'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: Let's Make a Character

One of the things that attracted me to "Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells" was its simplicity. Simple is good, especially when attracting new people to a game and genre. It allows us to jump in easily and not need to be constantly explaining rules and such to the players.

I am looking to use pre-gens for my one-shot I thought it would be good to go over the basics parts of the game. Character creation is a simple 5 step process, although I might add a step 0 or 1.5. I will explain as we go.

Step 1: Roll your 4 attributes.
We roll 3d6 in the order the attributes appear. No rolling 4 and keeping 3. No picking your order. Just a straight up 3d6 roll in attribute order.
  • Physique: 9
  • Agility: 11
  • Intellect: 12
  • Willpower: 10

Step 1.5: The character idea.
Most games I have played list this as a step, get an idea of a character you want to play in your mind. I would sometimes place this as step 0, but since our rolls are in order, it might be better to see what we get before coming up with the idea. It will do no good to want to play a Conan the Barbarian type character if you roll 5 on Physique and 8 on Agility. It is of course 100% fine to come up with this ideas as you go, with that character gaining life and depth with each decision you make.

For us we have two pretty decent stats in Agility and Intellect, or at least this is where our best stats are, lets see how this plays out for us.

Step 2: Choose an Archetype.
Based on our stats the best Archetype for us is going to be a Specialist. The thief, the rogue, the trickster.

Each archetype will give us our base type of HD and Luck dice as well as our special abilities.

Step 3: Choose a Vocation
This is the most open ended part of character creation. There isn't a list, you must simply decide what your character is based on the Archetype. Anytime you do an action related to your vocation you gain a positive die. If you are a Knight and need to test to ride a horse, you could gain a positive die here. If you are a thief and need to open a lock or find a trap, again you could gain a positive die.

This is perhaps the step that Step 1.5 relates to the most. For us we know we have a Specialist who is smarter than they are agile. Something like a rogue or thief would probably be ideal for this character.

Step 4: Determining a complication
This section presents some interesting ideas as well as some potential challenges, it deals with things the GM might use to make someones life difficult during the course of the game and includes addiction. Clearly if you do not know your players it might be best to stay away from that particular category when making this roll. It might be worthwhile having your players look through these and give them the option of "X"ing any particular category out that they personally feel uncomfortable with. This is a game and we are all at the table to have fun.

That being said my 2d6 roll for our character is 1.4, or Debt to a Crime Lord. This ties in nicely to our concept of a thief character.

Step 5: Buy Equipment Everyone starts with a basic set of clothes and a weapon appropriate to their vocation. For us that most likely means a short sword, which is a small weapon that does 1d4 damage. Beyond this everyone starts with 3d6x10 silver coins. Our roll gives us 90sc. Like many games we get a coinage multiplier, 90sc = 9gp or 900cc.

The first thing we will buy is some decent armor. Medium armor costs 50sc, leaving us with 40 for everything else....
  1. Medium Armor - 50sc
  2. Backpack - 2sc
  3. Torches(5) - 1cc
  4. Waterskin - 5cc
  5. Rations(7) - 7cc
  6. rope, 50' - 5cc
  7. Grappling hook - 1sc
  8. Flint & Steel - 2cc
  9. Thieves Tools - 30sc
Total 50+2+(1+5+7+5+2)+1sc+30sc=85sc

Not too bad. Pretty good load out for a fairly average roll.
But wait? What about encumbrance? It is super simple. You can carry a number of items equal to your Physique score without penalty. Beyond that we start getting penalized and we can carry a maximum of the Physique score x2. So we can carry 9 items. Bags and packs do not count towards this limit.

Finalize Your Character
So now we simply need to come up with a name, description and roll some Hit Points.

We got a 7 on our d8 hit die roll, which is pretty good! I can see a potential issue to this as an unmodified roll, a PC rolling 1 hit point isn't going to be much fun for most people. Although I don't think this is something unique to Sharp Swords.

For a name I popped over here and used the random name generator here: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/hyborian-names.php, and came up with 'Talma'.

Finally we need to write this all onto a character sheet, and below we see the completed character sheet.


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