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Suldokar's Wake part 5

·1391 words·7 mins

In the last post we discussed character types, which define half of what other systems would call a class. In Suldokar’s Wake, the other half is defined by the character’s background, which modifies the stacks and offers a choice of keywords. We’ll discuss both in this posts.

Note: This is part 5 of a series on Suldokar’s Wake. For a list of posts about this RPG check here.

Backgrounds #

The backgrounds that you can choose from are tailored to the setting. One of the great things about Suldokar’s Wake is that the setting is front and center and everything is made to serve that, from the terminology used to the way characters are defined.

The backgrounds represent stereotypes based on common Zira-Ka views. Each can be seen as a knowledge area relevant to the kind of adventures that Suldokar’s Wake proposes. And since backgrounds can be combined with any type and life-form, there are lots of possibilities for a player character1.

There are eight backgrounds to choose from. They are:

  • Enforcer: hired fighting power. They could be hired for personal protection, as bouncers, as part of a fighting force, or as street gang muscle, etc. They can be hitman, soldier, boxer, robber, or something else. They are good at killing and at staying alive in various environments.
  • Diplomat: a character who operates between factions: the negotiator, the messenger, the spy. It requires good social skills, steady nerves and, since negotiations don’t always go as planned, the ability to face dangers as well.
  • Entertainer: a wandering story-teller, a singer, a traveling writer, a juggler, a poet or some other æsthetic crafts-person that people are willing to pay for2.
  • Cultist: a character that holds or held a position in a cult. There are open and secret cults, and the position within the cult that the character has (or had) can vary. Examples of cults are: The Church of the Watchful Eye, the Cult of HoloH, shadow cults, orug worship, remnants of Zyu existentialism, etc.
  • Fixer: someone who acquires, negotiates, fixes, hacks, drives and fences stuff that other people can’t or won’t. Fixers are willing to cross that line when it’s necessary (and profitable!). As things can, and often do, go south in their line of work, they tend to be able to fend well for themselves.
  • Outrider: someone who braves the wilderness of Zira-Ka. It might be to bring food back to the settlement, to provide a service like delivering mail or finding lost cattle, or for finding technology, etc. They are gritty survivors who do what needs to be done.
  • Archivist: someone who is about knowledge, but also about going out in the field to get that knowledge. It doesn’t have to be a bookworm, it could be a tribal bot-charmer3 who never heard of libraries! There are many fields of knowledge, from æonic science to biology, medecine, holofields, the Gale, implants, cultural history, nanite formulæ, etc.
  • Worker: on Zira-Ka, it is someone used to dealing with plenty of hardships and who is good at improvising! It could be a crawler driver, a mushroom farmer, a mechanic, a miner, someone doing maintenance on magtrains, or any other type of worker.

When you choose a background it gives you a list of stack modifiers and offers a choice of keywords.

Stack Modifiers #

In addition to what you rolled for your stacks, both the background and the life-form add to your scores4. Below is a list of these modifiers for each background. Listed are modifiers for (A)rchive, (B)ulk, (G)host, (M)orph, (S)peed, (T)ech, (C)lose, and (R)anged.

Background A B G M
Enforcer +2 +2
Diplomat +2 +2 +2
Entertainer +1 +2
Cultist +1 +1 +2 +2
Fixer +2
Outrider +2 +2
Archivist +2 +1
Worker +2
Background S T C R
Enforcer +2 +2
Diplomat +1
Entertainer +2 +1
Cultist +1
Fixer +2 +2 +1 +1
Outrider +2 +1 +1
Archivist +2
Worker +2 +2

Keywords #

Keywords stand for experience, knowledge, training, information, etc. in special areas of expertise. You associate keywords with a specific stack which corresponds to the way you most often use that keyword. It represents your focus for that area of expertise. For example if you have Medecine associated with Archive you might be a researcher or a pathologist, while if you have it associated with Tech you’re more of a field surgeon. You can only associate keywords with core stacks, meaning that you cannot associate a keyword with either Close or Ranged. Sometimes just having a keyword anywhere on your character sheet is enough. They are used in three ways.

  • An action may be barred by a relevant or even a specific keyword: you roll as normal if you have one written somewhere, otherwise don’t roll at all.
  • An action may be tied to a relevant keyword. When this is the case, you must make a half roll unless you have one written somewhere, in which case you roll as normal.
  • An action may be boosted by a relevant keyword. If you have one written under the most appropriate stack for the task at hand, you make a double roll, otherwise you roll as normal.

Barred and tied actions are also boosted: If operating an old mainframe is barred by the “Hacking” keyword, and you have it written under Archives when attempting to sift through a database, you get a double roll.

You pick three keywords from your background, and one from another background. Keywords are listed with suggestions for suitable stacks associations (with the same abbreviations as listed under stack modifiers above). You don’t have to pick those, they’re only suggestions.

Background Keywords
Enforcer First Aid (T, A), Tactics (A), Makeshift Gear (T, S), Threats (M, B), Break (B, T), Military (A, T).
Diplomat Languages (M, A), Bluffing (M), Forgery (T, A), Culture (A, M), Geography (A), Encryption (T, A).
Entertainer Disguise (B, M, T), Acrobatics (S, B), Folklore (A, M), Slight-of-hand (S, T), Bartering (M, A), Rumors (M).
Cultist Religion (A, G), Leadership (M, A), Drugs (T, A), Knighthood (A, M, G), Symbols (A, M), Disguise (B, M, T).
Fixer Trading (A, M), Hacking (A), Vehicules (S, T), B & E (S, T, M), Fixing (A, M, S, T), Implants (T).
Outrider Survival (A, T, G, B), Riding (S, M, G), Stealth (S), Biology (A, T), Tracking (M, A, T), Maps (A).
Archivist Medicine (A, M, T), Science (A, T), Folklore (A, M), Archæology (A, T), History (A), Nanites (A, G).
Worker Mining (T, A), Building (T, A, B), Mending (T, A), Improvised Weapons (T), Explosives (A, T), Agitation (M).

These are the keywords that you begin with, but others can be added later through various methods, including at nodes on type graphs or through a soft-chip for example.

Tangential Component #

In addition to stack modifiers and keywords, each background also provides a background-specific tangential component table. Tangential events have a chance of occurring when a player uses a Gunta Coin or at hard-coded points in adventures. They represent events that are tied through fate to a character. They happen in parallel to what she does without being caused by her action. They never affect the current adventure, instead they affect people, places, circumstances, etc. that the character knows.

When a tangential event occurs the AI rolls d4, d8, d10, d12, d20, and d66 to determine what happened. The d20 component in those rolls is made on the background-specific table. You’ll only use this table when the game has started.

Conclusion #

We’ve covered two of the three layers of a character: types in the last post and backgrounds in this one. In the next post we’ll take a look at life-forms, and after that character creation.

  1. There are, in fact, 168 different possibilities for combinations of type (3), life-form (7) and background (8), and that is not counting differences in stats, equipment, formulæ, specific keyword choices, innate abilities, or resistances and vulnerabilities! ↩︎

  2. You can choose any kind of entertainer except bard. Bards have special status on Zira-Ka and you cannot start as one. If you’re interested, it’s an avenue that must be pursued in-game. ↩︎

  3. See the glossary if there are terms that you don’t know or don’t remember. ↩︎

  4. You don’t roll for Close or Ranged, these are complementary stacks. While other stacks are affected by your rolls at character creation, Close and Range are affected by your type↩︎