Travellers on a Red Road is written to create diverse, unique characters with a built-in reason for adventure. Players can roll random characters or pick and choose between the options provided, depending on what they feel like. In order to demonstrate the system, I’ll create a character step by step.
At the start of the procedure, the character has a d6 rating in its five attributes: Blood (physical fitness), Instinct (awareness and reaction speed), Presence (charisma and passion), Steel (martial skill and daring) and Wisdom (intellect and knowledge). They also have a d4 rating in all of their skills. Both attributes and skills are rated on a step-die scale, going d4-d6-d8-d10-d12.
The first step is to determine the birth month of our character:
Kalaga’s moon runs swiftly across the sky, dividing the year into twenty months of eighteen or nineteen days each. The idea that birth month influences personality and capabilities is widely upheld. Roll 1d20 or choose birth month.
Since I don’t really have an idea for my character, I roll d20: 3.
 Snakemonth: Spring. Snakes and lizards awaken. +1 Presence, -1 Instinct.
My character now has Blood d6, Instinct d4, Presence d8, Steel d6, Wisdom d6. Charismatic, but not very aware.
The next step, Homeland, can also be determined randomly by rolling d12. A result of 7 tells me that my character is from Oratsa.
This is not a unified land, but rather a collection of minor domains ruled by noble clans, separated by dark forests and stony ridges. The Tsa river and its tributaries form the centre of these lands, and the hills surrounding it are rich in copper and jade, mined by indentured workers. The old noble clans cling to their rights, and despise all reformers such as those in neighbouring Tseganda and Orakawa.
Attributes: +1 Blood or +1 Steel.
Skills: +1 Healing or Letters [History].
Equipment: battle axe with a name or hide and wicker coracle or elaborate jade neck-lace.
Native Language: Tsawük.
Common Names: Awu (gift), Lütsar (moon spear), Münwei (white cat), Niam (beautiful), Raje (hunter), Semxin (happy chime), Tlurausa (great spirit), Tsun (wolf), Xig (heron), Yanoraw (black bear).
Aesthetic: crested hats, hillforts, isolated villages, patterned cloaks, pine forests, porcupine quill collars, tigers, wolves, zizania paddies.
Locations: ancient barrow, feast hall of self-proclaimed queen, rough mining encampment, sacred clearing lined with wooden statues.
People: incorruptible lawspeaker of common birth, rapacious young noble, river pirate chief, wandering exorcist.
I decide to pick the “+1 Steel” option for attributes, increasing that value to d8. For skills, I pick “Letters [History]”. This doesn’t increase my Letters skill from its original d4, but adds a mastery, an area within which I’m especially skilled. I also note that I speak Tsawük, and decide that I carry a battle axe with a name.
The next step is Training, which will decide what type of profession I’ve been educated in. Once again, I decide to roll randomly. A result of 19 gives me Pirate or Sailor.
Sailors and pirates alike lead hard, dangerous lives, albeit with plenty of opportunity to see the world. Certain areas are known to be especially dangerous to sail through, such as the treacherous waters off eastern Orakawa and the straits of Awajo, where one may also find the legendary pirate haven Yerang-Yerang. Still, sailors see things others don’t, and the recent contact with the Dawnlands have convinced many that there is much yet to be discovered in the world.
Attributes: +1 Blood or +1 Steel.
Skills: Artifice [Carpentry] or Letters [Cartography], +1 Athletics, +1 Melee, +1 Travel [Sailing].
Equipment: bottle of arrak or rum, common clothes, hand weapon, ten meters of rope.
I once again increase my Steel, to d10 this time. I pick [Cartography] as a second mastery for my Letters skill, and note the other increases in skills, as well as the extra starting equipment. Now, my attributes and skills are as follows:
Blood d6, Instinct d4, Presence d8, Steel d10, Wisdom d6.
Athletics d6, Letters d4 [Cartography, History], Melee d6, Travel d6 [Sailing].
Oratsa is a landlocked country, but centred on a major river. I might either have travelled abroad to become a sailor, or engaged in river piracy. Perhaps the next step, Background, will give me some indication? Once again, I roll randomly and get 5: Avenger.
The character lived in a poor but loving home – until some swindler or exploiter intruded. Now, the character is left alone with their burning desire to find this person and take their vengeance upon them.
Skills: +1 Melee or +1 Ranged, Influence [Gossip] or Nature [Hunting].
Money: 100 coins.
Aha! Obviously, I have taken to the seas in order to find the person responsible for ruining my family. I will follow every rumour I can find using my new [Gossip] mastery for Influence, and then cleave their head with my named battle axe using my Melee skill, which has now increased to d8.
The next step is giving my character a Secret. This is some extraordinary skill or ability that will make my character stand out. Perusing the list, I find one that might help me as I travel the world:
The character will always be able to make themselves understood on a basic level, and will pick up a new language on a broken level after only a few weeks.
I now have the following statistics:
Attributes: Blood d6, Instinct d4, Presence d8, Steel d10, Wisdom d6.
Skills: Athletics d6, Influence d4 [Gossip], Letters d4 [Cartography, History], Melee d8, Travel d6 [Sailing].
However, I decide that I want to round out my character a bit more. I wouldn’t mind increasing my Letters skill a bit, since a d6 will also make me fully literate, and my Melee could be increased to d10 to make me truly terrifying. In order to do this, I will need to take a Flaw. This will let me increase skills by two steps, an attribute by one step, or let me take another Secret. When I look through the list of flaws, I find one which seems to suit me just fine:
The character is chronically poor and lousy at handling money. After any amount of downtime, roll the character’s Wisdom: that’s how many coins they have left. Any possessions kept because they might be valuable rather than because of their usefulness will also be gone.
In exchange for this, I increase Letters to d6 and Melee to d10. If I wanted to, I could pick another flaw, but I feel that my character is now on the right level.
I now have to decide on an Urge. This is more or less my character’s dark side, which will be brought about by excessive stress. This can be rolled randomly, but since I’m starting to get an image of what type of character I’m making, I will pick the one that seems the most appropriate:
Vengeful characters perceives every injustice as caused by someone, and stress will cause them to lash out and seek to harm anyone they can consider responsible for the situation.
With this, the rules-based portion of character creation is done. I will continue with some other details. First, a name:
Kalagan names consist of a clan name and a personal name. Personal names are listed in the Homeland chapter, while the table to the right can be used to generate clan names by rolling once on each column. Furthermore, Kalagans frequently take on honorary names when assuming some office or performing some great deed.
Randomly generating a clan name, I get Red Bear. I pick the name Lütsar from the list of Orakawan names found in the Homeland section. I should also decide on a gender for my character:
Most Kalagan cultures recognise three genders: female, male, and third-gender, or nara. The third gender mixes attributes of the other two, and tends to be considered suited to liminal roles, such as envoy, priest, midwife, or undertaker.
While there are many traditional gendered responsibilities to one’s clan (women giving birth to children for the clan, men instructing the children of their sisters and marrying women of suitable clans), player characters are for the most part assumed to be breakers of social norms anyway, making gender norms less relevant to them.
My mental image of Lütsar is that of an angry young man, so I’ll go with that. As said above, the societies of Kalaga have gendered expectations of people (as a man, Lütsar would be expected to take care of his sisters’ children and to cement alliances with other clans by being married to their daughters), but characters don’t have to conform to these. For poor Lütsar, it might be a moot point, since he doesn’t have much family left! I’m left with determining my appearance:
Most people of Kalaga have black or dark brown hair, eyes in varying shades of brown, facial features with notable cheekbones and high-bridged noses, and skin tones ranging from pale yellow to coppery. Hair is typically worn long, and body hair is sparse. Red hair is a rare ill omen. Tattoos, piercings, scarification and other ornaments are common and reflect clan or society membership.
Using the appearance tables, I determine that Lütsar is a wiry chap with piercing eyes, a deceptively friendly face and glossy, black hair. He has the traditional decorations of his clan: a jade nose ring and blue tattoos on his chin and legs.
This more or less concludes the character creation procedure. I can buy some extra equipment for my coin (might as well, since I’m so bad at holding onto it!), contemplate my personality and background some more, and so on, but at the moment I have a character that’s ready to be played. The final version looks like this:
Red Bear Lütsar
Attributes: Blood d6, Instinct d4, Presence d8, Steel d10, Wisdom d6
Skills: Athletics d6, Influence d4 [Gossip], Letters d6 [Cartography. History], Melee d10, Travel d6 [Sailing].
Equipment: Battle axe named Crimson Claw, bottle of rum, buff coat, common clothes, grappling hook, sword, ten meters of rope.