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The Frightening Captain Hook
by Alberto Tronchi
One of the things we have been asked several times during the Kickstarter campaign is: “How do you create a custom Hunter?”
The level of detail this explanation deserved wasn’t possible during such a hectic time. But now the time has finally come!
The process of creating a Character in Broken Tales is called Bringing a Villain to its Breakpoint. Once “broken,” we will be able to rebuild it as a Hunter.
The process isn’t quick (and that’s why we’re bringing you all those pre-generated Hunters), but it’s definitely fun for anyone who wants to tackle it.
For this article, I decided to create a different Hook so that you can see the flexibility of the process by which a character can be brought to its Breakpoint and highlight the differences compared to the James you met in the Quickstart.
The first step is to choose a story or legend that talks about our villain, and for simplicity, I started with his description on Wikipedia. I underlined all the words/phrases that I find interesting and inspiring from the information I found there. These will become my Keywords (the term is used in a broad sense, often phrases rather than words).
Here are my notes:
- Bad gentleman
- He loves music and poetry
- Challenges Peter Pan to a final duel. When Hook is beaten, Peter Pan, instigated by Hook, kicks him off the ship, straight into the crocodile’s gaping mouth
- “Hook” is not his real name
- He’s a ruthless pirate captain, but at times he seems compassionate.
- It saddens him to know that the Lost Children hate him, even though it was he who caused their hatred
- Often melancholic
- Described as “corpse-like,” with blue eyes and long, dark curly hair that look like “black candles” when viewed from a distance
- Barrie would later describe him as “the most handsome man I have ever seen, albeit, at the same time, slightly disgusting.”
Now that I have the Keywords taken from the source material, I will add additional Keywords from the generic list that can be found in the manual. Because fairy tales can come from a variety of eras and regions, the purpose of this list is to help contextualize a Hunter to the setting of Broken 18th century Europe. This way, it will be easier for me to give coherence to the character and adapt it to the context of the time.
Now is the time to write the Hunter’s backstory (you can see some examples in the Hunter Sheets next to their names). This step is crucial because it will be the basis for building the 3 Descriptors, which will be used later.
Here’s the alternative backstory of our new Hook:
I am a fearsome smuggler, and the sea has always been my home. With my trusty crew, I have traveled along the English coasts carrying all kinds of merchandise. We were outlaws in the eyes of the fools because the word pirate was too frightening. During one of my raids, I rescued a strange boy from the sea despite my instincts telling me otherwise and decided to bring him on board. Never was a choice more inauspicious. A curse hung over the young man: the sky turned dark and a fearsome sea monster struck my ship. I fought to the bitter end, but his giant jaws closed over me. I survived, or at least, something survived. My heart stopped beating, and with it, my body began a slow process of decay. Immortal, but doomed to ruin, I entered the Order in the hope of finding a remedy for the curse the mysterious boy passed on to me.
Starting from this backstory, we can create the Descriptors.
The 3 Character Descriptors must answer these questions:
- Who is he, and what does he do in the Order?
- What is his role’s most distinctive asset/feature?
- What bond did he maintain with his original self from fairytales?
In coming up with a Descriptor, I must use at least one Keyword among those highlighted above or use it as a reference. A Descriptor must have a positive part (something useful and that implies resources) and a negative aspect, which will provide valuable experience points if brought into play.
The first Descriptor tells me who my Hunter is, what role he plays in the Order, and in general, what he does to carry on in the world of Broken Tales.
I am a fearsome and merciless ship captain – with my crew of smugglers, we have made a thousand raids. I’m always afraid of a mutiny, and that’s why I don’t trust others.
This Descriptor highlights that Hook is a skilled ship captain and that his crew is a valuable and active resource. Unfortunately, Hook does not trust anyone, and this will surely lead him to paranoia.
The second Descriptor details one or more resources, characteristics, or special abilities that define what the character can do.
Leadership requires decisiveness and charisma. This is why I win every duel by demonstrating my skills. However, I am a gentleman, and I often spare my opponent to prove my superiority.
This Descriptor represents Hook’s abilities as a duelist and commander. However, our captain will tend to let his guard down if a challenge hangs too much in his favor.
The third Descriptor will be linked to the character’s Dark Ego, detailing the most powerful of his Gifts.
I have an immortal yet repulsive body. My corpse-like appearance inspires fear in my opponents, but I love elegant clothes and drawing rooms all the same.
This Descriptor portrays Hook as an undead, able to advance even after suffering the worst of injuries. His corpse-like appearance scares mortals, making him even more fearsome. Unfortunately, Hook cannot give up his previous life. Which might lead to trouble at some party, as he awkwardly tries to pass for a distinguished nobleman!
After the Descriptors, it’s time to detail Gifts.
Please note: this part is the most difficult to explain because Gift creation requires the complete book. We will often refer to Archetypal Gifts and Effects, which will only be available in the final book. To create a Gift, a player can start from:
- One of the manual’s Archetypal Gifts. There will be several, and all will be differentiated by the type of bonus awarded. A list of Keywords for each Gift will help you understand which Archetype Gift is best suited to the Gift description. Archetype Gifts are created by adding two Archetype Effects together.
- One of the Gifts on a Hunter sheet. All Hunters are tested and created to bring a precise characterization into the game. For this reason, they can be a good starting point from which to develop one’s Gift.
- One of the Gifts of the Order’s Treasures (for those who own The Broken Ones). Like those of the Hunters, they are designed to represent iconic powers and abilities.
And now the best part: we have to tell what our Gift does! That’s right, like everything in the Monad Echo system, the way to create a Gift starts with what we want it to do narratively in the game!
Based on the associated Descriptor and what we’d like our Hunter to do, we then tell what each Gift does and then select one of the three options above to figure out the mechanical part. In addition, in the final book, you will find a list of bonuses and additional costs to alter a Gift while keeping your Hunter balanced.
Let’s go back to Hook.
For his first Gift, I like the idea of the crew supporting him. Sifting through the Hunters, I find the Gift of Regina the Thief of Hearts, called The Queen:
You always have a couple of trusted servants with you, ready to take your every order. Create a Descriptor for each representing why you hold them in your service. Your servants will do their best to satisfy your wishes. Decide how you pay them and expect the Storyteller, sooner or later, to ask you to repay their services to not lose the use of this Gift for the rest of the Scenario.
I like having crewmen around Hook, and I am excited by the idea that they too are undead like him, but I don’t want Hook “paying them,” so I modify Regina’s Gift as follows:
The Captain: During a Scene, you can spend 1 Soma to summon a couple of trusted sailors who will emerge from the earth. Create a Descriptor for each, representing why you keep them in your service. Remember to use the word undead and that they are still pirates. Your underlings will carry out your every Order, even the most dangerous – after all, they are already dead, what else could happen to them? Once per Scene, when you suffer a Wound, you can sacrifice one of your subordinates. They will receive it in your place, shattering in a thousand pieces.
I elaborated on the Gift by adding useful words such as summon and undead. I also added an Archetypal Effect that allows Hook to use his men as a shield. This translates into spending 1 Soma, a Cost from the list you’ll find in the final book. Note that a Gift doesn’t need to reflect a Descriptor 1:1, it just needs to be related to it – in this case, we won’t incorporate Hook’s paranoia.
For the second Gift, I focus on keywords such as skills, duel, and win, and choose the Archetypal Gift Skillful in a fight, here renamed Winning Every Challenge.
Winning Every Challenge: When you fight, few opponents can stand up to you. You get 1 Extra Success when you make a Position Roll to attack or take out an opponent. Once per Scene, when you take an Extra out, you can immediately do another action. Once per Scene, your bonus increases to 3 Extra Successes, but you cannot use this Gift against an Opponent who has already suffered a Wound.
Even in this case, I made changes to the original Skillful in a fight Gift: I added the Archetypal Effect Master Stroke (+3 Successes) and the Narrative Limitation Cost, bringing into play Hook’s “flaw” of pardoning enemies ahead of time!
The third Gift is the Dark Ego one, and in this case, I can unleash all his greed for power! The most essential Keywords from the Descriptor are: immortal and fear-inspiring.
Once again, an existing Hunter Gift comes in handy: Babai the Judge has a fear-based Gift!
Dark Ego – If you don’t quit it, I’ll call the Boogeymen: You are like a fluid shadow that can reach anywhere. During a Scene, you can spend 1 Soma to show up if one of your allies or an Opponent invokes your name. When you manifest your nature, all those present will be afraid and will not act against you unless you threaten them first. The Storyteller may request a Position Roll to scare off particularly powerful subjects. Receive 1 extra Success on all Position Rolls you make to interrogate and intimidate someone.
Activator: Enter or exit a shadow by manifesting your true nature.
The first part of the Gift (linked to moving between shadows) is not ideal for our porpuses, but I love the second part about scaring everyone! So I choose the Archetypal Effect Regeneration. Hook’s Dark Ego hence becomes:
Dark Ego – I Am the Fearsome Captain Hook: Your body is immortal, and therefore you cannot be destroyed by conventional means. Once per Scene, you can spend 1 Soma to immediately regenerate a Wound you have suffered. You can command the severed parts of your body for a short period. When you manifest your nature, all those present will be afraid and will not act against you unless you threaten them first. The Storyteller may request a Position Roll to scare off particularly powerful subjects. Receive 1 extra Success on all Position Rolls you make to interrogate and intimidate someone.
Activator: Unleash your anger by showing everyone that you have conquered death.
What’s left is defining how much Soma our Hook has. The process is still being ironed out, so we won’t go into that for now. For the purposes of this example, let’s just say he will have 6 points.
Finally, we write down his Equipment. Again, we need to use Keywords as a hint!
Hook owns: the old ship Jolly Roger / A crew ready to serve me / My trusty dueling blade / A monster tooth that devoured me / Fine clothes for every occasion / A bag full of treasures and riches of my raids / A book of poetry.
This is the process that, in the final Broken Tales book, you will find explained step by step – we hope you liked this preview!