Unlike many RPG rules manuals, I’m not going to begin with such basics as “what is a role-playing game” or “how to use dice”. If you’re here, I assume you have some experience with those things. Further, the language in this section assumes you are already familiar with the basics of tabletop role-playing, so a glossary is not given for some common terms (like d6, for instance). If I rewrite this for a more general audience I will add those sections, but for now I’ll set that aside.
- Alera Nova Dice Mechanics
- Dice Pool
- Success, Touch and Failure
- Character Types in Alera Nova
- Races and Social Classes
- Adolescent Professions
- Adult Professions
- Advenced Professions
- Other Character Elements
- Basic Character Information
- Racial Magic
- Derived Traits
- Other Traits
- Experience Points
Alera Nova Dice Mechanics
Alera Nova uses only 6-sided dice, in order to reflect the 6 elements (earth, air, fire, water, steel, wood) common to Aleran life. These dice are rolled to generate hits, and the number of hits are counted to determine whether or not a roll is a success and by how much, by comparing it against that roll’s hit count.
Most of the time your character will roll a number of dice, that specific number being called his dice pool , corresponding to the sum of one, two, or three values – such as rolling your Strength, rolling your Resolve+Metalcrafting, or your Passion+Melee+Firecrafting. If in the preceding examples your character had a Strength of 2, Resolve of 3, Passion of 4, Melee of 2, Metalcrafting of 1 and Firecrafting of 3, then you would roll 2d6 (Strength 2) for the first roll, 4d6 (Resolve 3+Metalcrafting 1) for the second roll), and 9d6 (Passion 4+Melee 2+Firecrafting 3) for the third roll. This will sometimes be modified by either favorable or unfavorable conditions, such as trying to fire an arrow at an opponent that is hiding behind cover or trying to navigate a stretch of wilderness with the benefit of a map. Circumstances like these usually add or subtract 1 or 2 dice, but can rarely add or subtract as much as 5 dice.
The Threshold of a roll is the number that a given die must beat in order to count as a hit. The default threshold is 3. Unless something states that it has a different threshold or that it changes the threshold somehow, assume it is 3. A roll with a threshold of 3 is one in which every number higher than a 3 (so 4, 5 and 6) is a hit. Thresholds fall within a fairly narrow range, with only very powerful abilities able to modify them very much. If a roll would have a threshold of 0 or less, or 6 or more, then its threshold is instead fixed at the last reasonable number (1 or 5), with every additional step that would have happened either reducing or increasing that roll’s difficulty by 1 as appropriate.
The Difficulty of a roll is the number of hits that a player must meet or exceed in order to get a Success on that roll. Fewer successes than that number don’t necessarily result in a Failure, however. There are three possible results of any roll. These results are discussed in the following section.
Success, Touch and Failure
A Success happens when a character gets more hits on the dice than that roll’s difficulty. It will have its effects spelled out or set by the GM , but it is generally whatever effect the party making the roll was trying to achieve. Each additional hit past the difficulty gives some additional benefit, such as increased damage or movement. Many actions also have some minor, temporary benefit that makes it easier to succeed in subsequent attempts, which occurs if a character makes even one hit on a roll – this is called a Touch. If a character makes no hits at all then the roll is a Failure. The GM may, at his discretion, apply some other negative effect to a failed roll that is dramatic in some way. Often, an outright failure also ‘resets’ the difficulty of an extended roll either partially or fully, undoing the progress that a player might have made toward bringing that roll’s difficulty to within a value that can be reached in a single roll.
Character types in Terra Nova Alera
Alera Nova tells the story of a world populated with a mixture of Races, split into Social Classes and Professions across those racial lines. As such, there are multiple dimensions to your character, some evolving as your story evolves and some ever-present. They are:
Races and Social Classes
These are the perpetual aspects of your character. Race is a designation for different species, as there are at least five sentient species on Carna, three of them playable as PCs. Class is your character’s social position within his home society, and varies widely from race to race.
Alerans are the basic race of Carna. They are descended from a group of Roman citizens who were trapped many generations ago, and through a process unknown even to them were deposited on Carna. There are three social classes within Aleran society. Paganus are the peasants and common folk of Aleran society, whose strength is their adaptability, pragmatism, and/or their physical capabilities which, unlike the other classes, have generally been honed more because of their familiarity with manual labor. Urbanus are the city-dwellers of Aleran society – still ignoble, but considered a step more civilized than the Paganus. The Nobilis are the most genteel of the classes of Aleran society, being descended from one of the high noble families of Carna. They are generally given the best of everything, but this lack of struggle and hardship usually makes them surprisingly frail when they are put to the test.
Marat were known as the Northern Barbarians for many years, and were enemies of Alera. The Vord War brought them within the fold of Aleran society, though, and in the generation since the coronation of their own KItai as the First Lady of Alera they have assimilated within Aleran society very thoroughly. Now seen wandering from the southern Feverthorn Jungles to the northern Iceman Wastes, their only constant is their inherited shamanic ways and concomitant connection to the land. There are four classes within Marat society, defined by the kind of Chala (a kind of totem animal) that an individual venerates. The Swiftclaw are lightning-fast, swift of foot and of mind, known above all for their love of the wind against their faces and the freedom of the open plains. The Strongback are tough and full of sinew, strong and proud. The Sharptooth are known for their ferocity and bloodthirstiness, their dedication to the hunt and their peerless skill at dogging their chosen prey to the very last. Lastly, the Brighteye are known for their cunning and inteligence, often bonding with sentient Chala and gaining some of their unique strengths thereby. Each class is further divided into clans, each clan bonding to the same breed or type of Chala. In that way, though a Marat might be Swiftclaw, he is in fact known more aptly as a Horse clan or Falcon clan; as a Herdbane clan rather than a Sharptooth.
Canim are a proud warrior people whose society was almost destroyed by the Vord a generation ago. They are the most deeply divided of the three races of Carna, being grouped into three Social Classes (with a very few having willingly given up their class identity; this is covered later, and is an exception to the normal rules for this point) between which there is very little change, once an individual pup decides his own destiny. The Canim as a whole are monstrously strong wolf-men, nearly seven feet tall at the shoulder with thick fur that varies from family to family, from nearly ice blue to inky black and everything in between. There are three classes in Canim society. Warriors, who require little explanation; the Ritualists, whose magic rituals keep crops growing and lay waste to enemies on the battlefield; and Makers, who construct the monumental war machines and massive stone edifices that characterize a Canim city. The last group, those Canim who have given up their Social Class for one reason or another, are collectively known as the Outcaste.
Some games of Terra Nova Alera, and some stages of character generation, take place before a character has reached adulthood. When that is the case, the normal Professions do not really apply. Instead of one of those ten, there are five adolescent Professions that encompass the broad kinds of backgrounds and experiences that children are raised within.
Apprentices are raised into a background of tradesmen and/or craftsmen. In it they learn the basic skills and disciplines that will occupy most of their time and that are essential to their livelihood later. Areas like woodworking, stonemasonry, weaving (and other fibercrafts), or blacksmithing are covered by this Profession – anything that is based in, and requires, skilled physical labor.
Cadets are raised into a life of military (or other martial) service. This adolescent profession represents that, giving them the early skills and training needed to better prepare them for a life as a soldier, bodyguard or sellsword. In it children learn discipline, as well as drill with weapons and/or armor, so that when they arrive at the appropriate military Academy they are better prepared to hit the ground running.
Students consume their time in more academic pursuits. In addition to providing training enabling a life of purely academic achievement – such as a librarian or historian – early academic training also supports skilled, “white collar” (to use modern parlance) professions like bankers and lawyers. Some children bound for military service also find themselves in early academic training, because it gives them the skills they need for roles in the officer corps and other leadership positions.
Laborers grow to become the backbone of Aleran society. They are the farmers, herdsmen and other “steadholder” types that make the basic goods that themselves keep Aleran society functioning. The untrained labor that is the focus of this Profession teaches a person to read the land, to better understand aniimal and plant behavior, and gives greater endurance and mental fortitude to those who spend their time doing it.
Urchins have probably the most uncertain lot of all of the adolescent professions. Raised “on the streets” these children are usually on their own, learning the basics of subsistence and self-reliance, as well as how to beg, borrow oor steal the money (and other resources) they need to get by. Frequently (but not universally) growing up into a life of crime, street urchins are often looked down upon, but form an underappreciated part of the sinews of Aleran society, providing goods and services that are looked down upon but nevertheless necessary to urban life.
Where and how you were born and raised does to a great extent define you, but it is not the only important aspect of your life. What you do, and the choices you make, also have a powerful influence. Professions are all about that. Professions are about the choices your character has made and will make – to join the army, to become a tradesman, to become a criminal thug, and so on – that will open up new avenues and opportunities thereby. They are broken down into four basic categories, with a handful of professions in each. The categories are Warriors, Rogues, Scholars and Townsfolk.
Warriors are (not surprisingly) the bulk of the men who make up the armies of Alera. In addition to that, they are the private swords-for-hire, bodyguards, duelists, hunters and trackers of the world. Anyone whose primary preoccupation is with becoming a master in a certain weapon, a certain way of making war, is a warrior. They are broken down into three Professions. Soldiers are the bulk of the army. They learn things like formation fighting, the maintenance of supply lines and the use of a shield in addition to basic fighting techniques. Duelists are the self-made men who make it their business to become the master of one-on-one fighting, of the long blade and the swift cut. They live and die by their sword every day, and make biter business on its edge. Hunters are those men who dedicate their lives to becoming the masters of the bow, of hunting and tracking and wilderness survival.
Rogues are the street criminals, spies, thugs and other covert persons of Alera. They make up the bulk of Alera’s criminal underworld, and all of the Cursors have at least some training in a Roguish Profession to facilitate the gathering of information for the Crown. Rogues come in three basic types. Thugs are the bruisers and rough-and-tumble types on the streets, who are not as dangerous as Warriors one-on-one but who rarely fight without the advantage of numbers and whose talent for disappearing when the odds go against them make them very hardy indeed. Burglars are the cat thieves and pickpockets of the streets, whose nimble fingers and quick feet save them from situations that aren’t quite solved by strikes from the shadows of envenomed blades. Courtesans are a little different, in that they are almost never seen on the streets. However, their talent for social manipulation and subterfuge make them a definite fit into the Rogue category, especially when combined with their facility with disguise.
Scholars are people who use their minds to do whatever it is that they have chosen to do. Their training, be it in the Academy or elsewherre, has sharpened their minds into suitable tools for that purpose, honing them as surely as a whetstone hones a blade into surgical sharpness and precision. Academics are the purest expression of this, generally focused on one subject above others for the pure joy of the learning experience. They are the historians and economists of Alera, the natural scientists and theoretical engineers that plan and debate the works of Aleran society before they are ever built. Arcanists are a more specialized field, studying the supernatural mysteries of Aleran life. These scholars might focus on a particular area of Furycraft, or design or study Canim rituals, or try to examine the Chala bond to understand it in greater detail. Lawyers study the laws and inner workings of Aleran government, and often find roles as politicians or law-makers in Aleran society, as well as defense or prosecuting counsel for individuals or groups.
Townsfolk seem like a boring category to play, but they make up the bulk of Alera’s population and play some very important roles in every society. So it is that many end up in one of the four professions that make up this category, for at least some part of their life. Tradesmen are a different breed altogether, working with their hands to create works of wood or stone or steel, experts of the forge, who are skilled at infusing their works with furies and imbuing them with special properties. Merchants buy and sell the goods that keep the Aleran economy running, and are the “middle men” that make up the bulk of every supply chain on the continent. They use their minds and their carefully-groomed ledgers to squeeze a buck out of every pound of goods in their inventory, and whether they are legitimate businessmen or “legitimate businessmen” they keep a steady strem of supplies moving from where they are made to where they are consumed. Finally, Peasants make up the rest of society, typical folk living typical lives, staying safe and living plainly where they can. As a group they have a simple knack for survival, for getting out when things go foul and for finding a safe place to hide when all around them turns to fire and blood and madness.
The twelve Professions given in the prior section are where all characters start, but few characters end their journey there. There are a number of Advanced Professions that are specializations and continuations of each of the above, and they are discussed in the character types chapter within the section for each Adult Profession to which they are linked.
Other Character Elements
In addition to basic character types, there are several other elements that when taken together describe all of the important facts about a character in Alera Nova. They can be broken down into a few categories, and those categories are listed below.
Basic character information
In this section, generally appearing at the very top of an Alera Nova character sheet, are the basic descriptive and definitional elements that help a player to understand where their character fits in to Aleran society. These include a character’s Race, Class_, and Current Profession as described above. In addition, a characters Name and Physical Description are given here along with the various Qualities that make them unique and special. The latter two are described in more detail in the Chapter 2: Character Generation.
The basic, inherent expression of how adept a person is at six areas of life, Attributes are those inborn characteristics which, though they may be trained a little, stay relatively stable throughout a person’s life after they reach full adulthood. Strength measures both a person’s physical strength in things like lifting capacity, and the stamina with which they keep that strength up and working for them. Quickness measures a person’s swiftness and dexterity, their running speed and physical reaction time. Perception measures their awareness of the environment and ability to make accurate measurements. Resolve measure their mental capacity for staying true, their determination and willpower, and a person’s ability to ignore external emotions and stimuli. Passion measures a person’s force of personality, their mental and physical capacity to sway others and bring their emotions to bear. Finally, Empathy is the ability to peer into the hearts of others, to understand the actions and motivations of others and to feel and channel the mental energies of others. These six attributes are normally measured on a 1 to 6 scale, although in many cases individuals exceed that number if their capacity is greater than the normal human maximum (for example, Canim warriors regularly exceed Strength 6, as their inherent Strength is completely off the charts in normal, Aleran terms).
Designer’s Note: You may have noticed, but two common, basic Attributes – Charisma and Intelligence – were not included in that list. That was intentional. These are factors of role-playing and decision-making, and are therefore not things that need to be abstracted with statistics and mechanics. If you make good decisions, your character is smart. If you can talk to people such that they like or agree with you, you are charismatic. Since it would be incredibly difficult to undo these inherent qualities of your role-playing with game mechanics, I’ve opted not to.
The learned abilities that are acquired through one’s Race, Class or Profession, skills make up progressively more of a character’s stable of abilities as they grow in experience. Things like “Sword Proficiency” or “Lawyer” or “Combat Medic,” Skills encompass a wide range of both knowledge-based and not-knowledge-based abilities and advantages acquired through effort and time accrued learning the various aspects of one’s Race, Class or Profession. They are covered in greater detail in later chapters.
In addition to the particular life-lessons that are gained through Skills, a character develops broader areas of experience and expertise called Disciplines. Each Skill has a tied Attribute and Discipline, and through acquiring enough Skills tied to a given Skill or Attribute, a character can raise their rating in those traits. When play begins many of these are going to have a Rating of 0, though that will often change a great deal as play progresses.
A character’s racial magics – be they Furycrafting, Canim ritual magic, or Chala bonds – are represented both as Disciplines added to the character’s basic set, and as Skills to which they have automatic access.
Certain elements of a character, derived at their most basic level from that characters Attributes, are important in either combat or some other equivalent situation. These include the following:
- Defense, which is a composite measure of reaction time and awareness. It starts as the sum of a character’s Quickness and Intelligence.
- Health, which is a measure of how much energy and vitality a person has and how many wounds they can suffer before being Downed. This also in part determines a character’s maximum Energy. It starts as the combination of a character’s Strength and Resolve.
- Spirit, w hich is the rate at which the rate at which they bounce back and recover their internal Energy reserves. This starts as the sum of a character’s Passion and Empathy.
- Energy, which is a measure of a character’s internal reserves of stamina and morale, is both used to avoid incoming attacks and to fuel special actions the player-character might take. It begins as equal to five times a character’s Health value.
There are a few ‘other’ traits on a character’s sheet, which are not derived from a character’s attributes but do matter in combat or elsewhere. Armor grants a certain level of protection from attacks, for instance, and various levels can be imparted by various degrees/types of armor. Certain Skills grant Wealth, which is an abstract measurement of how much money a character has available. Other traits may work like this, or they may not. These details will be spelled out in the appropriate description.
The important pieces of equipment, such as weapons or armor, or various items that deal with plot or other skills, are listed here. The way that one denotes and describes equipment that has been enhanced with Furycrafting or Canim ritual magic is detailed in a later chapter.
As characters learn and grow, they gain experience points. These points are used in one of two ways: they are either permanently spent to learn new Skills or Furycrafting; or they are temporarily spent on certain enhanced items so that their full range of abilities are accessible. When the items upon which experience points are spent are themselves lost or destroyed, those points are refunded in full.