Background for the Rule
With this rule I wanted to reflect the difference between growing up in a city or in the country-side, and this was the mechanic I decided to use in the Night’s Dark Terror-campaign. The characters are adventurers from the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, a large nation with great many areas, that are either unexplored or was lost in the nations Dark Age leaving strange ruins all over the place. Slowly a reconquest of these regions are taking place, but as of yet, there are only a few proper cities and many humans come from small villages or fortified farmsteads.
The Background Rule
Each player decides whether their character is raised in a town enviroment or in the countryside. Three small boxes are added to the player’s character sheet. Whenever the player is making a skill check, the player can choose to check one of the boxes.
Checking the box
When checking a box, the player then describes how his upbringing gives him a unique insight into handling a problem. This is usually done by describing some an event or telling an anekdote from his upbringing putting an emphasis on growing up in the countryside or in the city.
- Afterwards the player gains a +3 modifier to the skill check.
The player with the halfling rogue is walking tightrope across a deep ravine. She then describes how her character used to run along rooftops, when she grew up as thief in the capital Specularuam.
The player with the human (Traladaran) fighter is climbing up a tower, and in order to gain a bonus, he describes how he grew up in a small lumber village (a countryside boy) and learned to climb trees as part of the lumberjack background. He then gains a +3 bonus.
UnChecking the Box
Each player has three boxes. Whenever the player uses the rule to gain a bonus, then a box is checked. The boxes are unchecked in much the same manner. Whenever a skill is used – and the player has chosen not to gain a bonus – anyone can choose to uncheck one of the player’s boxes granting the player a -2 penalty to the skill check. When this is the done, the one who removed the check describes how the background causes problems for the PC. This comes in the shape of inexperience for countryside person being in the city or some other reason to be unfamiliar with the situation earning a penalty.
There is a few tricks to the UnChecking of the box. One is the fact that both the GM and fellow players can choose to UnCheck – however as the GM I do choose not to exercise this right in situations, that will be fatal to the PC. The optimal strategy is ofcourse to provoke a skill check with only minor repercussions if failed.
UnChecking also works fine combined with the Art of Failing-rule, where the player can earn Daily Power-rerolls by failing a skill check, and this increases his or hers chance to fail the roll, thus earning a Reroll.