Recently, there have been some very thought provoking discussions and articles throughout the T&T blogosphere, and at both the Inner and Outer Sanctums of Trollhalla. In particular, the topics of playing a human, playing a citizen, magic and magical items, and talents have intrigued me.

So, I started thinking, if playing a human or citizen are unpopular, playing a human citizen must be an abysmal thought for some players. I also got to thinking, what a ripe character for role-playing and richness of background. Then Ken St. Andre wrote his article about a Heritage bonus for starting human characters, and I knew I had the mechanic I was looking for to tie it all together.

So I started creating characters, I happened to have some pretty good rolls, particularly for Talents, and the first fellow I dreamed up was…

Name: John Q. Public
Kindred: Human
Type: Citizen
Level: 1st

Str: 9
Con: 12
Dex: 13
Spd: 12
Int: 14
Wiz: 9
Lck: 16
Cha: 13

Talent: Beggarman (Luck+6): Used for begging for alms, picking pockets, palming/pocketing small items, hiding quietly in shadows or cover, scavenging, haggling, finding and/or selling information/rumors, and other skills a beggar living in the streets would use to survive. NOTE: CANNOT pick locks, disarm traps, climb walls, or perform other strictly thief-like skills not already mentioned.

Heritage: His mentor, Beggarman Bill, when lying dying in the street, gave him his Magical Ring of Invisibility (as Hidey Hole spell).

Adds: +3
Armor: none
Shield: none
Katar (2+4)

John Q. Public lost his family at the age of 6, and was found crying in a filthy alley by the kindly Beggarman Bill, who took him under his wing and became his mentor. Bill taught John the ways of the Beggarman, and not only was John a fast learner, he was damn good at it. Bill (who possessed a magical ring that granted him the power of invisibility) and John lived fairly well for beggars in the streets.

Fast forward 10 years, John is 16, and Bill had taken another young person under his wing about 6 years earlier, named Cassie, about the same age as John. While John was out working the streets for alms, Bill and Cassie were attacked by thugs who caught Cassie trying to pick one of their pockets. Bill was mortally wounded, and Cassie was dragged off by the thugs. John found Bill barely alive, who told him of Cassie’s fate and gifted him the magical ring, warning him not to abuse its great power, or risk becoming a slave to it. Bill then died in John’s arms.

John has asked around through his contacts in town, and has found out the identities of the thugs. He begins to form his plan to rescue Cassie and avenge Bill…

OK, I can hear people thinking that a ring of invisibility is too powerful for a starting character, but my reasoning is it took him ten years to get to this point where he is going to cross the line from survivor to adventurer. Add the fact that he is weak and not a good combatant, and that ring becomes his best chance of surviving most of what he is probably going to go up against. Besides, I play almost exclusively solo, so I’m player and GM, so I can do what I like. 🙂

The next guy I came up with…

Name: Martin the Minstrel
Kindred: Human
Type: Citizen
Level: 1st

Str: 9
Con: 14
Dex: 13
Spd: 7
Int: 11
Wiz: 15
Lck: 15
Cha: 13

Talent: Minstrel (Cha+6): Used to play music, sing songs, recite poetry, tell stories, also to influence people, gain information, and he can earn a living as a street entertainer.

Heritage: Martin’s father, Markus the Minstrel, handed down his father’s magical rapier (Vorpal Blade) to his son when Martin decided to give in to his wanderlust.

Adds: +1
Armor: Leather Jerkin (1 hit)
Shield: none
Magical Rapier (Vorpal Blade) 6+8

Martin’s grandfather, Marvin, was a renowned adventurer who carved a name for himself with his magical rapier, charming personality, and swashbuckling fighting style. Unfortunately, Marvin’s life was cut short by an Orcish axe when Martin’s father, Markus, was only 10. Devastated by the loss of her husband, Markus’ mother refused to let him take up his father’s mantle as a warrior, but instead she packed away Marvin’s sword, then sent Markus to apprentice with a minstrel. Upon her death, Markus inherited his father’s sword, but left it in storage. Markus raised his own son to be a minstrel as well. When Martin decided he was going to leave home and find his fortune as a wandering minstrel, Markus rescued the magical rapier from storage and gave it to his son to help protect him in his adventures.

It is a bright, warm summer morning as Martin, fingering the strings of his lyre and humming a tune, takes his first steps along the road heading out of town, the weight of his grandfather’s rapier feeling strange to him as it dangles at his side…

One last commoner I think might be fun to play…

Name: Otto
Kindred: Human
Type: Citizen
Level: 1st

Str: 16
Con: 13
Dex: 9
Spd: 9
Int: 7
Wiz: 14
Lck: 17
Cha: 10

Talent: Laborer (Str+3)

Heritage: Magical Pendant of Poor Baby (heals 1 Con per combat round), given to him by his mother upon her deathbed.

Adds: +5
Armor: none
Shield: none
sledgehammer (4)

Otto is what folks around town would call a ‘simple fellow’. He mysteriously appeared in town one day several years ago, and when asked where he was from, all he would say is “Mama gave me this pretty necklace, then went to sleep and never woke up again”. Otto has no idea of the magical power of his pendant, but he values it above all else as it is the last thing his mother gave him. She knew she was dying, and she gave it to him because she was worried about how he would survive after she was gone.

Otto is a laborer, and he works hard to earn coppers for food and shelter. He is always carrying his sledgehammer, and no work is too hard for him. When it comes to needing something smashed, dug up, moved, or carried, Otto is your man. Labor is all he knows, and hard work is all he loves. Oh, and shiny things, he loves shiny things, too.

Recently, a few drifters blew into town, rogue wizards by their appearance and demeanor, and they seem to have caught Otto’s ear about some hair-brained treasure hunt scheme they’ve come up with. The townsfolk warned Otto to stay away from those two boys, but Otto keeps saying “Nice men promise Otto shiny stones if he go with them to smash bad guys”. The townsfolk are uneasy about these strangers taking advantage of Otto, even if they did promise to buy him a suit of armor before they depart…

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief exploration of a few Common Joes that could be fun to play, and certainly could become interesting high level adventurers. Assuming they survive that long, of course.

Mist-Tikk Foo-all (aka Paul Ingrassia)
Troll Hammer Press

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15 thoughts on “JOHN Q. PUBLIC

  1. Interesting, and definitely promising. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that these three are all significantly above average fellows, with attribute totals of 98, 97, and 95 respectively, when the average is 84 (86 with TARO).

    I am ever more strongly suspicious that a detailed study of RPG character generation will yield positive proof of psychic phenomena… ::grin::

    • Ha, ha, psychic phenomena may just be correct, as I said at the beginning, I had some lucky rolls. There were no TARO rolls, despite my good fortune, and that would have disqualified them from being Citizens.

  2. Like to make up people myself. I will give some thought to this idea and see what sort of interesting folks I can conceive. I like hedge wizards and witches who use a lower order of magic, but still can be nasty customers in the right situations.

  3. I think the whole idea of the Citizen class is stupid. Why play a sub par character if you explore heroic worlds of fantasy? I just don’t see the need. If you want to make it hard for yourself, you don’t need a class for it. You can use the point buy character generation system in the 7th ed rules and use a minimum point allocation.

    • Hi Andreas. You’re right, if I want to make it hard I can just low-ball my attributes for any character. But I wasn’t trying to make it hard. To me, an RPG is about the unfolding story, and for me, a Human Citizen has a lot of story potential in a fantastic setting. But then, any well-played and/or defined character has that potential. Sure, a beefed up Barbarian can help the rogues who have come into town seeking to explore the local dungeon, just like every other beefed up barbarian who has ever helped out a pair of rogues. Otto, however, offers a unique, fresh approach with lots of potential for creative role-play. Who is more heroic, the stereotypical beefed up barbarian who slays another gaggle of goblins with his gleaming battleaxe, or Otto, the laborer who uses his beloved sledgehammer to smash his way into legend?

      RPGs, and especially Tunnels & Trolls, can be flavored according to the user’s desires, for just that reason, to satisfy the user. We all like different things.

    • Andreas, I don’t think it’s a stupid idea at all: it comes down to having different goals in roleplaying. Choosing to play a beggar or the like isn’t a question of “making things harder for yourself” but rather of choosing a different, possibly more interesting role to play. I’d be the first to admit that John Q. Citizen would be ill-suited for play in a solo adventure, certainly. But I could see any of these characters really shining in a face-to-face or play-by-post setting, where the emphasis is on the story and not so much on GRRR VICTORY BLOOD AND THUNDER GRAWR.

      • Good points, Jwarrrlry. I should take this opportunity to point out for those who don’t know, when I say I play mostly solo, I do not mean exclusively pre-written solo adventures (though I do play many of those as well), I mean solo campaigns, where a random element (such as the Mythic GM Emulator) is used to drive the adventure and add twists and surprises. Sort of face-to-face, but just one face. 🙂

        Thanks for the kind words regarding my post.

      • Maybe I should add some nuance to my post. I do think the characters posted are interesting, well done and there are some cool opportunity for role playing.

        That being said, I don’t think the rules need to cover these bases. Going down that road you get classes for everything, and suddenly you might as well play a skill based system instead, since the swords and sorcery archetypes have been so diluted.

        If you want to make T&T a more generic system, and sure you can, I’d say you could use the point buy system for stats and have Talents giving you the ability to use arms, armor bonus or spell casting. I’d say it has then turned into something quite different from what it started from, though.

        I do have a series of posts lined up doing that kind of surgery on the system, so who am I to argue?

        So, in summary. Great post with interesting characters, but as the rules are concerned I think Citizens is the wrong path for T&T.

        • Andreas, it is perfectly cool for you to not want Citizens in your games. Thanks for the kind words, regarding the characters. I look forward to reading the surgical posts you have lined up, let us know when you post them.

  4. Those are some really nice characters. My favorites are the first 2 (John Q. Public & Martin the Minstrel). Their background stories are interesting & matches well with their attributes. Did you roll first & then create them from there?

  5. I think the enjoyment a player can get out of playing the citizen types in general or these characters in specific depends on how much they like to role play. If a player is a “power gamer” or even a casual gamer who likes playing in a video game style, then I would think that it is right to create and play the strongest character that he can. Personally, I like playing character driven style games whenever it’s possible. Playing a citizen, or what I’ve actually chosen to play–a pixie wizard–is challenging. You can’t just charge and start fighting the way that barbarian fighter could.

    If you go a step further and really try to play the character. What does Otto do when his hammer fails to put down an enemy after one blow? How would a man like Otto act when he actually sees a goblin or a troll. Does he freak out and run away like a scared child? Is his sense of right vs. wrong so strong that he overcomes the fear to save his friends? What happens if a trusted friend managed to convince Otto that his new “friends” are using him? How would he react to that? What if the rogues aren’t such bad guys and they do become true friends to Otto? How would he react when one or more of them are bludgeoned right in front of him? The list would go on and on. It may even be possible, but not necessarily the most exciting thing, to role play laboring. Before that idea is completely dismissed, think of the success of games like Harvest Moon.

    To sum it all up. I think any character is playable so long as the player is interested in running it. Of course the GM should take the character type into consideration as well, but I don’t think it would be too taxing to come up with survivable scenarios for the citizen type and they do look fun to play.

    • Excellent, Mmarkham! It boils down to the same old thing, T&T can be whatever flavor you need it to be to have fun! That’s part of what makes it one of the Greatest RPGs ever written, IMHO.

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