Game: River of Heaven SF Roleplaying Game
Publisher: D101 Games
Degree of Familiarity: Somewhat familiar. I've had the game rulebook since late September in PDF, and got the hardcover of the rulebook in mid-January. While the game uses the OpenQuest game system, a lite version of CHAOSium's BRP system, I've got some experience with BRP systems such as RuneQuest and Ringworld. Just doing the best I can.
Books Required: River of Heaven RPG.
Please note that this post is extremely long, as I've gone into the game mechanics a bit in terms of character creation, and have provided background on the character and the choices. Hence the majority of this post is behind the cut. That said, there is some of the game mechanics and descriptions of game world elements that I've skimped on in this write-up, so if you want to know more, just drop me a line in the Comments.
For those who are unfamiliar with the game, River of Heaven is a science fiction roleplaying game set in the 28th Century that can be defined as pre-Singularity (I leave it to the reader of this post to seek out the definition of "Singularity" here, but it essentially deals with humanity in the period that is before Transhumanism begins). It is a universe of spaceships and alien worlds, but it is also a universe based in real science, extrapolated from where current technologies might eventually lead.
Character generation in River of Heaven is a seven step process that is relatively easy and painless to get through, but still offers a good variety of choices and the like.
Step 0: Decide on a Character Concept.
While this isn't really necessary for roleplaying game character creation, I find that having a Character Concept really helps as it gives the player creating the character a good framework with which to start. Usually this is just a few sentences that describe what the character is all about.
I decide that I don't want to play a military type of character, but want someone who can be of assistance to the rest of the characters in the game. I decide to create a doctor, a man born on an Outremer world, who is serious about his medicine, but who also wanted to see the worlds of Human space, and so travels exchanging his services for transport. I decide the character's name is Dr. Jason Sagandar.
Step 1: Determine the Concept.
Once one has an idea of what one wants to play, the player looks through the various Concepts available for play, and chooses one. The Concepts provided are such things as Bounty Hunter, Datahawk, Missionary, Pilot, Reclaimer, and so forth that provide some suggested Skills, Augmentations (see below), and equipment for the character type, as well as a bit of a write-up about the Concept and how it applies in the universe of the 28th Century.
Looking through the list of Concepts provided in the game, I decide to go with the Good Doctor. This lists the following suggestions.
Suggested Skills: Medicine, Science (Biology).
Suggested Augmentations: LifeLog, Neural Interface.
Suggested Equipment: Compad, Medical Kit, Personal effects.
I make a note of these, and jot them down for later.
Step 2: Generating Characteristics.
The next step in the process is to determine the character's Characteristics. As per the OpenQuest game system, which is based on the BRP game system pioneered by CHAOSium, River of Heaven uses seven (7) characteristics which determine the character's physical, mental, and spiritual capabilities. These are: Strength (STR), Constitution (CON), Size (SIZ), Intelligence (INT), Power (POW), Dexterity (DEX), and Charisma (CHA). These are all pretty self-explanatory for most gamers, except Power (POW), which is a measure of a character's life force and the strength of his or her willpower. The values for the Characteristics are mainly based on species, and are used to derive several Attributes (see below).
Which leads us to the matter of Species. More correctly Subspecies. In River of Heaven, there are no alien species available for play (though there are three of them known to exist/have existed). The Human Subspecies for the game include Baseline Humans, Genies (who through biotech and genetic engineering have had defects repaired and enhancements added prior to birth, and even post birth, gene therapies have added to what nature provided), Skinnies (a catch-all term used to describe those humans who have spent most of their lives living in microgravity environments), Tweaks (those humans who have had their genetic/biological makeup extensively tweaked by bio-engineers, usually collected in a purposefully designed "package"), and Bioroids or Parahumans (biological robots, synthetic organisms of living tissue and cells yet created artificially, born through the process of exogenesis). Each of these Human Subspecies has certain base values for their Characteristics, and may gain a suite of abilities (in terms of Augmentations) depending. Players have the option of using either the Points Method or the Random Method for determining the character's Characteristics.
Looking through the various Subspecies for the game, I decide that Jason is a Genie. Since I have a good idea of what I want in the character, I don't want to leave it to the dice (Random Method), and so choose to determine my Characteristics through the Points Method. As a Genie, STR, CON, DEX, SIZ, and CHA all start at 10, while INT and POW begin at 8. I receive 14 extra points to allot to the Characteristics.
Looking at the base values, and the character I perceive Dr. Sagandar to be, I decide to put 6 points into INT, 3 points into POW, an additional 2 points into CHA, and 3 points into DEX. That covers my basic 14 points. However, I want a couple of more points, and using the Points Method rules, I can also lower a Characteristic to gain a Characteristic point. I decide to reduce my STR by 1 to 9, and raise my CHA to 13.
When I'm finished, Jason's Characteristics look like this:
STR 9, CON 10, DEX 13, SIZ 10, INT 14, POW 11, CHA 13.
Step 3: Determine Attributes.
Once the player character's Characteristics have been determined, the player can calculate the character's Attributes. Attributes are a set of secondary scores that define the character's potential to do and take physical damage, and the amount of bio-energy available to the character. The Attributes are Damage Modifier (DM), Hit Points (HP), Major Wound Level (optional), BioEnergy Points (BE), and Movement Rate. Each of these is talked about below.
The Damage Modifier (DM) is applied whenever a character uses a melee or thrown weapon. It is determined by adding Strength and Size together, and finding the value on the Damage Modifier Table.
Looking at Jason's Strength (10) and Size (10), adding them together for a value of 20, and then looking on the Damage Modifier Table, I determine that my doctor has a +0 modifier. In other words, he adds nothing. :)
Hit Points (HP) determine how much damage the character can sustain before reaching unconsciousness or death. Hit Points are calculated by taking the sum of Constitution and Size divided by 2, rounded up.
Since Jason has a Constitution of 10 and a Size of 10, this gives a total of 20, divided by 2, giving Jason 10 Hit Points. Not great, but not shabby for a non-combatant.
Major Wound Level in the game is an Optional Attribute, but I intend to use it in my games, so figured I'd calculate it here. When the character takes this amount of damage in one blow, they suffer a Major Wound. This value is derivwd from the Total Hit Points divided by 2, rounded up.
Based on his Hit Points of 10, the doctor has a Major Wound of 5. Yikes!
BioEnergy Points (BE) are used to activate the effects of any Augmentations a character may possess. The BioEnergy Points a character has are equal to the sum of Power and Constitution divided by 2, rounded up.
Looking at Jason's Power (11) and Constitution (10), this sums to 21. Dividing by 2, rounded up, Jason has 11 BioEnergy Points.
Finally, Movement Rate is the distance in metres that the character can move in a five-second Combat Round.
Since Jason is a Human character, and has no enhancements in this regard, he has a default Movement Rate of 15 metres.
Step 4: Determining the Character's Skills.
The next step in character creation is to calculate the player character's Skills. All player characters start with several groups of Skills. These include Resistances (skills that get the character out of harm's way), Combat Skills (that measure the character's skills in physical violence), Knowledge Skills (that measure the intellectual skills of the character), and Practical Skills (measure the character's ability to perform a variety of everyday and specialist tasks). The character is able to use each of the Skills under these groupings at base levels, dependent on the character's set of Characteristics. For example, the Dodge Skill under Resistances has a base percentage of DEX+10, while the Drive Skill under Practical has a base percentage of DEX+INT.
The player receives a certain number of points to distribute between the Skills for each of the groups, with no more than 30 points to be allocated to one Skill, as follows:
Resistances: 50 points between the three Skills.
Combat: 50 points between the four Skills.
Knowledge: 50 points between the Skills.
Practical: 75 points between the Skills.
So, let's proceed with our example.
Knowing that Jason Sagandar is a doctor, with some real world experience as well, I allot the points to his various skills.
There are three Resistances that I can spend 50 points on. These are Dodge, Persistence, and Resilience. Since I figure that the doctor is pretty healthy, I assign 25 points to Resilience. I figure being able to get out of the way during combat is important to the doctor, so assign 20 points to Dodge, and I put the final 5 points into Persistence. This makes the final totals for those Skills:
Resistances: Dodge 43, Persistence 26, Resilience 46.
There are four Combat Skills, and I receive 50 points to spend on them. These are Close Combat, Ranged Combat, Unarmed Combat, and Heavy Weapons. Jason's knowledge of anatomy serves him well in knowing where to strike the human body to cause the most damage, but he doesn't risk his hands (he's a doctor after all!), so I assign 5 points to Unarmed Combat. On the world he grew up on, Jason also learned how to use primitive weapons, and so I put 15 points into Close Combat. And while Jason is quite knowledgeable about firearms, he prefers not to use them, so I assign the final 30 points to Ranged Combat.
Combat Skills: Close Combat 37, Ranged Combat 57, Unarmed Combat 27.
There are a number of Knowledge Skills that I won't go into here, and the character receives a total of 50 points to split between the Skills. Since Jason is a doctor, and I made a note of the suggested Skills for the character, I assign the full 30 points to the Science (Biology) skill. I decide that Jason's travels have given him a bit of knowledge of other Cultures and Languages, so I assign 10 points each to Culture (Other) and Language (Other). Finally, since Jason comes from a world where the people had to survive in the natural world, I assign the final 10 points to Natural Sciences.
Knowledge Skills: Culture (Own) 24, Culture (Other) 24, Language (Own) 64, Language (Other) 24, Natural Sciences 34, Science (Biology) 44.
Finally, there are a series of Practical Skills that I won't go into here again, and the character receives a total of 75 points to distribute among them. Again, Jason being a doctor, I assign 30 points to the Medicine Skill. I think of Jason as quite perceptive, and so assign 15 points into Perception. Since he's got some experience with interplanetary (and some interstellar) travel, I put 5 points into EVA. Jason's bedside manner needs to be somewhat more conducive to interacting with his patients, so I assign 15 points into Influence, and since Jason barters his way around when he travels, I assign 10 points to the Trade Skill.
Practical Skills: EVA 5, Influence 15, Medicine 30, Perception 15, Trade 10.
And that's the starting Skills for the character.
Note that the listings above only provide the Skills from the character's point allotments added to the base value of the Skills in question. I will include all of the Skills from each category in the final stats, at the bottom of this entry.
Step 5: Work Out What Augmentation the Character Has.
In the universe of River of Heaven, there are many ways to improve on the body that nature gave you. In addition to genetic tweaking prior to birth, it's possible to augment one's body with technologies. I won't go into detail here about the various Augmentations available, but there's a good number of them that serve useful purposes in this game. The effectiveness of any installed Augmentation is measured by the character's Augmentation Activation Skill. This is determined by taking Power x 3. The amount of BioEnergy Points spent is based on whether the Augmentation is Active or Passive.
In Jason's case, with a POW of 11, he has the Augmentation Activation Skill at 33.
Augmentations occur in Magnitudes (such as Night Vision 1, etc.), and the player starts with six (6) points to spend on the character's Augmentations, where each point spent is equivalent to one level of Magnitude.
I decide on Jason's Augmentations, and how I want to spend the 6 points on them. Remembering the guidelines back at the beginning of character generation, I start by taking the LifeLog Aug (constant recording of events, coupled with optical and audio text-recognition software creates an indexed and searchable memory) and Neural Interface (allows the user to see Augmented Reality displays natively with no need for interface HUD). I spend 2 points on LifeLog and the minimum 2 points necessary for the Neural Interface, leaving me with 2 points left. Looking through the list of other Augmentations and thinking about the character that I want, I decide on Hypaedia (a bonus to pre-defined Knowledge Skills) 1, choosing Science (Chemistry) for this purpose, and Tolerance (an environmental tolerance) for High-G at 1. That covers my 6 points of Augmentations, giving me:
Augmentations: Hypaedia 1, LifeLog 2, Neural Interface 2, Tolerance (High-G) 1.
Note that between Steps 5 and 6, there are some optional sections for Personality Traits and Motives, but I haven't included those here, opting (no pun intended) to describe more on these in Jason Sagandar's background write-up.
Step 6: Starting Cash and Starting Equipment.
The player next calculates the character's starting money and equipment. The player starts with the equivalent of 4d6 x 100 Kentauran Bezants (a unit of currency employed in the Kentauran Hegemony, but translatable across various star systems to some degree.
I roll 4d6, and come up with a 2, 5, 7, and 6 on the dice, for a total of 20, giving Jason a starting total of 2,000 Kentauran Bezants (KB).
The player decides on the starting equipment of the character. Each Character Concept that was mentioned back in Step 2 above begins with certain equipment, and then the player has the option of spending some of their hard-earned KBs :) to add some equipment to their list.
Jason Sagandar is a doctor, and so the suggested equipment was a Compad, a Medical Kit, and some Personal effects. So I go with these to start at no cost. For his Personal effects, I decide that Jason has a holophoto of his mother, father, and two siblings, from when he and his sibs were relatively young, in their early teens. He also has a love letter from Jaina Pinciotti, the love of his life, who died a decade or so back, and the engagement ring that he gave her. He also has a copy of his medical degree certificate that he keeps safe in a tube of some metal that he picked up several years ago. In addition, I start Jason off with a vibro-blade weapon (cost 750 KB), a skinsuit (a form of bodystocking-like light armoured compression suit worn by folks on ships, cost 200 KB), a couple of sets of decent clothing cost 300 KB), an older PDA (cost 40 KB), a set of 5 glowsticks (negligible cost), and an intercity MagLev ticket (25 KB). When I total up the costs for the stuff, I find that Jason has used up 1315 KB, leaving him with 685 Kentauran Bezants. Hmm, need to find a job or two... :)
Step 7: Finish Off the Character.
The player finishes off the character creation process. First off, the player determines the Age of the character that he or she will play. Human characters start off at between 18 and 28 years of age, though there are rules for creating older, Veteran characters.
I decide not to use the Veteran rules for the purpose of creating Jason, but do want him to be slightly older than the norm to reflect his travelling and so forth. I decide that Jason is 32 years of age.
Each player character starts the game with 2 Hero Points. Hero Points are what distinguish player characters from normal, stay-at-home type folk. Hero Points allow the player to re-roll a failed dice roll, downgrade a Major Wound to a normal wound, avoid character death, and a couple of other things.
As per the basics, Jason starts the game off with 2 Hero Points. I record this on the character sheet.
And that, as they say, is that. Character creation for the River of Heaven SF roleplaying game is complete. The character that I end up with, Dr. Jason Sagandar, looks like this.
DR. JASON SAGANDAR
Born on the Outremer world of Jackson's Folly, Jason Sagandar grew up the son of a pair of agrarian parents, and has two siblings. Bright, somewhat dexterous, and charismatic, it was clear from an early age that Jason wouldn't lead the life of a farmer. Life on Jackson's Folly was simple, though the planet does have its dangers in terms of several predatory lifeforms. Jason learned to be comfortable in the natural world, and the survival skills required for it, as well as learning how to use primitive weapons at an early age to defend himself and the various domesticated and food animals. However, he yearned for more, and wanted to travel. His parents scraped by and saved enough money that they were able to send Jason to medical school in the Kentauran Hegemony (his brightness and aptitude for the studies didn't hurt), and at the tender age of 13 Jason left the world he knew behind.
His medical training progressed relatively rapidly, and Jason became a full-fledged doctor of medicine. While he worked for several years in a medical facility and learned what he could and became a better doctor for it, he still wanted to travel, to see some of what the worlds colonised by humans held. He wanted an adventure. Having the funds to enhance himself somewhat, beyond what his parents had given him in terms of gene engineering him in utero, Jason had his body slightly augmented to take high-g forces. During his travels, he met and fell in love with a technician named Jaina Pinciotti, and the two fell in love and became engaged. And then, 10 years ago, Jaina died under circumstances that Jason never talks about. Whatever happened to Jaina, it changed Jason. While he was pretty emotionally revealing before the "accident", Jason has become more introverted in some ways since the incident, and has become more emotionally detached from his patients than he was before. Deep down, Jason continues to enjoy travelling the spaceways, and exchanges his medical services for transport, lodging, and the like.
He's a devoted practitioner of the healing arts, but realises on some deep level that he wants more out of life. Jason has a good knowledge of anatomy that serves him well in knowing where to strike the human body to cause the most damage, but he doesn't want to risk his hands (he's a doctor after all!), and while he's knowledgeable about firearms, his medical training has led him to prefer more peaceable solutions. Jason's various travels have left him with an open mind about other people and cultures, but he's seen enough and the death of his fiance has taught him that the universe is a hazardous place, and that some of the two-legged creatures are more dangerous than any of the animals he encountered back on Jackson's Folly. Recently, he encountered a woman who reminds him of someone from his past, but has been unable to remember who she is...
Hit Points: 10
Major Wound: 5
Damage Modifier: +0
BioEnergy Points: 11
Movement Rate: 15m
Armour: Skinsuit (4 AP)
Resistances: Dodge 43, Persistence 26, Resilience 46.
Combat Skills: Close Combat 37, Ranged Combat 57, Unarmed Combat 27, Heavy Weapons 14.
Knowledge Skills: Computer 24, Culture (Own) 24, Culture (Other) 24, Language (Own) 64, Language (Other) 24, Natural Sciences 34, Pilot 27, Religion (Own) 24, Science (Biology) 44.
Practical Skills: Athletics 22, Craft 24, Deception 27, Driving 27, Engineering 24, EVA 32, Influence 38, Mechanisms 27, Medicine 54, Performance 23, Perception 40, Streetwise 24, Trade 34.
Hypaedia 1, LifeLog 2, Neural Interface 2, Tolerance (High-G) 1.
Personal effects (holophoto of his mother, father, and two siblings, from when he and his sibs were relatively young, in their early teens; love letter from Jaina Pinciotti, the love of his life, who died a decade or so back; engagement ring that he gave her; copy of his medical degree certificate that he keeps safe in a tube of some metal that he picked up several years ago)
Vibro-blade (damage 1d8+3)
Skinsuit (4 AP)
Couple of sets of decent clothing
PDA (older version)
Intercity MagLev ticket (25 KB).
Cash: 685 KB
And there's the first character that I created for the River of Heaven sf roleplaying game. While the write-up on the character is quite long and may seem like a complicated process, it's really not. Jason took me about 1 hour, 20 minutes to create, and that was a first character. (Not including the background, although I suspect that would have made things go even faster if I'd done the background first.) And with practice, I can see myself taking maybe 40 minutes to creating player characters for the River of Heaven RPG.
Anyway, that's it. Comments and feedback on the game, the mechanics, and the character are welcome. :)