Once a Fifth Season game group has created their comm (detailed in Fifth Season Preview: Comm Creation) they can get down to creating individual characters. Those familiar with Adventure Game Engine character creation know it often involves choosing a character Background, a Class or Profession, Talents or Specializations, and a Drive or Goals. The Fifth Season RPG is similar in many regards, with a few notable differences. Let’s take a look at the steps of character creation:
Step One: Concept
Come up with the sort of character you’re interested in playing. Talk with the GM and the other players in your group about your character concept and how well it will fit into the kind of game the GM is looking to run, the kind of characters the other players want to create, and the comm you have co-created for them.
Orogenes and Stone Eaters? Yes, they’re mentioned in Fifth Season. The Orogene talent allows for the creation of feral orogenes, but there’s no provision to play a Fulcrum-trained blackjacket with one or more rings yet. Likewise, there are no rules yet for playing a Guardian, much less a nonhuman like a Stone Eater. The focus in the core game is on the human inhabitants of comms in the Stillness. Further development of character options will appear in later Fifth Season supplements.
Step Two: Caste
In the society of the Stillness, each person has a role to play in the survival and well-being of their comm. These roles are broadly defined by use-castes, or simply castes: the ways in which people are useful to society. People are generally born into the use-caste of their same-sex parent by default, although it is not unusual for someone to apply to change castes, or to be encouraged to do so, as particular talents or inclinations emerge as they reach adulthood or even later in life.
Fifth Season focused on five of the seven primary use-castes (the other two being Guardian and Orogene), as follows:
- Breeders have a bonus to Perception and choose from the Companion, Crafter, and Safeguard specializations.
- Innovators have a bonus to Intelligence and choose from the Geomest, Geneer, and Lorist specializations.
- Leadership has a bonus to Communication and chooses from the Diplomat, Organizer, or Trader specializations.
- Resistants have a bonus to Constitution and choose from the Caregiver, Cultivator, or Stalwart specializations.
- Strongbacks have a bonus to Strength and choose from the Guard, Hunter, and Laborer specializations.
Step Three: Abilities & Focuses
All AGE system characters are defined by nine abilities. They’re scored on a numeric scale from –2 (quite poor) to 4 (truly outstanding). A score of 0 is considered average or unremarkable. The abilities are:
- Accuracy measures aim and precision, and your ability to hit targets with lighter and ranged weapons.
- Communication covers your character’s social skills and ability to deal with others.
- Constitution is overall health, fortitude, and resistance to harm, illness, and fatigue.
- Dexterity encompasses your character’s agility, hand-eye coordination, and quickness.
- Fighting is your character’s ability in close combat with heavier weapons.
- Intelligence measures reasoning, memory, problem-solving, and overall knowledge.
- Perception is the ability to pick up on and notice things using any of the character’s senses.
- Strength is sheer muscle power, from lifting heavy things to feats of athletics.
- Willpower measures self-control, discipline, mental fortitude, and confidence.
In this step, you allocate points to your character’s abilities, modified by their caste. You also choose focuses. An ability focus (or just focus for short) is an area of expertise within the broader ability. For example, while Communication determines in general how effective a communicator your character is, the Persuasion focus describes a particular expertise in convincing other people to agree to the character’s proposals.
Step Four: Drive
Your character’s Drive describes what motivates them to act, to say “yes” to an opportunity. Drive gives you cues for action as a player and provides the GM with “hooks” to encourage your character to take action. While some drives are more common for particular castes than others—Leader for Leadership, for example—any drive can be combined with any caste or specialization as the player sees fit. Interpret your character’s drive based on their other traits.
Your Drive provides you with a quality and a downfall, one ability focus, and one talent.
Step Five: Improvement
In this step, round out your character’s traits by improving two of them. You can choose the same option twice, but the benefits don’t stack. So, while you can choose two Ability Improvements, you cannot apply them both to the same ability score.
- Ability Improvement: Increase an ability score of your choice by +1. This can increase the ability to a score higher than 3.
- Ability Focus: Gain a new ability focus of your choice.
- Talent Improvement: Gain the novice degree in a new talent, or improve an existing talent by one degree.
Step Six: Finalize Abilities
Once you have allocated abilities and chosen caste and drive, along with their associated choices, and made your improvements, now it’s time to finalize your character’s abilities. You can make any tweaks or adjustments, shifting an ability point here or there, or changing around some of your focus or talent choices, to get the final set of your character’s abilities.
You also use this step to calculate your character’s secondary abilities like Speed, Defense, Toughness, and Fortune.
Step Seven: Goals
While a character’s drive moves them forward, the character’s goals are what they move toward. Ideally, goals should help to define what is important to your character, and offer the GM inspiration for stories and ways to involve your character in adventures. You’re asked to come up with at least one short-term and one long-term goal for your character.
Step Eight: Relationships
Comms are made up of people, held together by a complex web of relationships: parents and children, siblings and cousins, lovers and spouses, friends and rivals, and more. All of these various relationships define the comm and the place of the individual characters in it. Certain relationships are especially important to characters, and Fifth Season reflects that by giving those relationships a description (the relationship bond) and a numerical value (the relationship intensity).
Your Fifth Season character starts out with an intensity 1 bond with their comm, defined as they see fit, along with additional relationship intensity ranks equal to the character’s Communication ability score, if it is 1 or higher. Relationship bonds can be spent as bonus Stunt Points for actions related to that relationship.
Step Nine: Challenges
As an optional step of character creation, you can define one or more personal challenges for your character. A personal challenge is similar to the kinds of challenges the characters face and overcome in the course of their adventures, but this challenge is both specific to your character and something they carry with them wherever they go. It can show up in the course of the game, by your choice, to challenge your character. A personal challenge can be a physical disability, a psychological difficulty, or a social challenge, as you define it.
Encountering and dealing with a personal challenge in the context of the game provides a bonus to the character: they gain Fortune. The Fortune gained from overcoming personal challenges is temporary, so it can restore lost Fortune, but if it raises the character’s total over their usual Fortune score it only lasts until it is expended, then it is gone.
The key thing about personal challenges is that they arise as challenges only when the player wants. Otherwise, that aspect of the character still exists, it just doesn’t particularly pose a challenge. This allows players to portray characters who have particular qualities without feeling burdened by them, if they don’t want to be, or when they are not in the mood to deal with that particular challenge in game. We don’t always have the option of consenting to challenges in our real lives, which is why it is important to give players that option when it comes to their characters at the game table.
Step Ten: Description
Finally, you take the opportunity to gather up everything you’ve learned about your character during this process and put together a description of them: their name, what they look like, how old they are, what their personality is like, and some of their likes and dislikes. It doesn’t have to be long, just a paragraph or so to briefly introduce others to who the character is, just like you’re describing a character from a favorite book, movie, or television show. In fact, if you like, you can even “cast” an actor or personality in the role of your character and use that to enhance your description!
Next: With the comm and the characters in place, we look at moving the story forward on two different levels of game play.