Childhood in the Empire

The enemy lurks in shadows
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Sword of Solkan
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One of the ideas I’ve got on the backburner is for a game set in your average Imperial (or Bretonnian) peasant villlage. In this case, it’d probably be a fishing village on the Sea of Claws.

I’d probably have the PCs start as children in the village, and have months or even years pass between game sessions as they become adolescents, young adults and finally village elders. Successive adventures could reveal some of their community’s hidden secrets, whether those are mundane (e.g. perhaps their fishing village actually survives through smuggling or by wrecking passing ships) or more mystical (ancient pacts with dark powers and the like). I’d also be inclined to present “the way the things are” in the village, and give the players the chance to decide whether they want to make the same choices as their ancestors or shake things up.

I’ve taken a quick stab at rules for child and adolescent characters here. As the game would focus on a small and tight-knot community I’ll probably mock up some rules for characters’ families next, with an initial focus on their reputations, how well off they are, their internal dynamics and how those sorts of things might change in play. I also like the idea that each character’s family might be facing some sort of crisis or difficulty each adventure.

Comments and suggestions very welcome.

Child (Human):

WS 2d10 +10
BS 2d10 +10
S 2d10 +10
T 2d10 +10
Initiative 2d10 +20
Agility 2d10 +20
Dexterity 2d10 +20
Intelligence 2d10 +10
WP 2d10 +10
Fellowship 2d10 +20

Fate / Resilience 0

Wounds (2 x TB) + WPB
Movement 4

Talents: Cruel World, Small, 1 random Talent (replacing Linguistics with Sprinter, Noble Blood with Growing Up Fast and Read/Write with Beneath Notice)

Cruel World (Talent): You are an ordinary man or woman of the Empire, with no special fate or destiny to protect you. You will never have Fate Points or Resilience Points, and can never choose to take Corruption Points to re-roll failed Tests. The only way you will ever have Fortune or Resolve Points is if you are fortunate enough to roll the Lucky or Strong-Minded Talents.

Growing Up Fast (Talent): You do not start with the Small Talent, and are instead Size (Average). If you survive to adolescence, trade this in for your choice of the Very Strong and Very Resilient Talents.

Species Skills:

Choose 3 of the following skills to gain 3 advances in, and 3 of the following skills to gain 2 advances in.

Animal Care, Charm, Climb, Dodge, Drive, Intuition, Lore (Local), Perception, Row, Stealth, Swim.

Starting Equipment (roll 1d10) at the start of each adventure:
1. A knife
2. 1d10 pennies
3. A bag of sweets
4. An empty sack
5. A crust of bread
6. A few sticks of chalk
7. A pair of dice
8. A doll
9. A match
10. A coil of rope

Do not carry forward equipment from previous adventures unless the GM tells you otherwise.

At the start of each adventure, roll 1d20 to see what your character’s been up to that morning:

1. I harvested gull’s eggs from the cliffs: Gain 2 Advances in the Climb skill. Begin play with a clutch of eggs.
2. I scared the crows from my family’s crops: Gain 2 Advances in the Ranged (Sling) Skill. Begin play with a sling and a handful of stones.
3. I toiled in the fields: Gain 2 Advances in the Endurance Skill. Begin play with a hoe or scythe (counts as an improvised weapon) and a crust of bread and cheese, as a reward for your labours.
4. My grandad told me old stories: Gain 2 Advances in the Lore (Local) Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
5. I hid to avoid a beating: Gain 2 Advances in the Stealth Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
6. I got into a fight: Gain 2 Advances in the Melee (Brawl) Skill. Begin play with torn clothing or a split lip (your choice)
7. My dad took me fishing on his boat: Gain 2 Advances in the Row Skill. Begin play with a fishing rod, and a bucket of fish.
8. I played football: Gain 2 Advances in the Athletics Skill. Begin play with a ball of rags.
9. I started a rumour about one of the other villagers: Gain 2 Advances in the Gossip Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
10. My grandma taught me to gather herbs and a little about the old ways: Gain 2 Advances in the Trade (Herbalist) Skill. Begin play with a trowel, and strict instructions not to tell anyone what you’ve learned.
11. I played games of make believe with the other children: Gain 2 Advances in the Entertain (Storytelling) Skill. Begin play with a stick that you’re pretending is a sword or some other implement.
12. I took care of my family’s animals: Gain 2 Advances in the Animal Care Skill. Begin play with either a pail or a shovel (counts as an improvised weapon in combat).
13. I went foraging in the woods: Gain 2 Advances in the Outdoor Survival Skill. Begin play with a basket of berries or mushrooms.
14. I checked the snares for rabbits: Gain 2 Advances in the Set Trap Skill. Begin play with a small snare and a dead rabbit.
15. I went swimming: Gain 2 Advances in the Swim Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
16. I split logs for firewood: Gain 2 Advances in the Endurance Skill. Begin play with a small axe (counts as an improvised weapon in combat)
17. I played with my new puppy: Gain 2 Advances in the Charm Animal Skill. Begin play with a small dog that sometimes does as it’s told.
18. I stole my dad’s pipe to practice smoking: Gain 2 Advances in the Sleight of Hand Skill. Begin play with a pipe and tobacco.
19. I stood up to a bully: Gain 2 Advances in the Cool Skill. Begin play with the threat that you’re “dead” the next time they catch you.
20. I bullied another child and stole their lunch: Gain 2 Advances in the Intimidation Skill. Begin play with a stolen lunch.

Adolescence:

1. Add 5 points to each of the following characteristics: WS, BS, S, T, Intelligence and WP.
2. Remove the Small Talent, and roll for another random Talent (replacing Linguistics with Sprinter, Noble Blood with Strong Swimmer and Read/Write with Sea Legs)
3. Gain the Doomed Talent.
4. Choose 3 of the following skills to gain 3 advances in, and 3 of the following skills to gain 2 advances in: Animal Care, Art (Weaving), Charm, Drive, Endurance, Gossip, Intimidate, Lore (Local), Row, Sail, Swim, Trade (Carpenter)

Starting equipment: <I’ll work this out later.>

At the start of each adventure, roll 1d20 to see what your character’s been up to that morning:

1. I helped build a new boat: Gain 2 Advances in the Trade (Carpenter) Skill. Begin play with either a saw or a small hammer and a handful of nails.
2. I obsessed over whether my crush is interested in me: Gain 2 Advances in the Intuition Skill. Begin play with a lot of confused feelings.
3. I toiled in the fields: Gain 2 Advances in the Endurance Skill. Begin play with a hoe or scythe (counts as an improvised weapon) and a crust of bread and cheese, as a reward for your labours.
4. I flirted with my boyfriend/girlfriend: Gain 2 Advances in the Charm Skill. Begin play with a small gift.
5. I hid to avoid a beating: Gain 2 Advances in the Stealth Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
6. I got into a fight: Gain 2 Advances in the Melee (Brawl) Skill. Begin play with torn clothing or a black eye (your choice)
7. My dad took me fishing on his boat: Gain 2 Advances in the Row Skill. Begin play with a fishing rod, and a bucket of fish.
8. I played football: Gain 2 Advances in the Athletics Skill. Begin play with a ball of rags.
9. I started a rumour about one of the other villagers: Gain 2 Advances in the Gossip Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
10. I went to archery practice: Gain 2 Advances in the Ranged (Bow) Skill. Begin play with a bow and 2d3 arrows.
11. I took care of my family’s animals: Gain 2 Advances in the Animal Care Skill. Begin play with a pail or shovel (counts as an improvised weapon in combat).
12. I stole a jar of moonshine: Gain 2 Advances in the Sleight of Hand Skill. Begin play with a jar of moonshine.
13. I set snares for rabbits: Gain 2 Advances in the Set Trap Skill. Begin play with a couple of small snares and a few dead rabbits.
14. I went swimming: Gain 2 Advances in the Swim Skill. Begin play with no special equipment.
15. I split logs for firewood: Gain 2 Advances in the Melee (Basic) Skill. Begin play with an axe (counts as a hand weapon in combat)
16. I played with my dog: Gain 2 Advances in the Charm Animal Skill. Begin play with a dog that’s reasonably well trained.
17. I tracked a wounded deer through the woods: Gain 2 Advances in the Track skill. Begin play with a spear.
18. I stood up to a bully: Gain 2 Advances in the Cool Skill. Begin play with the threat that you’re “dead” the next time they catch you.
19. I knitted some gloves for the winter: Gain 2 Advances in the Art (Weaving) Skill. Begin play with either a pair of gloves, or a ball of yarn and a pair of needles.
20. I took the family goods to market in the cart: Gain 2 Advances in the Drive Skill. Begin play with 2d6 pennies as your reward.
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
adambeyoncelowe
Posts: 130
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2020 3:54 pm

I would drop the Cruel World Talent, as not having metacurrencies a) sucks beyond belief (especially with such lousy stats) and b) makes armour even more essential. If anything, I'd be tempted to give children less Resilience and more Fate.
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Sword of Solkan
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:35 pm

To expand on my previous post about playing characters growing up in an Imperial fishing village, I’ve mocked up a few background generation charts. I’ve worked in a few grim themes, to reinforce the idea that the Empire can be a pretty brutal, inequalitarian and unpleasant place, while aiming to avoid anything gratuitously “edgy”.

Comments and suggestions are very welcome.

When a character is generated, roll 1d10 for each of your family’s Wealth, Social Standing and Familial Relations. These can subsequently be modified by events in play, particularly the random events table.

Wealth:

10+ Wealthy: Wealth can be a relative concept, and in a northern fishing village even the headman’s family are likely to be living in a smoke-filled hut, along with their animals. The important thing is that you’ve got more than those around you, and are therefore considered rich by the standards of your community. Your family’s farmstead and boat are likely to be the biggest around, and some of your neighbours work your family’s fields at harvest time. Your clothes are warm and comfortable, and sometimes coloured with expensive dyes imported from the big cities. You eat more meat than most, and your food’s seasoned with a few luxuries on feast days (sugar, peppercorns etc).
6-9 Middling: Your family might not be rich, but between the boats and farming you can make do. You’ve got a decent sized farmstead, that supports enough crops and livestock to keep the family warm, fed and largely contented.
2-5 Poor: Making ends meet can be a struggle. Perhaps your parents don’t have their own land or boat, or the lands they do have aren’t enough to support a family and they need to work for your richer neighbours to make do. You seldom go hungry, but most of what you eat is the cheapest around. Your shoes might have holes in them, and your family homestead might be too small or in constant need of repair to keep out the wind and rain.
1 Desperate: Day to day survival is a battle, and your family are barely clinging on. Your clothes are worn and ragged, and there are days when you don’t eat at all.
0 Crisis: Things have come to a head and your family are at serious risk of being thrown out of their home and losing their lands altogether. Unless the situation is somehow turned around, you’re set to lose everything.

Social standing:

10+ Respected: One or more of your parents is a pillar of the local community, the sort that the rest of the village look up to and seek out for advice. They might be head of the village, a well-respected healer or some sort of functionary for the local lord. The flip side of the coin is that you’ll have some big shoes to fill growing up, if you don’t want to live your life in your parents’ shadow.
8-9 Well-liked: One or more of your parents is a stalwart of the local community, popular and well-connected. Your family should be able to count on the community’s support if they’re ever in any serious trouble.
4-7 Accepted: Perhaps no one’s got much reason to think of your family either way. They’ve got their share of friends, and any skeletons in the closet are buried deeply enough to be concealed from the rest of the village.
2-3 Suspected: There might be some sort of scandal in your family’s past, or they might just have a bad reputation that’s well known in your community (“The Muellers have always been lazy” / “All Voegler men are drunkards”). Either way, you’re likely to be the subjects of malicious gossip and generally looked down on by your neighbours.
1 Shunned: Your family are barely tolerated outsiders, living on the outskirts of the community. When something gets stolen or a scapegoat needs to be found, you’re likely to be the first accused.
0 Exiled: Things have come to a head and your family have been thrown out of the village. Depending on the circumstances might have been outlawed, banished, or had to flee to avoid a lynch mob.

Familial relations:

10+ Spoiled: You’ve got your parents wrapped around your little finger. Your friends are green with envy, as your parents frequently let you get away with things they’d be thrashed for trying. When you don’t bother doing your chores or get up to mischief, your parents are often willing to forgive you or perhaps refuse to believe that you’re the one responsible. Less favoured siblings are (perhaps understandably) likely to resent the preferential treatment you receive
4-9 Average: Like most families, you don’t always get along. And you can count on a scolding or perhaps even a thrashing if you get into mischief or don’t do as you’re told. But blood’s thicker than water, and you love each other most of the time. If you’re ever wronged or accused of something that isn’t your fault, your kin are likely to have your back.
2-3 Neglected: For whatever reason, neither of your parents have much time for you. One or more of them might be suffering from alcoholism or health problems, or perhaps they’re simply worn out from working punishingly long hours and taking care of a passel of kids. You can’t guarantee that you’ll have clean clothes to wear or that there’ll be a meal waiting for you when you get back. If you were to go missing it might be days before anyone noticed or thought to go looking for you.
1 Abused: Things are seriously wrong at home. Perhaps one of your parents is a violent alcoholic who lashes out at you, or suspects you’re illegitimate and hates you as proof of their partner’s affair.
0 Severed ties: Things have come to a head and your parents have either thrown you out, or you’ve run away. A child in this position is likely to be in serious trouble, unless they can persuade someone else to take them in.
Last edited by Sword of Solkan on Mon Nov 09, 2020 5:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
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Sword of Solkan
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:35 pm

adambeyoncelowe wrote:
Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:27 am
I would drop the Cruel World Talent, as not having metacurrencies a) sucks beyond belief (especially with such lousy stats) and b) makes armour even more essential. If anything, I'd be tempted to give children less Resilience and more Fate.
I agree that would make sense if you were running children in an adventuring party. (Personally, my experience both as a player and a GM has been that 4th edition overdoes metacurrencies, but I’m happy to concede our tastes might differ on that one.)

My intention with the fishing village campaign would be to run a different sort of game. The PCs would simply be everyday people who can’t count on any sort of plot immunity or special treatment from the universe either as children or as adults.

Fortunately, enough of my friends have similar tastes in gaming that I’d be unlikely to have any trouble filling a table. If playing without Fate Points, re-rolls etc were a dealbreaker for someone then they probably wouldn’t be a good fit for the campaign.

I’ve played enough 4th edition to understand how it’s likely to run without metacurrencies, and where other tweaks might be required.
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
adambeyoncelowe
Posts: 130
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2020 3:54 pm

Fair enough. If your players don't mind the whiff, etc, it can be quite comical to fail all the time without recourse.
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