Chapter 7: Development
In most good stories a character grows and changes throughout the narrative. Not only do they change personally, but they also learn new things, and in many role playing systems they are rewarded with equipment as well as advancement. Your character has not always been the way he is when you generate him, and he will not be exactly like that for the rest of his life. Changes in personality, philosophy and general outlook can be dealt with in the form of character traits, and how the player portrays his character. Meanwhile characters may also grow stronger or weaker, learn to do new things, and become more proficient in others. In all great epics the main character learns things that enable him to overcome obstacles, and so in most role playing games characters grow in power also. However Darkrealm places relatively little emphasis on Character Advancement as a game mechanic, using it more as an aspect of plot. Generally advancement of skills occurs when the character pursues training, or seeks to educate himself, rather than in peril. As a result advancement occupies a small role in the nitty-gritty of gameplay, but retains a crucial position within a game's plot.

Character Development occurs in two core character components, Character Traits and Skills. Traits are adjusted at the player's discretion, in reaction to plot development. Skills can be purchased during play by training, studying, or finding a suitable mentor, up to the character's Skill Point pool, and the Skill Point pool can be increased through the use of Hero Points. In addition, Hero Points can also be reserved for one-time bonuses to actions.

Awarding Hero Points

Hero points under the Darkrealm system are awarded, not for defeating an enemy or succeeding in a goal, but for accepting hardships and failing. Success is considered its own reward, but failure inspires characters to grow, and so players are able to leverage their failures by acquiring Hero Points. When taking a test with genuine consequences for failure, a character will be rewarded with Hero Points if he should fail in that test, according to the table below. This should encourage players to proactively and voluntarily identify sources of disadvantage or penalty that were not immediately imposed during the director's setting of the scene. There is no limit to the size of a character's pool of Hero Points. All characters begin a game with zero Hero Points.

test result hero points
Test fails by 11+ with voluntary penalties Award 3 Hero Points
Test fails by 11+ without voluntary penalties Award 2 Hero Points
Test fails by 6-10 with voluntary penalties Award 2 Hero Points
Test fails by 6-10 without voluntary penalties Award 1 Hero Points
Test fails by 1-5 with voluntary penalties Award 1 Hero Points
Test fails by 1-5 without voluntary penalties Award 0 Hero Points
Test succeeds by 0 or ties with multiple voluntary penalties Award 1 Hero Point
Test succeeds by 0 or ties without voluntary penalties Award 0 Hero Point

Hero points can also be awarded at director discretion to players who do something inventive, who describe a damn compelling action, or who just do something cool that the director wants to encourage. Try to limit this to real wow moments, and not to simple plot milestones or victories.

Heroic Advantage

A Hero Point can spent to add one Hero Die to any test. This represents the character tapping his well of hidden fortitude and determination to make a truly heroic effort at success, marking the action as crucial. Hero Dice work in the same way as Advantage Dice, adding 1d6 to any test. This Hero Die is allowed in addition to the maximum three dice of Advantage a character can benefit from on any test. A character must announce whether or not he is using a Hero Point in this fashion before any dice are rolled, and once he announces this the Hero Point is expended and lost. Failure on any test that uses a Hero Die will never generate Hero Points.

Increasing the Skill Pool

Alternatively, a Hero Point can be spent to increase the pool of Skill Points to which the character has access by 1. A character can increase his pool at any time, but cannot immediately spend these added Skill Points simply because they are unlocked. Once the character spends his Hero Point it is expended and lost. Skill Points cannot be traded back for Hero Points. A character can never use Hero Points to increase his total Skill Points (spent and unspent) beyond his Maximum value (see chapter 4). Any Hero Points mistakenly expended that exceed the character's Maximum Skill Points will be returned as Hero Points.

Characters do not automatically unlock the additional Skill Points granted by age. These must be unlocked with Hero Points, up to the character's Maximum pool of Skill Points. Any Skill Points lost due to decreased Talents are lost from the Maximum, removing locked points before unlocked ones, and unlocked points before spent ones.


Generally speaking, Skill Points can be spent freely during character creation, but once play is underway training is the only way to expend Skill Points in order to increase the level of a Skill, or acquire a new Skill. For Skill levels 1-7 characters can self-train off-camera, requiring a week during which four non-consecutive hours of each day are dedicated to training for every level of the Skill the character is training to increase to. Thus a character would need seven weeks to increase a Skill from level 6 to level 7, or 11 weeks to increase a Skill from level 4 to level 6. The character can reduce the amount of time spent training in his day by increasing the period needed for training, but training will never be faster than one week for every level of the target Skill level.

To achieve Skill levels 8, 9, and 10 a character must seek out a master, a book, or something of note to impart the required information. It should be enough to constitute a plot point, rather than happening off-camera. The time required is two weeks spending eight hours a day in training for every level the character is seeking to attain, meaning that increasing a Skill from level 7 to level 8 will require 16 weeks of dedicated training. At the end of the period of training for these levels the director can call for a Test to determine whether or not the training sticks. Failure will result in all of the training period being wasted. If the director chooses to require a test then he must warn the player of this before the outset of training. Training for these levels cannot be spread over a longer period of time for a lesser period of the day as lower Skill levels can. If the test fails Skill Points remain unspent.

Training in Play

If a character makes extensive and challenging use of a skill during play (if he is routinely using the skill to attempt high static difficulties or challenging opposed tests) then he may forgo some or all of the training period with permission from the director. Players wanting to do this can assist in the process by earmarking skills their character is actively focusing on improving ahead of time.

Training Talents

Talents can never be increased by training. Skills represent what a character can learn, train, or adjust. Talents may decrease as a result of Damage Statuses or Age, but they will not change as a result of training (or lack there of).

Changing Character Traits

Whenever it feels appropriate, and the character can demonstrate some in-story justification, players can reduce or increase the value of a character trait, remove a character trait, or add an entirely new character trait freely. Director sign-off is required for any such changes until the director advises otherwise.

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