Monday, May 2, 2011

The Last Fleet: Character Creation

On Saturday, we had the character creation session for our upcoming Last Fleet Campaign (I posted about prep for that earlier here, here and here). Originally I’d hoped to have a chance to do a little play and campaign set up after we got done with character building, but time got away from me. That ended up being OK as we spent most of the time talking about characters and roles- with the players interacting and making decisions to compliment one another’s choices.

We’re playing with a significant variant to the existing rules for Action Cards which all of the players have played with (in at least two and usually more versions). I’ve been working on simplifying some aspects, adding new options, and playing to the strengths of the game. Where we’ve dropped things in play, I’ve removed those options from the rules. Skills/Abilities got a better set of definitions and examples. I took out "Traits" that gave global bumps, a mechanic that mostly got forgotten. We have a new damage system which includes Tags, the idea of multiple kinds of damage (social, physical, mental, etc) all of which get tracked from the same pool, flaws which have an effect and allow the players to use those to regain drama points, resolution which has the GM draw first and then players react, and a limit to the number of redraws for any attempt. It’s actually a pretty comprehensive set of changes given how rules-lite the system is and I’m excited to see how it plays out.

Here’s how the characters themselves came out:

Lira Moondawning, Namir Rogue/Shadow Mage
  • Office: Chief Scout
  • Flaws: Kleptomaniac, Likes to Scare People
  • Broad Abilities: Scout, Martial Arts, Thief, Nimble
  • Racial Ability: Perfect Balance
  • Abilities: Listen, Lockpicking, Tumbling, Fast Talk, Cast Spell, Rolling Dodge, Move Silent, Small Blade Attack
  • Specialties: Silent in Trees, Rolling Through Doorways, Kick Dropped Knife into the Air
  • Talent Requests: Shadow Stealth, Disguise mastery, Distractions, Intimidation, Dagger Tricks, Ninja Stuff, Magic Weapon

Chain Firespinner, Scalebound Brawler/Fire Mage
  • Office: Master of the Watch
  • Flaws: Bluntly Honest, Overly Enthusiastic
  • Broad Abilities: Perception, Hand-to-Hand, Healthy, Concentration
  • Racial Ability: Grappling Tail
  • Abilities: Ride Wyvern, Claw Attack, Iron grip, Solid Reputation, Gauntlet Parry, Dodge Ranged, Gather Rumors, Fit In
  • Specialties: Putting Out People on Fire, Accurate Light Signaler, Breaking Chairs over People
  • Talent Requests: Scales, Claw Attack, Fire Breath, Control Fire, Tail Bonus

Marreg Warmane, Orc Warrior
  • Office: Master of the Hunt
  • Flaws: Have to Be First, Low Alcohol Tolerance
  • Broad Abilities: Hunter, Brawling, Survival, Fine Weapon
  • Racial Ability: Tough Skin
  • Abilities: Move Quietly, Throw Massive Things, Sword Parry, Resist Fear, Ignore Terrain, Dodge Melee, Sword Attack, Intimidate
  • Specialties: Calm Tyren (Wyvern), Heave Carcass, Blade Leaping
  • Talent Requests: Slams, Rage, Sacrifice Throw, Bellow, Social Sledge Hammer

Whet Bloodlaced, White Elf Pistoleer/Empath
  • Office: Master of the Vigil
  • Flaws: Spooky, Flashbacks
  • Broad Abilities: Investigation, Soldier, Fast, Status
  • Racial Ability: Night Vision
  • Abilities: Ride Wyvern, Search, Psychology, Move Quietly, Keep Footing, Called Shot, Sword Parry, Spot Tracks
  • Specialties: Near Miss Threatening, Wyvern Jumping, Smell Blood (Pick Out Dangerous Men)
  • Talent Requests: First in the Round, Movement, Sense Ambush, Read People, Additional Senses, Precognitive Parry

Dweena Squint, Goblin Scout/Gadgeteer
  • Office: Master of the Stores
  • Flaws: OCD about Puzzles/Riddles; Nosy Parker
  • Broad Abilities: Assessment, Mother, Gadgetry, Puzzles
  • Racial Ability: Poison Resistance
  • Abilities: Unpickable Locks, Blunderbuss, Spot Hidden, Design Gadget, Diplomacy, Manage Organization, Command Trust, Size Up Opponent
  • Specialties: Full-Name Freeze Attack, Always the Right Key, Wyvern Skitching
  • Talent Requests: Cling Boots, Sky Squid: Ink jets, Sky Squid: Eyes in the Back of My Head, Adaptable Blunderbuss, Scope, Goggles

Each player also wrote up a version of their "What My Father Told Me" question sheet to give background on their culture. I was surprised and pleased, given how much time those things take. I figured I’d be missing at least one or two. I’ll post some later as an example. Some of the players approached it as their character telling the story- and I should have been clearer about that. I think these culture creation documents work better when they’re positioned as an elder educating a young person. Most players had also found a picture to use for their character. I talked with them a little about what role they saw their people fulfilling in the fleet. The Goblins have the greeatest skills in meshing magic machines to users; the Orcs are known as the greatest Sky Huntsmen; the White Elves waste nothing and a masters of recycling and reuse; the Namir work the finest rope; and the Scaleborn have the finest leather-scale armor.

We took some time to also talk about the general concept of the fleet. Each player is essentially an officer and makes up the "away team." There’s a little cross between BSG and Star Trek in a fantasy universe. The fleet is made up of nine vessels, escaping through the Stormwall and trying to find a new home. Each player comes from a different race, and so there’s a ship of their people in the fleet. There’s also the main flagship, the only one really well-armed and armored in the fleet. The characters primarily serve there. It will be made up of a crew drawn from across all of the races, including many otherwise completely lost in the Landfall. Ideally, I want the players to imagine the fleet as a kind of traveling city, with each ship being a neighborhood. We can move between "urban" and "wilderness" adventures in that way. I picture the ships as having skiffs to travel between them. The players have a little more mobility as they have a flying mount- four of them with riding Wyverns and the fifth trailing along with her Sky-Squid.

Three other ships make up the fleet. The first is a "Hive-Ship" populated by the quiet insect race of the Artikhane. They general don’t speak about themselves very forthrightly, so whether they are one race or several is unclear. They can understand the common tongue, and some can speak it. They possess their own magical and spiritual traditions including a sky-ship which operates by different propulsion principles. They bring to the fleet their specialty of Resin crafting, useful for patching and making molds. The second is the second largest ship in the fleet, and second best armed (although still pretty meagerly), that of the human Kingdom of Straad. They’re a mercantile people, ruled by the Council of the Square. Their people had been mighty tradesmen and scholars, with several unique magic schools. They bring an expertise in ship-building, repair and construction to the fleet, making them important beyond their size.

Finally, the last ship in the fleet actually wasn’t expected. I plan on detailing how this all came to be in the first session. When the fleet readied to depart it was intercepted by what may be the last Rescue Ark. The Arks had been mentioned in the timeline as a means of rescuing people from the falling islands. This Ark arrives, packed to the brim with survivors drawn from across the realm. It is over-capacity for its size, has little in the way of supplies, and many races with old tensions between them. At the start of the game this will be a situation hanging over the players. This ship should be the "bad" part of town- a dangerous and desperate area.

I didn’t set up much beyond this for the session: it was more important to get the players oriented to their characters and describe how the new rules would work. I was asked where we would actually start- in transit or with the fleet just making its escape. I’m still not sure yet- I want to frame it well and make it exciting, so I suspect we’ll at the very least have a flashback to the escape in Session One. I did make clear to the players that the game would last exactly twenty-four sessions, no more- no less. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything plays out in the first actual play in two weeks.


  1. I should note that through this I discovered that the players had built a compound naming convention which I'll now have to follow for NPCs...well, except for Goblins.

  2. I really need to check out Action Cards. You keep talking about them but I've never seen the rules.

  3. That's our home brew- I'm working on a really comprehensive and accessible revision, and when I have that done, I'll send it on to you. Its in so many pieces and versions right now. We've used it in many different versions, with wildly divergent chrome on it.

  4. "There’s a little cross between BSG and Star Trek in a fantasy universe. The fleet is made up of nine vessels, escaping through the Stormwall and trying to find a new home. Each player comes from a different race, and so there’s a ship of their people in the fleet."

    So, pretty similar to Freelancer during the Exodus?

  5. I'm not sure about the Freelancer reference- I will have to hunt that down.