The main place to start is with a concept and a name. Make sure these are clear. Koltec is a world, and Zounds! is a system, without character classes. Anything is possible, but this means you have fewer crutches to help get you started.
If you don’t have any particular ideas, I recommend thinking about some part of the world that grabs your interest. Either play into it or play against it.
You won’t need to fully finish your character for the first game session. In fact, Zounds! characters often take a couple of game sessions to finish up. If you end up with blank spots on your sheet, that’s OK. They can be filled in later.
The two main things to think about are what got you to where you are today and how will your character be involved with the return of magic to the Seven Kingdoms.
The real key is to figure out why you decided to join a mercenary company. The whole group needs to agree on which company you decide to join. Everyone then needs a good backstory that brings them to join this company.
Next, generate a couple of lists of characters. I recommend John’s approach: friends, foes, and fucks. Who are your character’s great allies, enemies, and loves? What led to that relationship? What developed from that relationship?
Return of Magic
This will be one of the first major plot points in the story. I don’t know when it will happen, precisely (that will depend on how much fun we’re having exploring the world as it is before it starts to change). But that is the first big change that is coming. And your characters are prophecised to play some significant roles in these events.
Your characters will start in a word completely without magic. But much of the campaign will be high-magic. It will be fun to play characters that do lots of magic (religious, scholarly, instinctual, racial, and so on).
If your character concept is a magic user of some sort, think of what that person would be like without magic. We will create and start playing that character. As magic returns, you will be able to trade out current abilities and add new ones to become more magical. The goal should be an interesting character that learns about a whole new side of himself / aspect of the world during game.
You can choose, at any time, to be spoken of in prophecy. This has game effects (you get a power & some other stuff). It also means that you will have a True Name and be woven directly into prophecies.
The True Name fully and completely describes some aspect of you; you will always have to play true to that name. People who learn your name can predict you. This builds trust in your allies and gives your enemies an advantage. Any player can, at any time, call you on not being true to your True Name. Take heed and play it even (especially!) when it wouldn’t benefit you.
The prophecy will include a whole lot of role-play leading up to some set of world-altering decisions. Prophecies never say the way the world is guaranteed to go. They say what choices there are and identify some of the ramifications of each choice. Of course, they are notoriously difficult to figure out—often the prophecy for a choice will be given a century later and half a continent away from the prophecies that outline some of the ramifications. If you start to get involved in prophecies, life will become very interesting. One set of your decisions will suddenly have very large impact.
Being spoken of in prophecy is entirely optional. Your character will be woven into the world regardless, and your choices will have impact. Taking a True Name simply means that impact will echo through the ages.
Besides, your group is already an active participant in several prophecies. None of these state you by name (unless your group takes a True Name as a whole), but it is clear that you will play a role in several upcoming moments of prophecy.
Characters need not all be human. There are good, upstanding citizens of all races. There is no overt racism, and all humans would agree that “dwarves, elves, and their type can be just as good as a true man.”
There will be a lot of subtle racism, so be comfortable being at the short end of that stick if you want to play a non-human. That said, if you’re comfortable with the topic it can be a lot of fun to play—especially when the revolution comes.
The playable races are:
- Human: the most adaptable race and the one that does best without magic.
- Adjective: Curious
- Royal magic: Reverse Engineering
- Giant: the largest, strongest sentient beings known.
- Adjective: Powerful
- Royal magic: Overpower
- Orc: big and crude, but with orcs quantity has a quality all its own.
- Adjective: Plentiful
- Royal magic: Mass production
- Elf: immortal and careful. Each dedicated to the perfection of one thing, typically by first perfecting that aspect of the self.
- Adjective: Perfect
- Royal magic: Alliance / Song
- Halfling: happy and affectionate. Friends to all, even when stabbing them.
- Adjective: Passionate
- Royal magic: Soul / Story
- Dwarf: tough and gruff. Dwarves perfect the world around them via their creations.
- Adjective: Industrious
- Royal magic: Forge / Crafting
- Halfbreed: blends the traits of two races. Takes powers and restrictions from either race.
- Adjective: as per one parent race
- Royal magic: as per the same parent race
Initiations offer your character some traits of a sponsoring organization. This generally gives you an extra power or two and requires that you live up to the strictures of your organization.
There are a ton of organizations that you can join. Some of the most powerful and ancient are the guilds. It is rumored that they may even predate the cataclysm. The guilds are:
- Warrior’s guilds
- Guild of the sword (melee fighters)
- Guild of the arrow (ranged fighters)
- Guild of the confident man (dual-technique fighters)
- Trade Guilds
- Thieves’ Guild
- Guild of the Body (doctors and assassins)
- Scholars’ Guild
- Entertainers’ Guild
- Trackers’ Guild (masters of the wild)
- Craftsman Guilds (specialized per craft, but they all act together most of the time)
Other initiations will appear as magic returns. Also, each of these will deepen as magic arrives.