Monday, 21 December 2015

Das schwarze Auge solo - Character Creation

Prolegomena : The newest (5th) edition of Das Schwarze Auge finally came out this summer. I of course immediately made a pair of characters (a witch and a mercenary) to see how it works, and put them through the paces by playing a handful of solo adventures (DSA may almost have more written solo adventures than T&T, both official and fan-made). All great fun, but I was starting to feel that their lives were a bit flat. Too many of their skills and  abilities just weren't of the sort that easily come up in written solo adventures (more the witch's problem than the mercenary's, but you may have picked up on my preference for spellcasters by now).

I've been playing a lot of adventures that were grand party affairs, and I am in the mood for a bit of single-hero-against-the-world action. I also prefer skill-based to class&level-based games, and as fun as Dragon Warriors was...

So I wanted to try making a sandbox for a single character to play in. Nothing very big, and nothing very urban: some tiny villages and wilderness to explore, and of course some ruins here and there. DSA characters can do lots of different things, so I wanted to make the sandbox to suit the PC.

N.B. I will do my best to explain things as I go, but if you are curious about the rules or game world, there is a free Quickstart available for download. If you don't read German, there are versions in English and Russian.

As I am blogging in English, I will be trying to use the translations as given in the quickstart, but I must beg the reader's understanding if I forget and write a more literal translation (e.g. Astral Energy Points instead of Arcane Points) or forget to translate at all (1W6 instead of 1D6). My game notes are written in a dreadful pidgin.

Right, enough with the preliminaries. Taking the steps from the rulebook in order:

Step 1: What kind of hero do I want to play?

It was a toss up between guild mage (traditional wizard) or a witch. I am going with witch as I'd never gotten to play one before; they weren't in the main rulebook for 4th edition, and I've always wanted to try one. The solo adventures really weren't written with their powers in mind, so this will be a better way to go.

I should note at this point that the title above is a direct translation from the book. In DSA your PCs are the heroes of the tale, for good or ill.

Step 2: choose experience level

This is a general description of how powerful your PC is, not a class & level sort of description. DSA used to have levels in the early editions, but by 4th ed. they only served as a relative indicator of power, with no in-game effect. The new levels are named, rather than numbered, and give you your starting allotment of points to build your PC, and set maximums for attributes, skills, spells, etc.

The typical beginning hero starts out at Experienced. Some day I want to try one of the lower levels, but not today. An Experienced character receives 1100AP (Adventure Points; these work the same for character generation as they do for XP).

Step 3: choose species

Human. This costs 0AP, and sets some modifiers for later.

Step 4: choose culture

The choice of cultures is free, and has varying effects and restrictions depending on your selection. It also sets your native language.

I chose to make my witch from Mittelreich (er, Middenrealm), the big human empire that is very much just fantasy medieval Germany. Were I actually German, I'd probably never play a PC from there, as there are lots and lots of other cool cultures to choose from. But as it's a German game, part of the appeal is the applicability to my own interest in Germanistik, so there you have it.

So, then, a Mittelreicher gets Garethi as their native language at level III (the highest fluency). Literacy is not included. They also get the Area Knowledge special ability relating to their home. The basic social class is Freeman.

There are also optional Culture Packages, which give you a few common skills. I will take the Mittelreich package, which increases Woodworking, Metalworking, Plant Lore, and Animal Lore by 1 each, at the cost of 12AP

- 12
1088 AP remaining

Step 5: Determine attributes

There are 8 attributes. An Experienced hero's attributes have a maximum total value of 100, with a range of 8-14 in each. One or two may be set at 15, depending on race. Each attribute point up to 14 costs 15AP, and a 15th point costs 30AP. For those who are less in love with maths, there are helpful charts with common distributions pre-calculated. My lone hero needs to be generally competent, so I am sticking with the more rounded (and cheaper -- only 540AP) option of attribute values 14 and under (Column F, if anyone is wondering). Arranging as desired yields:

Courage      13
Cunning      12
Intuition    14
Charisma     14
Dexterity    11
Agility      14
Constitution 12
Strength     10

She's only of average strength, and only slightly more dexterous than usual. She is, however, exceedingly graceful and charming (a witch's prime attribute is Charisma). She's quite clever, though more empathetic than calculating. She isn't quite fearless, but does not scare easily, and will brave dangers that others might not.

 548 AP remaining

Step 6: choose Profession

Profession is sort of like a character class, save that all the parts are essentially modular and you could easily modify them (and some come with pre-built lists of options) or just build your own from scratch.

The Daughters of Satuaria is an ancient cult worshipping the eponymous goddess; they are commonly known as witches. Witches are human, and predominantly female, magic users. They organise themselves into sisterhoods, and worship their goddess together in annual rites. Witches are feared for their curses, and are in many places persecuted by the church of Praios (the Sun god & head of The 12 Gods, the largest religion in Aventuria -- a pantheon of which Satuaria is not a member).

The sisterhoods are generally known by their Familiars: cats for the urbane Beauties of the Night, Ravens for the wise Seers of Today and Tomorrow, and toads for the secretive Daughters of the Earth (the three options in the main rulebook).

I am going to make a Toad Witch (Krötenhexe).

Some professions have prerequisites. A witch must have the Spellcaster advantage (25 AP) and the special ability Tradition-Witch (135 AP). The Krötenhexe profession package costs another 296 AP. So what does one get for 456 Adventure Points?

Languages: 6AP worth of languages & scripts. My witch learns Bosporano (Latin, more-or-less; used by guild mages and the church) at level II, and learns to read both the Kusliker signs (the modern alphabet used by both her native Garethi and Bosporano) and the older Imperial signs (in which older Bosporano texts are written).

Combat Techniques: Brawling 8. All combat skills start at 6, so this is not super impressive. Regular skills (and curses and spells) start at 0.

Skills: The toad witch gets a bunch of skills related to living in the wilderness, herbalism, the healing arts, and generally keeping a low profile. Witches also get the Flying skill so they can ride their brooms.  Nothing surprising, so I will spare you the enumeration, because what we are really interested in is--

Magic tricks - a witch gets a single minor spell chosen from the list. I chose Snake Hands, which allows her hand and finger bones to become pliable, to squeeze into small places.
Spells - Balsam Salabunde 6 (healing spell), Avarice 5 (makes the target desire an object or activity), Harmless Form 5 (an illusion which makes the caster appear harmless), Witch's Bile 4 (acidic spittle), Toad's Leap 6, Racket 4 (animates a broom, branch, etc. to beat the witch's enemies), Meekness 4 (charms an animal so it won't attack)

Special abilities
Flying Ointment - at the great witch festival, the witches brew the magical ointment with which they annoint their flying apparatus, be it a broom, barrel, table, etc.
Curses - 12AP worth. Do not cross my PC, lest she cause your tongue to lose the power of speech (Zunge lähmen 1) or wrack your body with terrible pains (Hexenschuss 3).
Familiar binding - of course a witch has a familiar (but see Step 7 below...)

 548 AP
-296 profession: Krötenhexe
 -25 advantage: spellcaster
-135 spec. ability: tradition (witch)
  92 AP remaining

Step 7: choose Advantages & Disadvantages

A PC can buy up to 80 AP of advantages, and gain more AP by taking up to 80 AP worth of disadvantages. The numbers need not balance.

I've already taken Spellcaster (25 AP). Since I'm playing a single hero, I might as well make her as special as possible. So I am going to make her an eigeborene Hexe -- a witch born from an egg. No one knows quite how it happens or what it means, but the egg-born witch is marked as having the especial favour of the goddess Satuaria. Egg-born witches are exceedingly beautiful (Good Looks II, 40AP) and do not age after their 30th birthday (Age Resistance, 5AP). I've also chosen Cold Resistance (5 AP).

Disadvantages: I've never really been a fan of animal companions, so I am taking No Familiar (-25AP). Being a witch without a familiar, she is looked on with suspicion by her sisters (probably balancing the respect for her egg-born status). However, it also means her profession package is 10AP cheaper. The background I envision means she's also broke (Poor II, -2AP). She is beset by Annoying Minor Spirits (-20AP) who cause poltergeist-type distractions when she uses too much magic. There's a witch's streak in her hair (Conspicuous Feature, -2AP), and she has the Bad Habit of going Barefoot (-2AP; she even does it in winter thanks to her cold resistance). Finally, she has two Bad Attributes: Curiosity and Vengefulness (-5AP each). I really wanted Bad Luck (Pechmagnet), but the actual game effects won't work with a single hero. It just would have been nice to get some points for the way I make things hard on my own PCs.

She thus has a total of 75AP worth of advantages, and 61AP of disadvantages. Things have gotten confusing, so to redo the maths:

1100 starting AP
 -12 culture package
-540 attributes
-286 profession (adjusted)
-135 tradition - witch
 -75 advantages
 +61 disadvantages
 113 AP remaining

Step 8: Determine increases

For an Experienced PC, skills have a maximum of 10, and combat skills have a maximum of 12. Skills/spells/curses/etc. are all rated in categories from A-D, and cost 1-4 AP per point of increase (up to 14). All skills start at a default of 0, and combat skills at 6. Spells, curses, miracles etc. must be bought at level 0 before they may be increased; this Activation Cost is the same as the cost of an increase.

I looked ahead to step 10 because I knew there were a pair of Special Abilities I wanted (15+2=17AP), so in this step I will spend all the rest (96AP). I bought the following skills--

Body Control 4 (D: 4 points x 4AP each= 16AP)
Self Control 3 (D: 3x4= 12AP)
Tracking 2 (B, 4AP)
Willpower 2 (D, 8AP)
Fast Talk 2 (C, 6AP)
Seduction 2 (B, 4AP)
Intimidate 3 (B, 6AP)
Dance 6 (A, 6AP)
Perception 2 (D, 8AP)
Swim 2 (B, 4AP)

I added +4 to Dagger (B, 4AP) and +2 to Impact Weapons (C, 6AP). I also increased her Witch's Bile spell by +3 (B, 6AP), and her knowledge of Bosparano up to III (2AP).

I had 4AP remaining at this point, so I put them towards Singing 2 (A, 2AP), and increased the tongue-paralysing curse by +1 (2AP).

Step 9: Calculate combat techniques

The base Attack value is the skill level, (potentially) modified by high Courage. Parry values are half the skill level, and (potentially) modified by different controlling attributes. For example, My PC has 10 in Dagger, and her 13 Courage gives +1 Attack. The controlling attribute for dagger is Agility, so her score of 14 gives +2. Thus, with daggers, she has AT 11 / PA 7.

Step 10: Select special abilities

As I said, I already know which two I want. The first is Improved Dodge (15AP), as her best bet for defence (requires Body Control 4, as purchased above). The second is the much more interesting Gatherer (2AP). Its prerequisites are Plant Lore 4 and Survival 4, which she got in the profession package. Gatherer will help her both to forage for food and -- more importantly -- go out collecting alchemical components for her witch's brews.

Step 11: Make any necessary adjustments

Spend any leftover AP. You are allowed to keep a few if you can't quite spend them, but I never have this problem.

Schritt 12: Calculate Base Values

There are a bunch of formulae and charts, but I will spare you a detailed exegesis. In summation: Life Points = hit points; Arcane Points = spell points; Mental Strength & Toughness are passive resistance factors; Initiative, Dodge, and Movement should be obvious; Fate Points can be spent to re-roll dice, temporarily ignore negative conditions, etc.

Step 13: Buy Equipment

The Silver Taler (Silbertaler) is the basic coin of Mittelreich. 10 Silver Talers =  1 Ducat (gold). 1 Silver Taler = 10 Hellers (bronze). 1 Heller = 10 Kreutzers (iron, practically worthless individually).

Heroes get 750 Silver Talers worth of starting equipment, less 250s for every level of the Poor disadvantage (3 levels means you get one suit of shabby clothing). My PC's equipment is listed on Charater sheet at the end of the post, so need not be repeated here.

Step 14: Determine starting age

You can roll, or you can just choose. 22 seems about right.

You can also choose/roll for your hero's birthday. The common calender in the Middenrealm has 12 months, each named after one of the 12 gods of the pantheon. Each month has 30 days, and there are 5 unlucky 'Nameless days' dedicated to the evil, nameless god. The year starts with Praios (=July). The month of Phex (named after the god of merchants, thieves, and tricksters) see the most births, falling as it does nine months after the month of Rahja (the love goddess). The dice have decreed my PC was born on 30 Rahja. The current year is 1040BF, so she was born in 1018.

Step 15: Name the PC

There are some sample names listed for each culture. And somewhere in my travels across the internet I found a big list of names compiled from various sources. A brief glance at names of the Middenrealm shows that the personal names are very heavily influenced by religion, e.g. Praiowine (f) and Praioslob (m - das Lob = praise).

Family names are often rooted in occupations or places, e.g. Harnischmacher (armourer), Engstrand (narrow beach).

My witch is named Travjane Wirtstreu. Her personal name is a variant on Traviane/Traviana (Travia being the goddess of the hearth and hospitality). Wirt (gen. Wirts) means innkeeper, and Treu is good faith.

A very brief history, as a springboard for the sandbox setup:

Travjane never knew her real mother. Or her real father, if indeed she even had one. All she knows is that she was left as an infant on the steps of the village inn. She was adopted by the innkeepers, an  overly religious couple, who especially favoured Praios the Heavenly Judge as well as Travia, the Benevolent Mother. She was not well-liked growing up. The other children would tease her about her hair (Conspicuous feature - Witch's streak), and she often got in fights over it (Bad Attribute - Vengeful, Brawling 8). The old priest took pity on the child, and let her help out in the village's small Praios temple. It was here she learnt to read, and by the time she was 12 she'd read every book in the village at least twice. Even the boring ones.

When she wasn't being put to work at the inn and couldn't hide in the temple, she spent her days wandering in the woods (Survival, Orientation, Animal Lore). The old priest died, as old priests are wont to do, and it looked as if she were to be friendless and alone. But then a messenger arrived, bearing a missive from the old priest, dictated, so it said, upon his death-bed. "My child," read the note, "I must soon leave you to go join the great Lord Praios on his journey through the sky. But you shall not be forsaken. Cum primum signa muliebritatis tibi venierint ('when first the signs of womanhood shall have come upon you' -- written thus in Bosporano as befitted the old man's prudishness), you must seek out the Widow Brinnske. She will instruct you as I could not, and tell you of you future greatness."

Now, the Widow Brinnske was a reclusive old crone who lived in a hut in the forest outside the village. The villagers despised her as an outsider (Brinnske is a Bornlandish name) as much as they had need of her services as a herbalist and wisewoman (Kräuterweib). The children of the village all feared her as variously a cannibal, an ogress, a vampire, a demon summoner, perhaps even a witch. But, of course, she was a witch, and had been watching Travjane from afar. Now she began to teach her the ways of witchcraft and the mysteries of magic.

Travjane's friendship with the Widow Brinnske did not go unremarked, and whispering accusations soon brought her into conflict with the new priestess of Praios sent from Greifenfurt to mind the parish. No one could prove anything, but her most vocal detractors did start to suffer from unexplained illnesses. Things reached a head when Travjane disappeared for a week. Upon her return she refused to say where she had been, and several villagers swore they had seen her flying over the trees a-nights. The following year at this time her stepmother took her on a month-long pilgrimage to the Travia temple in Greifenfurt. Next year she shall not be kept back...

Below is the english character sheet, and the original Heldendokument that I overtyped.

Next post, the Sandbox...

Travjane Wirtstreu

Species: Human
Culture: Middenrealm
Social class: Freeman
Profession: Toad Witch
Experience level: Experienced
AP total: 1,100

Courage      13   Life Points    29
Cunning      12   Arcane Points  34
Intuition    14   Mental Strength 2
Charisma     14   Toughness       1
Dexterity    11   Dodge           8
Agility      14   Initiative 14+1D6
Constitution 12   Movement        8
Strength     10   Fate Points     3

Advantages: Spellcaster, Good Looks II, Age Resistance, Cold Resistance
Disadvantages: No Familiar, Annoying Minor Spirits, Conspicuous feature (Witch's streak), Bad habit (barefoot), Bad Attribute (Curiosity, Vengefulness), Poor II

Special Abilities: Flying ointment, Area Knowledge (home area), Tradition (Witch), Gatherer
Languages: Native language Garethi III, Bosporano III
Scripts: Kusliker signs, Imperial signs

Combat Techniques: Daggers 10 (AT 11 / PA 7), Impact weapons 8 (AT 9 / PA 4), Brawling 8 (AT 8 / PA 6)
Combat Abilities: Improved Dodge I

Physical: Flying 6, Body Control 4, Swimming 2, Self-Control 3, Singing 2, Perception 2, Dancing 6, Stealth 5
Social: Seduction 2, Intimidate 3, Empathy 5, Fast-Talk 2, Disguise 3, Willpower 2
Nature: Tracking 2, Orientation 3, Plant Lore 6, Animal Lore 6, Survival 4
Lore: Magical Lore 4, Myth & Legend 7
Crafts: Alchemy 4, Treat Poison 4, Treat Disease 5, Treat Wounds 4, Woodworking 1, Metalworking 1, Clothworking 1

Magic tricks: Snake Hands
Curses: Paralyse tongue 2, Witch's Shot 3
Spells: Balsam Salabunde 6, Avarice 5, Harmless Form 5, Witch's Bile 7, Toad's Leap 6, Racket 4, Meekness 4

Equipment: heavy dagger & sheath, 3 sets of clothes (common), broom, waterskin, belt pouch, sack, sleeping bag, flint & steel, 3 days rations, pan, silver jewellery [2 earrings (worth 9.5 silver talers each), bracelet (10 silver talers), 5 rings (7.5 silver talers each)]
Money: 8 Silver talers, 10 Hellers

Travjane Wirtstreu

Spezies: Mensch
Kultur: Mittlereicher
Sozialstatus: Frei
Profession: Krötenhexe
Erfahrungsgrad: Erfahren
AP gesamt: 1.100

Mut              13   Lebensenergie   29
Klugheit         12   Astralenergie   34
Intuition        14   Seelenkraft      2
Charisma         14   Zähigkeit        1
Fingerfertigkeit 11   Ausweichen       8
Gewandtheit      14   Initiative  14+1W6
Konstitution     12   Geschwindigkeit  8
Körperkraft      10   Schicksalspunkte 3

Vorteile: Zauberer, Gutaussehend II, Altersresistenz, Kälteresistenz
Nachteile: Kein Vertrauter, Lästige Mindergeister, Körperliche Auffälligkeit (Hexensträhne), Schlechte Angewohnheiten (Barfußer), Schlechte Eigenschaften (Neugier, Rachsucht), Arm II

Sonderfertigkeiten: Flugsalbe, Ortskenntnis (Heimatgebiet), Tradition (Hexe), Sammler
Sprachen: Muttersprache Garethi III, Bosporano III
Schriften: Kusliker Zeichen, Imperiale Zeichen

Kampftechniken: Dolche 10 (AT 11 / PA 7), Hiebwaffen 8 (AT 9 / PA 4), Raufen 8 (AT 8 / PA 6)
Kampfsonderfertigkeiten: Verbessertes Auswiechen I

Körper: Fliegen 6, Körperbeherrschung 4, Schwimmen 2, Selbstbeherrschung 3, Singen 2, Sinnesschärfe 2, Tanzen 6, Verbergen 5
Gesellschaft: Betören 2, Einschüchtern 3, Menschenkenntnis 5, Überreden 2, Verkleiden 3, Willenskraft 2
Natur: Fährtensuchen 2, Orientierung 3, Pflanzenkunde 6, Tierkunde 6, Wildnisleben 4
Wissen: Magiekunde 4, Sagen & Legenden 7
Handwerk: Alchimie 4, Heilkunde Gift 4, Heilkunde Krankheiten 5, Heilkunde Wunden 4, Holzbearbeitung 1, Metallbearbeitung 1, Stoffbearbeitung 1

Zaubertricks: Schlangenhände
Flüche: Zunge lähmen 2, Hexenschuss 3
Zaubersprüche: Balsam Salabunde 6, Große Gier 5, Harmlose Gestalt 5, Hexengalle 7, Krötensprung 6, Radau 4, Sanftmut 4

Ausrüstung: Schwerer Dolch mit Scheide, 3x Kleidungspaket (Frei), Besen, Wasserschlauch, Gürteltasche, Sack, Schlafsack, Feuerstein & Stahl, Proviant für 3 Tage, Pfanne, Silberschmuck [2x Ohrringe (je 9,5s), Armreife (10s), 5x Ringe (je 7,5s)]
Geld: 8 Silbertaler, 10 Heller


  1. My group looked at the English language version several years ago, but rebelled against making multiple rolls to resolve actions.

  2. My group looked at the English language version several years ago, but rebelled against making multiple rolls to resolve actions.

    1. De gustibus non disputandum, I guess. Personally, I am completely enamoured of the skill system. The extra rolling makes it seem more... dramatic is quite the right word, but close. I also like the fact that it's harder to metagame, even if you know the modifiers. Instead of, for instance, knowing that with your +5 stealth you have a 75% chance of making a DC10 roll, you have to look at your attributes and skill level and decide if it seems like a good idea to try or not. And you could always get lucky, but...

  3. This will be fascinating. I've heard a little about DSA, just enough to be intrigued, so your solo campaign will make for an excellent "test drive". Along with getting to see a new-to-me RPG in action, I'll also get to see how another culture approaches RPG design and play.

    1. Absolutely. I will try to do it all justice, but there are some things that just won't come through I'm afraid. There's lots of little things. For example, I just played through one of the published solo adventures, wherein you meet a travelling minstrel. The words to his song are actually taken from Hartmann von Aue -- and left in the original Middle High German.