Friday, March 16, 2012

ZeFRS: Character Creation

So far, I'm liking this game. I didn't find too much about it online, so I thought I'd offer my thoughts for anyone considering it. I know it is freely available, but there are many, like me, who aren't comfortable with wholesale reading on a computer monitor. I prefer to print things like this when I can, and I like to try to make sure I'm not wasting time, toner, or paper. Without further ado, let's jump right into Chapter One: Creating Your Character . . .

Of the little bit I did find, review/overview-wise, it was said that this system was ahead of its time. I've only read the first chapter, but based on that, I wholeheartedly agree. This game was published in 1985. It did not have a predefined set of stats, which is something I've been wanting in a system for a while. I think things like exceptional strength or mind-numbing idiocy should be advantages/disadvantages (or whatever terms you prefer). Describe your character as you see fit, but if you didn't select Strength, then all those muscles you described are window-dressing.
Another thing I thought was incredibly innovative, and I've not ever seen anywhere else (unless I'm forgetting something) is the way the system handles untrained skills use. First off, skills fall under the heading of Talents. Talents can be anything from weapon proficiency, to actual skills (such as Survival), to stat-like things (Strength). Talents are grouped into Talent Pools which are broad categories of similar Talents. The really innovative thing I mentioned is this: When you attempt something you do not have a Talent for, you apply your General Talent Score. It is derived by adding the ratings of all your Talents in that Talent Pool and dividing by 10.
For example, the Fighting Talent Pool consists of all the combat abilities of your character, including individual weapon skills. If your character has Broadsword-5, Mace-5, Brawling-8, and Spear-4, his General Talent Score would be 4. That would be applied to any rolls he makes that would fall under fighting, such as using a table leg to attack someone. 
I like this because it makes sense. The more well-rounded a character is, within a given Talent Pool, the more capable he is within the boundaries of that pool. Some systems impose a flat penalty to unskilled use, some use a "default" system, and there are yet other ways to handle it. Unskilled use of a skill is one of my real sticking points for systems that include skills. I don't want a skill list to limit my players. This seems to be a reasonable, sensible approach. Oh, and if that seems too much like a math exercise, you only do it at character creation, and if a Talent would push the Pool total over a number divisible by 10. All fractions are rounded down.

One other thing that caught my eye was initial equipment. There are three columns, with the player selecting one item from each column. One column is purely weapons, the other two are combinations of armor and adventuring gear.
The armors listed do not appear in the armor table. Not tragic, but definitely an editing oversight. Also, in column three, one of the items listed is 5 gold coins. Looking at the price lists, It is possible to select that and purchase most of the items on the second and third list, making the "5 gold coins" something of a no-brainer.

Character creation looks like it would go very quickly, if the player is ready with a character concept. With a clear concept, Talent selection should just fall into place. Then, it's just equipment and done. That's something else I want for my game. I love the Burning Wheel lifepath thing, and it is a lot of fun to work through, but I don't really want to spend an entire session on character creation. Especially when there might only be two sessions a month.

So, to sum up, I like what I'm seeing so far. Character generation is fast and simple, no predefined stats, and an innovative unskilled system. I can't wait to see how the system handles combat . . .

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