domingo, 8 de mayo de 2022

Creating a Grazelander player character for RuneQuest

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Below you can read how I followed the steps in the RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha rulebook to create a player character. To avoid similarities with the pregenerated characters included in the core book and the Starter Set, I decided to create a Grazelander, since the Grazelands is one of the six homelands available for beginning characters. At the bottom of this post you can download the full character sheet of the PC I created, in case you would like to use it as a player character or non-player character in your campaign.

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Original art by Evgeniy Kray.

Step 1: Homeland

Some people may think that in the Dragon Pass area the rulebook focuses on is only inhabited by tribes of Orlanthi barbarians, worshippers of the Storm pantheon, but that is not so. The western half of Dragon Pass is called the Grazelands and is mainly inhabited by a semi-nomadic people worshipping the sun horse god and the Earth goddess. Perhaps influenced by the videogame Six Ages Ride Like the Wind, in which you play the role of a Hyaloring clan, the remote ancestors of the Grazelanders, I fancied creating a character from this particular culture. Although the RuneQuest rulebook contains some information about them, both in the Adventurers section, as in the Homelands section, you can read more about them in the HeroQuest Voices document A Personal View of Grazer life: What the War Chief Told Me from The Well of Daliath website by Chaosium. It is currently not 100% canon, but it is still an excellent source of ideas for playing Grazelander characters.

In this step I noted down on the character sheet the three beginning passions of this culture.

Piece of the map included in RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha depicting the Grazelands, by Olivier Sanphilippo

Step 2: Family history

In this step, the RuneQuest rulebook lets you create your character's family background by either choosing or randomly determining what happened to one of your grandparents and one of your parents, and going on to the important recent events your character has participated in. It is a cool way of learning about the background of Glorantha right away during character creation. Moreover, you can determine what events have deeply influenced your character. You can also skip all this if you wanted to speed up the process, but I have plenty of time to spare, and I'm looking forward to trying out this system. Even though you can decide to just choose an option instead of rolling it at random from a table, I think it is better to just let the dice determine the results, as some particular outcomes are hard to reach, and those give you bonuses to skills and even extra magic items, so an "optimizator" or munchkin could be tempted to always choose those results to get the most game-related advantages out of it.

As the Grazelander culture is strongly patriarchal, I chose the adventurer's grandfather and father as the ones having the most influence on my character's identity. I already had in mind that my character's name was to be Tomiris.

I decided to determine randomly his grandfather's occupation, but after three rolls I was not happy with any of the results. I got philosopher, which does not fit at all, then thief, even less so, and then charioteer, which does not fit either because all Grazelanders ride horses. In fact, none of these occupations is available for Grazelanders in the occupations section. That is because Grazelanders are a people of noble-warrior riders who use serfs for most of the manual labor (the riders are not crafters or merchants either). Therefore, I decided to limit the results to the three suggested occupations: warrior, noble, and herder, and I added priest. Then I got noble, so I decided that means the character's grandfather was his clan leader. After checking the above mentioned What the War Chief Told Me, I decided the character belongs to the clan that it is mentioned in that text: the Dances with Hooves. In the highly hierarchic and stratified Grazelander culture, the character's father could well have inherited leadership of the clan from his grandfather, but it is also possible his father was just a younger brother, or that some accident or event prevented him from inheriting leadership of the clan. I decided to roll one of the four occupations and I got herder, which confirmed the idea his father was a younger son of the leader, and therefore, it was the character's uncle who must have inherited the leadership of the clan. Then I rolled for the grandfather's history, to see what happened to him.

Grandfather Yanasdarin was born in 1561 ST. That means in 1582 he was 21, and he was not the chief yet. That year my father was born, Yanasdarin's fourth child. The Feathered Horse Queen at that time, who was married to the King of Sartar, chose warriors from several clans to fight in the Battle of Grizzly Peak. Yanasdarin participated together with his father and other warriors, but the battle was a disaster, and most Grazelanders died fighting the Lunar Empire and its powerful magic. Yanasdarin and his people were killed by Lunar spirits. Since my character grew up listening to this tragic tale, he acquired the passion Hate (Lunar Empire).

Young Yanasdarin, to the left, next to his father and other veteran noble warriors dressed in expensive iron armor, head towards the dire Battle of Grizzly Peak - Art by Angus McBride for Osprey.

In 1604 Tomiris was born, when his father Dastaldarin was 20. I rolled the dice to determine how many siblings his father had, and I got two older twin sisters (Mirina and Yorastina), plus an older brother (Jandetin). I rolled again to see if they are still alive, and all three are alive and married. Tomiris' two aunts got married to men from other clans, so they no longer live with the Dances with Hooves clan.

In 1615, when Dastaldarin was 31, a feud started between the Lunars and the Grazelanders, and although his father was not a full-time warrior, Tomiris participated nonetheless in the Grazelands Campaign and managed to survive together with his older brother. With help from the Beastmen led by the centaur hero Ironhoof, the Grazelanders succeeded in routing the Lunars twice.

Six years later, during the first year of the tragic Great Winter, Dastaldarin starved to death making sure his kin were well fed. Because of this, Tomiris increased his passion Love (family) up to 80%.

In 1622, this player character was already 18 and managed to survive the second year of the Great Winter. In 1623, following the Feathered Horse Queen of that time, who was allied with the Lunar Empire, he participated in the battle of the Siege of Nochet against the Orlanthi army led by King Broyan. Tomiris fought with great glory, so he gained the Honor passion and increases in the Battle and Reputation skills.

At this point I decided to randomly determine the number of siblings and it looks like he only has a younger sister, Virkala, who is still unmarried. I decided she still lives with the clan because she is too young to get married as she is only 14.

In 1624, Tomiris fought at the Battle of Pennel Ford together with the rest of the warriors of his clan, since the next Feathered Horse Queen allied with the Sartarites. In the cruel fight, he was nearly killed, as the scar on his right arm shows. The experience also increased his Battle skill.

Finally, in the year 1625 he witnessed the Dragonrise from the Grazelands.

Tomiris in the Battle of Pennel Ford - Original art by Sam Phillips for Raiders of Scythia, from Garphil Games

Step 3: Runic affinities

Before choosing the first runes defining the character, it is better to have a certain idea of the cult he is going to belong to, so you can have some or all your character's runes match those of the god or goddess and therefore be able to better cast the magic that deity provides. I also recommend having a look at the personality traits each rune fosters, so they match the personality of the character you have in mind. Finally, it can be useful to have a look at page 53 to see what bonuses each rune gives to every characteristic. In the case of Tomiris, I decided his elemental runes are Fire (he is idealist and chaste), Water (but also quick and sometimes fickle) and Air (somewhat violent and proud). As a Grazelander, he gets a bonus to his Fire rune, since the Pure Horse People are descended from the Sun Horse.

As for the power runes, I chose to have 75% in the Movement rune (because he is rebellious and energetic) and in the Death rune (ruthless and ascetic). With the extra points I increased the Fire rune up to 80%, and I also increased the Air and Truth runes a bit.

Step 4: Characteristics

I chose to determine the characteristics at random, but I was going to assign the results from the same amount of dice to the characteristic of my choosing. After the 7 rolls, the total add-up (80) was less than 92, so I added 3 extra points: 2 to Constitution and 1 to Power. In the end, I decided to keep the results assigned to the characteristics as I had rolled them, without changing them from one to another, as I was pleased with how the character looked so far.

STR: 12 
CON: 8+2
SIZ: 12
DEX: 14 (+1 Water rune): 15
INT: 13 (+2 Fire rune): 15
POW: 6+1
CHA: 15

So this character is weak in Constitution and, above all, Power, but he is dexterous and charismatic, which suits him perfectly. Still, he ought to train his Power whenever he gets the chance to try to increase it in order to be less fragile against magical attacks. At least with the current edition of RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha it is much easier to increase your POW and you no longer need an attack spell in order to be able to increase it through experience as in the 3rd edition. Then I added up the bonuses for his primary and secondary runes. Since his Charisma is already quite high, I decided to increase his Intelligence and Dexterity. Using these scores, I calculated the attributes such as magic points (7), hit points (10), healing (2), damage modifier (0), etc. And then the skill category modifiers, which is easy to do. To finish up, I applied the bonuses to skills as determined by culture. As expected, Grazelanders get a high bonus to Ride and Herd.

Step 5: Occupation

I was torn between hunter and light cavalry warrior, but in the end I chose the latter. Since he has not many hit points, Tomiris is going to use mostly his bow to harass the enemy, using his horse to quickly get away from hand-to-hand combat. Then I noted down the weapons and skill bonuses. Among the main passions available, I chose Loyalty (war chief). I also noted down the ransom, starting gear, and loot.

Step 6: Cult

As he already had over the minimum 50% in two of the cult's main runes, I chose Yelm, although the Grazelanders call him Yu-Kargzant, the Sun Horse. Tomiris is member of the Archer subcult, who the Grazelanders call Jardan the Warrior, one of the children of Yu-Kargzant. Actually most female Grazelanders worship La-Ungariant, whose avatar in the middle world is the Feathered Horse Queen. Tomiris was born in the body of a woman, but he is really a man. Even though Grazelanders are usually strict in their gender roles, Tomiris' gender is male. In his clan, he is usually called "the Folorene", the name of the Grazelander great spirit who teaches that sometimes some clan members must be accepted as they really are, not as they look (read the HeroQuest Voices text for more information about the great spirits of the Grazers/Grazelanders). Although some people from other clans gossip about him, Tomiris convinced the priests that Yu-Kargzant had chosen him as his follower. During the divination ceremony, the holy bonfire blazed mightily and the priests interpreted the sign as the acquiescence of their god. Later, Tomiris succeeded in the cult initiation rites and, thanks to his high charisma and intelligence, has made good friends among the clan's men and women. I added the modifiers to the initial cult skills and I chose Ride and Firespeech for the initial bonus. With all this, he has a Ride skill of 120%! It is obvious that Grazelanders are born to the saddle.

Yu-Kargzant the Sun Horse

As for his beginning spells, I chose the spirit magic spells of Firearrow (2), Mobility (1), and Heal-2. I almost changed Firearrow and Mobility for a Multimissile-3 so he could rain death over his enemies, but in the end I decided to have a good attack spell and Mobility in case worse comes to worst. Besides, Heal-2 is always useful, particularly for Tomiris, who only has 10 hit points. Although he is going to have a meager 35% to cast his spirit magic, I trust in the fact that he will at least be able to augment his chances of casting Firearrow by concentrating on his high Fire rune.

As for the Rune spells, I chose: Shield so he can protect himself well, both from physical and magical attacks, and then Sureshot to make his archery even more deadly, and turn the character almost into a Bronze Age sniper. I picture Tomiris combining Firearrow with Sureshot and targeting the enemy's head to kill him outright. To finish with, I chose the Fight Disease spell, as it will be handy to have, given his very modest Constitution score. The Summon Fire Elemental spell was tempting, but you also need the Command Elemental spell in order to get the most out of it, and that means too many Rune points. Command Horse can also be very useful, but it requires a POW vs POW roll to work, and it is better no to risk it since Tomiris's Power is extremely low. Finally, Sunspear is a brutal spell, which does not require overcoming the target's POW, but it is single use and costs 3 Rune points to cast, so he should learn it later in his career, after he manages to increase his POW a great deal. Otherwise it would be like placing all his eggs in one basket. Unlike spirit magic, Tomiris is going to cast his Rune magic easily, as all his Rune spells can be cast using the Fire rune.

Step 7: Personal skills

Here I could add several extra points to any skills, so I increased his bow and lance skills to make him a competent warrior. I also increased his Scan, Track, Intimidate, Spirit Combat, Meditate, Dodge, and Survival.

Step 8: Other information

This character is almost finished, but in this step I rounded him up by determining his initial Reputation. I must admit I love rolling on the table of Family heirlooms. I got a 2, which means an ancestor of the character was a famous hero (cool!), so Tomiris got a couple extra bonuses. On the other hand, I noticed there is no space on the sheet to note down the Movement attribute (!). As the loot roll was high, I decided to invest 70 of his 150 L in purchasing a light scale hauberk, plus a closed helm to have one extra armor point on the head and torso. Because in RuneQuest you just need all the protection you can get your hands on. I also created Tomiri's horse stats, a cavalry horse of the Goldeneye race, the fastest in Glorantha, using the data included in the Glorantha Bestiary.

And so it is finished: Tomiris is an idealist, chaste, ruthless, proud warrior, who is a devout worshipper of the Sun Horse. He is skilled in lance and bow, and he is able to do pirouettes while riding. On top of that, he is descended from a well-known Grazelander hero! His hair is long and braided, and his grey eyes offer a haughty, deep, challenging look. His best friends call him Tom, and know well he does not tolerate any jokes about the shape of his body. Tomiris' dream is to show everyone his warrior skills, fulfill the requisites to be accepted in the Golden Bow society, Jardan's elite warriors, and hopefully be as worthy as his heroic ancestor. He is only scared of enemy magic and hostile spirits.

Since the official scenarios in the RuneQuest GM Screen Pack and subsequent scenario books are focused on the Orlanthi tribe of the Colymar, I thought it would be a good idea to come up with ways to incorporate this character in this region, serving Queen Leika. To that end, I had a look at the Glorantha Sourcebook, where the dynasty of the Grazelander queens is described. I came up with the following: Inkarne, the current young Feathered Horse Queen, has just inherited the reigns of the tribe after the death of her predecessor during the Dragonrise. She wishes to make a gesture showing her alliance with the Kingdom of Sartar, so she places a troop of Grazelander riders at the orders of the recently crowned Queen of Sartar: Kallyr Starbrow. Since the Colymar are one of the most powerful tribes in Sartar, she has also sent a small group of warriors to Leika Black Spear. And Tomiris is among them. Queen Leika does not fully trust these Grazelanders, so she is going to test them by sending them in several dangerous quests, accompanied by trusted Sartarites. Initially, Tomiris will scorn the Orlanthi, but given his loyalty to the Feathered Horse Queen, he will obey her orders to assist Queen Leika to the letter. At the same time, the influence of the Movement rune can cause problems by making it difficult for him to keep his opinions to himself, and even to make decisions without properly thinking them through. Despite that, his hatred against the Lunar Empire will probably earn him the respect of the Orlanthi little by little. You know, "the enemy of my enemy...".

The Feathered Horse Queen, by Dario Corallo for Last Faction Hero, and Grazelander riders followed by a great fire spirit, (actually Hyalorings from the Storm Age) by Simon Roy for Six Ages Ride Like the Wind

So what do you think? Would you play this character or would you change anything? You can download and check out the ready to play, complete character sheet by clicking on the following link:

Download Tomiris, Grazelander light cavalry warrior

Want more? Check out the post about Saga/Ferenasa, the bandit duck!

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