Roleplaying Opportunities:
The role-playing opportunities of priors and particulars
by Heather O'Malley

In the Hackmaster character creation process, step 6 is working through the Priors and Particulars tables in Chapter 4 of the Player's Handbook(PHB). The information that most players take away from that chapter are height, weight, age, handedness and starting money. This leaves a number of other important tables that are allowed to fall to the wayside as not very exciting or useful. Maybe a telepathic twin might be useful as a protégé, but then again maybe not.

Chapter 3 of the Gamemaster's Guide(GMG) gives you some information but we will look here a bit more in the options that these present and how they can shape a players history. A player’s history does a great deal to influence the future of the PC. There is also a question of how much interference you want from player’s history, but history is replete with strengths and weaknesses. So let us work our way through the various tables and work this out, with particular focus on the family tables.

On page 75 of the PHB it mentions character background. The story in that section directly shows the power of background. The character in question just happens to have a sister who is a cleric. This is a potential source of free healing for the player. That is a very powerful effect of these charts. And definitely one that needs to be worked with.

The first table we get to is table 4F: Social Class. This is a powerful determinant of the future of the character. Most people ignore the fact that this table influence what class you can take, however it says, “As a general rule, any character must have a social status of, at the lowest, of one rank below that specified for his or her profession in the milieu” (78, PHB). This means that the lowest social class that could be a cleric is Middle Middle Class! This certainly does change things. If the GM allows the person to be of a class a bit higher than their Social Class you have to figure out a why. Were they taken in to the Church as a servant, scrubbing the floors of the chapel or shrine until they heard the call? Did another member of their clan, who had raised their Social ranking, sponsor them in the school? Either of these options and the many others are potential adventure hooks.

There is also what the parent does for a living at that social class. If a player buys a Skill Suite it can reflect either their early apprenticeship or their families business or position. After all Lower Middle Class includes such luminaries as Bankers, landless knights, and petty merchants. All of these become potential sources of aid both monetarily and in other resources. A banker certainly has good contacts to help their child, maybe even money that can be loaned. And a landless knight might be able to recommend kobars and help their child learn the ways of the nobility, being one of the lowest ranks of nobility.

We then get to the next set of tables which helps create your family. Again, there are hints in the text itself that should help guide the player in their design of background. As it says in the second paragraph on page 78 of the PHB:
A character may also inherit the enemies and allies of his father or family. Siblings and extended family can also be important to a character’s career. A rich, influential uncle who is High Priest of Luvia may be able to use his influence to give your character sanctuary from political enemies. Your brother who is working as an apprentice to a dark mage may be able to steal those hard-to-find spell components you need from his laboratory.

Family is an incredibly important tool for both player and GM. When you look as tables such as 4G or 4H and especially 4I you can see the relationship between parents and child. That might give you a clue as to the nature of their ability or desire to help the PC. An Ill-Equipped parent might find it easier to deal with their child now that they are an adult and are working to help make amends for the problems of their raising. Even Abusive parents might be able to be useful, or certainly good for a moment of character development when they are kidnapped and threatened to get the character to do something. Sorry Dad, but I can’t save you.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010 © Ladies of Hack/Kenzer & Company

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