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Thousand Suns Characters

April 4, 2007

As I mentioned previously, Thousand Suns will be “class-less,” in as much as a class represents a connected package of abilities whose effectiveness increases together at a predictable rate. Instead, I am allowing players to decide for themselves what mixture of abilities their characters possess at creation and what abilities increase (or which new ones they gain) as they gain experience. There will still be levels, but these will serve two purposes, the first of which is to act as a cap for various abilities. For example:

Character Level Max. Combat Max. Save Max. Ability Max. Core Skill Rank Max. Non-Core Skill Rank
1 +1 +1 22 4 2
2 +2 +2 24 5 2
3 +3 +3 26 6 3

Caps like this ensure that no character spends all of his character points on a single ability to such an extent that he unbalances the system. The other purpose of levels is to provide the GM with a rough guideline on the relative power level of NPC opponents compared to the PCs.

Characters consist of three components: race, homeworld, and occupation. Race provides the usual benefits. Thousand Suns will include several sample races beyond standard humans, including multiple clades. There is also a simple system for creating your own race, allowing players and GMs alike to add their own species or clades to their campaigns with a minimum of fuss.

Homeworld provides two core skills (i.e. class skills under the old terminology) and one free feat (or its equivalent — 1 save of some type, for example) from a selection of feats, although, as always, the GM is free to allow other choices if he feels its suitable. While I will include a small list of obvious homeworld descriptors, I’m generally taking Bruce Baugh’s advice and leaving the descriptions to the player. The reason for this is that there are simply too many possible world types in a space opera game and I could never provide enough to cover them all. More importantly, this puts the ball in the player’s court and lets him decide how best to explain why his character has, for example, Athletics and Investigate as core skills and Improved Initiative as his bonus feat. It’d be an easy matter to relegate the worlds of the Thousand Suns to a limited palette of water worlds and city planets and ice worlds but it’s much more useful, I think, to let the player’s choose the mechanical patrimony of their homeworld and then justify it, if only because the GM now has another world to add to his gazetteer.

Finally, there’s occupation. Occupation will provide further core skills, combat and save bonuses (if any), feats, and possibly ability bonuses. An occupation might look like this:

Naval Officer (Military)
+1 Combat Bonus
+1 Will Save
Core Skills: Computers, Knowledge, Notice, Persuasion, Pilot
Feats: Armor Training (Light), Firearms Training
Bonus Feats: Choose one from the following list: Assessment, Benefit, Connected, Contacts, Dedication, Inspire, Iron Will, Master Plan
Skills: 6 + Int modifier ranks

In addition, each occupation has a core ability. This is something I first saw in Spycraft and True20 has adopted something similar. Basically, a core ability is a unique ability that represents the “essence” of that occupation. Typically, it relates to how Hero Points (or Drama Points or Conviction) may be spent for even greater benefits under certain circumstances. That’s how I intend to use them in Thousand Suns, though I am still toying with the precise details, since I’m not yet sure how significant I want Hero Points to be.

Anyway, that’s where things stand more or less. Comments are welcome.

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