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Fifth Season Preview: Character Creation

The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game

Crowdfunding now on Backerkit!

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.

What About…?

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.

Characters in the Fifth Season can have a variety of backgrounds and use-castes

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.

Fifth Season Preview: Comm Creation

The Fifth Season RPG live now on Backerkit!

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:

Comm Creation is an important aspect of the game and your characters

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…

The Fifth Season RPG on Backerkit is Live!

The Fifth Season RPG now crowdfunding on Backerkit!

Join us for a special livestream with the developers and designers of The Fifth Season RPG!

 

The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game, now crowdfunding on Backerkit, is designed for you to play out adventures and stories set in the world described in the Broken Earth trilogy of novels by N.K. Jemisin—a world where constant and unstable tectonic and volcanic activity threaten all life; a world whose peoples have learned to adapt in order to survive. It is a world where everyone learns that Father Earth hates his children and is always trying to kill them, where metal rusts and even stone crumbles, and the best you can do is be prepared for the next disaster. In the world of the Broken Earth, community—the comm—is everything, because in community there is support and a chance to persevere.

You and your fellow players take the roles of members of such a community, working to overcome internal difficulties and external threats, in order to be ready when that inevitable Fifth Season comes. Are you a lifelong native of this place, someone everyone has recognized from childhood? Maybe you’re a more recent addition to the comm, someone who’s come from a distance, contributing something to the comm that makes the possibility of your secrets and past catching up to you worth it. Or perhaps you are an orogene, one who was born to sess the movements of the tectonic plates, gifted with a forbidden power to still the shaking earth and bleed heat in your environs away until frost coats everything in a perfect circle around you.

These may be times of peace and plenty, but strife and lean times are ahead, with the next Season of Death looming like a dark thunderhead on the horizon.

Welcome to the Stillness.
Download the Free Quickstart right here
Come check out the campaign, and if you pledge in the first 48 hours, you get a free printed copy of the game’s Quickstart (normally $10) if your chosen pledge level includes printed books (the Standard Edition and/or the Special Edition). The printed Quickstart will also be available as an add-on after the first 48 hours.And our top pledge level is the N.K. Jemisin Bookplate Bundle. This gets you the SpecialStandard, and PDF Editions of The Fifth Season RPG in addition to the signed bookplate. This pledge level is strictly limited to 500 backers.

Be sure to head over to The Fifth Season RPG on Backerkit and pledge early, before they run out!

Four versions available for the Fifth Season RPG

With four versions available, including Roll20!

Fifth Season Crowdfunding on Backerkit

Fifth Season Roleplaying on BackerkitWe’ve got some exciting news today! The crowdfunder for The Fifth Season RPG, based on N.K. Jemisin’s award-winning Broken Earth Trilogy, launches on January 24. Click here to visit the landing page on Crowdfunding by BackerKit, where you can sign up to be notified when the game goes live. You will also get a direct link to the game’s Quickstart PDF (with 44 pages of rules, an adventure, and pre-generated characters) sent to you on launch day!

Our basic funding goal is $50,000 and we want the campaign to open with a bang. If you pledge for the print edition of the core rulebook within the first 48 hours, you’ll also get a printed copy of the Quickstart. This is great if you want to play the game around the table.

The Fifth Season RPG is set in the Stillness, a vast, furious land that is home to thousands of Comms, settlements large and small where people gather for safety in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Each member contributes according to the dictates of their use-caste, and all with one goal: to prepare for the next Fifth Season, those cataclysmic events when Father Earth himself rages against humankind. It is only through the wisdom of the ancient Stone Lore that the people of the Stillness stand a chance of survival. The game gives players a chance to portray the folk of the Stillness, working together to deal with the problems that face their Comm to better prepare for the coming of the next Fifth Season. Players build a Comm together, create characters of that Comm, and face the challenges that the Stillness has to offer.

Fans of Green Ronin games will be happy to hear that the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) powers the Fifth Season RPG. If you’ve played Blue Rose, Dragon Age, The Expanse, Fantasy AGE, or Modern AGE, you already know the core of the rules. As with every AGE game, we customized the rules to best reflect the setting.

Can you survive in the Broken Earth? Find out in The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game!

Book of Fiends 5E Crowdfunder on Game On Tabletop May 19

Book of Fiends 2003

The original Book of Fiends from 2003, using the 3.5 rules!

We’ve got an exciting crowdfunder coming up later this month and I wanted to tell you a bit about the project and also how it’s different from our previous campaigns. The project itself is a new edition of our classic Book of Fiends monster book for Fifth Edition. The original Book of Fiends came out in 2003 for the 3.5 rules and it was a huge hit for us. We’ve had Robert J. Schwalb, who was on the D&D 5E design team, write all the new stats and rules and you know that the Demon Lord delivers. Book of Fiends will be a stylish full-color hardback with over 130 daemons, demons, devils, and other creatures of the Lower Planes, all beautifully illustrated with brand new art. Got evil? Yes, yes, we do.

The Book of Fiends for 5th Edition

Coming soon to Game On Tabletop! Book of Fiends for 5th Edition

What’s different about this project is that we are doing it on Game On Tabletop. This is a newer crowdfunding platform and we are excited to launch our first campaign there. Game On was created by our long-time partners in France, Black Book Editions. Their vision was to create a crowdfunding platform designed with tabletop games in mind and they’ve done that and more. Game On Tabletop launched in 2017 and has hosted many successful projects since then. Paizo’s highly successful Kingmaker campaign was run there.

Game On Tabletop logo

Game On Tabletop has a lot of great tools, most of which will be invisible to you but are hugely useful to us. The best thing about it is that it’s a crowdfunding platform and a pledge manager rolled into one. This means you’ll be able to take care of everything at one site. You can back the project, buy add-ons, and pay shipping all in one place. If you haven’t backed a project there before, we think you’re really going to like it.

Book of Fiends is coming to Game On Tabletop on May 19 and Hell is coming with it! Also, the Abyss and Gehenna because we’re generous like that. See you there!

Flash! Ah-ahhh!

We’re always happy to see members of our extended Green Ronin family do well, and today one of them has blasted into space! Scott Woodard, co-author of the terrific Cinema & Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film for Green Ronin, is the author behind Pinnacle’s Flash Gordon RPG Kickstarter, which launched today and has already funded. Congrats to Scott and the crew at Pinnacle!