Part 3: Creating A Character Concept
Once you have an idea of your group identity you can finally move on to define the character that you yourself will be playing. A strong group concept should hopefully already have started to put some ideas in your mind, but some thought about the details can really help you create a strong, interesting and dynamic character that other players will want to roleplay with.
As with everything else in this guide the idea is to provide inspiration rather than to be prescriptive. There are exceptions to every rule and the addition of new, inovative concepts is an important part of the faction’s growth. We hope the notes are helpful to you but you shouldn’t allow them to stifle your own creativity.
The Character Concept
Whilst the vast majority of Albion’s population are human the land also boasts high numbers of fey, beastkin and elves. Many of these prefer to remain in their own isolated communities, but a sizeable minority choose to integrate themselves into human society and politics.
Where they have chosen to join the Harts, elves, beastkin and, in particular, fey have proven themselves every bit as capable as their human counterparts. Consequently, whilst many noble houses might still be alarmed by the idea of their sons or daughters marrying beastkin, race is not an impediment to promotion through the faction or attainment of high office.
Although these four racial groups are prevalent, the Harts have always considered obedience and work ethic to be more important than race and over the years Albion has become home to a wide array of beings (halflings, drow, daemons, goblins, half-orcs, and trolls to name but a few). So long as they are willing to swear fealty to The Pendragon Throne and live within the laws of Albion they are accorded almost the same rights and opportunities as members of the more established races.
When creating your character concept it’s useful to be aware of the current (In Character) date and how recent history might have impacted on your character. The current IC date is 900 years earlier than the real-world date (so 2007 in England is 1107 in Albion) and key dates from the recent past include:
- 1094 – Lions faction rules Albion. Rebellious “Harts” faction formally recognised.
- 1095 – Civil War ends; Lions exiled and Harts assume rule of Albion.
- 1104 – The Empire invades Albion. Cornwall falls and is ruled independently under imperial supervision.
- 1105 – Queen Elspeth murdered. King Edward assumes throne. Peace with The Empire agreed.
- 1106 – Cornwall reunites with Albion. New ancestral Trinity formed. Cataclysm decimates Erdreja.
All these events would have had an effect upon the entire population – even those who weren’t involved personally. It may be your character was only a teenager during the Civil War, but they would still have been very much aware of who their parents supported. Did they fight for Albion against the Empire or spy on them in occupied Cornwall? Can they remember the mourning in their village when knowledge of Elspeth’s death reached it? As a Nethras follower were they persecuted prior to her acceptance into The Trinity? Did they lose friends in the Cataclysm?
A little forethought as to how these events effected your character’s life can potentially be a big help in defining their role in the world and their relationship to other characters.
The Harts are a comparatively religious faction and most Albiones pay at least lip-service to one ancestor or another. By far the most dominant faiths are those of The Trinity: “The Hunter” (protector of the land of Albion), “Nethras” (protector of the people of Albion) and “The Pendragon” (protector of the spirit of Albion). The current trinity was formed in 1106 shortly before the Cataclysm, at which point Nethras and The Pendragon replaced “The Mother” and “Puck” respectively (only The Hunter was part of the original trinity).
In addition to The Trinity, players create a range of other ancestors which become part of Albion’s identity over time. Examples include:
- Ancestors based on figures from English literature and myth … e.g. Shakespeare’s “Puck”, Mallory’s “Igraine” and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “White Dragon”.
- Ancestors based on figures from traditional beliefs … e.g. the Green Man, Taranis and Mannanan.
- Literal ancestors and other dead characters … e.g. House Karlennon’s “Hall of Ancestors”, “Cathol” the founder of House Falcon, and the “Fallen Comrades” of The Company of the Black Boar.
- Original fantasy creations … e.g. the Architect.
More information about The Trinity (and some of the other more-established ancestors) can be found on this website. New groups wishing to create their own ancestors (or seeking further details of existing ones) may like to discuss their ideas before attending an event. As with group background, if you contact Harts command in advance then they will do their best to help.
Nobility & Knighthood
If you’re planning to play a noble or knightly character then it’s always tempting to call your character “Sir ???” or “Baron ???” … this is however something you should avoid. Noble titles and knighthoods are awarded by The Pendragon Throne and therefore need to be earned by a character by virtue of their actions during the course of play. Attaining such a title is a very worthwhile character goal but if your character claims rank they’ve not been granted then other nobles are likely to shun them.
As a new PC noble you’ll be a member of a noble household; possibly with a household or personal retinue (your group) and maybe owning a few estates (potentially a reasonable area of land, but not enough to be marked on the faction map). You’ll probably conduct yourself in a way that you believe appropriate for a noble and may well work hard to improve your connections at court by making alliances with the various landed nobles of the faction.
As a new PC knight you’ll probably be a member of a chivalric or religious order (your group). You’ll conduct yourself in a way you consider knightly, be visible in your support for the faction’s military and probably work for the greater recognition on your order. You might also be an aspiring knight who wishes to join one of the three Orders Of Knighthood that correspond to the ancestors of The Trinity; the Order of the Stag (The Hunter), the Order of the Crow (Nethras) and the Order of the Dragon (The Pendragon).
Spending Your Skill Points
Whilst there’s no single, archetypical Harts character, and no right or wrong way to spend your skill points there are a few factors that it’s worth taking into consideration if you’re a new player. Some skills impact on the roleplay of your character, some make particularly effective combinations, others look good in the rulebook but can be disappointing if you don’t know what to expect.
Hopefully the notes below help to address this. At the time of writing none of us have seen Rules Version 3 in play, so this section will mostly likely be expanded over time as we become familiar with the new edition.
The yeoman archer is an iconic English figure; whether it’s a band of outlaws in Sherwood or the massed ranks at Agincourt. The Harts are very proud of their own archers, but unfortunately the skill point system and the need for bow competency testing mean that only a small proportion of characters learn the Projectile skill. There are however a range of good reasons why you should at least consider archery as an option:
- Archery is great fun and something many LRPers miss out on.
- Whilst there are a lot of safety restrictions on bows, their range and superior damage (arrow hits ignore armour in The Gathering) still make them a potent weapon … especially in numbers or when working as a team with heavy infantry or spell casters.
- Not everyone likes getting into melee combat; particularly in the larger battles at mainline events. Archery allows you to remain involved without getting into the thick of things, which makes it a great secondary skill for “non-combatant” characters.
If you do decide to take the Projectile skill then we’d recommend buying a bow rather than crossbows, since the range of most LRP crossbows is absolutely terrible. In addition, LRP crossbows usually have to be made for the hobby (which makes them expensive), whereas low-poundage bows are available relatively commonly from good toyshops and some archery centres. For more information and help with your Bow Competency Test introduce yourself to the faction’s High Ranger, who’ll in turn take you to meet the nice people at the Archers Guild.
Another traditional Albione weapon is poisoning. Unfortunately new players should be cautious of the Poison Lore skill since poisons are extremely rare … and spending 4 of your 16 points on the skill is a lot if you never get a chance to use it. Consequently we’d recommend that you only take Poison Lore if you’re determined to take the character in this direction and willing to put a fair amount of time and effort into doing so. If so then make sure you introduce yourself to either the High Alchemist or High Scout when you start play, and they’ll do their best to point you in the right direction.
Rituals & Rites
Similarly problematic choices are Ritual Magic and Contribute To Ritual. Ritualists and contributors are invaluable to the faction (full, organised ritual groups particularly so), but each faction only receives a limited number of ritual slots each year and so unfortunately there’s no way of guaranteeing you a ritual at any given event. When you do get a chance you still may not get to perform exactly the ritual you wanted because the faction often has things it needs you to do more urgently.
Having said all that, rituals can be great fun … and it is true that ritual groups often manage to amass powerful items. If you want to get involved then make sure you talk to the High Ritualist regularly, make your contributors available when the faction needs them, and when you do get a ritual slot seize the opportunity and impress everyone with your skill. Prove yourself valuable and you’ll probably soon be inundated with ritual requests.
If you’re considering taking Incantation then remember that it’s not just a different form of spell casting but a powerful commitment to the character’s ancestor and thus likely to influence your roleplay. Every ancestor (even one you make up yourself) has an agenda and in return for your incantations it expects your character to help it achieve its goals. The advantage of incantation however is that dedication to one of the ancestors of Albion is an excellent way to give the character an obvious identity and find acceptance within the Harts.
The final thing to remember is that some of the most powerful and effective skills in the game aren’t actually listed on your booking form or mentioned in the rulebook.
Socially the success of a character, group or even a faction can often depend on tact, diplomacy and manipulation; all of which are important LRP skills but can’t be bought with character points. An inquisitive mind and keen observation of the campaign world will also stand a new player in good stead. There are a huge variety of way in which a player can get involved and if you watch what is going on around you you’ll soon find a niche for yourself.
The same is true in a combat situation. Whilst your character skills determine which weapons you can use, what armour you can wear and what spells you can cast, there are other traits here which can also mean the difference between success and failure. Practice with your weapon of choice; spar with other aspiring warriors and take tips from the veterans. Learn your spells and work out the circumstances in which each is most useful, so that when a situation arises you know just which spell is needed. Train and plan with other members of your group (or even your duchy), figure out your role in the team and make sure that you when battle arises you react with well-rehearsed certainty.
Whilst some people enjoy making up fantastic names for their characters, other players find it relatively hard. Whilst Albion is fairly cosmopolitan certain informal naming conventions have emerged amongst players and these may be of interest.
Human characters frequently have traditional English names; examples include Thomas, William, Julian, Madelaine, Imogen and Rowena. Amongst the current generation of children the names of Albion’s heroes – Elspeth, Hugo, Benedict, Martaine, Lysandra, Cadarn and the like – are probably popular, but the Civil War was too recent for these to be widespread amongst adults yet. Similarly, very few children will have been named Corvus or Roxanne since the Civil War, but many adults were unfortunate enough to be named such – years before there was any stigma attached.
Peasant surnames are usually simply the name of the village in which the person was born (e.g. “of Wickham”). For freemen and townsfolk surnames often reflect a trade (e.g. “Cooper” for a barrel maker). Wealthier families and the cadet lines of noble houses often pass down the name of an ancestor (or a corruption thereof) to produce something relatively similar to a modern surname (e.g. “Fitzwilliam”); whilst nobles use the name of their household (e.g. “Corvidae”). In addition, members of all classes have been known to take their father’s name with the prefix “ap” instead of a real surname (e.g. “ap Galahad”).
Fey, Elven & Beastkin Names
Fey often use Arthurian or classical sounding names (e.g. Percival, Quicksilver); often appropriating the names of legendary heroes and heroines, and sometimes adopting part of the hero’s personality too. Taking the name of something in nature (e.g. Holly) is also common; particular for members of those courts who feel particularly tied to the natural world. Other fey characters have names similar to their human counterparts, or fantasy creations that are alien to human ears.
Elven characters often have either names with Celtic influences or purely fantasy names (often with a Celtic sound). Those whose families have lived amongst humans for some time may receive human names, but most are proud of their heritage and prefer to stand out from the Johns and the Adams around them. Some elven names may contain hidden meanings or translate as something indicative of the character’s personality.
Each different beastkin tribe has its own distinct naming convention; some use guttural sounds, others use celestial events; still others might use predatory animals or the names of great battles. Between tribes there may be no similarities at all, but if you are creating a group that contains a number of beastkin, then you might consider picking a single naming convention for all members of the tribe.
Dressing Like A Hart
Albion does not share the warrior culture of her Celtic neighbours and to travel everywhere dressed for battle is generally considered slightly uncivilised. Consequently many Harts players habitually leave their armour, shields and larger weapons in their tents unless they’re actually expecting to need them. In addition to the In Character logic this also helps ensures that we’re not permanently exhausted and foul-smelling from attempting to spend a blisteringly hot August weekend dressed in full chainmail.
Wealthier Harts tend to favour frock coats and expansive trousers (for gentlemen) or posh frocks and corsetry (for ladies). Nobles will usually attempt to find such outfits in the colours of their house, and sashes or flashes bearing their heraldry are common additions. Generally lightweight and comfortable clothing is preferred (since the four main Lorien Trust events can often be extremely warm) but other fashions do come and go amongst the higher echelons of Albione society.
For those of lower rank, simple and hardwearing clothes (often in dull or neutral colours) are preferred. As with nobles, wearing the colours of your group is popular, but often this will be a surcoat or tabard over more practical clothing. Amongst the very lowest ranks (particularly those who might be slightly isolated from mainstream society) furs and rags are still a common sight.
On the field of battle things are slightly different. Most Harts favour functional, low-fantasy weapons and armour with a fairly realistic look. Amongst less militant nobles thin, lightweight swords are sometimes seen as something of a status symbol, and knives (often concealed as not to spoil the line of clothing) are extremely common amongst all social classes. Norman-style surcoats are currently popular amongst many noble houses but the simple tabard is still the mainstay of Albione heraldry – simple, cheap, lightweight and (conveniently for certainly less reputable characters) very quick to take on and off.
General Costume Advice
If you’re new to The Gathering then it’s well worth finding time to browse the selection of equipment on offer from traders in the market-place. Going early is highly recommended as there are almost always bargains to be had, but they usually disappear fast.
One thing to avoid however is the temptation to make your character stand out by buying a spectacularly distinctive costume. Whilst you might look fabulous, for all you know your character could die the following day … and the more distinctive the costume, the less viable it is to reuse it. A far better plan is to invest in simple bits of reusable kit that can potentially be mixed and matched (you should be able to get costume trousers and a top relatively cheaply) and then top them off with a single piece of distinctive costume, armour or a tabard in the colours of your group. That way when you come to dress your next character you’ve at least got a starting point having to spend all that money over again.
The same is true of weapons. You might find a pair of swords with a raven’s head on the pommel that would look great in the hands of your Corvidae nobleman (the raven is House Corvidae’s symbol) … but if that character dies and you start playing a peasant archer then you’re going to look as if you stole your swords off a Corvidae nobleman! Buying non-descript weapons first time around is probably a far better investment.
Finally, a couple of things to consider before you finalise your costume decisions …
- Make sure your kit is durable enough for use in LRP. Costume which might be fine for a fancy dress party may well not survive a weekend camping.
- Ensure that you’re not going to freeze in winter and/or collapse from heat exhaustion in summer. Layering clothing under your costume can be a good idea, because then you always have the option to add extra layer or take some off.
- Avoid anything which is too obviously modern. Sadly we’ve all seen jeans, wristwatches, shorts, clothing with band logos, trainers etc being worn as “LRP kit” and it’s relatively easy to avoid.
- No matter how charismatic you are, no one looks good in Day-Glo fun fur. The peddlers of such horrors apparently prey upon unsuspecting LRPers, and occasionally someone falls for it. Learn from the tragic mistakes of others and don’t let it be you!