Monday, June 1, 2009



Character Backgrounds

Characters at the start of the game are far more than "Adventurers"--or a particular professional aspect that their character class may suggest. Characters come from diverse backgrounds, and such characters have typically developed a considerable and often surprising set of skills and abilities from a broad range of sources. Such background experiences have shaped and molded the characters, whether such knowledge and skills have been gained through their parents and family, culture, education, environment, or early professional training. The great strength of this simple subsytem is that there is no need for tracking skill points, percentages, and a whole host of details that often end up making much of character generation a painful, time-consuming slogfest.

The character background generator is quite suitable for NPC's, as well as player characters. The character background generator, and the skill system are not dependent upon level, or any such other details, and are equally useful for a character that is level 5, 10, or 20--or level 1.

Character Background Generation Table
01-40%: Wilderness Backgrounds--Consult Wilderness Background Subtable I
41-70%: Rural Background--Consult Rural Background Subtable II
71-00%: Urban Background--Consult Urban Background Subtable III

Wilderness Background
Strength +2, Dexterity +2, and Wisdom +2
A character gains the ability bonuses when generating initial ability scores, after racial modifications. Wilderness characters begin the game with four skill packages--1 must be from the appropriate culture, and the other three are from the other types, as appropriate. Wilderness characters gain 1 additional skill package at every four class-levels of experience gained.

Rural Background
Strength +2, Constitution +2, and Wisdom +2
A character gains the ability bonuses when generating initial ability scores, after racial modifications. Rural characters begin the game with four skill packages--1 must be from the appropriate culture, and the other three are from the other types, as appropriate. Rural characters gain 1 additional skill package at every four class-levels of experience gained.

Urban Background
Intelligence +2, Wisdom +2, and Charisma +2
A character gains the ability bonuses when generating initial ability scores, after racial modifications. Urban characters begin the game with four skill packages--1 must be from the appropriate culture, and the other three are from the other types, as appropriate. Urban characters gain 1 additional skill package at every four class-levels of experience gained.

Wilderness Background Subtable I
01-20%: Shepherd
21-40%: Fisherman
41-60%: Hunter
61-70%: Trapper
71-80%: Woodsman
81-85%: Outrider/Tracker/Scout
86-90%: River Nomad
91-92%: Farmer
93-94%: Rancher
95-00%: Special

Special Wilderness Background Subtable IA
01-15%: Laborer
16-25%: Peddler
26-35%: Charlatan
36-45%: Clergy
46-50%: Herbalist/Apothecary
51-60%: Mercenary
61-65%: Soldier
66-68%: Squire
69-70%: Noble
71-80%: Craftsman (See the Craftsman Table)
81-85%: Tradesman (See the Tradesman Table)
86-90%: Entertainer (See the Entertainer Table)
91-95%: Professional (See the Professional Table)
96-00%: Academic (See the Academic Table)

Rural Background Subtable II
01-15%: Wilderness Background
16-35%: Rancher
36-55%: Farmer
56-60%: Peddler
61-70%: River Nomad
71-75%: Miller
76-82%: Craftsman (See Craftsman Table)
83-87%: Tradesman (See Tradesman Table)
88-90%: Entertainer (See Entertainer Table)
91-93%: Professional (See Professional Table)
94-95%: Academic (See Academic Table)
96-98%: Squire
99-00%: Noble

Urban Background Subtable III
01-05%: Bureaucrat/Administration
06-15%: Criminal Profession
16-35%: Unwashed Masses (See Unwashed Masses Subtable IIIA)
36-37%: Merchant (50% chance of being a Peddler)
38-40%: Law Enforcement (See Law Enforcement Subtable)
41-60%: Craftsman (See Craftsman Subtable)
61-75%: Tradesman (See Tradesman Subtable)
76-80%: Entertainer (See Entertainer Subtable)
81-90%: Professional (See Professional Subtable)
91-96%: Academic (See Academic Subtable)
97-98%: Adventurer
99-00%: Special (Noble, or some special background as the DM deems appropriate)

Unwashed Masses Subtable IIIA
01-02%: Actor
03-05%: Butcher
06-08%: Bricklayer
09-13%: Beggar
14-15%: Boatman/Bargeman
16-24%: Criminal Profession
25-27%: Cook
28-37%: Courtesan/Prostitute
38-40%: Domestic Servant
41-45%: Exterminator
46-50%: Gardener/Landscaper
51-62%: Laborer
63-66%: Launderer/Laundress
67-70%: Gambler
71-81%: Rover (60% chance of River Nomad if river is present)
82-83%: Seamstress
84-85%: Soap Maker
86-90%: Servant (Restaurant, Tavern, Inn, Etc.)
91-98%: Sewer Worker/Urban Maintenance
99-00%: Weaver

Skill Packages

01-60%: Craftsman (See Craftsman Subtable I)
40-60%: Tradesman (See Tradesman Subtable II)
60-70%: Entertainer (See Entertainer Subtable III)
61-85%: Professional (See Professional Subtable IV)
86-00%: Academic (See Academic Subtable V)

Craftsman Subtable I
01-02%: Armourer
03-04%: Baker/Pastry Maker
05-06%: Basketweaver
07-08%: Bell Maker
09-10%: Bookbinder
11-12%: Blacksmith (See Blacksmith Subtable IA)
13-14%: Boatwright (Crafter of barges, boats and other watercraft up to 60 ft. in length.)
15-16%: Bowyer/Fletcher
17-18%: Bricklayer
19-20%: Brewer
21-22%: Butcher
23-24%: Cartwright (Wagonmaker)
25-26%: Carpenter
27-28%: Chandler (Candle Maker)
29-30%: Cook
31-32%: Cobbler (Crafter of Boots, Shoes, footwear)
33-34%: Cooper (Crafter of barrels, boxes, tubs and containers)
35-36%: Cutler (Crafter of knives, utensils, and other domestic tools)
37-38%: Dyer (Dye Maker)
39-40%: Embroiderer/Seamstress
41-42%: Engraver (Metal, wood, horn, etc.)
43-44%: Furrier/Skinner
45-46%: Glassblower
47-48%: Jeweler
49-50%: Leatherworker
51-52%: Limner/Painter
53-54%: Locksmith
55-56%: Paper Maker/Parchment Maker
57-58%: Perfumer (Crafts perfumes and oils)
59-60%: Potter
61-62%: Ropemaker
63-64%: Rugmaker
65-66%: Saddler/Spurrier
67-68%: Seamstress
69-70%: Sculptor
71-72%: Soap Maker
73-74%: Shipwright
75-76%: Stonemason
77-78%: Tailor
79-80%: Tanner
81-82%: Tattoo Artist
83-84%: Taxidermist
85-86%: Tile Maker
87-88%: Tinker
89-90%: Toy Maker
91-92%: Weaponsmith
93-94%: Weaver
95-96%: Wheelwright (Crafter of wheels)
97-98%: Woodcarver
99-00%: Special

Blacksmith Subtable IA
01-80%: Blacksmith: General
81-85%: Blacksmith: Coppersmith
86-90%: Blacksmith: Bronzesmith
91-95%: Blacksmith: Silversmith
96-00%: Blacksmith: Goldsmith

Tradesman Subtable II
01-02%: Animal Trainer (See Animal Trainer Subtable IIA)
03-05%: Boatman/Bargeman
06-10%: Civil Engineer/Sewer Worker
11-21%: Criminal Profession (See Criminal Profession Subtable IIB)
22-25%: Domestic Servant
26-27%: Exterminator (Rat Catcher, Snake Catcher, Insect Killer, Etc.)
28-29%: Fishmonger
30-31%: Gambler
32-34%: Grocer
35-36%: Guide
37-38%: Haberdasher
39%: Illuminator
40-41%: Innkeeper/Tavern Keeper/Restauranteur
42-43%: Launderer/Laundress
44-45%: Maidservant/Valet
46-53%: Merchant (See Merchant Subtable IIC)
54-55%: Miller
56-61%: Miner
62-63%: Moneychanger/Banker
64-65%: Pawnbroker
66-70%: Peddler
71-72%: Sailor
73-75%: Servant (Restaurant, Tavern, Inn, Bar, etc)
76-79%: Slaver
80%: Steward
81-85%: Teamster/Coachman/Muledriver
86-89%: Undertaker/Mortician
90%: Warden/Jailer
91-00%: Special

Animal Trainer Subtable IIA
01-35%: Animal Trainer, Dogs
36-55%: Animal Trainer, Horses
56-65%: Animal Trainer, Predator Birds (Falcons, Hawks, Eagles, Etc.)
66-75%: Animal Trainer, Bears
76-85%: Animal Trainer, Elephants
86-87%: Animal Trainer, Primates (Chimpanzees, Baboons, Apes, Etc.)
88-89%: Animal Trainer, Large Cats (Lions, Tigers, Panthers, Jaguars, Etc.)
90-91%: Animal Trainer, Snakes
92-93%: Animal Trainer, Rodents (Mongooses, Rats, Racoons, Possums, Etc.)
94-00%: Animal Trainer, Special

Criminal Profession Subtable IIB
01-25%: Charlatan
26-40%: Drug Dealer
41-55%: Petty Thief
56-70%: Ruffian/Street Thug
71-75%: Grave Robber
76-80%: Smuggler
81-85%: Loan Shark
86-87%: Forgerer
88-90%: Embezzler
91-00%: Organized Crime (Urban Crime Syndicate, Highwaymen, Brigands, Pirates, Outlaws, Etc.)

Merchant Subtable IIC
01-60%: Common Goods (See Common Goods Merchant Subtable IID)
61-85%: Raw Goods (See Raw Goods Merchant Subtable IIE)
86-00%: Exotic Goods (See Exotic Goods Merchant Subtable IIF)

Common Goods Merchant Subtable IID
01-07%: Grain
08-14%: Meat
15-21%: Vegetables
22-28%: Beer/Ale
29-35%: Wine
36-40%: Liquor
41-50%: Fruits
51-60%: Coffee
61-70%: Nuts
71-75%: Clothing
76-80%: Toys
81-85%: Tools
86-90%: Dry Goods
91-00%: Special

Raw Goods Merchant Subtable IIE
01-15%: Wool
16-30%: Furs
31-35%: Standard Animal Hides/Leather
36-38%: Exotic Animal Hides
39-40%: Feathers
41-55%: Woodseller/Lumber
56-70%: Stone
71-85%: Ore
86-90%: Raw Gems
91-00%: Special

Exotic Goods Merchant Subtable IIF
01-05%: Paper/Parchment
06-10%: Books/Scrolls
11-15%: Alchemical Supplies
16-45%: Spices (Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Etc.)
46-60%: Tobacco
61-75%: Arms and Armour
76-80%: Exotic Animals
81-85%: Glass, Glassware, and Crystal
86-90%: Exotic Finished Goods (Jewels, metals, inks, rare substances, strange devices, Etc.)
91-00%: Special

Entertainer Subtable III
01-05%: Acrobat
06-12%: Actor
13-15%: Artist/Painter
16-20%: Comic/Comedian
21-45%: Courtesan/Prostitute
46-66%: Dancer
67-68%: Juggler
69-70%: Mime
71-75%: Minstrel
76-80%: Musician
81-85%: Singer
86-89%: Story-Teller
91-00%: Special

Professional Subtable IV
01-06%: Barber/Surgeon
07-09%: Barrister/Lawyer
10-15%: Bodyguard/Professional Security
16-20%: Bounty Hunter
21-23%: Cartographer
24-28%: Engineer-Architect
29-40%: Gardener/Landscaper
41-43%: Harbormaster/Harbor Official
44-48%: Healer
49-53%: Herbalist/Apothecary
54-61%: Law Enforcement (See Law Enforcement Subtable IVA)
62-68%: Mercenary
69%: Navigator
70-73%: Outrider/Tracker/Scout
74%: Physician
75-79%: Soldier
80%: Spellcaster
81-84%: Tax Collector
85%: Torturer
86-90%: Witch Hunter
91-00%: Special

Law Enforcement Subtable IVA
01-35%: Watchman
36-50%: Forrest Warden
51-65%: Road Warden
66-75%: River Warden
76-85%: Inspector/Investigator
86-95%: Legal Clerk/Court Clerk
96-00%: Magistrate/Judge

Academic Subtable V
01-05%: Alchemist
06-07%: Archaeologist
08-15%: Artificer
16-18%: Astronomer
19-35%: Bureaucrat/Administration
36-50%: Clergy
51-64%: Demagogue/Rhetorician
65-66%: Librarian
67-68%: Mathematician
69-70%: Philosopher
71-75%: Sage/Scholar
76-90%: Scribe
91-00%: Special

The Vocational category of skill packages may be selected from as desired by the DM, or randomly rolled for, as deemed appropriate. The percentages on the table are purposely weighted to reflect the general tendency of academics being fairly uncommon, if not indeed rare, while professionals are a certain minority within overall society, they are more common than academics, and finally, the largest majority are some kind of tradesman, reflecting that the majority of civilized society is built upon the shoulders and contributions of a broad variety of specialists that actually provide specific services and create items and things that society requires or desires.

Human (Various Human Cultures)
Elven (High Elf, Wood Elf, Etc.)
Dwarven (Mountain Dwarf, Hill Dwarf, Etc.)
Halfling (River Halfling, Etc.)
Special (Lion-men, Half-Ogre, Half-Orc, Etc.)

The Cultural skill packages are essential for every character, in that after family, it is culture which defines much of what makes people who they are, and establishes many of the less noticeable skills and knowledge that are typically assumed and taken for granted within the culture itself. Nonetheless, having a Cultural skill package allows the DM to easily fit an innumerable wealth of skills, knowledge, and so on within any and every individual character without unnecessarily burdening the system with another slogfest layer of rules. The Cultural skill package also allows characters to easily simulate learning cross-cultural skills, anthropology-style, or otherwise being immersed within a foreign culture, and gaining knowledge and skill in interacting and dealing with members of a particular foreign culture.

What kinds of skills and knowledge does the Cultural skill package entail? Well, the Cultural skill package would typically contain knowledge and skills pertaining to a particular culture's legends, burial customs, social customs and courtesies, family dynamics, kinship and inheritance structures, taboos, marriage customs, courtship rituals, ethics, philosophy, and values, as well as some appropriate knowledge and perhaps skill in other specific areas, such as horsemanship, mountaineering, herbalism, woodcarving, or other vocational or general skills that are broad enough for a culture to embrace widely. Obviously, separate vocational and general skill packages that duplicate such particular or specialized aspects of cultural skills may be learned separately and distinctly from being a member of such a particular culture.

Organized Crime
Street Ruffian
Environmental Knowledge
Military Specialties

Skill packages are broad, and encompass a large range of skills. Vocational skill packages provide a limited range of specific skill groups particular to the profession or trade. Cultural skill packages are specific, and yet very broad, and encompass customs and courtesies, knowledge of various values, family life, traditions, and so on. A character from a particular culture, for example, will be familiar with their home culture, and in the future, opt to gain a new cultural skill package, representing time and effort spent learning about a foreign culture. General skill packages are somewhat more narrow, and specific. General skill packages can include a particular sub-set of skills more specialized than what is generally embraced by Vocational or Cultural skill packages, and can provide a wide arrangement of diverse, though related, skills.

All of the variously noted backgrounds from the background tables provide corresponding knowledge and skill within a particular type of skill package, and embrace a broad group of specific, general, and corresponding skills, knowledge, and abilities. These are left somewhat vague by design--with the purpose of maximizing player and DM creativity and narrative freedom. It should also be noted that for example, when a certain background is listed on a table, and also on a subtable, it simply represents of somewhat increased possibility for such a background for a given character. Urban areas, for example, have a higher percentage of criminals, and thus there is an increased chance of a character having such a background, or law enforcement, as well.

Skill packages provide the character with a bonus to whatever Ability check is required by the DM to perform a particular skill from the range of skills within a character's known skill packages, as appropriate. The bonus on the particular Ability check, ranges from +1 to +6, depending on whatever the DM determines is appropriate. Bonuses of +1 or +2 would be appropriate for occasional or basic knowledge; +3 or +4 would be appropriate for frequent or advanced knowledge; +5 or +6 would be appropriate for very common or master knowledge.

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