New Freeman lifepaths & skill

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

Because, well, somebody’s got to be policing all those freemen who aren’t under Merchant League Security, Commune Law Enforcement, or martial law by Anvil MPs. I know that the rulebook doesn’t give ANY Freeman lifepath combat skills, but I have tried to stay true to the “Work Is Hell” atmosphere those lifepaths convey:

Time: 4 yrs
Resources: 0
Circles: 0
Stat bonus: none
Skills: 4 pts: Fire Control (Per), Security (Per), Close Combat (Wil/Agi), Neighborhood-wise (Per)
Traits: 1 pt: Crushing Boredom, Hopelessly Corrupt, Drunk, Sleep Disorder, Conveniently Blind Eye, Friendly Face
Requirements: Character must be 18 years or older to start this path

And because I just can’t stop myself:

Time: 5 yrs
Resources: 0
Circles: 0
Stat bonus: +1 M
Skills: 5 pts: Field Dressing (Per/Agi), Pharmacology (Per), Bureaucracy (Wil/Per), Triage-wise (Per), Arrogant Doctor-wise (Per), Whining Patient-wise (Per)
Traits: 1 pt: Exhausted, Abused, Burned, Hard Hearted, Friendly Face
Requirements: any Student

Time: 4 yrs
Resources: 0
Circles: 0
Stat bonus: none
Skills: 4 pts: Hunting (Per/Spd), Survival (Wil/For), Close Combat (Wil/Agi), Folklore (Per)
Traits: 1 pt: Proud, Undeterred, Tough, Casually Violent, Drunk
Requirements: Born to Freeman. “I ain’t no man’s serf.”

Time: 4 yrs
Resources: 1
Circles: 0
Stat bonus: none
Skills: 4 pts: Salvage (Per), Hazardous Environments-wise (Per), Field Dressing (Per/Agi), Zero G (Spd), Lost Secrets-wise (Per)
Traits: 1 pt: Accustomed to the Dark, Resigned to Death
Requirements: Laborer, Fabricator, Apprentice Craftsman, or Yeoman (from the Spacefarer setting)

New skill:
Salvage (Per):
The Iron Empires can no longer build the wondrous technologies of the old Federation. Often they struggle to maintain what they have. But scattered throughout every long-settled star system are derelict space stations, wrecked starships, even entire abandoned cities. Salvage is the skill of finding repairable technology amidst the wreckage and extracting it for transport, reconstruction, and resale, without killing yourself in the process.

Scavange, already a skill, might work for salvage…

I love the idyllic view of mankind. Look, get it straight, Freeman are ruled from above! They are tools! Cogs to be ground down. They live in a police state run by petty nobles and brutal soldiers or heartless pigs and their bosses. The idea that they would be given even the slightest responsibility to rule themselves, is whacked! It undermines the very fundaments of the Iron Empires. In fact, I’m dispatching a hammer squadron and an iron brigade to crush this upstart freeman ruled world and bring it back into the fold.

That said, Salvor is a fucking cool LP! HOWEVER (look at me, it’s like I’m all angry today!), you can’t just post a skill with a title, root and description. What the hell good is that? You’ve got to post all of that, plus FoRKs, obstacles and the practice cycle! Come on!


Err, I don’t think the skill lists in Burning Empires HAVE FoRKs listed (which, frankly, is one of the blessed streamlinings of the system compared to Burning Wheel). That said, I’ll base the Practice Cycle etc. on Repair – which makes me want to change the root, actually, so:

Salvage (Per/Agi)
Salvaging individual parts, ammunition, and other easily detachable components, Ob 1; detaching and removing a salvageable mechanical sub-assembly from a large piece of wrecked machinery, Ob 2; detaching and removing an electronic sub-assembly or a vehicle-mounted weapon, Ob 3; detaching and removing a fusion power plant, Ob 4. If the components being salvaged are themselves damaged: one damage die, +1 Ob; two damage dice, +2 Ob; three damage dice, +3 Ob; etc. Conducting salvage operations in Zero G, underwater, balanced on decaying support beams half a mile up in the ruins of a 1,000-year-old arcology, or in other difficult circumstances: +1 Ob or more (but you can get helping dice from Hazardous Environments-wise). Trying to salvage High Index Technology: +1 Ob (but you can get helping dice from Lost Secrets-wise).
Failure means you destroy what you were trying to salvage. Absolute failure (no successes) means something falls on you or explodes. If salvaging a weapon or explosives, take Mark damage for that weapon. If salvaging a spacecraft engine, take V4 damage (and die, almost certainly). Otherwise roll 1d6: 1-2, H4; 3-4, H8; 5-6, H16.
Practice Cycle: 3 ms. Hrs/day: 2r/4d/8c
Technology: Yes, tools.

[backing away] Uh, okay… sure… [/backing away]

Well, I suppose “Backwoodsman” could be a Criminal & Outcast lifepath – which is in itself an interesting social statement: Being truly free doesn’t make you a Freeman, it makes you a criminal.

As for “Watchman”: You could remove the Close Combat skill, and leave him with just Security and Fire Control, making a true “Underpaid Security Guard” lifepath. But I’m thinking strongly of the passage in “The Silence of the Lambs” when Hannibal Lecter gets Clarice Starling to talk about her father’s death in the line of duty:

“Clarice, he was working at night, in a pickup truck, armed only with a shotgun… Tell me, did he wear a time clock on his belt by any chance? One of those things where they have keys screwed to posts all over town and you have to drive to them and stick them in your clock? So the town fathers know you weren’t asleep. Tell me if he wore one, Clarice.”


“He was a night watchman, wasn’t he, Clarice, he wasn’t a marshal at all. I’ll know if you lie.”

“The job description said night marshal.”

“What happened to it?”

“What happened to what?”

“The time clock. What happened to it after your father was shot?”

“I don’t remember.”

“If you do remember, will you tell me?”

“Yes. Wait - the mayor came to the hospital and asked my mother for the clock and the badge.” She hadn’t known she knew that.

I’m thinking of this lifepath for Clarice Starling’s father.

Fine, fine, whatever. I don’t care one way or another. I just think you’re being too 20th century about it.

Either way, I hope we’re all on the same page here: “Freeman” is an ironic term for the general populace of the Iron Empires. No one is free, least of all those at the bottom of the social ladder.

Space feudalism and a religion that slavishly worships predestination do not make an open society!

Remember the security personnel to population ratios we’re discussing in another thread. As an Anvil Lord, you don’t want to tie up millions of trained Anvil troops on routine policing: You may not have them to spare in the first place, and even if you do, you have better things for them to do than to keep some stinking warren of commoners safe from petty thieves.

So the better-off craftsmen and tradesmen in a low-end urban neighborhood or isolated village are going to look around, see no Anvil or Merchant League or Commune security forces to protect their property, and then they’re going to pool their money – as little of it as they can get away with, mind – and hire some schlubs with no other job opportunities to walk around all night with a Zero Index pistol and a walkie-talkie, or maybe drive a ground car around the neighborhood with a fire extinguisher in the back. And if one of them gets shot or beat to death or burned alive, well, you tip your hat to the widow and ask her to give the walkie-talkie and the pistol and the fire extinguisher back, please, because they’re your property and you need it for the next poor bastard.

Here’s what I think:

Watchman - Sorry, Luke, but this is exactly how you fuck over poor people. Give one of them a little bit of authority, enough pay to survive okay, and they keep everybody else in line for you. But seriously, Sydney - Close Combat? Just cause you give your snitch-dog a gun, that don’t mean you teach him how to use it! It’s like the badge - just a symbol (and hey, if he gets lucky, well, lucky him). If you want to be kind to the LP, give em Observation instead. But Marshall Starling didn’t have either of them, and the double-Ob penalty got him killed. Also, I’d say make Neighbourhood-wise the required skill before Fire Control.

Nurse - The danger here is making it too “hospital ER”. I think the medical lifepaths are rather thinly distributed, too (none in Court, or Commune seems a bit odd), but if there’s going to be a Nurse LP in Freeman, and not Commune (so that its available on non-Commune worlds), it’s gonna be more about minions implementing public health regimes - disease control, eugenics programs, passive (ie non-Anvil) euthanasia operations, distributing approved drugs to the overworked population, etc - than it is about really helping people.
It’s the Commune lifepaths that you can make more “20th century”, and Luke has less room to complain at you.

Woodsman - this is the really idyllic one. If you’re gonna have something like this, it’s definitely Outcast. I dunno - I just have this image of the Merchant League getting the contract to rape-log the entire continental forest, and when they unleash the gigantic stripping machines, you think they’re gonna warn the people who live there? Nah, man. They get pulped just like the rest of the animals. Lucky birds - they can fly away.

Johnstone, you (in combination with Luke) have sold me: I’ll replace the “Close Combat” skill for the Watchman lifepath with “Observation.” On some level, I was still thinking the way I was taught by old-school games (which BW/BE deceptively resembles, the way an eagle resembles an archaeopteryx), where if you don’t have a skill listed, you can’t even try, and skills are about discrete physical acts. But just having fired a gun a few times or gotten into a few fights doesn’t give you “Close Combat” skill in BW/BE, I realize: The skill represents serious training or experience, the kind that give you the attitude and self-confidence to go to the knife – it is a Will root as well as an Agility root, after all.

A typical Watchman wouldn’t get into fights enough to have the kind of mental toughness indicated by having Close Combat at all (and if you want an atypical Watchman, that’s what General skill points are for). But he would have plenty of experience catching kids and drunks and petty crooks climbing over walls and shouting, “Hey! Hey, you!” while waving his flashlight and gun – hence Observation. And 99 times out of a hundred, “Hey, you!” and waving the weapon solves the problem. It’s that 100th time that your widow really, really wishes you’d had Close Combat skill.

I’ll contemplate medical and rustic lifepaths a bit more and come back with ideas on those, but probably in a separate thread, and definitely not today.

So, until then, I give you the new and even less improved Watchman:

Time: 4 yrs
Resources: 0
Circles: 0
Stat bonus: none
Skills: 4 pts: Neighborhood-wise (Per), Fire Control (Per), Observation (Per), Security (Per)
Traits: 2 pt: Obsolete Equipment, Crushing Boredom, Hopelessly Corrupt, Drunk, Sleep Disorder, Conveniently Blind Eye, Friendly Face
Requirements: Character must be 18 years or older to start this path

New trait:
Obsolete Equipment (Dt) 1 pt
A character with this trait is issued only the most inadequate gear. When buying appropriate technology in Character Burning, 1 resource point gets you the Most Basic Iteration for one Tech Index LOWER than normal for your world. For example, the MBI close combat weapon for a Low Index planet is the CBEW laser pistol, but a Watchman from that world, thanks to his (or her) Obsolete Equipment trait, would only be able to get a Stet Gun or Chemical Projector (MBI for Zero Index); a Watchman from a Zero Index world would be stuck with a Handgun (MBI for Sub Index). If a character from a Sub Index world gets stuck with this trait, the GM decides on the appropriately primitive substitute item.

Sold to the man in the front row!

Revised version now on the Wiki.