Cephalofair Games
5 months ago

Project Update: RPG character creation

Good day! And it's a big day, so let's get right to it!

We've got three big streams coming in today to fill the full gamut of Gloomhaven: the Role Playing Game, Gloomhaven: Second Edition, or Miniatures of Gloomhaven. No matter what you're looking for, we've got some entertaining stuff! And all streams can be found on the main page of the campaign.

First off, we've got a Gloomhaven RPG session with Penny Arcade airing at 10am PST (which is somewhere around now!) featuring Alexander JL Theoharis as the GM and Jerry Holkins, Laura Stringer, Jasmine Bhullar, and myself as the players. This one was a lot of fun to film, and should give you a great sense of how to play the game.

Then at 1pm PST we have an in-person playthrough with Good Time Society of a custom Gloomhaven: Second Edition scenario! The players here were Kate Elliott, Banzainator, Jake Michaels, and myself, and this was also a great time. Tomorrow we'll even be releasing a PDF of the custom scenario played!

Finally this evening, we'll have another miniature painting stream with Tabletop Minions at 5pm PST!

And if that weren't enough, we also have a new puzzle for you - this one for the Spellweaver - that you can find at the bottom of the main page!


I'd like to dedicate the rest of this update to diving a little deeper into the character creation and character mechaincs for the Gloomhaven RPG. First off, if you want to watch a full video on character creation, the video below is a great resource.

The goal of this update, though, is to give you a solid written overview. So now I'd like to take a look at our good friend Berge Brumble, Orchid Tinkerer. Berge is part of the Penny Arcade gameplay video going on right now, so once we go through his character creation, you can immediately go watch him in action!

The first choices of building any character are the class and ancestry. Class being things like Bruiser or Cragheart, where ancestry refers to Inox or Savvas.

Berge, as we already affirmed, is an Orchid Tinkerer (with he/him pronouns).

A character's class determines a lot, as it is what a character has specialized in and trained for to become a mercenary. It gives them a large pool of ability cards, along with a list of skills to choose from, and their perk list, which will determine how they can modify their modifier deck as they level up. Classes also provide attribute bonuses, which we'll get to shortly.

We wanted a character's ancestry, however, to have a more optional impact on how a character plays mechanically. Though the ancestry will certainly play a major part in how a character looks and how they interact with the world, ancestries don't have to define a character's abilities. Instead, ancestries provide a smaller pool of supplementary ability cards that can be swapped into a character's hand, along with some additional skill choices. We'll get into hands of cards and skills in a bit.

Next, though, let's talk about attribute scores. There are five attributes in the game:
  • Athletics, which is used to perform feats of physical might or stamina.
  • Finesse, which is used to perform feats that require physical grace or hand-eye coordination.
  • Focus, which is used to perform feats of concentration and attention.
  • Influence, which is used to perform feats that try to sway another person or creature.
  • Knowledge, which is used to perform feats that allows you to recall information you have already gathered or to use logic to utilize that information.
To start, each attribute has a value of 1, but then your class will provide a specific bonus.

In the case of Berge being a Tinkerer, this gives a +2 in knowledge (bringing it up to 3) and a +1 in finesse (bringing it up to 2).

Next, a player gets to reduce any attribute they want by 1 and then do two more attribute increases, provided that no attribute is raised above a character's level plus 2 (3 when starting out, of course).

Berge is an older Orchid with lots of crystal growth. He doesn't move around so well, I've decided to drop his athletics by 1 (bringing it down to 0). On the other hand, he is very attentive and always has a clear goal in mind, so I'm going to use both my increases to bring up his focus from 1 to 3.

With our attributes in place, let's move on to skill choices. Skills give characters an opportunity to perform some of their class's iconic feats in a roleplaying session, which is related to how ability cards are handled outside of combat. You see, when not in combat, in order to facilitate better and easier roleplaying, players aren't interacting with the text on their ability cards at all. Their entire hand of cards is placed face-down in front of them as a deck that represents their stamina.

But then how do you know what cool stuff your character can do when not in combat? That's where your skills come in! These are feats that are so practiced and integral to your identity, you can perform them any time, even when not in a heightened state from combat.

As we develop the game further, the list of available skills for each class and ancestry will grow, but for now, here are the five Tinkerer skills available and the one Quatryl skill:
  • Build Contraption: [Lose] Create a small mechanical contraption to perform menial tasks for you. It lasts until you take a Full Rest, but it does not function in combat.
  • Brew: [Discard] Spend 10 minutes to create one potion or other liquid that lasts until you take a Full Rest. The effect of this liquid shouldn’t be stronger than a common consumable.
  • Flamethrower: [Discard] Subject everything within 10 feet to extreme heat and flame. Living creatures can either move away from you or take 3 damage (their choice).
  • Healing Mist: [Discard] Perform [Heal] 2 on yourself and everyone within 5 feet of you.
  • Net Shooter: [Discard] Shoot out a human-sized net to [Immobilize] a single creature within 20 feet for no more than 1 minute.
  • Deft Hands: [Discard] You gain advantage on the next Finesse check to perform a task requiring your hands.

The first thing you may notice is that each skill has either a "Lose" or "Discard" next to it, and this is where your stamina pile comes in. Doing various things (including using skills) requires you to expend stamina, which works more-or-less as it does in combat. "Discard" means moving the top card from your stamina pile to your discard pile, and "lose" means the top card goes to your lost pile (as in the board game, whenever you lose a random card like this, you have the opportunity to suffer 1 damage to lose a different random card). You can use skills over and over, so long as you have stamina. And once your stamina pile is empty, you'll need to "take a breath" (also known as a "short rest" in the board game) to randomly lose one card from your discard pile and return the rest to your stamina pile. (And if all your cards are lost? Well, you're not dead, but you'll have to take it easy for the rest of the day.)

So the thing about Berge is that he is an excellent manservant. He lives to serve others, so his skill choices are going to reflect that, as skills are mostly used in role playing out of combat (though skills and attribute checks can be used in combat as well, in lieu of an ability card action). Characters get three skills at level 1, so Berge will take Build Contraption (to provide extra help in performing his duties), Brew (Berge makes a mean cup of tea), and Healing Mist (for when his employer finds themselves hurt).

Keep in mind that the skill descriptions provided are just guidelines. Roleplaying is a conversation between the GM and the players, and if you find other ways to make your skills useful, go for it. (For instance, Berge finds a creative use for his Healing Mist in the Penny Arcade game.) Also the fact that Berge can brew a potion doesn't mean that no one else can brew a potion, too. It's just going to require attribute checks for others to do it, while Berge can do it without a check.

Now that we've got our skills, let's move on to backgrounds! The way I view backgrounds, they don't necessarily have to be the headlines of your character's life, but maybe just something you'd find out while talking to them at a party that would make you stop and go, "Oh, that's interesting." Like, "Oh, you're into mediation? That's neat." Or, "Oh, you're in a jam band? Cool."

There will be a big deck of 50 of these cards, and players just go through them and pick out four that they feel speak to their character. Each background, of course, has a mechanical function in the game, but this process is more about helping players solidify their characters in their mind. What are their desires? Who do they interact with? What are their quirks?

Berge has the following backgrounds:
  • Employee: Berge is focused on being the best manservant he can be, so of course he needs someone to serve. In the Penny Arcade game, I decided Berge would be Socket's employee.
  • Meditative: Berge is very old and has spent a lot of his life meditating. Like many Orchids, life is not about moving quickly and acting brashly, but rather thinking through all the options and using the tools at your disposal with maximum efficiency. The way I like to think this plays out is that it doesn't look like Berge is doing much, but then he's always there when you need him, handing you the exact right tool for the job.
  • Collector: This is a hold-over from Berge's last employer, who was a Savvas. Berge was always on the lookout for interesting rocks and crystals for the Savvas to eat, and even after he left their employ, he still found the process soothing.
  • Dark Secret: In another life, Berge's top-notch skills would have had him serving the Orchid High Council themselves. And maybe that's exactly what he did do at some point in the past. But he was involved in something terrible and had to flee Velcyll Harbor. Now he's just trying to keep a low profile.

So how do these work mechanically? It's pretty simple. Any time you are performing an attribute check, and you feel like you could use a boost, you can spend one of your background cards for its bonus. In addition, if you're in a position to aid someone else's check, you can spend a background card to give them a boost instead. Spent backgrounds are refreshed every time you "catch a breath".

With backgrounds chosen, the next part is filling out your inventory. Now, as a Tinkerer, does Berge need to buy a flamethrower, a net shooter, trap supplies, contraption parts, and ink bombs to fully kit himself out and make sure he can use all his combat abilities? Absolutely not. All characters are assumed to always have on them everything that's necessary for their class to fully function in combat, and none of that stuff needs to be tracked in your inventory. Filling out your inventory is about all the stuff you want to bring in addition to whatever you need to make your class function.

Items are broken up into two categories: non-combat items and equipment. Non-combat items are various things that will have a use for you outside of combat: waterskins, a tent, cooking supplies. These are stored in a character's inventory slots. Equipment are items that are equipped into a character's equip slots and have specific combat functionality. These are the items you'd be familiar with from the board game: poison daggers, leather armor, and the like. And again, if a bruiser doesn't have a shield as part of their equipment, that doesn't mean they don't have a shield to do stuff like Shield Bash with. Equipment can be viewed more like augments to your normal gear. Leather Armor is like additional leather padding in your existing armor, and a poison dagger may just be a poison vial you apply to your normal weapon. You define how each piece of equipment changes your gear.

Berge is more interested in supporting their employer with non-combat equipment. He has spent his initial 60 gold on a cooking pot, utensils, and supplies, some torches, waterskins, rations, and a tent. With the little money left over, he went with some practical leather armor. And while a Tinkerer would normally wear leather armor anyway, this purchase represents some extra leather padding.

The last part of character creation is just picking the hand of ability cards you will be using for your first day of adventuring. A level 1 character has access to their classes normal level 1 and X cards, along with four level 1 cards from their ancestry. This is actually 7 more cards than their hand size, so they will need to make some cuts. Of course, any cards cut still stay in that character's pool of available cards, and at the start of each day, the player can pick a different hand of cards for their character.

And that's all there is to it! The goal with character creation was to give the player lots of meaningful decisions to customize their character, but also work to make those decisions clear and transparent so players can still navigate through the process with ease.


Thanks for reading, and I hope I've given you a better idea of how the role playing game works so you can hit the ground running in your own game! Enjoy the streams today, and I'll catch you next time!




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