Barbaric Yawps on Comics, Role-Gaming, and Spec-Fic
Monday, August 8, 2011
Building a Better Beorning: Chargen in The One Ring, Part One
To set the mood for this post, I've placed Tolkien's depiction of Beorn's Hall just to the left of this text. The first step in creating a TOR character is the choice of the character's home culture. I did that in the last post, selecting the Beornings. This decision brings certain conclusions with it, but it also leaves room for individual choice between cultural options. I'm going to work my way through the TOR discussion of the Beorning culture, recording game-related decisions in italics when I'm asked to make them.
One decision to make right away is the character's sex. There are no mechanical repercussions to this choice, but it will inflect all concept-related choices that follow. I have no particular predilection for a character gender, so let's roll a six-sided die: odds, the character is male; evens, it's female.
I rolled a 4. Looks like this character will be female. Each heroic culture in TOR has a set standard of living that conveys the culture's relative prosperity (and thus an individual character's ability to make purchases). Beornings have a Martial standard of living, one akin to that of the heroic culture presented in Germanic epics like Beowulf: the chieftain is the source of all wealth, rewarding individuals for bravery, loyalty, and daring deeds accomplished. A Martial character has his or her personal gear, along with a few coins to cover simple accommodations and meals.
I put "Martial" down on the character sheet.
Heroic cultures also provide cultural-specific blessings (akin to D&D feats). The Beorning blessing is "Furious": when a Beorning receives a wound in battle, he ignores all effects of being Weary and/or Miserable for the remainder of the combat in question. There's the berserker quality I mentioned in my intro post.
I put "Furious" down on the character sheet.
Now it's time to see which skills Beorning cultures provides a character. In TOR, skills are broken into two categories: Common and Weapon. All Beorning heroes receive the following Common skills: Awe 3, Inspire 1, Persuade 0; Athletics 2, Travel 0, Stealth 0; Awareness 2, Insight 3, Search 1; Explore 0, Healing 1, Hunting 3; Song 0, Courtesy 0, Riddle 1; and Craft 1, Battle 0, Lore 0. (An underlined skill is a favored skill, receiving a bonus in certain circumstances; Beornings are clearly athletic types.) Heroes are giving a choice of Weapon skills. Beornings may either select (Axes) 2, Spear 1, Dagger 1 or Great spear 2, Axe 1, Dagger 1. A Weapon skill in parentheses is actually a Cultural Weapons skill: someone taking "(Axes) 2" would add two skill dice when using any type of axe.
I first of all record my beginning scores in the game's eighteen Common skills, underlining "Athletics" on the character sheet to convey its favored status. Then I consider the two Weapon skill packages: since I've played a lot of axe-using characters over the years, I'll be different this time round and take the second package. Now my character has a favored skill in "Great Spear" and basic skill in "Axe" and "Dagger." My next choice involves Specialties, culturally-specific Traits that register expertise in a given trade or activity. I can choose two of the following: Anduin-lore, Beast-lore, Fishing, Mountaineer, Story-telling. In game, I can invoke these Traits to gain automatic successes, make a skill roll where the Loremaster would normally say "no," or gain an Advancement Point in a Common skill group related to the Trait in question.
Here's where the character individuation really begins; the Specialties I pick will say a lot about my character's upbringing. I'm going to pick "Beast-lore" and "Mountaineer." My character is essentially Heidi-on-steroids: a gangly Beorning woman who grew up on the slopes of the Misty Mountains tending her family's herds. A spear doubles as a walking staff in these conditions, and it's good for keeping the Wargs off as well.
A flurry of choices follows, all springing from a decision about the character's Background. Each heroic culture provides six of these. The Beorning choices are Child of Two Folks (you're the product of a Beorning-Woodman union), Errand-rider (you are known for carrying messages between the clans), Head of the Family (you've watched over the homestead while your father protected the mountain passes at Beorn's orders), Light-foot (you're excellent at sneaking around in the woods), Keeper of Tales (you spent lots of time listening to the wisdom your old granddad chose to impart), and Voice from the Past (you've grown up keeping the songs of the clan in your heart). Each background sets your basic attributes of Body, Heart, and Wits; grants you another favored skill; and provides you with a choice of two Distinctive Features (Traits that signify your personality instead of your expertise).
The two Background that make the most sense for my character are "Head of the Family" (which connects to the idea of her shepherd history) and "Light-foot" (which could apply to any character who has spent much time outdoors). I'm going to opt for "Head of the Family"--a foreboding choice: what would have caused my character to give up her obligations to go adventuring? This Background sets the character's Body at 6, Heart at 4, and Wits at 4. She also gains Awareness as a favored skill (which I then underline on the character sheet). Finally, she can choose two Distinctive Features from the set of Curious, Determined, Generous, Grim, Hardy, Steadfast, Trusty, and Wilful. I'm beginning to think that this character may have been dispossessed: she should have inherited the clanhold when her father died fighting Orcs in the passes of the mountains, but her no-good brother came home and displaced her. So let's give her "Generous"--her kindness to other clans paid off when she finally left her grasping brother, but it also kept her from fighting to keep her patrimony--and "Curious"--familial duty was all well and good, but now she actually is free to find out what lies on the other side of the mountain.
At this point, I've completed the Heroic Culture phase of chargen. The only remaining tasks are to pick a name for the character and determine her age at the start of play. Since "Beorn" is itself an Anglo-Saxon name, I'm going to go to Kate Monk's Onomastikon and pick out an Anglo-Saxon female name for my hero: Botild. The rulebook suggests that Beornings go adventuring sometime between 16 and 30; let's split the difference and say that Botild left home at 23, well after she should have been married (but clearly wasn't because her cheap brother preferred to keep a drudge at home rather than pay a dowry to another clan). Coming up next: customization!