Saturday, December 2, 2017

Character Creation: Roma Imperious

Well, this'll be my 33rd character this year. My resolution was one a week (or 52), so I'm a little short, but I rather suspected I would be when I came out of summer still really behind. I could probably make up the shortfall over Xmas break by doing a bunch of PbtA games, which are quick, but that'll bore me, I suspect.

Anyway, one thing I did notice was that I have two more games that originally came from the Haiti bundle. If you don't know, that bundle was on sale waaaaaaay the hell back in January of 2010, following the earthquake. That charity bundle got something like $178,000 for Doctors Without Borders, and folks who supported it got 170 different products valued at about $1000 for $20. I've supported a few similar projects since then, but that one was the one that cemented the fact that I will never finish this project.

But it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. To wit:

The Game: Roma Imperious
The Publisher: HinterWelt Enterprises
Degree of Familiarity: None. I'm reading through it now. It's a pretty big book, so I'm not going to read the whole thing, but I might offer some commentary as I go.
Books Required: Just the one.

Roma Imperious is an "alternative history role-playing game," which is interesting because I just finished reading a historical fiction novel called Captain Alatriste and developed a hypothesis that I might enjoy such fiction more than fantasy because in fantasy, all the made-up names and places tend to fall right out of my brain. In historical fiction, at least I know what "Madrid" is and I can latch onto that (the experiment, then, is to read a novel that draws on a culture that I'm not as familiar with, but that's for another time).

Anyway, reading the beginning of the book, it starts off with a very nice introduction that talks about the passion the author has for Roman history. What it doesn't do is talk about what characters do in this game or what the basic conflict, struggle, or conversation is about, and I'm finding as I get older that such introductions are really helpful for me in determining how to approach an RPG. But, with that said, this game was written in 2004, so I'm willing to cut it a little slack.

Moving on, we get into history and structure of the Empire. It looks like the turning point between real history and this world is the discovery or use of magic, but I'm not up enough on Roman history to spot the fine details (and again, I'm not doing a close reading because I have other shit to do today). I will say that the book doesn't quite nail down the "now" as firmly as I'd like, or at least not to my casual read.

And then we many, many pages about other cultures, and then...classes? This is weird, hang on. OK, classes seem to be mostly in-setting, but then there are some game mechanics attached. Templates, which follow, are fully-made characters that folks can just grab.

(Where to put the system in an RPG book is a subject of no small debate amongst those of us who make these books. I personally like having the system, or at least the basics, up front so that when you see references to mechanics in the text they make some kind of sense, but there's also a school of thought that wants to put all of the setting stuff first and the system stuff later. In this case, character creation follows the templates, so I'm gonna jump ahead a bit.)

Oh, fuck me, this is mathy. Hang on.

My eyes glaze over when you say things like "curved progression." Let's jump ahead again.

OK, so now I'm at the actual character creation bit, which tells me that the process is less about making up the numbers and more about making up the person. Could've fooled me, looking at the sheet, but let's not be cynical. Let's be Roman.

Step One: Develop a Concept. OK, so I'm actually going to skip this, and I'll tell ya why. Much like in D&D and related games, if you're developing your stats randomly (which I don't necessarily mind), there's no point in developing a concept before you roll. Sure, I could get all tasted up to run a gladiator-style character, but if I roll shit for physical stats, my concept doesn't work.

I will say, though, that this section notes that the players and the GM should work together to make all the concepts fit, and I appreciate that nod to group cohesion. But, be that as it may, let's find some d20s and roll some stats. The idea is I roll 3 d20s and take the highest one for each stat, which gives me:

Strength 8
Agility 17
Constitution 20
Dexterity 15
Intelligence 16
Wisdom 18
Appearance 20
Charisma 17
Luck 15
Piety 18
Will 14

Wow, not bad. Well, the book notes that this makes your vital stats skew high, so I suppose that's fine. Does mean I'm not real likely to be a warrior 'cause I'm kind of weak, but you know me, I'd rather make fast jumpy-flippy-magicky types anyway. What's next! Oh, right, that was Step Two, so I should really go back and do step one and come up with a concept.

Well, I could play to my strengths in any number of ways. I like making magical characters, so I could play a magus or a druid. With my social stats as high as they are, I could also play a performer or a spy or something. Actually, given that my Piety is as high as it is, I'll go with Druid. As part of that, I pick a tribe, which also determines what kind of magic I'm good at. I'll Dumnonnii, which makes me good at magic involving Truth, Sea, and Combat (it's the "sea" that attracted me). Reading on, this particular tribe has a "good if somewhat cool relationship" with the Romans, so assuming that the game is set somewhere in Britannia, I like the idea that my character is half-Roman (his father was a Roman soldier stationed there, and took a Celtic woman as a wife). My character's name, then, is Oppius Velius Vindex.

(Now, I'm aware that as a Roman being raised in this culture and then becoming one of, in effect, their holy people, there's potentially some appropriation going on, but thematically I think that kind of works.)

Right, good, NEXT STEP. Back to math. Step Three: Calculate Fortitude and Defense Stat. 15 and 14, respectively (they're the average of 3 traits each).

Step Four: Choose Class. I did that, I'm a druid. I get two in Wilderness Survival, two in Herbology, one First Aid, and one Meditation. I...guess that's it? I'll come back to this if there's more.

Step Five: Skills. I get skill points each to the average of my Intelligence and Wisdom, which is 17. Let's see how this works.

OK, so, you put levels into skills, which then gives you a higher percentage chance to use them (level 3 is 70%). I seem to get 2 free to put into weapon proficiencies (the way it's phrased isn't super clear), so let's assume that's true. I'll put them into Staff Use.

And then I get these other 17. Holy cats. I'll put one more into Herbology, Wilderness Survival, and First Aid (for 3, 3, and 2, respectively), 2 into Medicine, 2 into Memory, 3 into Mythology (Celts) and Spell Direction, 2 into Wilderness Lore, and 2 into Arcane Lore. That makes me pretty damn druid, methinks.

Step Six: Spells is something I can largely skip, because since I'm using clerical mage rather than spell magic, I don't use "spells" so much as "I do magical shit within my tribe's parameters and take a penalty depending on how amazing it is." So that's pretty baller.

Step Seven is Equip Your Character. So like, my dude is dressed however folks in Britannia would be dressing this season (white robes, very nighttime telly) and has a staff and probably a dagger he doesn't really fight with.

Step Eight is Character History, but I feel like I've done that pretty well. I didn't note a code (what the character believes in), but there's no space for it on the sheet so it can't be that important. I think Velius probably believes in Family and the Land (which is kinda like being pious for him), but if I were to actually play this character I'd expect to get caught between his two peoples and their beliefs at some point.

I could figure out Fortitude points, but honestly it's more fiddly than I want to deal with right now, so I'm gonna call that done.