Friday, April 8, 2011

Birthright conversion

This is a collection of my homebrewed rules for using the Birthright setting with World of Darkness rules. I had to make a lot of adjustments.

1) The first thing I looked at were the skills.
Skills like Computer had to be removed and skills like Investigation felt out of place, but all of the skills should feel like they fit into the setting of medieval fantasy. I went through old World of Darkness books for the alternate settings, Dark Ages Vampire, Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade, Victorian Vampire, and even the World War One Wraith rulebook, looking for skills that I could adapt into the rules. Ultimately I ended up replacing skills with ones that conformed to the setting, as well as rename and limit the scope of some skills.
Investigation was replaced with Enigmas, a catchall skill for "deciphering languages," interpreting clues and solving puzzles.
Folklore replaced Occult, so knowledge of the arcane arts and mysterious monsters was denigrated down to a literal skill about storytelling.
I wanted to limit the scope of Medicine dramatically, so Computer was removed and replaced with Herbalism, a skill that could also capture poison-making abilities as well.
The physical skills were pretty simple, Firearms was easy to replace with Archery, and Drive had a decent enough replacement with Ride.
I didn't feel I needed to replace any of the social skills, but in keeping with the themes of nobility in the medieval era and also dealing with the alien cultures of elves and dwarves I replaced Socialize with Etiquette.

2) The second thing I fixated on were races.
In the Birthright setting, humans are divided into five distinct ethnicities with differing bonuses and penalties. I knew I wanted to have Bloodlines do weird and nifty things with dice rolling mechanics and I wanted racial bonuses to augment or play off of these, so mechanically I differentiated the five variations of Cerilian humans by giving each a 9-again quality with a different attribute and skill.
Anuireans: Resolve and Etiquette
Brecht: Dexterity and Persuasion
Khinasi: Intelligence and Herbalism
Rjurik: Wits and Survival
Vos: Stamina and Animal Ken

This left the Sidhelien (elves), the Karamhul (dwarves) and the Halflings (halflings). :-P
All of which were problems, because the Birthright setting harkens to Tolkien's ideas of immortal and hostile elves, dwarves dscended from magical elemental beings and halflings with special powers derived from their mystic homeland. I decided to simplify it and each of these races would cost Merit dots during character creation, and so I wrote out each races' abilities and determined what it might cost in Merit dots if I simply allowed players to purchase equivalent magical powers during character creation. Then I reduced the prices a little bit based on drawbacks that each collection of powers might come with. Then they were still too much, so I reduced the prices in half.

the Karamhul (••••)
• size 4
• darkvision, 90 feet
• for purposes of lifting or moving objects, Strength receives a +4 bonus, and dwarves can carry an extra 50 pounds without being encumbered; additionally, whenever a Willpower point is spent on a roll involving Strength, the player can add 5 dice instead of the usual 3
• all Physical rolls receive the 9-again quality
• whenever a dwarf is struck by a blunt object (e.g., rock, mace, etc.) the roll is reduced by 2 successes

the Sidhelien (••••)
• size 5
• elves can never use Divine magic
• elves can see in starlight or moonlight as if it were a bright summer's day
• while not completely immune to disease elves receive a +4 bonus in any rolls made to resist the effects of illness, intoxication or disease
• all Social rolls receive the 9-again quality
• immortal (elves never age once they mature)
• elves have no need to sleep, and as such are immune to any magic that would cause them to sleep, but they must rest quietly for six hours a day or else they become exhausted and suffer Fatigue

the Halflings (•••)
• size 3 and cannot take the Giant merit
• halflings can never have Bloodlines or use Divine magic
• all Resistance rolls receive the 9-again quality
• Shadow Vision, by concentrating for one turn (losing Defense and Speed) and rolling Wits + Composure a halfling can see the influence of Shadow, the presence of undead, as well as determine the Strength of the local Gauntlet.
• Shadow Walk, by concentrating for one turn (losing Defense and Speed) and rolling Wits + Composure a halfling can enter the barrier between the Physical World and the Shadow World to travel great distances in a short period of time. The halfling can bring a number of people along with him equal to his total Willpower, but all must be touching the halfling. In this region, the halfling can move at a rate of roughly 50 miles an hour. Because of the blurring of reality between the Shadow World and the Physical World, nobody can make out details of the terrain or areas passed over during transit, nor can the halfling predict perfectly where travel will end. Added to this difficulty is the fact that using the ability too often will attract creatures from the Shadow World to the halfling, making them loathe to use it except in the direst of emergencies.

3) The next thing on my list was Morality.
It had to go. I never liked alignment in D&D, and Morality always seemed like it was just begging to be debated about. In fact, many of my game sessions had sparked debates about morality when a player would kill somebody and I would have them roll for degeneration. Arguments like "but it was self-defense" or "but that was an accident" would not sway me. The mechanical effect of Morality is to have the character begin suffering mental illnesses as it drops, and I felt that causing another person's death was a psychological trauma regardless of the person's intentions. As I frequently ended the debates with "the system doesn't care what you intend, it only measures your actions - and you killed that guy!"
I immediately changed the name and since the corrupting influence of Azrai was still felt upon the world in his Bloodline, since the Shadow World was hinted at being a place tormented by the disturbed spirits of the dead, and since I was very consciously excluding the equivalents of paladins, rangers and druids within the setting, I chose the word Purity.
I kept the table of "sins" from Morality, but I've also added quite a few additional "sins" that are all related to abuses of Bloodlines and magic within the setting. Knowingly entering a province that is tainted with an Awnsheghlien is a sin. Trying to kill somebody for their Bloodline is one step worse than just killing somebody, and trying to take somebody's Bloodline, through killing them or through Investiture, when their Bloodline is of Azrai's lineage is a step worse than that.
The distinction I try to make with my list of "sins" is that the character's knowledge of what they are doing is immaterial. If the character is knowingly embracing evil, by making deals with Shadow creatures or going after Azrai's powers, then there are sins for that; but most of the sins could be activated without the character, or even the player, ever knowing that they're degenerating.
As a result, I've started using Purity as a mechanic for Divine powers as well as a factor for resisting the influence of Shadow creatures.

no supernatural archtypes, just spells
The way I've translated wizard and cleric magic into World of Darkness has changed several times, for both types of magic. At first, I treated both as power stats, called Arcane and Divine, each of which could be purchased during character creation for five Merit dots, neither of which could exceed five dots, and just ruled that individual spells could be purchased for each. But this didn't convey the level of mystery, or strength, that I wanted magic to have. Let's break each down:

4) Arcane
I wanted magic to be relatively weak, but I didn't want to have to do a lot of work to convey this weakness. Arcane is rated from 1 to 5 dots. Purchasing it at character creation gives the character only one dot. Arcane has the following game effects:
• Players roll an Attribute + Arcane when casting spells. Arcane is the "raw ability" of this formula. Magicians with a high Arcane rating are simply more proficient spellcasters. (This would keep dice pools low and thus magicians would not be lobbing Fireballs with glee.)
• The higher a magician's Arcane, the more quickly he can cast elaborate or powerful spells. For every dot of Arcane a magician has, he can cast that many "dots" worth of a spell in a single round. Thus, a magician with Arcane of 2 could cast a 2 dot spell in one round, but a 3 or 4 dot spell would take two rounds, and 5 dot spells would take 3 rounds. In other words, Arcane governs how many points of Mana a player can spend in a single turna and his Arcane rating is equal to the number of Mana he can spend in a single turn. (I haven't created any abilities or powers that can activate with the expenditure of a Mana, but I felt including this rule would put a limiting factor on anything like that I might create in the future.)
• A Magician may have a spell active, either through concentration or a timed duration, for each dot in Arcane he possesses. Attempting to cast additional spells beyond this results in penalties to the spellcasting dice pool of -2 dice per additional spell.

I didn't want Arcane to be a conventional power stat, but I did want it to have a "battery" stat that was used to power it and I didn't want to use Willpower for that - I was always planning on tying Willpower to Divine magic. So Mana became a 20 box stat below Arcane, spells had a one Mane per dot of the spell cost and I created special rules for gathering it.
I didn't put a "cap" on the amount of Mana a magician can store. There are 20 boxes on the character sheet and any magician, regardless of Arcane rating, can store the full amount. Trying to store more than 20 Mana is simply impossible.
The notes that I gave players about Mana said it could do the following:
• Spellcasting: Every spell costs a point of Mana to cast per dot of the spell's rating.
• Power: Some magical items require Mana to be spent in order to use them.
• Restoration: Magicians can infuse Mana into their physical Patterns to heal wounds. The cost is one Mana points per bashing or two Mana points per lethal wound. This is an instant action, not reflexive. Those magicians unable to spend more than two Mana per turn can take as many consecutive turns performing this action as they need, until they’ve spent the points. This is a reverse effect to Scourging (see below).
And the notes I handed out which included rules for collecting and regaining Mana were practically lifted from the Mage rulebook:
• Collecting: Wizards can perform a ritual at a Source and gain Mana points. Doing so requires an hour of uninterrupted ceremony and an Arcane + Composure roll. Each success provides one Mana and a Wizard cannot gain more Mana per day, however, than the Source's rating. (There is a difference between magicians and Wizards, more on this later.)
• Scourging: Magicians can scourge their own bodies to free up Mana, electing to either degrade one of their Physical Attributes by one dot in return for three Mana points, or instead scourge his Health. This is a literal reverse effect to Restoration (see above).
• Blood Sacrifice: Magicians don’t like to talk about it, but there is an unsavory practice that can also yield up Mana to a magician: the blood sacrifice of a living creature. And including this rule, though not part of the original Birthright setting, allowed me to add that magicians and Wizards were rare people who are always looked upon suspiciously.

Individual spells were basically taken straight out of the Mage: The Awakening rulebook with very little modification at first. In one session I realized this wasn't going to work, so I decided to tweak spells that I converted into the system so they had a set effect. At first I had multiple levels of effects, but than I realized I had fallen into the trap of uber-customization that I wanted to avoid.
I changed Arcane spells one last time, and now they have one effect, which is triggered with one success on a roll. Exceptional successes do not add to the effects, but can help save Mana for higher-level spells.
At the beginning of the campaign I had only included four spells as part of a beginning magician's repertoire: Alarm, Detect Magic, Mage Armor, and Magic Missile. All were variations of spells from Mage: the Awakening books, but all were listed as one-dot spells - in order to maintain the feel of the corresponding 1st-level AD&D spells more than for any other justification or sense of balance.
During the course of the game the lone magician in the gaming group has also learned Spectral Hand and Find Familiar (also one dot spells), and is in the process of learning Invisibility (a 2-dot spell).

5) Divine
Clerics and Divine magic have undergone the most changes since I first started. All I can say is that the players who chose to play a magician and a cleric have both been very patient.
At first I thought I would treat Divine similarly to Arcane, give it a battery stat and just dole out spells occasionally, but this felt a bit lazy and I didn't want to simply have two separate lists of powers with very little variation. However, the Divine trait has stayed fairly consistent throughout my revisions and, like Arcane, it cannot exceed five dots and spells cast with Divine only add an Attribute to the dice pool.
The way that is currently works is that any character with Divine will have basic healing, protection, undead turning, and magic dispelling abilities - but then each dot in Divine will unlock deity-specific abilities. I decided that all clerics should have basic powers, nine of which are keyed to a specific Attribute, most of them require the expenditure of a Willpower point to use and then the tenth requires the sacrifice of a Willpower dot to activate. And all ten of these powers would be the basic powers that all clerics in a regular D&D game might have.
Most of these powers take inspiration from abilities in the Hunter books, but the complete list is:
+ Intelligence = Cure Wounds: (though I might change this to Dexterity), costs Willpower, an extended action that requires a certain number of successes to remove wounds, the number of rolls for the action can't exceed Purity
+ Wits = no power yet
+ Resolve = Dispel Magic, costs Willpower
+ Strength = no power yet
+ Dexterity = Bless Weapon, costs Willpower and makes a weapon temporarily magical (though I might switch the Attribute associated with this power with Cure Wounds)
+ Stamina = Sanctuary, costs Willpower but basically turns Purity into a stat that attackers have to mentally overcome in order to attack the cleric
+ Presence = classic Turn Undead ability, costs Willpower, number of undead affected is determined by Purity (though I might change this since 'evil' priests should probably have a Command Undead ability)
+ Manipulation = Command, costs Willpower and is a contested action vs target
+ Composure = Divine Blessing: allows the cleric to reflexively distribute Willpower points to others when activating his Virtue

Since Divine is also keyed to a particular deity, I had to come up with powers for each dot that a character might have in Divine. But since I've only used clerics from three deities so far, I haven't fleshed these out completely.
Clerics can regain 1 point of Willpower when they first see a storm brewing
• receives bonus dice to resist exhaustion, starvation and exposure; Divine also acts as armor for magical attacks using cold or lightning
•• Divination, costs Willpower and requires an extended roll, acts pretty much just like it's AD&D counterpart
••• Call Lightning, costs Willpower and requires a roll, and does a set amount of damage - that can kill most men (anyone with Stamina of 2 and Size 5 would have all of the Health boxes filled with lethal damage)
Clerics regain 1 point of Willpower when they witness a crime
• receives bonus dice to resist any attempts - mundane or magical - to deceive, fool or scare them; as well as magical compulsion or controlling effects
•• Judgment, costs Willpower, allows the cleric to determine if somebody is lying or if they are guilty of an accused crime
Clerics regain 1 point of Willpower when they look at the full moon
• receive bonus dice to resist Blooded abilities - these are the only clerics who get a bonus against Bloodlines

And since Divine is obviously still a work in progress, that's all I have at the moment. My players have been very patient with my revisions, but I'm constantly striving to simplify the rules while at the same time trying to imbue the same feelings of playing an old school AD&D game.

6) Bloodlines
In the original Birthright setting, Bloodlines are divided into derivations of power that simulate the powers of the old/dead gods. I changed the name to Lineage to better reflect how the Bloodline indicates the character is a direct descendant of one of the survivors from the battle of Mount Deismaar - the historical event where the old gods died, the new gods were created and the Bloodlines were spread out.
Just like Arcane and Divine, I decided that Bloodline would only have five dots at the most. The dots of a Bloodline are referred to as the Bloodline's strength.
A Weak Bloodline (•) is what a scion with little or no manifestations of the blood has. Such trace Bloodlines tend to evaporate completely after a generation or two unless they are returned to prominence through the actions of exceptional characters.
A Minor Bloodline (••)is usually descended from less or non-famous figures that were present at Deismaar. Thousands of common foot soldiers and camp followers survived the battle to perpetuate minor Bloodlines. Most scions have a Minor Bloodline, and thus it is the most common type of Blooded character.
Major Bloodlines (•••) represent lines descended from the most prominent heroes and leaders at Deismaar and those who survived the first decades of usurpation. Almost all of the Major Bloodlines are famous throughout Cerilia, and the deeds, feuds, and abilities of their heirs are the stuff of bard’s tales and legends.
Great Bloodlines (••••) are rare; less than one scion in a hundred has a Great Bloodline. Only the greatest heroes of Deismaar were worthy of Bloodlines of such strength and, even then, only if they happened to be in close proximity to one of the gods when they perished. Scions of Great Bloodlines often have exceptionally powerful manifestations.
Furthermore, regents with Major (or Great) Bloodlines are sustained by their connection to their domain. Such regents receive bonus Health boxes determined by the size and prosperity of their realm.

True Bloodlines (•••••) are almost always unique and unheard of. Only the greatest heroes of Deismaar, those who were both physically and philosophically closest to the expiring gods, were granted True Bloodlines. Only these surviving heroes or their direct heirs through Bloodline investiture have True Bloodlines. There are believed to be less than a dozen True Bloodlines in existence throughout Cerilia.

All Bloodlines, including Tainted Bloodlines (a Bloodline trait with zero dots), have certain shared abilities:
Divine Aura: An intangible mantle of power and nobility surrounds some blooded characters, commanding respect from all they meet. Penalties to social rolls are always reduced by the number of dots in the scion’s Bloodline. Additionally, if a scion spends a Willpower point, he can project his Bloodline outward into a powerful aura which can hypnotize and enthrall the listeners, allowing him to add his Bloodline dots as bonus dice to social rolls for the scene.
Heightened Attribute: The scion receives the 9-again rule for rolls made with one Attribute associated with their Lineage; if the character already receives a 9-again quality with an Attribute for some reason then the Bloodline heightens the Attribute to receive the 8-again quality.
Heightened Skill: For every dot they possess in their Bloodline, scions receive a Skill Trick related to their Lineage (Skill Tricks are from the Mirrors sourcebook). For example, a scion with a Bloodline of 3 dots would have three Skill Tricks.
Sense Bloodline: All Blooded characters can sense other Blooded characters. When first looking at another scion, the character reflexively rolls Wits + Composure and adds the dots of the other character's Bloodline to their roll. Especially strong Bloodlines (any with 5 dots) can detect other Bloodlines and be detected by other Bloodlines several miles away.
Bloodmark: Blooded characters with powerful Bloodlines bear a visible, recognizable sign of their special heritage. Depending on the family, it may be an unnatural streak of hair coloring, eyes of brilliant green, or a birthmark. The mark is always physical in nature. When a Bloodline reaches four dots, a Bloodmark begins to show up. If the Bloodline increases to five dots it will become more pronounced and obvious, especially if Blood powers are used frequently.
Scions of the Azrai Lineage *always* bear obvious and often hideous Bloodmarks, but the mark is dramatically different for each character, and it frequently twists their bodies and physical appearance into a horrible mockery of their former selves.
Blooded Magic: Scions who are also Arcane spellcasters or Divine servants can add their dots in Bloodline to rolls when using Arcane or Divine spells. Additionally, a scion's Bloodline dots always adds to rolls to resist Arcane and Divine spells.

Magicians with Bloodlines are called Wizards and receive additional benefits:
• Wizards can increase their Attributes past 5 dots. The potential of the wizard's abilities is increased beyond the mundane, allowing him to bolster his Mental, Physical and Social capabilities to inhuman degrees.
• Wizards are capable of channeling energy from Source holdings, and receive Regency for doing so successfully.
• Wizards can cast powerful Realm magic, a feat that only a Bloodline allows as elves are naturally incapable of wielding that much Arcane power.
Note: Elves can already become Wizards without a Bloodline. Part of my campaign's history is that Arcane magic originally comes from dragons, and millenia ago they taught it to elves - the fact that humans can't wield magic as well as elves without a Bloodline adds to the elven viewpoint of humans being inferior and twisted creatures on the same level as goblins.

Also, I forgot to include this under the Arcane description, magicians take a full round to cast a spell losing both Speed and Defense, while wizards can cast spells as instant actions.

Clerics with Bloodlines also receive additional abilities which are greatly enhanced by controlling Temples.
• Not written up yet, but I do have rules for Investiture

Finally, I haven't written up very many blood powers yet, but I did include these rules:
Blood powers are assigned based on the total number of dots in Bloodline strength a character possesses. Every time a Bloodline increases, new powers are acquired or upgraded. When a scion increases their Bloodline they can acquire a number of dots worth of powers equal to their new level of Bloodline strength. Thus, a scion with a Bloodline of (•) who increases his Bloodline to (••) can acquire either a single two-dot power or two one-dot powers. What powers are available depend entirely on the character's Lineage.

I have a handful of one-dot powers written up, in case one of my players increases their Tainted Bloodline during the course of the game. An example of one would be
Toughness (•)
Effect: For every dot in a Bloodline that a character possesses, they receive a bonus Health box.

7) some house rules for combat
there are a few combat hacks from the Armoury books that I use consistently:
Bleeding Out - take 3+ lethal damage from an edged weapon and lose 1 bashing every round until the bleeding is stopped
Bone Breaking - inflict a broken leg, arm or concussion if inflicting 5+ bashing with a blunt weapon
Hidden Health - I secretly track damage levels for every PC, describing their injuries without the use of numbers
Slower Healing - natural healing rates take four times as long

All of this makes combat something that has lasting effects. When the characters fight somebody, they're feeling the effects of it for days or weeks in game time. Thus, combat becomes something to avoid. This has actually helped heighten dramatic tension, I've seen player panic when outnumbered and start looking for places to flee.
I am also blessed with players who trust me as a GM, and I have a personal rule that I never kill a character outright. If somebody takes enough damage in a single hit, I give them a roll to avoid "passing out" and if they succeed the roll I narrate the effects of shock, depending on the scenario it could mean their skin crawls and a great emptiness fills their belly as they bleed from the last injury inflicted, or perhaps the feeling of a great thirst coupled with drowsiness overcomes their senses while their skin turns pale after being hit over the head with a club.
In any event, players always get a warning that they are about to die, and have the choice to run or stay and fight. Nobody has died yet, but they've come close several times.

8) Merits
I own every single World of Darkness book, and when Mirrors was first released their seemed to be heralded with a note of finality to the series of books. At that time I went through every single book, copying and writing and compiling my own text file that included every single Merit. I divided them into Mental, Physical, Social, Fighting Style, and Supernatural files, so I would have a complete listing of everything published, easy to find and easy to reference. (The lack of an index in WOD books is a constant cursing point for me.)
When I began work on this campaign I obviously had to exclude many of the more modern merits, so I went through those files and compiled my own custom list of which Merits would be available for characters, tweaking some of them slightly to fit within the setting. The final list of Merits I gave to my players included the following information (some dot costs were altered)

Mental: Common Sense (••••), Danger Sense (••), Diligent Study (••), Eidetic Memory (••), Holistic Awareness (•••), Language (•), Meditative Mind (•), Well-Traveled (•)

Physical: Ambidextrous (•••), Armored Fighting (•• or ••••), Athletics Dodge (•), Brawling Dodge (•), Direction Sense (•), Disarm (••), Fast Reflexes (• or ••), Fighting Finesse (••), Fleet of Foot (• to •••), Giant (••••), Iron Stamina (• to •••), Iron Stomach (••), Natural Immunity (•), Outdoorsman (••), Quick Healer (••••), Strong Back (•), Strong Lungs (•••), Strong Stomach (•), Student of the Blade (•), Toxin Resistance (••), Weaponry Dodge (•)

Social: Allies (• to •••••), Bureaucratic Navigator (••), Decorated (• to ••), Fame (• to •••), Inspiring (••••), Status (• to •••••), Striking Looks (•• or ••••)

Fighting Style:
Anuirean Spear-Fighting (originally Sojutsu/Jukendo from Armory Reloaded),
Brecht Sword-Fighting (originally Fencing from Armory),
Grappling (from Armory Reloaded),
Improvised Weaponry (from Midnight Roads),
Khinasi Sword-Fighting (originally Kendo from Armory),
Rjurik Sword-Fighting (originally Langschwert from Armory Reloaded),
Staff Fighting,
Sword and Shield (tweaked slightly because Shields don't give a -1 attack penalty anymore),
Vosgaard Knife Fighting (originally Spetsnaz Knife Fighting)

Supernatural: almost all of these have been tweaked for the setting
Analyst (•) from Reliquary, Cursed Item (• to •••••), Difficult to Ride (••••), Shadow Aura (•••)
I also included Mana Blood (••) - re-written from a merit in Book of Spirits, it essentially makes a character bleed Mana whenever they are injured
Source-Drinker (•••) - also re-written from a merit in Book of Spirits, it allows a character to steal Mana from a Source and possibly channel it into a magic item or give it to magician

Merits that I significantly altered, or added, to the game include:
Literacy (•)
Nobody starts with literacy, characters can speak their native tongue but are not formally taught to read unless they pay for it.

Follower (• to •••••)
Prerequisite: Bloodline •, Arcane •, Divine •, Presence •••, or Status •••+
The character receives a follower who follows their commands and is loyal to them. This is just a tweaking of the Retainer merit, but I also allowed players to make their characters Followers. As long as they obey the dictates of the Follower merit, they receive a bonus of three Merit dots during character creation.

Officer of the Regent (• to ••••)
This is essentially just a tweaking of the Sworn Officer merit from Tales From The 13th Precinct. I turned it into the 'qualifying' merit for a regent's Lieutenant.

Resources (• to •••••)
I tweaked this as well. It doesn't represent wealth that will continue to come in, but it's a flat one-time bonus of wealth during character creation.

The following merits are exactly what I wrote for my players-
Arcane Spellcaster (•••••)
Your character receives Arcane (•) and is capable of casting spells, using and storing Mana. Spells must be purchased separately and individually, and usually requires a Mentor or access to the Royal College of Sorcery.
Note: Arcane spellcasters begin play with the Alarm (•), Detect Magic (•), Mage Armor (•) and Magic Missile (•) spells for free, but purchasing this merit after character creation does not include this benefit.

Divine Spellcaster (•••••)
Your character receives Divine (•) and is capable of casting spells from their chosen deity's Spheres, but spells from those Spheres must still be purchased separately.
Note: Divine spellcasters begin play with their deity's primary Sphere (•) spell for free, as well as Prayer at (•), but purchasing this merit after character creation does not include these benefits.
(This has obviously changed since my first draft of rule-writing, but this is what I originally wrote, thinking that each Divine sellcaster would select Spheres of influence much like 2nd edition AD&D clerics, and similar to Reckoning-era Hunters.)

Mysterious Fortune (••)
Your character has some sort of event in his background, or an item that he carries, which is both beneficial and gets him into trouble. The specific effect and details are random and determined by the GM.
Note: This Merit can only be selected during character creation!
Drawback: The Mysterious Fortune is both beneficial and a hindrance.

Tainted Bloodline (••)
no Bloodline
Effect: Your character has a Bloodline that has been severely diluted over the centuries. This is due to having an ancestor of one of the Bloodlines whose line has weakened to the point of almost non-existence; but the residual quality of being a blooded descendant remains.
You must choose a Lineage for your character, and she gains the ability to sense other blooded characters as well as the Heightened Attribute ability of her associated Lineage. Other blooded characters can sense her as a fellow scion, despite the fact that she has no Bloodline strength or powers. Additionally, your character could potentially rule a domain successfully or kill a fellow scion to gather strength for herself thereby "giving" herself a Bloodline of (•).
Drawback: Scions will think she is blooded, so they may consider her both a target and a potential rival for their own power. In short, the character becomes a target to those who don't want to barter with her or who see her as a threat.

9) character creation
What I wrote for my players was literally this:

1. Choose background. First, create your character’s concept. To help get a handle on your character’s identity and motivations, come up with a short, two- or three-word description of him/her. This usually, but not always, includes some idea of a career: “patriotic soldier,” “stoic bartender,” “lost beggar,” “petulant noble,” “angry young carpenter.”

2. Second, choose your character’s faction. His faction is both his strength and his curse. Faction can be tied to a character’s home country, or it can be an independent body, like a church or a guild union.

3. Select Attributes, your character’s innate capabilities: Your character begins with a number of dots that she can apply to her Attributes, a total of 14 dots; and these can be distributed in any fashion.

4. Select Skills, your character’s learned capabilities: Like Attributes, your character begins with a number of dots which can be distributed in any way desired, a total of 21 dots; and these can be distributed in any fashion.

5. Select Skill Specialties, your character’s focused areas of expertise: Take five Skill Specialties of your choice. You can assign each how you like, whether each to a separate Skill or all five to a single Skill. There is no limit to how many Specialties can be assigned to a single Skill.

6. Determine advantages, traits derived from your character’s Attributes: Defense (the lowest of Dexterity or Wits), Health (Stamina + Size), Initiative (Dexterity + Composure), Purity (7 for starting characters), Size (5 for most humans), Speed (Strength + Dexterity +5), Willpower (Resolve + Composure), and Virtue/Vice (choose one of each).

7. Select Merits, representing character enhancements and background elements: Spend 12 dots on Merits. You must determine your race or purchase a Racial Merit before selecting any other Merits.

8. Bonus points: These are used to round out a character or add depth to already selected abilities. You have 13 bonus points, and may spend them on any Attributes, Skills, Merits or Traits.
Bloodline, Arcane, Divine = 6 points per dot
Attributes = 4 points per dot
Skills, Spells = 3 points per dot
Purity (starts at 7) = 3 points per dot, or lower Purity for +3 bonus points (to minimum of 5)
Merits = 2 points per dot
Skill Specialties = 1 per point

9. Purchase starting equipment: Characters begin play with 15 gold pieces worth of equipment, unless this has been modified through Merits.

...and I also don't make my players pay double for the 5th dot in any category.

10) character sheet
With the help of MrGone, who was kind enough to make and host a Birthright character sheet the first time I tried to do this gaming experiment, I modified his design to fit with many of my changes and house rules, and also to make the sheet easier to read for my players - most of whom were not as familiar with World of Darkness rules as I am.

click for bigger

I don't really know what else to write at this point. Most of the time I simply take things from the rulebooks and tweak them slightly.

the Races of Cerilia

During character creation, some races cost Merit dots.

Karamhul (••••)
Dwarves lived in the mountains of Cerilia long before humans came to the land. Over the years, the dwarven holds have chosen a defensive strategy, fortifying their approaches and retreating to their cities under the mountains whenever threatened. Dwarves have a fierce hatred of orogs as a result of uncounted wars fought under the earth.

The typical dwarf stands about 4 to 4-1/2 feet in height, with an exceptionally stocky build and thick, sturdy bones. Dwarves are creatures who derive from stone - they are true children of the mountains - and their bodies are twice as dense as other creatures. As a result, dwarves weigh as much as 250 to 300 pounds despite their size.

A dwarf's skin is gray, stony, and cold to the touch. All dwarves have eyes that are dark as jet, and their hair and beards are black or dark gray and normally cropped short.

With regard to other races, dwarves usually adhere to a friendly neutrality and are on good terms with most other races, including the elves. They're masterful traders and craftsmen, and dwarven caravans roam from Anuire to Vos laden with their goods. Dwarven arms and armor are the best in Cerilia; it's not uncommon to see dwarves selling their services as mercenaries.

• size 4

• darkvision, 90 feet

• for purposes of lifting or moving objects, Strength receives a +4 bonus, and dwarves can carry an extra 50 pounds without being encumbered; additionally, whenever a Willpower point is spent on a roll involving Strength, the player can add 2 extra dice

ALL Physical rolls receive the 9-again quality

• whenever a dwarf is struck by a blunt object (e.g., rock, mace, etc.) the roll is reduced by 2 successes

Elves (••••)

Cerilian elves call themselves the Sidhelien (SHEE-lin). The Sidhelien hold court in deep, mist-wreathed vales in the darkest heart of the ancient Cerilian forests. A graceful but reclusive race, they are suspicious of humankind. Early in Cerilia's history the elves contested human settlement of Cerilia's vast forests, and a strong current of ill will towards the human nations still runs strong in the elven woods.

Elves stand as tall as humans, but they're far more slender and graceful. Most average between 5-1/2 and 6 feet in height, but weigh only 120 to 140 pounds. They are pale, with fair skin and dark hair, and their features are exquisitely fine. Elves possess an unearthly beauty, and their perfect voices can hold a mortal spellbound. Unfortunately, elves are too conscious of their superiority and treat others with coldness or condescension.

Cerilian elves are creatures of faerie and starlight, gifted with immortality and powers of mind and body beyond those of humankind. They're neither a force for good nor a force for evil; an elven wood can be deadly perilous for human travelers. The elven heart is unfathomable to mortals; they're moved to wild delight, dark melancholy, or burning rage with the only the slightest of causes. More than anything else, elves are unpredictable, doing what pleases them from one moment to the next.

• size 5 and cannot take the Divine Spellcaster merit

• elves can see in starlight or moonlight as if it were a bright summer's day

• while not completely immune to disease elves receive a +4 bonus in any rolls made to resist the effects of illness, intoxication or disease

ALL Social rolls receive the 9-again quality

• immortal (elves never age once they mature)

• elves have no need to sleep, and as such are immune to any magic that would cause them to sleep, but they must rest quietly for six hours a day or else they become exhausted

Halflings (•••)

The halflings aren't a numerous people, but they can be found almost anywhere humans live. Only a handful of humans know the secret of the halflings' origins: that they once dwelled in the Shadow World, a realm of faerie enchantment that existed parallel to Cerilia. That realm was poisoned and corrupted by the rise of the Shadow Lords, and they fled to the daylight world to escape the dark powers of those Lords. In the early years of the Anuirean Empire, the halflings left their homes one family at a time, trickling into the human lands.

Living in the shadow of their larger neighbors, halflings don't see the sense in a government larger than a small village or extended family, and are happy to count themselves citizens of whatever human land surrounds them. It's not unusual to find a handful of halfling farmers near a human village, or a neighborhood of halfling craftsmen in a larger town.

Halflings usually adopt the language, culture, and customs of the Big Folk around them, while keeping a few aspects of their own culture intact. They'll never take up arms against each other; halflings feel free to use weapons in the defense of their homes or families, but consider fisticuffs the only acceptable form of violence against other halflings.

Cerilian halflings stand about 3-1/2 feet tall and resemble small humans. They tend to be slightly stocky, and are fond of creature comforts.

• size 3 and cannot take the Giant merit

• halflings can never have Bloodlines or use Divine magic

ALL Resisted rolls receive the 9-again quality

• Shadow Vision, by concentrating for one turn (losing Defense and Speed) and rolling Wits + Composure a halfling can see the influence of Shadow, the presence of undead, as well as determine the Strength of the local Gauntlet.

• Shadow Walk, by concentrating for one turn (losing Defense and Speed) and rolling Wits + Composure a halfling can enter the barrier between the Physical World and the Shadow World to travel great distances in a short period of time. The halfling can bring a number of people along with him equal to his total Willpower, but all must be touching the halfling. In this region, the halfling can move at a rate of roughly 50 miles an hour. Because of the blurring of reality between the Shadow World and the Physical World, nobody can make out details of the terrain or areas passed over during transit, nor can the halfling predict perfectly where travel will end. Added to this difficulty is the fact that using the ability too often will attract creatures from the Shadow World to the halfling, making them loathe to use it except in the direst of emergencies.

Humans (-)

Humans are the most populous race in Cerilia, inhabiting every part of the continent. There are five human nationalities or cultures: the Anuireans, the Basarji, the Brechtur, the Rjurik, and the Vos. All humans start as Size 5.

Anuireans (an-WEER-ee-ans) are native to the southwestern portion of Cerilia. The ancient Anuireans were a fair-skinned, red-haired people, but over centuries of extensive contact with other cultures Anuireans have lost any defining physical characteristics.

Anuirean society is semi-feudal, founded on a class of free farmers and craftsmen. Regents are usually titled nobles. Anuireans respect nobility, and look to their leaders to protect them from the barbarians and savages who surround the states of the old empire. Commoners strongly identify with "their" lords, and the dealings and alliances of the noble families is a topic of constant discussion throughout Anuirean lands.

• receive the 9-again quality for Resolve and Etiquette rolls

The Brechtur (BREK-tur) folk inhabit north-central Cerilia. They tend to be short and stocky, with dark hair and eyes. Early in their history, they were under the rule of Anuirean governors, and the nobility declined drastically in power and importance. When the Anuirean Empire fell and the Brechtur gained independence, the guilds and merchants came into power.

The Brechtur believe in free enterprise, and Brecht society revolves around wealth. The nobility is weak in Brechtur, and several states have declared themselves republics. The Brechtur have a fierce love of independence and a tradition of self-reliance; they don't wait for their lordlings or rulers to solve problems for them. Commerce and trade are expressions of this belief, and Brecht commoners owe their first loyalty to guilds and companies.

• receive the 9-again quality for Dexterity and Persuasion rolls

Khinasi (kih-NAH-see) characters are native to the region known as Khinasi. They're descended from the Basarji (bah-SAR-gee) and speak a language known by the same name. The Basarji didn't come to Cerilia with the other human tribes; they colonized the southern shores of Cerilia from lands across the Bair el-Mehire. They are tall and lanky, with aquiline features and dark eyes. They range from a light coffee to a dark brown complexion.

Unlike the other human cultures, the Khinasi have no fear of magic. The study of magic is considered the noblest of callings, and the universities of Khinasi are the finest in Cerilia. Like the Brechtur, common Khinasi are traders and merchants, but a person's decorum, hospitality, and conduct are far more important than gross wealth.

• receive the 9-again quality for Intelligence and Folklore rolls

The Rjurik (RUR-ick) inhabit the taiga and highlands of northwestern Cerilia. They're a tall, broad-shouldered people with blond or red hair and fair complexions. Both men and women wear their hair in long braids. The Rjurik are stubborn individualists who don't swear fealty to anyone besides their own kin; the family is most important part of Rjurik life.

Most Rjurik follow the god Erik, a druidical power, and druids are revered throughout Rjurik society as teachers, leaders, and advisers. Common Rjurik have a deep respect and love for Cerilia's wilds, and carefully avoid over-hunting or clearing virgin forest.

• receive the 9-again quality for Wits and Survival rolls

The Vos (VAHS) are a barbaric race from the cold mountains and forests of northeastern Cerilia. They are tall, thick-boned people with flat features, light eyes, and a sallow hue. Male warriors are fond of shaving their heads and wearing long, drooping mustaches.

The Vos have a rigid code of face and honor that demands blood for even unintentional insults. Their leaders are war-chieftains known as tsarevos, advised by the priests of the grim Vos gods. Almost all Vos men are warriors and hunters--any other profession is considered unmanly. Vos women are greatly limited in their freedom by custom, although a few women have succeeded as warriors or tsarevas.

• receive the 9-again quality for Stamina and Animal Ken rolls