Note: If you are already comfortable with the Character Generation process of this RPG and don’t want to wade back through all the various details and descriptions there is a Quick Character Gen section in the Appendix at the back of the book.
MAKING YOUR FIRST TAINTED CHARACTER
The character generation process for TAINTED comes with an outlying structure that, while optional, is encouraged and recommended – not just for building a solid character, but also for building a solid gaming group.
To that end, character generation should ideally happen in three distinct phases:
PHASE 1 :: CONCEPTS AND CONNECTIONS
The first phase of building a TAINTED character should happen at the table with your GM and the other players. The only parts of your character sheet you will be filling out in this portion of character generation is Tribe and Region at the very top of your sheet. These outline your character’s particular brand of Taint, and where he/she is from (Region).
Deciding your character’s name and gender is probably a good idea at this point as well, but not strictly necessary.
Once everyone has (individually or collectively) decided who they are and where they’re from, the next thing you need to do is determine how everyone in the party is connected. Are two of you cousins? Are you connected to another character through trade contacts? This part can be as elaborate or simple as you like, but in the end each character should be connected to every other character at at least one point, even if it’s several degrees removed (such as Character A is the cousin of Character B’s long time fishing partner).
Throughout all of this, the initial connections should have nothing to do whatsoever with character stats, professions, wealth, resources, etc. You will choose in phase 3 how many of those details you wish to incorporate in your connections, but the primary idea with this phase of character creation is to give the characters a solid foundation for working together. Nothing more.
You are not trying to fill set party roles or build the perfect tactical squad (you can if you want to – in which case stay together at the table for phase 2 – but that isn’t what this phase is intended to accomplish). This isn’t an old-school gathering of optimization (ala – I’ll be the Tank, you be the Healer, you be the Rogue, and you be the Wizard so we have all our bases covered), and in our opinion, you will find the game more interesting if you leave that particular paradigm behind.
PHASE 2 :: VITAL STATS, PROFESSIONS, & RESOURCES
This next phase in the process should be done individually (or with GM collaboration as necessary). Everyone should leave the table and find somewhere to work that’s a little away from everyone else. This phase is where you will fill in the bulk of your character sheet. You will set your character’s Vital Stats, choose his Professions, and allocate Resources. This is the part of the build that determines what your character’s strengths are, what kind of training he has, how deeply Tainted he is, and generally (as part of the resource allocation process) just goes into his deeper background (is he a street urchin with a vast assortment of underground contacts, the only heir to a wealthy land owner, or perhaps a minor nobleman’s daughter with a heavy hand for political influence).
This is the portion of character generation where you really decide who your character is and more importantly what he or she will be able to do and how well they’ll be able to do it.
PHASE 3 :: FINISHING TOUCHES
In this final stage the players come back to the table and flesh out their connections. This is not a time to show and share character sheets. This is where you decide on your truth and on your lies. For example, lets say your primary Profession is in Combat with secondary training in Infiltration and little to no understanding of Arcana whatsoever. Perhaps you’ll decide that given your character’s scarred face and knuckles and penchant for toting a machine rifle and a Taint-etched battleaxe wherever he goes that you’ll be up front about being a warrior, increasing your connection with the character who is your cousin by deciding you were trained in your uncle’s garrison in your youth and increasing your connection with the character who shares trade contacts with yours by deciding you were that tradesman’s caravan guard for a time. At the same time you might not want to overtly advertise that you’re the best pick pocket and second story man in the reaches and instead claim that you became something of an expert in Heraldry and Etiquette while serving as Castellan for one of the high houses of the Citadel.
Remember, you are not forging new connections, merely strengthening and giving detail to those initial connections, and giving your fellow players at least a loose idea of what their own characters might have experienced of your capabilities. The level of truth and lies you spread here is up to you. It all depends on how you intend to play your character and how much you wish to reveal. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the truth on the primary aspects of your character that will come out in play most often and where everyone can see, and to save deceptions for the secondary and tertiary aspects of your character that will naturally be harder to discover.
Another thing to consider at this stage is how much of your resources you wish to reveal. Wealth can be a hard one to hide, but secret contacts and political influence might be easier (and prudent) to withhold for a time.
The important thing to remember is that it is entirely up to you how much you share or withhold from the other players, and to understand that – eventually – they’re probably going to figure it out.
A NOTE ON GM-ING CHARACTER GENERATION
As in the game itself, the GM’s job in Character Generation is a cross between referee and informant.
In phase 1 that means keeping the players on task and offering suggestions and information as needed when they get stuck, so they can forge the bonds that will give them the reasons they need to work together and make note and track everything they decide on so that you can bring it together in the game. Your biggest creative endeavor in this phase will be to decide (either on your own or with the players) where the adventure will begin. In the Citadel (great for political games)? On a boat (lost at sea or on an errand for a mutual employer)? In the mountains (great for dungeon crawls or parties that are heavy on characters from Warden or Gypsii tribes)? This is where you’ll get an idea of what the initial shape of the campaign might be and can begin forging NPC connections with the PCs.
In phase 2 your job is mostly to be on hand to answer technical questions for the players as they build their PCs. If you have some down time you might want to make notes on each player’s primary and secondary professions and consider which NPCs will be interacting with them at the outset.
In phase 3 you are back at the table. In this phase your job is even more as a referee in that you need to be sure one player isn’t exerting undue influence to know another player’s character’s “real” stats and profession. Take time pulling players to the side to find out what they are keeping to themselves so you don’t inadvertently spill that knowledge in-game. Under no circumstances should you make one character’s secrets part of what another character knows (though it is perfectly fine for one player to let another player in on secrets that he hasn’t told the rest of the group).
Finally, no player can have character secrets from the GM. It’s just not practical. So it’s your job as the GM to play NPCs using only information that they would legitimately know. That is not to say a particular NPC might not conceivably know a PCs secrets, but you should use this device sparingly and (initially, at least) only one on one with the character in question (ie – blackmailing a PC into giving up favors or wealth in return for keeping his secret, etc…rather than spilling his secrets via an NPC to other members of the group).
A NOTE ON SPEEDING UP THE PROCESS
The above method is a great way of rolling up characters if you are new to this RPG or running a new group of people (or adding new people to an existing group), but it can be cumbersome in practice. Another option is to have each player build his entire character and then come together and devise character connections with the understanding that it is up to each player how much to reveal about his character.