Peasants & Pitchforks: Part 1 — Character Creation

NOTE: This is part one of an ongoing series, and only describes character generation mechanics. For gameplay mechanics, please see part two of the series.
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Peasants & Pitchforks is a fun little gaming project I’ve been working on. The basic concept is very much inspired by Dungeon Crawl Classics’ zero-level funnels, except redesigned purely with one-shot or convention play in mind. If you don’t know about DCC’s funnels, basically instead of playing one character, everybody plays a crowd of super-weak 0-level characters who take on a super-lethal meat-grinder dungeon module. There are tons of hilarious deaths, and only a handful of characters come out alive.
My problem with DCC’s funnel modules is that they’re meant to be used as campaign openers and are not really optimized for one-shots. You end up playing these weak characters with a whole ton of rules you have no use for running in the background. For con games, I prefer rules systems that are written specifically for the adventure style I am playing.
That’s what I wanna do with P&P. It’s designed specifically for this style of play.
Expanding on the DCC inspiration, I’ve wanted to design a “villagers vs the monster” game ever since playing My Life With Master. And more specifically, a terrifying game where the monster is almost completely impervious, where the villagers barely have a chance in hell—and yet, if they play their cards (er, dice) right, the players stand a good chance at success.
Mechanics-wise, the basic idea is to release a very lite ruleset, but it won’t actually be a lite game. Instead, the bulk of the rules complexity will be written into the adventure modules themselves. Sort of like playing D&D with a 4-page player’s handbook and no Dungeon Master’s guide, but with every module being exceptionally well-laid out so the game master knows exactly how to run the session.
I’ve written that player’s handbook and the not-a-DMG, but the adventure modules are still just abstract notes at this stage. But hey, I’m going to be running a playtest P&P session at a minicon this month (using a DCC funnel and some ad-hoc adjudication), so let’s release the rules here and see where this goes. ^^
Before I launch into the character generation rules though, I need to make clear one very important distinction between Peasants & Pitchforks and Dungeon Crawl Classics. DCC has each player control 3 or 4 characters at the same time, and by the end of the session everybody has only 1 or 2 characters left. In P&P however, everybody plays a single character and the PCs are accompanied by a peasant mob that moves together as one unit. When a character dies (and they die a lot, as they’re much more fragile than in DCC), you take a new character directly from the mob and roll up their stats on the spot. In this sense, the peasant mob acts as “hit points”.
So, with this in mind, it is clear that the character generation method must be super quick and painless. After all, you're going to be doing a lot of it. Here is my take on how to achieve that while still making it fun and interesting:
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Note: When properly formatted, the following text all fits on one side of a single A4 sheet of paper. It's meant to be kept on the game table, accessible to everyone so they can roll up a quick character in no time flat.


At the start of the game, each player will generate one peasant each. The whole peasant generation process shouldn’t take more than a minute or three. All at once, roll the following dice and then match the results with the tables in each of the steps below.
  • 4d20
  • 3d6

Ironman rules (optional)

If you dare to allocate the dice roles strictly in order, you can start with +2 Luck. However, you must commit to the Ironman rules before rolling the dice.
For Ironman rules, the location each die falls in respect to the other dice determines which table the die corresponds with. For example, the first d20 starting from the left corresponds with the first table (physical trait), the next d20 is for the next table (personality), etc. This also matches up on your character sheet, for easy reference.

Traits, Background and Gear (4d20)

Allocate each d20 to a table of your choice, resulting in one pick from each of the following tables: Physical Trait, Personality Trait, Background and Gear. If you chose to use the Ironman rules, allocate the dice in order.
Physical Trait: 1 sickly, 2 club-footed, 3 fat, 4 gaunt, 5 weak, 6 clumsy, 7 foul-smelling, 8 short, 9 delicate, 10 old*, 11 young*, 12 tall, 13 curvaceous, 14 attractive, 15 slippery, 16 strong, 17 nimble, 18 hardy, 19 tough, 20 fast
  • If you rolled ‘old’ or ‘young’, write it down and roll another d20 for a second physical trait.
Personality Trait: 1 idiot, 2 ugly, 3 braggart, 4 selfish, 5 wicked, 6 superstitious,  7 forgetful, 8 childish, 9 hostile, 10 protective, 11 skeptical, 12 secretive, 13 courteous, 14 logical, 15 calm, 16 compassionate, 17 funny, 18 wise, 19 optimistic, 20 good
Background: 1-3 criminal, 4-6 laborer*, 7-8 farmer, 9-11 craftsman*, 12-13 fisher, 14-15 hunter, 16-17 merchant, 18-19 soldier, 20 something else of your choice
  • Laborers are all assistants (roll 1d4): 1-2 farmhand, 3 dockhand, 4 craftsman’s apprentice.
  • For craftsman, roll 1d20: 1 brewer, 2 tanner, 3 weaver, 4 carpenter, 5 fletcher, 6 tailor, 7 potter, 8 glassblower, 9 goldsmith, 10 armorer, 11 blacksmith, 12 bowyer, 13 miller, 14 spinster, 15 miner, 16 stonemason, 17 painter, 18 baker, 19 cobbler, 20 apothecary
Your angry peasant mob is rushing off to fight the evil, and you only managed to pick up one thing before storming out the door (1d20):
Gear: 1 hunting rifle, 2 dagger, 3 pitchfork, 4 manacles & 10’ chain, 5 torch, 6 waterskin, 7 crowbar, 8 hammer & nails, 9 fishing gaff,
10 large dog, 11 hatchet, 12 rope 50’, 13 candle, 14 flint & tinder, 15 lantern & oil, 16 pony with saddle, 17 sledgehammer, 18 helmet, 19 woodsman’s axe, 20 shortbow
If you roll a ranged weapon, ammo is assumed.

Character Stats (3d6)

The d6’s you rolled correspond to your peasant’s stats. Allocate each d6 to one of the three stats: Handy, Tricky and Lucky. You may want to match them with your physical trait, but you don’t have to.
  • Handy: Used for all general actions. Results in moderate successes and failures. The ‘safe’ stat.
  • Tricky: Used for stunts and elaborate plans. Results in remarkable wins and losses. The ‘gambling’ stat.
  • Lucky: Used for getting lucky and not dying. You start with +2 Lucky if you used the Ironman rules. Your Lucky rank will rise and fall throughout the course of the game.

Name and Sex

(On the following page is a massive table with 100 male and female names in random order.) Close your eyes and stab your pencil down on the next page. The gender of the name you pick determines your peasant’s sex. If it’s ambiguous, you choose the sex. You’re done!
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Would you like to play this game? Do you like spending a long time on character creation, or getting it over quickly? Hit me up in the comments on FacebookTwitter and MeWe!


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