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Character Rules

The most common races are humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings. Of course, there may be characters of unusual races in your campaign.

These rules are for the character you create, your PC (playable character).

Choose a Race

Choose your character’s race. This game is less restrictive than other d20 games, and your racial choice won’t limit your class selection.

Nonstandard races: If you want to play a different race from ones listed here, pitch the idea to your GM. You might find your pitch easier to make if your new choice lines up closely to the mechanical features of a supported race even if its flavor is very different. For example, if you want to be a one-off, half-successful experiment in artificial life, you can bolster your case if you say you’ll take the racial features of a supported race. “Half-orc” would be an obvious choice, but it could be anything.

Each race provides a +2 bonus to one of your ability scores.

Choose a Class

Every character has a class (see Classes). Pick one of these too.

Each class provides a +2 bonus to one of your ability scores.

Determine Your Ability Scores

Your character can be assigned ability scores in various ways. Here are a couple of ways…

Roll ’em

Roll 4d6 for each of the six ability scores (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Drop the low die in each roll. Put the scores into any order to best fit the character you want to play.

Point Buy

You get 28 points to buy your ability scores using the chart below.

Ability Cost
18 16
17 13
16 10
15 8
14 6
13 5
12 4
11 3
10 2
9 1
8 0

Determine Your Combat Stats

For details on how combat works, see Combat Rules.

Although Armor Class, Physical Defense, and Mental Defense are based on a single ability score, the score each defense uses depends on the character. In each case, you look at three ability modifiers and use the middle value (not the highest or the lowest). If two or more modifiers are tied, you use one of those tied scores as the middle score.

Determine Your 1st level Hit Points

  1. Find the base value for your class (6, 7, or 8) in the Starting Stats for 1st Level Characters chart.
  2. Add your Con modifier to get your ‘hit point value.’
  3. Multiply your hit point value by 3 to get your total hit points at 1st level.

Determine Your Armor Class

  1. Find the base AC value for your class (10 to 16) in the Starting Stats for 1st Level Characters chart.
  2. Find the middle value among your Con modifier, Dex modifier, and Wis modifier. That value is your AC modifier.
  3. Add the AC modifier to your base AC value.
  4. Add +1 at 1st level (and increase by +1 at each additional class level).

Determine Your Physical Defense

  1. Find the base PD for your class (10 to 12) in the Starting Stats for 1st Level Characters chart.
  2. Find the middle value among your Str modifier, Con modifier, and Dex modifier. That value is your PD modifier.
  3. Add the PD modifier to your base PD.
  4. Add +1 at 1st level (and increase by +1 at each additional class level).

Determine Your Mental Defense

  1. Find the base MD for your class (10 to 12) in the Starting Stats for 1st Level Characters chart.
  2. Find the middle value among your Int modifier, Wis modifier, and Cha modifier. That value is your MD modifier.
  3. Add the MD modifier to your base MD.
  4. Add +1 at 1st level (and increase by +1 for each class level).

Determine Your Initiative Bonus

Your Initiative bonus is a d20 check, not a static value.

  1. Start with your Dexterity modifier.
  2. Add +1 at 1st level (and increase by +1 at each additional class level).

Determine Your Recoveries & Recovery Dice

Most characters start the game with 8 recoveries. (See Recoveries.) Some classes and talent choices may give you more recoveries.

Each class also has a different recovery die, usually a d6, d8, or d10, as specified in the class write-up. When you roll a recovery, you’ll roll a number of recovery dice equal to your level and add your Constitution modifier.

Determine Your Attacks and Powers

You calculate attack and damage rolls based on the ability scores favored by your class or by the specific powers you choose within your class. Most classes use one specific ability score for most of their attacks. See Classes for more information.

Choose Your One Unique Thing

Your character’s One Unique Thing (their unique) is a special feature invented by you, the player, which sets your character apart from every other hero. It is a unique and special trait to your player, and markedly unusual. The intent is that it provides a special flavor to the campaign and can assist the GM in determining how your character can interact with characters and story in the campaign.

Your character’s unique should not provide general practical value in combat. That is not the intent. The intent is to open up story arcs and fun roleplaying opportunities.

Determine Your Icon Relationships

Your character’s relationship with icons is an important way to draw him or her into your game world. An icon may have its own champions and heroes (including you) to advance its cause in the game world.

Invest Your Relationship Points

At 1st level, each character gets 3 relationship points. Each point represents one d6 to be used when trying to leverage your connection to the icon (See Using Icon Relationships.)

The number of points you invest in a relationship with an icon doesn’t necessarily correlate with the closeness of the connection or the strength of the relationship. It does correlate with the utility of the relationship. It’s not necessarily about how well the icon knows you or how strong the icon feels about you. Instead, the points reflect the chance that your relationship will be helpful to you.

The Icons Relationships Master Chart summarizes the likely roleplaying and story-oriented consequences of positive, conflicted, and negative relationships with heroic, ambiguous, and villainous icons.

Icon Relationships Master Chart

Icon Positive Relationship Conflicted Relationship Negative Relationship
Heroic Icon Spend 1, 2, or 3 points. As far as this icon is concerned, you’re one of the good guys, a white-hat hero. Authorities often help you, and civilians often trust you. On the down side, you may be called on to serve representatives of the icon even when you have other plans. You might also be a target of villainous icons or this heroic icon’s rivals. Spend 1, 2, or 3 points. You’re probably one of the good guys, but for some reason you’re suspect to the icon Maybe you’re a convict who has served his time, or an imperial soldier who was too good and got drummed out of his legion. You have insider knowledge and allies who are in good with the icon but you also have enemies associated with the icon. Spend 1 point. In the icon’s eyes, you’re a dissident, opponent, rival, or foe. You may have contacts or inside knowledge that you can use to your advantage, but some form of trouble waits for you wherever this heroic icon has influence.
Ambiguous Icon Spend 1, 2, or 3 points. Thanks to your relationship with the icon you are a hero to some, a villain to others, and possibly even a monster to a few. The enemies of your friends may turn out to be your friends, and vice versa. Advantages and complications will come from all sides. Spend 1, 2, or 3 points. Your relationship with the icon is complex, an uneven relationship with an icon who’s a hero to some and a villain to others. One way or another, you can find help or hostility anywhere. You don’t just live in interesting times—you create them. Spend 1 or 2 points. Your enmity with this icon makes you some enemies, but it also makes you some useful friends. You may be a dissenter, unwanted family member, or even a traitor in some way.
Villainous Icon Spend 1 point. You are able to gain secrets or secretive allies, but your connection to this icon brings trouble from people associated with the heroic icons who oppose the villain. Be prepared to justify why you’re not imprisoned, interrogated, or otherwise harassed by the heroic icons and their representatives whenever they encounter you. Or for that matter, by the other PCs. Spend 1 or 2 points. You mostly work against the icon but you’re also connected to the icon in a way you can’t deny. Your connection sometimes gives you special knowledge or contacts, but it also makes you suspect in the eyes of many right-minded would-be heroes. Spend 1 or 2 points. You mostly work against the icon but you’re also connected to the icon in a way you can’t deny. Your connection sometimes gives you special knowledge or contacts, but it also makes you suspect in the eyes of many right-minded would-be heroes.

This chart assumes that you’re playing a heroic character. A villainous character will need to swap the maximums between heroic and villainous icons.

Rolling Icon Relationship Dice

To check your icon relationship (your relationship with a particular icon , roll a d6 for each point you have in the relationship. This means that you will usually roll 1, 2, or 3 dice. (At epic level, it may be 4.)

If any die is a 6, you get some meaningful advantage from the relationship without having complications. If two or three dice come up 6, that’s even better.

If any die is a 5, your connection to the icon is going to work out as well as a 6 would, but with some unexpected complication. If it’s a good icon you might be drawn into some obligation. If it’s a villainous icon, you might attract unwanted attention.

Rolling 5s when you also rolled 6s should make life both interesting and advantageous!

Icons’ Organizations

Icons are usually not directly part of the campaign. They rarely make an appearance personally, except perhaps at epic level. Most of the time, interacting with an icon means that you’re actually interacting with his or her lower-level functionaries, acolytes, disciples, bureaucrats, lieutenants, barons, priests, etc. In fact, any level of relationship with an icon can be enough to get you noticed by other people who are connected to that icon.

Using Icon Relationships

The most straightforward way to use your relationship points is on positive or conflicted connections that generally provide you with outright assistance and useful information.

Negative relationships usually provide inside knowledge, special skills, opportunistic allies, and possibly some sort of supernatural advantage against a villain.

Often you might find that enemies of your rival see you as an opportunity to strike against that mutual enemy. You might get help, wealth and resources, and even magic items from quite unexpected sources, some of which may not be entirely to your liking.

In addition to aid from others, icon relationships provide characters with special knowledge.

A negative relationship with a thoroughly villainous icon is more in keeping with the heroic lifestyle, but you should expect that the assistance you get from a negative relationship may end up being more directly confrontational than more conventional conflicted and positive relationships.

Changing Relationships

When your character achieves champion level (5th), you gain an extra relationship point. Use it to increase an existing relationship by one die or gain a 1-point relationship with a new icon to match your character’s story thus far. You can save the extra relationship die and decide to apply it later.

At 5th level, or any time thereafter, you can switch an existing relationship point from one icon to another, including to a new icon. You owe the GM and other players an entertaining explanation of what this big change represents for your character personally, of course.

When you reach epic level (8th), you gain another relationship point, which you can use to increase an existing icon relationship by one die, including up to 1 point over maximum. As at 5th level, if switching a relationship point from one icon to another makes sense for your 8th level character, go for it.

Backgrounds & Skill Checks

Backgrounds represent pieces of your character’s history that contributes to your character’s history as well as their ability to succeed with non-combat skills.

Each character has a number of points to allocate to a set of backgrounds. These are broad categories of experience (cat burglar, for example) rather than specific implementations of that experience (climbing and hiding).

Backgrounds don’t sync to a specific ability score, though some backgrounds obviously may get used more often with certain ability scores than others.

Assigning Background Points

Each character gets 8 background points, plus any extra that your class’s talents award. Assign your background points to as many backgrounds as you want, up to your total points. You can assign a maximum of 5 points to a single background (and minimum of 1).

Making Skill Checks

When you roll a skill check to find out if you succeed at a task or trick, the GM tells you which ability score is being tested. Then you choose the background you think is relevant to gain the points you have in that background as a bonus to the skill check.

Most skill checks require you to equal or beat a Difficulty Class (DC), set by the environment you are operating in, to succeed.

To make a skill check, use this formula:

D20 + relevant ability modifier + level + relevant background points


DC set by the environment

You can’t apply multiple backgrounds to the same check; the background with the highest (or tied for highest) bonus applies.

Choosing Your Backgrounds

Choose backgrounds that help you make sense of your characters past, jobs, and settings. Background and skill use is meant to be about fun in-character methods of attempting to advance the plot.

A few possible backgrounds include: acrobat, alchemist, animal trainer, architect, aristocratic noble, assassin, chef, con-woman, goblin exterminator, hunted outlaw, knight errant, magecraft, priest, refugee, scout, shepherd, soldier, spy, temple acolyte, thief, torturer, transformed animal, traveling martial arts pupil, tribal healer, tunnel scout, wandering minstrel, warrior poet, and so on.

Choose the Relevant Ability Score

For players, the point of this background/skill system is to encourage roleplaying and creative solutions to problems. Not every problem can be solved by your dominant abilities. For the GM, it’s the chance to make all of the ability scores matter at one time or another.

Natural 20s and Fumbles with Skill Checks

When a PC rolls a natural 20 with a skill check, the GM should feel free to give that character much more success than the player expected.

When a PC rolls a 1 with a skill check, the skill check fumbles and fails, perhaps in a particularly bad way. But a failure isn’t always entirely terrible.

Fail Forward!

Outside of battle, when failure would tend to slow action down rather than move the action along, instead interpret it as a near-success or event that happens to carry unwanted consequences or side effects. The character probably still fails to achieve the desired goal, but that’s because something happens on the way to the goal rather than because nothing happens. In any case, the story and action still keep moving.

Background/Skill Advancement

All your skill checks increase by 1 when you level up. If you want even better skill checks, take the Further Backgrounding feat.

If you just want to move around the bonuses you already have to show how your character is changing, you can move one background point around among your current backgrounds each time you gain a level, or swap the point into an entirely new background, with the GM’s permission.