Noble Birth

Xenofos, a member of the group that birthed Beer With Teeth, wrote down some thoughts on nobility and how to make a noble who is not a warrior. This is probably fully 50% of nobles, just not the sort that usually gets the spotlight. His thoughts are below.


Recently I went through RuneQuest Glorantha character creation with the aim of turning a certain long term NPC into an adventurer. Experience was illuminating albeit a bit frustrating in some regards.

I have previously used the tools in the book to create characters from scratch. Even then I have had a basic concept in mind. A nobleman-scholar, pure swordsman, petty wiseguy, nomad warrior. In general creating these characters worked quite nicely and results of the background supported the making of characters I had in mind.

With Lenta Hulta I had a bit of a handicap and advantage in having played her as an NPC on several occasions. She started as a rather one-dimensional caricature trying to hang herself on the arm of one of the other players. Over a year of gametime she has become something more though. So I had a basic idea of what she was like and what she had been up to recently. Question now was using the character generation to see if I could use that as a tool to bring her around. I knew she came from a noble family. I knew she was petite. I knew she was Ernaldan. I had a pretty strong idea she was not a fighter. I also knew she had been involved in finding out things and persuading people to do stuff. I could have done the process entirely by fiat, but I wanted to have a character roughly comparable to other beginning characters to be fair. How important is this? That should be discussed with the GM. She should be involved in the process throughout anyway. If hopping into an established campaign it might be desirable to give the beginner a boost.

Rolling her background was pretty basic. It tied nicely into some of the stuff that I knew from the scenes she had been involved in and explained those.I had some trouble thinking how to treat the time she had been an active non player character, but discussion with the potential gamemaster cleared that one up easily enough. Creating her stats was pretty straightforward, only hesitation being if I should use that natural 18 for her charisma. 

Choosing the background profession was less easy. She was a daughter of a noble family. I had decided she would not be a warrior though. And the skillset and equipment of Noble are pretty martial. I considered Entertainer, but decided against it. I finally ended up using Priestess. I was originally trying to skirt around this because I did not think she was primarily a magical or religious specialist. However it seemed to give the closest match to what I had in mind so I gave it a go. Overall the process went pretty smoothly. There were some hurdles. Difference between Ernalda’s starting skills and cult skills meant I could not stress her social skills as much as I would have liked. Also I had to leave her riding skill lower than I hoped and what her description had let me understand. I also found out that different occupations get quite a widely varying amount of beginning skills.

I got a distinct feeling that creating a character whose main interaction with the world is social is not as well supported as one who deals mainly with sword and spear. It was also pretty hard to stress those skills as much as one can do for weapons skills.

These are issues that character generation did not in my opinion handle very graciously. I am pretty sure that these could be negotiated with a GM, but it would be nice if basic character generation would deal with them as is. One delightful surprise was her dance skill starting at 90 because it was both professional, cult starting and a cult skill. 

During the process I disappointed myself a bit by changing from a purely descriptive approach – this is how she is and this is how she could be represented by rules to thinking how she can be effective in the game. An adventurer having things to do in the game is a factor though. 

She must have ways to make a difference, some way to influence her surroundings. In Lenta’s case this is mainly through Harmony. She knows how to listen. She knows how to win people over. Making her halfway decent in magic is a nod towards playability. And since groups she will be played with have access to both potent combat magic and healing I chose different options. Purely from a game mechanical point of view she should maybe have taken the Charisma Rune spell to boost her social skills. With another player using that regularly I decided to go with other options. 

For maximum game fun and in order to give the GM options I tried to make sure that things this character is good in are slightly different from the ones others in the group shine in. There is some overlap – she is decent in oratory, while there is someone simply stunning in that skill. 

What did I learn in the process? Character creation does bend itself into giving direction for converting a ready concept into a player character. There is a surprising imbalance in the professions, mainly because combat is quite detailed whereas some of the main skills of other professions are left pretty abstract. It is easier to make a proficient killer than a talker. Background rolls were quite useful for rounding up some details that had not been touched on her played background and added some depth into it. The profession template – well. It steers you towards the specialist. Using one of those instead of just assigning skill levels is kind of helpful in keeping the new adventurer roughly on the same level as other beginning characters. Also it gives a baseline for negotiating with the GM on how to make the character as close to that elusive prior vision. And it may produce some fun and unexpected results one would not choose if working with totally open choices.

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There was one comment I made, which was that as a rich Esrolian, Lenta could have taken the noble panoply of armour (one of the reasons Xenofos chose not to use that occupation) and dedicated it to a husband-protector rather than using it herself. However, Xenofos set out to make someone who does not even fight by proxy, so that wasn’t a solution for him.

To be worth consideration for that match the prospective bridegroom should show he has the means to arm himself…

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