Character Creation

Steps of Character Creation

1. Think about your character concept.

Character creation begins with an idea. Consider the basics of who your character is and what they do. The types of character appropriate for your group’s campaign will vary somewhat depending on what you’ve determined in City Creation, but it is ultimately up to you. Perhaps you want to model your character after a favorite movie character, or base them around a particular skill or ability (fighting, using magic, thieving), or explore a particular set of beliefs (a revolutionary, for example).

During steps 5 and 6, you will determine your character’s Aspects, but you may want to start thinking about two at the beginning: Your Character Concept and your Dilemma. These aspects reflect what your character does and, more importantly, why. City of Lives PCs are extraordinary people, acting above and beyond the run-of-the-mill populace. Why are they risking their lives on a regular basis, instead of running a flower shop?

Also consider a possible Archetype (see below) for your PC, a model that will guide the rest of your character creation. There is no requirement to take an Archetype, but it will provide a structure to build your character on.

Any of these decisions may change later in the process of character creation, so don’t worry about fixing a character concept in your head. Flexibility is the name of the game—your character will change as you are creating them, and will change even more during play!

2. Choose your Bloodline

In the City of Lives, the definition of “human” is fairly loose. All its ethnic groups are at least nominally human—the majority of their heritage descends from plains apes. However, crossbreeding is very common among Realmshifting populations, and so humanity finds itself with interbred characteristics from animals, gods, beings from strange far-flung Realms, and even the undead. Blood is very important in the City of Lives. One’s bloodline determines physical characteristics, natural talents, and unusual abilities. Social status is also closely tied to bloodline: The Grate-Scratchers, Kipmen, and Rurals make up the low classes; Iversdotters and Pariahs are the core of the middle class, with some Leovites; and Leovites, Prometheans, and Sky-Carvers make up the upper classes.

The City of Lives itself holds eight common Bloodlines:

  • Grate-Scratcher: A bloodline of sewer-dwelling scavengers and junk dealers who have learned to manipulate the disgusting waters of the City in amazing ways.
  • Iversdotter: A bloodline of thousands of copies of a single woman, their street gangs ruling over the lower-class districts and acting as an unofficial militia for the City.
  • Kipman: Horrible crossbreeds of beast and man, jumbled mongrels whose hot tempers keep them in menial and criminal jobs.
  • Leovite: A bloodline of priests with leonine aspects, who run the City’s dominant religion, the Light, and also most of the City’s bureaucracy.
  • Pariah: This bloodline’s ancestors were thrown out of somewhere long forgotten, and they have never been trusted—or trusting—since, and their despair has become a tangible force.
  • Promethean: The oldest bloodline, descended from the man who brought fire from the sky and began civilization, Prometheans are old but not decadent, taking their time to build walls and worlds by shaping flame.
  • Rural: A bloodline of simple farmers from the Julian Plains, living by their utilitarian holy book, the Seeding Manual, and using their natural magics to make their tilling easier.
  • Sky-Carver: A bloodline of ambitious magicians, who flit between their high-topped citadels and plan how to use their power over the air to rule this and every other world.

And two non-traditional Bloodline choices:

  • Crossblood: A de facto ninth bloodline—any result of mixed bloodlines or Outlanders mixing with citizens. Shunned by most.
  • Outlander: Anyone who wanders in from another Realm is both suspect and welcome in the City.
  • At this point, you should consider a Bloodline Aspect—you can leave it for later, but it may help your character concept. A Bloodline aspect deals with a character’s relationship to their bloodline and its traits. There are four Aspects associated with each bloodline, which can be found on the bloodline’s page—the player may choose one of those four aspects, or it can be freeform. If the aspect is freeform, it must include the name of the PC’s Bloodline (see above) or reference it in some way (mentioning an archetypal trait, perhaps) as well as some descriptor of how the PC relates to their Bloodline. Examples include “Proud as a Lion,” “Member of the Iversdotter 7th Street Gang,” and “Finding a Grate to Scratch and a purse to snatch.”
  • Also note that you get one free Bloodline stunt and access to several other Bloodline-specific stunts.
  • You should take this opportunity to name your character, using the name guidelines and examples on your Bloodline page.

Example: Jeremy likes the idea of playing a revolutionary, bringing down the corrupt establishments of the City of Lives. With that in mind, he chooses the Rural bloodline, placing himself at the bottom of the social ladder and in the midst of the proletariat. He decides not to take any of the listed aspects (“Soil in the Blood,” “Country Bumpkin,” “The Seeding Manual Reveals All,” and “Uncomplicated World”), and instead creates the Bloodline aspect “Rural Revolutionary.” He also decides on a name for his character: Mo Coadermine.

3. Choose your Archetype (if desired)

While players have the leeway to explore any ideas that interest them, it’s worth remembering that high fantasy games have a handful of easily recognizable character types, or Archetypes. While you are far from obliged to fit characters into these neat little “boxes”, we encourage you to create characters that match the overall flavor. Beyond that, you’re free to fill in details as you like. A City of Lives game can support characters of almost every stripe, but there are a few common themes worth taking a look at (see below).

When considering an archetype, keep the following in mind: While only a handful of archetypes including Crafting (magical) abilities, any and all archetypes can add Crafting to their repertoire. In the City, magical ability is no different than a talent for art or engineering—a notable trait, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary, and there are many magical “dabblers” along with those who make it part of their profession. See the Skills, Crafting, and Stunts sections for more.

  • Artist
  • An artist, performer, or Crafter who relies on creativity to change the worlds.
  • Someone who functions at the peak of human physical ability, focused on pure athletic endeavor.
  • A Crafter who specializes in using their mystical abilities to enhance their fighting skills, whether for personal brawls or epic wars.
  • Whether at the bottom of society or in the shadows of court, the Burglar stays unseen, whether to steal or kill.
  • Soldier captains and gang leaders need the same basic skillset, the ability to inspire and keep their functionaries in line.
    Court Crafter
  • The nobility hire many Crafters, whether counselors, sages, entertainers, or relicsmiths – and all need to know how to keep their position in the byzantine maze of court politics.
  • A person who knows everyone, whether in court or on the streets, and how to connect them together—and keep them all happy.
  • Someone exploring the Realms or the unexplored wilderness of Realm of Lives.
  • A professional liar—confidence man, trickster, or court functionary.
  • Someone whose specialty is the intellectual—a sage, artificer, or natural philosopher.
  • Whether a court priest following the path of Light or a cultist of a lesser-known religion, the priest knows religion and how to impart that belief to their followers.
  • Whether a professional member of an army or an amateur pit fighter, a soldier knows how to hurt or kill with any available weapon—or none.
    Street Crafter
  • Even on the streets of the City, Crafters are needed and useful, making their living by using their mystical abilities for performance, fortune-telling, or anything else for which they can earn a few coins.
  • Anyone who makes their living by exchanging money for goods—a junk merchant or caravan leader, barkeep or shopkeep.
  • At this point, you may wish to choose a Character Concept aspect for your character. A Character Concept is a capsule description of who the character is and what they do—profession, goals, and/or personality. Examples include “The Greatest Architect the Realms Don’t Yet Know,” “Guardsman for House Uvinia,” and “Fiery Flameshaper Looking for Fun.” A Character Concept may incorporate an Archetype, but does not need to.

Example: Jeremy decides that his revolutionary is a direct actor, achieving his goals through straightforward violence. He chooses the Soldier archetype, and looks at the “Thug” build, deciding to use those peak skills (Melee, Vigor, and Athletics), but thinks he’ll bring in a nature-loving spin to the archetype. Thinking that he’d like to be able to heal as well as harm, he chooses the Character Concept aspect of “Redistributor of Life.”

4. Choose a Faction if desired.

Factions represent your character’s loyalties. A number of organizations exist in the City, groups of like-minded individuals who bind together to better achieve their goals. Joining a Faction defines your character’s views and complicates their life. Your character is under no obligation to join a faction, but it holds certain advantages (and restrictions) (see below).

  • Canonists: The Canonists are the political arm of the Church of the Blinding Light, acting to forward the Church’s interests and morality through the City.
  • Egoists: The Egoists believe in the self. Each individual is capable of amazing things, and the Egoists believe they should be allowed to reach those heights without interference from anyone. Each man is an island.
  • Enders: The Enders believe that the universe is slowly coming to an end. The philosophical law known as entropy ensures that everything degrades, that no physical process can exist without decreasing the universe’s useful energy. The Enders take this as a mental and social law as well, that fighting against societal chaos is useless and against the plan of the universe, such as it is.
  • Epicureans: The central tenet of Epicureanism as that art is the most important of all activities. Some are artists, others audience, but all Epicureans center their lives around art. Being an Epicurean is about more. Not more money or power, but more experiences.
  • Faberists: There is something terribly wrong with the system, the Faberists believe, and they must do something about it. They espouse revolution on all levels—whatever use the City’s government and factions once had, they no longer serve them—being corrupt, lazy, or incompetent— and should thus be destroyed.
  • Fallows: Fallows espouse a return to nature, believing the urban environment of the City has corrupted mankind. They believe that peace and harmony are the greatest virtues, and that they can only be achieved by accordance with the natural world.
  • Godless: The Godless believe in philosophy. They espouse abandoning belief in the gods, in favor of understanding the gods. In fact, they believe everything can be determined through application of rational thought.
  • Publicans: Publicans believe in helping all. The City is a harsh system that chews people up, and the Publicans see it as their duty to help the less-fortunate the City hurts.
  • Sabercrats: The Sabercrats wish to turn the City from a mercantile power into a military one. Imperialism is the name of the game, and the Sabercrats want to take over all the Realms in close proximity to the City, and to continue further afield.
  • Thief-Binders: Thief-Binders believe in justice. They look at the lack of official police in the City as both a crime and an opportunity, eager to get involved.
  • Triocheans: Triocheans are businesspeople. They believe in the power of the almighty solu, that judicious use of financial pressure can solve any problem.

When a character joins a faction, they gain the following:

  • A free stunt or a cheap Iconic Stunt (see the faction for details)
  • Information: When looking for information that falls within their faction’s sphere of influence, a character need go no further than the faction’s members or library. It may not be free, but it will be considerably cheaper than for a non-member.
  • Jobs: The City has no lack of employment, but a faction brings it all in one place, providing a job board listing exciting opportunities for freelance work. Additionally, members of the faction may choose to hire characters for high-level, long-term employment.
  • Medicine: Every faction keeps a staff of skilled Bloodshifters and physicians, ready to help their ranks, for a small fee.
  • Miscellaneous: Any faction that keeps a headquarters can provide a number of other benefits: food, a bed to crash on, and friendly advice.

And must:

  • Take a Faction Aspect (using a current Aspect slot) reflecting the Faction’s beliefs (see the faction for details).
  • Follow the Faction’s Restrictions (see the faction for details)

Example: Jeremy looks at the Factions and decides that the “Faberists” were made for him. He decides that his character has been a member of the Faberists since a tragic event in his past (which he’ll figure out later). He decides to take “Defender of the Downtrodden” as a Faction Aspect, and decides to pick which phase to put it in later. He also takes the free Faction stunt “Tough,” increasing his Health stress boxes by one.

5. Go through Phases

The five phases detail your character’s history, from childhood to their current heroic activities. It is a way to figure out more about your character, where they came from and how they are connected to the other PCs. During each phase, you will write a short summary (a paragraph or so) of the events of that phase, and choose an Aspect based on the events of that phase.

See Phases for more.

6. Assign Aspects

Characters have a set of attributes called aspects. Aspects cover a wide range of elements and should collectively paint a decent picture of who the character is, what they’re connected to, and what’s important to them. (By contrast, skills could be said to paint a similar picture of what the character can (do.) Aspects can be relationships, beliefs, catchphrases, descriptors, items or pretty much anything else that paints a picture of the character.

Scenes also have aspects. Aspects in this context serve as a compact way to describe the relevant details of an environment, and can be used by the characters present in the scene. See Encountering Other Aspects in Aspects, for more.

In terms of game rules, aspects are the main avenue by which a player gains or spends fate points, a kind of currency that can be spent for bonuses or earned when aspects cause problems for the player. Some possible aspects for characters include:

War Buddies Honest Stubborn
Ivory Tower “You’ll never take me alive!” I Can Always Count on My Partner
Easy Mark Silver Spoon Girl in Every Port
Sucker First on the Scene Quick Witted

For many, many more examples, see the Sample Aspects.

More than anything else, aspects are a player’s most explicit way of telling the GM, “This is the stuff I want to see in the game”. If the player picks an aspect like “Death Defying”, then they should be able to fully expect that the GM will put them in death-defying situations. GMs should want players to use their aspects; players should pick the ones they want to use, and GMs should encourage them to choose aspects that will be both interesting and useful.

Once a player decides on an idea for an aspect, they need to figure out what aspect name best describes what they intend; there are usually many possible names for a desired aspect, which can make this choice somewhat difficult. However, most of the time, an aspect is going to be a phrase, a person or a prop.

A phrase can be anything from a simple descriptor (“Strong”) to a descriptive phrase (“Strong As An Ox”), or even a literal quote (“No One Is Stronger Than Sledge!”). Phrase aspects come into play based on how well the situation matches them; a colorful phrase adds a lot of flavor and innately suggests several different ways to use it. This potentially makes phrase aspects some of the most flexible aspects in the game.

A person can be anyone important to the character. A friend, an enemy, a family member, a sidekick, a mentor—as long as someone matters to the character, they make an appropriate aspect. A person aspect is most easily used when that person is in the scene with the character, but the aspect can come up in other ways, depending upon the person’s history and relationship with the character. For example, if a character has their mentor as an aspect, that aspect might be useful for things his mentor would have instructed them on. Again, this could be a simple descriptor (“Twins”) to a descriptive phrase (“Nobody Closer Than My Sister”) to a quote (“Johanna, I’ve got your back!”).

Props are things, places or even ideas—anything external to the character that isn’t a person. A prop can be useful if it’s something the character has with them, or if it’s the crux of a conflict, but it may also imply things about the character, or even be useful in its absence (if only I had my “Trusty Toolbox”!). Once again, this could be a simple descriptor (“Trusty Toolbox”), a descriptive phrase (“My Grandfather’s Tools Are Close to My Heart”), or a quote (“Nothing I can’t fix with grandpappy’s tools!”).

These three categories of aspects aren’t hard and fast. An aspect like “Magia needs us now!" has elements of both a phrase and a person, and that’s just fine. We’ve just provided these categories to help provide a way to think about how to frame aspects.

A starting City of Lives PC will have eight (8) Aspects

  • 1 Bloodline
  • 1 Character Concept/Archetype
  • 1 Dilemma
  • 5 Phase Aspects
  • A Bloodline aspect deals with a character’s relationship to their bloodline and its traits. There are four Aspects associated with each bloodline, which can be found on the bloodline’s page—the player may choose one of those four aspects, or it can be freeform. If the aspect is freeform, it must include the name of the PC’s Bloodline (see above) or reference it in some way (mentioning an archetypal trait, perhaps) as well as some descriptor of how the PC relates to their Bloodline. Examples include “Proud as a Lion,” “Member of the Iversdotter 7th Street Gang,” and “Finding a Grate to Scratch and a purse to snatch.”
  • A Character Concept aspect is a capsule description of who the character is and what they do—profession, goals, and/or personality. Examples include “The Greatest Architect the Realms Don’t Yet Know,” “Guardsman for House Uvinia,” and “Fiery Flameshaper Looking For Fun.” A Character Concept may incorporate an Archetype, but does not need to.
  • Every character has some sort of Dilemma (which is also an aspect) that’s a part of their life and their story. If your Character Concept is what or who your character is, your Dilemma is the answer to a simple question: what complicates your Character Concept? A Dilemma has many forms, though it can generally be broken up into two types: internal conflicts/personal struggles, and external problems. Both threaten the character or are difficult to contain. Whatever form the trouble takes, it drives the character to take action, voluntarily or not. A character that does not have some sort of recurring issue is going to have a much harder time finding motivation, and that sort of character doesn’t tend to have many reasons to go out and do the crazy things that make for adventure. Without adventure, things would just be boring! Examples include “On the Run from Marquis Peldar,” “Love vs. Money,” and “What Does Good Really Mean?”
    • A Dilemma is a potent hook for the GM and players to draw on for ideas. As you think about your character, try to figure out what kinds of problems you want your character to continually deal with. Try to pick one that has no easy solutions—many may not have solutions at all! Also, Dilemmas are one of the major ways that characters get compelled, which is important for getting fate points back. So it’s to your advantage to play to your character’s troubles in the adventure as much as you possibly can. (Dilemmas are like giant red flags to the GM saying “Hey, pick me!”)
  • The rest of the aspects come from their phases. Examples of these phase Aspects include “I Can Always Rely on My Sisters,” “Fully-Justified Xenophobia,” “My Mother’s Locket,” "I Know How To Say “Run Away” in Forty Languages," “Scarlet-Letter-Emblazoned Jacket,” “Battle Morality,” “Allied with the Bakersdom Clan,” “Looting is in my Blood,” and “Friends in Low Places.”

Example: Jeremy, having chosen the rest of his character’s aspects in the Bloodline, Archetype, and Phases steps, just has to choose his Dilemma. He reckons Mo has a hard time distinguishing between righteous fury and terrible wrath, and wants an aspect to reflect his tendency to go too far: “Liberator… or Terrorist?”

7. Determine Power Level

Consult with your GM to determine what Power Level your campaign and characters will be running at. This determines how experienced your characters are, and what kinds of troubles they’ll likely be facing.

Each level determines your starting Refresh Level (that is, how many Fate Points you have, but this also determines how many stunts you can have. See the Stunts section below for more), number of skill points you have to spend, the Skill Cap (how high your skills can go. See the Skills section below for more), and how many Equipment Slots you have.

Novice (6 refresh, 20 skill points, skill cap at Great ( +4), 1 Equipment Slot): At this level, you will have a maximum of five stunts and only a handful of skills. You are just starting out, probably young or inexperienced in your chosen profession. The campaign is likely to be grim and gritty, and is going to focus around things like street fights or low-level court politics.

Professional (8 refresh, 25 skill points, skill cap at Great ( +4), 2 Equipment Slots): This is considered the default power level for The City of Lives. You have been at this a while, and beginning to make a name for yourself. Nonetheless, you have a long way to go, providing opportunity for advancement. The campaign can start getting into loftier matters, dealing with aristocratic conflicts or the many miniature wars that occur in the City.

Experienced (10 refresh, 30 skill points, skill cap at Superb ( +5), 3 Equipment Slots): At this level, you are an experienced hero (or villain), a well-known figure who has seen it all. The campaign will focus on major threats to the City, from invasions to revolutions to upheavals of government.

Veteran (12 refresh, 35 skill points, skill cap at Superb ( +5), 4 Equipment Slots): These heroes are virtual demigods. They have been at this for a long time, know the City and its menaces very well. With the major power a character like this can pull down, the campaign is likely to focus on world-shaking events: cataclysms, evil gods, and other threats to the integrity of the City or Realms as a whole.

Example: Jeremy’s GM tells him that their campaign will be taking place at the Professional level. Knowing this, Jeremy plans out a character that is already an established presence in the city, and ponders what to do with those eight fate points.

8. Choose Skills

Once all players have chosen their aspects, it’s time to pick skills. Each player gets to choose a number of skills depending on the campaign’s Power Level, with 20-35 points to spend and a skill rank “cap” of Great ( +4) or Superb ( +5).

Let us assume a “Professional” campaign: 25 points worth of skills, with a skill cap of Great ( +4). A skill may be chosen from rank Average ( +1) to Great ( +4), and costs a number of skill points equal to the bonus. However, a PC must have at least as many skill ranks at each lower rank—for example, in order to have two Great ( +4) skills, they must have at least two Good ( +3) skills, two Fair ( +2) skills, and two Average ( +1) skills. Any skill the character does not explicitly take defaults to Mediocre ( +0).

[Optional Rule: In order to make a character more interesting by highlighting one of their flaws, a player may choose to take one skill at Poor (-1). This gives them an additional skill point to use elsewhere. Any Poor skills must be approved by the GM: if it’s not a skill that’s likely to come up much (Ride or Survival in a purely urban campaign, for example), the GM may rule that the player must choose another skill. Having this single Poor (-1) skill does not imbalance the skill column.]

Because of the “shape” of this set of skills, this is sometimes referred to as the character’s skill “column” or “pyramid.” The default skill pyramid is 1 Great ( +4), 2 Good ( +3), 4 Fair ( +2), 7 Average ( +1) (14 total skills), but other options are possible, such as 3 Good ( +3), 4 Fair ( +2), 8 Average ( +1) (15 total skills) or 2 Great ( +4), 3 Good ( +3), 4 Fair ( +2), 5 Average ( +1) (12 total skills).

The following is a list of the skills available in the City of Lives, along with a capsule description [and a link to the complete skill description].

  • Alertness – Alertness is a measure of the character’s regular, passive level of awareness. In Physical and Race Conflicts, Alertness determines initiative. It also governs Farsharing.
  • Artificing – Artificing is the understanding of how machines work—from blacksmithing to wheelwrighting to more complex engineering—both for purposes of building it and taking it apart.
  • Athletics – This measures the character’s general physical capability, excepting raw power, which is a function of Vigor. Athletics covers running, jumping, climbing, and other broadly physical activities you might find in a track and field event.
  • Burglary – The ability to overcome security systems, from alarms to locks, falls under the auspices of this skill.
  • Contacting – Contacting is the ability to find things out from people. A character may know a guy, who knows a guy, or maybe they just know the right questions to ask.
  • Conviction – Conviction is a measure of a character’s belief—in themself, in a deity, or abstract concepts. It represents courage and the drive not to quit. It plays a key part in efforts to resist torture or unwanted Sharing. It is also used as a knowledge skill regarding religion. It also determines a character’s Mental Stress Track, and governs several Crafts (see below).
  • Creativity – Creativity measures the character’s overall artistic ability, covering the gamut of endeavors, from painting to dance to music. This includes knowledge, composition, and performance. It also governs several Crafts (see below).
  • Cultures – Cultures is a knowledge skill governing information on the various cultures across the realms.
  • Deceit – Deceit is the ability to lie, simple as that. Be it through word or deed, it’s the ability to convey falsehoods convincingly. It also governs Dreamsharing.
  • Discipline – Discipline is a measure of a character’s self-mastery, as expressed through things like willpower. It’s an indicator of coolness under fire. It is usually rolled as a Defense Skill, but it also governs several Crafts (see below).
  • Empathy – This is the ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling. This can be handy if a character is trying to spot a liar or wants to tell someone what that person wants to hear. Empathy is usable as a defense against Deceit, and is the basis for initiative in Social Conflict. It also governs Soulsharing.
  • Intimidation – There are more graceful social skills for convincing people to do what a character wants, but those skills tend not to have the pure efficiency of communicating that failing to comply may well result in some manner of harm.
  • Investigation – Investigation is the ability to look for things and, hopefully, find them. This is the skill used when the character is actively looking for something, such as searching a crime scene or trying to spot a hidden enemy.
  • Leadership – Leadership is a multi-faceted skill. A good leader knows how to direct and inspire people, but they also understand how to run an organization. As such, the Leadership skill covers acts of both types.
  • Lore – Lore is a knowledge skill. It measures the character’s “book learning”. Any knowledge that would not explicitly fall under Cultures, Philosophy, or Creativity falls under this skill (though some overlap may exist among all of those).
  • Melee – The ability to do harm to another at close range, whether unarmed or armed. It also determines, along with Resources and Ranged, a character’s starting Equipment.
  • Philosophy – In a society without the scientific method, this is the skill governing understanding of the natural world. All modern sciences, hard and soft, as well as medicine and the fundamental concepts behind Crafting, are covered by this skill. It also governs Nullcrafting
  • Ranged – This skill governs all ranged weapons, whether bows, spears, or thrown rocks. It also determines, along with Resources and Melee, a character’s starting Equipment.
  • Ride – All cultures have riding animals of some sort, and this skill covers most of them.
  • Rapport – The flipside of Intimidation, this is the ability to talk with people in a friendly fashion and make a good impression, and perhaps convince them to see one’s side of things. Any time a character wants to communicate without an implicit threat, this is the skill to use. It also governs Mindsharing.
  • Resources – Resources is a measure of a character’s wealth—and ability to do something with it, from scavenging to haggling. It determines a character’s Wealth Stress Track. It also determines, along with Melee and Ranged, a character’s starting Equipment.
  • Sleight of Hand – The hand can certainly be quicker than the eye. This skill covers fine, dexterous activities like stage magic, pickpocketing, and replacing an idol with a bag of sand without tripping a trap. While Athletics is appropriate for gross physical activities, most things requiring manual speed and precision falls under this skill (that said, if you’re picking a lock, use Burglary).
  • Stealth – This is the ability to remain unseen and unheard. Directly opposed by Alertness or Investigation, this ability covers everything from skulking in the shadows to hiding under the bed.
  • Survival – This is the skill of outdoorsmen. It covers hunting, trapping, tracking, building fires, and lots of other wilderness skills that a civilized man has no use for.
  • Vigor – Vigor is a measure of physical power, raw strength and endurance. It is the ability to keep performing physical activity despite fatigue or injury, as well as for lifting, moving and breaking things. It determines the character’s Physical Stress Track. It also governs several Crafts (see below).

For those players interested in playing a Crafter, note that the following skills govern the forms of Crafting.

Shaping: The types of Craft that involve shaping the elemental forces of the world into new creations.

  • Chaos Shaping
    • Flameshaping: The Craft of manipulating the elemental forces of fire. Opposed by Waveshaping. Governed by Creativity.
    • Shadowshaping: The Craft of manipulating the elemental forces of shadows and the dark forces beneath them. Opposed by Lightshaping. Governed by Conviction.
    • Windshaping: The Craft of manipulating the elemental force of wind. Opposed by Worldshaping. Governed by Creativity.
  • Order Shaping
    • Waveshaping: The Craft of manipulating the elemental force of water. Opposed by Flameshaping. Governed by Discipline.
    • Lightshaping: The Craft of manipulating the elemental forces of light, into images and deadly beams of heat. Opposed by Shadowshaping. Governed by Conviction.
    • Worldshaping: The Craft of manipulating the elemental force of earth. Opposed by Windshaping. Governed by Discipline.

Sharing: The types of Craft that involve sending information to and from the mind of man.

  • Chaos Sharing
    • Dreamsharing: The Craft of projecting illusions into others’ minds, and of venturing into the world of dreams. Opposed by Farsharing. Governed by Deceit.
    • Soulsharing: The Craft of sensing and sharing emotions, both willingly and forcefully. Opposed by Mindsharing. Governed by Empathy.
  • Order Sharing
    • Farsharing: The Craft of seeing far-off places and future events. Opposed by Dreamsharing. Governed by Alertness.
    • Mindsharing: The Craft of speaking to another mind-to-mind, and of influencing their patterns of thought. Opposed by Soulsharing. Governed by Rapport.

Shifting: The types of Craft that involve shifting the already existent natural forces into new configurations

  • Chaos Shifting
    • Bloodshifting: The Craft of controlling the physical body and the forces of life. Opposed by Blightshifting. Governed by Vigor.
    • Forceshifting: The Craft of moving objects from afar, and creating temporary structures of pure force. Opposed by Realmshifting. Governed by Conviction.
    • Wildshifting: The Craft of speaking to and changing the natural world, both plants and animals. Opposed by Relicshifting. Governed by Vigor.
  • Order Shifting
    • Blightshifting: The Craft of summoning and speaking to the dead, and controlling the forces of corruption and rot. Opposed by Bloodshifting. Governed by Vigor.
    • Realmshifting: The Craft of moving instantaneously, both inside and in between Realms. Opposed by Forceshifting. Governed by Discipline.
    • Relicshifting: The Craft of imbuing ordinary items with power, to create Relics. Opposed by Wildshifting. Governed by Creativity.
  • Unrelated
    • Nullcrafting: The Craft of non-Craft, of stopping the energies of all other Crafts. Opposed by all other Craft. Governed by Philosophy.

Example: Jeremy decides that since he chose the Soldier archetype and Thug build, he’ll go with those peak skills (Melee, Vigor, and Athletics), but since he also wants to be nature-lover and medic, he decides to add Survival to his peaks. He also decides he wants to be a Crafter, a Wildshifter specifically. Seeing that Vigor governs Wildshifting, he decided to put Vigor on top. He ends up with Survival and Vigor at Great ( +4), and puts Melee and Athletics at Good ( +3), then sees where he can spend his remaining 11 points, and how to balance his skill column.

7. Stunts and Refresh Level

Your Refresh Level determines your starting pool of Fate Points. Players usually regain fate points between sessions when a refresh occurs. The amount of fate points a player gets at a refresh is called their Refresh Level and varies by the campaign’s Power Level. A character’s final Refresh Level is the maximum for the campaign – the number of Stunts the character has (so in a Professional campaign (8 Refresh), a character with 5 stunts would have a final Refresh Level of 3. A PC’s Refresh Level may not dip to 0 or below. When a refresh occurs, players bring their number of fate points up to their refresh level. If they currently have more fate points, their total does not change.

Choose stunts from the Stunts page. Also note that each PC gains a free Bloodline stunt (see the Bloodlines for details) and has access to further Bloodline stunts, and any PC with a Faction gains a free Faction stunt and has access to further Faction stunts.

Example: Jeremy starts with seeing that he wants to be able to heal his comrades, but since he took Survival instead of Philosophy (it fits his character better), he spends one stunt on “Medicinal Herbs,” a Skill Substitution stunt that allows him to use Survival instead of Philosophy when using the Medicine trapping. He also decides to get a companion, a wolf he can communicate with telepathically. He spends a total of three stunt slots on his companion, creating an extremely useful helper character. Since he wants to be a Crafter, he puts two stunts into Basic and Intermediate Wildshifting. This is six stunts, which leaves him with a Refresh Level of 1. He’ll have to take a lot of compels!

8. Stress Tracks

There are three Stress Tracks, Physical, Composure, and Wealth. Each takes damage during the appropriate types of Conflict (Physical Stress: (some) Craft, Physical and Race Conflicts; Composure Stress: (some) Craft, Research, and Social Conflicts; Access and Repair Conflicts use an item’s stress); Wealth: While purchasing items (or occasionally during social conflict). Each PC’s Stress Tracks start at 3 boxes (O O O or 1 2 3). Each can be raised by the Vigor, Conviction, and Resources Skills, respectively. Average ( +1) to Fair ( +2) Vigor/Conviction/Resources add +1 box (4 boxes total). Good ( +3) to Great ( +4) Vigor/Conviction/Resources add +2 boxes (5 boxes total). Superb ( +5) to Fantastic ( +6) Vigor/Conviction/Resources add an additional Mild Consequence slot for the appropriate stress track. There are also Stunts that can add to stress tracks. See that section for more.

[Optional rule: For grittier campaigns, the starting Stress Tracks can be lowered to two boxes (or one, though that will be hard to survive), and for more cinematic or high-powered campaigns, they can be increased to four or five.]

Example: Jeremy looks at Mo’s Vigor skill, at Great ( +4), and sees that he adds two boxes to his base of 3, for a total of 5 Physical stress boxes. His Conviction skill is Fair ( +2), so that adds 1 box, a result of 4. He didn’t take the Resources skill, so it’s at Mediocre ( +0), which means his Wealth stress track is at 3 boxes.

9. Determine Equipment

You do not need to determine your character’s exact possessions, but it may be useful to determine a few basic pieces of equipment. You are assumed to have basic mundane (maximum cost Mediocre ( +0) equipment required to perform your skills efficiently (a character with high Burglary has lock picks, a character with high Philosophy has some basic lab equipment, if you’re an artificer, you can surely lay your hands on a hammer). You own any piece of equipment you have bought through the Personal Relic or Personal Device, any item that has an Aspect related to it. You may take weapons whose Cost equals 1/2 the ranks you have in any Attack Skills (round down). You may also start the game with one Workspace with Quality equal to your Resources -2 (see the Workspaces trapping in Resources.

Finally you may also purchase items directly, using your Resources skill. You can roll your Resources skill against the Cost of any item, weapon, armor, Relic, or Device. You may make a maximum number of rolls equal to your campaign Power Level’s Refresh Level (for example, 8 times for a Professional character), and if you fail a roll, you will take Wealth stress equal to the difference between your roll and the Cost of the item, according to the Wealth system. Note that this may mean your character begins the game in debt!

Before you finish up, examine the Equipment Slots rules, to ensure that your character doesn’t have too much gear.

Example: Jeremy looks at his stunts, skills, and aspects. He has one “Prop” aspects, his “Father’s Sickle,” so he gets that sickle (rules-wise, a Medium Melee Weapon with the aspect “Slashing,” Damage +1 and Range 0). Then he moves on to skills. His high Survival skill, along with the Medicinal Herbs stunt, implies that he should have basic medical gear with him at all times (he figures it’s mostly herbs growing on his body), and a skinning knife; his Melee rank of Good ( +3) gives him a weapon worth Average ( +1), so he picks up a Quarterstaff (Medium Melee Weapon with the aspects “Bludgeoning” and “Two-Handed”, with Damage +1 and Range 0), and also picks up a dagger (with a cost of Poor (-1)); he has no Ranged skill, so he doesn’t get a ranged weapon, unless he wants to buy it, and he decides he is unlikely to need any weapons for the other conflict types. His stunts mean that he has his pet wolf, and Medicinal Herbs works with Survival for some herbs, but his Crafting stunts don’t imply any equipment. He decides he wants a couple pieces of basic equipment, and knows he has 8 rolls as a Professional character. He starts with some rope and a backpack. His GM decides that since their Cost of Poor (-1) is less than his Resources of Mediocre ( +0), he can have them without rolling (however, they count against his 8, leaving him 6). He also wants some armor, so he rolls his Resources vs. the Cost (Fair ( +2)) of some Light Physical Armor (leather, with a score of Damage +1 and aspect “Awkward”). He only rolls an Average ( +1) result, but he wants the armor, so he takes one Wealth stress and will start out the game in debt. Given that he’s already taken Wealth stress, Jeremy decides to forego his remaining 5 rolls and stop buying equipment. Finally, he examines his Equipment Slots. He has 2 slots as a Professional character, and his Weapon provides a +1 bonus (1/2 slot) and his armor provides a +1 bonus (1/2 a slot). This leaves him with 1 slot to fill with another weapon or piece of armor. If he wants to handle any devices or relics, he’s likely going to have to purchase them with stunt slots or add to his Equipment Slots with Advancement Points.

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