CHAPTER 2: CHARACTER CREATION
Tavern Tales is a game that allows you to play as virtually anything. Do you want to be a feral barbarian who charges into battle? How about a crafty rogue who uses stealth and deception? Your only limit is your imagination! But before you draw your magical sword and start slaying monsters, you first have to create your character. Follow these steps to build your character, recording each decision on your character sheet:
Step 1: Come up with a Concept
The first step is also the most important, because it affects every other decision during character creation. You must come up with a core concept for your character. Here are a few things to consider when you come up with your character concept:
Where does your character come from?
What is your character's race and nationality?
How does your character fight, explore, and socialize?
What sets your character apart?
Tavern Tales accommodates virtually any character concept imaginable, so feel free to exercise your creative muscles and come up with something truly unique.
Dabney, a new player to Tavern Tales, talks to his GM about the upcoming game. The GM explains that the game will focus heavily on exploration, so Dabney decides that he wants to play as a ranger. A master woodsman would be the perfect character for charting the savage wilderness!
Step 2: Select 3 Traits from any Number of Themes
Themes are tools that can use to imbue your character with life and personality. You can read more about your options on the Reading Themespage.
Each theme has traits, which are divided into three categories: combat, exploration, and interaction. Select 1 trait from each category. The traits that you select don’t have to all be from the same theme.
Dabney glances over the list of themes and finds a few that catch his interest. He jots down a few notes about his favorites.
• Tracking: Perfect for bounty hunting!
• Warfare: Great if I want some extra power.
• Savagery: Maybe my ranger grew up in the savage wilderness?
• Faith: I could go with a "pursuit of justice" concept while bounty hunting.
Once he gets a general feel for his favorite themes, he selects traits that fit his character.
For combat, he selects Hunter from Tracking.For exploration, he selects Gut Instinct from Savagery.For interaction, he selects Military Connections from Warfare.
Dabney opted to spread his traits out across 3 themes, but he could have selected fewer themes if he liked. He could have selected all 3 traits from one theme, or he could have selected 2 traits in one theme and his third trait from another theme.
The themes that you select at character creation don’t “lock you in” to those options. As you advance, you will have the opportunity to take traits from other themes. If you like, you could have traits from every single theme!
A note to the GM: By default, player characters start the game with 3 traits. If you like, you can change this starting number. You might have your players start the game with 15 traits for a very high-powered game
Step 3: Select Stats
Every character has four stats: brawn, finesse, mind, and spirit. Assign the following values however you like among these stats: +3, +2, +1, -1. Whenever you make a 3d20 roll, you assign the corresponding bonus or penalty from that stat. For example, a fighter has +3 brawn, +2 finesse, +1 mind, and -1 spirit. He wants to climb a rock wall, which the GM decides is a brawn roll. The player rolls 3d20 and adds +3 to his primary die to determine the final result (see Chapter 4: Rollling Dice for more information).
Brawn is a measure of physical fitness, might, intimidation factor, athleticism, and strength. You typically roll brawn whenever you are:
Brutish and strong.
Straightforward and direct.
Finesse relates to agility, grace, subtlety, precision, and speed. You typically roll finesse whenever you are:
Subtle and smooth.
Agile and graceful.
Deceptive and sneaky.
Mind involves logic, knowledge, memory, perception, and intuition. You typically roll mind whenever you are:
Shrewd and intelligent.
Observant and wise
Witty and clever.
Spirit involves willpower, force of personality, morale, and fighting spirit. You typically roll spirit when you are:
Willful and determined.
Charming and inspirational.
Passionate and emotional.
Relying on pure luck.
Tough and enduring.
The stats are meant to be fairly loose and abstract. The players and the GM will have to use their best judgment to determine which stat applies in a given situation.
It will often be fairly obvious which stat applies. For example, if a character is trying to balance on a narrow tightrope, then finesse obviously applies (he’s being agile and graceful). If he runs several miles in order to catch up with a fleeing villain, spirit obviously applies (he’s being tough and enduring).
Other times, multiple stats can apply. This is especially true in combat, because characters can attack and bolster with any of the four stats. It’s less about the weapon you use and more about how you attack. For example, suppose that a player is using a sword in combat. Which stat would he use? Some players might automatically assume that he has to use brawn, but this isn’t necessarily the case. It depends on how the player describes his action:
“I clench the hilt of the sword, heft the weapon over my head, and heave the blade down into my enemy’s skull!” — Roll brawn.
“Holding the sword lightly in my hand, I slip into a duelist stance and lunge forward with a deadly thrust!” — Roll finesse.
“I carefully parry the enemy’s attacks, waiting for the right moment to strike. As soon as I spot an opening, I deftly exploit the opening in his defenses!” — Roll mind.
"Wiping the blood from my mouth, I stand defiant against my enemy. ‘You’ll never defeat the forces of good!’ I shout defiantly as I wade back into battle with renewed vigor.” — Roll spirit.
It may be difficult to represent your character through stats alone. If that’s the case, don’t worry—you can easily round out your character with traits. For example, barbarians are classically portrayed as unintelligent, but their feral lifestyles make them excellent trackers and hunters. Intelligence and tracking capabilities are both tied to the mind stat. So, should a player give his barbarian low mind to represent the fact that he is unintelligent, or high mind to represent his incredible tracking ability? An easy way to get the best of both worlds is to give the barbarian low mind, and then give him a trait that vastly enhances his tracking abilities (such as To the Ends of the Earth or Big Game Hunter from the Tracking theme).
After thinking about his character for a moment, Dabney decides that his ranger needs high finesse to be an effective marksman. He also wants high mind since rangers need to be good at noticing things in the environment. Rangers have a reputation for being gruff loners, so he places the least value on spirit. He assigns his bonuses accordingly:
Step 4: Determine Toughness and Starting Life
Your toughness value affects your physical resilience and your ability to recover from wounds. Your starting life is your toughness value multiplied by 4. Life determines how much damage you can take before you die.
Before your game starts, your gaming group should have a discussion about the overall feel of the game. Do you want players to feel like larger-than-life heroes who can shrug off blows, or do you want your game to feel more realistic, where a single sword blow can be lethal? The GM selects a toughness value from the list below. By default, the game assumes that players have a toughness of 10—this value makes players feel heroic without also making them feel invincible.
The list below gives a general description of how players will feel about their character based on their toughness. These aren’t the only options—your gaming group can decide on any toughness value you like.
Toughness 1: Weak
Toughness 5: Vulnerable
Toughness 10: Dramatic
Toughness 15: Heroic
Toughness 20: Unstoppable
Toughness also affects healing. When you heal, you typically heal an amount of life equal to your toughness. For example, a player with 10 toughness will heal 10 life when he heals.
After a group discussion, the GM decides that players will start with the base toughness of 10. Dabney records that he has 10 toughness and 40 life.
Step 5: Buy Starting Gear
You start the game with 100 gold, which you can use to buy supplies. See the Adventuring Gear section for details on starting equipment.
Dabney buys a two-handed bow for 10 gold, along with 5 bundles of arrows for 5 gold. He also springs for some light armor, setting him back 20 gold. He picks up an adventuring pack for 10 gold, leaving him with 55 gold remaining. Dabney considers buying a healing potion but decides against it, choosing instead to start the game with 55 gold in his pocket
You are in complete control of all aesthetic choices with your character. You can play whatever you want: a human, a dragon, a mechanical golem, or whatever else you please. You can also change the aesthetics of your traits. If a trait lets you shoot fireballs, you can rename it to “Ice ball” and shoot explosive blasts of ice instead. These aesthetic choices are acceptable as long as they don’t affect your capabilities or statistics. For example, you can’t say that you have huge muscles and therefore deserve a +1 bonus to brawn. Similarly, saying that you’re a dragon doesn’t mean that you instantly gain the ability to fly. You might have wings, but you need a trait that gives you the ability to fly before you can use them.
Dabney decides that he wants to put a twist on his bow-wielding ranger, so he asks the GM if it’s acceptable to play as a humanoid plant creature. The GM approves, so Dabney describes his character’s bark skin and leafy hair to the other players.
Dabney’s friend, Parker, is playing as a frost mage. Parker also rewrites some aspects of his character to match his frost wizard concept. For example, Parker took the trait Barrier from the Arcane theme. The default text for Barrier reads, “Describe how you use defensive magic.” Parker rewrites it to read, “Describe how you create an impenetrable wall of ice.“ He also renames the trait Ice Wall.
Three characters put their own unique spin on the aesthetics of the Barrier trait (Arcane).
Wait, where are the races?
In roleplaying games, players tend to think of their characters as a combination of race + class, such as a dwarven paladin, a human wizard, or an elven rogue. Tavern Tales doesn’t use this race-class duality because it would violate one of the core principles of the game: you get to define your character.
Themes are tools that allow you to build both your race and your class. For example, elves are typically portrayed as nature lovers who wield bows. You could take a few traits from the Tracking theme to represent your elven heritage. But what if you are playing in a setting where elves hate nature and instead pursue the magical arts? In that case, you might want to take traits from the Arcane theme. It’s up to you and your gaming group to decide if elves fit the traditional stereotype, or if they’re something completely different.
Suppose a character has 10 traits in the Faith theme. Does that mean that Faith represents his class, race, or both? That’s entirely up to the player. If he’s playing as a winged angel with a burning halo of fire, then Faith probably represents his race. If he’s playing as a human who devoted himself to his god, then Faith probably represents his class. If he’s playing as a righteous paladin who is also a descendant of a demigod, then Faith probably represents both his race and his class.