Happy New Hammer lifepaths -- inspired by Downbelow Station

EDIT: The stats in this thread are working drafts. Please see the final versions on the Burning Empires Wiki.

Yes, I know, I thought I was finished doing these too. But over possibly the lamest Christmas holiday ever, while sick for a week and taking care of a wife and toddler much, much sicker than me, I ended up re-reading, in my occasional moments of semi-lucidity, C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station, a novel I’d highly recommend featuring a once-proud starfleet reduced to piracy, press-ganging, the use of refugees as a weapon, and the deliberate sabotage of life-support for tens of thousands of people nominally under its protection. All of which seemed deliciously in keeping with the Iron Empires, so I offer three new lifepaths for everyone’s suggestions/criticisms/merciless vivisection:

Setting: Hammer
Time: 2 yrs
Stat bonus: none
Skills: 4 pts: Discipline Officer-wise (Per), Inconspicuous (Wil), Begging (Wil), Foreign Languages (Per)
Traits: 1 pt: Captured, Pragmatic, Homesick
Requirements: Captive of War or any Spacefarer lifepath

Vac Monkey
Setting: Hammer
Time: 3 yrs
Resources: 1
Circles: 0
Stat Bonus: +1 P
Skills: 4 pts: Zero G (Spd), Jury-Rigging (Wil/Agi), Catastrophic failure-wise (Per), Ugly Truth (Wil)
Traits: 1 pt: Brave, Lucky, Stupid
Requirements: Shipfitter

Setting: Hammer
Time: 6 yrs
Resources: 1
Circles: 1
Stat Bonus: +1 M,P
Skills: 9 pts: Security Rigging (Per/Agi), Explosives (Per/Agi), Fortress-wise (Per), Space Station-wise (Per), Inconspicuous (Wil), Falsehood (Wil), Forgery (Per/Agi), Smuggling (Wil/Per), Foreign Languages (Per)
Traits: 1 pt: Cold Blooded, Burned, Just Following Orders
Requirements: Vac Monkey, Stormtrooper, Agent, Circle of 10,000, Psychologist, or any Engineer-type lifepath (Anvil, Hammer, or Spacefarer)

NOTE: Saboteur allows Breaker or Smuggler



You don’t think the +1 M,P AND the 9 skill points, plus the rest is a bit much given the relative easy access to the lifepath? I would suggest at least toning it down to +1 M/P.

Everything else looks good to me.

My thoughts whatever their worth…

You’re right, it should be “M/P” – I actually misread my own notes there.

And I agree that Saboteur is overpowered, right now; I’m eager for advice on how to tone it down. I originally had “Munitions” in there too, but decided that would be a specialist skill even in a sabotage team and people could pick it up from a prior LP (e.g. Hammer Engineer or Anvil Engineer). But I’m honestly not sure what else to take out.

As for access to the LP, yeah, there are a lot of possible prerequisite lifepaths, but each of them is fairly hard to access. From eyeballing the rules, it takes 3 prior LPs, minimum, to reach Stormtrooper (Born Whatever, Soldier, Sergeant), Vac Monkey (Born Whatever, Yeoman, Shiprigger), or Agent (Born Whatever, Student or Companion, Ravilar or Propagandist), and it takes two LPs to reach either type of Engineer (Born, Student, Engineer) or of psychologist (Born Whatever, Novitiate/Foundation Student/Apprentice, Circle of 10,000/Psychologist). So you can’t even start Saboteur until you’ve got 3 or 4 lifepaths down.

Well, here I go again…lol

I don’t know if it’s a rule or unwritten rule to have as many skill points as skills listed. I know the intention is a good one, that being, to be able to obtain at least opening the skill for every skill listed but I’m not sure that needs to be a hard rule. Unless the skills are unique, only listed for this lifepath, then you could have less skill points then skills listed because they could be obtained elsewhere. In general I wouldn’t mind seeing more skill selection without increasing the number of skill points.

If you want to subtract out skills then I would take a look at some of the lifepaths that precede it and see what skills would overlap. If I were asked to subtract out skills from the list, my choice would be to remove the wise skills.

Another point is that I would think it would be easier to train in skills that are in your life paths versus skills that aren’t. Maybe their should be a lifepath skill list and a skill family list. The latter would be a skill group that would be easier to learn skills that are related. Shrug…I dunno.

Rogar (Roger?), you gave me an idea. This isn’t quite what you were thinking about, but:

Setting: Hammer
Time: 6 yrs
Resources: 1
Circles: 1
Stat Bonus: +1 M
Skills: 6 pts: Security Rigging (Per/Agi), Explosives (Per/Agi), Fortress-wise (Per), Space Station-wise (Per), Inconspicuous (Wil); 1 pt general
Traits: 1 pt: Cold Blooded, Burned, Just Following Orders
Requirements: Vac Monkey, Stormtrooper, Agent, Circle of 10,000, Psychologist, or any Engineer-type lifepath (Anvil, Hammer, or Spacefarer)

That trims down the lifepath skills to a manageable number, and then the general skill point – a precious commodity, but it’s only one point – allows you to beef up whatever crazy-ass skill you decide is necessary for that particular character’s covert mission, like Smuggling, Forgery, or, hell, Etiquette. (“No, m’lud, we’re just checking the life-support system… Of course you can inspect our work, but there is rawther a lot of mess – m’lud might be well advised to go change out of that terribly nice coat?.. Oh, of course, we’ll still be here when you return, m’lud.”)

Nice work!! Yer a fart smeller…er smart feller! :slight_smile:

rogar comes from BBS days…cringe…it’s been that long

308 is my racing number for road racing

my real name is Steve

my wife calls me %@#%#$


Nice work, Sydney. Press Ganged is sweet. I’m not familiar with Downbelow Station, but I’ll put it on my short list (right now, I’m reading “Frederick the Great, the Magnificent Enigma”… anyone thinking there are such a thing as “good old days”…hmmm).

Happy New Year.


“Frederick the Great, the Magnificent Bastard” is more like it, from what I’ve read – admittedly I’ve not studied him more than in passing, but I think he was the guy who coined the phrase “only the good die young,” and he said it to reassure people he would be okay.

Downbelow Station is my favorite C.J. Cherryh novel, hands-down. A lot of Cherryh’s SF stuff is so convoluted it’s almost impossible to follow, like reading Dune on speed, and Downbelow quivers on the edge of intelligibility some times, but the space-station setting is a brilliantly handled way of expressing the fragility of human civilization and how desperately vulnerable it is to either malice or accident in war.

(Whoops, hit “post” too fast).

Anyway, thanks, Chris. “Press-ganged” is the result of my consciously trying to move beyond modern U.S. models for Iron Empires militaries and then re-reading Downbelow. I suspect I should add a skill like “not-enough-crew-wise” to reflect that any Hammer force that’s resorting to impressment is probably chronically short of skilled personnel, which would be a not uncommon plight in a civilization in decline.

And Saboteur, to give credit where credit is due, results from both Downbelow and your remark in the fortress and fleet Tech Burner threads that

Bingo! It’s all about the proper blend of past and future.

You’re right about Frederick being a bastard. But, as usual, he’s also more complex than that. The true bastard was his father… holy cow. I may have my failings as a dad, but so far I haven’t had any of my son’s friends beheaded in front of him as an object lesson.


Darn it, stop making me do this!. It’s all your fault!

Yo Syd! We’re trying to put together a play-by-post thing over here. Think you can participate? I think we really only need 3 or 4 players.

I’ve never run or played in a pbp game before, but I’m thinking the obvious challenges could be overcome.


There is a rule for BW, where lifepath creation is detailed in the Monster Burner. I’m presuming the BE LPs where devised using a modified system (the Resources/Circles work a bit differently in BW). But the rule of thumb generally is one point per skill listed.

Also, I would bump the Press Ganged LP up to two trait points. You could do the same for Saboteur, but stick a nice Char trait first in the trait list - something like Beady Eyes.

Yeah, what is a cool Character Trait for a group of people extensively trained to infiltrate among others and disable either critical defenses, making them easy to kill, or life support, killing them? “Beady Eyes” isn’t quite it; neither is “uneasy conscience,” obviously… Suggestions, everyone?

Flattened affect
Eyes on the prize
One last job and I’m out (maybe later down the thread)


“Fuck You, Too” ?

Heh. I like these.

I’m tempted by “You don’t know it but you’re already dead,” but that’s too wordy.

1->Smack Down
2->Balls to the Wall
3->Explosives are me friends

After contemplating folks’ suggestions, I think I’ll revise the “Saboteur” trait line to:

Traits: 2 pt: Dead Inside, Cold Blooded, Burned, Just Following Orders, Just One More Job…, Sociopathic Killer

“One More Job…”

take the “just” out of it.