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This is Conan roleplaying as Robert E. Howard wrote it – savage pulp adventure battling ancient horrors in the Hyborian Age
This is Conan roleplaying as Robert E. Howard wrote it – savage pulp adventure battling ancient horrors in the Hyborian Age
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Character Generation Example!

Posted by Chris Birch, Modiphius (Creator)

“Verily, Siddhartha first son of the Aryas did visit his guidance counsellor and seek advice on entering a suitable college degree…” Not in 2d20!

Our developer Benn Beaton prepared this introduction to character generation for you all, so over to Benn...

Other 2d20 products use a lifepath system to build their characters from Birth to the time they choose to adventure. They include random events for each stage of development and give you options as to how many careers your character engaged in before going adventuring may have embarked upon.  But the Hyborian age is one where character is as likely to be a young teen of prodigious talents as a veteran of many wars. It is a time where education is haphazard and delivered largely by practical application. It is a time where career is a meaningless concept in the face of the demands of local warlords and petty nobles. You might be a thief one day, a mercenary the next, a pirate on Tuesday or even find yourself atop a throne. 

None of these activities change the nature of your character, even if they suggest some useful Xp spends later. Given the nature of the Hyborian age, the usual lifepath systems used to create characters is not being used in Conan. Conan uses a lifepath system that has random character generation built into its core. You can roll up a character in moments by grabbing a handful of d20s and reading off the results. 

But Conan’s character generation has one feature that marks it as distinct from other random generation systems. 

 If you cheat at these rolls, Crom cares Not!

At no point does the system force you to play a scholar when you want to be a throat slitting Mercenary. At no point are you at the mercy of the dice. The dice are used to create interesting characters you might not normally consider. The dice are at your mercy and if you want them to deliver a result. They must obey you!

So how does it work?

Each of the “Random Rolls” considers an aspect of your character. This might be; your Homeland, the Caste you grew up in, your notable attributes, how you were educated, your nature and most importantly you’re Archetype.

Each of these steps gives your character an improvement. This might be a series of skills, some Attribute improvements, a Talent, or even a Background story. The different aspects combine to make characters distinct. A wrathful barbarian and a stoic barbarian will both be excellent warriors but where the wrathful barbarian would emphasis attack, the stoic would emphasis resilience.

So lets take character generation for a Test spin. To start off I roll nine d20’s and write the numbers down(2,3,9,13,14,15,17,17,17) I then consult the character generation tables to see what I’ve gotten.

Step One Homeland. A roll of a 2 gives me Zamora as a homeland. I gain the language Zamoran and the talent Honest Corruption.

Step two Attributes. You get two Attribute Aspects. My 3 gives me the Attribute Aspect “Acute and aware”. This increases my Awareness and Intelligence attributes and gives me the option of improving Agility or Co-ordination. My 9 gives me “Wise and Friendly” increasing Intelligence and Personality with the option of Co-ordination or Brawn. This character is going to have a solid intelligence score perhaps this character will wind up a scholar? If I wasn’t keen on these options I might choose to be “Brave or Fool hardy” and “Strong and Resolute” or any combination of Aspects including taking the same aspect twice!

Step three Caste. My 13 translates to the Merchant Caste. Being a merchant gives me the skill Persuade at 1 as well as the Caste talents Tradesman and Vagabond.

Step Four Caste Backstory. 14 gives me the Backstory “Lash of Taxation” This comes with the Trait, Witness to Brutality. This trait can be used in game to regain Fortune points and will serve as an ongoing plot hook for the character.

Step Five Archetype. 15 gives me the result Scoundrel but that’s not going to work for me so I ignore the 15 and decide to play a Scholar. The scholar archetype will give me the majority of my skills. Giving me the lore skill at 2 with its initial talent (Disciplined Student) Four other mandatory skills and a choice of two of the three optional skills. It also provides the character with most of my starting equipment.

Step Six Nature. 17 gives me the result Scheming. Not what I had envisaged but let’s roll with it. Scheming gives me three mandatory and a choice of two of the three optional skills. It also gives me an improvement to Intelligence and a talent to select from amongst the skills gained. Talents can be left unassigned until the player chooses to select a talent.

Step Seven Education 17 has me educated on the battlefield. Of all my results this is likely the weirdest but it gets my imagination going. This character was a messenger during a campaign for a general’s scholar. He learnt his trade with the scholar when he was pressed into service and had to fight his way out of more than a few scrapes. Education grants my character skills and talents in a similar way to Nature.

Step Eight War stories 17 would have my character surviving a shipwreck but the character is now taking shape and I choose “Survived a massacre” instead. This gives me the skills Stealth and Survival and helps explain how my scholar left the service of the army.

Step Nine As a final step we calculate Vigor & Resolve and perform some minor customisations improving a couple more skills and adding Fortune points, a talent and a language.

At this point you have a fully customised character ready for play.

Geomorphic Floor Tiles. Quick update - we are going to include a squared grid in the PDF versions that can be turned on to use with them if you wish (and turn off the movement spaces of course). Also as someone pointed out it's 32 Large tiles and 32 medium tiles in the bundle :-)


Chris, Modiphius

João Talassa, Tracy Vierra, and 50 more people like this update.


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    1. Anon K. Adderlan on

      The dice rolls are intended to inspire imagination, NOT constrain choices. So whether you pick every background or randomly decide them makes no difference, but looking at the comments somehow this idea is not getting across.

    2. Ron Niabati on

      Hello Benn. Great character generation system! I have a question regarding Fortune Points and how they are represented in the context of background stories, education, nature, etc. For example, are they “blessings of the gods” where they act as divine intervention?

    3. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      You could if you wanted to. I knocked mine into a row but as you can see from the example you can out and out ignore the dice(see step five). The dice are an aid not a constraint. Rolling randomly might get you an awesome character idea and lots of people like an element of random chance BUT other players like to decide what they're playing. This model lets both players sit at the same table or for the GM to lay down the law and decide which model they want to use.

    4. Leperflesh on

      Are you normally "supposed" to sort your dice results in ascending order like that? Or did you just somehow by massive luck roll those numbers in ascending order...

    5. Tom Zunder on

      Could you add a hex overlay and a square overlay? (0one do this in their floorplans) Some of us prefer hexes a great deal and with pdfs it's easy to make them switchable between none/square/hex

    6. Matthew Widener on

      @Benn: Perfect! That was my roundabout way of asking if the chart would be packed full of results, heh.

    7. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      @Mathew no all equally weighted. Also player control eliminates the power of % weighting anyway.

    8. Matthew Widener on

      Just curious, are the lists weighted? Like, is each entry a single number on a d20, or are there ranges?

    9. Missing avatar

      Frank Williams on

      I would love to see the step-by-step numbers behind this character.

    10. João Talassa on

      Great CharGen system. Fantastic stuff so far!

    11. Netobvious

      @BennBeaton, thanks for the clarification of the sub-optimal value in stacking up attributes. Good to know. I am liking the system so far.

    12. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      Attribute aspects are sequences of 2 mandatory and 2 optional attributes. So if both the aspects are the same you'd have 3-4 attributes that received a boost. Given that aspects overlap in the way they deliver attributes having 2 of the same is sub optimal.

    13. Netobvious

      @ChrisBirch, do aspects stack and if so how is that useful?
      This phrased confused me "any combination of Aspects including taking the same aspect twice!"

    14. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      There are no life points in this system but fortune points are made available during customisation and can be traded for skills or attributes

    15. Shane Mclean

      @Chris: How do Fortune Points tie into character generation in this iteration of the rules? Looking at Mutant Chronicles, for example, they are used when you want to choose instead of roll. If that isn't the case here does everyone start with a standard amount, or is there some other method of arriving at them?

    16. Johannes 'Waldgeist' Rebhan on

      @Matthew Widener: from Germany here. We were about 10 years behind when it came to RPG design. Hell even today the most famous system The Dark Eye is still as needlessly complex, convoluted and old fashioned as it was in the late '80s. :D

    17. Missing avatar

      Eric Holweck

      "Someone" reporting for duty, lol. Thanks for the character generation process, Chris (and Benn; of course)! :)

    18. Matthew Widener on

      @Rebhan: Yeah, it won't appeal to everyone, so the ones who like to model and point buy their characters can just choose from the lists. The random folks can roll. I'd probably do a mix of both!

      The CHOICE is a modern conceit. Early days had strict randomization, but in the mid-'80s simulationist point buy was all the rage. Since sim dominated that period, I tend to think of the '80s as a point buy type of time. But it all depends on what you were playing in that period.

    19. Douglas Justice on

      This is awesome. There is so much fun to be had with random tables. Takes the story in directions you might never have gone.

      I really like that if a player rolls something that doesn't fit, roll with what you want.

    20. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      @Johannes Then follow the rules and cheat.

    21. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      @nester you can totally build a character selecting every step. It'll take longer but you'll have no more or less attributes skills or talents than another character.

    22. Johannes 'Waldgeist' Rebhan on

      Definitely a pass for me. Random characters are a thing of the '80s of roleplaying game design, for many reasons. I can see that working for a one off "fight night", but not for any serious campaign.

    23. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      Sbarrie. I like your thinking

    24. Missing avatar

      Benn on

      Hi Aaron the beauty of this mechanism is that min maxers will have substantial holes in their character builds. People cheat when they build characters, this system accepts that and mitigates it by directing the options in calculated ways. If people build narrow characters they'll have a bunch of other skills too.

    25. Matthew Widener on

      It's a very modern approach; this type spurs creativity. Some will wonder what the point is if there's no punishment or system in place to enforce lifepath rolls. I play with people who like the random background generation and the surprise of coming up with a character from disparate pieces, and I play with people who know what they want and sculpt. This satisfies both of them. I love it.

    26. RDP

      Love this, I can't wait to make my own character!

    27. Missing avatar

      Aaron Woodside

      I'm going to remain skeptical. It seems like it will heavily promote min/maxing much more than the traditional life path style, which in my opinion anyway, leads to much less interesting characters overall.

    28. Asgo

      this sounds interesting, and I think the way of avoiding a classic career fits very well to kind of conan stories.
      as for the dice, most systems treat them as a chance to put a random twist on stats not as a hard counter against player preferences (and almost always at the discretion of the GM, if you are nice to him .. ;) ) - not much different here

    29. sbarrie

      This sounds really good. You could create characters as a group, with bragging rights to whoever follows the dice the closest.

    30. Chris Birch, Modiphius 7-time creator on

      @Aaron - well you can also roll and keep the decision. If you want to pick and choose you could do so if you wanted to - hey it's your book - but looking at several large lists of events can reduce creativity - the roll of a dice takes you through a journey that triggers that creative process.

    31. Morgan Stjernstrom on

      @Aaron, I believe this will help to create even more interestin characters as well to open up ones mind to explore other charactertypes than one usually creates. It also seems to help one get a nice history in the Hyborian kingdoms.

      I think its a great way of rolling up a character. :)

    32. Missing avatar

      Aaron Woodside

      Maybe I'm being daft, but the rules sound like, "just pick what you want from each section." I mean what's the point of rolling then?

    33. Chris Birch, Modiphius 7-time creator on

      @Nestor - it's the same with D&D or any other system, you can ignore any die roll if you like. What rolling a dice does do is trigger your creativity or make you realise, you know what I actually don't want that. The point is to try to use the result because you'll be amazed at what springs to mind as you go through the process.

    34. Nestor Rodriguez

      Pardon me for being obtuse, but if ignoring the die rolls is allowed, could someone just not bother rolling any dice and simply go down the lists, choosing the options they like the most?

    35. Jan Schattling

      Sounds great. I haven't had a character creation like that in ages.
      I think the unexpected is sometimes more fun to play than anything planned.

    36. Morgan Stjernstrom on

      Sounds incredibly cool with character generation!! Now I want to roll a character!! :)