Learnin’ Through The Breach – Part 1 – Character Creation Steps 1-4

Hey all, I’ve gone joined a Through the Breach RPG group I found on my local Malifaux group’s FB page. I haven’t RPG’d in quite some time, why not do a Learnin’ series and start blogging on my return. RPGs have long been my favorite form of game it’s just a bear to find folks to play and sometimes when you do they can be very.. well there’s a reason a stereotype exists haha. Let’s give this book the Voracious Gamer Treatment. When I read rules for miniature games I read mechanics first then fluff from cover to cover. When I read rules for RPGs I read Character Creation then Gameplay followed by Fluff and items\magic\random things. Before diving into character creation let’s discuss the obvious here. This book is sexy. Coming in at a little over 400 pages this hard back tome is something RPG players will love to tote around and display with their collection. It’s got a real solid feel to it and has three ribbon book marks bound into the spine (classy). I don’t know much about this game but I do know some about the world of Malifaux and the Fate Deck mechanics too. This RPG uses a system built on the mechanics from the miniature game. It’ll be interesting to see how it all translates. As a gremlin player I couldn’t resist actually being a gremlin so I also got the expansion Into the Bayou with Gremlin rules, we’ll review that eventually. So let’s see how this goes here. Buckle in my intrepid readers because I think this series will be a long one.

*pic of books incoming

So, the players in the game play as Fated. They’ve somehow seen a glimpse of what their destiny and have sensed greatness or something that they now act towards. The character creation uses a tarot card spread kind of thing to build the backstory and life of your character. This may be cool as I really enjoy anything that stresses role playing over gaming. Characters are mechanically an amalgamation of their Aspects, Skills, Talents and other attributes. The higher a stat generally the better the character is at that sort of thing. Character creation has some random elements (wooo!) that call for a fate deck, like malifaux you can substitute a regular deck of playing cards (with jokers) if needed. The character creation process supposedly tells a story as you go filling in the blanks with each step. We’ll make a character for this series to experience the mechanics.
There are some major pieces to your character, the first of which are the Aspects. An aspect of 0 is the human average and characters normally range from -5 to 5, rare cases go beyond. There are eight Aspects in total, four of them physical and four mental. The Physical are Might, Grace, Speed and Resilience. The Mental are Charm, Cunning, Intellect and Tenacity. On top of these characters have skills and talents that represent the characters past and learned skills\survived mistakes. Skills have 5 ranks, 0 is no skill and 5 is Master. Skills are added to the Aspect when determining how good the character is at something. Talents are little tricks and bits that make the character unique there are two varieties, Pursuit talents gained through advancing a ‘pursuit’ (whatever that is) and  General Talents that can be taken by any character that meets prerequisites. There are 14 steps to character creation, for those who don’t RPG much many are ‘front-loaded’ in that character creation can be lengthy and require you to think and be creative but it really pays off if you put the work into it. Let’s make us a Fated and see what we can get into.
Step 1, Concept. You want to have an idea of who or what your character is before beginning. Some things to begin kicking around are character goals and personality. Let’s make a character that uses magic first of all so we have an excuse to read through that section of the book too. So a magic wielding dude? Yes, a male magician or he used to be a magician up until he “accidentally may have been related” in a fatal accident that led to the death and inevitable resurrection of the first three rows of the Justice Theater. He likes to study but he he has a short attention span and begins much more than he completes.  That’s more than enough to start with. You want to keep things vague at this point because the randomness of character creation is around the corner. The last piece of step 1 is to shuffle the fate deck seven times, have the fatemaster (GM) cut the deck and move on to the next step.

*pic of station card in tarot spread incoming

Step 2, Station. This is determined by the flipping the top card of the fate deck and consulting the charts in the book. Your station represents your family and where you were born or from originally. Stations grant additional skills at the end of the creation process. Flipping a joker switches up the character creation methods used, if using the Neverborn (not yet released) and Bayou supplements use the creation method in Neverborn for Red Joker and Bayou for black joker. I drew a three of Tomes let’s see what’s in store. “Talent: Magewright, Station Skill: Enchanting” each row on the charts give a Talent and Station Skill along with a little quote called the Station Fate. For the 3 of Tomes it says “and she will mourn you all of her days”. Interesting. I like the ‘mage’ in Magewright, each station has a little blurb describing it. Magewrights it seems don’t have ridiculous magical powers, they have minor functional uses and normally work creating some product or selling their services via one of the Guild’s enchanting factories. Blue collar mages it sounds like. Aye, what does that add to our dishonorably-retired magician character. His father had some small powers but the main one was the ability to make small objects no bigger than a dog (of course there was science used to determine that limit!) invisible and incorporeal. Temporarily moving them to another dimension allowed objects to pass through them and people to see past the object too. Our characters father worked for a supply warehouse where he used his power to make the sides of shipping crates transparent for inventory and security purposes. He was relatively respected in the Guild and his skills were occasionally called upon to look within safes or examine ‘questionable’ artifacts. One of which he may have told his wife (our characters mother) about. The two conspired to steal this ‘artifact’ and did so but not before wrecking their family name and perhaps cursing their only child (our character) in the process. All this is subject to change of course, this is just how character creation works. I’m trying to show you guys how I build a character, we’ll sum up all the character notes at the end. Onwards!

*pic of body card in tarot spread incoming

Step 3, Body. Deal another card off the top of the deck and place it to the left of the station card to represent the Body card. Each card has a row on a chart with 4 numeric values. These values are to be assigned to our characters physical aspects. I drew a 5 of Masks which gives me a -3\0\+1\+2 to work with for my Might, Grace, Speed and Resilience. The book points out that negative aspects aren’t a bad thing because everyone has weaknesses and there are talents and things to make up for them. Personally I love randomization so things like this are just great, it forces players to really tell a story and stop playing a video game (I’ll do a separate post on the effect of video games on RPG players some day). There’s a Body Fate quote here too that says “The red woman will light the path”, ominous indeed. So, let’s assign these. We’re making a Mage of sorts why not go glass cannon and give him a -3 Might, +1 Grace, 0 Speed and +2 Resilience. He’s a weak guy but after his parents heist he got pretty tough and scrappy. He’s slow to get into melee though and prefers to keep some distance between him and any nasty creatures or foes. +1 Grace is because he had to be a little more graceful due to his smaller stature. Speed of 0 is the normal human speed so nothing special there and +2 Resilience may be related to his Magewright families ancestry, at least that’s what he thinks but he was actually cursed by the ‘still-to-be-defined’ object his parents took and something resides inside him that makes him more resilient and prone to magic from time to time. One more step for this post I think.

*pic of Root skills card in tarot spread incoming

Step 4, Root Skills. Draw another card of the deck and place it above the station card, the root card determines the skills learned in childhood. Each card corresponds to some charts with numeric values to be assigned to any skill in the game. The goal is to use these to further shape and define your character concept. I drew a 2 of Tomes for my Root Skill card giving me, 3,2,2,2,1 to work with and assign to skills and a Root Fate quote that says “As the witless man fears the child.” Now we haven’t reviewed skills yet and this isn’t the place to do it so I’ll pick a few with our rough character concept in mind from the list. There are quite a few of them to choose from, one thing I’m noticing is that many of them rely on Mental aspects that we haven’t determined yet. That’s really going to make things random for players as they can choose the skills they want but not really the statline. It helps to weed out my least favorite thing in RPGs, power gamers (min\max’ers). The five skills I’ve chose to have ranks in are, Necromancy, Prestidigitation, Toughness, Deceive and Carouse. There are some cool crafting skills and expertise (professions) too it was hard to choose only five, hopefully we’ll get more down the road. I’m going to put the 3 in Necromancy because, let’s face it this guy turned a portion of his audience into zombies, I’ll put the one in Prestidigitation because because that’s the kind of skill his father had and he inherited it. That leaves us with 2’s for Toughness since he’s scrappy and perhaps inhabited by a necrotic entity, Deceive because he was a magician and Carouse (ability to withstand intoxication and poison) again due to the aforementioned necrotic entanglement.
I think the wraps things up for the first post of this series. Next time we’ll continue our trek through character creation. I’m looking forward to learning more about the game and telling stories within the Malifaux universe now more than ever! Cheers, find me on twitter @vorgames.

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