What I love about Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed is that creating a character in the world beyond national borders is unique. I found it fascinating how the game illustrates both appreciable limitations and flexibility in discussing players’ identities. It’s different than in the Iron Kingdoms. There, a Cygnaran or Llaelese person might be able to make a life for themselves in Khador or the Protectorate. The cultural differences might make it a rough transition, but what it represents is the cultural shift in our world known as cosmopolitanism. “Universal people” transcended borders to become men and women of the world.
In a very real and appreciable way, Unleashed deals with characters who are not just of a certain race, but of a tribal culture that makes up an inescapable part of their identity. It is one part restriction to two parts liberating, as within those identities rests a great deal of flexibility. Part of that is the wonderful career option system, which allows each player to choose *two* careers, thus having a great variety of combinations available to them in spite of racial restrictions. Like many people, I find some games to be a little too open-ended with possibilities for characters, when what I really want is guidelines that inspire me to make something unique within them. And I’ll be damned if they didn’t do that! So in the spirit of what many of us like to do when we look through an RPG book, I would like to go through creating a character!
So there are five steps to making a character:
1) Choose Race
2) Choose Archetype
3) Choose two starting Careers
4) Increase Stats
5) Apply the finishing touches!
Many RPGs start with generated vital statistics being influenced by the choice of race. In Unleashed, choice of race, such as gatorman, nyss, trollkin, or tharn, defines most of the characteristics from the word go, that the player can later append. This makes a lot of sense, as it would be very strange to see a human tougher than a gatorman! Naturally, however, training and experience prior to play will influence the character’s stats differently. Each stat is roughly based on the damage spirals we know and love from Hordes as well. So there are three primary stats, from which six secondary stats are derived (two from each), and three derived stats from combinations of each. As with the IKRPG, it’s interesting to see the underlying mechanics the game uses to make models and units work in WM/H! Each also includes a suite of natural gifts and abilities, and character “archetypes” that can be adopted (a hugely useful concept).
For my character, as of yet unnamed, I wanted something a little on the gribbly side. I feel like there are certain flavours of character you’d set out to play in this game, like “mysterious shaman/druid” or “wild berserker”. I wanted something both patient and rangeresque–a pretty common archetype, all things considered–but decidedly gribbly and emphasizing ranged combat. I found myself loving the big gatorman with the rifle from the Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed Adventure Kit, Longchops. I do, however, have a deep and abiding love of bog trogs of all things. I think Rask really sealed the deal for me. He is like the henchman villain, with his CMD 5 and Call to Sacrifice rule, and I wanted to recreate that kind of “Rocksteady and Bebop” sort of character. A sneaky, self-interested loner, but possessed of a powerful low cunning. With that in mind, I had to choose to do a trog. These dudes can change colour to adapt to their surroundings, and benefit from being amphibious! Amusingly, they suffer penalties if they aren’t periodically immersed in water, which could lead to some hilarious moments, like an impromptu polar bear swim that would involve some sputtering and cursing. Perfect.
Archetypes are a super-cool kind of basic template that informs a little about your character, but also helps to solidify his party role. In kind of a natural format, many party-based games try to balance out the different characters they choose so they compliment one another, making fighting tanks, ranged damage dealers, and healers, etc. For my money, I love the idea that this approach is a little codified in IKRPG and Unleashed and gives players a good idea of what they’re looking at before they take careers into consideration. There are four to choose from, Cunning, Gifted, Skilled, and Mighty, and each starting race lists those they can take. Most, like human and farrow can take any of the four, but Nyss for example cannot take Cunning, nor can gatormen take Skilled. It would seem they benefit from other racial abilities that counterbalance this limitation (like gatormen’s free bite attack!). The archetype you choose gives you a massive combat benefit that befits your chosen role–such as Mighty allowing for an extra damage die on melee damage rolls! It also allows you to take one advantage from those listed for each..
For my conniving bog trog, I was inclined to go the Cunning route. After looking over the rest of the book, I found myself taken less by spellcasting, but more by controlling a vicious swamp beast! I really wanted my scheming dude accompanied by a big reptilian bruiser that complimented my personality. With that in mind, I had to choose the Gifted archetype so I could use magic and become a warlock. Besides, it made more sense to explore more of the book and the rules that way anyway! Taking this archetype obliges me to choose an Arcane Tradition. This means I need to either be a Will Weaver or a Harnesser. As I wanted to be a Warlock that made me a Harnesser. Thus I would start with ARC 2 (like 2 Fury) that I could work with. As for an advantage, I generally didn’t want one pertaining to casting in combat, but maybe something a little more pragmatic, like Occult Secrets for an extra spell, or Magic Sensitivity to be able to tell when people were casting spells nearby. Looking at how quickly players gain spells, I thought it would be a useful advantage to have another spell, so I took the Occult Secrets ability.
Careers are obviously among the most influential decisions, as each lists the skills available to to the character and gives them a sense of where to go while they grow! Each lists abilities (special tricks), skills (what weapons and occupational abilities they possess), and connections (who they know and can call upon for aid). It gives a list of starting assets and money as well. More importantly, however, it describes what role the player in this career takes–what it is like to play each career. This is very descriptive and useful! Choosing two careers clearly affords a number of different advantages, and the best part is how open-ended each is in terms of the skills they provide for. Nothing is nearly so restrictive as many RPGs might have in terms of character classes, for instance, though many are limited by which race you have chosen. You cannot be a farrow Wolf of Orboros, for instance, nor could you be a nyss Slaughterhouser! Skills are broken down into general life skills, military skills (i.e. combat-oriented), and occupational skills. Interestingly, careers frequently overlap with their abilities, meaning that if two careers granted the character a skill point in hand weapons (as indeed many do) they will start with two skill points!
Here was where I found myself going first when looking for some inspiration. I had already decided that my sneaky bog trog was going to have to be a warlock, so I naturally gravitated towards Warlock (Swamp). I wanted to control maybe a big Blackhide or even a stubborn Ironback Spitter! That covered the beast management part of my character, but I really wanted to emphasize the “cunning tracker” part of his skill set. Shooting, hiding, and magically supporting would be the things he did. Looking through the options, I considered Monster Hunter, Archer, Bushwhacker and many others, but decided on Scout. It covered most everything I wanted, and I loved the look of the Nyss Scout’s double-crossbow in the accompanying picture and wanted one for myself! The Scout gives me access to a number of different military skills largely associated with ranged combat, and I could choose two. So I chose Crossbow 1 and Hand weapon 1 because it would stack with the Warlock (Swamp) career, granting me Hand Weapon 2. Scout granted me Pathfinder and Survivalist (I could safely assume I knew what one of those was!) for abilities, and Detection 1, Sneak 1, Survival 1, and Tracking 1. The career also lists the maximum for each skill as mostly 3s, so I appreciate that the stat blocks are relatively simple and does not involve a great deal of finnicky math! As a Warlock (Swamp), I had Unarmed Combat 1 as a military skill and chose Hand Weapon. Abilities included Resonance: Swamp Warbeast and Warlock Bond (I could guess at what these were). For Occupational skills I received Animal Handling 1 and Detection 1, bringing Detection up to 2! My tracker street cred was building. I was also granted a medium-based warbeast! Yay!! It would have been too much to hope for a Blackhide out of the gate, anyway.. While all the rules seem to indicate that I would benefit more from having a Boneswarm around, I had a hard time calling it characterful. A Bull Snapper, on the other hand! Now *that* is a very characterful choice.. lazy, torpid, but savage, next to my conniving and sneaky self. We’re both ambush predators with complimentary personalities. Perfect. It also gave me two spells–Carnivore and Sunder Spirit. Great spells!
So one of the nice things about character creation in this format is that you get three points to distribute among your core stats (not skills), and that’s it! Very simple, and progression through levels as you go along is equally simple. At this stage you probably know what you need to increase in order to emphasize the talents you’ve already been working on, so it’s as simple as increasing three and filling in the life spiral!
For my bog trock tracker-lock, I felt I had my choices laid out for me! I needed only to increase my Poise, which helped me to shoot better, my Arcane stat, which increased basically my fury from 2 to 3 (allowing me to upkeep Carnivore and cast Spiny Growth if I wanted), and finally my Perception stat! This improved the quality of all my tracking skills and made me a super-cunning fellow.
The final considerations to building a character are mostly about gear, which is a richly illustrated section that fortunately assumes you have all the necessary survival bits! Too many times I’ve found myself looking over the gear section intently so I could ensure my character had all he needed to survive, like a bedroll, cutlery, a bowl, rope.. all kinds of things. This time it’s looked after. The available gear is pretty cool, as it’s based in no small part on the weapons and armour we know and love from WM/H, which makes it really easy to convert too! And the rule of cool prevails with the armoured great coat! Yay! Sadly, it’s expensive.. but awesomeness comes at a cost I fear. The section is split between gear and bone grinding, which expands a bit on the definition from the farrow unit and becomes a broader, shamanistic tradition that transcends tribal boundaries. The neat thing is it kind of replaces alchemy and potion-making from the civilized world, and is even explicitly addressed in Unleashed! According to the writers, alchemists in the Iron Kingdoms think there is no way these potions, balms, and fetishes should work, but they do!
It is great that you get starting gold from both of your career choices, and basically the amount you start with equates to how valuable you are in your chosen profession! It amused me greatly to think Scouts and Warriors were quite appropriately the most valued, yet Warlocks were not valued much at all, which would make sense! Fearsome, out for power as they are, and liable to have big scary monsters that frenzy all over your supply train. So between the two, I had some respectable cash–100 gold crowns. Sadly, the image I had in my head of a bog trog that wielded a scoped double crossbow and greatcoat over bog trog armour was a little on the pricey side. Truthfully, it’s usually in this section that I do the most haggling with my GM. I wanted bog trog armour because it would allow me to keep my camouflage capability, so that was in–25 gc. I then wanted the great coat (style points), but I would probably ask my GM if he minded that I had one to keep the rain off, but it had no rules benefit–just looked neat. Surely they couldn’t say no to that! As a scout, I felt I should have something that allowed me to observe things from a long way off, but wanted a scope rather than a spyglass for that. Might as well gain some sniping benefits! Sadly, my scoped dual crossbow cost a mighty 85 gc. I would have to wait on that one. Despite my skill with melee weapons, I’d rather have something like a skinning bolo knife (dagger–5 gc), and a scope on a regular crossbow–that’s 60 gc. That leaves me with 10 gc for other sundries. Done!
So after all that, most of the rest is about filling in the details! Naturally I have an impressive scanner and printer combo, so while online resources for character sheets are scarce, I was able to scan and fill out a few character sheets! So without further ado, let me introduce my sneaky bog trog Warlock, Finn!
He’s tricksy. I gave him the third spell Earth’s Cradle that I really liked so he could dig in at will and stay alive! Where he was less at risk in the back ranks, he’d play the support caster, giving his friends (pawns?) Carnivore and Spiny Growth. He’s a tracker, a survivalist, and ambushes his prey with his sneaky Bull Snapper pal Fluffy. Fluffy is lazy and mean-tempered, but loyal. I wish I had any of my old skill with art so I could give Finn a rendition, but sadly I am no longer possessed of such talent.. Either way, I imagine him sitting by a campfire, having a drink and tossing scraps of meat to Fluffy. 🙂
Happy Hunting, Losties!