Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tell Me About Your Character: Ep.3- By Crom!

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Following in the footsteps of Matt McFarland, my fellow Saturday Morning Gamers, Jonathan and Geoff, have begun to slog through their RPG collections and they are making a character for each game. My plan is to do the same, with a slight variant. A lot of my collection is made up of several editions of the same game or setting (D&D, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Shadowrun, etc.). So while I will document the characters and process for most games normally, for those with multiple editions I will be making one character and remaking the same character for each edition. Ideally, this should give some insight to some of the decisions the design teams made and how they differ even with the same subject matter.

Wherever possible, I am using randomized stats or whatever the most common methods were to build characters at the time and core books rather than entire game libraries to give the entry level experience. Oh sure, there will be some games that I'll pull out all the stops and use half a dozen game books to create a fleshed out character. But that will be a rare occurrence.

Also, I'm not going to be showing you optimized characters. First, that's not how I build characters, I'm a story guy. But more importantly,this column is about the process, not the result.

As usual, we'll start with the character and concept first:

To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

Ah, Conan.

First an admission.

I do not like Conan stories written by the character's creator, Robert E. Howard. Nor do I particularly care for any of the books that followed from authors like Harry Turtledove, Sean A. Moore, and Robert Jordan. Most of my interest in Conan came directly from two sources: the fantastic Marvel Comics Savage Sword of Conan series and the Schwarzenegger films.

But Conan, while a suitable protagonist for his series, did little for me as the hero of the stories. He seemed to be simply a collection of tropes that would have seemed new and interesting in the pulp era, but lost something in the eighties and nineties of my youth.

What really drew me in was the world-building Robert E. Howard and subsequent creators put into the Hyborian Age where Conan's tales are set. Unlike many of the worlds in which sword and sorcery stories find themselves, the Hyborian Age melded historical (if somewhat anachronistic)times and places with an artificial mythology of magic, monsters, and brutality. While Howard himself created a world he placed between the fall of Atlantis and recorded history (around 10,000 BCE), the final creation felt more timeless as it blended in later european, eastern european, and north african influences.

Who is Petrucco?

Petrucco was born to sail.

The town of Tortage is called the gem of the Barachan Islands by the pirates that dwell there. When Petrucco began to quicken in his mother, Carisia's belly, she drydocked the ship she had captained for nearly a decade for exhaustive repairs while she reared and raised her only child.

When Petrucco was old enough to man a sloop of his own, Carisia and the captains of several allied Tortagian vessels took him under their wing to learn the Barachan ways of sword, sea, and piracy. For the next two decades, Petrucco sailed with any ship that would have him and earned a reputation as a fearsome pirate, canny gambler, savvy carouser, and brilliant sailor.

 When Petrucco finally decided to captain a ship under his own flag, he had no shortage of able bodied sailors vying for a position on his crew. It was his mother, now years into a wasting disease that would finally take her life, that offered him the ship he would come to call home- her dry-docked barachan galley, Leviathan.

Conan: The Roleplaying Game
By Mongoose Publishing, 2003

So what the hell was that, right? Okay, again, Conan was far from my favorite character in the series. If I wanted to see Conan, there are plenty examples of him in the book. I wanted to play with other parts of the world.

I toyed with making someone close to Subotai, my favorite character from the first movie. But the Hyrkanian race are built to make pretty much only him (even though Red Sonja should also be Hyrkanian and is far from an archer), so that wasn't really what I wanted to do.

Instead, while I was mulling over the races (more on that in a minute), my wife was watching the most recent version of The Count of Monte Cristo. I got to thinking that Luigi Vampa would be a great Barachan pirate, and on I went. And as Barachans are essentially Italian pirates (related to Argossians which are Mediterranean seafaring merchants), I gave him an Italian sounding name in Petrucco.

Conan: The Roleplaying Game is standard d20 fair with very little deviation from the OGL. Other than a few specifics, no standard D&D 3.0 character would be too far out of place. This meant, for the most part, I already knew what I was getting myself into for character creation.

The bulk of the differences are as follows:

  • There's no alignment and characters are based on their code of honor (if any) and allegiances instead.
  • All characters are human, but a differentiated by their culture, conferring different skills and abilities by region. I love this idea and plan to make culture have as much significance as race in a Pathfinder based campaign world book called Boomtown that's been on the back burner a while. 
  • Multiclassing is done differently,but I'm making a starting character. NEXT.
  • There are 2 stats, Dodge Bonus and Parry Bonus that reflect the defensive options a character can take instead of the normal Armor Class. Instead, armor gives a character damage reduction, but takes a greater toll on what a character can do than in vanilla OGL games.

On to character creation!

I started with Ability Scores as normal. Conan offers two options for standard or heroic character generation. I chose heroic, because duh. Basically, you roll a d10 and add 10 for each stat, then distribute the scores as you see fit. This makes pretty powerful characters, but is fitting with the setting.

I rolled 19, 17, 16, 15,  14, 14. Pretty swanky.

Next I chose Petrucco's race. As an Argossean/Barachan he got all of the "civilized" Hyborean bonuses too, so this was a lot to add in. These included greatswords as martial weapons, extra Fate (think Hero or Force points), and bonuses to all kinds of piraty skills.

The Pirate class is essentially a rogue/ranger mix with a seafaring theme. But it has some pretty cool abilities like Ferocious Attack, but I explain all these on the character sheet.

One of the things I like about Conan is that if you can use a weapon and it is a "finesse"weapon, you are treated as if you have the Weapon Finesse feat from D&D. So that saved me from wasting a feat on it. Two Weapon Fighting was included with the class, so I decided on Persuasive (because Luigi Vampa- remember him), and Combat Expertise. There's a great feat called Intricate Swordplay that eventually allows you to add your Charisma to attacks and Parry Defense. Combat Expertise was the first feat in that tree, so that's what I planned on.

Beyond that, I filled in skills for a swarthy, charismatic, and skilled pirate and gave him class based starting equipment. Nice and simple.

Overall, I'm happy with how Petrucco turned out. He's a little more like the most recent Sinbad that used to be on Syfy than Luigi Vampa, but that's not a bad thing.,

As always, the running list of characters can be found here. If you have any other ideas for games not on that list, or know what you'd like me to dive into next, drop me a line.

~The Doc

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