Creating a character in The Imperial Systems is a mix of both setting stats for the game later, and storytelling for the purposes of getting to know the person you're going to inhabit. It requires partly the players have thought about what they wish their character to be like before coming to the table, but also allows the world and the luck of a dice to play a role too. After all, you don't get to choose how you are in real life, just what do you with how you to become who you wish to be.
TIS mirrors this, with random chance, and the decisions of the group also playing a part in shaping your character. So come up with something interesting, come to the table, and let's see how this part of the system works...
Five Turns to a Character
The first part of character creation is controlled by the player alone. They describe to the other people in the group a brief overview their character, covering their name, race, class, size, and flavour. They'll also, if they have a Manipulation, describe the event that triggered it to come to the fore.
Character Build Points
To create a character, allocate up to 40 points or use one of the standard starting builds. All Talents and Combat / Manipulation Skills cost one point per level, cohesion is .5 per level.
A Trigger Event (optional)
Once everyone has gone around and introduced their characters, you'll each then share a moment from their character's backstory. This is a moment of heightened emotion, either positive or negative, which caused you to trigger and be able to manipulate the universe.
If you're not aiming to take a manipulation, skip this step.
A Shared Experience
In this third step, you narrate how you came to know of another member of the party. This can be anything from them intervening to help save your character from a sticky situation with their quick thinking and gift of languages, to rescuing you from a burning building with their incredible courage.
It grants the other player a Skill, with level up to Expert.
A Treasured Item
The fourth part is to do with Items. Each player tells the group about something they're carrying with them, and why it's important to them. That might be something weighty and deep-seated, like that the weapon they travel with is their father's sword, gifted with his dying breath along with a list of names to be avenged, or it could be something light and cheery, like a locket they bought at a stall, which reminds them of their days at university and their oldest friends.
A Secret Held
The final part of the character creation is done with the GM alone. Each player tells the GM a secret from their own past. This gives opportunities to the GM to bring those things into the story as it unfolds, creating a richness to the adventure that otherwise might not exist.
Through these four/five stages, the characters of the group are created. Should new players join, or new characters be created, the same process is run again, giving time to introduce the character and give them a connection to the group.
Now that we've had the fluffy side of the character creation process, let's take a look at the detail...
Character Details & Stats
The following all assumes you're using the system to play Triumvene for referencing, but adapts easily if you're using it to run something else.
The name your character is known as. This can be pretty much anything you want, depending on the system, but examples of types of names for the Triumvene peoples is given in the Peoples & Nations section later.
The species you belong to. This can modify the base Talents stats detailed below. See the Peoples & Nations sections for further details.
Traits are ways your character is likely to behave. They reflect the character's life to date, and what they've become skilled it, or how something has affected them. You should gain a +1 total bonus for generalist Traits, or +2 for specific & temporary ones.
You excel in business negotiations and bartering. +1 to Diplomatic checks involving negotiation.
Pick an item. Whilst using it, you become suggestible to a voice from inside it, speaking directly into your mind. You have +2 Fitness or Knowledge and -1 Diplomacy whilst using it.
You have one mission in life, and you won’t let anything get in your way. The GM may grant bonuses for actions that bring you towards your goal.
At One with Nature
You have an affinity for nature and wildlife. Gain +2 to all Knowledge checks to do with the wilderness and navigation.
Adept at sleight of hand, you can do magic tricks with cards, coins and other trinkets. Gain +1 to any checks to do with hand dexterity.
Your mighty deeds are well known to your companions. On giving an inspiring talk or speech, they gain +2 to Diplomacy checks for the next hour.
With just the merest glimpse of something, it’s committed to memory and you can draw or paint it again with impressive clarity.
You’ve trained at great institutions and been widely travelled. Pick two other languages to know fluently.
You’re skilled in healing thanks to years of training and an innate knack for healing. You can heal any character(s) for 1d6 HP once per day. The time this takes is set by the GM based on the character backstory.
You’re an instrument of justice. The blade that brings the wicked to their end. Gain +1 to the relevant Combat Skill for a single weapon, rising to +2 when fighting to protect civilians, at a cost of -1 to Diplomacy.
You live for the roll of the die. Gain advantage to all rolls to do with gambling.
You speak only when it matters. Imposes a -1 Diplomacy penalty to gain +2 to Knowledge
As a creature of honour, you wear an item that shows your noble nature. Gain +2 to Diplomacy checks when arguing for the moral option of a choice, at the cost of -2 to any check requiring deception.
The starting HP you receive is given by the peoples you're a part of. Also see the Peoples & Nations sections for further details. HP acts as a general measure for survivability. It’s not how much damage you’ve sustained. Instead, it represents everything outside of taking damage. It's the lucky dodge that only works so many times, the momentary distraction of an opponent to allow you to get away, the desperate slash with a weapon that saves you but tires you out.
Thus you might survive being hit with big things, but one big fall, or being stabbed in the back in your sleep will kill anyone, regardless of HP. This makes TIS a system which is as dangerous and deadly as the group and GM wish it to be.
Your ability to resist the force the universe applies when Physical Manipulation is used either by yourself or someone you allow to draw on your body to do something. When it goes below 0, interesting things start to happen.
Talents tell of your character's abilities and experience in specific areas of life. Each are grouped in three categories, Diplomacy, Fitness, and Knowledge. Under each are a pair of bonus modifiers, one for racial and the other for class bonuses or penalties.
Many different peoples inhabit the worlds you play in. Your diplomatic abilities will allow you to get your way in life. Be charismatic to charm others, intimidate to scare others into bending to your will, or perform poetry or music to act, lie and cheat your way through the world.
A great person of the world needs more than just their mind to survive. Your strength allows you to overcome foes, stamina to out-last them in the fight or in fleeing, and dexterity will let you react rapidly as your enemies try and attack you.
A sound mind and knowledge of the world will give you the tools to survive when brawn alone would fail. Understanding the calls of the wilderness allows you to track your prey and control animals, whilst knowledge of healing will let you tend wounds that would be fatal otherwise, and a perceptive mind will let you see things where the eyes of others would glance past unknowingly.
Professions & Skills
Over the course of time you'll learn things, but your character has a backstory, and that will play a role in their abilities too. All characters know the Common language by default, but for example, only those who have trained as assassins would have knowledge of the Assassins Code hand-language. As you meet other people, face new challenges, and puzzle your way through the world, you may acquire new knowledge and skills, which can be recorded here.
See the Knowledge, Diplomacy and Fitness professions and skills list at the end of the chapter for the things you can learn. Anything else you can think of can be added in - the ones listed are just a (hopefully) useful baseline for the most common.
Professions grant a boost to their relevant base Talents, for any check where that Profession's capabilities and experience is relevant. They add a flat +3, which can either be put entirely into their base Talent, or split across more than one, should you wish. For example, Spy falls under Fitness, so would normally give a +3 to that only. However, your spy might be +2 Fitness, and +1 Diplomacy, to represent their skill in negotiation and deceit.
To calculate your starting professions, roll a d12. On a 6 or less, you have one, for 7-10, you have two, and for 11 or 12, you have three.
Skills boost a base Talent in specific areas, similar to Professions, but come at different levels. They progress in the order Apprentice, Expert, Master. Each level gives +1 to any test for it.
The GM can award new skills based on your character repeatedly doing something. For example, if your character breaks into buildings several times by climbing trees or walls and so on, you could be gain the Fitness skill Climber at Novice rank.
You can start with two Skills, spending 6 points between them. Each level costs two points to increase.
The worlds of The Imperial System are rent and fractured. The physical rules that normally apply are more guidelines than laws. With enough emotional force, a person become capable of bending and breaking them. Doing so uses Cohesion. You can boost a poor roll for PM using spare points during the point allocation (see Standard Starting Builds later in the chapter).
For details on how these work, and what manipulations are available, see the Physical Manipulation section later in the book.
Swords, knives, shields, pole axes, war hammers, bows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers, grenades... Any and every kind of weapon exists within the world.
Carry as much as you want, bearing in mind that every piece will slow you down. On the character sheet, whilst the other stats all related to those given in the Weapons and Armour section of this guide.
Your final line of defence, after your foes have gotten past everything else. Anything from hide and chain mail to steel plate and stab-proof vests can be used to keep you safe. The large box is for the name of the armour you’re carrying and any specific notes on it, whilst the split boxes show the armour effectiveness against Blunt, Slashing and Piercing damage on top, and the total and current hit points of them at the bottom.
Everything from money to medicinal (and not so medicinal) drugs, clockwork devices, potions, drinks, foods, and other things may be traded or purchased as you make your way through your trials in the pursuit of glory.
Similar to weapons, items can be mundane, legendary or exotic. Mundane items are things like jewellery or a torch, whilst exotic items might do anything from making a character hard to see, to being able to change the weather. The limits are imposed only be the setting, the player's imaginations, and the GM's grace.
Keep track of what you've got with you here. Costs and effects are given at GM discretion, but some ideas for what you might have are shown below.
Cures poisons. If the exact poison is known, it's more effective, but something is better than nothing. Takes one action turn per level of the antidote being used.
- Basic: Negates level 1 & 2 poisons
- Complex: Negates level 3 & 4 poisons
- Secret: Negates all poisons
Poisons range in potency. Note what level any poison you receive has. The speed of action is GM determined, based on the player's intent, In general, the scale of poisons is:
- Make someone ill, going from nausea to mild muscle aches
- Really slow someone down, causing great pain
- Knock someone temporarily unconscious (up to ten minutes)
- Knock someone unconscious for longer periods (up to a day)
- Kill most creatures, knocks out anything else
Allows the user to see accurately at increased distance. -2 to tests for seeing things far away
Gives a disguise that someone with the Disguises training can use to hide someone.
Food, Drink & Spices
Foods, wines, liqueurs and spices always have value.
A useful, incandescent light, which falls attached to a small parachute. Lasts for 5 minutes, casting light for 100' in all directions. Moves 1d12 in a random direction each minute. If used as a weapon, causes Burning.
Comes in small, medium and large. Small can hold two small creatures or one medium, a medium three small, two medium or one large, and large can hold any item up to 1000kg. Comes with 50' of rope. If used as a weapon, counts as its size, mundane, with blunt/piercing damage.
Requiring only strength to throw, and coming in three varieties, grenades are always useful.
- Explosive: 3' radius, hits everything back 1d6 feet, flat 40 damage
- Incendiary: 6' radius, sets anything it hits on fire, flat 20 damage
- Frag: 9' radius, 30 damage
Gives the tools to allow a watchmaker, glass blower, smith, carpenter or similar to user their skills.
Ranges in value and type, from rings to crowns.
A set of metal tools to let you pick any lock, if you've got the skills.
A musician is nothing without their instrument. From guitars to flutes & horns to drums.
Almost any trainable animal can be taken and domesticated as a pet. Popular animals include dogs, birds of prey, cats and minor vermin.