Monday, July 22, 2013

Character Building: Torchbearer!


So, here's another "Character Building" post! This time around, I'm actually doing it with a pragmatic motive in mind. See, I'm gonna be playing in a game of Thor Olvasrud's Torchbearer, a dungeon-crawl homage that's a hack of Mouse Guard. It streamlines the rules, and brings the genre back to a survivalist, claustrophobia-inducing adventure scenario. If you make it out alive, you might manage to grab enough loot to make it all worthwhile. That sounds awesome.

First Things First: Putting Stock in Character
Oh, the punnery. The very first decision that you make when building a Torchbearer character is their "stock". Well, that and their class. The term "stock" is a replacement for most fantasy games' term "race" (I vastly prefer "stock" for a few different reasons), and in Torchbearer, you can be a Human, Elf, Halfling, or Dwarf. Currently, there's only one Halfling class (the Burglar), one Dwarf class (the Adventurer), and one Elf class (the Ranger), in keeping with older D&D's class spread. Humans can be Clerics, Magicians, and Warriors. Your class-stock combo gives you your starting stats.

In honor of the good ol' Bilbo Baggins, I say we make a Halfling Burglar!

Name:
Age:
Stock: Halfling
Class: Burglar
Will: 5
Health: 3
Skills: Cook 3, Criminal 3, Fighter 3, Hunter 2, Scout 2, Scavenger 2
Traits: Hidden Depths (there's more to a halfling than meets the eye!)
Weapons: ?
Armor: ?

That's History
Now we begin delving into the character's background--their special knowledges and the traits that they take forward from their hometown. In Torchbearer, there's a lot of homelands listed. They give you extra skills and character traits to choose from. So let's see....ooh! Religious Bastion! I smell a really colorful character coming together already. I'm going to pull in the Theologian skill and the Scarred trait. Now to figure out why this thief calls the Bastion their home. (Oh, I am so dearly tempted to make this a Locke Lamora expy....)

The next choice is the "social graces" question. You have to figure out how your character gets people to do what they need. Are they a Haggler, Persuader, Orator, or Manipulator? I decide that Persuader fits the bill most here. My halfling isn't a sneaky, tricksy halfling, but rather an earnest burglar.

You also get to pick a specialty, a skill that gets boosted automatically. Nobody else in the group can have your specialty. This is one reason why you should create characters as a group, in fact. We'll say that our halfling's specialty is Cartographer. This gives that skill at a rating of 2. (We could've also boosted a pre-existing skill by 1, but this gets us more for our money.)

Then, wises. These are special areas of knowledge that I get as a character. I can do a variety of things with them, generally boiling down to "I get a flash of insight on what I'm doing, because of X". I get to make up one Wise, and being a halfling lets me pick from two other Wises. I decide that my halfling-given Wise is "Needs a Little Salt-wise".

Finally, in an homage to the classic Redwall books, and because this burglar already has religious connections, I think that "St. Nininan-wise" would be fitting. In a game, I'd hash this out some from with the DM, to determine who St. Ninian was, and how he might play into the backdrop of the story, and how my character might make use of that Wise.

Name:
Age:
Stock: Halfling
Class: Burglar
Will: 5
Health: 3
Skills: Cook 3, Criminal 3, Fighter 3, Hunter 2, Scout 2, Scavenger 2, Theologian 2, Cartographer 2, Persuader 2
Wises: Needs a Little Salt-wise, St. Ninian-wise
Traits: Hidden Depths (there's more to a halfling than meets the eye!), Scarred
Weapons: ?
Armor: ?

Back to the Backstory
Who a character is, in Torchbearer is rooted in who they were, and this includes the stock they were born into. Each stock has a Nature, which specifies things which said stock naturally does. Halfling Nature is "Sneaking, Riddling, and Merrymaking". The game makes me answer a few questions about my character, and then I calculate my Nature score appropriately. I'm not keen on reproducing the entire rules here, and it's a lot to read anyhow, so I'll just give you my answers (and explain how it impacts my character choices).

  • Does my halfling eat second breakfast? ABSOLUTELY! I will totally be snarfing extra rations. (Nature +1)
  • Does my halfling stand their ground in a fight, or run? FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT! (Nature and Fighter do not change)
  • Would my halfling rather just be safe and snug at home? Of course not! Let's have an adventure! (I'm allowed to replace or increase my home trait, but I currently like "Scarred" as it is.)

Since I start with Nature 3, this brings it up to 4. That's roughly a middle-of-the-road score. It'll help, but not always hugely. But I'm an adventurer, I don't always need that Nature!

We also get to hash out my character's relationships with a few questions. Namely, does my character have friends, parents, a mentor, and/or an enemy? I get to pick up to three, although if my character doesn't have friends, they become the Loner, and don't get to answer any of the other questions. So, I'm thinking that my halfling has a mentor, friends, and an enemy. Because enemies are fun! That gives my halfling a respectable Circles 4 and sorta valuable keepsake from my parents (that I hope I never have to sell). I'm thinking that my character's not on speaking terms with the parents, but they're still alive. Probably disapproved of the trek to the religious bastion.

All characters start with Resources 0; this is the stat which measures your current financial situation. Adventurers are broke.

Gear Up!
So, let's get back to the gear. My character already gets a keepsake worth 1D cash; I think it's a prized pendant bearing the family crest, because halflings totally have family crests. I'm thinking a rampant deer as the primary feature of it. Starting characters can then take as much gear as they can carry, if they wish. This is probably gonna make or break my survivability at first. Gear goes in slots on my character, and they are as follows...

  • Head: one slot to wear something
  • Neck: one slot to wear something (I'll use this for my pendant)
  • Hands: two slots to wear things, two slots to carry things (one for each hand, naturally)
  • Torso: three slots to wear things
  • Belt: one pouch slot, one weapon slot, one slot for a skin of water
  • Feet: one slot to wear something
  • Backpack or Satchel: slots to carry things (three for a satchel, six for a backpack)
  • Sacks: various numbers of slots, but you have to carry these

I pick a satchel as my container, which takes up an inventory slot on my torso (but gives me three extra slots to carry things in!). A cloak takes up another slot, and the last torso slot goes to a quiver. In my satchel go 2 rations and a set of four torches. In my belt pouch slot goes a tinderbox, to light the torches. I'm definitely filling the skin with water (takes up one slot) so that I don't thirst too much. Oh, and shoe for the feet. I need to double-check this, but I don't think Torchbearer halflings can get away with the "hobbit feet" gimmick. I'm already looking at everything that I don't have on the gear list, and bemoaning the fact that I can't pick more. The game is absolutely about forcing meaningful choices on players.

And I'm full up. Now to grab my weapons and armor. I actually need a slot free for leather armor, so none of that for me. I mean, it's either that or the cloak. However, I will grab a helmet. Better that than nothing. My quiver can also carry the bow when I'm not using it, so I definitely have a bow. Unfortunately, you only get to pick one weapon. I guess I'll have to pick up a dagger or an axe or something later. Magic loot? (This game is rough.)

Name: Vel the Burglar
Age: 37
Stock: Halfling
Class: Burglar
Will: 5
Health: 3
Nature: 4
Circles: 4
Resources: 0
Skills: Cook 3, Criminal 3, Fighter 3, Hunter 2, Scout 2, Scavenger 2, Theologian 2, Cartographer 2, Persuader 2
Wises: Needs a Little Salt-wise, St. Ninian-wise
Traits: Hidden Depths (there's more to a halfling than meets the eye!), Scarred

Inventory:
Head Slot: Helmet
Neck Slot: Pendant (family crest)
Torso: Cloak / Quiver (carrying bow) / Satchel
Satchel: Rations / Rations / Torches (4)
Belt (Pouch): Tinderbox
Belt (Weapon): None
Belt (Skin): Waterskin (full)
Feet: Shoes

Relationships
My mentor, Sister Bristen the Cartographer
My friend, Orry Rynes the Scholar
My enemy, Silden the Elf Ranger (pinched some of his people's ancient texts to, ah, stock my hometown's archives)

Have a Heart!
Well, at this point, I have a pretty clear idea of who Vel is. She's a would-be acolyte who sees no real problem in procuring religious relics and texts through less than honest means. Her superiors frown on this, and thus she hasn't really risen very high in their esteem. She just wants to prove them all wrong, to bring new knowledge and greater treasures back to her hometown, which is why she's off adventuring. Her parents highly disapprove of her involvement with the religious, but she feels a particular calling to it, and she's a very willful halfling.

So that brings us to the last bit of the character, arguably the most important: bringing them to life. Just like in Mouse Guard, each character gets a Belief, Instinct, and Goal to focus their character. I'm gonna make one of each, even though the Goal should be written when the adventure starts, once you have an idea of possible Goals.

Belief: (an ethical, moral, or philosophical statement) Blessed are the inquisitive; theirs shall be the satisfaction of truth.
Instinct: Search every room for traps. (This is useful, because it lets me make tests to locate traps without expending "turns", which are a resource in Torchbearer. Normally, you have to use a turn to make a test, and the more turns you spend, the more worn-down you get. This lets me get a free test!)
Goal: I will recover the Finger of Exalted Demetrius, a prized relic.

I figure those'll be enough to get the character into sticky situations. I thoroughly enjoy the Belief, actually. I thought it was rather clever. It's certainly a possible way to get Miss Vel into trouble...

And there we have it! I won't be taking Vel on any dungeon delves (my concept, which I'll make along with the group, is a dwarven wannabe pirate), but she was fun to whip up!

Name: Vel the Burglar
Age: 37
Stock: Halfling
Class: Burglar
Will: 5
Health: 3
Nature: 4
Circles: 4
Resources: 0
Skills: Cook 3, Criminal 3, Fighter 3, Hunter 2, Scout 2, Scavenger 2, Theologian 2, Cartographer 2, Persuader 2
Wises: Needs a Little Salt-wise, St. Ninian-wise
Traits: Hidden Depths (there's more to a halfling than meets the eye!), Scarred

Inventory:
Head Slot: Helmet
Neck Slot: Pendant (family crest)
Torso: Cloak / Quiver (carrying bow) / Satchel
Satchel: Rations / Rations / Torches (4)
Belt (Pouch): Tinderbox
Belt (Weapon): None
Belt (Skin): Waterskin (full)
Feet: Shoes

Relationships
My mentor, Sister Bristen the Cartographer
My friend, Orry Rynes the Scholar
My enemy, Silden the Elf Ranger (pinched some of his people's ancient texts to, ah, stock my hometown's archives)

Belief: (an ethical, moral, or philosophical statement) Blessed are the inquisitive; theirs shall be the satisfaction of truth.
Instinct: Search every room for traps. (This is useful, because it lets me make tests to locate traps without expending "turns", which are a resource in Torchbearer. Normally, you have to use a turn to make a test, and the more turns you spend, the more worn-down you get. This lets me get a free test!)
Goal: I will recover the Finger of Exalted Demetrius, a prized relic.