I won't be gearing up my four playtest characters. I want to put a spin to the gameplay. Let them be skilled, but unarmored and barely armed. Working on the monetary system got me reading lots of things about ancient Rome, particularly the cost of things, and some ideas for character creation have come up.
Instead of having the fighter roll out with his shinny banded mail and brand new sword he'll have his sword from his time in the legion. His armor will be some pieces of metal hammered out with his basic smith skills and some rough leather armor. On the other hand he was "Pilus prior" or senior centurion in his cohort. He has good fighting skills and has built himself a rudimentary scutum shield out of wood. Lacking metal edges it is a primitive scutum at that. His name is Iluth.
The local temple priest down by the auditorium has a lad who is fond of adventuring and traveling around. He's began learning the ways of the gods and quite often finds himself wandering in Iluth's farm where they sit down and chat about adventures in far away lands as a centurion. Aronth is his name and he has managed to build a morning star out of metal pieces fused together and set on top of a wooden staff. His armor is basic leather.
The wizard is a pretty hermit woman who lives alone further upstream. She helps the locals with some fortune telling, but Iluth knows better and has seen her cast some spells. She wards of intruders, animals and the unknowing thief who thinks her an easy prey in the forest. Pria is her name.
The rogue, Galth, a small time smuggler from the river sector of town is known for running small time errands for the local guild. He's good handling boats and running up and down river. He knows Pria up river and provides her with goods he obtains at preferencial rates. She on the other hand provides potions for Galth's most valued clients. He's managed to adquire a short bow and has made a few arrows over time.
When they come together the members will lack any worthy piece of equipment. Just some robes and leathers and a makeshift armor. They'll rely on skills and training rather than weapons and armor. Compared to D&D they'd be starting somewhere like 3rd level in regards to combat training not magic. Maybe a bit more spells than a 1st level magic user or cleric, but not so much power either.
The characters not only face the creatures in the woods and the monsters in the dungeon. They face the society that surrounds them. How do they obtain the proper equipment in a non industrial society like ours? They must first obtain the monetary resources to buy the more expensive armors and weapons. The more scares and costly magic components. The best crafted tools for the trade and the greater blessings of the gods.
Their fame will come at no small price. As the simple farmer becomes wealthier the locals will question his intentions. The authorities will want to know what he's up to. Maybe their first adventure will be to help the town and thus explain their new found wealth. But in the long run it will raise questions. The successful priest will rise up the steps of his order. The wizard will command more power and fear and the rouge will endeavor in ever riskier deals.
What is my goal with the game? Well to open the possibility of successful adventure without excessive gear and weapons. I want more realism in the setting. Factor in real costs of acquiring the equipment 1st level adventurers usually begin with. I want the 0 level fighter to tell his or her story.
The three main points I have focused on are : combat mechanics, skills and magic. With them I have focused on allowing the low level player to succeed. Not to allow the peasant to defeat the fully armored knight, but rather to begin play as a peasant and succeed. No matter how hard it would be. So when you reach the equivalent of 5th level you get the great feeling of achievement that comes with that. I want higher level characters to shine with their skills and training and not just buy their way up higher levels. I want mastery in a skill to really signify mastery while still allowing the experienced adventure to succeed. Magic is not vancian and that will turn off many as unbalanced. Mana based magic allows for a more continuous casting and seems unbalanced. On the other hand it is more realistic and can be limited in a way so the wizard can't just cast till he drops. Find a midpoint between cast one spell and go home to sleep and chaingun casting.