Cover to Cover : RuneQuest 6th Edition - Character Creation Part 2

We left off with the basics of character creation complete - we have characteristics, figured attributes and some core "everyman" skills figured, for an outline of a very young, entirely inexperienced character. The next two chapters flesh out the character, and begin to show the depth of effort that is expected of the GM in crafting his world. This is where we really start to encounter those "consult your GM" moments for players.

The last chapter ended with skills and a brief and relatively unsatisfying look at Combat Styles, but actually includes one more page - a quick one-page guide to the basics of character creation. It pulls many of the tables from the previous chapter into a single page, with references to where the values go on the included character sheet (one of the last pages of the book.

Chapter 2 begins what I've heard referred to a lot as a "life path system" - where the details of your character's past are determined, from the very broad (what people or culture did he arise in) to the very specific (how large is his family, and how well regarded are they). Even more than before, GM fiat will determine how one proceeds.

The nations and peoples of the world that you'll be playing in are broken down into four broad categories (that should be familiar to old hands who played the Avalon Hill 3rd edition of the game, or newer): Primitive, Nomadic, Barbarian or Civilized. Each of these groups is broadly detailed, along with a little short story detailing the "voice" of that kind of civilization. The primary reason for making this distinction is that it determines which Professional skills (those that not everyone starts with some default in) are available to you at character generation, as well as providing a list of associated common skills that you can improve as part of your upbringing. Everyone gets 100 percentile points to invest in those skills at this stage, to represent the sort of learning that brought you to young adulthood.

More reference is made, briefly, to Combat Styles, with a list of example styles for each culture. You can safely ignore these - they're there to spark your GMs imagination and nothing more, as they're not defined here or anywhere else in the book. Your GM will have to provide you with the information on what Combat Styles are available.

This is a bone of contention for me: I understand that most RPGs give you character generation first thing, but in a generic system (even a generic fantasy system) would do well to invest some time early on in GM-specific questions that need to be answered before you can even start thinking about making a character. Combat styles is a big one in RQ6, but so is Culture. The rules suggest that maybe you force your players to all be from the same culture, so that they have an excuse to have formed pre-game bonds with one another, but it's not a hard and fast rule for obvious reasons. I'd kill for a GM's checklist right up front, with a list of all the questions you must answer to define your world, and page references for more details on how to make those decisions and their ramifications.

One other facet of your culture choice is that you're presented with a list of Passions that you can choose from. More on those later, but they're an interesting RP construct that leans heavily on the popular notion of Aspects from FATE, while maintaining a more simulation-friendly mechanic.

The other piece of this chapter is your family background, and this is where things get back to random once more, in a very old school way (roll d100 on a chart!) combined with a vague flexibility that permeates much of modern gaming (don't like it, don't use it). Charts are included here to determine a Background Event (intended to be pivotal in your character development. If you're unsure of who your character is when you sit down to make him or her, this can be helpful in guiding you in a new and unexpected direction. If you have a notion, it's likely to feel artificial and hampering), your Social Class (from Outcast to Ruling, also determines starting gear and money) and your family (how many parents still live, siblings, aunts and uncles) and their place in the society, indicated by Reputation and Connections tables. There's even a sidebar on having characters start out married and with children, if that suits your style of game.

It's an interesting anachronism in a game that tends towards the more modern design, all these random rolls. As the kind of writer and character designer that likes to work within artificial limitations, I enjoy it, but it does feel a bit out of place, and I can see many tables discarding the concept, or modifying it to suit (pick your own family and background events, and everyone starts out in the same, average social class, for example). Remember, Your Runequest Will Vary - this is anticipated behavior.

Four things that you will get from these rolls are numbers of Allies, Contacts, Rival and Enemies. Again, great role-playing hooks, great fodder for your background, but also something that you can come up with on your own. Again, I'm of two minds here. One, it prevents power-gamers from deciding that they only have friends and allies, but it also enforces some things that might not be valid for a particular character design.

Remember Luck Points - the tool expected to be used to influence die rolls, based on your POW characteristic? Well, this chapter introduces the notion of a party pool of Luck Points, based on the number of connections that you make, pre-game, within the party. You and the party sorcerer are brothers? That's a connection, and adds to the party luck pool. It's a simple mechanic to entice your players to make the sort of interpersonal connections with the rest of the party that removes the un-fun kind of bickering that is common when a bunch of total strangers are thrown together.

Finally, we get an explanation of Passions: they are defined like skills (rated on a percentile scale), but loyalties, allegiances, beliefs, ideals and emotions. This section really only tells you how to decide what passions are appropriate to your character and how to define them (and their default starting values), as well as explaining that while they can change like any other skill, it's more often than not a change by GM fiat to represent the results of role-playing - your loyalty to your chieftain can increase when he make a big deal of publicly thanking you for something you've done, just as your love for an NPC can either increase or decrease depending on how he or she responds to your advances. How they're used is explained later, but everything you need to know to establish them (you start with three at character creation) is included here.

Chapter 3 picks up right away with careers and development, the final stage of the life path system. Your culture will constrain the careers available to you, and that's important because it will determine, again, professional skills available to you, as well as common skills that you can improve as part of your prior employment. It's not as flexible as some systems (you only get one career, for example, and can't have changed before play begins) but it isn't as rigid as classes - you can grow in whatever direction you want from this point forward - and it provides all manner of options (Farmer, Courtesan, Mystic and Sailor all make the list). Again, you're given a pool of percentage points to assign to appropriate skills, though an optional table allows for more points depending on starting age - another GM decision.

The last thing covered is starting gear, and while old hands will remember D&D giving you different starting cash depending on your class, RQ6 not only varies the cash, but also the gear you are assumed to start with (from little more than the clothes on your back for a slave, to a dozen sets of opulent clothes, half a dozen weapons and full suit of fine armor). Look for no play balance here - realism in this calls for wide variance in starting gear, which could get some noses bent out of shape in the wrong party. Another benefit of the GM deciding that everyone starts out from the same social strata.

The chapter concludes with the most rudimentary of descriptions of the five magic systems included in the book: Folk Magic, Animism, Mysticism, Sorcery and Theism. Nothing is explained about how much of this magic you start with for one big, impossible to get around reason: this is well into GM worldbuilding material, and it will be up to your GM to decide what you start with, right after he gets done deciding what sort of magic exists in his world!

That said, once you're through this chapter, you've got a character done. You have had to flip ahead to the equipment chapter to look up armor and weapons appropriate to start with, and to the skills chapter to look up the starting percentages for your professional skills, but otherwise you've had everything you need to get started with a character.

If you came to RQ6 expecting to just jump in and play, you're probably mightily disappointed. This game demands a great deal of GM prep before you can even create your characters properly. I suspect that, while they wanted to keep things as broadly generic as possible, the book could have benefited from a "default setting" to give novice players a chance to get their feet wet while the GM gets up to speed on the system, and can then start doing some world-building. Nothing fancy, mind you - just a bare-bones list of assumptions against which other options could be presented as variations on a theme.

Another issue, for all that I love what I've seen so far, is that the skill-set of everyman skills is so broad that I can see there being issues, even after careers are applied, of characters all seeming too mechanically similar. We'll see if gear and magic help to alleviate that problem.

Comments

  1. "What My Father Told Me" was possibly the best set of cultural introductions I've ever seen in role-playing. Of course, in a generic game there's no place for it.

    I confess that I have very little love for random generation systems since I discovered GURPS. On the other hand, it's really nice to have a lifepath, a character history that tells you at least in outline what your life has been like up to this point. On the third hand, that works a lot better if it's tied to a specific setting.

    The thing that I may yet try to do is to run a GURPS game and supply a lifepath for character generation... but instead of "roll to see if this good thing happens", it'll be "pay the relevant number of points to make this good thing happen".

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    1. One of the benefits of the Mongoose Traveller system - often, an event will have options: do you do this crazy thing (with this potential benefit) or do you take this more measured option (and get this slightly less impressive benefit, but with reduced risk). I could see adapting something similar for GURPS chargen - where the GM leads the player through some events with choices, and the choices determine the resulting character. I think +Christian Blouin does this more often than not with his GURPS games.

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