So you’re on a quest to retrieve the Fire Down Below, but first you need some heroes. Specifically, four: too large a roster would be hard to keep track of… but wounds, afflictions, and even deaths will demand a regular rotation. The character-creation process should be weighted on the side of simplicity.
This week, we’ll look at how you can build a hero for your family’s roster. Keep in mind that saves and skills come in four ranks of mastery: “unfamiliar,” “familiar,” “trained,” and “expert,” and that the default value for each is “unfamiliar.”
Rule Zero of Character Creation
Name, outlook, personality, backstory, and other details are entirely up to the player and may be filled in at any time – even posthumously – or not at all.
About Heroic Talents
In the Fire Down Below campaign, heroic talents fill the role that would be served in many games by “character class.” Each talent provides a suite of starting skill and save ranks, and a single perk (to be introduced later after I fill out the game’s systems and get a feel for what would be appropriate!). Beyond this, character customization is up to the player. There are four basic heroic talents:
- The cunning hero is a keeper of secret knowledge. They get +1 rank each to their Int and Wis saves and to the following skills: Evading, Wriggle, Sneak, Tinker, Sight, Sound, Scent, Sixth Sense, Create, Scavenge, Inspect, and Recall.
- The devoted hero is a keeper of society’s rituals and bonds. They get +1 rank each to their Cha and Wis saves and to the following skills: Dagger, Striking, Climb, Swim, Sight, Sound, Sixth Sense, Social, Emote, Inspect, Tend, and Recall.
- The fearsome hero is a guard against violent threats. They get +1 rank each to their Dex and Con saves and to the following skills: Spear, Club, Dagger, Striking, Grappling, Sight, Sound, Space, Climb, Parkour, Wriggle, and Emote.
- The vigorous hero is the most physically adept, and leads a party through the underworld’s obstacles. They get +1 rank each to their Str and Con saves and to the following skills: Spear, Grappling, Evading, Climb, Swim, Parkour, Wriggle, Sneak, Sight, Sound, Space, and Scavenge.
If you have a concept for a hero that doesn’t quite fit any of these molds, feel free to adjust one of the above slightly by shifting one or two of the skill-rank bonuses to another skill in the same category. For greater freedom, you may create a versatile hero by picking any two saves and any twelve skills; the only caveat is that you must choose at least one skill from each category. (Perk reduced to compensate for increased freedom?)
The Final Three Dice
We generated attributes by rolling 3d6 seven times and assigning six of the resulting totals. The final three will be used individually:
- Assign one die result as the character’s menace allowance, a.k.a. “Hit Points,” although in the Fire Down Below, some of these “hits” are psychological or spiritual! This number represents the number of wounds and afflictions the character can take before being incapacitated.
- Assign one die result as a number of extra ranks that may be applied to any skill or save in addition to what is provided by the character’s heroic talent.
- And assign one die as the number of objects and rituals the character has studied and can use with the Create or Recall skills. If you don’t think your character would know how to make or repair anything, or perform any rituals at all, then go ahead and sacrifice this die (no matter what value it shows) to add one point to any attribute.
A Note About Menaces
Bad things happen to heroes in the line of duty, and the lingering effects are called menaces. We’ll be splitting these up into wounds (physical injury) and afflictions (poisoning, diseases, curses, and other conditions) because they’ll be treated in different ways, but the following apply to all menaces equally:
- If the total of a character’s wounds and afflictions exceeds their HP score, they are incapacitated and will die if not carried back to town.
- Every menace is specific. The character sheet will have space to write down a brief note about each one.
- Every menace makes your job harder. For any check where an affliction would interfere with normal functioning (such as a broken ankle when trying to run), you have disadvantage on the roll. A successful Tend check can negate this penalty for one task only, but –
- Menaces can only be cured in town. There may be exceptions, but a menace can only be removed by taking appropriate actions while the character is not adventuring. Best results should come from the menaced character spending their town action to convalesce while another helps treat them.
- Incapacitation is almost always going to be the end of your character’s normal adventuring for the rest of the expedition, but don’t worry! I’m working on something that the player can do in order to continue participating instead of sitting around bored while everyone else plays!
- Roll 3d6 seven times and assign six of the results to attributes as desired. Note the modifier for each.
- Note the character’s level and proficiency bonus (1 and +1, respectively, for starting characters).
- Choose a heroic talent and add ranks to the indicated saves and skills. Make a note of your perk.
- Use your final three dice to assign HP, add a few extra skill ranks, and teach the character some crafting recipes and divine rituals.
- For each save and skill add up the total ranks, sum up the relevant modifiers, and write down the total for quick access during play.
And that’s it! You have a character who’s ready to adventure. Mark them down in your family roster and send them on missions whenever you think is appropriate.
For cases where even that would take too much time, I should probably include a number of example/pregen characters. You could literally just pick up a copy and start play with a fully-fledged character, or perhaps just steal the attribute spread because you don’t feel like rolling all those dice. For players who want a little more complication, on the other hand, I’m considering an optional system to build a fated hero talent with even more dice rolls. Whee!