Game: Fvlminata: Armed with Lightning Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition
Publisher: Thyrsus Press
Degree of Familiarity: Very. I ran the original version of this game, and the 2nd Edition as well for several years. I haven't run it in a few years, but it'll all come back to me as I do the character up, I'm sure. :)
Books Required: Fvlminata: Armed with Lightning 2nd Edition
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.
So, what is Fvlminata: Armed with Lightning? The game is set against the backdrop of the mighty Roman Empire, and is for the most part a historical roleplaying game. However, the game is definitely considered alternate historical because, as the name of the game implies, Fvlminata postulates an alternate reality of the Roman Empire, where Auifidius Caelus discovered the secrets of gunpowder [fvlminata] in AD 96, and changed the shape of the Roman Empire forever. Furthermore, the world of Fvlminata behaves according to the ancient worldview, which allows the characters to inhabit a world of mystic secrets, spirits, and potent magics (but all from the Roman view of the times). One can definitely run the game without the gunpowder elements and the magical elements, and use the readily available historical timelines of the Roman Empire to do a significantly more historical game, or one can run the game in the default setting or anywhere in between. That said, unlike many of the Roman RPGs that have been published in recent years that have been influenced by movies such as Gladiator and the like, where fighting and combat in the Roman military or gladiatorial arenas are the focus of the game (and yes, that was a generic statement), Fvlminata focuses on the social nature of Roman society, and on being *Roman*. This is a game about political and social intrigue and daily life, but it does allow for combat and arena battles, if that is what the players and GameMaster desire.
Step I: Come up with a Character Concept for the player character that you want to play.
The first step that I always include in my games is to have the player come up with a Character Concept for the character they want to play. While this is not a step found in a lot of RPGs, it is one found in the Fvlminata RPG. This is basically a one- or two-sentence bit that gives you all the essentials about what the character in question is.
Given that this game is to be set in the alternate history Roman world, I think long and hard about the character type that I'd like to play. I decide to go against the grain a bit here, and it's a good means of showing off the game system a bit. Since I don't tend to play female characters, I start with the decision to play a male charater. Not that one can't play a female character in the game, but I choose not to. With that out of the way, I decide to play a character born into a good family, who became the black sheep of the family, and is an...entertainer. :)
Step II: Choose the character's Rank.
Once the player has decided on a basic character Concept for the character [persona], the player needs to decide on the character's Rank. Roman society is a class society, and a persona's Rank determines his position in society, his privileges and legal rights. It affects everything about a persona's interactions with other people from birth to the grave. The classes in Roman society include: Senators [Senatores], Equestrians [Equites], Plebeians [Plebs], Freedmen [Libertini], Foreigners [Externi], and Slaves [Servii], in that order. I won't go into detail here about the Roman Ranks, but refer you to a decent article here: Social class in Ancient Rome. (Note that the Patrician class is not included in the game, as these class distinctions are more based on the census rather than the ancestry social Rank; the Patricians are the aristocratic sub-class of the Senatorial Rank that traces the family's genealogy to the beginnings of Rome, or even Divine origin. There is more to the Ranks than this in Roman society, but I'll leave the reader to do as much research as he or she likes on the subject.)
Also note that the Rank that a player chooses for their persona confers certain Skills and ability levels to them. (These will be addressed later on here.)
Looking at the various Ranks and their descriptions, I decide that the character's family is a banking one, or at least into finance on some level. Since that is a suitable occupation for an Equestrian family, I settle on the Equestrian Rank for the character.
Step III: Choose the character's Occupation.
Life in the (Roman) Imperium is not easy. Most people in the world of Fvlminata must work for their daily bread. Those who do not, like members of the Senatorial Rank, are still bound by custom and duty to spend their days working for the public in the government or the military. A persona's work and occupation helps define who he is. Basically, it's what your character does. Each occupation in the game is accompanied by suggestions for Ranks and Skills. These Skills are not provided, so the player must purchase the Skills for their persona later on in the process (see below).
Having decided with the Character Concept (see Step I, above) that the persona is going to be an entertainer, I realise that his Rank (Equestrian, see Step II above) isn't really suited to the profession I want. The Entertainer can be any Rank except Senator or Equestrian. So I decide to take the Entertainer anyway, and will need to come up with a reason why he became an entertainer and broke ranks with the family. I decide that the character rebelled against the family, and became a singer, flute player, and theatrical performer. The suggested Skills for the occupation are Music, Poetry, and Theatre. I'll need to be sure to take these when I purchase Skills (see below).
Step IV: The player purchases the character's Attributes.
Once the player has chosen his persona's Rank and Occupation, the player needs to purchase the character's Attributes. These are part of what make him unique from all other Romans, the other being Skills (see Step V, below). Attributes are the persona's innate potential for doing certain kinds of things. There are four Attributes in the Fvlminata RPG: Intelligentia (I) (mental perception, memory, problem-solving, and intelligence), Agilitas (A) (quickness, physical agility, and manual dexterity), Pietas (P) (sense of moral duty to Roman society, as well as intuition), and Vis (V) (physical strength, stamina, and sturdiness). Each Attribute is rated from 5 (Crippled) to 15 (Paragon).
The player receives a total of 42 points to distribute between the persona's Attributes. In addition, Attribute ratings give the player positive or negative modifiers that can be applied to a roll when using the Attribute in question.
Looking over the concept for the character that I want to play and the persona's occupation, I decide how I want to allot my 42 Attribute points. I decide the character has an Average Intelligentia, and spend 10 of my points on that Attribute, leaving me 32 points left. I figure I'm going to need some Agilitas for my occupation, and that Vis probably won't hurt as well, so I assign 12 points into Agilitas, leaving me 20 points, and 11 points to Vis, leaving me 9 points. These 9 points go into my final Attribute, Pietas. The score of 12 in my Agilitas gives me a modifier of +1. Thus, my final Attributes look like this:
I 10, A 12 (+1), P 9, V 11.
Step V: The player purchases the persona's Skills.
Once the player has purchased the persona's Attributes, it is time for the player to purchase the player character's Skills. Like Attributes, these are part of what make him unique from all other Romans, Skills represent learned aptitudes at specific sorts of tasks. The Skills are broken into groups based on which God or Goddess of the Roman pantheon patronised the use of that skill. For example, Mercurius is the God of Trade, Travel, and Thieves, so the Skills Coin, Move, Thief, Trade, and Trick all fall under his sphere. Each persona chooses one God or Goddess to be their Patron deity, and as a blessing, the persona may raise the Skill Rating of each skill under the God's sphere of influence by one. (These will be denoted with an asterisk after each Skill.)
The player receives 42 points to distribute between the persona's Skills. For starting persona, no Skill can exceed 5 (6, if the Skill is under the Patron God or Goddess). Note that starting persona receive free Skills based on their starting Rank (see Step II, above). Also note that certain Skills in the game have prerequisites (other Skills) that must be met before they can be chosen and purchased at various levels. The prerequisite Skills must have a level of 3 before purchasing the advanced Skill.
In order to start the Skill process, I refer back to the section on Rank (Step II, above), and determine my starting Skills as an Equestrian. These include: Language (Latin) 2, Language (Greek) 2, and Horse 2.
I then start to think about the Skills I want the character to have for his occupation, the Entertainer. I start with Music (Flute) and purchase it at 4, Theatre Skill at 3, increase my Language (Latin) by one to 3 (as it's a prerequisite for Poetry), and buy Poetry at 3. This costs me a total of 11 points so far. Figuring that I want some Diplomacy skill, learned through my family, I purchase Rhetoric and Harmony both at 3, and then purchase Diplomacy at 2, for a total spent now of 19 points. Since I come from an upper crust family, I also purchase Customs (Patrician) at 2, as well as knowledge of the Plebs as Customs (Plebeians) 2, City Skill at 2, Knowledge (Imperium) 2, Myth 2, Wine 1, Coin 2, Scribe 2, Groom 2, and Seduce 2. This brings my total points spent to 38 points. Finally, since my persona has been around a bit, I purchase Dagger 2 and Trick 2 to wrap it up with 42 points worth of Skills.
Given my occupation as an entertainer, I decide on Apollo (the God of the Arts, among other things) as my Patron, and gain a bonus of +1 to both Music (Flute) and Poetry Skills.
Therefore, my final Skills, are as follows:
*Music (Flute) 5, *Poetry 4, City 1, Coin 2, Customs (Patrician) 2, Customs (Plebeian) 2, Dagger 2, Diplomacy 2, Groom 2, Harmony 3, Horse 2, Knowledge (Imperium) 2, Language (Greek) 2, Language (Latin) 2, Myth 2, Rhetoric 3, Scribe 2, Seduce 2, Theatre 3, Trick 2, Wine 1.
Step VI: The player determines the character's Humors.
The Romans believe that a persona's body contains four fluids or humors that influence mood and motivation. These Humors are Melancholicus (M)(Black Bile) (depression, lack of energy), Sanguinicus (S) (Blood) (activity, lack of self-control), Flegmaticus (F) (Phlegm) (illness, lack of will), and Cholericus (X) (Yellow Bile) (anger, lack of nerves). The proportion of these Humors govern the behaviour and temperament of your persona. If they are in balance, the body is healthy; if imbalanced, the body is suffering from a physical, mental, or emotional temperament. Humors are rated from zero (well-balanced) to three (dangerously excessive levels). The four Humors come in opposed pairs: Melancholicus (M) and Sanguinicus (S), and Flegmaticus (F) and Cholericus (X). When creating the persona, the player character is assumed to be out of balance by three points. This could take the form of a three-point excess in one of the Humors or a two-point excess and a one-point excess in two of the Humors. Players can use Skill points to lessen the amount by which one is out of balance at a cost of one point per point of imbalance reduced.
Unbalanced Humors manifest as temperaments. A temperament is a predisposition to a certain physical, mental, or emotional state. A character with a Humor rating of three has the physical, mental, or emotional temperaments associated with that Humor at three. In the case of Humor ratings of two or one, a persona's lowest Attribute(s) will determine where the persona is susceptible. Finally, no persona may have more than one temperament of a given type (physical, mental, or emotional). I won't go into more detail about the Humors here, but suffice to say they are one of the most interesting elements of the game mechanics.
Since I did not leave any Skill points available to reduce the Humor imbalances... Looking at the Humors, I decide to go with a 1-point Cholericus excess, and a 2-point Flegmaticus excess. This means I must choose two temperaments. Checking my Attributes, my Pietas is 9, my Intelligentia is 10, and the average of my Agilitas and Vis is 11.5. Because of my low Pietas, the character is most susceptible to emotional temperaments. In case of the Flegmaticus 2 (listed as "F2"), the Emotional temperament is Cowardly. Since Intelligentia is the next lowest Attribute, the Cholericus 1 (listed as "X1") gives me a Mental temperament of Confident. Certainly an interesting combination. :) Thus, the two Humors look like this in the final listing:
X1 (Confident), F2 (Cowardly).
Step VII: The player determines the persona's Background.
Once the player has determined the game statistics for their persona, it is time to get to the nitty gritty of the character: Name, Homeland, Family history, and personality.
Most Roman Names consist of three terms. The praenomen is a private name, rarely used outside of the household Use of this name between two personae conveys an intimacy shared by couples, siblings, or lifelong friends. Improper public use of the name by strangers or enemies is considered an insult. The nomen is the family name, originally denoting to which clan [gens] a citizen belonged. The cognomen represents the individuality of a Roman citizen. In most cases, this is the name that identifies the character in public life. It could be a nickname, like Rufus ("Red-Haired"), Cicero ("Chickpea"), or Balbus ("Stammerer"). Anyway, 'nuff said about Roman names. If you want more information, go check out some links on-line. :)
After checking out several lists of various praenomen, nomen, and cognomen, I settle on a name for the character. For the persona's Praenomen, I settle on Claudius. For the Nomen, I take one of the existing ones and switch two letters around, and get Edipius. Finally, for the Cognomen, I settle on Macarus. Hence the persona's name: Claudius Edipius Macarus.
The player determines the Homeland of the character that he is going to play.
I decide that Macarus was born in Rome, but had left the city after his disagreement with the family.
The player determines a Family History for his persona.
As already mentioned, Macarus was born into an Equestrian Rank family, but left home and became an entertainer. See the Background section (below) for more details.
The player determines some basic personality for his persona. A smart player will take the character's Humors and temperaments into account during this process.
Given what I've done for the character so far, I settle on the following: Macarus prides himself on his wits, his guile, and his ability to entertain. He tends to be a confident young man, but is somewhat of a coward (and will flee from physical violence at the first opportunity).
So when all is said and done, and the character is finished, we end up with the following:
(Note: In the entry below, "MP" refers to Magic Points. Since the character does not wield magic, he has 0 MPs. "WP" refers to Wound Points (the first value is when a character goes unconscious, the second value is when a character is declared dead). Finally, "HP" refers to Humor Points. I didn't discuss them above in Step VI, but suffice to say that they are used similar to Drama or Fate Points in other systems to some degree.)
CLAUDIUS EDIPIUS MACARUS
ATTRIBUTES: I 10, A 12 (+1), P 9, V 11
HUMOURS: X1 (Confident), F2 (Cowardly)
MP: 0, WP: 11/22, HP: 3
SKILLS: *Music (Flute) 5, *Poetry 4, Customs (Patrician) 2, Customs (Plebeian) 2, Myth 2, Theater 3, Wine 1, City 1, Diplomacy 2, Rhetoric 3, Dagger 2, Coin 2, Trick 2, Scribe 2, Horse 2, Knowledge (Imperium) 2, Language (Latin) 3, Language (Greek) 2, Groom 2, Harmony 3, Seduce 2
Claudius Edipius Marcarus is a slim young man of 27, with gray eyes, black hair, and a wiry, muscular build. He is quite good looking, and tends to have an animated, mischievous face, smiling readily, with serious expressions very rarely seen on his features. Born and raised in a good family that specialized in finance, Macarus rebelled early on and became something of a black sheep in the family. Running away when he was 22, Macarus joined up with a troupe of musicians and performers led by Titus Pilandres, and became a singer, flute player, and theatrical performer. Surviving in cities around Italy on the strength of his wit and personality, Macarus prides himself on his wits, his guile, and his ability to entertain. He tends to be a confident young man, but is somewhat of a coward (and will flee from physical violence at the first opportunity). Macarus has returned to Rome only recently, having learned of the deaths of his father and eldest brother during the latest wars being waged by by Avidius, but has not decided how to deal with what he considers "a change in my social standing."
Equipment: Tunic, toga, large belt pouch (holds flute and juggling balls), backpack (with a few clothes), dagger, performance clothes
And there you have the character that I created for the Fvlminata: Armed with Lightning Roleplaying Game. This character took me about 35 minutes, plus I would say another half-hour of leafing through various sections of the Fvlminata: Armed with Lightning, 2nd Edition rulebook and aspects of character creation and development.
Comments and feedback are welcome. :)