So one of the roleplaying games that I had always seen advertised in my early playing days was Middle Earth Role Playing. While it always looked kewl, my gaming friends were all using the various flavors of Dungeons and Dragons to scratch their fantasy RPG itch. So I never really had an interest in playing the game. However I did see that there was a large fanbase for MERP, so it was no surprise when some fans released their own retroclone called Against the Darkmaster. The abbreviation for this game that was used in the book is VsD.
In 2022 I was lucky to find Against the Darkmaster on a special sale at DriveThruRPG. I wanted to use it not only for the Character Creation Challenge, but for another RPG blog project that I’m hoping to release later this year. So my Day 16 entry will be a character for VsD. I’m not certain what to expect here, so let’s dive right in.
There is a three page character sheet and the character creation steps start in chapter 2 on page 14. As with most RPGs, you start out by generating the stats for the character. These stats are Brawn (BRN), Swiftness (SWI), Fortitude (FOR) all three of these are self-explanatory, Wits (WIT) think cleverness and mental agility, Wisdom (WSD) and Bearing (BEA) which is basically charisma. There are two options to generate these stats. Point buy (boring) or random roll. Loving the randomness of the dice you can guess which way I went. I roll a D100 six times and consult a table to see what the stat value is (between -20 to +35). Then I can assign them to the stats as I see fit. One of the rolls came up as 100, so that was the rare +35 score. But the very next roll was a 17 which resulted in a -5 so I can see how it would balance out.
The second step is to choose the kin and culture of the character. This is basically the races and some can be restricted by the gamemaster if need be. Besides your standard four fantasy races (human, elf, dwarf and hafling) there are variants (Dusk Elf or High Man) and some that I didn’t recognize (what is a Firbolg?) So I read the descriptions for each. There are modifiers to the stats for the type of kin you select. Some of these sounded interesting (Firbolg are horned giants with a curse on them) while others made me raise an eyebrow (High Man?) Do I go with a race that I don’t see in other games or stick with one of the basics for comparison? This would have been a good time to talk with the GM to see what they had planned. But as I am doing this for the challenge, I’ll have to wing it. I don’t think I’ve made a dwarf character yet this year so this character is going to be a dwarf. Luckily there is only one type as compared to the various elf flavors.
An interesting step is next, choosing the culture. This could set your skill sets, starting outfits and different worldviews. There are suggested ones for your kin, but you can select anything you would like. So if you really wanted to play a wildfolk that was raised in the city, you could. The different cultures are arctic, city, deep (aka underground), desert, fey (nature loving), hill, marauders (NPC only), noble, pastoral (farming communities), plains, seafaring, weald (wildlands) and woad (primitive). Being a dwarf, I elected to go with the deep culture. It was interesting reading the descriptions. I could see how it could lead to some roleplaying at the table.
Step three is to select the vocation of my dwarven character. This would allow me to select certain skills that he would have. These are basically classes so I selected warrior. Some of the other vocations did sound interesting, but dwarves in this game are not magic users. I was a little confused with the development points and the selection of skills. Your vocation gets some bonuses with certain skills, but do I have to spend the DP on them to get these bonuses? I’m thinking no, they come automatically during the character creation process, then I add to them spending my DP on other skills. I think. I’m going to run with that and perhaps someone will correct me. After reading several pages and not getting a clear picture, I decided to move on.
The next step is background and equipment. The backgrounds are what the character did before they became an adventurer. You have background points (as determined by your Kin) that you can use to select a background. Minor background items only cost one BP while the major tier usually cost 2-3. With the 4 points that I had available, I selected Battle Hardened (major) and Vigilant (minor). I wrote down the starting equipment (thank you for making that part simple).
Step six was to select a passion. According to the rules, this is a statement that tells something really important about the character. The standard passions deal with nature, allegiance and motivation. I believe you select one for all three categories. However you can select one and decide the others in gaming sessions since it is encouraged to create these with input from your GM and fellow players. So for nature I selected “I only trust those in my clan.” There was also a section on drive points (how many does a starting character get?) and a heroic path. This last item is something that is supposed to happen to the character as they progress. There are some bonuses to the statistics, but I’m not certain how it is used by the GM. Again, I’d probably be leaning on the experience of the GM in this section.
The last step (which was also mentioned in another step) was to select a name. This dwarf is Heathgar son of Kragin.
Oh there was a character creation recap chapter after the pages talking about experience. Let’s see if it helps me fill in any of the gaps that I missed? OK you get five drive points. I’m still confused by the skill point allocations. I can see where they made efforts, but I don’t know why but the text just wasn’t explaining it to me. So here is the character sheet. I didn’t scan the last page since it listed spells and magic and I was not using it during creation. There was a section on the 3rd page of the character sheet that covered animals and experience point tracking.
I really wish the PDF I had received was bookmarked. I’ve discovered that when doing a lot of first time reading, using the bookmarks in PDFs has really helped. Later I remembered that there were two versions of the PDF. The HD version that I was looking at, and another copy. When I checked the non-HD version, it had bookmarks (thank heavens). It was getting annoying having to scroll around.
I think I did the skills right, but I don’t know if I got them completely. This is where I probably would have asked questions to an experienced GM.
There were also sections where the character creation checklist gave steps, but the chapters later in the book did not match up with them. The end of the chapter with derived attributes stated the character was good to go, but the checklist still had two more steps on it. Probably could have used another run through with the editor. Not a bad thing, just a little disjointed for the first attempt at making a character.
Having the character creation recap follows one of the rules of technical writing. Tell the audience what you are going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell briefly re-tell them what you just told them.
I think I need to either play a session with a patient GM or watch a good session on video to see if I would want to try this game out. There were some things that I liked when I saw them. They made sense. Then there were other sections that I wished were explained a little bit better. But it’s not a game that would make me run for the hills.
I was able to locate another blog that was participating in the Character Creation Challenge. I have added it to the CCC link list on the page. If you know of any that I might be missing, please let me know at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com
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