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Sample Character Creation for the Zounds! RPG

Updated on March 24, 2014

Getting Started with Zounds!

The Zounds! RPG is part of the SFX! System, which was designed and developed by Joshua Macy. I first met Joshua and tried SFX! over on Google Plus. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of the system. It was very different than anything else I had played, but it also had a lot of similarities. There were a number of things close to what I had seen in other roleplaying games, but they were done…differently. I have come to really enjoy the SFX! Family of games. Soon, I will be running my first game of Zounds as the GM. I’ve put together this primer on creating a Zounds! character.

Zounds! and the entire SFX! line were released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. The games are free and you can easily produce and even publish supplemental material for them, so long as it’s not for profit. However, individual licensing is also available if you have something you want to put out to work alongside the games and even make a profit off of. Meanwhile, this article has been put together not only as a primer for my players but for others to discover SFX! and give the games a try.

Equipment is Important

  • By default, characters must use gear to gain the benefit of both dice on a roll, otherwise they are hindered.
  • The equipment can be quite simple—any old pair of shoes or boots for a movement based power, for example.
  • Players can choose to take an advantage on a power to be able to gain the full benefit using the power “Bare Handed.”
  • Even without this in mind, powerful or special equipment can give you a bonus on your rolls—allowing you to roll at least one higher die than normal.


Creating a Character for Zounds!: So Long Classes, Hello Templates

Like with just about every other RPG out there, before you get started creating a character for Zounds!, you need to come up with a concept. The concept is the basic idea of who or what your character is. This is the foundation of your character. Are they a headstrong knight or a lithe elven archer? These sorts of decisions will guide you through the rest of character creation. Once you have a basic idea of what kind of character you want to play, you can move forward toward choosing and filling out a template.

All of the options for characters in SFX! are based on basic, play tested, balanced math. These templates all come out to be equal. Some excel in certain areas while others excel in different areas. However, that is an oversimplification. Where a lot of RPGs—especially fantasy roleplaying games—categorize characters by classes such as fighter, cleric, or magus and by race such as human, dwarf, or elf, Zounds! instead uses a variety of templates to help players build just the character that they want.

The templates in Zounds! provide a basic framework for you to use to design your character. The base templates include the Adventurer, the Hero, and the Wise One. Zounds! also includes the Unique and Non-Human templates along with guidelines on how to create more. Each of these templates guides the players so that they know how many powers and shticks they have and at what levels. The Wise One is one that requires a bit more reading, because Magic and Arcane Research applies to these characters a bit more in depth than with other templates typically. Of course, to understand that, knowing the difference between a power and a shtick would help. A power is going to cover an offensive or defensive capability. Movement powers are also common. Shticks, on the other hand, cannot be used to attack or defend, but are otherwise useful in the game.

One you have figured out what type of character it is you want to play, it really is just a matter of choosing a template and filling in the blanks. Certainly, you can choose to tinker with things a bit to get it right. Really, with a base understanding of Zounds! you can choose a template and make a character within minutes—we’re talking less than five minutes here. Or, with a complete understanding of the SFX! system you can spend hours deliberating over just how you want to pull things off, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated.


Don’t Forget About Character Initiations

Initiations in Zounds! are like little skill or bonus packages you can take for your characters. They might also be considered professions packages. These initiations help to add flavor to the world you are playing in and are often customized to fit that world’s narrative by the GM. When choosing an initiations, of course, check with the GM to make sure it is a cool choice, but also understand that it is an all or nothing decision. You cannot pick and choose parts of the package, you must select the whole thing at once.

Sample Zounds! Character: The Elven Ranger

To give you an idea of how flexible Zounds! and the character creation process for the game is, I have decided to create the archetypical elven ranger. Of course, we all think of some of the same and some different things when we think of the elven ranger, so this is going to allow us to focus on different aspects and interpretations of the character.

Elven Ranger (Adventurer Template)

Toughness: 2, Stamina: 2, Will: 2, Actions: 2

Elven Agility 6 (Automatic Defensive Power)

Master Archer 4 (Offensive Power)


Keen Elven Senses 6

Friend of the Forest 5

Skilled Hunter/Gatherer 5

Silent & Stealthy 6

(You will notice what I did here was sacrifice two new shticks to raise the level of two existing shticks)

Elven Ranger (Hero Template)

Toughness: 2, Stamina: 2, Will: 2, Actions: 3

Master Archer 5 (Offensive Power)

Elven Agility 5 (Automatic Defensive Power)

Woodland Stride 5 (Movement Power)


Shadow Stalker 4

Keen Elven Senses 4

Master Tracker 4

Traps Made and Unmade 4

Elfin Master Bow d8

So, I made the change here of taking Toughness down by 1 (elves are seldom thought of as being rugged) and adding that same 1 to Actions (but, they are known for being quick and agile). The bonus boost here was spent on equipment, the Elfin Master Bow.

Elven Ranger (Elf Template)

Elves are a race of supernatural beings, usually beautiful, often mischievous, sometimes malign.

They often live in hills and boulders, and are capable of powerful magic.

Toughness: 2 Will: 3 Stamina: 2 Actions: 2

Elven Warrior 6 (Elves are trained in sword and bow, riding, and can cast spells even when wearing armor).

Magic! 6 (Woodland Magics)

Elven Stock 6 (automatic defense. Faster and more resilient than humans, resistant to spells of sleep and illusion).

New Powers: The following will start at 6 if chosen: Glamour, Invisibility, Elf-Shot (an arrow that causes pain, madness, or paralysis), Shrinking (small enough to ride a wasp or dandelion seed), Fear, Healing, Understand the Speech of Animals, Cause Disease. Other powers unique to that particular Elf may be taken at 4.


Elven Stealth 4

Elven Herbology 4

Restrictions: Elven magic can never directly harm others (no fireball, lightning or the like), though they can use illusions to trick foes to their doom, or cause events like flash floods or avalanches that can harm foes who are caught within them.

Zounds! What is in a Power?

As you may have been able to determine from the examples above, Power is a broad term. Its description really can be as broad or as narrow as you envision being appropriate for your character. For example, we could all imagine the Master Archer talent making the character an expert at targeting with bow and arrow. What about other ranged weapons? I myself could see crossbows. But for slings or firearms, I imagine the ranger would be at a disadvantage, probably hindered. By the same token, what is “Woodland Magics”? Well, what makes sense? That’s what the entire Primary Rule, which all the SFX! games are based on, was predicated.

I’ll be drafting up more characters and talking about our ongoing campaign more, most likely on my blog soon. Until then, have fun and keep on gaming.


Submit a Comment

  • Cameron Corniuk profile imageAUTHOR

    Cameron Corniuk 

    4 years ago from Painesville, OH

    Thanks for the suggestion. This is something that I know was hinted at in the book. It may have even been specifically called out and I missed it, but it's an awesome way to do things and make sense within the system.

  • Joshua Macy profile image

    Joshua Macy 

    4 years ago

    I might suggest that for defensive powers like Elven Agility, the character take Adantage: Bare Handed, and Disadvantage: Automatic Can Be Hindered. Same net power level, but a little more attuned to the specific concept... that is you don't necessarily need any equipment to dodge out of the way, not even a tree to dodge behind, but on the other hand if you're stuck in a net or somebody has hit you hard enough you're seeing stars, you're not quite as able to elude their blows.

    There's no right or wrong way to do it though... it's entirely a matter of shading it to most closely match how you conceive of it.


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