Game: Coriolis - The Third Horizon Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Free League Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: Somewhat familiar. I was one of the proofreaders/editors of the English version of the game, and have run a few sample character creation sessions (and a bit of play) on the three gaming groups I've got leading up to the game's release. So...familiar with the game its material.
Books Required: Coriolis - The Third Horizon.
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 don't know, Coriolis - The Third Horizon is a science fantasy roleplaying game that was originally billed as "Firefly meets Arabian Nights" but as since been changed to "Arabian Nights in space". Coriolis is set in the Third Horizon, a cluster of 36 star systems cut off from the first two Horizons by actions taken during the Portal Wars. This game is about crewing a spacecraft; exploring the Third Horizon; unravelling some of its secrets; plotting and scheming aboard the Coriolis station; carrying out missions; and praying to the Icons. It's got a very Middle Eastern flavour and feel to it, and that makes it very different and unique among science fiction rpgs these days. The game owes a lot to the Firefly tv series, the Revelation Space series of books by Alastair Reynolds, and to the Alien movies as its primary inspirations, but there are lots of others as well (including Frank Herbert). Anyway, here's the character creation process. Bear in mind that this material is quite long, due to the way the background section is written up.
Step A: 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. This is basically a one- or two-sentence bit that gives you all the essentials about what the character in question is.
Looking over the material for the Coriolis RPG, I decide to create a station-born technician, who's been blamed for the deaths of two families on board a ship due to faulty equipment but it actually wasn't his fault.
I think this character has a lot of potential, but we'll see where things go in the Character Generation Process...
In Coriolis - The Third Horizon, Character Generation does not start with the player character, but with the Group Concept for the player characters as a whole.
Step 1: The players determine the Group Concept that they want to play as part of.
The first step in Character Creation is to determine the player group's Group Concept. This consists of all kinds of individuals - the Group Concept outlines the players' most basic reason for sticking together in the Third Horizon. The game offers several of these to choose from: Free Traders, Mercenaries, Explorers, Agents and Pilgrims. These tend to be very broad concepts, and are open to a lot of wiggle room for the character concept to fit in. Each Group Concept also helps narrow down the kinds of adventures that you'd run into in the game (but which aren't the only types of adventures that you can expect).
Looking over the Group Concepts with the other (theoretical) players, I decide on the Explorer Group Concept, but don't narrow it down to a sub-concept here. This sounds like it could be fun!
Step 2: The players pick and create their Ship.
The player characters will start with a spaceship. For Coriolis, the group's ship should be suited to the Group Concept (see above). In Coriolis, the group begins with a ship, preferably one suited to the group concept, though nothing prevents the group from taking a ship with entirely different qualities. The players can choose to create and design a ship using the ship creation rules, or choose one of the pre-existing vessels given in the latter part of the rulebook. However starting with a spaceship isn't cheap, so the player characters will be in debt at the start of the game.
Since I'm only creating this character in a Player and Character void, I'm not going to create or choose a spaceship here. Maybe I'll do one as an exercise in another post, but not at the moment.
Since the player characters don't own their own ship to start play, the player characters are in debt. Debt is calculated as being half of the ship’s original value. However, who you owe is up to the players to figure out. It could be their Patron, it could be another NPC, or it could even be their Nemesis (see below)! Player characters are expected to pay back about 5% of their total debt per year in monthly payments. It's a neat mechanic, and a quick and easy way to ensure that player characters keep on taking on jobs.
Since I'm only creating this character in a Player and Character void, I'm not going to create or choose a spaceship here. This means I don't have to figure out the character's starting Debt. Maybe I'll do one as an exercise in another post, but not at the moment.
Step 3: The players determine the Group Talent for the group.
The players determine the Group Talent for the group. This is determined based on the Group Concept that the players decided on (see above). All the player characters in the Group can use the Talent. The Talent can be used individually by every character in the Group unless specifically stated.
Looking through the Group Talents for the Explorers, I see listed Seasoned Travellers, Survivors, and Truth Seekers. Evaluating the three Group Talents, I decide on the Seasoned Travellers Talent for the group. This allows the characters to test the Manipulation Skill rather than the Culture Skill to understand a group's customs. I think it'll come in pretty useful.
Step 4: The players pick the Patron for the Group.
The Third Horizon is a hard place, and getting anywhere without help is difficult. It's become a tradition of smaller ship crews to ally themselves with a powerful benefactor. The group of players should pick a Patron from the list provided for the Group Concept, or create one of their own choosing and decision-making.
Looking through the list of Patrons/Nemeses provided for the Explorers Group Concept, I decide to create one for myself. The Group's Patron is one Havor Martinuk-Demorn, of the Colonial Agency. He is passionate about finding new colony worlds, but not at the expense of the people who will colonise them. He's regularly given the group good assignments.
Step 5: The players pick the Nemesis for the Group.
The Third Horizon is a hard place, and getting anywhere without help is difficult. While it's traditional for smaller ship crews to ally themselves with a powerful benefactor, they also tend to make enemies who can suddenly turn up to spoil their plans or stay in the shadows as a lurking threat. The group of players should pick a Nemesis from the list provided for the Group Concept, or create one of their own choosing and decision-making.
Looking through the list of Patrons/Nemeses provided for the Explorers Group Concept, I decide to create one for myself. The Group's Nemesis is Kevat darPhenvo, a rich Dar on Dabaran, whose plans the group has interfered with several times in the past. He has vowed revenge on them when they least expect it.
Once the players have created their Group and its various details, the players proceed to create their individual player characters.
Step 6: The player chooses the Background for the character.
The first step in creating the Individual player character is to chooose the Background for the character. This includes the Origin and Upbringing of the player character.
The Origin of the character means which star system the character is from, and whether they are Zenithian or Firstcome. Each of these choices gives a different outlook on the universe, so being able to make a decision here can help ease the way you think of the character as you develop them.
For my character's Origin, I decide to roll on the table provided, and roll a "3" on 1D6. This means that I come from Kua, the centre of the Horizon, home to the space station Coriolis. I decide that my character is Firstcome, not Zenithian, and this gives me an interesting view of the world and the Third Horizon.
The character's Upbringing determines whether the character is from a remote colony in the jungles that now covers a ruined metropolis from the first wave of colonisation or whether he grew up among the travelling nomads, going from station to station, or any other combination thereof. The three Upbringings are Plebeian (the lower classes of the Horizons workers as well as planetside colonists and nomads), Stationary (raised on major space stations or asteroids), and the Privileged (the highest social strata - bureaucrats and factory owners in the Conglomerate, Dabaran pashas and wealthy merchants on Coriolis, or pure-blooded Hegemonists in the Monolith). The Upbringing of the character affects many area of the player character development: Attributes, Skills, and Reputation score at the start of the game, as well as starting capital.
Looking over the three Upbringings, I decide that the character was born on Coriolis station itself, and thus he is Stationary. This gives me 14 Attribute points, 10 Skill points, a starting Reputation of 4, and a Starting Capital of 1,000 Birr (the currency in the game). Not too bad.
Step 7: The player determines the character's Concept.
Unlike the overall Character Concept (Step A, above), this is when the player figures out what the character has done in his life up to this point. The Concept tells you what you do for a living. There are 11 Concepts available for play (for example, Artist, Data Spider, Pilot, Preacher, Scientist), with 3 Sub-Concepts for each (for example, Artist has Courtesan, Musician and Poet; Scientist has Archaeologist, Medicurg and Technician). The Concept affects your Attributes, which Skills and Talents you can take, your Gear, Relationships, and Personal Problem.
Looking through the various Concepts, I settle on the Scientist (Technician). I note the write-up for the character as follows:
"Scientist (Technician): You work with anything technical, from old sensors to ship's reactors. You could be a ship engineer on the Harima docks, an artifact technician with the Consortium or maybe a gunsmith in a band of mercenaries."
In addition, taking this Concept gives me the following:
Key Attribute: Wits
Concept Skills (Technician): Force, Technology, Observation, Science
This is a good start.
Step 8: The player determines the character's Reputation score.
The player determines the character's Reputation score. Reputation is a rating that decides the character's social position and standing in the Horizon. It is determined by the character's Upbringing and Concept as noted in the Steps above.
Due to his Upbringing, the character starts with a Reputation score of 4. His Concept of the Scientist (Technician) increases his Reputation by +1, to a value of 5. Not bad for a starting character.
The player determines the character's Name.
Each Concept has a group of suggested names for characters. One can choose something from the list, or come up with a name of one's own.
Nothing on the list of suggested names does anything for me, so I do some searching and digging and decide on the player character's Name: Muhammed ibn Kefiris.
The player determines the character's Appearance.
Each Concept has a listing of suggested facial features and clothing for characters. One can choose something from the lists, or come up with appearance details and clothing on one's own.
Looking at the list of suggested appearance elements, I decide that Muhammed has inquisitive, green eyes. He also wears dark cargo shorts and boots while working on station, and wears a dark green djellaba at other times.
Step 11: The player may distribute their Attribute Points as they see fit.
Player characters in Coriolis have a set of four (4) Attributes. These are Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy. The player must take a minimum of 2 in any Attribute, and a maximum of 4 in any Attribute, except their Key Attribute (see Step 7, above), which may be set at 5 if the player wishes.
Since I have a set of 14 Attribute points to assign, due to my Upbringing (see Step 6, above) and I have a Key Attribute of Wits (see Step 7, above), I assign my Attributes as follows:
Strength 3, Agility 4, Wits 5, Empathy 2
Not much of a people person. :)
Step 12: The player determines the character's Hit Points and Mind Points.
Once the player has assigned the character's Attribute Points, they can now calculate the Hit Points (HP) and Mind Points (MP). Hit Points determine how much physical trauma and punishment the character can take. These are determined by the sum of Strength plus Agility scores (Strength + Agility). Mind Points determine how much mental and psychological trauma the character can take. These are determined by the sum of Wits plus Empathy scores (Wits + Empathy).
Looking at Muhammed's Attribute scores, I determine that his Hit Points equal Strength (3) + Agility (4) equal 7. His Mind Points equal his Wits (5) + Empathy (2), also 7. Muhammed's mind and body are both relatively able.
Step 13: The player may distribute their Skill Points as they see fit.
Skills in Coriolis work in pairs, combined with Attributes, to determine how well the character can accomplish tasks and the like during the course of the game. There are sixteen (16) Skills in the game, divided into two groups of 8 Skills, the General and the Advanced. The General Skills can be used unskilled, whereas the Advanced Skills cannot be used unless the player has at least 1 level in the Skill in question. Skills range from a value of 0 to 5, the higher being better. A character can raise his Concept Skills (see Step 7, above) to a maximum of 3, while all other Skills cannot be raised higher than 1.
From Muhammed's Upbringing (Stationary), the character has ten (10) Skill Points to distribute. Going back to Muhammed's Concept, the Concept Skills he receives are: Force, Technology, Observation, and Science. I decide to allocate Muhammed's Skill points as follows:
Not too shabby, and he's good at his job. :)
Step 14: The player chooses an Individual Talent.
The player chooses an individual Talent for the player character. Talents are tricks, cheats, and abilities that give your character an edge over others. They are more specialised than skills, and also give the player a means of adding further detail to the player character.
I look over the individual Talents available for my character under my Concept, I see that there are three: Field Medicurg, Gearhead, and Wealthy Family. I take the obvious one for my character: Gearhead. This reads,
"You love tinkering with gear and equipment. With a successful Technology test, you can repair an item or jury-rig a one-use contraption for a specific task. The number of sixes on your roll determines the gear bonus of the item."
Step 15: The player randomly determines their Icon and Icon Talent for the character.
The Nine Icons are ever-present in the Third Horizon, and almost all believe in their powr and the protection they offer from the Dark Between the Stars. You are born under the sign of one of the Icons, and it will have a tangible impact on your life and might just lend you supernatural powers. The player can either roll D66 and consult the table, or if they have the Icon Deck, can draw one of the Icon cards at random. Either way, fate determines which Icon's influence you fall under. In addition, the Icon that you are born under grants the character a special Icon Talent.
Since I have the Icon Deck for Coriolis, I randomly draw one of the Icon cards: The Lady of Tears. Her Talent reads...
The Lady of Tears' Talent
You can get back up after having been broken by damage or stress, and are immediately restored to 1 HP or MP. Alternately, you can choose to ignore the effects of a critical injury when you suffer one."
Step 16: The player chooses a Personal Problem for the character.
The player chooses a Personal Problem for the character. The player character has a history in Coriolis. They've been through something before the beginning of the game that haunts or threatens them - perhaps a mortal enemy, a dark secret, or a drug addiction. This is your Personal Problem. Each Concept lists three suggestions that the player can choose from, or they can create one of their own with the permission of the GM.
I look over the list of Personal Problems for the Scientist (Technician), and decide that I don't really like the ones listed there. So I create one of my own for Muhammed:
"You were responsible for the deaths of two families on a ship due to faulty wiring in the life support system. Their surviving family members are hunting you down."
That should cause some problems in play! :)
Step 17: The player determines their character's Relationship to the other player characters.
As you enter the game, you already have relationships to the other player characters. These relationships affect how you gain Experience Points and make a useful tool for the GM. Each of the Concepts lists four (4) Relationships that one can assign to one's fellow player characters, or the player can make up ones of their own with the GM's approval. In addition, once the player has chosen the Relationships to the other player characters, one should check off one of the other characters as one's Buddy, one's best friend in the group.
Since there are two other "players" the proposed group, Altia (Tammy's character) and Rajoub (Steve's character), I need to have Relationships for Muhammed to both of them. After looking over the Scientist (Technician) list of suggested Relationships, I decide to create two of my own:
Altia: Knows her way around the ship systems, but she's technically ignorant. Buddy [X]
Rajoub: He may be brilliant when it comes to science, but he's socially as cold as the moon of Soldur. Buddy [ ]
I'm content with these.
Step 18: The player chooses the starting Gear for the player character.
The player chooses the starting Gear for the character. The character Concept gives the player several choices, in which there are several rows of Gear with two options, and the player chooses one option for the character per row. In addition, the Upbringing (see Step 6, above) of the character gave the character a certain amount of Starting Capital in birr. The player can spend some of this capital in order to purchase additional equipment that is desired.
Looking at the Scientist (Technician) Concept list of the equipment, I choose the proximity sensor, a computer, an exo shell, a pressure tent, and tools (advanced) as Muhammed's starting Gear.
I would add a communicator (III), a compass, and a few other items to the character's inventory if I were playing the character, spending some birr in the process. But I'm not going to do that here, since this is just a sample character.
The player determines the starting Crew Position of the character.
Since the players have already chosen and/or created their spaceship, it's time to decide who does what on board. There are five Crew Positions for the characters: Captain, Engineer, Pilot, Sensor Operator, and Gunner. The Crew Positions are primarily important in space combat.
Based on the Skills that I choose for Muhammed (see Step 13, above), I decide that Muhammed would best serve the crew as the Engineer. The other players are likely to agree with me. :)
So when all is said and done, and the character is finished, we end up with the following:
MUHAMMED ibn KEFIRIS
Concept: Scientist (Technician)
Crew Position: Engineer
Group Concept: Explorers
Icon: The Lady of Tears
Strength 3, Agility 4, Wits 5, Empathy 2
Hit Points: 7
Mind Points: 7
SKILLS: Dexterity 1, Force 2, Observation 2, Science 2, Technology 3.
TALENTS: Seasoned Traveller (Group Talent), The Lady of Tear's Talent, Gearhead
EQUIPMENT: Proximity sensor, Computer, Exo shell, Pressure tent, and Tools (Advanced).
BIRR: Less than 1,000.
Responsible for the deaths of two families on a ship due to faulty wiring in the life support system. Their surviving family members are hunting you down.
RELATIONS TO OTHER PCS:
Altia (Tammy): Knows her way around the ship systems, but she's technically ignorant. Buddy [X]
Rajoub (SteveR): He may be brilliant when it comes to science, but he's socially as cold as the moon of Soldur. Buddy [ ]
Muhammed was born on Coriolis station to parents who didn't really love him as they should, as they cared more about their work than they did about him. He didn't have any siblings, and so played with other children, but had much more rapport with tools and machinery. He took his electronic toys (and other equipment) apart, but wasn't able to put them together at first, though he seemed to learn very quickly. This was seen by his father, who had him apprenticed quite young to a station technician, and Muhammed took to his new vocation relatively quickly.
As he grew, Muhammed came to love working with equipment, his hands covered in oil and machinery and gear lubricants, and grew to be something of a loner, though he did socialise (not well) when he got the chance. He took the opportunity to become a technician on various ships, notably small freighters and a few passenger vessels. It was during one such voyage, on a passenger ship called the Marhib's Rend, that he was seemingly responsible for the deaths of two families due to faulty wiring in the life support system. Their surviving family members are hunting you down, though the evidence showed that he wasn't responsible for their deaths.
Thinking that a "new life" might be in order, with little time spent planetside, Muhammed decided to join up with the crew of his current ship (with the other player characters). They've since made an enemy along the way, but he finds that he likes working on the ship, taking care of all of its technical issues, though he's afforded much less time to work on problems and less space than he'd like.
And there's the first character that I created for the Coriolis - The Third Horizon science fantasy roleplaying game. While the write-up on the character is quite long and may seem like a complicated process, it's really not. Muhammed took me about about 2-1/2 hours to create, and that includes the time that it took to read sections of the book on various aspects of the character, and he was my first character for the game system.
Anyway, that's it. Comments and feedback on the game, the mechanics, and the character are welcome. :)