We’ve gotten a lot of character creation questions. I shall now endeavor to answer them.
Let’s start with some design principles. As an RPG player, and as a designer, I’m a huge fan of modular game design. There are a few reasons for this.
- Easy to make.
- Easy to homebrew (which is always fun).
- Easy to expand.
- Easy for the reader to understand.
Our character creation section is built in support of these principles. There are four steps to character creation:
- Select a Sophont Template
- Select Skills
- Select Background Package
- Select your Command Package
There are currently no restrictions or prerequisites for selection of the options that follow.
*NOTE: All of this is subject to change. Play testing is ongoing, and Howard keeps writing fluff that is just too cool to not represent in the the rule-set somewhere. We have a love-hate relationship.
Sophonts are the different classifications of species that you can play as a member of the mercenary charter will you will create.
Here are the current options.
- Carbosilicate Amorph
That’s a lot of options, and a lot of balancing. It wasn’t too bad. Each sophont option has a slight variance to the starting health stat (which can be random, like 1d3+5, or fixed, like, say, 7) a set of static skill bonuses and penalties, and that’s it. There is fluff about each race, but the table of stats and rules is only about 50 words long for each sophont.
One of the first things players notice during Planet Mercenary character creation is that there aren’t any “attributes”. There’s no “Strength” or “Agility”. As we were play testing and designing we realized that steroids, armor, cybernetics, and more rendered most innate physical qualities statistically irrelevant. It didn’t matter how strong a human was when they could be given metal arms that made them as strong as anything. What mattered was the skill you had in knowing how to apply your massive strength.
Even more important, however, was the fact that Strength, Agility, and the other core attributes from our early drafts never got directly used beyond character generation. We realized that we were spending huge amounts of time finessing small numbers that would only be used once during the life of a character.
With that in mind, PM:RPG has no core character attributes. Everything is abstracted up into skills or abilities, and the sophont templates take care of that from the get-go.
Here are some of the skills we’ve included.
-  Athletics (Jump, Climb, Pursuit)
-  Dodge
-  Endurance (Hold Breath, Survive Poison, Hard Vacuum)
-  Larceny (Pick Pockets, Pick Locks)
-  Stealth (Hide, Tail)
-  Astrophysics (Worm Gates, Teraports, Antimatter)
-  Chemistry (Explosives, Biochemistry)
-  Computers (Hacking, AI, Security, Programming, Repair)
-  Drive (Hover, Wheeled, Tracked)
-  Economics (Local, Planetary, Sector)
-  Engineering (Starships, Vehicles, Architecture, Space Stations)
-  Experimentation (Any mental skill you have points in)
-  Geophysics (Planetary, Small Scale, Space Stations)
-  History (Species, Galactic, Political, Military)
-  Mechanic (Repair, Build, Jury-rig)
-  Medic (Surgery, First Aid)
-  Pilot (Navigate, Evasive Action, Slip Pursuit)
-  Research
-  Tactics (Small Scale, Naval, Large Scale)
-  Xenobiology (Pick a race)
-  Carouse (Loosen Tongues, Fish for Information)
-  Deceive (Lie, Distract, Disguise, Act)
-  Gamble (Bluff, Read Opponent)
-  Investigation (Forensics, Tracking, Detect Lies)
-  Negotiate (Hostages, Financial, Black Market)
-  Perception (Taste, Sight, Touch, Smell, Hearing, Traps, Ambush)
-  Reputation (Particular species, organization, Intimidation)
-  Pistols (PEA, Firearm, Beam, Plasma, Nonlethal)
-  Explosives (IEDs, Disarming, Detecting)
-  Scattergun (PEA, Firearm, Beam, Plasma, Nonlethal)
-  Rifle (PEA, Firearm, Beam, Plasma, Nonlethal)
-  Melee Weapons (Wrestling, Unarmed Combat, Blades, Exotic)
-  Ship Weapons (Torpedoes, Cannons)
-  Thrown (Grenades, Spears, Axes)
-  Heavy Weapons (PEA, Firearm, Beam, Plasma, Ion, Nonlethal)
The words in parentheses are “specialties” that grant you an advantage on rolls made with the skill that involve that specialty. How well your character does things, as represented by the probability of beating the target number with a roll of the dice, is determined by the skills your character has, and the number of points spent in each skill. Those skills points are added to the sum of the dice, and because of the shape of the 3d6 probability curve, a couple of points in a skill can make a huge difference. When you need to beat a 12, it’s really useful to have 4 points in the relevant skill, because rolling a 9 is far easier than rolling a 13.
Backgrounds represent your character’s life history before they joined the mercenary charter. All backgrounds give bonuses to appropriately related skills.
The current backgrounds are:
- Military [Grunt]
- Military [Officer]
- Medical Professional
If, for instance, you chose “Criminal,” your back-story now includes the fact that you’ve been running from the law, and breaking the law, for some time. You also get this line:
+2 Larceny, +2 Explosives or Melee, +2 Dodge.
Dodging and pocket-picking are locked in, but you have to choose between explosives or melee skills. Your first thought may be “what do I want to be able to do in this game?” The moment you decide, however, you’re answering a different question: “what kind of a criminal were you?”
Your character’s story may come to life very quickly, and there are more packages to come!
A command package represents your position in the hierarchy of the ship. Much like a background it comes with a set of static bonuses, and a couple of options. The packages available are:
- Muntions Officer/Quartermaster
- Captain (Limit 1 per Charter)
- Legal Counsel
Let’s say your Criminal is also the Chaplain. You get this line:
2 Reputation or Inspire, +2 History (Religious), +2 to any Weapon Skill, +2 to Dodge
This combo (Criminal + Chaplain) has given you a total of 4 points to Dodge. That’s a significant statistical advantage when the time comes to duck. Also, “chaplain who is a former criminal” has huge story potential. Start telling it to yourself while you pick the weapon skill to boost.
There’s one more step, but this one’s optional.
Once you have your background and your command package, you may choose to roll on the Baggage table. If you choose to make this roll, you get [PERK REDACTED] of your choice, and you have to accept whatever the character penalty your first roll on the baggage table delivers.
So there you have it. A brief and detailed outline of a lot of character creation!
*NOTE: All of this is subject to change through playtesting, time and creative decisions.