Sunday, August 2, 2020

Character Generation and Race


This post is about how my OD&D hack of Skyrealm of Jorune, Jorune: Evolutions, handles race and stats in character generation. But it's also about how race is understood on Jorune. There are five available player character races in Jorune: Evolutions. The first is human, the (more or less) unchanged descendents of the travelers. Second come two post-human races, the smaller, isho sensitive muadra, and the giant isho resistant boccord. Finally come the two iscin races of uplifted animals, bronth, humanoid bears, and woffen, humanoid wolves.

Race and Gender on Jorune


The culture of Burdoth is a strange mix of the old and the new. Many of the prejudices and systems of oppression of our social world are unknown in Burdoth, for the travelers had evolved beyond them and nothing has rekindled them. In a world where the salient division is between human, post-human, and alien, differences in human appearance (skin color) are barely worth remarking on, especially because they were no longer tied to systems of oppression in the society of the travelers. The term “race” is thus used in Burdoth to refer to different species or subspecies of sapient being. Humans are one race, the post-human muadra another, the post-human boccord a third, the Iscin races (uplifted animals) each it's own still different race, as are the sapient aliens of Jorune such as the huge and silent ramian, the insectoid cleash, or the shanthas of human legend.

Miles Teves

By current earth standards there is also little gender oppression in Burdoth. Sexuality and gender is far more fluid and less punishing than on present day Earth. When they became hunter gatherers, the travelers carried this culture with them and hung on to it, transmitting these attitudes to the culture of present day Burdoth. 

Humanity on Jorune is undergoing incredibly rapid changes. That so many of Jorune’s sapient species are human derived, either as iscin or post-human races, sometimes gives rise to unsettling fears about transformation, mutation, and the loss of identity. Especially to those who do not live alongside these other humanities, it can seem at times that the world holds up on all sides funhouse mirrors in which distorted human forms can be glimpsed. This inchoate fear is exacerbated by the fact that human parents can give birth to muadra and boccord children.

Humanity also lives uneasily with isho, which seems at times like an invisible world from which they are shut out, a world that can lash out violently at any time, through aggravating isho storms, or the natural predators of Jorune with their isho senses and dyshas (psychic powers). This fear of an invisible world is the basis of the common superstitions about muadra. The small size of muadra would (and often does) mark them as easy targets for bullying--where fear of their power does not deter. In more cosmopolitan settings, this fear takes a controlled political form, involving regulation and surveillance by the diajic (diaji eaters, isho police). Muadra resistance has taken political forms in Burdoth as well.

The giant boccord have integrated better, and although subject to prejudice, suffer less from raw fear and hatred. Their large size makes them valued laborers in the villages and intimidating targets for violence. For reasons of mutual aid, boccord are often clannish, and have developed extended familial networks for sel-protection. In Ardoth, they flourish in several trades and industry.

The iscin races, where they have established communities of their own, as in the woffen realm Lundire or Anasan, and the bronth realm Doben-Al, have rich and complex cultures with their own distinctive qualities and conflicting strands. But the following generalizations are fair if incredibly simplified. In bronth culture, there are strong threads of stoicism that are often connected with religious ideas, fed by the complexities of suppressing bestial impulses. Woffen culture, by contrast, is suffused with a complicated pack mentality that involves a (non-gendered) hierarchy, but one that is always contested and shifting within the group. Woffen culture tends to be more playful and forgiving than bronth culture, and more about social navigation than self-control.

In Burdoth, where this game is set, iscin cultures are creole cultures. Iscin race PCs are likely to have been raised in human society, and have had to negotiate the issue of belonging and difference, with an interplay between counter-culture and assimilation to majority human institutions. Since your PC is entering tothis, this situation is especially complicated, since others of your kind are likely to view you as having cast your lot with human power structures. But remember, above all, that bronth and woffen are individuals, whose inheritance from humanity, which is after all their template and the source of their formidable sapience, entails all the variation and nuance that one finds among human beings. 

Stats in Jorune: Evolutions


For stats, roll the number of dice indicated for your selected race. Jorune: Evolutions uses the small starting modifier range of Original Dungeons & Dragons: -2 to +2. But unlike in OD&D, numerical stats play no role in this game. You need only record the modifier using the chart below, which influences stat checks, reaction rolls, combat rolls, and downtime actions. (I will discuss the system of stat checks and skill rolls in another post.)

Note too that unlike in OD&D stat modifiers can be changed through gameplay, although not by acquiring levels, since Jorune: Evolutions does not use experience points or levels. Instead players may train a given stat as a downtime action by setting a tracker. They may increase each stat modifier once using multiple downtime activities up to a maximum of +2. It is also possible to increase each stat modifier once up to a maximum of +3 through sandbox play, by undergoing certain experiences or performing remarkable feats on the hexmap. (I call this "sandbox advancement". More on the details of advancement another time.)

Given the limited modifier range, and the possibility of change through play, your starting stats are likely to be less important in Jorune: Evolutions than in other system of D&D from AD&D 1E forward. 

Roll
Modifier
5-
-2
6-8
-1
9-12
0
13-15
+1
16+
+2

There are seven stats in Jorune: Evolutions

Strength: Your physical power. It is added to hit rolls with melee weapons. (Note that all damage in Jorune evolutions is a flat 1d6 as in OD&D. Strength does not modify melee damage.)
Agility: Your speed and limberness. It is added to your armor class. 
AimHow good a shot you are. It is added to hit rolls with ranged weapons.
Learning: Your facility with learning. It is added to rolls for learning skills and using devices.
Isho: Your sensitivity to isho. It is added to rolls using dyshas.
Stamina: our vim and vigor. It is added to hit points.
Charisma: Your ability to lead. It is added to reaction rolls.

EDIT: Gus L. made the case in the comments that the range of -2 to +2 (or even +3!) is too large for OD&D. Despite his great experience running OD&D, I tried to resist by emphasizing that it didn't seem that bad in combat. But I crunched the numbers on my system of skill and stat checks, and it turns out he was right. So here is what I'll be using in Jorune: Evolutions instead:

Stat Roll
Modifier
8-
-1
9-12
+0
13+
+1

This modifier will still be possible to raise through play, but only once, and only through "sandbox advancement". The max possible modifier for a PC will be +2.


Choosing a Race


In making the choice of your character’s race, there is a dynamic similar to level limits for demi-humans in early editions of D&D. Bronth, woffen, boccord, and muadra, begin with advantages unavailable to humans. But the use of Earth-Tec is closed to all non-humans. While as a member of an iscin or post-human race you will have your own story to tell no less than human characters, it is likely that over time your advantages will be eclipsed by those of your human companions as the group comes into contact with the remnants left by the travelers. If you choose to play a nonhuman race, be aware that this is the choice you are making. 

Human


Note this  illustration by Frazetta was not painted in the society of the travelers. Protagonists on Jorune are not limited to white men.

Your character is a human being, an unchanged descendant of the travelers. All skin colors and physiques found on present day earth are found on Burdoth, so you may decide how your character looks. Humans are the only race able to use Earth-Tec, the original ancient technology of the travelers. You are also the only race who has dreamt of the egg. In Burdoth, your race is politically ascendent.  


Strength
3d6
Agility
3d6
Aim
3d6
Learning
3d6
Isho
3d6
Vitality
3d6
Charisma
3d6
Special
Earth-tec, Dream of the Egg 


Earth-Tec: You are the only race that can use Earth-Tec, the wondrous technology of your ancestors. 
Dream of the Egg: You are the only race to perhaps have had the mysterious dream of the egg. (Choose or roll 50%).

Boccord


Yes, this awesome illustration by Miles Teves is based on Conan the Barbarian. Teves was also not from the society of the travelers. 

You are a post-human species that looks human, but has developed a large form (8’-9’), and a resistance to Isho. You may choose the details of your appearance, apart from your larger size, just as a human would. In addition to your large size, you are the only race able to use anti-dyshas, mutations that developed to shield you from isho. You may not learn dyshas.   


Strength
3d6
Agility
3d6
Aim
3d6
Learning
3d6
Isho
1d6
Vitality
3d6
Charisma
3d6
Special
Large, Anti-Dyshas


Large: +1 melee damage against normal creatures, +2 against small creatures. You can carry more than a human, but weapons, armor, and equipment are 2x as expensive for you. (Note that since all weapons do 1d6 and strength does not modify damage, large size is a significant advantage.)
Anti-Dyshas: You are the only race that may spend skill points to learn anti-dyshas. You may never learn dyshas. 

Muadra


Miles Teves

You are a post-human species that looks human, but has developed a small form (3’-4’), and a greater sensitivity to, and ability with, isho. You may choose the details of your appearance, apart from your larger size, just as a human would.You may choose one free dysha. 


Strength
3d6
Agility
3d6
Aim
3d6
Learning
3d6
Isho
1d6+12
Vitality
3d6
Charisma
3d6
Special
Small, Free Dysha 


Small: In melee combat, normal creatures do +1 damage to you, and large creatures +2. You can carry less than a human.
Free Dysha: You begin with one free dysha. You are thus the only race that can spend skill points to begin with a major dysha. Those with a major dysha have been trained as muadra and are “isho literate”. Those without a major dysha are “isho illiterate”.

Bronth


Teves, obviously

You are an iscin race, an uplifted bear. You look like an erect fur-covered humanoid with a bear-like head, and clawed hands with opposable thumbs. You are slightly larger than a human (6’-7’). You have great strength, and are able to use your natural claws and bite as normal weapons. You also may draw upon a bestial rage to wreck great havoc, but at a cost to your humanity. 


Strength
1d6 + 12
Agility
2d6 + 1
Aim
3d6
Learning
3d6
Isho
2d6+1
Vitality
3d6
Charisma
3d6
Special
Natural Weapons, Bestial Rage


Natural Weapons: In melee combat, you are always armed. Natural weapons can be used in grappling as close weapons. 
Bestial Rage: You may opt to release the beast within, entering into a bestial rage. This lasts for up to 3 turns. During this time take an extra melee attack and take advantage on damage rolls with natural weapons. At the end of your bestial rage, test against learning (6-) reduce your learning modifier by 1 permanently (7-9) take one permanent bestial feature (e.g. eats like a real bear or growls when irritated) (10+) no effect. If you fall below -2 learning modifier as a result of a failed check, you have squandered your hard-won humanity and are now one of the lost. You cease being a player character. 

Woffen


This is perhaps my favorite Teves illustration

You are an iscin race, an uplifted wolf. You look like an erect fur-covered humanoid with a wolf-like head, and hands with opposable thumbs. You are slightly shorter than a human (4’-5’). You have great agility and are able to use your natural fangs as normal weapons. Your senses are powerful, allowing you track well and perceive subtle differences others cannot. 


Strength
3d6
Agility
1d6 + 12
Aim
3d6
Learning
3d6
Isho
2d6 + 1
Vitality
2d6 + 1
Charisma
3d6
Special
Natural Weapons, Heightened Senses


Natural Weapons: In melee combat, you are always armed. When grappling, you may use your bite as a close weapon.
Heightened Senses: In moonlight or dim light (but not total darkness) you see as though a lantern was lit. Add +1 to hear noises check. Add +2 to tracking rolls where a scent is fresh, and +1 where a scent is fading. Since there is no darkvision without the use of dyshas, heightened senses are a significant advantage.

Naming Your Character 


Now that you have selected your character's race and rolled your stats, it is time to choose a name. Names on Jorune follow two patterns. One influence is John Carter of Mars, Barsoom-style names. These are names that sound like this: Barsoom, Deja Thoris, Thuvia, Llana of Gathol, and Tars Tharkis. Examples of proper nouns from Jorune that follow the Barsoom pattern might include Jorune, Drenn, Kesht, Khodre Dhardrenn, Dharsage, and Tarsory. 

The other influence is a mélange of names from different nations mashed together, sometimes misspelled. The following would be very Jorune names: Peter Gauss, Vasanth Ramirez, Marie T’san. You can also combine Barsoom names with earth names e.g., Johnny Zareth, Chen Chakis, Davis Ko Bolar, or Omari Lendara.  

Bronth and Woffen born in Burdoth usually go by names that follow this pattern as well, although they will also have names in their respective iscin creoles. 

In the next couple of posts I'll talk about making your home village, selecting starting skills and proficiencies, and using dyshas. 


Here, have a badass female protagonist by the legendary Liz Danforth


3 comments:

  1. I'm not sure how you plan to do the combat mechanics for your Jorune yet,or how much stat checks will matter, or HP and progression -- but in general with OD&D hacks I've come to think that any stat bonus over +1 is dangerous given the traditional greater granularity in OD&D.

    If everything is on a D6 HD and AC capped at 2/18 a +2 to hit or damage is huge. This makes the ability to stack bonuses all the more effective then in B/X (overall higher HP/damage, absurd mid-level ACs)- especially as a PC levels and discovers new equipment.

    Just a thought.

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    Replies
    1. Good points all, and I have yet to playtest any of it. But there is no plus to damage available, except for size differences, e.g. the large boccord's +1 for size. (Strength doesn't modify damage.) There also probably won't be any "magical" weapons with bonuses to damage.

      There also are only very limited ways to to increase your ability to hit, since there are no classes or levels, and so one's attack bonus doesn't increase regularly. (There may be a way to bump it up by 1 or 2 over the entire course of a campaign, I'm not sure yet how that'll work.)

      So all you can do is get a little stronger, and learn to use weapons with bonuses to hit against foes wearing different levels of armor (usually at the cost of having some cool other power). Someone with a strength of +3 who is using a weapon with an adjustment of +3 against heavy armor (your "crushing" tag), still needs to roll a 12 to hit. That's pretty much the best case scenario. Maybe it could go as low as 11 or 10 if I also allow some kind of direct increase of attack bonus.

      And that's a character who will have had to do something in game pretty cool in the sandbox to unlock that +3 on strength. Keep in mind also that this is someone whose weapon probably won't get a +3 against medium or light armor, so they'll also have to roll a 12 or 9 to hit that, respectively.

      Doesn't seem too overpowered. The way I'm using your weapon tags is combined with my skill system, i.e. you only get the bonus of the tag if you have a proficiency in that kind of weapon.

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    2. Hey Gus, I worked me on my system of skill and stat checks (=saving throws) and did a deep dive on the math, and it turns out you were right. I should have listened to your experienced advice. I've changed the starting modifiers above. It works to make the races more equal and more about a little bump here and there than a game changer (which is what I wanted). So I'm happy with it now!

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