Designer’s Blog, Entry 2.
"Character Generation in the Eldritch Role-Playing System."
By Dan Cross with Randy Petras
Greetings, and welcome, dear readership, to a new installment of the Eldritch Role-Playing (ERP) game designers blog! The last entry dealt with the combat system in general. Now we turn our attention to the basics of character and NPC generation.
ERP uses a skill based system to describe a character’s abilities. By possessing high ability in a certain skill, it is assumed that the hero has the physical traits to use the skill. For example, a character with a high “sword” skill is able to hit and do damage with a sword at a certain level. The game makes no distinction about this damage being the result of finesse or brute strength. The player’s character concept and other skill selections will dictate the feel of the character.
From a game mechanics point of view, ERP uses a system of increasing dice values as the character increases in skill. Beginning with a base skill of 1D4, the character increases his skill by purchasing higher die values. D4 to D6, D6 increases to D8 and so on through D12. This is called Die-Rank. In addition to increasing Die-Rank a character can specialize a skill. Taking a general skill like Melee, and specializing in Swords, a character can then roll two dice in a skill check. Mastery is also possible, adding a third die. This is called an Ability-Dice-Chain.
We’ll begin by creating a new character named Morgan the Gray, a roguish half-elf who dabbles in illusion and trickery. Now traveling amongst human kingdoms, Morgan seeks excitement and renown. Swift with both his dagger and wit, few are a match for his cunning. Raised by elves, and the son of a human Queen and elven Enchanter, his bloodline is both royal and magical. With the character concept defined, the GM initiates the process of character creation, granting thirty Character Points (CPs).
The first step is deciding on the character’s race. Racial selection grants a number of abilities and defines some of the starting statistics of the character. From the character definition we see that Morgan will be a half-elf. All Half Elves have respectable Endurance, Reflexes, and Willpower, as well as Low-light vision. The racial package costs 8 points out of the available 30.
Second, a look through the Advantages and Disadvantages list helps to round out a character. It is wise to do this before finalizing skill selections, because this can adjust the CP pool up or down. In this case we select one, deciding the half-elf will be ambidextrous, costing another 2 CPs. Then with twenty points to spare, we finalize skills.
For action in any story, the most important abilities are Agility, Endurance, Reflexes, Resistance, Speed, and Willpower. Because this is a game of heroes, none of these attributes fall beneath “average” at character creation (unless, for some reason, the player wishes it so). There are two types of abilities: unrestricted and restricted. Any character may attempt unrestricted abilities, which default to an ability-check roll of 1D4. A character will be able to increase proficiency (Die-Rank) from this starting point, and most skills fall under this category. On the other hand, characters cannot attempt a restricted ability without proper training (i.e., you must purchase the base rank of 1D4.) It is possible to pick up restricted abilities during racial selection. All Specializations are considered restricted and purchased from a D4 upwards. Each increase in Die-Rank costs 2 CP.
D4: (0 CP Unrestricted; 2 CP Restricted) This is the default rank, meaning characters may utilize most skills at no cost! Agility, Artistry, Animal Handling, Appraisal, Augury, Feats of Strength, Handicraft, Healing, Investigation, Knowledge, Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons, Resistance, Scouting, Speed, Stealth, Survival, and Unarmed Combat.
Morgan buys into the Arcanum ability. He must pay 2 CP for the 1D4 level because it is a restricted skill. The ability of Coercion (which is Restricted) drops off the list because he did not pay any points for it. 2 CP total.
D6 (2 CP each rank): Endurance, Reflexes, and Willpower were raised to D6 during race selection, thus we’ve already paid for these. We raise Morgan’s Skullduggery, Scrutiny, Climbing and Thievery abilities to D6 each, spending an additional 8 CP.
D8 (4 CP each rank): We raise Morgan’s Arcanum to D8. We already purchased the base level of 1D4 to allow him to perform Magic. We are now raising the skill to a higher proficiency. 4 CP total (including the initial 2 point cost).
Morgan keeps Melee Weapons at D4, but chooses to add a Specialization in Knives at D4, he spends 2 CP for the Specialization. He will roll 2D4 when fighting with Knives.
Finally we add a D6 specialization in the Mystic Power Source. This is a specialization of Arcanum, allowing him to use magic from this Source. This costs 4 CP. Morgan will roll 1D8 + 1D6 when rolling for spells from the Mystic Source.
Morgan spent his points, and possesses respectable skill in roguish activities, and is good in the mystic arts. Overall, his knowledge and power remains reasonable for one of 1st level. ERP measures character experience by level, without dictating advancement in terms of any one “character class” or bundle of abilities. Rather, experience level applies to a hero’s capabilities in toto. At each level of advancement, Morgan Half-Elven gets more Character Points equaling level +2.
There are also occupational “skill sets” in EHF, organized by lists of suggested abilities in order of importance; but these are suggestions designed to enhance integration into the fantasy milieu, and are never straightjackets. As would be expected, characters may choose to become barbarians, knights, mystic warriors, rangers, sorcerers, clerics (theurgists), etc. Morgan has no set occupation.
Some GMs feel that attempting to limit PCs in terms of their personality and motivations becomes something of a debacle in actual game play. I feel most players assume the role of the character they envision, despite the statistics on the page, or they adhere to whichever concepts allow the least restrictions. ERP honors this observation, and eliminates broadly defined statistics like Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. You will play exactly the character you want, with plenty of room for development and diversity. However, there are similar traits for characters to acquire, so one who wishes to be "wise" can choose specific skills related to such wisdom. Likewise, one who wishes to be ultra-intelligent may choose and areas of expertise which convey such (like ancient history, the talent for research, or Arcanum).
Hopefully this entry helped to illustrate how flexible character creation can be.
Last edited by dancross on Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.