Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Character Backgrounds Defining Attributes

For a time, I ran a homebrew campaign called Neverland. It took place in the 1870s and was about the British Empire's conquest of Faerie. The PCs could be soldiers of fortune, explorers, traders, or even scientists trying to codify the laws of magic and bring back live specimens of mythical beasts. The two worlds were connected by a train line that left London via tunnel and emerged in Periopolis, an eternal city at the boundary of Faerie.

Character creation used a backwards-design process where you selected your career and training first, which drove your attribute scores. So if you chose Burglar, your Dex would increase, if you chose Pugilist, your Strength would increase, and so on. You would end up with a character whose attributes would be a good fit for their chosen career. I threw in a couple of freebie points or tweaks that the player could distribute as they saw fit, so in general, most Infantry Officers had roughly similar attributes, but one might be a bit more intellectual and another, particularly strong. It worked great and I wonder if there are any other systems out there that don't figure your attributes until after you've created a background for your PC.


  1. There's Run Out The Guns, which made Rolemaster a little more accessible from a chargen perspective: http://rpggeek.com/rpgseries/2800/run-out-the-guns

    If the GM served as the rules engine, it meant a player simply had to add two numbers together for a given skill as determined by background choices, and add that number to a roll when required in a test of that skill per standard RM rules. As a RM newbie it was fun, and I was lucky to call "friend" the author and so I was play testing with him.

  2. That sounds pretty interesting; I'll have to try to kluge together something similar to see how it works in play.

    I'm fascinated by your setting idea, Neverland. Not only does the name and the elevator pitch for the concept immediately summon a great deal of vivid mental images for me (and a terrible sense of sadness and loss mingled with Carollian madness and Grimmish danger), but it struck me that it was almost exactly the same concept as a project I put together in art school for a manga setting; even right down to the part about taking a train from London through a tunnel to the fantasy world. The only real difference was that mine was set on a Barsoom-like Mars instead of Faerie (the tunnel was essentially a Stargate). Mine was inspired by (inevitably) Space: 1889 and a challenge to create a fantasy setting using only the creatures found in the original Fiend Folio.

    Funny how unconnected people can strike upon such similar ideas!