Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quick and Dirty Snowflakes

I’m not a completely heartless curmudgeon. Despite having little personal use for concrete skill systems, non-weapon proficiencies, extensive histories, feats, powers, or anything else that causes character generation to go past the fifteen minute mark, I’m aware that there are others who feel differently. Some folks just like having mechanics by which to make their characters unique.

In order to acquiesce to those individuals’ desires, I resorted to the old D&D standby of the random table to address such issues without overwhelming the simple rule set I have in mind. As with the skill-less skill system, nothing here is particularly groundbreaking or unique. Such tables have a long history in role-playing games and this is just another one for that pile. My goal here, as with the skill-less skill system, was to use the mechanics already in play rather than adding new ones. Thus, most of the quirks below either have no mechanical effect or simply modify those already in the game.

At character creation, just before buying equipment, everyone who wishes to can toss a pair of percentiles to determine whether or not they have some special quirk or quality. Everyone uses the same table and the dice roll is unmodified. Everyone has the same chances of having something “special” to bring to the table for the first time. This can also help round out a character’s back story if he wants one and is currently stuck for ideas. The simple nature of the table also means that it can add a little spice to that replacement character you’re forced to roll up after losing yet another character to the dungeon without stretching character creation into an hour long process and thereby get you back in the game.

D% Roll

Character Quirk or Quality


Eye for Horseflesh


Eye for Irregularity


Free Retainer


Hard to Kill




I Know Something


Inspires Loyalty




Natural Climber


Natural Linguist


Oh Captain, my Captain






Owed a Favor


Resistance to Venoms


Situational Awareness


Swift Healing


Swims like a Fish


Weapon Adept


Well Read/Mind for Miscellany




No Special Quality


Roll Twice (Ignoring This Result Hereafter) or Choose One

Eye for Horseflesh: Character always purchases the best mounts & pack animals from the available stock. Horses bought by this character never possess negative traits and pack animals have a +10% bonus to their carrying capacities.

Eye for Irregularity: The character receives a +1 bonus to notice secret doors or traps. This benefit is in addition to whatever racial bonuses the character might already receive. Thus a dwarf with this quirk would notice traps on a 3 in 6 and an elf would notice secret doors on a 3 in 6.

Free Retainer: Character begins play with a (mostly) loyal retainer.

Hard to Kill: Character is treated as being two levels higher when reduced to less than zero hit points (I’m using Gary’s house rule that characters are dead when they reach negative hit points equal to their level or -10, whichever is lower).

Heirloom: The character begins play with a small trinket of some special worth. Roll on the table below to determine what item the character begins play with.

D6 Roll



Potion of healing


An arrow or bolt +1


Treasure Map (leads to cache of randomly determined treasure)


Silver dagger


Magic scroll (1 appropriate spell for clerics & magic users;
protection scroll for other classes)


Silver holy symbol

I Know Something: The character begins play with the knowledge of one absolutely true rumor, legend, or other bit of information about a local adventuring site. This piece of information should be determined by the referee and, while the information is true, it may lack certain other facts that obfuscate the actual legend in some manner.

Inspires Loyalty: Character possesses a certain je ne sais quoi that makes his followers and employees more prone to follow his commands. All the character’s followers, henchmen, and hirelings gain a +1 bonus to their morale. This bonus is in addition to any benefits provided by a high Charisma and can counteract the detrimental effects of a low Charisma score.

Keen-eared: Gains a +1 bonus to Hear Noise

Natural Climber: Has the ability to climb walls as a 1st level thief. This ability never improves. If the character is a thief, he gains a one-time +5% bonus to climb walls.

Natural Linguist: The character begins play with one additional language known.

Oh Captain, my Captain: The character has some prior experience in managing large vehicles of one particular type based on the circumstances of his or her upbringing, allowing him to serve in such a capacity without the need to hire professional help. Examples of such vehicles include ships, wagons, and trade caravans.

Orienteering: The character has a keen sense of direction when traveling outdoors. As a result, the chances of the character and his party becoming lost while moving overland is reduced by -10%. If more than one character in the party has this quirk, the benefits are cumulative, but may never reduce the chance of becoming lost to less than 1%.

Outdoorsman – +1 bonus to outdoorsman checks (foraging, hunting, tracking, etc.).

Owed a Favor: Somebody, somewhere, owes the character for some boon or service he or she provided in the past. At the start of the game, this boon should be left undefined as to what was done and who benefited from the character’s assistance. At any time during the character’s career, he or she may decide to call in that favor with the referee’s permission.

Resistance to Venoms: Due to a hearty Constitution or previous exposure to toxins, the character receives a +1 bonus on all saving throws vs. poison.

Situational Awareness: Character is only surprised on a 1 in 6 under most normal conditions. If alone or using the optional Individual Initiative rule, the character gains a +1 bonus to all initiative rolls.

Swift Healing: The character gains a +1 bonus on all rolls to determine how many hit points are recovered from natural – and natural only – healing (regaining 1d3+1 hp for each full day of rest). As always, any interruption of this full day of rest results in no hit points being recovered.

Swims like a Fish: Character is at home in the water. The character may swim while wearing leather armor without the need for a Constitution check each round. Swims at ¾ normal movement rate.

Weapon Adept: Character gains a +1 bonus on either to hit rolls or damage rolls (determined randomly) with one specific type of weapon (daggers, long swords, spears, short bows, etc.).

Well Read/Mind for Miscellany: Character has a 3% chance per level of experience of knowing some minor fact or legend about a person, place or thing he/she has never personally seen.

Windfall: Character begins play with x2 normal starting money.


noisms said...

Great stuff.

letsdamage said...

This is great! Reminds me of the background tables from MERP. (That's a good thing.)

Hamlet said...

Very awesome.

James Maliszewski said...


Mike D. said...

Joining the chorus to proclaim, Awesome!

E.G.Palmer said...

That's excellent Mike! I'm gonna expand that list and use it in conjunction with my 100 random starter item list. Maybe we need a random quirk and flaw list as well.

Will Douglas said...

Very nice, very old school. Reminds me of any number of random tables from The Dragon.

Badmike said...

Nice, I'm a sucker for random charts and the rumors tables...

Ragnorakk said...

Yeah that is very cool, very succinct

Grim said...

will there be a pdf or do i have to make my own?

Michael Curtis said...

will there be a pdf or do i have to make my own?

A stunningly good idea, Grim. Give me a day or two and I'll rearrange the Word file and make a .pdf of it available here.

Timeshadows said...

Amityville Mike,

Oh, you're going to up the ante, are you?

Cool stuff. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'll just chime in and add my voice to the praising choir. This stuff's just brilliant! With this table, the "Devil's in the Details" articles on FO! and the "What's my motivation?" chart, you could make positively baroque backstories - in two minutes!

(And if you make the .pdf, could you split the "No Special Quality" bracket into smaller slots? That way we could all customize our own tables and add to the fun.)

Timeshadows said...

Inspired by your list, I've come up with this:

Thanks! :D