us 9 in total.

Our choice for weapon proficiences are the longsword, the preferred melee weapon of the elves, and the longbow, the preferred ranged weapon of the elves and also our characters preferred weapon should the need arise. If he is using a longbow and longsword made by a member of his tribe, he gets +1 to hit with them.

For non-weapon proficiences, they have access to general, priest, wizard and rogue NWPs, the rogue being thanks to being a templar. We select a few that we think fit our character and what he does; read/write, spellcraft, somantic concealment, bureaucracy, heat protection, forgery, etiquette and rope use. A number of those come from the Dark Sun campaign guide, designed for the setting.

On Athas, only templars and nobles are legally allowed to know how to read and write, at least in the cities. There are ways around that but generally if you are found out, especially if you are a slave, then the penalty is death. Being a templar, our character doesn’t have to worry about that. Spellcraft helps with his magic, both templar and defiler, while somantic concealment helps disguise the otherwise elaborate gestures that are required to cast a spell. Very useful when trying not to give away what you are. As a member of the bureaucracy, being able to use it effectively is probably a bonus, while being in a boiling hot world, knowing how to protect yourself from the heat and conserve water consumption helps. Forgery covers not just how to forge documents and the like but to also recognise forgeries. A templar should find plenty of use for that. Etiquette covers the correct forms of address and behavior when dealing with people of rank. Probably useful when dealing with nobles and templars of higher rank than our character is. And rope use is for using ropes well, including escaping bonds, but has another important aspect for this character, as we will discuss in a bit.

A second level Templar has 1 1st level spell, but we gain 2 bonus 1st level spells for our wisdom. Unlike Clerics and Druids, Templars have access to all priest spells. His spell loadout can change as required, but his standard spell list is; Command, Create Water and Sanctuary. At his level, Create Water creates enough water for his needs in a day, but obviously can be put to other needs as required.

A second level defiler can cast 2 1st level spells. At first level they start with a spellbook (or not a spellbook) with Read Magic, Detect Magic and 4 other spells in it. (Usually. It all depends on the DM though.) The four he goes with are Charm Person, Armour, Sleep and Identify. He normally has Charm Person and Sleep memorised.

So, about spellbooks. In vanilla they are big, bulky things and very obvious what they are. Given that Athasian wizards of any variety really don’t want to advertise what they are too much, they have found ways of disguising their spellbooks. The exact manner is up to the player, but it could be via tattooing or ritual scaring on the body, woven into cloth, in complicated string and knot patterns, hidden in maps or something else besides. Our character uses his rope use NWP to craft knotted ropes that hide his spellbook in them.

Lastly we have equipment. On Athas, metals are rare, which makes items, including coins, made of metal much more valuable. The common coin used on Athas is the ceramic piece, which are glazed in specific colours and designed to be broken into 10 pie-shaped pieces known as bits. A cermaic bit is worth 1% of a gold coin. All nonmetal items are worth 1% of their vanilla value. All metal items are worth their listed vanilla cost. Given the ceramic bit takes the place of gold coins on Athas, including for starting sums, this makes metal items worth 100 times as much on Athas as elsewhere. A set of full plate normally costs 2000 gold pieces, but on Athas it is worth the equivalent of 200,000 gold coins. Not that you would want to wear it.

Luckily there are alternatives for most things.

Weapons easily made without metal, such as bows, clubs, spears, slings etc , cost 1% of their vanilla prices. For the remaining weapons, such as axes, swords, maces and the like, they use alternatives to metal, such as bone, stone, obsidian and wood. It makes them cheaper, but comes with penalties to hit and damage, and has a habit of breaking as well. Bone is the best, giving -1/-1 penalties, but wood, the cheapest, is worst, with -2/-3 penalties.

For armour there is a limited to what can be done. The lighter armours like leather and hide, are as normal, and others can use pieces of bone and chitin in the manufacture, but the best armours, basically chain and higher, have to be made of metal. You just don’t want to be wearing it – the intense heat on Athas would cook you alive if you wore metal armour.

For Thakur, we would calculate how much money he has based on which class starts with the most – priest for him. He gets 3d6x30 cp. We roll 12, giving him 360 cps. 2nd ed has very large lists to select from for gear, but in this case I am not going to do so. Instead I am only giving him the basics; studded leather armour (made from bone studs) and a medium hide shield comes to 27 cps. A wood longsword costs 10% of vanilla price, which comes to 150 cp. A longbow costs 75 cp and 30 bone sheaf arrows (at 30% of vanilla price) comes to 45 cp. That is 297 cp, leaving him 63 for other expenses. (Note; a multiclass wizard may or may not be able to wear armour depending on the DM. If they are allowed to wear it they can not cast wizards spells while wearing it.)

With that we have largely finished the character. All that remains is to roll up age, height and weight and then stat him out. An elf starts at 15 + 3d4 years old and lives to 100 + 2d20, though very few make it that long. For Thakur, we roll 1, 2 & 4 for starting age, making him 22, and 2 & 4 for max age, meaning 106 is as old as he will be. For height elves are 78 + 2d8 inches high and 160 + 3d10 pounds in weight. Thakur rolls 3 and 2 for height, making him 83 inches ( 6′ 11”) high, rather short for an elf, and 10, 9 & 8 for weight, making him 187 lbs in weight, rather heavy for an elf. So a short elf, which no doubt he has inadequacies about, but heavy as well as a result of the opportunities and lifestyle that a templar has.

Thakur Swiftstride: D2/T2; Al NE; AC 6 (dex), 5 (dex & shield), 2 (armour, shield & dex); MV 12, hp 7; THAC0 20 (22 with wood longsword (21 if tribal made), 18 with longbow(17 if tribal made)); #AT 1; Dmg 1d8-3 (wood longsword); #AT 2/1; DMG 1d8-1 (longbow); Str 11, Dex 19, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 15, Cha 14; Spells 4 1st (templar), 2 1st (defiler).

Psionic Summary: PSPs 16; Wild Talent – Dimensional Door (PS Con -1; Cost 4: Maintain 2/rd).

Saves; PPDM 10, RSW 11, PP 13, BW 15, SP 12

Weapon Proficiences; (Long sword, long bow)

Non-weapon Proficiences; (read/write, spellcraft, somantic concealment, bureaucracy, heat protection, forgery, etiquette, rope use)

Spellbook; Read Magic, Detect Magic, Charm Person, Sleep, Identify, Armour

Gear; Studded leather, medium shield, wooden longsword, longbow, 30 bone tipped sheaf arrows.

Lets Create: Dark Sun (AD&D 2E) Characters

I have mentioned a few times how much I enjoy the Dark Sun setting, so it is about time I made some characters for it. For this we are going to be using AD&D 2e, because, in my mind, it is the best version of D&D but also because the setting was designed using 2nd ed, which makes it work best for the setting.

There have been fan-made rules using 3rd and 5th editions, as well as the official 4th edition rules. I will look at 4th edition to make characters in Dark Sun at some point – I actually liked 4th ed, more so than 3rd ed, as it has some interesting ideas for Dark Sun, as well as some interesting classes, but for me Dark Sun has and always will be 2nd ed.

Before we get started, there are a few things to cover. Dark Sun characters are a little different to vanilla 2nd ed characters. The setting was designed to turn traditional fantasy on its head, and that is reflected in character creation as well. Races are changed, classes are changed and even character generation is a bit different as well.

Back in 2nd ed, characters were not equal. Players rolled for their stats, which means sometimes you got characters with really good stats and sometimes you got bad stats. Those days are gone, which is sad, because rolling stats was fun. You never knew what you were going to get.

For vanilla AD&D, your stats were in the range of 3-18. The basic methods was you rolled 3d6 for each stat in order and noted what you got, which meant the outcome of the dice often determined what race and class you could play. There were alternative options provided as well, the most common one from what I have seen and heard was roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, then assign the results to the stats you wanted. Then end result was slightly higher stats and more choice as to what you played.

Dark Sun characters had better stats than vanilla AD&D. The basic method for them was not 3d6 but 4d4+4, meaning your stats were in the range of 8-20. The equivalent to 4d6 drop the lowest for Dark Sun was 6d4 drop the lowest and assign, but once again there were other alternatives provided as well.

On top of that, the races had bigger stat modifiers. Vanilla races got +1 to one stat and -1 to one state (except half-elves and humans, who got none.) Dark Sun races had more stats modified, with bigger modifiers. A vanilla dwarf had +1 CON and -1 CHA. An Athasian dwarf is +2 CON, +1 STR, -1 DEX, -2 CHA. The most extreme example is the half-giant, who gets +4 STR, meaning that with good rolls it can start with 24 STR. The maximum possible is 25.

Dark Sun characters also start at 3rd level, so they are a little more capable when they start playing.

And all Dark Sun characters are a little bit psionic. If they don’t have the psionicist class they have a random wild talent, which could be anything, ranging from near useless to amazingly useful. Normally the chance for a wild talent is around 1%, if you play with the Complete Book of Psionicists. Dark Sun PCs automatically get it.

So, yes, Dark Sun characters are a lot more powerful than regular vanilla characters. They need to be just to survive. When you start playing, you make up a character tree of four characters which you can swap in and out as you need.

You are going to need them, as Dark Sun is a setting with a high chance of death. 2nd ed tended to see more character deaths than later editions, which toned that down, but Dark Sun, by its very nature, if run properly, was even more brutal than vanilla 2nd ed.

There were no places of safety; everywhere was a battle for survival. Cities weren’t places of refuge; they were places of corruption, suffering and arbitrary laws, ruled over by ancient and incredibly powerful sorcerer-monarchs who were evil to the core. Outside of the cities was wasteland where every drop of water was precious and everything was dangerous, even the plants, many of which had psionics as well.

For regular D&D, the adventure started when you got to the dungeon. In Dark Sun, getting to the dungeon was an adventure in itself. The oasis you stumble upon? Yeah, in a regular world that would be a nice place to rest, but on Athas if the inhabitants, be it people or monsters, don’t try to kill you then the plants just might. And if there are none of those it might be because the water might try to kill you as well.

Yes it was brutal. Yes, you might lose characters. But it was different, had atmosphere and was fun for it.

So tougher characters, but what else was different?

Well, the races for starters. Standard races had a different spin on them and there were also new races added in.

Humans were pretty much humans, not really that much different than elsewhere, except for on average being a little bigger and maybe having a few cosmetic mutations due to centuries of abusive magic scarring the world. They might have slightly odd colourations, or webs between fingers or limbs of odd length but they could fit in anywhere.

Halflings are not the jovial, relaxed types normally seen. They don’t live in peace in The Shire. No, in Dark Sun they are feral cannibals that live in the last remaining pristine part of the world and kill any interlopers who trespass in their territory. (Technically they aren’t cannibals as they don’t eat other halflings but they see all other races as food.)

Athasian Elves aren’t the wise, long lived types who make their homes in the forests so typically of elsewhere. They are instead taller than humans, live not much longer than humans and are mostly members of nomadic tribes who travel everywhere on foot. To ride a beast of burden is seen as weakness. They are also traders but seen by everyone else as untrustworthy, underhanded, swindlers and thieves.

Half-elves are solitary self-sufficient loners rejected by both their human and elvish sides, as humans don’t trust them for their elvish blood and elves look down on them as not being pure elves. Yet at the same time they crave acceptance of those who have rejected them. They tend to get on better with other races who don’t judge them because of their blood.

Athasian dwarves are bald and beardless. Probably for the best in the heat of Athas. They also love toil, becoming hyper-focused on the task they are attempting. This foci they concentrate on with single-mindedness for weeks, months, years or even decades until they complete it. If they die with a focus unfulfilled, they return as a banshee to haunt their worksite.

Gnomes don’t exist. Technically, they don’t exist anymore. A lot of standard fantasy races, like gnomes, orcs, trolls, ogres and more used to live on Athas but went extinct at some point in the past.

Three new player races were added for Dark Sun; muls, half-giants and thri-kreen.

Muls are sterile half-dwarves who have the toughness of their dwarven parents and the height and cunning of their human parents. They are also noted for their extreme endurance, being able to continue working long after anyone else has collapsed from exhaustion. For this reason they make prized slaves and most are bred into captivity.

Half-giants are large and extremely strong, but not exactly bright, though they are friendly and eager to please. This eagerness sees them tend to have a fluid alignment, mimicking whoever they are trying to fit in with. While their size may give them formidable strength, it is not without its downsides, namely needing to consume much more food and water than others and needing to pay more for larger equipment.

Thri-kreen are a race of mantispeople. 2nd ed’s thri-kreen looked more like actually mantises but later editions turned them into mantismen, walking upright and with a more humanoid look. They are incredibly short-lived, at most reaching 35, but they make up for that by not sleeping, needing very little water, having natural armour, being able to leap, having natural weapon attacks and being able to produce poison. They really are the most alien of all the player races though.

So that is the races, but what about classes?

For starters there are no paladins on Athas. This is because there are no gods (though the sorcerer-monarchs like to pretend they are.) So how does this affect the priest classes? Instead of gods they worship the elements – earth, air, fire and water.

Clerics choose one of the elements to worship and receive a spell list based on that element. As can be understood, a cleric of water is very much in demand as they can produce water, albeit on a much reduced amount compared to vanilla. Their weapons and armour are shaped by their choice of element as well.

Druids nurture and protect a specific geographical feature of the land, and draw their strength from that feature. What element they have access to depends on the feature they protect – a mountain would give them access to earth while a volcanic vent would be fire. Within their guarded lands they get many bonuses but they are enemies to all defilers given the way they have ravaged the lands.

Templars are a new priest class, the disciples and bureaucracy of the sorcerer-monarchs, with access to cleric spells granted to them via the sorcerer-monarchs they work for. Inside their home city they have vast arbitrary powers which get stronger the higher level they are, but outside their city those powers are non-existent, and they really have to take care in rival cities. Even in their own city, infighting and back-stabbing are rife.

Thieves are mostly unchanged from vanilla for the most, with the difference being they eventually find a noble patron to work for. Bards are still entertainers, but they are also spies and assassins. They lose the ability to cast magic and instead pick up the full array of thief skills and also the ability to use poisons, including some very nasty ones, even at low level.

Rangers are also largely unchanged, except that they also choose a elemental plane to worship and get their priest spells from that list. Athasian Fighters are masters of mass warfare. Eventually they begin to attract followers in the form of a small army that grow more and more numerous the higher level they reach. Dark Sun was designed with the Battlesystem rules for warfare in mind, which is what fighters use.

There is also a new warrior class available, the Gladiator. They do one thing, and they do it very well – fight. They can use any weapon without penalty and specialise in more than one as well.

The remaining classes are wizards. Arcane magic draws life out of the land to power it, and rampant use of arcane magic over the centuries is what led to the ecological devastation on Athas. Needless to say, it makes people not exactly fans of wizards. There are two types of wizards, the Defiler and the Preserver. The Preserver takes care to minimise or negate the damage they cause when casting spells but the Defiler doesn’t. They rip what they need from the land, leaving destruction in their path. It means the Defiler gains power faster than a Preserver, but they are hated by everyone, even other Defilers who see them as rivals. Preservers at least have some that won’t hate them.

All this has gone on a bit longer than I first planned, which means next time we will start actually working on characters, rolling the dice and seeing what we come up with.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Alien Character – Vasaati the Ghost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaasati’s final character looks like this;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets Create: Fading Suns Merchant Character – Crosswire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crosswire’s final character looks like;

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

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

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

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

Curses: Unnerving (-2 Extrovert around superstitious people)

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

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

Lets Create: Fading Suns Priest Character – Brother Octavian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Octavian’s final character looks like this;

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

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

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

Blessings: Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So which one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ysabel’s final character looks like this;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets Create: Fading Suns Characters

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

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

The Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character Creation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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