The Game: Edara, A Steampunk Renaissance
The Publisher: Caelestis Designs
Degree of Familiarity: None, beyond reading the book.
Books Required: Just the one.
Edara is a fantasy setting, and as you may know, I'm not the world's biggest fantasy fan. I've tried for years to figure out why exactly that is - I have nothing against the genre in particular, but it never quite seems to turn my gears (heh, see, gears, because steampunk). I think a steampunk setting might make me happier, for some reason.
I think the reason I don't particularly care for fantasy is because it feels bland to me. Political intrigue doesn't hook me. Magic hooks me. Give me something interesting about the world and the magic or creatures, and I'll get into that. That might be why while D&D doesn't really interest me (it's too broad and too generic on its own), Earthdawn does things I like.
Anyway, I bring that up to say that Edara has something I don't usually like in RPGs: A long history section. It goes on a little longer than necessary, IMO, but it also paints a pretty interesting picture of the mythology (rather, cosmology) of the world. It's telling that I remember some of the history after reading it; I couldn't tell you the history of the world in a lot of the fantasy RPGs I've done for this little project if you put a gun to my face.
So, checking out the character creation section, we're told that characters start at level 1 and can get up to level 20. GMs can start characters are higher levels if they want more powerful PCs, but let's assume my hypothetical GM wants us to start off at 1. I don't see any context for what a "level 1" character is, which is kind of a shame; it'd be nice to know if "level 1" equates "green-faced squire just off the farm" or whatever.
I usually like to start off with some kind of concept. The book tells me that step one is to choose Background, but that's socio-economic background. Hmm. Well, I usually like to start with a song, and +Michelle Lyons-McFarland is nice enough to make me mixes with music I like. So let's use this one:
The song is about letting go of a grudge that's been kept far too long, and not letting a bad event define your relationship. As such, I think that if I were playing this character in a real game, I'd ask someone to make a character who shares this history, but since it's just me, I'll make up NPCs as needed.
OK. I think for Background I'll go Lower Class. I want the event, whatever it was, to have fucked my character's prospects long-term. That means I get:
• Trait Points: 8
• Skill Points: 6
• Currency: 1000
• Proficiency Points: 6
• Band Points: 1
• 1 Bonus Language
• Choose 1: +1 Agility or +1 Brains Attribute maximum
I'll deal with all that when it becomes relevant; I think "spend points" is a later step.
Step Two is "choose race." The races are the basic fantasy spread; humans, elves, orc, ogres, dwarves, gnomes. Are the humans "adaptable?" No, they're "diverse and well-rounded," which is close enough.
Let's see. I don't have any particular ideas about race, honestly. Fuck it, there are six of them, let's roll for it. 3 gives me the gnomes. OK, sure, I don't think I've ever played a gnome character.
Ooh, actually, this works. Gnomes are the only race that don't have their own homeland; they wander across the land, play music and sing, and sometimes run cons on taller folk. They look like a cross between elves and dwarves (short, but slender, and pretty with pointy ears). Being a gnome gets me:
Size: Small (4’0’’ – 4’5)
Lifespan: Around 150 years
Health Pips: Vigor + 5
Sub-race: Earthen, Sylvan
Speed: 30 feet
Base Language: Either Earthen or Sylvan
Attribute Points: 27
• Sharp Vision: Gnomes suffer no penalties for any vision or attacks in low or failing light.
• Skill Bonus: +3 to Trickery Skill
• Arcane Gift: All offensive spells against gnomes automatically fail and deal 1 damage to the caster
if the result of the Auramancy roll is a 1
• Gnomes are considered to be small creatures and cannot use Heavy melee weapons or Medium
size 2-handed melee weapons
Wait, what does "sub-race" mean? Oh, OK, it lets me choose different Racial Traits later.
Step Three is Band. This is where things get interesting. Edara has five Bands, kind of like class in a very broad sense. The Bands trace back to different deities in the history, but while they're associated with races there, any race can belong to any Band. So now I have to think about my little gnome and why all this bad blood.
Bands have multiple trees of spell-like powers; basically think of the skill trees in Borderlands or the Diablo games. I kinda like it; it's a way of approaching magic in an RPG that I haven't see. It does mean I have to think about my character's ultimate prowess right off the bat, because there's not a lot of advantage, it doesn't seem, in splitting my focus. I generally like to play spellcasters, but do I want to screw with it tonight?
I kind of want to make a Black Band character, actually. There's a tree called Bloodcraft, and it might fun if he's the one not letting the bad blood dry, as it were. So, sure, let's do this.
Step Four is spendin' points! Woo! Well, going by my Background and Race, I get 8 Trait Points, 6 Skill Points, 6 Proficiency Points, 1 Band Point, and 27 Attribute Points. Hokay. I also have some racial Attribute Maximums, but I can add one to either my Brains or Agility maximum.
Well, let's do Attributes. They all start at 1. My Vigor and Prowess maximums suck balls, so I'm assuming those are things that gnomes just aren't great at. So I'll put Vigor at 4 and Prowess at 2 (21 points left). Since my Bloodcraft magic adds to attacks (and Auramancy, but I don't think I start with any spells), I'll put Agility at 8. Brawn is stuck at 6, so I'll put that at max (7 points left). Brains and Wits, hmm. Both traditionally areas of strength for a gnome. I note that the race chapter says that I don't have the highest possible score for a given attack, I'll never be as effective as someone who does. Well...duh. But, as I say all the time, if a character that doesn't have [trait] is ineffective, give me [trait] standard. Start me from a position of competence and let me build out.
But, I have no idea if 1st level Edara characters are ineffective, because I haven't run the game yet. So. I'll split my 7 points between Brains and Wits thusly: 5 Wits, 2 Brains. That makes my little gnome not the brightest of folks in this new steampunky world, but we can't all be Da Vinci.
Now, Band Points. I only have one, and by spending it I choose my Primary Tree. We're going Bloodcraft, so that's easy.
As an aside, the chargen section of the book goes into the fact that you can have secondary Tree. Why? I mean, why put it there? No one gets a second Band Point at chargen, it doesn't look like, so the only way that would be relevant is if I were making a higher-level character.
Right. Skills, then. I have a number of Skill Points to spend on Skills linked to a given Attribute equal to that Attribute (so, 8 points to spend on Agility-linked Skills), plus 6 more that I can spend anywhere. I kind of like that, actually, it means I have to spread out my Skills a bit. Hopefully it doesn't fuck me in play. Right off, I get +3 to Trickery because I am a gnome, and +1 each to Stealth, Knowledge (Religion) and Trickery (again) because I am Black Band.
And then! Gee, it'd be helpful if the linked Attribute were listed on the character sheet. Ah, well. I can only have a number of points in a Skill equal to its linked Attribute, so I can only put one more point into Trickery, f'rex. On we go!
Well, for Agility, I get 8 points. I already have 1 in Stealth. I'll put four into Thievery (4 left), 2 more into Stealth (2 left) and the last two into Acrobatics.
And then Brawn (oh, I see, not all Attributes have linked Skills). Well, I have six points here. Let's do three each into Stamina and Athletics.
Brains...hell, only two points. So let's do this. Let's put 1 point into Navigation, and then take a Facet in Urban.
Finally, Wits Skills. I have 5 Wits. Let's put 2 into Survival, 2 into Perception, and 1 into Hunting.
Now I have 6 more Skill Points for use anywhere. Hokay. I want another point in Hunting, and then two into the Manhunting Facet. That's 4. And then I want 2 in a Stealth Facet for Tailing. My character is starting to take shape a little.
OK, now Traits. I can take up to 5 points in Negative Traits, which then give me more points to take Positive Traits. I get 8 Trait Points to start.
Well, I want to be Aware, which means I can't be Surprised. That's 1 point (7 left).
(OK, this is annoying. Some of these traits affect a Companion, but they're not offset from the other Traits. Seems like "Companion Traits" should be its own category.)
I'll take Elusive, giving me +2 to Physical Defense when moving away from an enemy without Safely Disengaging (the words "attack of opportunity" pop to mind for some reason). Anyway, that's 1 point, so I have 6 left.
I like Quick on the Draw; I can ready weapons for free. 1 point, 5 left.
I'll take City Slicker. I get a bunch bonuses to Skills used in a city or large town. Ooh, is there a Parkour Trait? I could be an assassin and have a creed. :) Anyway, 3 points left.
As a gnome, I can take Sylvan Racial Traits, so I'll take Keen-Eyed (+2 to Perception rolls; it says all, not just sight-based). 1 point, 2 points left.
How about some negatives? Sure. I'll take Nemesis for 3 points, and Paranoid for 2 points. Ooh, Paranoid's unpleasant; if someone touches me when I'm not expecting it and I have a weapon ready, I attack them - but I'm also Quick on the Draw. Ouch.
Anyway, I now have 7 points remaining. Yowza. I'll take Striker (the first attack I make costs 1 less action point), and then Conditioned (I get +1 Physical Defense because I don't hurt easily). That's all my Trait Points.
Now Proficiencies. Good gravy. I get 6 points here. This is skill with weapons and armor, kinda like in D&D. You have to take these in order, and every given Proficiency has 5 levels. Hokay.
Well, I'll take Novice in Armor Layering, Light Weapons, and Ballistic Weapons, and Apprentice in Combat Tactics. Actually, wait, Ballistic Weapons use Brains as their Attribute, so I'll change that to Ranged Weapons (which use Agility).
Step Five is to pick Spells, but I don't get any.
Step Six is to Buy Equipment. Blearh. I hate this part. Well, I get 1000 Currency, let's see. I want 2 daggers (100 CR), a light crossbow (600 CR), 20 bolts (40 CR), and padded clothing (200 CR). That's 940 spent altogether. Oh, dammit, they want you to buy basic mundane shit, too. Bleah. Fine. Let's skip the padded clothing (260), buy a night cloak for 150 (110), simple clothing for 25 (85), and probably some other shit that I can't be bothered with god I hate shopping in RPGs.
Step Seven is Add Everything Up. I appreciate that the "make the derived traits" step is at the end, where it belongs.
I don't have armor, so that's easy.
My Physical Defense is 13, plus 1 for Conditioned is 14. My Spiritual Defense is 6. My Health is Vigor + 5, 'cause I'm a gnome (which means it's 9). Now how the heck do I fill these in? OK, I shade in all but 9. My Initiative is the result of a d12 + half my Agility, but I don't have a d12 handy so I'm gonna leave this blank.
OK, well, that's a fairly involved chargen process, though it's not worse than any given WoD game, honestly. However, I haven't fleshed out the history bits, so.
Luten Miletan lived with his family, traveling from place to place and singing for their supper. They were never good enough to be called a "troupe," but they would sometimes hook up with other performance groups and everyone split the profits.
And then Luten met Rhys, another gnome, and the two of them fell in love. Rhys was higher class than Luten; Luten's family was barely scraping by, but Rhys was a musician and a fencer and who knows what else. They struck off on their own, Rhys singing, Luten providing backup and building sets and whatever else he could do.
Into all this, though, Rhys was learning White Band stuff. And Luten was right along with him, ready to follow him and be all about purity and light and stuff...and then Luten overheard Rhys talking with his mentor. Rhys said that he wished he could get get shed of Luten, that he wasn't interested in carrying Luten around forever. Luten was dead weight.
Luten left, heartbroken, and pledged the Black Band, promising to learn Bloodcraft. He's learning to be stealthy, fast, and deadly. And when he's good enough, when he can bleed fire and fling steel and death, he'll find Rhys again. He's already taken and fulfilled a contract on one of Rhys' other lovers (hence the Nemesis).
He doesn't actually want to kill Rhys, though. He just wants to show him that he's just as competent as Rhys ever was.