Character creation


  • Follow normal character creation rules on pages 16-17 or 44 of Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition or choose an archetype (p. 18-19)
    • Race: All characters should be human and most are Varisians.
    • Traits: As written except characters also have an extra derived statistic called Sanity which is equal to two plus half your character’s Spirit.
    • Gear: Characters start with 500 silver pieces worth of equipment. Use Hellfrost Player’s Guide prices.
  • Answer questions
  • Choose beliefs (1-3)
    • A Belief is characterization, a goal and an indication how you want to be rewarded for playing your character
    • Start with Beliefs about things your character values
    • Break down a larger goal into smaller steps
    • Don’t make broad statements that don’t involve the character in action
    • Write in character
  • Choose instincts (1-3)
    • Instincts work as action oriented macros, tell what your character is like and tell the GM what you want to showcase
    • Keep them simple, direct and focused


Has the character…

  • been a soldier or a bandit?
  • ever been severely wounded?
  • ever murdered or killed with his own hand? More than once?
  • been tortured, enslaved or beaten terribly over time?
  • led a sheltered life, free from violence and pain?
  • been raised in a competitive (but non-violent) culture—sports, debate, strategy games, courting?
  • given birth to a child?
  • used magic?
  • encountered otherworldly creatures? (demons, fey, nameless things)
  • ever prayed alone at night to remote, unholy gods to aid him? Have they answered?
  • entered into a pact with an otherworldly creature?


Design Beliefs for your character. You may take up to three, but no less than one.

A Belief is three things: it is characterization, a goal and an indication of how you want to be rewarded for playing your character.

When writing Beliefs for your character, make sure that at least one of them is an active goal—something your character can accomplish.

I will topple my brother the duke no matter the cost.

Note the action: topple. And the condition: no matter the cost. This Belief could have been written as “I don’t like my brother, the duke,” but that’s a terrible Belief. You don’t like him but is that going to make a good game? What are you going to do about it? How would we create an interesting story around your dislike? It’s weak, but toppling a duke, that drips with possibilities.

Types of starting Beliefs

  • If you have a secret about your character, make a Belief about it.
  • If you have an object or artifact that is very important to your character, write a Belief about it
  • If there is an NPC who is important to you, write a Belief about him or her.
  • If you are interested in or care about another player character, write a Belief about him or her.
  • If there is something your character wants to learn or gain, write a Belief about it.
  • If you have a philosophy for your character, write a Belief about it.

Beliefs and the Setting and Situation

Discuss the setting of the game and the situation—the problem or the action—that is starting off your campaign. Use this in your Beliefs! Incorporate what you care about, you hate or what you want to change into your Beliefs.

Little Goals

When writing goals, try not to make them too big. Try to create goals for yourself that you can at least try to accomplish this session. Don’t write goals for things you’ll get to in the future. If you have a big goal, break it down into steps and write a Belief about the step you can take a shot at right now.

Broad Statements Are Bad

Broad, vague statements make bad Beliefs. “This world is doomed” is a crap Belief. It’s a broad statement, and it doesn’t involve the character in the action. A simple change, “This world is doomed if I should fail to save the princess,” makes a world of difference. Now we all know that you are going to try to save the princess. We also know how you can be rewarded—if you work toward saving the princess, if you turn aside from the perfidious princess or if you save the princess.

Be Colorful

It’s easy to write simple direct Beliefs: “I will save the princess.” Unfortunately, such simple direct statements often lead to simple or flat play. The more colorful—the more in character—you write your Belief, the more fun you’re going to have in the game.

Work Together

During a session, not all players are going to get all of their Beliefs into play at the same time. That’s okay. One or two Beliefs from different characters might be tied in at a time and the other Beliefs used as hooks for later sessions.

Beyond that, not all of the players’ priorities are going to be appropriate to one game. That’s cool, too. Negotiate with the GM and the other players about what is important and relevant to the story/game/situation at hand. Incorporate Beliefs based on those criteria.


A player may choose one to three Instincts for his character. Almost the opposite of Beliefs, Instincts are game-mechanical priorities that a player describes for his character. When a player sets an Instincts, he’s telling the GM, the players and even the system, “This is how I want my guy to act in this situation.”

An instinct should be a declaration of action, ideally an if/then statement. Describe exactly what the character is doing and when: “If I sense trouble, I draw my sword.” Simple enough.

Simple is key. Instincts, in general, should be actions that can be accomplished in one glance, one sweep of the hand.

If there’s a cave-in, then I push the youngest to safety.

You can use always, never and when statements.

Alway throw the first punch.

Whenever someone tells a tale, always one-up them.

In the deep tunnels, always listen at every junction.

Never work quickly.

When surprised, I draw my knife.

Taste food before serving or eating.

Always have enough ingredients for noodle soup.

Always keep a knife in my boot.

Instincts must be tight and narrowly focused. This makes it possible for players to actually use Instincts in play, and it makes easier for the GM to introduce conflicts where those Instincts generate complications.

Instincts Break Rules Before We Roll, Not After

Instincts allow players to set conditions for their characters that otherwise bend the rules. Do you have “draw sword” Instinct? Well then, your character’s sword is drawn at the start of combat without having to spend actions. Instincts cannot allow you to bypass a test, but they can assume you made the test some time before trouble started. Any time you can slip a “my guy would have already done that” based on written Instinct, you’re on the right track. Once you are in the middle of trouble—once events are being narrated from moment to moment—it’s too late for most Instincts to have an effect.

The Three Levels Of Instincts

On the mechanical level, Instincts are action-oriented macros. Instincts tell the group that “my guy” functions in a slightly different manner than the baseline rules. In fact, if you have the
“always listen at every junction” Instinct and the players all forget and suddenly turn a corner and run into something dangerous, we’ll back up a step so you can roll Notice to see whether you became aware of it or not.

Secondly, there’s the character level. Instinct are the most primal, compact way of telling everybody at the table what your character is about. “If there’s a cave-in, then I push the youngest to safety” tells the entire group a lot about who your character is and what he values.

Finally, there’s the story level where an Instinct is a direct statement to the GM, “I want to showcase this aspect of my character.” If you have the “cave-in” Instinct, you’re telling the GM that you want at least some of the game to happen underground in caves or tunnels, and you want to have a cave-in.

Specific Response to Specific Stimulus

“Protect my friends from harm” is not an Instinct. It’s too vague. How do you protect your comrades from harm? What defines harm? A sword strike, a falling rock or a faux pas at a ball? Instincts are split second actions/decisions/reaction. If something requires even a moment of thought, it’s probably not an Instinct.


Savage Rise of the Runelords edhel