Mercenary Mondays: Characters!

Note: Mercenary Mondays is an going series of posts about the Schlock Mercenary Roleplaying Game and it’s behind the scenes development!

A good story, in any form, can live or die on it’s characters. Strong characters can often drive a story past any of it’s faults, flaws or shortcomings. Weak characters, expose those same issues to the reader.

As the imitable Joss Whedon said: “You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.” And really, that is the core of any good story, and as we all know (or I assume you do since you are reading this blog), roleplaying games are all about the stories. And that’s really something we wanted to convey with the Schlock Mercenary RPG. Space Opera can live or die on it’s grand scale, and it’s driven by the choices and decisions of their characters. A good character in an RPG can be a joy to play. You really attach, tell stories years later, and really empathize with that character you created.

I know for myself, if I really like a character, you know, because I’ll buy new dice, stick the sheet in a sheet protector, and ensure that particular character never gets lost.

With a roleplaying game, the first choices you make as a player are about your character, and we wanted to drive the Schlock RPG to show that. There are really a few ways we can set about it.

The first set of choices are class driven. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) really sets up your class to define your characters, and any extra bits you want to add it are the rules. They’ve tried to modify this over the years, with the introduction of background feats, traits, etc. Pathfinder has done similar.

The second set is really how The Dresden RPG does it. A series of questions that define your character, and by answering them, you generate your stats and abilities.

Lots of systems meld the two ideas. Legend of the Five Rings has a 20 questions you answer, and then your family, clan and school of training all generate your stats and abilities for you. World of Darkness uses a vice/virtue system to help define how your character reacts, but your background is mostly left to you. Traveller takes the other extreme and has your background generated for you as you make the character, ending with the possibility that you could die during character generation.

So how does the Schlock RPG plan on sending you on your journey across the stars!? We got a couple ideas and I’ll let you in on the current way we’re handling it. Obviously this is all in beta, and subject to change.

You select a Sophont template. This gives you some stat modifiers/skill adjustments. These changes reflect the inherent abilities of your “race”. You then use our character creation method to generate your stats.

After that, you answer 10 questions about your characters past. These questions have answers that send to a ranked list of possible background selections. The background you select gives you some flat skill bonuses. These skills represent what you’ve learned throughout your life.

Second you’d pick your “command package.” This defines your role within the ships hierarchy and gives you yet more skill bonuses to represent your training in the mercenary charter.

After all that, you get free skill points to modify your skills with. These final points reflect your characters chosen areas of study and expertise.

All in all, this should really give you a feel for how your character came to be.

Looking at the spread there, it seems pretty complicated, but in practice it’s actually really quick and simple. Our goal was to have your character be generated in under 20 minutes and provide a list of options.

After all that, we have a list of questions that pose situations to your character. You answer them, and in doing so, attempt to determine how your character would react to specifics, and to breathe a little bit of life into your character.

Equipment and all that falls later into the process, and we’ll get into that latet with the next topic! After that, next step is your mercenary charter creation. That’s a topic for another post!

Thoughts? Suggestions? As usual, sound off below!


As a teaser, here is the current list of Sophonts, background and command packages:

Sophont Templates:



Uplifted Gorllias







Background Packages:

Military (Grunt)

Military (Officer)





Medical Professional


Command Packages:


Quartermaster/Munitions Officer



Legal Counsel







6 thoughts on “Mercenary Mondays: Characters!

  1. What’s the civvie background package going to have? Little to no bonuses but more skill points for the “round it out” at the end seems logical. Maybe borrow from Shadowrun and have all the packages and sophont templates come from skill-points, starting with a large pool of points and then allocated them to packages and templates first, then a la carte at the end. Packages could give more skills per point than buying the skills individually, at the cost of flexibility and having some of those raised skills being underused (this would help prevent min-maxing as well. Maybe have a little choice in the characters attributes as well to represent a focus; even a lawyer can have a higher than average strength if he works out a lot, for example. You might also want to include something for implants, bionics and soldier packages (again drawing from the same initial point pool).

  2. Well,

    I don’t want to disclose all the rules here (clearly), but I will say the civvie package is balanced against the rest.

    The packages are being carefully balanced for points, investment, and more against each other. The goal is to use static bonuses on a carefully considered basis to prevent minmaxing. So far, we haven’t had any issues.

    As much as I love Shadowrun, I severely dislike their ruleset, and we will have our own rules for dealing with bionics, implants and more. The goal is to keep character creation simple and turn the rest of the rules into modular add-ons that GMs can drop or keep as their game demands.

  3. I’m a little surprised amorphs are going to be a playable race, given how much of a trump card they seem to be in the comic.

  4. Don’t forget to include a system to create your own (balanced) sophont. One of the aspects I like about Schlock mercenary is the vast variety of people they kill. There’s another quirky race around every corner!
    It seems like your command packages are lacking in grunts and NCs.

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