Other than poring over the rule book, creating a character is the first step in learning and playing a game. For new players, it is the first engagement with the nuts and bolts of the system, the rules, the feel of the game: What kind of character can I be? What kind of character is feasible, buildable? What do I want to do, and who do I want to play? Sometimes making a character for a role-playing game is more fun than playing the game because it is about imagining the possibilities. Tellings is a class-less system, which means there are no preset character “types” or templates. Rather, the game offers an open system to allow players to envision and build (almost) whatever they want. Fantasy archetypes or genre conventions can be a good starting point–the warrior, the mage, the priest, the rogue–but the game invites players to twist, tweak, mix-and-match, and redefine those starting places. The sections below are excerpted from Chapter Two of the Tellings rule book.
Player Characters (PCs)
The drama of a story, a play, or a telling rises out of the development (and, perhaps, decline) of a character or characters. Who the character is, what the character wants, and how the character acts influences down to the slightest detail the atmosphere and movement of the telling. The character adds motion and more importantly emotion to setting, scene, and plot—portrait becomes portrayal, image becomes imagination.
It is the imagination that gives life to the character; the idea for a character precedes the game mechanics of character creation. The responsibility of the player is to draw out of his or her imagination and experience the flecks of personality that will form the Tellings persona. Begin with some of the basics: name, gender, sexuality, birthplace, family history, occupation, affiliations, faith, hair color, favorite weapon, clothes, unusual birthmark, social standing, favorite food, pet peeve, tragic flaw, and so on. Even the smallest detail can spark life to the character. The player must explore the who, what, where, when, how, and especially why of the character’s past, present, and hopes. Work to paint in the details, from general to specific, external to internal.
Now, move to the mechanics. Like a golem, the role-playing game character is part flesh and blood and mind and part artificial construction; the living matter is the player and the three-dimensional persona they portray molds like a skin over the mechanics of the game. The character is represented on paper by his or her Attributes (ATTR), by their skills, knowledges, and abilities, by his or her Strengths and Weaknesses, and, later, by the Experience Points (XP) they earn. This chapter begins character generation with the character’s Attribute scores, numbers that represent the character’s physical, mental, and spiritual talents and development. Chapter Three details skills and knowledges; using an allotment of points, the player buys what the character knows and what the character can do. Chapter Four details Strengths and Weaknesses, special character abilities, traits, flaws, virtues, advantages, or disadvantages.
Start with Attribute generation and move through each of the following chapters. However, character creation should not be a linear process. A certain skill or Strength may make the player choose to change an Attribute score. A skill that the player wants their character to possess may be bought by taking on additional Weaknesses. A Strength or Weakness may change the whole concept of the character. The next few chapters are a road map to follow and there are no one-way signs that direct the right or wrong way to make a character.
Generating ATTR Scores
Attributes are values that determine a character’s physical, mental, and spiritual development and power. They represent both innate and trained abilities, both potential and gained qualities. Attribute scores are used in roll-or-fail rolls to check a particular trait and determine skill rolls, combat rolls, and other game values.
There are eight Attributes: Agility (AGI), Charisma (CHA), Constitution (CON), Dexterity (DEX) Essence (ESS), Knowledge (KNO), Perception (PER), and Strength (STR).
Each Attribute begins with a base value of zero. The player gains 101 points to allot. Depending on the difficulty and nature of the adventure campaign, the Wright may increase or decrease the starting points—even just a few points will make a noticeable difference—less points for more modest characters (around 99) and more points for high-powered characters (around 103).
Starting characters will generally have ATTR scores ranging from 8 to 15. Using only the building points, no starting character can have an ATTR above 15. An average character will have scores around 10. Players should keep in mind that they are creating heroic characters, people with above-average abilities. The Wright may decide that starting player-characters may have scores beyond 15. Scores above 15 are considered extraordinary and are reserved for experienced characters. Scores above 18 are considered superhuman and are usually reserved for beasts and master-level characters. Scores above 24 are considered supernatural and are usually used to describe monstrous creatures. On the other hand, scores below 8 are disadvantageous and may prove disabling to game play; the Wright should carefully adjudicate characters taking below average ATTRs. No score can drop below zero.
Allot all of the points to the eight Attributes. Keep in mind, not all ATTRs will be perfect. Choose one or two Attributes that are most important to the success of the character and put the highest values in those scores. Keep in mind any skills, abilities, or die-rolls based on the favored ATTRs.
Attribute Descriptions & Information
Here are what all the numbers mean. Listed alphabetically, each Attribute is described in detail with all pertinent information listed and explained. Pay close attention to the information provided and record the relevant values on the character sheet.
Agility represents the character’s balance, bodily control and coordination, kinesthetic sense, and physical reflexes. Agility determines how well the character moves their body and is a requisite for skills such as Acrobatics, Climbing, and Dancing. Agility also affects the character’s Defend Roll, the ability to dodge, block, and avoid attacks (see Chapter Eight for more details).
Charisma represents the character’s presence, ethos, and ability to influence others. Charisma also represents elements of self-esteem, confidence, poise, personal magnetism, and outward appearance. Charisma affects persuasiveness and leadership ability and is a requisite for skills such as Acting, Bribery, Etiquette, Seduction, and Trading. Charisma is also used in CHA attacks; see Chapter Eight for details. Charisma also affects a priest character’s Prayer Success percentage; see Chapter Six for details.
Constitution represents the character’s health, hardiness, vitality, stamina, and ability to resist disease, poisons, and other bodily traumas. To some degree, con reflects the character’s height, size, and bodily mass. Constitution determines the character’s ability to soak and recover from damage as well as his or her will to survive. In addition, CON determines the character’s Trauma Points (TP) for each hit location; see Chapter Eight for details on trauma. Lastly, a character’s CON affects their Body Points and Endurance Points.
Dexterity represents the character’s hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and accuracy. Dexterity represents how well a character can use their hands to catch, grab, or make fine manipulations as in skills such as Lock Picking, Painting, or Sleight-of-Hand. A character’s Attack Roll, the ability to aim and hit a target, is affected by DEX (see Chapter Eight for details).
Essence represents the character’s strength of mind, will power, and resistance to mental and magical effects. In part, ESS also represents the character’s intuition, spirituality, and magical and psychic attunement. Essence affects a mage’s ability to sense, control, and dispel magic; it affects a mage’s Spell Success percentage. Essence affects a priest piety and ability to trust in their god’s power; it affects a priest’s Prayer Success percentage. See Chapter Five for mages and Chapter Six for priests. Essence also determines the character’s Mental Trauma Point (MTP); see Chapter Eight for details on mental damage and trauma. Lastly, a character’s ESS affects their Body Points and Endurance Points.
Knowledge represents the character’s formal and informal education, training, world experience, and life experience. Knowledge affects skills such as Engineering, History, Language, Mapmaking, and Plant Lore. Knowledge also represents the character’s memory, ability to learn, logic, and reasoning. A character with a high KNO score may have had a great deal of schooling and book learning or a great deal of life know-how or a combination of everything. Knowledge affects a mage’s Spell Success; see Chapter Five for details. Lastly, a character’s KNO score affects the number of starting skills he or she possesses and affects the number of starting spells or prayers for mages and priests.
Perception represents the character’s awareness, sensory acuity, and ability to react to change, stimuli, and environment. Perception is a combination of all senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and, to a degree, intuitive sense. Skills such as Singing, Concealing, and Tracking have a per requisite. In adventuring, PER rolls are used to determine if the character notices something hidden or not obvious; see Chapter Seven for details. Perception also represents the character’s reaction time, the ability to recognize and respond to changes in their sensorium, and overall reflexes. Perception determines how fast a character acts and reacts in combat. Perception also affects the character’s Attack and Defend Roll. A character cannot have a natural per score below 7.
Strength measures the character’s raw muscle power as well as the ability to control, exert, and use it. Strength determines how much a character can lift, carry, throw, push, pull, jump, and how much damage he or she can inflict. Skills such as Brawling, Disarm, Shield Proficiency, Weapon Proficiency, Carpentry, Jumping, and Swimming have a STR requisite. Weapons, armors, and shields all have Strength minimums. Lastly, STR is used to determine a character’s Body Points and Endurance Points.