Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Demon City Character Generation

This is stuff for the new game I'm writing and painting, Demon City, donate to the Patreon here.

CHARACTER GENERATION

This'll all be laid out in a fancier, easier-to-follow way in the final book, and I
m pretty sure I can get it all to be obvious right on the character sheet, like I did with Night's Black Agents, but this'll do for now to get people up and running who want to roll...

There are two ways to make a character: totally random and custom.

To make a custom character, simply read down this page in order and follow the directions.

To make a totally random character, scroll down to “Characteristics” roll 1d10 divided by two (round up) for each characteristic. If you roll a 9 or 10 roll again--if you roll another 9 or 10, the stat is 5, if not, it is 2.

Then scroll up to Roles—pick or randomly roll a Role (keeping in mind each group can only start with a maximum of one Problem and must include at least one non-Friend), adjust your Characteristics (points over a maximum for a given Role are lost), then follow the directions for Occupation, Contacts, Skills, and The Rest.

Random characters will, on average, have better Characteristics than custom characters.


ROLES

Roles are kind of like classes in other games, but instead of jobs, they describe what your relationship to The Corruption that Demon City characters investigate when the session starts. Characters can grow out of their original motives over time, but this is why they start.


Curious

The Curious character is motivated by fascination. Typically an academic or a former paid Investigator, the curious character wants to know what’s causing this problem, where did it come from? And maybe even…can it be controlled?

-The Curious character’s Calm is treated as 2 lower for the purpose of any test which might allow the character access to hidden knowledge. Make a note.
-The Curious character gains 3 extra Knowledge Skills or 5 extra free points in existing Knowledge Skills.



Friend


The Friend doesn’t know what all this is about and doesn’t want to guess. But the friend is loyal to someone else on the case and that’s what counts.

-Every party must include at least one non-friend.
-The Friend gains an extra die when protecting whichever character they are close to from direct physical harm. This can exceed the maximum 5.
-The Friend maintains a sense of detachment and perspective, giving them a +1 to Perception or Calm, free.



Investigator



Someone wants to get to the bottom of this, and they’re paying the Investigator to do it. The Investigator is typically a private detective, or--up until the supernatural gets obviously involved and the department decides it's bullshit--a cop, but they can also be a journalist, an insurance adjuster, or almost anything else.

-The Investigator gains one extra Skill, free.
-The investigator gains one extra contact, free.
-The Investigator gains one extra Skill or contact, free.
-The Investigator's maximum Cash is 3.



Problem


Like the Victim (below), the Problem starts the game having already come in contact with the enemy, only for the Problem, the scars are not just mental, but physical and even spiritual. The Problem is manifesting strange abilities and aversions. The Problem may be possessed, they may have dawning psychic abilities, they may be turning into something more than human. 

-There may only be one Problem per game group
-Problem’s max starting Calm is 3
-Each session, the Problem gains abilities specific to the brand of Problem they are. In the final rules, there’ll be an option available for the kind of players who want to actually choose what kind of paranormal creature they’re becoming, but for now only the option where it’s a surprise is available.


Victim

They say victimhood doesn’t define you--well, for The Victim it does, at least at the start of the game. Something terrible has happened to the character or one of their loved ones and it’s left a scar.

-Victims max starting Calm is 4
-Victims’ earnestness is manifest—they automatically gain the Persuasion skill equal to their Appeal plus one.
-The Victim is privy to special information, the victim was there—the Victim gains an extra Perception die when in the presence of any clue associated with the crime or kind of crime they were witness to. This may exceed the usual maximum.
-The Victim gains an extra die in combat with any entity they believe to be responsible for the crime that has traumatized them. This may exceed the usual maximum.
-If the initial crime is solved and avenged--the above bonuses apply to investigating and fighting all supernatural threats.

CHARACTERISTICS

Characters in Demon City have Characteristics and Skills. Characteristics are broad descriptors, skills are things which require specific training that not all modern humans can be expected to possess.

Some common learned aptitudes like swimming, driving, using a cell phone are so common that they do not have a specific skill associated, but the lack of that ability is noted separately. All of these numbers are called “Stats”.

To make a new custom character, roll 1d10 divided by two (round down, unlike a totally random character) seven times, then assign the characteristics as you see fit. If you roll a 1 on the die or a 10 on the die roll again. If you re-roll a 1, your score is 0, if you re-roll a 10, your score is 5, otherwise your score is 2.

If you decide your character has a major disability not covered by a low Toughness score—they can’t, for instance, see or can’t hear or can’t walk without assistance or have one arm or one hand—they gain 2 extra points to put into Characteristics of their choice. 

Characteristics for humans are ranked 0-5 
0: Terrible
1: Bad
2: Average
3: Good
4: Very good
5: World class

These are:

Calm
Agility
Toughness
Perception
Appeal
Cash
Knowledge

(CATPACK for short)



OCCUPATION

Any modern occupation is fair game in Demon City. In the final game there’ll be a list of jobs you might have for inspiration but other than determining what your Occupational Skill is (see below) and your Contacts, it doesn’t directly impact anything in character generation. So just go ahead and pick something for now.



CONTACTS

The number of contacts you have when the game starts is equal to your Appeal or Cash, whichever is higher. 

Contacts are people you know and can ask for a favor. One will be associated with your job, you can assign the rest at the start by randomly rolling on a Vornheim-like chart I haven’t made yet or let them float until you decide you want to have a contact in a certain field.

(If you let them float, when you want a contact you make an Appeal check against a Host-chosen number (depending on how likely your character as-played-up-until-that-point would know such a person) to see if you happen to have one. Once you’ve filled up all of these slots you have to meet new people in-game.)


SKILLS

Skills are associated with a characteristic—they are ranked 1-9 for humans and are always at least one point higher than their associated characteristic score.

New characters start with 1 Occupational Skill at Perception +1, which is a custom skill representing what they know about their own job (things like student and stay-at-home-parent count). If your job already is a skill on the list, like, for instance, you’re a burglar so your job is basically Burglary/Theft, you may choose to take that skill at Perception +2 instead of taking the Occupational skill. 

In addition to any Skill budget provided by their Role, new characters get:
-The Simple Way: 5 Skills at (whatever the associated Characteristic is) +1
or
-The Complicated Way: 10 Skill Points which work like this-- a whole new Skill at (Characteristic+1) costs 2 points, and adding points to a Skill after that costs 1 point. Maximum of 9. Spend them all now.

If your character can’t swim, drive, read, or use a cell phone/computer, you get 2 extra skills or 3 points to use on existing skills for each of these problems you have.



The Skills and their associated characteristics are:
(purple stuff was added March 25th)

Agility
Burglary/Theft
Driving (it’s assumed you can drive, this is fancy driving, and also general car trivia)


Exotic Weapon (this includes pre-modern things not covered under melee or firearms like bows, throwing knives, whips, etc. You have to pick one specifically, but you get it at +2)
Firearms
Pilot/Drive Other (anything not a car that requires training: motorcycle, boat, helicopter, plane--pick one)
Stealth


Toughness or Agility, whichever is higher
Athletics (choose a specific sport or kind of training: swimming, triathalon, tennis, mountain climbing, etc)
Hand to hand combat (includes using most melee weapons like swords, clubs, brass knuckles, etc, and knives when not thrown)


Perception
Occupational (soldier, student, truck driver, etc—this represents your current job)
Outdoor Survival/Tracking
Streetwise
Therapy (talking other people down from disturbing incidents)


Appeal
Deception (this includes both ability to disguise yourself, and acting/lying generally)
Persuasion (this is mostly just what Appeal is used for, but it’s a skill because otherwise a character with Deception would always be better at lying than telling the truth)


Knowledge
Electronics
Explosives
Hacking
Humanities (you get Humanities equal to Knowledge+1 and choose a specific subject—Literature, Anthropology, History, etc—you get that free, at Knowledge+2. Additional concentrations cost the same as getting an all new skill but are also at Knowledge +2.)
Law
Local Knowledge (this is for wherever you live now unless you specify otherwise)
Mechanics
Other Languages (Pick one)
Paranormal
Science (you get Science equal to Knowledge+1 and choose a specific subject—Biology, Chemistry, etc—you get that free at Knowledge+2. Additional concentrations cost the same as getting an all new skill but are also at Knowledge +2.)


Perception or Knowledge, whichever is higher
Forgery
Medic
Research


The Rest


Looking at the details you’ve got, tie it all together. Give your PC an age and a name and decide what they look like and you’re ready to go.

13 comments:

  1. Why the "whichever is higher" scores?

    Is that a reflection of you just wanting to boost the average competency of the character, while still maintaining unique characteristic ability-score-likes?

    Also, and this is a broader, less Demon City question, I've noticed a few indie games that use Cash or Coin or Wealth as a stat instead of a resource management system, but I've never played those games.

    How does it work, and does it ever stretch belief that you can handwave having cash or not?

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    1. The "whichever is higher" score has 2 main reasons:

      -In terms of imitating life and genre:
      There is more than one way to be good at something. So you might be good at hand-to-hand because of how tough you are, you might be good because of how agile you are.

      -In terms of playability:
      If it didn't work this way, there'd be a lot of times where a Characteristic would be higher than a Skill that's closely related, and so would involve the player in dull system-mastery challenges where they're trying to find a way to solve a problem that relies on Agility instead of Athletics for instance.

      This way, you are good at Athletics, you describe the way you're good at Athletics and the Characteristic that makes you good at it and the player can play their character more like the way it looks on the page.
      -
      -
      -
      The Demon City system for Cash will have 2 parts...

      1-You roll a test to see if you have enough money on hand to afford something

      2-If you don't, you can risk losing points off Cash permanently (or at least until something external boosts them) to buy it anyway, depending on how close it is to your Cash level.

      Marvel Superheroes works like 1 and I've never seen it give any problems--thought that's largely because buying stuff isn't that big a part of most games as usually played.

      As long as cash isn't a species of treasure (ie an engine for xp) it usually works fine.

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  2. "There may only be one Problem per game group"

    How about changing this to "if there is more than one Problem per game group, all of them must have had the same contact with the same enemy at the same time"?

    The change would make it easier for people who want to play a Problem to avoid needing to roll up a second character to play if the Problem slot is already taken. And "touched by darkness" is too tempting an origin to expect it to be a rare choice.

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  3. calm based skills?
    memory
    concentrate
    courage
    meditation

    im reminded a little bit of marvel

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    Replies
    1. Marvel Superheroes by Grubb definitely is a touchstone.

      Those aptitudes (which would be Characteristics) are definitely Calm-influenced in the moment but not in a way that the game needs to run and make sense--except "courage" which is folded into "Calm".

      Delete
  4. Your persuasion delima comes from misclassifying deception as a skill rather than treating it as what it is: persuading someone something you don't believe. If you just had persuasion and give penalties for lying (or bonuses for Ruth telling) the dilemma goes away.

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    1. That's not a "misclassification" you've made a mistake--basically what you're saying is there's two ways to do exactly the same mechanic and both of them require doing something unusual.

      One requires recognizing that some people are trained in for example acting and the other one requires recognizing that for example acting is specialized and would incur penalties either way it's exactly the same mechanic expressed in two different ways

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    2. I failed to get my idea across, sorry, allow me to try again.

      RPG skills (in whatever system) are for resolving a conflict (PC vs NPC or PC vs environment) by "modeling" things people can do in real life. If there is no conflict, there is no need for the skill: you barista is willing to sell you a coffee, you don't need to persuade her. Now if you want her to give it to you free, we have a conflict.

      What real world skills to "model" is down to the choice of the designer, so what follows is totally my own thoughts and I am total cool if you think they are off target.

      I start by focusing on the conflict - I want to do X and the NPC doesn't want me to. I am going to overcome their resistance by communicating with them, verbally and non-verbally, using appeals to both reason and emotion. My communication may include a mix of truth, half-truth and outright lies and I have a range of approaches available from begging to threatening. My choice of technique is influenced by my source of power in the situation (Yukl, 1998, French and Raven, 1957).

      So, the RPG designer decides that a skill is needed to model this conflict resolution. D&D 5e decided this should be 3 skills (Deception, Persuasion and Intimidate), you have decided to make it 2 (Deception and Persuasion) and have indicated that you are not happy with introducing persuasion. My idea is to just have one, I would call it "Negotiation" to make a clear break with the preconceptions we all carry from other RPG experiences.

      Havinga one skill fits all allows minor conflicts to be rolled and resolved without worrying about the PC's approach: do we care if you got your free coffee because you lied or because of your roguish good looks? No? Roll the dice and move along.

      For major conflicts where approach does matter or will have longer role-playing effects (someone who was deceived or threatened will usually have a negative attitude to this) then you can engage the players in how they approach the negotiations. If their technique corresponds with their power base you can give bonuses. If their technique is based on a bald-faced lie you can give penalties. Alternatively, you can give the other party the chance to perceive these lies - they do have a Perception stat after all - this would make the negotiation more difficult or impossible.

      As an aside, I also think its a mistake to conflate lying with acting. Lying involves a conflict: the person you are lying to is trying to detect that lie. Acting involves willing suspension of disbelief: the audience knows you're lying but doesn't care if you do it well enough. Acting skills may make you a better liar but I don't think it automatically follows.

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    3. Going on what I know about actors and what I've read about Espionage and Police Undercover work I think it's very safe to say that acting and lying are closely Allied and their own skill and that they are not simply outgrowths of General charm or appeal.


      People who are generally unappealing can be good at lying or acting therefore it's a skill if it's something that comes up a lot in the game and it is something that would come up a lot in the game

      Delete
  5. i think the curious deserves a better example than an unpaid investigator, especially since you already got the investigator as a class. maybe priest/spiritualist/monster obsessed alt chick? they crop up alot in monster films to serve the same role as an academic

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  6. If there is ever a physical book for this game, and that book has a marketing blurb on it, I hope it mentions CATPACK. That is fuckin awesome.

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    1. The acronym is nice. Whimsical and endearing in a setting that looks to be grueling or at least ominous.

      I wonder if it's a foreshadowing of theme - this game may end up (at the table) being about finding endearing moments of whimsy in a crapsack, ominous city.

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    2. I think that it's inevitable people playing a horror game will have some moments of whimsy and humor, like with any other genre of tabletop. CATPACK is there to remind us.

      Also reminds me of SPECIAL from the Fallout games. Maybe when someone makes a horror spiritual successor to Fallout 1 & 2, with the big open sandbox and all the ways through conflicts and quests, they'll base the system off of this one, and send Zak lucre.

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