To play ZeFRS, you must have a character, an imaginary person whose actions you control. Since you, a player, make the choices for this character, the character is called a player character (PC). You determine everything your character does.
The referee controls the actions of many different characters in the game. Since the players have no control over these characters, they are called non-player characters (NPCs).
To play, you have to know your character's talents - his physical abilities, knowledge, and skills. These talents determine the feats your character is capable of and how likely he is to succeed at them. Some talents are innate - abilities your character is born with. Other talents are learned through study and practice. As you play the game, your character can learn new talents or improve ones he or she already has.
When you create your character, you choose the taltnes he or she has and how good he or she is with each talent. This is indicated by a number following the name of the talent. The higher the number, the more skilled the character is with that talent.
Talents are grouped into talent pools. The talents in each talent pool are related. The six Talent Pools are:
- Prowess: All your character's physical abilities (other than fighting) are grouped into this pool. Strength, movement, swimming, and climbing are some Prowess talents.
- Fighting: This pool consists of all the combat abilities of your character, including the different weapon proficiencies, wrestling, and brawling.
- Endurance: These talents indicate how much punishment your character can take. Talents such as stamina, damage endurance, and poison endurance are included.
- Knowledge: Your character must study these talents in order to use them. The Knowledge Pool includes spells, engineering, reading, writing, and languages.
- Perception: This pool contains talents that require both training and natural ability. Such talents as observation, pocket picking, and animal handling are included here.
- Insight: These talents all require inborn ability. Some Insight talents are natural magic, berserk, and telepathy.
Not having the talent that governs an action doesn't mean that you can't attempt the action; it only means that your chance of success isn't as high as that of someone who has the talent. Suppose Esmis the warrior has the Sword Fighting Talent, but not the Halberd Fighting Talent. He can still fight with a halberd, but he is not as proficient with it as he is with a sword.
Creating Your Character
Your character has a background, a history of his life prior to adventuring. This includes information about his parents, his homeland, and what he did as a youth. These things affect the appearance and ability of your character and should be recorded as a story, not just a few lines of facts. To enjoy your character to the fullest, you should also record his later adventures as a story.
Character Folio (special thanks to Max from RPG.net)
Naming Your Character
First, decide if your character is male or female. Then give him or her a name. Sword-and-sorcery names are seldom more than one word. You can make up any name you like.
Decide where your character was born. This affects the appearance of your character and any special knowledge he or she might have. A hero born in a Nordic-type land would be tall, fair-haired, and pale, and have light-colored eyes.
The birthplace you choose is the homeland of your character's father. Your character's mother doesn't have to be from the same land as her father.
Your character automatically speaks the language of his homeland.
The next step is to name your character's father and mother. The names are totally up to you. Fathers and sons (and one presumes mothers and daughters) often have the same or similar names). After giving the parents names, select an occupation for the father. You can choose any non-magical talent from the list of talents. This choice affects the abilities of your character (see Choosing Talents), so choose carefully! Although there are no restrictions on your choice, consider the homeland of the father. Natives of a remote mountain land are unlikely to have much need of men trained in sailing. They might rather be farmers, miners, or foresters.
You're now ready to fill in a Character Folio. Record your character's sex, name, homeland, parents, parents' occupations, and any other information you want to keep. For example, a PC from a country in an analogue of Africa might have a Folio like this:
Dural Besh of Marumasai, son of Dural Hab the praise singer and Dural Ima the weaver. Dural grew to a moderate stature, with a wiry frame and long, nimble fingers.
This description lists his name, his homeland, his parents' names and occupations, and his general appearance.
After you have chosen the background of your character's parents and his homeland, you must choose your character's talents. These represent his pre-adventuring experiences and studies.
Your character starts with 35 points to spend on talents. You can spend your points on any talents you want, with the following restrictions:
- You cannot start the game with more than 5 points in any one talent.
- You must have at least 1 talent from each Talent Pool.
- You must spend at least 1 point on your father's talent.
You can increase the number of points available for talents by selecting weaknesses. A weakness is a flaw in your character's personality or physical abilities. It prevents him from performing certain actions and may occasionally force him into actions that are not in his best interests. Choosing a weakness means you must play your character according to the dictates of that weakness. Be prepared to face the consequences!
The advantage to choosing a weakness is that for each weakness taken, your character receives 10 extra points to spend on talents. You are not required to take any weaknesses.
The weaknesses listed below are the only ones a PC may choose. Some weaknesses restrict the choice of talents for your character. These restricted talents are also listed below.
|Fear of animals||Animal Handling|
|Fear of heights||Climbing|
|Fear of magic|
|Fear of water||Swimming, Sailing|
|Weakness to drink*|
|Weakness to women/men*|
*A complete explanation of this weakness can be found under Talents and Weaknesses.
When you are done, your character's Folio will look much like the ones already completed for the sample characters.
Initial Character Talents
Sleight of Hand
Weapon (from weapon list)
Language (choose language)
Reading/Writing (choose language)
Survival (choose environment)
Creating New Talents
The preceding list of talents is not everything a character might know. While the usefulness of unlisted talents is limited, you may want your character to have some unusual ability. Explain the talent to the referee and ask if he will allow it. He will decide if the talent is something your character could learn. He will also decide the Talent Pool to which it belongs.
An unlisted talent is treated like any other talent. You must spend points to give it a rating from 1 to 5. You may also increase your rating in that talent as you would in any other.
For example, perhaps you want your character, Galya Eyepiercer, to have a talent in brewing. You tell the referee that Brewing Talent gives Galya basic knowledge about the methods of brewing and the ability to recognize the ingredients of various drinks by taste. The referee decides this is a talent Galya could learn and that Brewing Talent belongs in the Knowledge Talent Pool. You can add this talent to the Knowledge Talent Pool and spend from 1 to 5 points to give Galya a rating in brewing. In the story section of Galya's Character Folio, you could note:
Galya learned brewing as an apprentice in a meadhall.
General Talent Scores
After you have chosen all the talents for your character, you must find his General Score for each Talent Pool. Add the ratings for all talents in the Talent Pool, then divide by 10, dropping all fractions. The result is the General Score for that Talent Pool. Do this for all six Talent Pools.
The General Score becomes your character's rating for every talent in which (within that Talent Pool) he does not have a rating. The General Score is used whenever your character tries to do something that is not one of his listed talents.
Jackal the Reaver wants to try to read Urumxi, something he does not have a talent for. His rating for this attempt is equal to his General Score for the Knowledge Pool.
General Scores can be increased during play, so don't worry if your character's General Scores are low at first.
The last step in creating your character is choosing the equipment he starts out with. As you play your equipment list will change, so it is best to write this information on your Character Folio in pencil.
To equip your character, choose one item from each column below:
|Column 1||Column 2||Column 3|
|any weapon||100' rope & grapple & bridle
2 weeks of food
quilted leather armor
5 gold coins
A completed character will look something like this: Maltius the Buccaneer. (Thanks to ZeFRS ref The Good Assyrian for the use of Maltius.)
Your character is now ready for his first adventure in dangerous and wild lands. But before he leaves to find his fame and fortune, you will want to know how well he fights. This is explained in the Combat section.
1. That number always struck me as leaving the characters a little underpowered. I would at least lift the cap on initial Damage Talent, especially if you're using the original damage system. Otherwise a starting character faces the very real possibility of taking 80% wounds from the first hit of her first combat.