While the freely available Fifth Season Quick-start provides a substantial “test-drive” of the Fifth Season RPG (now crowd-funding on Backerkit) the Quick-start necessarily leaves out some things in the interests of space and getting folks up-and-playing the game as quickly as possible. For those interested in the Fifth Season RPG, we’re going to take a tour through some of the features of the full-fledged game that the Quick-start doesn’t touch upon, starting with comm creation.
A Fifth Season campaign also starts with comm creation. As the book itself says:
“The comm is what binds the characters together as a group. Presumably, whatever their personal goals and agendas, the success and survival of their shared comm is foremost in the characters’ minds … In many ways, the comm serves as a kind of “meta-character” within a Fifth Season chronicle, a shared part of the story created and sustained by the entire group. While individual player characters may come and go, survive or perish, prosper or fail, the comm goes on. In a long-running chronicle, the comm may even outlive all of the characters, as future generations come up and take their places and see to the care and growth of the community.”
The game group creates the comm before creating their individual characters. This provides a good basis for character ideas and concepts, ensuring they fit in with the comm and the overall direction of the campaign. That said, players may have certain character ideas in mind while creating the comm, and it’s perfectly valid to guide comm creation in the direction of those concepts as well.
The process of creating the comm has four steps:
Step One: Concept
First, the players as a group decide on an overall concept for their comm. Where in the Stillness is it? How big is it? How old? What kind of comm is it? This is influenced by the game’s Session Zero and the type of campaign the group wants to run.
It is best to keep the concept loose at this initial step, subject to changes based on the rest of the process, just enough to offer a basic framework for the group to create the comm around. For example, it’s sufficient to say “A small comm in the Nomidlats, probably north of the Tufa Mountains, possibly near a river.” Even that narrows the field of possibilities considerably and offers some direction to the comm creation process.
The comm’s concept can help to direct further decisions about the comm and its traits, people, and qualities, but those things can also affect and change the comm’s concept as they develop.
Step Two: Traits
Like characters in Fifth Season, comms have traits that define them, describing areas where a comm is strong or weak, fortunate or unfortunate. The primary comm traits are related to five of the primary common use-castes of people in the Stillness:
- Strength: Strongback caste. A combination of the comm’s ability to perform physical labor and their military might in fielding soldiers.
- Resistance: Resistant caste. The comm’s ability to withstand disease, starvation, and related challenges, both due to the presence of a strong Resistant caste and their skills in caring for others.
- Innovation: Innovator caste. The comm’s ability to come up with new solutions and ideas and to practice technical skills.
- Leadership: Leadership caste. The quality of the comm’s leadership and organization and the comm’s ability to handle matters diplomatically.
- Resilience: Breeder caste. The comm’s resilience and ability to recover from setbacks and losses.
Comms also have the secondary traits of Size, Cache, and Stability. The players assign values to the comm’s traits as a group, as well as choosing focuses for them, similar to the ability focuses AGE system characters have.
Step Three: Qualities
Traits provide quantitative values for the comm. This step looks at the comm’s qualities. It poses a series of questions to the players (chosen or randomly rolled from a table) wherein each player answers something about the comm: Qualities include Status, Geography, History, Features, Culture, and Secrets. You can use the prompts provided in the game or make up your own using those categories. Each player gets input into what the comm is like, and ideas about the comm may develop and change as different qualities are applied.
Step Four: The Year Before
To complete the comm creation process and move on to the creation of the primary characters the players will portray, the group plays through one year (four seasons) of comm level game play as defined in the rules. This defines the kind of year the comm has had just before the campaign begins.
Some groups might want to play out a longer or shorter time, anywhere from just a season or two to multiple years, but the year before is the minimum recommended time. Play out this time before creating the player characters, as the events in the year before might well spark some ideas for characters and their own stories.
Next: Character creation in Fifth Season, including use castes and specializations, along with talents and some possible secrets…