Learned traits are referenced in the lists of prototypes, but definitions will need to wait for posts focusing on the different paths. I am not satisfied with all the trait names yet (or even all my terminology in general), so in some cases I have simple descriptive names which may be replaced later (such as “listen”). Prototype names may also change, but should get the basic idea across.
Note that by default prototypes provide pretty much all of the game benefits of traditional classes, and default (though not set in stone) advancement up to at least level 9 if players focus only on improving the starting path traits (3 traits to begin with, two improvements per level, leading to three traits at 6 by level nine). This, then, is your stereotypical mechanically simple fighter, magic-user, thief, etc. The variety of traits (hopefully not overwhelming) should, however, give a sense of how more specific character concepts could be represented (or, even better, developed through play).
I like the idea of backgrounds, but they are certainly the least core element of Hexagram so far, and could easily be omitted (though I like having a named thing that differentiates one soldier from another, for example; it gives players an easy descriptor to hang meaning on). Still considering how to handle them exactly, but I have some ideas about plugging them into the scenario design system (as a way to quickly communicate the tenor of a particular game).
Zero level play is supported by not picking a prototype or any learned traits at the beginning. In this mode, all advancement is considered off-path and requires diegetic justification (finding an item or teacher) for every point gained. Path may also be selected at any point diegetically in a similar fashion. Gaining 100 XP is perhaps a good threshold for path selection (and is how I’ve been determining when zero level humans get a class in my OD&D game). To summarize, a player need only perform stems 1, 4, 5, and 6 in the checklist below to create a zero level character. See also the section on scenario design to work diegetic goal features into the beginning campaign (basically, one can place a few options for how to pick up a prototype within the game beforehand as a kind of treasure).
As always, I expect the language to tighten up in future drafts (I always start out too wordy). Also, thanks to Paul from Dungeonskull Mountain for the trait name thrall-binding.
Character creation checklist:
- Ability scores (3d6 in order or arranged to taste)
- Path: steel, guile, or sorcery
- Prototype (or distribute three +1s among path traits)
- Possessions, both general and trait-specific
- Intrinsic and derived traits (HD, AC, saving throws)
|Talisman of Saturn|
Ability scores are the measure of basic character potential, and consist of the traditional 6: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, charisma (see ability scores section). Unlike many fantasy roleplaying games, ability scores do not have a strong determining effect on character power, potential, or survivability. They do not control things like maximum power attainable, do not provide large modifiers to other tasks, and are not used in life or death situations such as catching yourself if you fall off a cliff (saving throws, which are dependent upon level attained, are used to resolve those sorts of situations). However, ability score checks are used to resolve the outcome of less critical actions, such as how many characters are required to lift a heavy gate and provide minor modifiers (such as +1 to missile attacks for extraordinary dexterity). They are also an aid to individualizing characters. 3d6 in order can assist you in developing characters that you might not otherwise play, but if you have a clear concept in mind, feel free to arrange them to taste. In general, below average ability scores (less than 9) will come with a small penalty, and above average ability scores (above 12) will come with a small bonus.
Path determines what capabilities characters have to confront adversity. There are three paths, in service of three broad traditional fantasy archetypes. The path of steel, for characters than focus on solving problems through force of arms; the path of guile, for characters that focus on solving problems through cleverness and misdirection; and the path of sorcery, for characters that focus on solving problems through magic and the intercession of arcane powers. Path controls only what traits characters advance in most easily, and the final degree of power attainable; it does not limit which traits may be taken. For example, in the default mode of play, Hexagram characters may only attain level 5 (of 6) in any off-path trait. See the section on advancement and the sections on specific paths for further details. The specific selection of the three starting traits is governed by prototype (see below) or may be selected directly by players.
Prototype is a selection of starting traits in service of a narrow archetype. Selection of traits by prototype will support progression up to ninth level with no player choice required (though, of course, players may deviate from expected prototype progression at any level gained). Characters who draw all or most of their traits from a single path will end up advancing slightly faster due to their focus, but at the cost of flexibility. A prototype is not required, however. Players may opt instead to select three initial learned trait improvements. No trait may be selected more than twice at the beginning. Note that off-path traits will advance more slowly (see the section on advancement). Off-path traits are noted in italic.
Path of steel prototypes:
- Soldier: melee combat, missile combat, HP bonus
- Archer: ranged combat, defense, stealth
- Commander: defense, melee combat, warband
- Barbarian: melee combat, frenzy, defense
- Knight: melee combat, missile combat, defense
- Paladin: melee combat, defense, banishment
Path of guile prototypes:
- Scout: tracking, stealth, missile combat
- Assassin: assassination, stealth, missile combat
- Thief: climb, stealth, pick locks
- Acrobat: climb, tumbling, unarmed combat
- Antediluviest: listen, pick locks, antediluvia
- Infiltrator: listen, stealth, pick locks
Path of sorcery prototypes:
- Sorcerer: spells, magical devices, scrolls
- Warlock: supplication (demons), spells, thrall-binding (demons)
- Necromancer: thrall-binding (undead), spells, magical devices
- Witch: potions, spells, banishment
- Artificer: magical devices, potions, thrall-binding (constructs)
- Spellblade: spells, aegis, melee combat
Some prototypes may draw from all three paths:
- Demon hunter: banishment, assassination, melee combat
In such cases, path determines which single starting trait is “on path”; the other two will advance more slowly and have extra diegetic requirements. Such is the cost of flexibility.
Note that it’s relatively easy to put together fun goofy prototypes, which should work within the game framework just fine. For example:
- Ninja: assassination, stealth, unarmed combat
- Super villain: thrall-binding, assassination, warband
Background determines what your character did prior to adventuring. A small list of potential backgrounds is provided here, based on the idea that the referee will grow the setting slowly through play (see scenario design section). In general, all backgrounds should be an answer to the question: why is my character an adventurer? Note that any die may be rolled on this table, including d1, providing for a reasonable default “treasure hunter” type background. (The background table is still incomplete, and will be included in a later draft.)
Possessions at the beginning of the game are a function of path, prototype, and background. The general idea is that you get one thing relevant to each learned trait in addition to a random selection of adventuring gear satisfying some basic needs (such as light sources and at least one weapon). For example, a character with ranged combat +1 starts with a bow or crossbow. “Possessions” should be understood broadly as anything external to the character; for example, a sorcerer with the thrall-binding trait begins play with a thrall. I plan on building a default table per path for people who want to pick the three starting traits directly, plus more specific tables per prototype (players roll on one or the other, not both). Background will also add one or two items, or, if I’m feeling ambitious, perhaps there will be a random table of extra equipment per background.
Intrinsic and derived traits are the finishing touches. All characters begin with 1 hit die at first level, so write that down on your character sheet (characters with extraordinary constitution and/or the path of steel bonus HP trait will add a small amount of bonus HP). You don’t need to roll for hit points until your first session; maximum HP is transient (the number of HD and bonus HP is the persistent measure of a character’s survivability). Write down the AC based on your armor (which should have been determined from the equipment granted by prototype, background, and any purchasing) and your starting saving throw numbers (which will all be 15 to being with other than the one path-specific bonus).