A quick note about the information presented below: I’m not going to be explaining all the ins and outs of the Nephilim game. If you’re really confused by stuff, I urge you to grab the pdf of the game to follow along. You can get it at the Chaosium site, and the entire line is available at RPGnow. It’s well worth the purchase. And Fate Core is available from Evil Hat Productions. Also very much worth it.
After my last post, I got a couple of comments that made me think I had better put some thought into the actual process of character creation, rather than just mapping them mechanical elements. Fair enough; my plan had been to do all the mechanical mapping of all the systems I wanted, then to use that to tell me what the process should be, but the comments made me reconsider that ((So, thanks for that, Rob Rendell and Michael Duxbury!)).
So, let’s start talking about the phases of character creation, and the number and type of aspects the characters will have.
High Concept and Trouble Aspects
Obviously, the core of any Fate character is the aspect duo of High Concept and Trouble. Thus, the Nephilim will start with a High Concept and a Trouble.
For High Concept, I think it might be good to make the metamorphosis name required as part of the aspect, but also to require some modifiers. So, instead of a High Concept aspect of Djinn, or even Fiery Djinn ((Why not Fiery Djinn? Because all Djinn are fiery by definition. If you want to emphasize that you’re really fiery, maybe something like Djinn Inferno would work.)), I’d ask for something like Ageless Warrior Djinn, or Angel Esoteric Dancer, or Snake Astrologer to Alexander the Great or something. Use the metamorphosis name, but add some detail and colour.
For the Trouble aspect, I can’t think of any constraints I’d put on things. So, just the normal rules for choosing a Trouble aspect. Of course, the backstory and world of the Nephilim give some rich material for cool trouble aspects: Orichalka Scars, Hunted by the Holy Vehm, Touched by the Black Moon, etc.
One of the catches, though, is that I don’t think I would make picking High Concept and Trouble the first steps. I think I would save that until after the past lives are done. That’ll give a stronger foundation, and more shape to the character.
I’ve made a list of the past life periods from the Nephilim rulebook and Chronicle of the Awakenings. Here’s what I’ve got:
- Predynastic Egypt, c. 5000 BCE – The Great Compromise: What God Were You?
- Memphis, Egypt, Â c. 3000 BCE – The Pact: Menes Creates Empire
- Uruk, Sumeria, c. 2700 BCE – The Epic of Gilgamesh
- Thebes, Egypt, c. 1350 BCE – Akhenaton: The Arcana Rebellion
- Mycenae, Greece, c. 1200 BCE – The Age of Discord
- Babylon, Persia, c. 600 BCE – Zoroaster and Ethical Religion
- Alexandria, Egypt, c. 350 BCE – Alexander and the Great Philosophers ((Sounds like a university band, doesn’t it?))
- The Kingdom of Carthage, c. 200 BCE – The Destruction of Carthage
- Jerusalem, Judea, c. 30 CE – The Jesus Incident: Birth of the Piscean Age
- Rome, Italy, c. 350 CE – Constantine and the New Church
- Aachen, Germania, c. 750 CE – Charlemagne Destroys Paganism
- Rome, Italy, c. 1000 CE – The Millennium
- Jerusalem, c. 1120 CE – The Crusader States
- Las Navas de Tolosa, Spain, c. 1212 CE – The Reconquista
- Montsegur, Toulouse, c. 1243 CE – The Cathars
- Avignon, France, c. 1378 CE – The Great Papal Schism
- Florence, Italy, c. 1480 CE – The Rennaissance
- London, England, c. 1590 CE – The New Camelot?
- Paris, France, c. 1630 CE – The Birth of the Age of Reason
- The Americas, New England, c. 1650 CE – For Fear of the Devil
- London, England, c. 1730 CE – The Mechanization of the Universe
- The Scottish Rebellion, c. 1745 CE – Bonnie Prince Charlie Wars for His Throne
- Paris, France, c. 1789 CE – The Best of Times; The Worst of Times
- The Siege of Paris, c. 1873 CE – The Insurgent Uprising
- London, England, c. 1900 CE – Return of the Magicians
- The Great War, c. 1916 CE – Anathema to Live, and Bane of Lovers
- Berlin, Germany, c. 1933 CE – The Spear and the Swastika
That gives a very broad range of periods for the players to choose from ((Though I note that they are heavily weighted to Western European ideas of what’s important history.)). That said, I don’t think that it needs to be a restrictive list – it’s handy to have a list for folks to choose from, but the periods here also provide templates for building other periods.
This list also gives me a nice chronological arrangement, and shows that I can probably get away with just four batches of skills, if I do it right:
- Ancient – eras 1-10
- Medieval – eras 11-16
- Rennaissance – eras 17-22
- Modern – eras 23-27
Yeah, the divisions are a little fuzzier than that, but close enough for our purposes, considering the broad skills in Fate Core. I’ve got some ideas about how to do the skills, but they’re not really solidified, yet, so I’m going to save them for their own post.
Past Life Phases
Character creation phases seem to fit nicely with past lives in Nephilim. I’m thinking give each character three “free” past lives, and let them buy more using fate (Ka) points. With the default starting refresh of 3, that means that characters can have from three to five past lives.
Rather than walk through each characters first, second, and third ((…and possibly fourth and fifth.)) past lives in order, it will work better to get the characters to discuss which eras they’re interested in, and create a list for each character. This is mainly so that, if two or more characters are manifest in the same era, we can take the opportunity to talk about how those characters interacted, kind of like the Crossing Paths phases of Fate Core.
So, here’s a rough outline of how I see the Past Life Phases working:
- Players discuss and pick the desired eras for their characters.
- Starting with the earliest era:
- Pick simulacrum.
- Pick skills.
- For first incarnation, choose Arcanum and Stasis item.
- If other characters are incarnated here, discuss and note interaction between the characters.
- Determine death circumstances.
- Choose an aspect for this era.
- Repeat step 2 for each era wherein a character has chosen to incarnate.
- Total up skill ranks for all incarnations.
There may be something added to step 2, depending on how I finally sort out the magic system and where stunts fit in.
Past Life Aspects
So, the idea is that each character gets an aspect for each past life. That’s my default plan. With the High Concept and Trouble aspects, and the variable number of past lives, that gives each character 5-7 aspects. Now, I’m not completely convinced that allowing characters to have different numbers of aspects is a good idea – I don’t think it’s a game-breaker, but it does give that character a couple more options for using the fate point economy. On the other hand, those with more aspects will have fewer starting fate points, so that might balance out. I’ll have to think more about this. It’s eminently doable to just have the players come up with aspects for any three of the character’s past lives, but I think that undermines some of the cool flavour of the long-lived Nephilim, so I’m reluctant to go that way.
Anyway, there was some discussion on a previous post about the kind of aspects characters should have for past lives. The most obvious one is an aspect that denotes their role in that period – a sort of period-specific High Concept. I can see that as a simple, usable kind of aspect, but I worry that a) it will undermine/conflict with the actual High Concept, and b) it’ll make for a list of aspects like the character classes on a multiclass D&D character sheet.
Thus I have come up with a short list of ideas for Past Life aspects:
- An aspect related to your Arcanum, especially if this is when you joined your Arcanum: Eminence Grise of the Emperor, Right Hand of Strength, Justice Investigator
- An aspect related to an important event in that era: Taught the First Farmers to Brew Beer, Fought Against the Reconquista, Cathar Perfect
- An aspect related to an important person in that era: The Fourteenth Apostle, Paladin of Charlemagne, Confidant of Robespierre
- An aspect related to interaction with a secret society in that era: Master Mason, I HATE the Holy Vehm!, Hunted by Templars
- An aspect related to a personal event in that era that left a mark: Hung as a Witch, Twelve Years a Homonculus, I Have Known True Love
- Any other aspect, unrelated to the era, that shows off your character, goals, habits, or values: No Such Thing as Overprepared, I Will Unlock the Secrets of Solar Ka, The Selenim Are Abomination
Those are my thoughts on the phases and aspects for Fate of the Nephilim. Let me know what you think. Next time, I think I’ll talk about the skill packages for the various eras, and how they will fit together and work ((I hope they’ll do both, anyway.))