Using a Beak, Feather, and Bone Map for Character Creation

June 9, 2020 | Articles | 2 comments

Find out how a map-labeling RPG can provide the inspiration for a solo campaign with Beak, Feather, and Bone.

My journey into solo tabletop roleplaying is about the slowest process ever, but it’s been going on in the background! As I thought more about Ryuutama and started to go beyond character creation, an entire village lay before me. Where to begin? A simple yet powerful set of rules in Beak, Feather, and Bone had all the answers I needed!

Gathering the Cards

Aside from the rulebook, the only major components are an unlabeled map and a standard deck of cards. Luckily for me, I had the perfect complement in my collection!

These AVES Playing Cards feature face cards with unique birds, along with feathers all over the place.

I found a matching raven who seemed to look at the cover with a mixture of agitation and incredulity. Ha ha!

The various suits correspond to general types of buildings, and the values help determine which group or individual has the most power in the village. All I needed was a map…

Finding the Most Appropriate Playing Cards to Use with Beak, Feather, and Bone

Examining a Blank Map

Included with the rules is an absolutely wonderful blank map. So much potential! As much as I wanted to color this one in, though, there were some unique considerations.

My solo campaign encompasses world exploration. The starting village provides character development and a central point, but it’s not the only place.

I also wanted to ensure I had a way to generate more maps for other villages. What would I do beyond this one?

So I started to look for a different solution, much as I really wanted to use this map. I’ll find a way to use it!

The Beautifully Detailed Map Included with Beak, Feather, and Bone

Setting the Setting

This little play on words has to do with getting into the right mindset for building a world. It isn’t about plopping in houses in a haphazard way. Everything is important.

I went back to the overall setting and examined all of my characters. This was no small party!

The funny thing is that I started to come up with random ideas before I began. This is the wonderful part about solo RPGs… Everything is possible, and creativity thrives.

With everyone in mind, I set to work locating my unlabeled map. Was there the right generator out there?

The Right Sort of Egg Shape with Beak, Feather, and Bone

Natural Fantasy

Not every tabletop roleplaying game comes with a fully developed setting. In fact, neither does this one!

It’s important to understand the world concepts, though, even if those are vague or left up to the player. Some of that comes down to the adventure tone, too.

Conflict must be present for a story to exist, yet it’s possible to create very tame sorts of issues. That was definitely where I wanted to go with this solo campaign!

My characters were only partially fleshed out, so I hoped that the village would give them some history.

A Pleasant Sort of Experience with Natural Fantasy Roleplaying in Ryuutama

Finding a Perfect Map

There were at least half a dozen online village and city generators I went through. Nothing really struck a chord with me, mostly because I was being so very picky!

At last, I stumbled across Watabou’s Village Generator. I knew this was the right one for my solo campaign.

I went through several maps before I settled on this lovely spread for my starting village. So many possibilities! I still enjoy randomly generating maps every so often.

The design of the buildings also gave me an easy way to fill them in with digital color. I was finally all set and ready!

Starting Off with an Empty Generated Village in Beak, Feather, and Bone

Slight Adjustments to the Card Suits

The rules define each of the 4 card suits, but I made a few changes to work for me. I didn’t think that having a focus on past and future buildings would make the most sense here. Since the characters likely wouldn’t spend a lot of time in the village, I wanted to use the map to develop them. Definitely an odd idea! But I defined the suits as follows:

  • Clubs: Social
  • Diamonds: Financial
  • Hearts: Personal
  • Spades: Communal

Some of these might sound similar, but I knew what I wanted to do. The system is quite flexible in this regard! I could have chosen other types of categories, although vague is best. Buildings and their purposes are quite varied, after all.

Character Portraits

I found it immensely useful to keep my collage open near the empty map. There were only a few things I knew about these characters. But the portraits were a vital step!

Going clockwise from the upper left are Tsurume, Kageharu, Motokore, Ishi, Nakaari, and Akai. Colorful!

I recommend reading My Process of Character Creation in Ryuutama for the full image credits on Artbreeder.

With everyone in mind and a certain visual style to maintain, I felt like I had the foundation of this village concept in mind. As to the buildings? Time to roll away!

Putting Together a Traveling Party in Ryuutama

Rolling the Dice

Who would I be if I didn’t use my collection of Rory’s Story Cubes for this exact purpose?! Ha ha!

So off I rolled for the very first building. It turned out to be a communal building tied to Tsurume, according to the drawn card. I immediately knew what these dice said.

The Dragon’s Scales, the courthouse, came into existence. Some mysterious force is at work to always make the truth come to light. And all the lifts are scales. Naturally.

Since Tsurume’s motivator in life is some sort of vice, I imagined that she knew this building inside and out!

Rolling a Trio of Rory's Story Cubes to Build the Map in Beak, Feather, and Bone

The Best Kind of Roll

My second roll turned out to be fantastic. First, the face card indicated a rival in connection to this building. It would be Kageharu’s home, so this had to be good.

The beauty of these dice is unique interpretations. What I saw definitely doesn’t match up with what you see!

This is also why I make use of them whenever I can. It’s too easy to use a tabletop RPG to write a story exactly how I want it to go. But randomness makes the experience.

I’m not even going to explain my thought process. I’ll just share exactly what I came up with!

Working in Some Unique Buildings for Ryuutama with Beak, Feather, and Bone

Exploring the Parts of Beak, Feather, and Bone

Please forgive this wall of text! However, this is what I came up with after a not-too-unreasonable amount of time. I do love to take my time, and I hate feeling rushed with character or world creation. I defined everything as follows:

  • Building Name: Broken Trumpets
  • Type: Residential
  • Beak: Music appreciation has devolved into music experimentation, which echoes from the often open windows at all hours. The house’s walls seem to inhale and exhale when there is a tune as if the structure itself is an instrument. If a day goes by without a noise complaint, something is amiss.
  • Feather: Due to consistent complaints via banging on the front door, the entrance is now located on the second level. It is only accessible through a vertical obstacle course whose solution is only known to family and close friends. Window boxes feature bent flowers. An elephant lives in the garden.
  • Bone: The first floor houses the necessary rooms, like bedrooms and a kitchen, though these are packed with instruments and pieces of instruments. The second floor is a series of echo chambers, music rooms, and assorted areas for experimenting with sound. Songs decorate and live in/on the walls.
  • Rival Name: Michitada
  • Rival Type: Neighbor (Farmer)
  • Rival Beak: He spends as much time as possible outside of town, tending to his farm. A quiet manner of speech and a life of solitude make up most of his personality. However, he despises the noises from next door and desperately wants to rid the world of the constant and incessant music experiments.
  • Rival Feather: Rotund, stocky, and often red in the face, he always looks angry. Though well past middle-aged, he has not completed his journey and his thinning hair still retains the bright orange color of farmers. He wears small, round glasses; faded overalls; a heavily patched shirt; and a straw hat.
  • Rival Bone: His purpose is twofold. First, and most obviously, he seeks to stop the noises that are literally destroying his house’s structural integrity. Second, he would like nothing more than to learn the secret to his neighbors’ obstacle course so he might join them for a quiet cup of tea. In full silence.

Silly? Weird? Completely out there? Most definitely! But remember the whole idea of the setting that I mentioned above. This is a quirky sort of world filled with magic and the mundane. This rivalry is one that fleshed out Kageharu more than I might have if I just dove into play. All with the start of a village map. Powerful and interesting stuff!

Building a Village

Onward I continued! Just one more example of a strange sort of roll. I ended up with an identical die in the exact same orientation. Height looked to be a theme!

This building aligned with Motokore, the navigator. So I thought hard and determined this would be Lady Airsea.

What might it be? Only a hybrid between a building and airship, used for educational purposes! I wrote this:

Only rarely does it strike a nearby structure, often due to an overzealous student with limited skills. The building’s ability to be seaworthy vs. airworthy is hotly debated.

Interpreting Rory's Story Cubes with Ryuutama and Beak, Feather, and Bone

A Single Round of Play

I have an absolutely enormous size of this map that I’m working with, and I’ll share that when I’m done! For now, you can just start to make out the claimed buildings.

This has been so much fun so far! I’m notoriously slow, and it definitely doesn’t take days or weeks to get through a single round. But there’s no time limit, nor pressure.

I could stop here, yet I feel like there is more to discover about the characters. Much more, indeed.

The idea of using a map-labeling RPG for character creation might seem odd, but I’m loving it so far!

Watching the Village Start to Take Shape in Beak, Feather, and Bone

Continue the Conversation

Have you used Beak, Feather, and Bone to fill in an unlabeled map? It seems like a wonderful concept to flesh out various elements of a tabletop RPG campaign. Do you have any other toold for character creation or even other recommended village generators? I’m taking my time here, yet this process is simply amazing. More to come!

2 Comments

  1. Although I play lots of board games, I’ve been drawn to Ryuutama after a monthly solo rpg BGG article. I’m tempted to buy it to play asap.

    Have you played solo yet? How does one handle the Ryuujin? Also, I’ve never really played a solo rpg before, so how much is lost between world building / character building in a group vs trying to figure out exposition yourself?

    Excited to read more!

    Reply
    • Great questions, JJ! Unfortunately, I’ve been super busy and still have to actually begin play. I’m notoriously slow about starting anything big like this, although I’m trying to push myself to get somewhere relatively soon. I’ve been thinking of how to handle the Ryuujin. I think it’s important to have it partially fleshed out, as it determines the general tone of the adventure.

      However, it does pose a slightly unusual situation. I’m thinking of finding a way to treat it like an NPC… I’ll have more on that process when I figure it out!

      As for building the world and characters in a solo environment, it all depends on what you’re looking for! You do lose out on the collaborative elements when playing in a group, but I find that I get challenged a lot. I usually roll a few Rory’s Story Cubes and interpret the results. It can be really difficult, yet that’s fun for me! Making sense of a weird roll and fitting it into the narrative is what I enjoy the most.

      More to come soon! Just catching up on a bunch of stuff after getting married this past week, and then returning to my usual schedule of daily solo games. How I’ve missed that time, though it was for a very good reason. Ha ha!

      Reply

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