With the recent release of the awesome Emissary Lost campaign, I’ve been focusing once again on the Coriolis: The Third Horizon sci-fi game from Fria Ligan. I never actually got around to writing a review of the game so I’m setting out today to write a review… of sorts. Usually I go through every section to let you know what’s in the book but instead I’m going to go through the process of character creation to let you know why you might be interested and then review the awesome parts of the setting in a future post to hopefully set the hook. Bottom line, I think this is an awesome game that you should definitely check out.
The first step in creating a character is to pick the type of game you want to play. This could be decided by your GM but I agree with the book that it’s better for the group as a whole to come up with the choice. For this first crew, I think I’m going to go with the Pilgrims option. The others (Mercenaries, Explorers, Free Trader) all seem great as well but I think it will be easiest to make a Pilgrim in isolation for this blog entry than any of the others.
Pilgrims doesn’t necessarily mean dour monks or evangelizing imams. The Pilgrimage itself is a very specific thing, obviously referencing the Hajj in Islam. The faithful of the Church of the Icons, pauper and noble alike, are expected to visit the church’s two holiest sites at least once in their lives but there are those that live permanently on the road. They might be looking for work, searching for wisdom, spreading joy, or they might be nomads who prefer to be on the move. I’ll decide the specifics later.
The next step is to pick spaceship but for the sake of readability I’m going to leave that for later in this process. That brings me to group talents. There are three listed for pilgrim groups: Last Laugh (getting yourselves out of a pinch), Mercy of the Icons (extra favor with the gods of the setting), and One Last Birr (dumpster diving for food when you’re broke). I want to embrace the religious side of the Pilgrims so I’m going to go with Mercy of the Icons.
The last two steps are “pick a patron” and “pick a nemesis.” Some example patrons and nemeses are provided in the book as one-liners and I think I’ll pick from those. I’m thinking of a conservative, pious pilgrim at this point so High General Abassar Douk of the Free Uharan Army, described as the “leader of rebel forces across the Menkar arm,” would make a great nemesis.
There’s a high priestess that would make a fine patron but I think someone less powerful is in order for a patron. I’m thinking Captain Mero, generous captain of the bulk hauler “Mero’s Promise,” will make a more approachable yet still-useful patron.
The first part of the character background is the origin, meaning the star system you come from but also which social group you are a part of. There are two waves of colonization, after all, the Firstcome and the Zenithians, and each has strong opinions of the other. In keeping with my conservative idea I think I’ll have this character be Firstcome but I still have to pick star system. There are plenty of options but I’m going to take advantage of the random table provided: Dabaran. This is an empty place of deserts and ravines, which might point to a nomadic character. We’ll see, though.
The next thing to decide is upbringing, which seems to be basically social class with some consideration to racial elements as well. Again, I’m going to determine this randomly: Plebian. Well, that fits with the rest. This guy is going to be a poor dirt farmer from Tatooi-… er, I mean Dabaran who left home to travel the stars instead of the wastes. Like age in Genelab Alpha, this is going to determine my starting points for stats elsewhere.
The last thing to worry about here is what the setting calls humanites. These are genetically modified, biosculpted “kinda-humans” and they aren’t very well-liked in the Third Horizon. I’m not interested in being one of these for this character but I mention them here for completeness.
This is the biggest choice in character generation, like Role in Mutant Year: Zero, and it determines both your function in your group and your abilities in the game. There are 11 (not a typo) different concepts to choose from and there are three sub-concepts for each that tweak the concepts for the different types of groups. In the end, players need to choose from 33 different types of characters. This is approaching D&D levels of decision paralysis.
- Artist: The creative, inspirational one on the ship.
- Data Spider: The hacker, slicer, what-have-you.
- Fugitive: Someone working against the law, whether criminal or revolutionary.
- Negotiator: The “party face” who creates in-roads.
- Operative: Sneaky, talented member of the crew. The rogue, to simplify.
- Trailblazer: The one you want beside you planetside.
- Preacher: Religious authority in a setting where faith has real implications.
- Scientist: Tech-head and mechanic. Flipside of the data spider.
- Ship Worker: Another engineer type but more of a shipside jack-of-all-trades.
- Soldier: The most combat-ready of the bunch.
I’m tempted to go with preacher but since all of my decisions have been based around this faithful wanderer type I think I’m going to instead lean on the information I learned about his origin, as a poor kid on a desert world. This character is going to be a Trailblazer and out of the three sub-concepts I’m going to decide he’s a nomadic Prospector.
Determine Reputation, Name, Appearance, and Personal Details
Now we start getting into the details of the character. All three of these depend on upbringing and concept so I’ll be referring to my previous choices of Plebian and Trailblazer/Prospector. My reputation modifier as a Trailblazer is +0, not positive like the Scientist or Preacher but also not negative like the Soldier or Ship Worker. Combined with being a Plebian, that means a start with a Reputation of 2. Looking over the list of names I’m partial to Hakam, not least because I think people won’t mess it up too much.
There are some suggestions for appearance as well, including what his face and clothing are like. I think that our boy Hakam is bald with protective goggles for all that desert sand, and he wears a lined caftan that’s definitely seen better days. I like the list of Personal Problems to start off with an interesting twist. Hakam is going to be stubborn to a fault, even if there are negative consquences, and he’s going to have a relationship to some other PC who survived 10 days in a desert earning Hakam’s respect.
Distribute Attribute Points, Hit Points, and Mind Points
Starting attribute points, skill points, and money are determined by upbringing. Plebians like Hakam have lots of attribute points and low skills (hardy but unschooled) while the Privileged are the opposite and Stationary are balanced. I get 15 points to spread around to my four attributes (Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy) and they’re going to end up between 2 and 4. If I put 3 points into each that’s most of my points right there. I’ll put the last three into Strength, Agility, and Wits (no need for mushy Empathy) which means I’m actually maxed out on three of my four. Crazy, that seems like I did something wrong.
Hit Points and Mind Points are just a calculated total, Strength+Agility and Wits+Empathy respectively. So Hakam has 8 Hit Points and 7 Mind Points. Not bad.
Distribute Skill Levels
Plebians get 8 skill points to spend: low, especially compared to the Privileged’s 12 but that’s all on-brand. There are 16 different skills split up into General and Advanced groups (basically whether you can default or not). Hakam is going to put two points in four different skills: Infiltration, Survival, Melee Combat, and Dexterity. Looks like I’m making a dangerous spy type…
Choose Talents and Icon
Starting characters get three talents: one from group concept, one from character concept, and one from your Icon. In the Third Horizon these nine Icons are somewhere between patron saints and protective gods, the enigmatic figures who guard against the corrupting Dark Between the Stars. I’m going to go ahead and decide my Icon first and see what they give me, and I’m going to use the random table instead of choosing. I get the Messenger, a fleet-footed bearer of news, prayers, and omens. Well that’s right on the button, huh?
From the Messenger I get a talent that let’s me win over NPCs (or PCs) without a roll, just by giving the GM a point to use against you (seems like a sound investment). My group talent was decided at the beginning: Mercy of the Icons and my concept talent is going to be Nine Lives (resisting critical injuries, which is important for a dirt-stubborn sneaky zealot).
This process was pretty easy and created an interesting character that I’m pretty eager to try out. He’s got a built-in backstory that’s also open enough to let me roll with it during the game. He’s got some good skills, some unique abilities, and he’s already linked to the rest of the part. Simple, quick, and evocative which is exactly what we expect from Fria Ligan.