"There are one thousand ways to defeat any foe, and ten thousand ways to overcome any obstacle. Some may call for direct force, others for cunning and subtlety. He who knows when to be forceful and when to be subtle shall aways be victorious."
~Sun Liang, The New Art of War
It would be very, very difficult to play an RPG without characters. This section will walk you through the character creation process step-by-step. For examples of pre-made characters, please see Pregenerated Characters.
For blank character sheets, go here!
Step One: Character Concept
Decide who you want to be. Are you a wandering swordsman? A mad inventor? A Daoist adept? A righteous outlaw?
Example: Alexander decides to create a classic macho warrior archetype; a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, shoot-first-ask-questions-later tough son-of-a-bitch. However, there's twist on the archetype; the reason this character is such a paragon of machismo is because he is in fact a woman disguised as a man, and doing way too good a job of it. The halfway point between Mulan and The Black Whirlwind.
Step Two: Name and Title
A character's given name is less important than their Title; a nickname by which they are known in the underworld. A character's title should be descriptive of the character's personality and talents. Li Meihua is a gangster with a love of incendiaries and autocycles, earning her the name "Shooting Star." Li Li is a circus acrobat of great cunning and agility, and is called "The Flying Fox." And so on.
Sidebar: On Chinese names
We realize that most players do not speak Chinese, let alone Tibetan or Mongolian. Fortunately, the internet is chock-full of baby-name websites, and a quick google search for "Common Chinese names" or "common Mongolian names" should be enough to guide you along.
It's also worth noting that in many Asian languages (notably Chinese, Korean, and Japanese) the family name proceeds the given name (Thus, LI Meihua has the family name Li and the given name Meihua). It's also worth noting that some languages (such as Tibetan and Mongolian) do not typically use family names.
Example: Alexander settles on the name Liu Zheng, since it sounds macho and punchy. For Liu's title, he settles on "One-Eyed Ogre;" a reference both the character's fearsome demeanor, and the fact that he wears an eyepatch.
Step Three: Assign Core Attributes
Each character has eight basic attributes, each corresponding to one of the Eight Trigrams of the I Ching. Characters receive sixteen attribute points to spend; each attribute has a minimum rank of one and a maximum rank of three. For a full list of core statistics and how they function, see Skills and Attributes.
1. Unremarkable. The grace of your local butcher, the vigor of your county clerk.
2. Good. The perception of a infantry soldier, the cunning of a street hoodlum.
3. Exceptional. The wisdom of a learned scholar, the vitality of a qi gong master.
Example: Liu Zheng is a paragon of physical as well as spiritual fortitude, and his Vigor, Vitality, and Valor are all Exceptional (3). He is less a paragon of learning or foresight, so his Perception, Cunning, and Wisdom are are Unremarkable (1). Though rough around the edges, he has very good social skills when it comes to yelling at and deceiving people, and he possesses a fighter's reflexes, so his Grace and Finesse are Good. (2)
Step Four: Choose Classes
There are five classes, dividing a character's skills into five sections, each corresponding to one of the Five Elements. A character is given two points to spend on classes. They may spend them both on one class, or on a combination of two classes.
For every class point spent, a character gains a +1 bonus to every skill in that class. Thus, a Gentleman/Warrior gains a +1 bonus to all his Martial and Civil skills, whereas a pure Rogue gains a +2 bonus to all of his subtle skills.
Warrior: Martial Skills: Corresponding to the element of Metal, martial skills include the use of all manner of weapons, as well as the fine art of not dying in battle. Martial skills are favored by warriors, soldiers, and fighters of all types.
A warrior/rogue might be an agile asassin; a warrior/gentleman might be a chivalrous knight; a warrior/inventor a high-tech gunslinger; and a warrior/adept might be a fighting monk who blends magic and martial arts.
Rogue: Subtle Skills: Corresponding to the element of Wood, subtle skills deal with stealth and mobility. Subtle skills are favored by thieves, spies, hunters, and anyone else who moves in the shadows.
A rogue/gentleman might be cunning spymaster; a rogue/inventor might be a high-tech burglar; a rogue/adept might be a shadowy sorcerer.
Gentleman: Civil Skills: Corresponding to the element of Earth, Civil skills deal with social interaction and social knowledge. Civil skills are favored by scholars, courtiers, con artists, and anyone else who prefer to solve their problems without direct force.
A gentleman/inventor might be an educated physician; a gentleman/adept a wise sage.
Inventor: Technological Skills: Corresponding to the element of Fire, Technological skills deal with the creation and use of material goods. Tech skills are favored by doctors, engineers, and other such thinkers.
Inventor/Adepts tend to be very eccentric characters, blending the scientific with the supernatural.
Adept: Mystical Skills: Corresponding to the element of Water, Mystical skills deal with ancient and esoteric practices that transcend the natural order of the world. Mystical skills are favored by shamans, monks, and other religious ascetics.
Example: Initially Liu Zheng is thought of as a pure combat character, and Alexander is going to put both of his class levels into Warrior. However, he quite likes the idea of Liu being someone who can shout down any opponent, and he will need social skills to maintain his secret identity. As such, he settles on Warrior/Gentleman, despite Liu being anything but genteel.
Step Five: Assign Skill Points
Each skill category contains 7 skills, for a total of 35 skills. Characters receive a total of 32 skill points, and skills are ranked from zero to four ranks. Each skill is tied to two attributes. The sum total of a skill is both attributes, plus class points, plus skill points. For a full list of skills, see the Skills chapter.
In general, it is recommended that characters put at a few points in at least one offensive combat skill (Hand to Hand, Melee, Sharpshooting, or Explosives), the Evasion skill, the Stealth skill, and at least one interaction skill (Bravado, Diplomacy, or Deception). None of these are necessary, but they tend to come up frequently.
1: Novice. The Scholarship of a young student, the Sharpshooting of a new recruit.
2: Journeyman. The Hand to Hand of a thug, the Piloting of a street courier.
3: Expert. The Awareness of a Buddhist monk, the Sharpshooting of a royal bannerman.
4: Master. The Bravado of a general, the Melee of a master swordsman.
Example: Alexander imagines Liu as possessing a wide variety of combat skills; a generalist rather than a specialist. He puts three points into Melee, Hand to Hand, and Sharpshooting, and two into Explosives. He also puts two points into Evasion and Fortitude. He also wants Liu to be as intimidating as possible, so he puts four points into Bravado, as well as two in Deception. He then puts two points into Acrobatics and Athletics, for the purpose of any cool fight scenes that might require such checks. Lastly, he puts two points each into Resources and Breath, for buying Liu's personal arsenal of weaponry and using his various combat talents.
Step Five: Choose Talents
Talents are unique and special abilities. Most talents are tied to certain skills, and have requirement ranks; this refers to the number of individual skill points spent, not including Class points or Attribute points (thus, a talent with a requirement of "melee 2" requires that you have at least Rank 2 in Melee). A character can select eight talents for which they meet the requirement. Please refer to the Talents chapter for a full list.
Step Six: Equipment and Resources
For every total point of resources a character has, they receive five taels of silver with which to acquire equipment. Whatever they have left is tallied as the character's personal savings. Please refer to the the Equipment chapter for more details.
Step Seven: Choose temperament
Your temperament is a baseline for your character's personality; whether you are honest or sly or naive, and so on. Your temperament grants you a +1 bonus and a -1 penalty to one set of civil skills.
The fourteen temperaments:
Forthright: +1 Bravado, -1 Deception
You are bold and straightforward, with little patience for guile and deception.
Hot-Tempered: +1 Bravado, -1 Diplomacy
You are hot-blooded and prone to anger, making you good at intimidation and bad at reconciliation.
Cocky: +1 Bravado, -1 Empathy
You think highly of yourself at the cost of others.
Nonthreatening: +1 Diplomacy, -1 Bravado
You have a gentle and nonthreatening demeanor, making you good at negotiation and bad at bluster.
Sincere: +1 Diplomacy, -1 Deception
You are true and honest, making you something of a bad liar.
Guileless: +1 Diplomacy, -1 Empathy
You are optimistic and simple minded, making you trustworthy but easily fooled.
Manipulative: +1 Deception, -1 Empathy
You spin a web of lies that sometimes even you get caught in.
Roguish: +1 Deception, -1 Diplomacy
You are naturally untrustworthy, making you an excellent liar. People don't trust you, and they shouldn't.
Sly: +1 Deception, -1 Bravado
You are deceptively nonthreatening, which you use to your advantage in fooling others.
Kindly: +1 Empathy, -1 Bravado
You feel for others, and don't like to bully them.
Introverted: +1 Empathy, -1 Diplomacy
You are excellent at reading people, but bad at expressing yourself.
Earnest: +1 Empathy, -1 Deception
You feel for others, and have a hard time deceiving them.
Highborn: +1 Law, -1 Streetwise
You were born into a wealthy family, so you know how to navigate high society, but lack streetsmarts.
Lowborn: +1 Streetwise, -1 Law
You were born into destitution, making you the opposite of that other guy.
Step Eight: Biography, Ideology, and Appearance
At this point, all of the mechanical aspects of your character are finished, but not the narrative aspects. Where does your character come from? How did they end up in the underworld of the jianghu?
Similarly, what does your character believe in? Do they follow the teaches of the Buddha, Lao Zi, the Prophet Mohammed, or any other spiritual leaders? Are they a conservative, a radical, an anarchist? Do they strive to follow the teachings of Confucius, or do they make their own morality?
Lastly, what does your character look like? How do they dress? What kind of impression do they give?