Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let Me Tell You About My Character

Roleplaying gamers can be a pretty geeky or nerdy - yes, there is a difference - bunch, but we still have our social taboos, and I am about to break one of those taboos, right here on the intrewebs, for everyone to see, by typing those seven words even gamers dread to hear.

Let me tell you about my character.

My Flashing Blades character for my solo campaign was killed by a rival last month, and since I want to continue with solo campaigning, I decided to generate a new character.

As with many roleplaying games, Flashing Blades character generation begins with determining basic attributes. Characters have a traditional six attributes - Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Wit, Charm, and Luck - generated by an equally traditional 3D6 rolled in order. Using an online roller, the six attribute scores were as follows.

Attribute Score
Strength 9
Dexterity 12
Endurance 14
Wit 14
Charm 12
Luck 7

So, the character's best attributes are Endurance and Wit, followed by Dexterity and Charm. Luck, on the other hand, is a disappointing seven - I'm unlikely to make this character a gambler, like the chevalier.

The next step is determining the character's Background. Background shouldn't be confused with classes in other roleplaying games. With respect to the rules, Background determines starting wealth, Social Rank, the cost of skills, and access to certain starting careers.

Because skills are based on a attributes, a high attribute score may suggest a particular background. Endurance is only associated with one skill, Carousing, but it also increases a character's hit points and capacity for encumbrance, which is important to characters with the Soldier or Marine Background. A high Wit is associated with many skills, particularly those from the Gentleman Background, such as Banking or Bureaucratics. Dexterity is most useful to the skills associated with the Rogue Background, like Cut Purse, Stealth, and Fine Manipulation.

So, first impression is that this character would make a good Gentleman, perhaps a student of theology peparing for a career in the Church or a royal bureaucrat with aspirations to become a court minister. But after the experience of my last character getting owned by a good but not great bravo, I want a swordsman, and that means putting skill points into the rapier.

I don't just want him to be good with the sword, however - brawling skill is also important in Flashing Blades, and I sometimes found myself lamenting that the chevalier was no damn good at a swift kick or a grapple. The easiest way to do this in FB is by way of the Rogue Background.

Wit is also a decent skill for a Rogue - Bribery, Forgery, and Disguise are all available in the Background skill list, and all are determined by Wit. I've run a lot of characters over the years with Bribery skill - greasing palms for the win - and occasionally Forgery, but rarely have I run a character with a talent for Disguise.

The Disguise skill is also a prerequisite for getting a job as an actor, and now a character is taking shape in my mind, of an itinerant player who doubles as a bravo. In order to be an actor, however, my character would also need a Charm of 13+ and the Oratory skill, which expensive for Rogues.

FB allows me trade attribute scores on a two-for-one basis, so in order to work as an actor I must increase his Charm and I probably want to increase his Wit as well. Endurance is the only score I can afford to sacrifice, so I take four points from his Endurance and add one point each to Wit and Charm. The results look like this.

Attribute Score
Strength 9
Dexterity 12
Endurance 10
Wit 15
Charm 13
Luck 7

That loss of Endurance is a bit painful, so he's really going to need to be a good swordsman, to avoid getting hit. Still, the fifteen in Wit gives him an extra skill point, a +1 to his fencing Expertise, and provides the basis for his Disguise skill, so it's a useful, if expensive, trade.

One last roll affects his starting attributes. In FB, each character has a height and build, with effects on the physical attributes. I can choose his height or build, and then must roll for the other. A Stocky build is tempting, as it adds an extra hit point, but under my house rules for jumping, it costs him, and I'm thinking I want him to take the Acrobatics skill. A Thin build adds a point of Dexterity, but if he turns out to be Short, he loses Strength and Endurance. So I decide to play it safe, choose Average for his build and roll for his height, which turns out to be Tall. That's good, 'cause it gives him a reach advantage in combat, and his attribute scores are set.

With his attributes set, I can calculate hit points and encumbrance capacity. Every character starts with a base of ten hit points, modified by Strength, Endurance, Luck, and build. His average scores in the first two yield no benefit, and fortunately his below average Luck isn't so low as to cause him a penalty; with his Average build, then, he start with the bog-standard ten hit points. Encumbrance also begins at ten points and is modified by Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, and build as well, but again, his scores are right near the mean, so there are no modifiers.

Now I can move on to skills. Each character in FB gets ten skill points for non-martial skills, modified by Wit and Luck. A fifteen Wit gets him an extra two skill points, and his seven Luck is fortunately not low enough to result in a penalty, for a total of twelve. Here's where Background first comes into play: each Background offers access to a number of skills, with bonus skills costing one point, regular skills costing two points, and skills not on the Background list costing three points. As an actor he must have both Disguise and Oratory - Disguise is a background skill for Rogues, so that costs two points, but Oratory isn't found in the Rogue Background, so that's gonna cost him three points. As I mentioned, Acrobatics is another skill I want my character to have, covering climbing, tumbling, and so forth; it's in the Rogue background, so that's two more points, for a total of seven out of twelve so far.

One more skill point is spent to speak another language; I decide that he's a native Occitan speaker, so that extra point goes into French. Rogues don't begin with literacy, which means that while he speaks two languages, he can neither read nor write. Clearly he learns his parts by rote or improvises his characters.

That leaves me four points to put into Expertise with a weapon, and I choose the rapier.

Martial skills are handled differently from non-martial skills. In Flashing Blades, all characters have some form of swordsmanship training - the goal of character generation in the game, after all, is to produce swashbucklers. With the Rogue Background, my character can take the School of Hard Knocks, which confers Brawling, and a Fencing School, which confers one style of fencing and a +1 bonus to a particular weapon. I choose French Style dueling, and another +1 with the rapier.

With martial skills selected, I can calculate Expertise. Base Expertise with dueling weapons is 10, to which I can add +1 for his Dexterity and +1 for his Wit, giving him a minimum Expertise of 12 with the longsword, rapier, and foil. He also has a +1 with the rapier from his training, and a + 4 with the rapier from skill points, giving him an Expertise of 17 with the rapier. Base Brawling Expertise is 8, again raised by one each for his Dexterity and Wit, for a base Expertise of 10 with his hands and improvised weapons.

Next comes Advantages and Secrets. FB characters may have one Advantage and one Secret; a player can choose to take an Advantage without a Secret at the cost of two skill points, or a Secret with no Advantage to gain a skill point. For this character, I decide to forego both an Advantage and a Secret, preferring to let these sort themselves out in actual play.

Last, I roll for his initial wealth, a 1 on D6, giving him an annual income of 50 £ - that's livres, not pounds - the lowest amount possible for a beginning character in FB. With a Rogue's background, his Social Rank is 2, giving him monthly living expenses of 6 £, and at the end of the year he owes roughly 22 £ in taxes to the Crown and - since I'll make him a Catholic - 20 £ in tithes to the Church. He'll need to work at least six months out of the year as an actor to cover his expenses, plus whatever he can bring in as a sellsword.

Finally, he needs a name. My son and I were playing the LEGO game Pirate Plank earlier in the day - in French, that's La Planche du Pirate. I like the sound of La Planche. He's a native Occitan speaker, so he was born Peyrot La Planca, and uses Pierre La Planche as his stage name. He's originally from Brignoles, and came to Marseille to make his fortune. I have a vague sense of a Saint-like penchant for disguises and false identities.

This will give me an excuse to repurpose the excellent Job Tables from the Tavern Trawling supplement to Backswords and Bucklers - La Planca/La Planche is very much a Basterd for Hiyer, and the tables are well suited to a solo campaign, particularly with the wrinkles which the Mythic Game Master Emulator introduces in play.

Now all I need is a few hours of free time to play.


  1. "seven words even gamers dread to hear'

    Haha! I say, who cares? We write because we must. If anyone reads it, icing on the cake.

    It's been years since I played an RPG but I love the idea of a pirate game.

    1. "We write because we must."

      I couldn't agree more. This blog is a thinking-out-loud exercise, and while I really appreciate it when people chime in, it serves its purpose even when I'm talking to myself.

      I find it's also helping me to be faster writer, so that's a good thing, too.

      That said, this particular post does have an ulterior motive - I wanted to have a reference to point to on character creation for Flashing Blades. So the intro is a bit self-satirical.

  2. I've been reading Flashing Blades on and off since I first saw Le Ballet de l'Acier. This is a resource I will come back to time and time again, both to point other people towards and to examine myself for an example of character creation.

    1. How about statting up Giancarlo as a non-player character?

    2. If I have not made a mistake, here is how Giancarlo should stat out.