Create your character – with images (Awesome is Good, pt. 2)

Yesterday, I came full circle when I talked about character creation using images and tarot (like) cards. I used this method for a long time; it started back in the mid-1990s, when the Everway rpg was published. This game is not only highly recommended, but I consider it required reading for any referee… its Karma/Drama/Fortune approach to task/event resolution is still revolutionary.

But I digress. I’d like to guide you through character creation with images. In my example, I’ll be using Everway vision cards and some Paul Chadwick trading cards from FPG.

Character creation for my Thundarr game

Let’s recap what Thundarr is like. This excerpt is taken directly from wikipedia:

Thundarr the Barbarian is set in a future (c. 3994) post-apocalyptic wasteland of Earth divided into kingdoms and territories, the majority of which are ruled by wizards, and whose ruins typically feature recognizable geographical features from the United States, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, San Antonio and its Alamo, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Cape Canaveral, and the Grand Canyon. Other episodes with recognizable settings are set outside the United States, and include Mexico and London, UK. Another notable feature of this future Earth is that the Moon was broken in two pieces. The shattered moon and the ruins of the former human civilization were caused by the passage of a runaway planet between the Earth and the Moon in 1994, which, from scenes shown in the opening sequence, caused radical changes in the Earth’s climate and geography. However, by the time period in which the series is set, the Earth and Moon seem to have settled into a new physical balance. Earth is reborn with a world of “savagery, super-science, and sorcery” far more chaotic than “Old Earth” (the show’s name for the preapocalyptic world).

The hero Thundarr (voiced by Robert Ridgely), a muscular warrior, and companions Princess Ariel, a formidable young sorceress, and Ookla the Mok, a mighty lion-like biped, travel the world on horseback, fighting injustice. Their main adversaries are evil wizards who combine magical spells with reanimating technologies from the pre-catastrophe world. Some of these malevolent wizards enlist the service of certain mutant species to do their bidding.

Other enemies include The Brotherhood of Night (a group of werewolves who could transform others into werewolves by their touch), the cosmic Stalker from The Stars (a predatory, malevolent cosmic vampire), and various other mutants. Intelligent humanoid-animal races include the rat-like Groundlings, the crocodile-like Carocs, and talking hawk- and pig-like mutants. New animals that existed include fire-shooting whales, a giant green snake with a grizzly bear’s head, and mutated dragonflies and rabbits.

Thundarr’s weapon is the Sunsword that projects a blade-like beam of energy when activated, and can be deactivated so that it is only a hilt. The Sunsword’s energy blade can deflect other energy attacks as well as magical ones, can cut through nearly anything, and can disrupt magical spells and effects. The Sunsword is magically linked to Thundarr and as such, only he can use it; however, this link can be disrupted.


Now, I draw three cards from the vision cards deck. You can use tarot cards, trading cards, Everway cards, everything that gives wings to your imagination.

from left to right: “Electronic Thinker” (Paul Chadwick series), Ganglion (Paul Chadwick series), Everway vision card #52

My character is someone who knows how electronics work, or better, given that it’s the year 3994 and almost all sources of knowledge are kaput, he knows instinctively what to do to make electronic gadgets work. In Thundarr, this just has to be a sorcerer. The image in the center suggests that he can cause pain with his sorcery, either imagined (this would be a better fit for the cartoon-y feel of the Saturday morning show) or real (this would be better suited for a harsher, more adult-oriented version). The picture on the right suggests someone who is skilled with a weapon… a blowgun? Blowguns are cool, so there.

So: My character is a Sorcerer with the powers of illusion. When I play without our kids around, these illusion spells become combat magic, but with darts of “spider energy” or “scorpion death rays” (instead of Ariel‘s more peaceful, colorful energy orbs). He is reasonably handy with his blowgun (and maybe he can even shoot spells with it).

Cool. I like that.

Now, let’s see what my sorcerer’s Virtue is: something he is particularly gifted in. Then, another card for his Fault (his weakness), and a third card for his Fate (the current struggle he has to face in his life).

Ooooh. Interesting.
My hero’s Virtue is “Destruction”. So, his spells are definitely powerful combat spells, and spells that wreak havoc in one way or another. I won’t extend this to physical powers, though: that niche is for barbarians and warriors.

His Fault is “Failing to See Opportunity”. So, impatient he is, easily amused and easily angered, someone who lives fully in the moment, but is blind to recognize the larger picture. Which makes for an interesting sorcerer, I think.

Where does he stand in life? He’s struggling between Decline and Growth. At some point in his life, he has to face this challenge: Will his efforts bear fruit? Will they be fertile? Which path will he take? This is a major opportunity for the referee to spice up the game for me as a player.


The character above is just one possibility. I could have interpreted the cards differently:

from left to right: “Electronic Thinker” (Paul Chadwick series), Ganglion (Paul Chadwick series), Everway vision card #52

He might be a cyborg, or a lab experiment on the run. He might use crude combat “cyberware” grafted onto his body: spurs, crackling with electricity.

He might be a leyline runner, faster than even the moksequorts, with lightning-fast reflexes and darkvision.

He might be The Friend of Spiders, able to communicate with them.

Three cards, hundreds of possibilities. I take that over random tables any day. Visual character creation is awesome.

And awesome is good.

Post Scriptum:
If you don’t have trading cards or tarot, use one of the myriads of online pictures, preferably one that can randomize images. Here’s one for post-apocalyptic games:
Use this option at the top of the page:

One thought on “Create your character – with images (Awesome is Good, pt. 2)

  1. Are you familiar with Swords Without Master? In that game, the first step of creating a character is choosing an “eidolon” or “simulacrum”: it can be an illustration, a book, a song, a poem, whatever. “All that matters is that it is of our world and reminds you of your rogue.”

    (It’s not randomised, though.)


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