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Character Options: an Eternal Rule D20 Developer’s Diary


If you’re like us, you enjoy creating the most unique characters possible portray in your roleplaying games and relish the journey of discovery as you discover and develop their strengths, passions, quirks, foibles, and flaws. The driving philosophy behind the design of Eternal Rule D20 Fantasy has always been about creating an inclusive and scalable gaming sandbox for players to tailor to their gaming group’s needs and playstyle. One of the cornerstones of that philosophy is freedom in character creation and development.

What ERD20F offers to its players, beyond an engaging and flexible ruleset, is the ability to create exactly the sort of character they have in mind, largely free from restrictions of rigidly defined classes and leveling paths. Players are free to create characters that would be paradoxical in other fantasy games, such as a body-building wizard or a spineless mercenary, that are enjoyable to portray from a roleplaying standpoint, or they are just as free to create more “optimized” characters that fill a specialized role in the group. It’s your game and your story, so why put limitations on that?

What makes a hero?

The most fundamental questions that need to be answered about your character, from a rules and mechanics standpoint, are what type of creature are you portraying, what is their background, and what do they do for a living? These are all answered by the choices you make for their Lineage, Heritage, and Vocation.


Lineage shows your character’s genetic makeup. While future supplements and downloads will expand on your options, ERD20F provides rules for the classic fantasy tropes of humans, elves, dwarves, and halflings. Each of these Lineages provides both perks and drawbacks for your character that give them nuance and engaging roleplaying hooks. For instance, Halflings have an easier time recuperating from their injuries, though they need to eat double the amount of food as a typical character. Elves, have keen eyesight and an amazing ability to weather the elements, but being exceptionally long-lived and possessed of an inscrutable worldview often gain Stress Points from failed social interactions with non-elves, who often simply don’t understand their way of perceiving the world. Dwarves are industrious folk by nature that can treat their time working on simple tasks as if they were resting, though that passion for work and excellence often translates into a competitive streak that can cause them Stress Points when they fail at a task. Finally, Humans, being the most adaptable of the Lineages are able to learn Skills much quicker than others, though they eventually find the limits to their mental and physical Ability Scores that some other races aren’t subject to.


Heritage represents the upbringing your character experienced during their formative years. Did they come from an outcast noble house? A merchant family? A distant tribe with little in common with the people whose civilizations they find themselves in now? Your character’s Heritage makes certain Skills easier to acquire for your character, offering an Experience Point discount compared to other Skills, which reflects their familiarity with the concepts and implementations of those Skills from being constantly exposed to them from an early age. Those raised by peasant farmers will naturally have the fundamental knowledge of Cultivation that allows them to be built upon and refined in a much easier manner than someone of a nomadic warrior caste who had never associated with anyone having to do with agriculture before they ventured forth from their homelands.


Vocations are equivalent to what some roleplaying games would call Classes. Vocations in Eternal Rule D20 Fantasy are somewhat more flexible and less restrictive. The meaning of what a Vocation is is more heavily slanted towards what approach the character has towards their survival, how they find employment, and what role they have adopted in society. During character creation, you select a Vocation for your character which offers them a number of Powers to choose from that relate specifically to that Vocation. As your character develops over time, spending Experience Points on new Skills and Powers, you may choose to specialize in the role you’ve chosen by selecting mostly the Powers available to your Vocation, or you may choose to branch out by selecting Powers from the universal list of Powers, or even adopt a new Vocation altogether. Acquiring additional Vocations is a simple affair, you merely need to purchase the primary Power that each Vocation has which all other Powers associated with that Vocation require. In this manner, you can add unlimited levels of nuance to your character. Would you create into a combat-focused battlefield spellcaster, or an arcane scholar in pursuit of lost arcane knowledge? A zealous cleric purging their city of heretics, or a priest who specializes in diplomacy? There are endless variations to play with.


As we’ve alluded to, you will have the option to choose Powers for your characters that reflect the unusual or amazing abilities they possess. While each Vocation has its own list of Powers for those characters that have adopted that role, there is also a universal list of Powers that any character can select from. Universal Powers give your character access to rules that reflect tricks and techniques that reflect their years of practice and dedication, or just the dumb-luck knacks that they’ve discovered in themselves. Does your character have a preternatural ability to hide? Are they less affected by social turmoil than others? Are they hardier and more resistant to toxins and the elements? Can they shrug off damage that would devastate others? Whatever the nature of your character is you are imagining, there’s a way to bring it to the gaming table.

Vocational Powers tend to be the most powerful of all, as they should be. Vocational Powers are those that have come only through years of dedication or by virtue of the fickle nature of fate. The ability to cast spells, curry favor with the gods, commune with animals, harness the power of the elements. These are all Powers that their respective Vocations can grant, and there are many more awaiting discovery.

Experience Points and Leveling Up

Character Levels and the Powers and Skills a character has access to are only loosely tied to one another. While there are a few Powers that require a certain minimum level to acquire, the vast majority are available to characters right from the get-go. Why wait until level five to learn to cast a fireball spell when you can do it at level one? Of course, a level five character will cast it to greater effect than their novice level one counterpart, but if that’s what you want to do, why not?

We don’t know about you, but while big numbers look impressive on paper, we don’t enjoy adding them up. Gaining and spending Experience Points in ERD20F is a simple affair, so much so that you won’t even need to reference the rulebook except to peruse what amazing Powers you’d like to purchase for your character. Once a character has spent 10 of the Experience Points they’ve earned through play on upgrades, they’ve reached level two. Spend 10 more and you’ve reached level three, and so on, and so on. Most Powers cost 2 to 6 Experience Points to acquire, and Skill Ranks simply cost a number of Experience Points equal to the next Rank the character is increasing to. A simple system that allows you incredible flexibility with your character’s development.

Get Access to the Playtest Rulebook

The playtest version of the Eternal Rule D20 Fantasy rulebook is coming on November 11th. This book is more than just a bare-bones framework we’re testing, it’s a full-fledged rulebook containing both a player’s guide and a Games Master’s section, both chock-full of options and resources that we want your opinion on. We are striving to make the most accessible, adaptable, and fun roleplaying game rulebook that the world has ever known, and to do that, we’re going to need your help. Subscribe to our newsletter to gain instant access to the playtest rulebook delivered right to your inbox when it drops on Tuesday, December 14th. The rulebook will feature a link to our playtest survey where you will be able to provide us your feedback about the game and what we can do to make it better. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts!