The first thing that strikes me when I look at the game's character creation is that it is familiar. It's R. Talsorian's base rule set as seen in the various Mekton* and Cyberpunk games. Character creation also follows a life path system, meaning as I create the character, I can choose what happened to him or her prior to the game starting, similar to the various versions of Traveller. I like life paths; they let me get a better handle of who the character is beyond just numbers and skill sets and they give me a better idea of what the world is like.
For this first run through The Witcher's character creation, I'm going to use a fairly standard character, an elven archer. Elves do exist in the setting, and they are known for putting arrows into pesky humans when needed. For the life path, I'm going to roll, just to see what happens. Right now, the idea is that I want a character that suits the setting when I'm not that familiar with it. The elven archer is a good archetype to start from; I know what one can do in general, so applying that to the setting and seeing what comes out should result in a playable character.
Once again, I'm going to go by the steps in order in the game itself. New game, new character, no need to change things up, unlike a more familiar game where I'll already have an idea to aim towards. Again, the goal and the start point is an elven archer. Let's see what I get.
1. Choose race.
Easy enough. Elf. Being comes with a few perks. Perks come for all races, but they differ. With elves, my character gets Artistic, Marksman, and Natural Attunement.
2. Run a life path,
This will get a little long. It's a feature of many R. Talsorian games, though, and it helps get the character more dimensional. The option exists to choose; why force a player into something they might not like? The resulting characters should be something players want, so if I were to GM, I'd allow players to choose or choose to reroll if they don't like a result. Random rolls are good when a player doesn't know what they want.
The first chart to check is homeland. Being an elf, there's only one option, Dol Blathanna, the elven homeland, which provides a boost to the Social Etiquette skill. Elves are sociable. The chart then directs me to Family Fate. It's a 50/50 chance that something happened to my character's family. Other R. Tal games change up the chances, with Mekton having a better chance of the family still alive and together. The first roll of a ten-sided die (d10) is 10, even. Even means that my character's family is still alive and together. Yay!
With the family alive and together, it's time to check on the parents. Again, it's a 50/50 chance that something happened to my character's parents. The d10 roll is 4, even, and the parents are still alive. If you check the probabilities, my character is in the minority. A quarter of random characters will have had nothing happen to either the family or the parents. Three-quarters of random characters will have lost their family or their parents. It's not a happy world.
Next on the life path is Family Status, as in, social standing instead of alive or dead. The d10 roll is 5. Looking under Elderland Status, because elf, that gets Entertainers. My character gets an instrument and a friend out of the roll. That could explain why my character is out of their homeland; entertainers tend to travel.
Someone in my character's past was influential. The d10 roll is another 5, leading to an Entertainer. Makes sense, seeing that my character's family were entertainers. Probably someone in the same troupe as the family, possibly even a relative. My character has a choice of gear, a playbill or a ticket. I'll go with the playbill, which includes the influential friend's name along with members of the family. I'm also now reconsidering if the character is an archer.
Does my character have siblings? Again, I'm rolling, though players can choose here, too. Elven nuclear families tend to be small, though, unlike human families. There is a good chance that my character is an only child. The d10 roll is 1; according to the chart, my character has one sibling. Now to find out more about the sibling, who can be brought in later if my character dies. On the sibling chart, I roll four times, once each for gender, age, feelings about my character, and personality. The rolls are 3, 4, 9, and 8, leading to a younger brother who looks up to my character and is stern.
Next up are the Life Events. For every ten years of life, my character gets a random Life Event. I am going to impose one condition; no Romance results until after 20 years of age. Elves have long lives and I don't want to deal with the potential for pre-adolescent sexual relations. And since elves have long lives, I need to pick an age that makes sense and doesn't have me rolling dice for two hours. A quick Google search gives me that the King of the Elves is over 600 years old. I don't want a middle-aged elf, just a young one, so I'll go with 85 years. That's still 8 rolls on the Life Events table, plus the subsequent rolls each event provides.
I'll start by rolling on the main table first eight times, getting 4, 2, 7, 4, 7, 6, 2, and 7. A quick check on the table to find the Romance results, which occur on an 8 or better on the die. My character has had no romance at all. The first result is Fortune or Misfortune, as is the second, the fourth, and the seventh. The rest are Allies and Enemies. The first ten years are (d10 roll of 10, even) Fortune, my character tamed a (d10 roll of 4) wild dog. By age 20, my character had (d10 roll of 7, odd) Misfortune where they had (d10 roll of 8) an accident resulting in (d10 roll of 3) disfigurement, leading to being feared. Looks like archer is back on the table.
By age 30, my character picked up an (d10 roll of 10, even) Ally, a (d10 roll of 2) female (d10 roll of 10) bard met (d10 roll of 9) while travelling and are now (d10 roll of 7) close friends, even when she's (d10 roll of 10) beyond the Boundaries. Just can't get away from entertainers. As the rolling is starting to look annoying, I'll finish the charts and put the results below. The next Misfortune turned out to be a curse, which I'll have to work out with a GM. My character has quite a few friends and an ex-lover enemy. There's a give and take with choosing an age; the older a character, the more rolls, but that could work against them as well as for them. My character could have had a lot more enemies but for the luck of the die.
The last part of the life path is the personal style. Again, most player may prefer to choose from these options or something not even listed. I'll roll, in part because the character is still a bit nebulous, in part because I want to demonstrate the full life path. Four rolls for style for clothing, personality, hair style, and affectations, getting 1, 5, 9, 2, resulting in a uniform, contemplative, a complicated hair style, and rings and jewelry. The personality fits; being horribly disfigured and forced to be on the edges of polite society has made my character contemplative over the decades.
Three rolls for values - valued person, value, and feelings on people - are 1, 7, and 6. My character's most valued person his a parent (d10 roll of 5, odd), the father. My character values power, might be related to the curse and the disfigurement. As for other people, my character is neutral.
And that's it for the life path. It could be interesting to run the cast of /The Elf's Prisoner/ through to see how well they fit. Again, I could have chosen, though as a GM, I'd insist on random rolls for most of the Life Events. The personal style should be chosen, but if something is listed that a player hasn't considered, a random roll could help.
3. Pick profession.
There are nine professions in the game. Each has a defining skill and some extra starting abilities and gear. It's similar to Cyberpunk 2020 if you've played it. The Witcher profession is out, only Witchers may be Witchers. The rest are open. Bard was being considered after family and influential friend became entertainers. The disfigurement and the curse, though, changed my mind. An elven archer, one who can sneak through the wilderness away from the main body of an army to snipe, fits again. I'll take Man-At-Arms as the profession.
Man-At-Arms has Tough As Nails as the defining skill, allowing the character to keep fighting beyond death. There's no magical perks and Vigor is set to 0; my character isn't touching magic. For base skills, coming in step 5, I start with Wilderness Survival, Courage, Physique, Intimidation, Dodge/Escape, and any five combat skills. Before I continue, I should pick the combat skills. Archery is the obvious one for an archer. Small Blades help with knives, Crossbow to expand my character's ranged potential; Swordsmanship for larger blades, and Athletics to round things out. These skills will be dealt with more in step 5; for now, they've been chosen. There's also gear to choose from, but I'll deal with that in step 7.
4. Pick statistics.
There are two methods to pick statistics - roll or point-buy. I'm going the random route this time through, so the numbers could vary widely. When rolling, I get to reroll 1s and 2s, which are Inept when looking at non-player characters. The rolls are, in order, 3, 5, 10, 6, 6, 9, 8, 7, and 5, or a point below the points given for average characters. It's a risk. I now assign these to my stats. The 10 is going to my character's Dexterity, the governing stat for Archery. The 3 is going into Empathy; the disfigurement and the curse are really playing havoc there. The 5s are being assigned to Craft and Luck; competent but not outstanding. The 6s go into Intelligence and Speed, again, competent. Body gets the 7, Will the 8, and Reflex the 9, turning the character into a good base as a Man-At-Arms.
That leaves the derived stats. Stun is, according the errata, the average of Body and Will rounded down. Run is three times Speed, Leap is Run/5 in metres. Health Points and Stamina are Stun times five. Encumbrance is ten times Body. Recovery is equal to Stun. Punch and Kick damage are listed by Body on the table on page 48. The results are listed in the character sheet below.
5. Select pick-up skills.
Skill selection comes in two parts. The first is the professional skills as listed with the profession, with 44 points to distribute among them. The second part is pick up skills, the little things everyone learns in life outside work, with the sum of Intelligence and Reflex to distribute.
With the professional skills, I need to put at least 1 point into each of them, including the defining skill. That's an average of 4 points per skill, but I want my character to be good with bows. The most any skill can be after character creation is 6, excluding bonuses for racial perks. I'll start by raising Archery and Crossbows to 6. Tough As Nails will be set to 4. Wilderness Survival and Dodge/Escape are set to 3 each. Small Blades and Athletics are set to 4, covering stabbing and throwing with knives. Physique and Swordsmanship are set at 2 each; not the best skills but its something. Intimidation is set to 5, taking advantage of being Feared. Courage is set to 5. In a knife fight or sniping, my character is going to walk away the victor. Not so much in a sword fight.
With 15 points to spend on pick up skills, I need to work out languages. My character starts with Elder Speech at +8 automatically, but needs to purchase ranks in the Common tongue. Language skill levels cost double, though, so Common at 3 costs 6 points. Awareness is always good to have, so I set that to 3 as well. I want to take advantage of the Artistic perk and the bonus from homeland, so I'll grab Fine Arts and Social Etiquette at 1 each; enough to know but being on the outside, doesn't get much use. Finally, I'll get some skill in Resist Magic, which also costs double, getting 2 skill levels for the last 4 points.
6. Get money.
As a Man-At-Arms, my character gets 2d6x150 crowns. Rolling the dice, I get 9 for a total of 1350 crowns. That should get me something in the next step.
7. Spend money on gear.
Before I spend any crowns, I need to go back to the profession's page and see what I can get there. I need to choose five items from the list, with one of the items being a crossbow and bolts (which is why I maxed out the Crossbow skill in step 5. A quick look at the weapons list shows that I can afford a proper bow and possibly even an bow of elven make, so I don't need the crossbow. First choices are armour, the chain coif, the brigandine, and the armoured trousers. My character doesn't want to get hurt while turning people into reverse porcupines. The five throwing knives go well with the idea of a sniper; why get close to people when you can stab them at a distance? Finally, the kord, a type of sword, to fall back on when knives aren't enough to say, "Die already!"
Now the shopping spree! First thing, a bow, because elven archer. The elven zefhar is tempting, but wouldn't leave me with much to get other necessities, like arrows and a bedroll. The war bow is a good trade off; not as accurate, but still as devastating at a lower cost. For 835 crowns, I'll get that instead. I'll accessorise it with 20 standard arrows (20 crowns) and 5 broadhead arrows (50 crowns). The armour piercing bodkin is tempting but too expensive right now. All that for less than the price of the zefhar.
To finish up, I'll get a regular dagger (50 crowns). It can serve as a tool as much as a weapon, and it's handy to eat with. There are a few necessities the game recommends along with weapons - a satchel, a bedroll, a couple of torches or a lantern, food for a week or so, 20m of rope, and a waterskin. Excluding the light sources and the food, that comes to 58 crowns. With Wilderness Survival, my character can forage outside cities to find food, so unless things go bad, that keeps him away from civilization. The bow needs a sheath (24 crowns), and a bullseye lantern will help in the dark (39 crowns). Given my character's personal style, some jewelry (50 crowns) adds some flavour. Flint and steel (6 crowns) helps start fires when in the wilderness. That should do, so the total cost of the gear is 1132 crowns, leaving my character 218 crowns for future expenses.
While I'm dealing with gear, there's two things to finish up. The first is the instrument from the influential friend. I'll take it as a flute; easy enough to carry, small enough to slip out of the way, and not really a sign of being a bard. The other is the befriended wild dog from my character's childhood. Dogs don't live anywhere near as long as elves, so this is something to be worked out with the GM. However, my thoughts are that anyone who got something in the life path should have once the game starts. It's a bonus from the system. Why couldn't my character breed the dog, getting a number of generations and having a tamed wild dog at the start of play? As a GM, I'd allow that explanation. The character got a bonus through the life path, the character can keep the bonus.
Almost done. Last thing, really, is to name the character. The RPG itself suggests Welsh names, so a quick Googling later I get Rhisiart. Works for me.
And that's it. Character creation can get involved, taking an hour or so. Mind, an elf or a dwarf PC will need more time to deal with Life Events. It may be easier for a group of players to create their characters before the first game session. One thing that will speed things up is to have players do the life path on their own time. Fortunes and Misfortunes will affect how the character ends up, so the life path can't really be delayed for long.
Here is a rough sheet for Rhisiart, the elven archer. Other than the brief moment before he wound up disfigured and shunned where he could've been a bard, the process let me stay to the original idea. The life path gave him some motives that I hadn't expected. Feared and cursed? I'll just hang back from the bulk of the army and snipe any enemy that gets too daring.
Social Standing: Feared
Artistic: +1 to Fine Arts
Marksman: +2 to Archery
Natural Attunement: animals will not attack unless provoked; can find common plant substances in the wild
Defining Skill: Tough As Nails 4
Language: Common 3
Language: Elder Speech 8
Social Etiquette 1 (2)
Wilderness Survival 3
Small Blades 4
Archery 6 (8)
Fine Arts: Songwriting 1 (2)
Resist Magic 2
Health Points: 35
Punch Damage: 1d6+2
Kick Damage: 1d6+6
Homeland: Dol Blathanna - +1 to Social Etiquette
Family Fate: Alive and together
Parental Fate: Alive
Family Status: Entertainers
Most Influential Friend: Entertainer
Brother, younger - looks up to me, stern
Age 10 - Fortune - tamed a wild dog
Age 20 - Misfortune - disfiguring accident, now Feared
Age 30 - Allies - female bard met while travelling, close friends, she's now beyond the Boundaries
Age 40 - Misfortune - cursed
Age 50 - Allies - female mage met when she save me, acquaintances, now in Elder Lands
Age 60 - Allies - female childhood friend met when forced to work together, acquaintances, now beyond the Boundaries
Age 70 - Misfortune - betrayal, secret was exposed
Age 80 - Enemies - female ex-lover when she caused the loss of a loved one; power 2, mostly forgotten, social power
Clothing: A uniform
Hair Style: Complicated
Affectations: Rings and jewelry
Feelings on People
Throwing knives (5)
War bow with 20 standard arrows and 5 broadhead arrows
Jewelry (50 crowns worth)
Flint & steel
As always, please let me know if you use Rhisiart. He should be a viable character, but no PC ever survives contact with the GM.
* The characters of Mecha Academy went through Mekton Zeta's life path, though with a more directed approach. There may be a blog post on that later.