Chapter 1: Character Creation
Apart from the director, the way all players of a role playing game will engage the game world is through their player characters. A player character is a combination of a concept, a personality, and a personal history that makes that individual interesting and unique; and a list of abilities and numbers called that character's statistics used to interact with the mechanics of the game. But before we can generate any statistical information about a player character, we must first decide who the character is, how they fit into the setting, and with their fellow player characters, and what aspects of the character we should be using statistics like talents, traits and skills to highlight.

In this first chapter of the Tome of Lore, core rules of the Darkrealm system, we'll discuss how a player can go about crafting a character for himself, dealing specifically with ideation in preparation for modelling the character within the game's mechanics. Character creation need not be a solitary process done in preparation for play. We'll deal with how players can go about coming up with a strong concept, and formalize some of the steps of ideation, to make it more of a group activity. Character creation is often at its best as a stratified communal activity, where players and director can take the opportunity to feed off one another, to interweave their concepts, and to generally build the detail and context that make truly memorable characters who are a pleasure to play. And the added bonus of working together is that it helps all players cement the tone of the game, and this will guides their use of the rules throughout play.

Concept


The first thing a player should consider is his character's high concept. A high concept is a big picture, one or two sentence description of who or what that character is. It is a trope, and overview, or a hook to be built on as the story progresses. A director is free to offer up guidelines or starting points for these concepts, as the needs of his story dictate, but beyond this concept is entirely up to the player inventing it. He might want to portray a disgraced priest seeking redemption, or a hardened mercenary who live only for the next day's coin, or a rat catcher who overheard a terrible secret, or a foreigner seeking a lost member of his family in an unwelcoming land.

Whatever the high concept, it needn't go beyond these simple statements to start with. Then the player can start to flesh out these ideas, with specific reference to what he knows about the story, the setting, both geographical and social, and any other information he might want to include. Whatever the case, there are a few specific things that all players should be able to share about their character.

Objective

What does the character want in the short term? What about the long term? It's not enough to simply want to resolve the director's plot, characters need to have their own motivations, aspirations, and desires that a director can call on to make them feel more real. And once these objectives are achieved, a player should come up with more. The more a character wants independent of the core story, the more real he will feel, and the more impact he can have on the world of the game. It isn't essential for a player to tell his fellow players his objectives - he may have terrible secrets, or just be a private individual. But a player cannot keep secrets from the director.

Complications

What's preventing the character from getting what he needs? Does he need to learn something from a renowned mentor, or go to a place, or seek out an object? Perhaps he has a nemesis working against him, or something to prove? Or perhaps it is more of an internal struggle, with the character needing to overcome some fear, preconception, or aspect of personality before he can achieve what he wants. Players should consider why their characters have yet to achieve his objective, and try to make it as interesting as possible so that the director can weave it into his plot.

Assets

What does the character have going for him? Is he a skilled swordsman? Strong as an ox? Wealthy? Does he come from an influential family? Is he owed a substantial favour? What kinds of strengths is it essential for the character to have, both to fulfil his high concept, and to make it more interesting. Players should try to think beyond a character's role in the game, and think more about the character as an individual. His assets are not needs, so much as points of interest or note.

Detriments

And on the reverse side of assets, what are the character's weaknesses? Is he painfully stupid? A coward? Has he made enemies? Or squandered his fortune gambling? Perhaps he's old and frail, or young and naive? A character's shortcomings are often more interesting to portray than his strengths, and players should trust that they are not handing the director something to exploit, but taking up an opportunity to make their character more interesting and more fun to portray.

Relationships

Finally, it is important to discuss how the player character know one another. Or even if they do. Often players will make the mistake of meeting hurriedly in the beginning of the first gaming session. But this frequently feels forced and rushed. And so, unless the director has decreed otherwise, players are encouraged to consider whether or not their player characters have crossed paths in some way prior to the outset of the game. Do they know one another by reputation? Have they crossed paths before? If so, was it friendly? Or are they close relatives or best friends who have known one another all their lives? Players should come up with these stories together to give their characters shared history that they can interact over from the very beginning.

But relationships don't just cover other player characters. If the character has a rich uncle, a spiteful patron, a former lover, a pet, or even a faithful pair of much-loved boots then name those characters and decide a few things about them. Perhaps another character knows that person too. At the very least the director may well decide that they turn up later in the game.

Core Details


Next the character needs to be integrated into the world. The director will likely have indicated where the story will begin, at least roughly, but that doesn't mean that all of the characters are locals. Players should decide from where their characters hail. What social strata they occupy. And, of course, their race. Race is particularly important, as it will have an impact on that character's talents, which will be the next step in character development.

Players should also come up with a name for their character, and consider what they do for a living, or how they spend their days if the high concept doesn't already suggest this. The core details are really all about understanding your character's place in the world, so players should feel free to consult the appropriate atlas entry. If they discover details that they want to build on, immediately share these details with the group. If something needs to be invented, share the invention. In this manner a selective picture of the world can be built up, with players and director clear on those specific parts of the setting essential to grasping the player characters.

Player Interaction


As we have discussed earlier, the Darkrealm system encourages character creation to be a collaborative rather than solitary process. In fact, the first session of any game should be spent solely designing characters. This will allow players to get used to co-authoring with one another, which will make for a more collaborative game. It will allow them to opt to be important components in one another's objectives and complications. And crucially it will allow the director to sit back, listen, and plan for changes to his story to make it better suited to, and more relevant to, the sub-plots each player puts forward.

Formalizing this system is a great way to make sure that more reticent players, or those newer to the game, don't get left behind. And so the system suggests that players all join the director, and collectively share their high concepts, and discuss them. See if any overlap. Ask the director if any of these are direct problems for the story. Share any ideas that might make them more interesting, or help players who don't have an idea at the moment to craft something. And then, once all potential issues are resolved, go away in ones or twos and come up with objectives and complications, assets and detriments.

They should then come together again, and share these rough ideas. And feel free to suggest improvements, alternatives, or synergies that are already emerging. Then they should take turns to come up with relationships and core details in the group, passing each idea around the table, and endeavouring to add to each idea as it comes past them. Of course, it is always up to a player whether or not he takes on suggestions about his character, though the director is free to veto any unsuitable concept.

Finally, individually, each player should come to the director and tell him at least one secret that none of the other player characters or players know about his character. Once a group has done all of that, they should be ready to move on to the more mechanical portion of character creation.

The Tome of Lore: Core Rules for Darkrealm
Chapter 1 Character Creation; Concept; Core Details; Player Interaction
Chapter 2 Talents; The Fourteen Talents; Generating Character Talents; Properties
Chapter 3 Traits; Character Traits; Context Traits; Status Traits
Chapter 4 Skills; The Skill List; Purchasing Skills
Chapter 5 Gameplay; Announcing a Test; Sequence of Play; Actions and Objectives
Chapter 6 Damage; Opposed Tests; Effects of Damage; Recovery; Death
Chapter 7 Development; Awarding Hero Points; Training; Changing Character Traits
Chapter 8 Setting; Tone; Technology & Lifestyle; Religion; Magic; Other Oddities
Chapter 9 Player Races; Civilized Races; Racial Abilities
Chapter 10 Gear; Armour; Weapons; Tools; Animals and Transport; Clothing; Weight and Encumbrance
Chapter 11 Magic; Alchemy; Divination; Talismans and Relics; Fear and Superstition; Spellcasting
Chapter 12 Game Creation;
Appendices Common Actions; Damage Statuses