These section is a quick reference for the character creation process. It is mainly concerned with game mechanics, but keep in mind your character is much more than a string of numbers, and it is up to you flesh him out.
The first step is to figure out, in broad terms, what defines your character. The concept is just a couple of words that best synthesize him, such as references to his profession, personality or background. It is only used as a reference during the creation process.
A quick and dirty trick to create a concept is stating the character's occupation or social status, and add to that something that sets him apart from that group. For example, an apathetic kuge, a thrill-seeking samurai or a compulsive monk. Adding a few more characteristics or explanations can also help: an apathetic kuge disillusioned over the decadent state of the arts, a thrill-seeking samurai that lends his services to ex-comrade mercenaries, or a compulsive monk hellbent on hunting supernatural creatures that feed on souls.
Choose your Clan
A character's Clan usually weighs heavily on his background and beliefs, influencing what connections he has and skills he's pursued. Player characters usually come from six of the Eight Great Clans – the Bear, Carp, Hare, Horse, Spider or Tortoise Clans. Vipers and Cranes are very rare and isolated, so players shouldn't take them lightly.
Character's can also come from Middle Clans or belong no clan at all, either as a commoner or as ronin. There are plenty of other options that could lead to complications, and players should be careful selecting them, such as belonging to Outer Clans, to the Forgotten People or being Dojunin.
Selecting ties to a specific Clan allows your character to learn their martial art and to seek them for advice and assistance. It also means he is an asset the Clan may tap into as needed.
Choose your Merits
Merits should fit within a character's background to reflect their resources, connections and aptitudes. Your character should choose two merits and any number of flaws. Each flaw he takes allows him to pick an extra merit.
Merits are interchangeable with first rank abilities. With the storyteller's consent, you may select such an ability when told to pick a merit and vice-versa.
Select your Skills
Skills measure a character's proficiency in a number of different areas. Having zero rank means you're average and rank three means you're an expert. You have 10 points to distribute among all twenty abilities. You can also choose to start the game with a negative (also called 'x') rank, meaning you're below average on that skill. For each x rank you have, you get one extra point of skill to allocate elsewhere.
Skills can be exchanged at the rate of three points for one merit or first rank ability. Players shouldn't do it too much, though, and they shouldn't carry too many x ranked skills also. This could lead to stereotyped and overspecialized characters.
Select your Resistance Traits
Your character's body measure how tough he is, and how resistant to fatigue, illness and injury. His spirit measure how much life force he has, and how resilient he is to stress, intimidation and despair.
You have ten points to divide between the two. Most people have these traits evenly match, although bulkier people and those living more savage lives tend to develop the bodies more out of necessity. Likewise, monk, mystics and scholars tend to prefer the advantages offered by a highly developed spirit.
During the creation process, resistance traits are interchangeable with skills at a ratio of 1:1. If you want to raise or lower these traits by three or more points, you're advised to do so through merits, instead.
Choose your Ability Families
Through intense training and education, a character may unlock ability families, which are are groups of related abilities usually taught together as a single art or through specific schools. Ability families are divided into three ranks: novice, adept and master.
When creation a character you gain access to three ranks of ability families. This means you can either start as novice at three distinct families, or as an adept in a family and as a novice in another. You can't start the game with a master rank.
Select your Abilities
Having access to an ability family means a character initiated his training in those abilities, but not that he mastered those. By acquiring the specific abilities, your character is able to fully benefit from them.
Your character starts the game with three novice abilities, selected from the families he has access to. It is possible to select them from the same family, if you wish, and leave other families with no abilities.
Spend your Initial Experience
Player characters are assumed to have some experience prior to the beginning of the story. They use these experience points to purchase new skills, abilities or merits in the same way he will do through the chronicle.
The standard chronicle allows the character 10 initial experience points. The storyteller might give less (or none) to inexperienced characters, or double (or tenfold) to more experienced ones. Having too few points means a player may have difficulty customizing the character, though. On the other hand, players spend initial experience differently, more recklessly, then during the chronicle, and are prone to creating more unbalanced characters when receiving too of it, so storytellers beware.
The character sheet has a scale that measures how expensive is to acquire skills, abilities and families, according to their level. Initial experience is used in the same way and that you acquire during the chronicle.
To sum up the scale, each point of skill costs you that rank you wish to acquire plus two (so 3 if you want to acquire the first rank, four for the second one and so on). Raising an x rank skill costs 2 experience points.
To acquire a rank in an ability family, it costs one point per rank (so 1 for a novice rank and two for an adept rank). You can't acquire a master rank without the storyteller's say-so.
To acquire an ability, is costs five points for a novice rank ability, seven for an adept rank ability and ten for a master rank ability.