As I mentioned in my Iron Kingdoms review, one of my favorite parts of the game is its character creation and advancement rules. In particular, I like the idea of choosing 2 careers which then determine your starting abilities and guide your advancement. A couple of weeks ago, my brain got stuck thinking about how to port that concept to the AGE system rather than using AGE’s existing background + class character system.
Iron Kingdoms Character Basics
When creating a character for Iron Kingdoms, you get to make a few choices. First, you pick a race. Each race has an array of starting ability scores, access to certain archetypes, and a few additional characteristics. The characteristics are abilities like a dwarf’s Load Bearing ability that reduces the penalty for heavy armor or an ogrun’s Huge Stature that allows two-handed weapons to be wielded in one hand with a penalty.
Next, you choose one of the four character archetypes: Gifted, Intellectual, Mighty, or Skilled. Each archetype provides a signature trait as well as a list of benefits that can be gained as a character gains experience. Only characters with the Gifted archetype can cast spells.
Finally, you pick two career choices from a wide list. Each career provides a package of starting abilities, skills, and assets that a character has to start the game. In addition, each career has a list of abilities and skills that can be purchased as a character gains experience. This means that careers guide most of a character’s advancement, but because you start with two careers and can acquire additional ones you are never locked into a specific advancement track. What I really like most about the career system is that being forced to choose 2 seems to add extra depth to characters well beyond what a single class choice provides.
Porting Careers to AGE
In porting careers, I wanted to replace AGE’s existing class and background system with the Iron Kingdoms choices (race, archetype, 2 careers). Race would be a simple choice that has ability modifiers plus any basic racial traits. Archetype would mirror the 4 options from Iron Kingdoms with each providing a signature trait as well as additional benefits that are gained as a character advances. Finally, each career would provide a package of starting talents, focuses, and gear as well as guiding which talents and focuses a character can gain with levels.
The first obstacle I ran into was figuring out what abilities belong in the archetypes. The Gifted archetype was the most straightforward. It got the magic training portion of the Mage class minus the arcane lance abilities, which I’d move to a new talent. This gives a starting character 3 spells and 10+Magic+1D6 mana points with more mana and spells gained as a character advances. The other three archetypes seem trickier though. The abilities gained by the Rogue and Warrior classes seem too specific for archetypes, and I would rather see them be moved into new talent options. My current idea is to provide the three non-spellcaster archetypes with a choice of talents/focuses that can be gained, but I’d prefer to have a more distinctive ability for each one.
Another problem I ran into was the range of talents available in the Dragon Age RPG. The game includes a good number of weapon style and spell school talents, but the selection of other talents is pretty limited (weapon styles, spell schools, and armor training account for 12 of the 25 talents). This limited selection made it feel hard to differentiate careers to the same degree that Iron Kingdoms does. I think to make a career system work well, I’d need to create a fair number of new talents as well as using the specialization talents as options for some careers.
In the end, I decided that creating a more complete system of careers along with supporting talents was more work that I’m willing to tackle right now. Perhaps when I have a stronger setting concept I’ll revisit the idea and actually produce something playable.