[Let’s Study: Early Dark] Part 3: Census of Heroes

Posted: June 20, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Early Dark, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games

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:

Cunning 5
Fight 2
Relate 3
Guile 4
Thrive 1
Touch 3
Labor 2
Move 4

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
Investment
Upkeep 0
Guard 15+
Initiative +2
Ground 6
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)
4 Wounds
3d10 Guard Dice
A Fighting Style (Light Aspect)

and the following Distribution of Domain Dice:
Mundane 9, Arcane 4, Loom 4
Blood 8

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:

Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge!

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Comments
  1. SenorFeesh says:

    Nice handling of the rules overall – would be nice to have a little more info on what the Arts and Talents you’ve selected do (I have a copy myself, but for those who are interested in the system would add a little more I think). Is also worth mentioning that you don’t immediately gain the upgraded benefits of your first epithet until you buy them with xp.

    Also, whilst they are still optional (although they will be official for events run by Anthropos) the errata recently published online ups your Guard dice to 4 as well.

    I’m really excited about this whole direction for RPGs; been running a small campaign set in Neferatha for a little while now, and I’m very much enjoying it so far!

  2. dbro36 says:

    You know, you are my go-to source for information on cool RPGs I wouldn’t otherwise hear of. You also give me enough details to make up my mind about a product.

    So far, Early Dark as a setting looks and sounds super awesome to me. Their “Scenario Generator” seems like a lot of fun to come up with original starts of a new campaign. Character creation however sounds less appealing to me and from what I can glean from the stats and whatnot, I am fairly certain that combat and such are going to be far too crunchy for me as well.

    Oh well, at least the “Scenario Generator” thing is something I can take from it to use. I might try that out when I start a campaign with my friends. See how they like it. Wouldn’t be too hard to whip up something cool.

  3. Jacob Mooney says:

    For anyone who wants a second example of an Early Dark character, I thought I’d whip up a character really quick-like to show how easy character generation is once you’re in the swing of things.

    I like the idea of a band of Edish pirates docking in one of the Kapix’tul to sell off some of their “bartered” goods. I think I’ll take one of the Edish millieus. There’s no “Hara Sea Pirate” choice, but the Nomadic Tribe Settlement seems close enough. Just like Praetawa did, maybe the pirate captain I serve under was a Hattan who decided to take his tribe to sea. He would probably be in the town on some well-deserved R&R when he witnessed the attack.

    The milieu gives me 5 touch, 1 guile for being male, 2 thrive for being adult, and a 4 in cunning for being of the cougar totem. A nice start for this roguish archer I have in mind, which should fit in well with the character above. I boost aptitudes and choose arts which reinforce this idea, and come up with:

    Aptitudes :4 Cunning / 4 Fight / 4 Relate / 1 Guile / 2 Thrive / 5 Touch / 1 Labor / 3 Move

    Traits: 4 TpT / 1 DPD / 0 Upkeep / 3 Lim / 16 Guard / +3 Initiative / 5 Ground / 3 RPR

    Raw Animal Kinship (Relate -Touch) With the mastery of Kindred with Felines
    Raw Archery (Fight – Touch) with the Eagle Eye talent
    Raw Scouting (Touch – Move)
    Raw Speechcraft (Cunning Relate)

    These stats keep my archer ahead of the game with high tacks per turn and initiative. The Animal Kinship gives him future opportunities to secure an animal retainer (A cougar might be appropriate, considering his Hattan’s totem) to help him out in close-quarters combat. The archery was an easy choice, and the scouting and speechcraft gives him some wily debating skills and a knack for the outdoors.

    For an epithet – I think I’ll go with “Keen Arrow”. As soon as I earn 50 renown I’ll get two more talents in Archery (Pin, and Grazing Shots) along with one DPD augment to get his DPD up to two for when I need Grazing Shots to deal fatigue.

    I also have 9 Mundane dice, 4 Arcane dice, and 4 Loom dice – he’s definitely rooted in the real world.

    For equipment, I just pick up a longbow and 4 load of soft armor along with some rations.

    So that’s a character done in about forty minutes – not hard at all once you’ve done a few.

    • Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for the additional example! I really feel that Early Dark’s character creation gets easier with practice (and the milieus really do help) I think what got to me the first time was trying to put together the stats before I even got to reading the rules chapter or even the arts, so a lot of the terminology was hazy. Once I was done with the book I felt a lot more confident with character creation.

  4. Greg says:

    I just went through the character creation. Once you get the hang of it, it runs pretty smoothly.

    Trey Lannen from Upper Edrada, of the Raven Tribe was born on this day. He is a land owner with his hand in the political arena. His quest starts when he hears rumblings of an attack and goes to the mason on his property and his 5 daughters to kick them off his land. In turn saving them from certain death that would befall them the next day. Of course the 5 daughters do not take kindly to the news, and with their practice swords attack our wayward hero Trey Lannen.

    I really dig the guidelines here you need to play with. It kind of helps focus your characters.

    As for dbro36, the numbers are not too crunchy once you get going. I think there is a shock in how much stuff is on the paper, but the combat is pretty simple and very flexible.

  5. Michael says:

    I keep intending to roll up a character to go along with yours, OP, but silly life keeps getting in the way. Maybe later this week.

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