Sunday, April 14, 2019

Character Creation in Wilderland


Brian Froud, How to See Faeries


What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!


- The Denham Tracts: A Collection of Folklore : Reprinted from the ..., Volume 2, by Michael Aislabie Denham



This is a continuation to the work begun in my post 1937 Hobbit As a Setting, and continued sporadically for the past...two years?! Maybe one day I'll pull this stuff into a zine.


This post only covers hobbits. If I didn't break this work up, it'd never get done. 

Character Creation Procedure

Chuck Dixon and David Wenzel, The Hobbit comic adaptation

  • The mini-game of character creation is done together as a table. 
  • Each player draws three Tarot cards. Each card drawn represents three phases: childhood, youth, and first adventures.
  • Each race has a starting score of the six attributes + Attack bonus. 
  • The minor arcana cards are Branching Paths: they correspond to questions the GM asks the player. 
    • For each answer the player makes, the GM instructs them to place a + next to one of their seven stats.
    • If the player draws the same number twice, they just double down on the original answer. Put another + next to the stat again. 
  • Each major arcana card represents Signs and Portents. It gives the PC a unique ability and (usually) a special item. 
  • After the 2nd card is drawn, roll a d50. Gain a random former Profession. Note this profession down as a Skill
  • After the 3rd card is drawn, tell a story to the table about your first adventure. Tell everybody why you're adventuring. Write down a Skill based on this story. 
  • At the end of character creation, total the amount of +s. The first + gives +2 to that stat. Each subsequent + after the first adds +1. 
  • Choose a name and write down a description. Throw your character into danger!

Starting Scores for Hobbits

Hobbits have the following starting scores for their seven stats. Note these down and adjust them using the character creation procedure: 
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 12, Atk 8

Players draw three Tarot cards representing things that happened in three phases of their life: childhood, youth, and first adventures. 

Branching Path Questions

Tony Diterlizzi, from Dragon magazine

If you draw a minor arcana, consult this table. Tell the GM your answer. They will tell you to put a + next to one of your stats. 

At the end of character creation, note down each stat you placed a + next to. 
For the first +, increase the stat by 2. Each subsequent + increases the stat by 1. 

I. The cow went mad. Did you get it back to the pasture or get knocked out by a stray hoof?
II. Do you prefer digging new tunnels or harvesting the mushrooms?
III. When you visited your grandparents' hole, did you prefer to listen to the fables of your granny or practice conkers with your gaffer?
IV. Do you consider yourself a respectable gentle-halfling, or have you always been a troublemaker?
V. When the wolves came howling in the winter, did you bring back a skin or were you savaged?
VI. Do you always eat second breakfast, even if supplies or short? Or do you tighten your belt and make sure there's enough to last?
VII. When your brothers pinned you down, did you wrestle with them or craft a hilarious vengeance? 
VIII. When at the local pub, do you prefer to listen to stories or weave tall tales?
IX. The bully demanded a challenge for perceived wrongs. Did you best him in a riddling contest or leg wrestling?
X. When the Big Folk came to trade, did you try and learn their language or did you heed your gaffer's warnings about looking up too much?
Page. When she asked you if you wanted to tumble in the hay, did you follow her to the hay loft or finish your chores?
Knight. Do you prefer to trade stories at the local pub or wander far afield by yourself?
Queen. At the village fair, you made a name for yourself. Did you win the archery contest or the arm wrestling contest?
King. When the goblins came, did you flee into the boltholes or take up torch and pitchfork against them?


Branching Path Answers

SPOILER ALERT. The following answers should be read only by GMs! Players give their answers, and GMs tell the players which stats to +.

I. If you brought it back to pasture, +Strength. If you got knocked out, +Constitution.
II. If you like digging new tunnels, +Strength. If you're more into mushrooms, +Dexterity.
III. If you prefer your granny's fables, +Intelligence. If you prefer conkers with the gaffer, +Dexterity.
IV. If you're a gentle-halfling, +Charisma. If you're a troublemaker, +Dexterity.
V. If you brought back a wolf skin, +Attack. If you were savaged, +Constitution.
VI. If you always eat second breakfast, +Constitution. If you tighten your belt, +Wisdom.
VII. If you wrestled with your brothers, +Attack. If you played the long game, +Intelligence.
VIII. If you sit back and listen, +Intelligence. If you weave tall tales, +Charisma.
IX. If you riddle, +Wisdom. If you leg wrestle, +Strength.
X. If you try and learn from the Big Folk, +Intelligence. If you listen to steer clear, +Wisdom.
Page. If you go for a roll in the hay, +Charisma. If you finish your chores, +Constitution.
Knight. If you trade stories, +Charisma. If you wander afar, +Wisdom.
Queen. If you win the archery contest, +Attack. If you win the arm wrestling contest, +Strength/
King. If you flee to the boltholes, +Dexterity. If you take up arms, +Attack.


Signs and Portents

Nicola Cuti, Luis Bermejo, El SeƱor de los Anillos, comic adaptation


If the player draws a major arcana during character creation, consult this table. There's no questions to ask or be answered. Just note down the special ability and the item gained.


The Fool (0) - You're lucky. Once per session, you may reroll one of your d20s. Gain a lucky rabbit's foot
The Magician (1) - You're suspicious. When there's magic around, it seems VERY queer to you. You can smell magic like the spell Detect Magic. To you, it stinks. Gain a magnifying glass. 
High Priestess (2) - You're shifty. You use a d8 when you make the Evade action. Gain a large shield. It basically covers your entire body. You have to hold it with 2 hands. 
Empress (3) - You're innocent. You can befriend a wild animal if you share some food with it. No dice rolls are necessary. You simply gain a new companion who will be friendly with you for as long as you're friendly with it. This ability may only be used once. Gain a ration of tasty mushrooms. 
Emperor (4) - You're an armor friend. You and iron have an understanding. If you don't get spotted, the iron won't get bent. You may move silently no matter what armor you're wearing. Gain a chainmail shirt. Dwarves made it, but it sort of fits you.
Hierophant (5) - You're a mockingbird. You can repeat or imitate any sound you've heard before so well that anybody will be fooled. Gain a piccolo
Lovers (6) - You're a pack rat. You have +3 inventory slots. Anything kept here won't be found, even if thoroughly searched. 
Chariot (7) - You're pony-wise. You can talk to ponies. Gain a pony. It always knows the way home to your hole. 
Strength (8) - You know the whistle way. If you're whistling, you can use your right hand as any type of common tool (hammer, awl, saw, bore, etc.). 
Hermit (9) - You have a knack. If nobody is watching you, you can perform an hour's worth of work in the space of a Turn. Gain a needle and silver thread
Wheel of Fortune (10) - You have the evil eye. Once per session, can force the GM to reroll a d20. 
Gain a weighted die
Justice (11) - You're canny. Once per session, you can ask the GM if the last thing you heard was a lie. The GM will answer honestly. Gain an almost unbreakable tea set
Hanged Man (12) - You're dodgy. Once per session, if an enemy misses you with an attack you can apply the same Attack roll vs any other target in range. Gain a set of fashionable clothes
Death (13) - You're a nasty little thing. If you wield a dagger and no shield, you deal 1d8 damage instead of 1d6. Gain your father's dagger. Give it a name. 
Temperance (14) - You can blow fat cotton. 1/day if you're smoking a pipe, you may generate a Fog Cloud. You gain a large, carven ancestral pipe
Devil (15) - You have an iron stomach. You make Saving Throws against poison with advantage. You win most drinking contests (unless your opponent is similarly blessed). Gain a bottle of rotgut liquor.
Tower (16) - You're evasive. If an effect allows you to make a Saving Throw for half damage, you instead take no effect if the Saving Throw is successful. Gain your mother's sling. Give it a name. 
Star (17) - You're a gourmand. You unerringly identify potions by just tasting a little of it. Gain a hermetic bottle. 
Moon (18) - You're quick. You have advantage on Wisdom checks for initiative. Gain a set of bandages
Sun (19) - You are tough in a pinch. You make Saving Throws against fear with advantage. Gain a lantern.
Judgement (20) - You're a doodlebug. If you use a dowsing rod, you can easily find the nearest source of water. Gain a willow wand
The World (21) - You're the team mascot. Once per session, you may allow another player to reroll one of their d20s. Gain a banner. What is the heraldry on it?

Failed Professions

Brian Froud
After step 2, roll to see what career you trained in. Of course, that life isn't for you, but you still know the basic shit. 

Roll d50
  1. Actor | Gain wooden sword (as club), disguise kit, mirror 
  2. Antiquarian | Gain swordcane, book of family history, quill, ink
  3. Barber-Chirugeon| Gain razor (as dagger), needle and thread, tongs
  4. Blacksmith | Gain hammer, a forge outside your hole 
  5. Bounder | Gain dwarven short sword, dwarf chain shirt, spyglass 
  6. Brewer | Gain mash paddle (as staff), empty bottle, small cask of ale (rich) 
  7. Butcher | Gain meathook (as ax), rations of dried meat (3), pet giant rabbit
  8. Carpenter |Gain saw (as ax), drill, nails, mallet
  9. Chandler | Gain candlestick (as club), candles (6), soap
  10. Clerk | Gain quill-trimming knife, blank book, quill, ink
  11. Cook | Gain rolling pin (as club), lard, cookpots
  12. Cooper | Gain crowbar (as club), small empty barrel, 50' of rope
  13. Courier | Gain walking staff, bird broach, bird whistle
  14. Farmer | Gain pitchfork (as spear), excellent tobacco, pet giant chicken 
  15. Farrier | Gain hammer, nails, saddle, pet pony
  16. Fletcher | Gain bow and 20 arrows, pet raven 
  17. Fisher | Gain net, fishing gear, tinderbox
  18. Gardener | Gain scythe, garlic (2), wolfsbane (2)
  19. Glassblower | Gain iron pipe, empty bottle, mirror, viewing orb
  20. Greengrocer | Gain sling and acorns, sack of cabbages, pet cat
  21. Haberdasher | Gain scissors (as dagger), bag full of buttons (as caltrops), needle and thread
  22. Hole-digger | Gain miner's pick, shovel, and 30' of rope
  23. Hunter | Gain bow and 10 arrows, camouflage winter-proof cloak, personal tent
  24. Knacker | Gain cleaver (as hand-axe), shovel, soap
  25. Landlord | Gain club, key to tavern 
  26. Leech | Gain pestle (as club), smelling salts, herbal poultice
  27. Locksmith | Gain crowbar (as club), lock and key, specialist's kit
  28. Lumberjack | Gain woodsman's ax (as battle axe), 50' of rope
  29. Mason | Gain hammer, chisel, block and tackle
  30. Methier | Gain knife, thick gloves, bottle of mead (rich), pet bee
  31. Midwife (woman only) | Gain silver knife, vial of holy water, herbal poultice 
  32. Miller | Gain rolling pin (as club), mallet, nails, bag of flour
  33. Minstrel | Gain elven short sword, lute, torch (3)
  34. Moneylender | Gain mace, scales, an IOU for [rank]d4 silver 
  35. Peat-cutter | Gain shovel, 10' pole, lantern, flask of oil
  36. Potter | Gain sling and potsherds, jar of clay, pottery studio/kiln outside of hole
  37. Rat-catcher | Gain club, sack, pet dog
  38. Rope-maker | Gain sling, 50' of rope, grappling hook
  39. Servant | Gain dagger, extravagant clothing, silver bell
  40. Shepherd | Gain sling, pan pipes, pet sheep 
  41. Sherrif | Gain quarterstaff, hat with tall feather, manacles  
  42. Tailor | Gain scissors (as dagger), needle and thread, extravagant clothing
  43. Tanner | Gain flensing knife, bag of salt, leather armor 
  44. Tax Collector | Gain dwarven short sword, chest, lock and key
  45. Town Drunk (a paid position) | Gain bottle of whiskey (decent), empty bottle, set of dice
  46. Truffler | Gain sling, really good mushrooms (3), pet pig
  47. Wainwright | Gain whip, wagon, pet pony
  48. Weaver | Gain quarterstaff, bottles of dye (3, any), banner of favorite tavern's sign
  49. Well-digger | Gain shovel, dowsing rod, 10' pole
  50. Whitesmith |  Gain hammer, bag of pretty but trifling jewels, ring that's almost magic

And there you have it! Note down your name and write a description of your character. 

Forthcoming posts will detail the tables for the other races. 

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