On this edition of Building a Concept lets explore the idea of the Instant Army character. While no man is an island, it is possible to make numerous character variations in Mana Punk that are capable of raising their own support squad. This core concept can be driven by a variety of game mechanics, including but not limited to the Necromancer & Cultist archetypes, mages using conjured spirits or elements and more. The first thing we will need to decide is the over all appearance and personality of this character concept and we can do this by asking ourselves a few simple questions:
- Do we want our character to blend in socially, or stick out?
- Will they need any special equipment or supplies to achieve their Instant Army ?
- How dependent will our character be on their Instant Army ? Should they be able to survive and operate without these forces?
For this round of Building a Concept lets focus on making a character that can blend in to society at large, being able to work their craft and still go largely unnoticed. The character should also be capable of defending themselves and standing in a fight without the presence of their army. This raises the overall survivability of the character and grants them greater flexibility of operation during situations where they may not have the instant army at their disposal. Now that we have decided that let’s start off by looking at this concept from a game mechanics perspective, and work forward from there to help narrow down our options.
The Mechanics Perspective
The first thing that most people probably think about when the phrase “instant army” is bandied about is the Necromancer archetype, and that is for valid reason. A necromancer can produce a force of unyielding zombies with but a moment’s notice. There are downsides to being a necromancer, however… primarily social stigma. Necromancers get looked upon by the majority of Zethyrian society as outcasts, people that are breaking the accepted rules of society. They may not get stoned or burned at the stake just walking into town, but the practice of their craft in open view of other more superstitious civilians could invite more trouble than it’s worth. This rules out the viability of the Necromancer for our character choice. Another option along this same line would be an Arcanist or Wizard making use of pre-conjured imps or elementals as their Instant Army but this would require a massive amount of advanced preparation to achieve, in addition to rendering the character so slanted towards “conjuration control” that the character may be incapable of operating without their army.
Another option to explore is the Mystic archetype of the Cultist. A cultist only requires the Leadership active skill along with their innate “Insta-Cult” ability to turn any group of nearby civilians into a support army. This ability is near invisible and instantaneous to make use of and requires no advanced preparation or materials to use beyond the requirement of being near people that can be converted using this ability. This combination of benefits means that the Cultist can blend in to social situations easily, and activate their potential reinforcements at a moment’s notice.
The Lore Perspective
Cultists permeate all of Zethyrian society since the concept that drives the archetype is such a simple (and old) one. Any society with enough tension, oppression or strife will always push a small group of people to stand up for their beliefs… often times to the point of zealous repercussions. The nation of Thera has a broad problem with rebels that are constantly taking a stand against the military’s excessively “pro-human laws”, often through the use of cultists performing forced recruitment of innocent civilians to quickly pad their ranks. The A’bondi government also makes use of cultists as covert agents to protect royal family members of members of the Council of Princes. These covert operatives can turn bystanders into an instant defense force to keep their important targets alive when fighting breaks out.
Just remember that the cultist is not required to be some sort of religious or political zealot in order to operate. Sometimes cultists are just people with deep convictions in their own personal goals.
Getting to Design
While the Cultist as an archetype does not require being a specific race to function, certain races do help boost the over all effectiveness of things. Since cultists make heavy use of Charisma the most out of all of their attributes, any race that has a penalty to this attribute would end up negatively impacting the cultist’s performance from the start. On the flip side that means that races with a bonus to Charisma grant a boon to a starting cultist. A second perk to keep your eyes peeled for would be any race that grants a bonus to the Leadership active skill (another staple of the cultist toolbox). One race that fulfills both of these points is the Common Elf. Common elves start off with a +2 to Charisma and a +1 to Quickness as well as a +1 bonus to their Leadership and Etiquette active skills. The Charisma and Quickness boosts increases not only the effectiveness of cultist abilities such as “Insta-Cult”, but also increases initiative in combat and dice pools.
So we’ve come to a decision on race: the Common Elf lends an excellent set of bonuses towards the Cultist archetype. Now we start the process of picking mystic abilities, then work our way backwards to active skills. This may seem like the wrong way around for generating a character, but mystics have numerous abilities that require key active skills for functioning. By choosing the mystic abilities we want first then use them as a guideline for choosing the appropriate active skills. This eliminates a lot of the ‘back and forth’ that can sometimes result in making mistakes and starting off with the wrong skills.
We wanted to have a cultist capable of operating on their own or with the help of their instant army. Let’s look at a set skills chosen for the character, as well as explanations of why they were selected.
- Insta-Cult – This is a starting ability automatically given to the Cultist. “Insta-Cult” uses the Leadership active skill to put anyone within a starting range of 6 meters under the control of the Cultist (providing the fail their initial resistance check). This ability requires a decent rating in Leadership and Willpower.
- Echoing Doubts – This is a starting ability automatically given to the Cultist. It is an attack that leverages the Cultist’s high Charisma attribute in a damaging attack against a single target foe from range. This ability makes use of Charisma and Leadership.
- Telekinetic Threat – This ability allows the Cultist to wield a pair of weapons at a distance, almost as though they are being held by an invisible force. These ‘remote weapons’ can be instantly deployed, require no additional materials (other than an extra pair of weapons) and effectively double the level of threat they can pose to an opponent… all done alone. This ability makes use of the chosen weapon skill of the Cultist.
- Linguistics – Linguistics allows the Cultist to adapt to any language the can hear spoken or see written, allowing for quick and automatic translation. It allows the Cultist to not only break down the language barriers between themselves and any other persons they know, but also eliminates any possible language barriers that the Insta-Cult ability might run in to during use (as everyone that hears the Cultist will now be able to understand them). This ability is a passive ability and does not hinge on any other specific attributes or skills.
- Frenzied Thoughts – Frenzied Thoughts is a direct boost to the number of initiative dice they (and any nearby friendly targets of their choosing) roll at the beginning of each combat round. Using this ability boosts the speed of the entire party of players as well as any possible cultist recruits that may be tagging along, allowing for quicker strikes and additional actions during combat. This ability uses the Performance active skill and is limited to one use at the beginning of a given combat encounter.
- Stunning Revelations – Stunning Revelations is a ranged attack that deals stun damage to a single target, knocking them out. Consider it the ‘backup weapon’ of the Cultist, allowing them to retaliate against a foe if all of their other tricks have failed them. This ability uses the Intelligence attribute as well as the Meditation active skill.
Choosing Attributes & Skills
So… we have a base package of abilities that we have chosen with a little wiggle room left over to chose one or more additional Mystic abilities. Looking at these abilities, we know that we are going to invest heavily in the Charisma and Willpower attributes as well as the Meditation, Performance, and Leadership skills. We also need to choose a weapon skill that best fits our race/archetype combination that we can use with Telekinetic Threat, and Fencing would be a very good candidate. Fencing is not based upon brute strength like other weapon skills, but upon Quickness and finesse. Since the Common Elf race grants a Quickness attribute bonus, this means we are already working at an advantage regarding this choice. Weapons that can be used with the Fencing active skill are things such as rapiers and daggers, and as multiple daggers can be easily concealed about a character without raising much in the way of suspicion… this aids the Cultist even more in their over all design and function.
Wrapping Things Up
A priority set of attributes have been chosen, as have abilities and skills. Certain equipment choices have even been made, giving even more solidity to the character being conceived and put into existence. Armor, additional equipment and things like Traits can be chosen at this point to further round out the character. We hope this round of Building A Concept has helped given you an idea of a new character type that you may like to play in one of your own Mana Punk gaming sessions. With a bit of preparation and a well thought out character concept, the “Instant Army Cultist” can quickly rally aid for their fellow adventurers and pose a significant threat on the battlefield in the process.