With our truths set up and the basics of the sector defined, we can go on to character creation. Expanding on what I said previously, I envision this character as a combination of scout and scholar, heading out into the void beyond human civilization to see things no one has seen before and learn things no one has known before.
Before we set out on our voyage, let’s build this character. We already have a decently-defined concept, so the first step is to choose a path.
To fit this concept, a few paths seem interesting. The book itself recommends the following:
Explorer is a lock, straight away: it’s the core of our concept.
When you Explore a Waypoint, take +1 momentum on a hit. When you Finish an Expedition and score a hit, mark 1 extra tick on your discoveries legacy track.
Voidborn definitely has some benefits, but I intend to land on some planets, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Scoundrel is right out, and Scavenger doesn’t quite feel right either, at least not at the moment. Navigator interests me a bit, but the benefits it offers seem to indicate that it’s for trying to get places either quickly or safely, and our focus is elsewhere. Trader doesn’t fit at all. Looking through the others, I like the idea of Lore Hunter.
When you Swear an Iron Vow (formidable or greater) to recover valuable knowledge or an extraordinary relic, reroll any dice. When you Reach a Milestone in the pursuit of that quest, take +2 momentum. When you Fulfill Your Vow and score a hit, also mark 2 ticks on your discoveries legacy track.
Generally I do not like to write an elaborate backstory before playing a character. I’d rather discover them as we go. But having a sense of who they are, at least in broad strokes, can help even early on. So looking at the prompts in the book, I think the following would be interesting:
She was a student at some learning institution, and perhaps even finished some course of study, but decided her future was out among the unknown stars more than in classrooms and libraries. That’s where the discoveries of this age will happen, and that’s where the resources and knowledge that will help humanity continue to rebuild will be found.
This isn’t necessarily a vow we’ll actually fulfill in the game. It’s more of a mechanization of her drive to explore and learn. But nothing’s coming to mind, so first let’s assemble some possible quest starters from our campaign truths. I’ll list them here, and then we’ll see if any of them inspire a vow.
Already I filtered some out. The others have potential, though I may not use most of them. This is the background vow, though, not our first arc. So let’s tie this to the balefires:
I will discover the source of the balefires and how to safeguard humanity from them.
That doesn’t mean we’ll start immediately with them, but they’ll be significant if and when they show up in the narrative.
Of course, lots of excellent science fiction has starships as something close to a full-fledged character, if not a character in their own right. This is where having a little bit of a backstory helps. So this ship was granted by an organization or community. This could be the institution where she studied or something else; I’ll leave that open for now.
The ship itself needs a bit of personality. I’ll try rolling on the table in the book and flip things around as needed to fit the tone of our game.
I like the idea that the ship, which we’ll name “Newton’s Folly”, is a bit of a junker. Grant money is tight. The name actually came on the first random roll in the book, and it fits perfectly for a scientist in a far-future galaxy. Newtonian physics work decently well in classical situations but break down quickly when we start thinking about the scale of the universe.
I mentioned previously how much I like the idea of an AI companion, so we’ll take a Survey Bot:
Your survey bot companion scans the path ahead. When you Undertake an Expedition (+wits) overland or within a site, add +1.
I rolled a random name for it under Callsign and got  Crash. Yes! I envision a little hovering drone, not unlike the training bot that Luke uses to train on board the Millennium Falcon. But it has some intelligence and personality, more like R2-D2 (including communicating with beeps and whistles).
As much as I know these matter, I kind of find them a little boring. Anyway we have 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, and I assign them this way:
As race is a social construct, I’m not thinking of this person in those terms, but I do see their skin tone as a bit darker with shoulder-length hair shading between brown and red. Similarly, the character is female, young enough to be fit and capable, but old enough to have some experience under her belt: perhaps the equivalent of 30 years old or so.
At this point, I’ll use ChatGPT to suggest a few more elements of her look. Here’s what I took from its suggestions:
Rolling on the tables and fiddling with things a tiny bit, we have…
Lux “Mole” Jemison
In this context, she picked up the name “mole” for her habit of digging into things out of curiosity, rather than somebody who infiltrated an organization.
In session 0, we created two settlements named Apex and Erebus. I want to start in the former, but we need to zoom in a bit.
What do the oracles tell us about it?
Space is quite a hazardous environment to start with, so perhaps the station is having trouble maintaining its internal environment and habitability. The air is a little bit thick and stuffy, which matches the oppressive nature of the authority here.
I like the juxtaposition of “high-tech construction” and “random scrap”. Perhaps it’s a minor marvel just to have everything working together and the station is a model of welding together sections from different ships and stations.
It orbits a furnace planet named Ember, so let’s also learn a little about that.
Oh yes, a lava world with lots of active geological activity. In this context, “Forsaken System” means to me that there was an attempt at a planetside settlement or installation, but it was a failure and has been abandoned.
We’re starting with an automatic strong hit per the rules. I want to see what the oracles have to say about them.
They don’t seem like a very friendly person but that can create interesting texture to the narrative. For now, we’ll use the callsign “Firestarter” (which fits the locale). I asked ChatGPT for a few more details and chose the following:
Firestarter could be a mercenary, working for whoever pays the most, and his current mission is to find and capture a valuable target who has fled to the space station.
Fine, but what’s his connection with Lux?
Lux could have a personal connection to the target, such as a friend or family member, and Firestarter could be using this connection to lure her into helping him find the target.
This is good, because it creates layers to their connection. She just thinks he’s somebody she met on the station, but he’s actually a mercenary who is using her to find the target. We’ll figure out who that target is later, but it’s probably one of her colleagues or a professional contact. In terms of the “seize power”, I’ll interpret that as meaning his mission is somehow related to the station’s authority or political disputes.
I rolled  twice, which means the oracle really wants us to deal with:
Blockade prevents trade with other sectors
The sector itself will be named “Ferrous Flow”. This tells me that Apex and Ember in particular are really important to the sector’s identity and economy. I don’t know who is maintaining the blockade, but I imagine it’s related to the taxation dispute on Apex. That might cause trouble if and when we try to leave it, but we’re already out in the Expanse so we don’t need to go too far to find unexplored locations.
Lux (I have decided that I like using her first name more than “Mole”) may get caught up in some larger intrigue, but that’s not what we’re focused on here. That may add complications or at least background, but for now let’s do some exploration. She’s seeking some knowledge or some location, maybe based on reports from previous expeditions.
To keep things ticking, let’s also assume she knows somebody else is looking for it as well. I like the idea that the other explorer is Firestarter’s target, so he’s trying to follow her somehow to get to that rival.
I don’t know what this location or item is, so let’s check with the oracles.
To me, this means there’s a ship, maybe from a previous expedition, that’s been abandoned somewhere. It’s probably not in great shape, but it might have some useful equipment or information. That’s what we’re looking for.
I don’t want it to be in this system, though. We need to head out into the Expanse. Either way, I envision something like this:
Lux is sitting in her small cabin she’s rented in a sketchy part of the station. One wall has a large screen that shows what looks like a live view of the planet; it’s quite dramatic, with magma geysers visible and the occasional blinking light of some sort of industrial craft moving across the surface.
A blinking light and buzz from her console grab her attention. Finally, an assignment! As she reads further, though, she can feel her stomach tightening. Her mentor was lost long ago on an expedition here in Ferrous Flow. She’s been tasked with finding the ship that was lost and recovering any data or equipment that might be useful.
It’s a bit of a heavy assignment emotionally, of course, but Lux feels a bit of pride in knowing that she could be the one to determine what happened and bring back the information that was important enough for her mentor to end up losing his life over.
I will find you, mentor. I will bring back the answers.
We’ll mark this as Dangerous and Swear an Iron Vow, rolling +heart. Because this is her mentor, I feel comfortable adding the +2 for a bond. Lore Hunter doesn’t apply as this is not a formidable rank. Therefore we have:
1d6+2 = 4 vs 4, 10. That’s a miss. “You must overcome a significant obstacle before you begin your quest. Envision what stands in your way.”
I think we already know that it’s something to do with Firestarter. He’s got some sort of hold on our ship, but Lux doesn’t know that it’s him. Instead, he’s going to show up and try to convince her she needs him to come along. What’s his angle? Let’s ask the oracle.
He positions himself as someone who has connections and can get the hold lifted. Maybe he whispers about the local authority and their oppressiveness. What does he want in return?
He tells her he needs out past the blockade. She’s got a ship and papers to get past (since this is primarily an economic dispute, they’re not likely to give a hard time to a research and exploration vessel). What he really wants is to catch the rival who’s also headed to the ship, but Lux doesn’t even know that rival exists.
I think Lux just agrees. She thinks it might be helpful to have somebody help with the ship, and dropping him off after finding the ship shouldn’t be a problem. This means that probably we don’t even need to roll a move. The complication is dealt with, the hold is lifted, and we can head out into the void.