Today we look at Character Creation in Early Dark. It’s an interesting chapter that deviates at points from the usual methods of character creation found in other games but does introduce a few neat ideas in the process.
Step 1: Roll Scenario
The first part of a game of Early Dark involves rolling a Scenario. This determines the Region that the game starts in, the Local Culture where the story is set and the Scenario, which is a the premise or snapshot that acts as a prelude for the events of the story.
This is an interesting sort of way to get a group running. I’ve not tried anything like this before, and it does make things interesting even for the GM. That said these rolls are only made once for the entire group.
Right, so let’s give that a shot, I roll 3d10, one d10 for each of the following and I get
Region: Kuludo, Home of the Anu Lords
Local Culture: Lowland Wetlands, the stilt-borne cities of Kapix’tul
Scenario: A caravan of merchants parades through the streets after a journey, while a guild of assassins launches a very public attack.
I’d like to note that the book does say that the whole roll scenario thing is something that can be optional, I do find it as a nice touch. Having this sort of dynamic entry into a campaign kicks things off at a nice and high level, one that doesn’t end up with the usual “You all meet in a bar”. Furthermore, with this scene in mind, the players then get to build their characters based on what fits this particular opening scene.
Step 2: Milieu
At this point we move on to select a social circle or Milieu, and make selections on characteristics such as Gender, Age and Heritage, all of which impact the Aptitudes of the character. Furthermore the player chooses one of six different Alignments, which set your place in the story. It sound pretty vague at this point but let’s got through it all one by one:
Given that our Scenario is set in Anu, I figure I might as well try my hand at being an Anu as well. Going over the Anu Milieus, I opt to pick Citizen, perhaps as one of the workers that were part of the caravan of merchants that was attacked.The Citizen Milieu gives me 1 Thrive
- I select the Male Gender that gives me 4 Move
- I choose to be Young, which gives me 2 Fight
- I opt to be part of a non-Thun heritage, gaining 5 Cunning
- As a worker for a merchant, I opt to make my Alignment into Patronage to work for a given Merchant House.
Step 3: Aptitudes and Traits
Right, so now that we have those values, what do they all MEAN? Well, Early Dark is built around Eight Aptitudes, these represent what a person is good at. These Aptitudes are:
- Cunning – creativity, intellect, memory, ingenuity
- Fight – combat, melee, spirit, tenacity, aggressiveness
- Relate – socialize, empathy, bond, charisma, presence
- Guile – stealth, trickery, feign, hide
- Thrive – willpower, resolve, change, grow, adapt
- Touch – awareness, sensitivity, feel, finesse, artistry
- Labor – bulk, productivity, inertia, stubbornness
- Move – flexibility, speed, balance, agility, reflexes
At this point I have 12 points to distribute on my Aptitudes, but I CANNOT touch the ones already set by my Milieu, this insures that I will have a 5 and a 1 somewhere in my stats. So upon spending on the rest of my Citizen’s Aptitudes, this is what I have:
Now onto Traits. Traits are derived from the Aptitudes plus any Augments that the character may have. Starting characters don’t really have Augments to speak of so the Traits start off equal to the related Aptitude. After checking the chart These Traits values for my citizen are:
Tacks per Turn (TPT) 5
Damage per Die (PDP) 1
Rolls per Round 3
The secondary Traits are Vest Capacity and Total Capacity, which are essentially Encumbrance values. My Citizen has a Vest capacity of 6 (equal to my Ground value) and Total Capacity of 12 (or twice my Ground value).
Step 4: Dice & Arts
Starting characters begin with a series of Arts which grant access to a large body of knowledge that enable all sorts of things from attacks to skills. They also start off with Domain Dice, which are used for the other facets of reality: the Loom and the Arcane.
My citizen begins with:
4 Raw Arts
2 Talents (Mundane or Arcane)
3d10 Guard Dice
A Fighting Style (Light Aspect)
and the following Distribution of Domain Dice:
Mundane 9, Arcane 4, Loom 4
For his 4 Raw Arts (and Talents), I selected:
- Raw Martial Arts (Fight-Move) with the Disarm Talent
- Raw Grift (Guile-Relate)
- Raw Clamber (Move-Thrive)
- Raw Canvass (Guile-Touch) with the Fallback Talent
Step 5: Choose Starting Epithet
Epithets are names, titles that your character earns as his legend grows. These aren’t chose from a list per se, but are named by the player. Each Epithet also has a single Art increase and other benefits to reflect that stage in their lives.
for my Citizen’s case, I’m raising Grift and Martial Arts to a Low Art for 20 Renown each, and getting Hacking Blade as a Raw Art for 10 Renown.
for a name of the Epithet, I’ll go with “Ineffable Rogue”
Step 6: Starting Equipment
Here we start with whatever equipment suits your character concept. Given that I’m playing a mere citizen with some proficiency in Martial Arts, I’ve opted to leave him with nothing but some rations, and the clothes on his back. I’m pretty sure this will be rectified sooner or later with a little judicious application of his Grift and Canvass Arts as well.
Character creation in Early Dark is complicated and perhaps a little confusing the first time around. That said I expect that things will get easier with practice. The authors have a lot of good and original ideas here, with the Aptitudes as opposed to Attributes and the use of a Scenario to set the context of the game among them.
The early copies of the PDF had a few issues with lack of references, but I’m glad that the latest pdf addressed those quickly. There’s still a little bit of page-flipping back and forth, but nothing that anyone who lived through the 3rd Edition Legend of the Five Rings can’t endure.
For those who prefer a more thorough treatment of Character generation, do check out the Early Dark Character Creation Companion for free over at DriveThruRPG.
Tomorrow we look at the Mechanics for Early Dark and find out how the game handles conflict resolution.
Calvin from Anthropos Games was kind enough to send me a copy of my sample character’s sheet to help serve as a guide to those following the article. You can find them below: