This is going to be a long one.
The Game: Fireborn
The Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Degree of Familiarity: Played in a campaign that swapped the modern age for not-Europe during the height of swashbuckling pirates, and had a lot of fun doing so.
Books Required: Should be just the player's handbook for character creation, but I may need to hit the GM's handbook as well.
Fireborn is an unfortunately overlooked gem of modern occult games. A rift in London brings magic back into the world, and the characters are revealed to be scions of ancient dragons, who slowly remember their life in the time before history, and gain access to the power coursing through their bloodline as the game progresses.
A lot of people disliked the game's mechanics, saying that they didn't match the setting, but I'm not so sure. The system has elements in place of classic attributes, and uses stance-changes to allocate dice in combat. I think most people who played the game assumed that it was taking the standard World of Darkness route to doing secret histories and modern occult action, but Fireborn presents itself more as a "John Woo's World of Darkness". Certainly, the combination of stance changes with fighting styles and action chaining make combat both interesting and tactical—possibly moreso than most people expected. The elemental attributes are a smoother way of handling creatures made of magic than, say, Nephilim. Unlike most people, I actually remember really enjoying the system once I got into it. Sure, the first few times are a hurdle, especially with a tactical combat system, but it flows smoothly and has some nice synergies and payoffs.
Fireborn characters come in two stages. First, the scion: the normal human who is the reincarnation of an ancient dragon. Second, the dragon: a mythic beast used mostly during flashbacks.
By default, the resurgence of magic starts in London at the turn of the millennium. I'm thinking that my Scion's not a native but someone who fell into the city's near-gravitational pull. She only intended staying for six months after a really big opportunity fell through, maybe a year at the outside, but she's got a crap-but-tolerable job and just enough security that moving where she wants to go is a scary prospect. Every time she builds herself up, something stops her from leaving London.
She's bright, went to university in York and got a first in applied maths with relative ease. Stayed on to look for a job because she'd moved in with a local man, but nobody wanted to know and graduate programs would mean leaving what was rapidly becoming her home. She completed an MSc almost out of habit.
Just as she was feeling secure in her life and ready to commit to an academic career, she discovered that her man's apparently unable to keep his dick in his pants. Worse, when she confronted him about it he expected her to accept it since "she was just a girl who couldn't look after herself." She's not entirely sure what happened next, only that it involved blood. Lots of blood. She packed a bag and ran like hell for London.
She only intended to stay for six months, maybe a year, just until the heat cooled off. She fell in with a gang running confidence tricks against the rich and uncaring—a friend of a friend asked for her help working out some odds and massaging some figures, and from there she's started going on jobs with them. Unfortunately, every time she tries to leave London the investigation into her ex's "brutal murder" re-opens.
I need a name. Saskia Green is as good as any other, though that's not her real name.
28 points to spread between the four Aspects. They come in pairs: Fire and Water cover physical actions, Air and Earth are mental. Rather than being a Strength/Stamina fixed divide, Aspects instead measure Active (Fire and Air) and Reactive (Water and Earth) ability.
I could begin with a 4 in everything (on a 0-6, 3-average scale) and be exceptional in every field, but I want at least a 5 in Air. I put a 3 in Water (Reactive Physical), 4's in Fire (Active Physical) and Earth (Reactive Mental), and a 5 in Air (Active Mental).
A Background gives me a set of Primary Skills at 4, some Secondary Skills at 2, and a selection of Edges, along with some Fighting Style ranks and a starting Wealth score.
The Con-Artist background fits as good as any. That gives me Knowledge (Street), Interaction, Trickery, and another Knowledge at 4. I take Finances as my other Knowledge. Quickness, Senses, and Stealth all clock in at 2 ranks. For my Edge, I pick a Network among Criminals. Finally, one rank of Fighting Styles and two of Wealth round out the Background. Reading the Lost Lore errata, I should increase that Wealth by one.
Rather than being the Progenitor Dragon, a character's Sire reflects the principles and outlook of the character, as enforced by karma. I'm thinking that her initial outburst was prompted by her connection to her Sire, and that spark is going to surface more and more. Hydra's the perfect fit.
Two Fighting Style ranks, three bonus Karma. As an Edge, I choose Dextrous. It's the only one that fits right now.
I can string together four moves in an active sequence, and three in a reactive sequence. With an Air of 5, Saskia's Karmic Range is Profound, giving her effectively national range with her Karmic abilities. Karma Pool is equal to Earth x5 (20), plus 3 from Hydra. Initiative is 9.
Saskia can suffer 4 Minor Wounds, and the rest of the Health chart looks a bit bad as her Water's only 3.
I get 7 points to spend on Physical Skills and 9 on Mental Skills. Right. I've no ranks in Physical skills for the moment, but that's going to change. She's been taking self-defense classes for quite some time now, so I put two ranks into Melee. Two ranks go into Quickness, to cover her reflexes and agility, and the remaining two into Stamina. The remaining one goes into Athletics.
Mentally, Ka is a good skill. It's effectively "magical awareness". I'm having some of that. Three points there. Three points into Will as well. Finally, I raise Senses to 4 and Stealth to 3.
One Edge rank to spend. Karmic Release is just the sort of thing for a hot-head who wants to win Karma bids.
One rank in Group Mind, which is a wonderful way of facilitating chat between even distant characters.
With three ranks in Fighting Styles, I can buy in to various special combat effects. Thing is, I can't use any actions that I don't have enough active or passive steps for (it's easier in play than it is to describe). Underhanded costs two to buy into and has six attacking combos I can use. Barroom Brawling gives me a whole other set of combos to pick from, which is nice.
Name: Saskia Green
Knowledge (Finance) 4
Knowledge (Street) 4
Karmic Release 1
Network (Criminal) 1
Group Mind 1
Fighting Styles: 3
(Active: 4, Reactive: 3)
Minor Wounds: 4
But wait! There's more:
I get the feeling that Saskia's dragon is what she's slowly turning into—a stoic guardian with a really mean streak who can hold a grudge for centuries. The mythic beast made it's lair in what we now call Siberia, and though she was originally a mighty hero, bitterness took her towards the end and she left the others to enjoy the end of the world. Yilbegan for a name.
40 points to spread around. More physically powerful this time, I think. Fire 6, Air and Water 5, Earth 3. 15 points to boost those to superhuman levels; six points into Fire, five into Air, 3 into Water, 1 into Earth. Nice and powerful, there.
Outlook replaces Background for Dragons. I think, looking over what's available, that Yilbegan is a Guardian at heart. and it's the betrayal of her charges that drives her into isolation. That nets me Ka, Melee, Senses, Stamina, and Will as primary skills. 8 permanent fighting styles, four spell picks, and 3 Hoard.
Now, what type of creature am I? There;s three dominant breeds: Beasts are tanks, Drakes are Western dragons, and Serpents are Eastern dragons. Drake it is.
For minor breed, I go for an Ice Dragon. That nets me some Traits, and I have to rank powers. Coldspawn at 5, then Skin of Stone 4, * at 3, Instinct 2, Alternate Form 1. The * refers to the fact that I can take any one power in that slot, and I pick Metabolic Control.
The Legacy is a grand, karmic ability that defines my dragon above everything else. Turns out that there isn't one for Coldspawn. Fortunately Skin of Stone leads to the Aegis Bearer Legacy, which can buy-down damage for little Karma. Rock.
I can string together six moves in an active sequence, and five in a reactive sequence. Karmic Range is Profound again. Karma Pool is equal to Earth x10 (30). Initiative is 11.
As a dragon, she can suffer only 3 Minor Wounds, but the health chart is better tanks to a high Water.
I get 11 points to spend on Physical Skills and 8 on Mental Skills. Mentally, I want four ranks of Casting, so that I can use my spell picks. Four ranks of Stealth as well. Physically, 3 ranks go into Quickness, 5 into Athletics, and 3 into Travel.
Five edges, ranked from 5 to 1. I need to put Casting at 4. I follow up with Paranoid at 2, Defender at 3, and Dervish 1. Finally, I blow the 5-slot on Aspect Advancement: Earth. That increases everything derived from Earth, including another point in a Mental skill, and increased minor wound capacity. Rituals goes up to 4.
I've got a free rank in Group Mind, as well.
Ravager and Swift fighting styles give a great deal of offensive punch, and the option of swift movement or lots of damage.
Four ranks of spells to pick. Coruscating Bolt is pretty much the point-click-boom of the magic system, and I'd be doing myself a disservice to ignore it. Assumption is another cool spell that'd be worth having available at all times.
It's worth noting at this point that these are the permanent styles and spells. When actually playing as the dragon, I receive that many ranks over again in each to determine what I remember at that moment. Yeah. Dragons are fucking powerful.
I need to detail Yilbegan's lair. I'm thinking a spire on the tundra, reaching impossibly high from out of the ice. Originally, she used it as a watchtower to keep an eye on her flock and ensure her wards were safe. In the last days, her tower lost its shine as she retreated inwards, not caring for the world outside.
I think that's me done.
Fire: 6 (6)
Water: 5 (3)
Air: 5 (5)
Earth: 4 (1)
Knowledge (Mythology) 3
Knowledge (Ancient Cultures) 3
Aspect Advancement: Earth
Skin of Stone 4
Alternate Form 1
Group Mind 1
Aegis Bearer *
Fighting Styles: 8
(Active: 6, Reactive: 5)
Minor Wounds: 4
Claw (l) 9
Bite (m) 12
Land, bipedal: Moderate
Land, quadripedal: Fast