Character Generation

Hi everyone and welcome to the Ten Thousand Islands PBEM campaign. I hope this will be an enjoyable and interesting experience for you all.

For those who don't know me, I've been playing RPGs for more than twenty years. In the late 1980s I started a RPG/genre fiction club at Murdoch University, the Murdoch Alternative Reality Society (MARS), which is still operating (see As a result of one of the campaigns there I wrote Rolemaster Companion VI, published by ICE is 1992. In 1996 in Melbourne, I helped form the Mimesis Inc., a roleplaying and simulation games club. As an association that body had a less than successful history (see a practical spinoff was two successful historical fiction campaigns ( In late 2002, I went to East Timor to work for their Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a year. During that time I spent a lot of time travelling throughout most of the Malay archipelago and learning about the enormous variety of cultures and religions that inhabit the "ten thousand islands" (actually there are somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand) and their penisula.

OK, enough of me. Now on to you and the game system. This PBeM could take as little as ten-fifteen minutes per day of your time. This initial part may take a bit longer, but that is normal for character generation.

What I'd like to have from each of you today or by tomorrow at the latest is a character concept. This should include:

1. Your character's society.
2. Your character's culture.
3. Your character's religion.
4. Your character's occupation.
5. Your character's attributes.
6. Your character's advantages and disadvantages.
7. Your character's skills.
8. Your character's special equipment.

A written description is enough. I'll flesh out the details. Keep in mind that starting characters in this system (a combination of GURPS/RuneQuest and a set of evolving ideas) are more of less equal. Most characters will be in their late 'teens, early twenties with a modest amount of "real world" experience. If you say you want to be the educated and experienced son of the King of Spain and have no physical or mental flaws and carry the latest Arquebus and own two horses, I will punish you in other ways ;-) 'Nuff said on that matter.

With regards to the above.

1. Society. By society I mean the basic social system, means of production, technology, institutional base etc that your character comes from. These can fit in the broad descriptions of Late Primitive, Early Traditional, Middle Traditional, Late Traditional and Early Modern.

2. Culture. First and foremost the language the language you speak. In broader terms "shared symbolic values", but language is a pretty good place to start from. You can get some information from the following:

Did I mention that this is a pretty confusing place as far as languages go? Don't worry most of them are at least a little bit related. Like Greek and English. It may be a good idea that characters have at least one "trade" language so they can communicate with others (e.g., Classical Arabic, Hakka Chinese, Javanese). Note that neither "Indonesian" or "Malaysia" (aka Bahasa) exist at this time).

At this stage you should also pick your character's name. Don't worry too much if you don't have it exactly right - I don't expect you to know the common names of the Bandui for example.

3. Religion. Very important. People in the Malay archipelago don't know what to make of people who say they don't have a religion. In Indonesia it was usually interpreted to mean that you were a communist! Most of the time it's something like not having a family. Primitive societies are always animist (as are many early traditional societies) and have no established "church" with state power.

4. Occupation. This is derived from the RuneQuest occupation table. It represents your parents occupation not yours! (You're an adventurer of course!). It determines your character's starting skills and your mundane equipment.

One can witness the development of societal differentiation in this table simple from the range and type of options.

(Late) Primitive cultures have gatherers/fishers, hunters/fishers and shamen.
(Early) Traditional cultures have slaves, herders, hunters/fishers, farmers, warriors, priests and nobles.
(Middle) Traditional cultures have slaves, performers, herders/farmers/fishers, crafters, merchants, warriors, priests and nobles.
(Late) Traditional cultures have slaves, performers, herders/farmers/fishers, crafters, merchants, healers, warriors, priests and nobles.
(Early) Modern cultures have slaves, performers, herders/farmers/fishers, crafters, merchants, warriors, healers, scholars, priests and nobles.

5. Roll 3d6 for.. No, only joking (sort of). Six attributes, normal human range is from 3-18. Linear scale, so 15 really is 3 times 5. The attributes are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Charisma and Sanity. Oh, you noticed that last one did you?

6. Advantages and Disadvantages are differentiated into type (physical, mental or social), the degree of severity (heavy, moderate, light) and practical occurance (always, common, rare). A limp is physical, light and always. A sense of direction is physical (or mental), light and common. You get the idea. List one or two advantage and disadvantage of each type and try for a range of severities that are related to your attributes (e.g., a character with a low SAN obviously will have a few severe mental problems, whereas a high CHA will have a powerful network of friends or allies). List five "Quirks" here as well - minor personality traits that have no substantial effect on gameplay.

7. Most skills are determined by your occupation and culture. List a few others here that you may have picked up. This includes magical and ceremonial skills (of course, there's magic, there's god(s), spirits and demons, right?)

8. Unusual technology. Religious relics. Family heirlooms. Pets and familiars. Real estate and slaves. Sailing ships. That sort of thing.

OK, that should do for now. Now here's an overview of the Malay archipelago and the current situation...