Monday, February 27, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers! A game that I almost played once.

Way, way back in 6th grade, my friend Damian decided that he wanted to run Star Frontiers. We spent a whole afternoon making characters and then...never played, because kids are like that. One thing I remember from this time is that we were famously bad at the rules for all RPGs (well, okay, D&D), and no firmer example of this was the character generation section for this game. Damian allowed me to roll up a Sathar, an NPC-only race who are the canonical bad guys of the setting.

This time period was also illustrative of what a dink I was as a small child, because Damian told me that I had a secret power that would be revealed in-game, and I kept pestering him to tell me what that power was. We never played, so it was moot, but that was still really obnoxious of me.

On this attempt at character creation, I decided to limit myself to one of the characters from the four actual PC species. These include Humans (yawn), Dralasites (sapient blob people), Vrusk (cool bug people with centipede bodies), and Yazirians (violent, gliding monkeys that have to wear goggles). I was on the fence until I saw this bon mot in the advanced rulebook:

Dralasites are widely known for their strange sense of humor. They love old jokes and puns that make Humans groan. Many Human comedians who could not find work in Human cities have become rich performing on Dralasite worlds.

Punslinging blob critter? Sold.

Star Frontiers character generation consists of rolling d100 and looking up the results on a chart. This is similar (though slightly different from) the other TSR non-D&D games of the period, which makes me think that TSR could have come out with a universal role-playing system in the early 80s if they had wanted to and if that was, you know, a thing that people had conceived of at the time. It's too bad, really, because they could have had a genre-hopping game of gunslingers, spies, gangsters, archaeologists, and space adventure, to name but a few. How epic would that have been?

Anywho, there are four groups of paired stats in the game. Each paired stat shares a single number. Your species gives you bonuses to one number pair and also gives you a penalty to one numbered pair. Humans get a +5 bonus to one stat in their pair (so their Strength/Stamina could be 55/50), but receive no penalties. After you've rolled your stats and applied modifiers, you can opt to move up to 10 points from one paired stat to another. (I could have had an Intellect/Logic of 30/50 if I had wanted to).

Stamina's your hit points. Weapons do a lot of damage in this game, and armor appears to be mostly ablative. Armor is also stupid expensive, so I couldn't afford any. Yikes.

Dralasites get two special abilities: Detect Lie at 5% and Elasticity. Elasticity's description is very long, but boils down to my being able to grow a maximum of Dex/10 limbs. I have control of them all, but one of them must be my "dominant" limb (I'm fifth-handed!) and, no matter how many limbs I have, I can still only use two weapons at a time. Also, the veins and ridges in my rubbery, protoplasmic body cannot be changed and provide an identification akin to fingerprints. So much for committing the perfect crime.

Skill are a little wonky and take quite a bit of time to explain. The gist of it is that there are three main categories (Military, Technology, Biosocial). At the start of the game, you pick your primary focus and get one skill from that group. You may then pick a skill from any of the other two categories. All skills have sub-skills and, if you pick a skill, you get all it's sub-skills too. This was nice, because I decided to pick Medicine and was dismayed when I misunderstood and thought I'd have to buy each sub-skill on its own. All skills are rated at base percentage + 10 x skill level percentage, and skills have a maximum rating of 6.

Oh, and I picked Weapon Skills from the Military category, because this is an 80s game and I am going to be shooting at things. This gives me proficiency with a bunch of the basic weapon types, which is handy. I feel like I put in 5% of the effort that I did making my Star Trek characters, and my Dralasite still feels competent and well-rounded.

I get d100 + 250 credits to buy my initial possessions with, so I proceeded to the equipment list in the advanced character generation section and found that everything was stupefyingly expensive. For instance, a med kit costs 500 credits, which is 150 more credits than I could possibly start with. How was I supposed to do medicine without a med kit?! Gaah!

It was then that I learned that a starting character could opt to spend 250 credits to get basic gear (Which comes with a first aid pack. Yes!). This gave me some money left over to buy a (very cheap) weapon. I picked up a vibroknife and am hoping that I get a lot more credits before I get into a fight.

Onivan Eht’eulb, Dralasite Physician

Strength/Stamina: 55
Intellect/Logic: 40
Dexterity/Reaction Speed: 45
Personality/Leadership: 55

Initiative Modifier: 5 (RS/10 round up)

Special Abilities:  5% chance to Detect Lie, Elasticity
Biosocial Skills: Administer Drugs 100%, Diagnosis 70%, First Aid 100%, Minor Surgery 50%, Major Surgery 30%, Controlling Infection 60%, Curing Diseases 50%, Neutralizing Toxins 40%, Activating Freeze Fields 40%.

Military Skills: Gyrojet 33%, Melee 33%, Projectile 33%, Thrown 33%.

Credits: 42 (auspicious!)
Standard Equipment Pack: Chronograph/Communicator, Coveralls, Dose Grenade, First Aid Pack
Vibroknife: 2d10 +5 to hit

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Mystwood LARP

It's been a while since I've made up a LARP here's a LARP character.

Mystwood is a game that I occasionally play up in Maine. It currently has two chapters, Mystwood: The Keep, which runs in Jefferson, ME, and Mystwood: Burgundar, which runs in Harrison, ME. The two games are interlinked and share continuity, which means that you can take a break from the Keep and hang out with the Norsemen, or vice versa.

Mystwood is what I like to call a "day in the life" LARP. Player characters are, for the most part, regular people, with day jobs and professional skills that they can use to improve the town. The game is a continuing LARP (meaning that it runs forever and doesn't build up to some kind of apocalyptic end-game), but the staff runs numerous overlapping Chronicles that provide the requisite amount of adventure and excitement.

One of my favorite things about the game is character generation and progression. To start with, you get to buy ranks in one or more gifts. These gifts give you adventure-y type abilities, such as weapon skills, magic spells, summoning bolts of power, and so on. Then you get to pick your profession from a list. Your profession will give you income, appropriate skills, and crafting skills. If you have the ability to use magic (because of your gifts), then your profession might also give you spells.

You can round out your character with some advantages and flaws, if you like, and you can choose to be devoted to one of the three divinities of the misty wood: Justice, Mercy, or the Wild.

My actual-factual character is a chap named Enoch Smith, a vampire (with a small v--being a Vampire in Mystwood gets you murderstabbed) gravedigger with a deep and abiding faith in the Wild. I could just present him here, but I feel that doesn't abide by the spirit of the arbitrary rules of this challenge, so I decided to make a new character from scratch.

The character I chose to make is actually an NPC character I played at a Mystwood one-day event a couple of weekends ago. The character had a name, a job, and a personality, but with no stats, so this is my opportunity to flesh him out and make him look like a player character. I'm going to have to cheat a little bit, since getting the character to where I want him to be requires that I take an Advanced Profession.

My character was Quintus, chamberlain of House Titus. The closest profession that fits my character concept is the Advanced Profession: Steward.  In order to qualify for an Advanced Profession, I would need to first acquire resources during the game. In most cases, all I would need is money, but for Steward, I need to find a wealthy patron to support me and give me a job. If Quintus was a real PC, I'd have to start at the bottom with a Basic Profession and work my way up. Since he's an NPC, we can assume that he did all that at some point in the past.

Speaking of Basic Professions, I figured that Quintus must have had one when he started out working for the Titus household. I went through the book and chose Cook. The nice thing about choosing professions is that it gives me a solid idea of Quintus' history. Apparently he started out in the Titus household as a humble cook but, through skill and competence, rose to be the chamberlain of the entire household.

As is the case with many of my LARP characters (especially those made using the MASI rules), Quintus is described more with words than with numbers. Read on if you'd like to see what he looks like.

Quintus Sextus Septimus, Chamberlain of House Titus

Hit Points: 5 (2 base, 2 from Courage, 1 from Livery)
Livery: The keys of House Titus, worn around neck on a cord.

Courage, Rank 3
This gives Quintus +2 Hit Points and Use of Arms, which allows him to use all basic melee weaponry. He also gains the Stretcher Bearer ability, which allows him to move unconscious people out of danger/toward a physician. His Courage allows him to Disengage once per Renew (imagine one of those nifty slashing moves that drives all your opponents back from you), and one use of Battle Endurance per Renew (allowing me to heal myself in the midst of a battle with appropriate, dramatic roleplaying).

Dexterity, Rank 2
Thanks to this gift, Quintus can attempt to disarm traps and pick locks (interesting things happen around the Titus household, I guess?). He is also able to use crossbows and bows (not that he ever does). He may make one Special Weapon Attack per Renew.

Quintus' initial profession was that of a Cook in the Titus household. This gave him two skills: Butcher, which allows him to cut up normal animals and turn them into Food tags, and Cook (4), which gives him the ability to make nourishing food that bestows beneficial effects. The number in the parentheses indicates how many crafting points Quintus gets, and each dish takes a variable number of crafting points.

Quintus, is no longer a cook, however, and has switched professions to Steward. He loses all of the skills from his previous profession, but gains a bunch of new ones, including Cook (6). He also gets the following:

Buy/Sell (50): I can go up to Ops once per game and arrange to buy and sell things. I believe the number in the parentheses is the maximum amount of Crown (i.e. cash money) I can buy or sell.

Commerce: Quintus knows how much things are worth. If there's a "Commerce" tag on an item, he can read it to learn secret things about it (such as how much it is and a bit about its history).

Leadership: Quintus may call "Heal 2 to X by Gesture." Quintus can only use this skill on retainers and followers of his patron, Lord Titus.

Scribe (2): Another crafting skill. Quintus gets two crafting points to make documents and send letters.

Other Skills
I assumed that Quintus would have gotten enough experience (represented in the game as Moonstones), to purchase the Livery skill. His livery is represented by the keys to the household, which he has on his person at all times.

Advantages and Flaws
Most of the advantages in the game either require you to take an obvious mutation (which is one of the reasons why Enoch, above, is a small-v vampire) or aren't terribly appropriate for a humble servant of a noble house. Because of that, I didn't take any. Because of that, I also didn't have to take any flaws. For those that are interested, the game rules state that you can take up to 4 points of advantages, but you must balance out your advantages with an equal value of flaws.

So, Quintus is flawless. Something he'll happily tell you all about if you'll let him.

I portrayed Quintus as being not particularly religious. He pays the usual amount of lip service to the three deities, but isn't particularly devoted to any of them.

And thus, the character write-up ends!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Introducing Grey the Mercenary!

I've said this just about everywhere else, so I might as well say it here: I published a novella on Amazon.

It's called A Street Rat of Salagena: A Grey the Mercenary Tale. It's the first in what, I hope, will be a series of novellas featuring the interlinked adventures of a mysterious, bad-ass swordsman who goes by the name of Grey.

In this, the first installment, Grey crosses paths with and helps out an orphan of Salagena, one Suzanna de la Calle. She is on the run from slavers, who are intent on abducting her for some nefarious purpose. Grey helps her to escape and then works with her to get at the roots of a strange conspiracy in Salagena.

You can check it out on Amazon, if you like, by clicking the image below. You can also find it on Kobo! Thanks in advance!

The RPG Character Library: Tunnels & Trolls Power Trip

This is a game I bought on a whim back in 2009 or so. It was an eye-catching little hardcover book and it featured a rules-set copied from Tunnels & Trolls, a game I really enjoy. I never played it, of course, but if I played every game I've ever bought, I'd still be going through them.

I was tired last night, but also wanted to get back on the character library train. I picked this book as a balance. It's short (72 pages) and it's based on a rules-set I already sort of know, so I figured it wouldn't be all that difficult to make a character.

Alas, I was wrong, so very, very wrong. The rulebook is laid out in kind of a bizarre fashion (there's character creation, then basic rules, then talents and superpowers, which are, rightly, part of character creation). Rules are buried in long paragraphs. There are some misspellings (at one point the book talks about someone having "powers over mature"). And also, there's a couple of chat tags sprinkled throughout the text (grin). This made making a character much more complicated than it would have otherwise been, since I had to hop around the book willy-nilly looking for the next step in the process.

Okay, so a bit of backstory. The canonical setting for the game is Trollworld, which is the world that Tunnels & Trolls takes place on. According to the book, something happened to the kremm (magic) field, killing all the wizards and magical creatures. When the kremm field came back, it was much weaker and harder to use. This caused a shift to science and technology, as well as interbreeding among the kindred species. Once we get to the time the game is set, their technology is no different from ours and the dominant species is a humanish looking creature called a newman (hello, Jerry.).

That said, I could be a dragon or an elf if I wanted to, or, if the book art is to be believed, something that looks like a giant spider in a trenchcoat and a fedora (m'andible).

There are rules for playing on Earth, or on another planet, but this mostly involves saying that you play humans and not newmen, and also that there is no Wizardry stat. Eh. Let's go with Trollworld.

There's a bunch of stats. Most of them are created using the old standby of 3d6 place in order. The one notable exception is the Tunnels & Trolls rule of TARO, Triples Add and Roll Over. This is, from what I can tell, the only way to get superpowers in this game. The rule works like this:

If you roll a triple, you roll again and add. You also gain a superpower tied to the power. If your subsequent roll is a triple, you get another power and the stat increases by a power of ten, and so on. So, if I rolled 1,1,1 on Strength, I could take Super Strength and roll again. If I got 6,6,6, I get another superpower and my Strength is now 210, not 21. If I rolled a 2,2,2 after that, I'd get another superpower and my Strength is now 2,700 (well, a little more than that, because I get another roll).

Suffice it to say that I did not roll any triples for my stats, so I am, in effect, a normal person. Well, a normal, very big person. My Height stat is a 14. Since the rulebook says that a Height of 12 = 6', and since I can just barely do basic math, this means that I am 7' tall. My Weight is 17. There is no correlation in the rules to explain how much I weigh, however.

The last two stats (Wealth and Experience) are calculated a bit differently. Wealth can either be assigned by the GM or randomly rolled on 3d6. So I randomly rolled it. Experience isn't actually XP in the D&D sense, but is more like Fate or Drama Points. At least, I think it is--the section in which Experience is supposed to be explained doesn't mention them at all. I rolled a 1, but I get another point for each adventure I complete. Huzzah.

At this point, I'd like to point out that there are two adventures in the back of the book that clearly have been written with an earlier/different version of the rules-set in mind. For instance, there is Astounding Girl--who can either be a GM-controlled PC or a quick character for the GM's bored friend to play--who has STR 14,000, CON 13,000, DEX 100, Speed 90. I am not even sure that the math is right for those rolls, and I also don't know how they rolled that many triples for her.

I also note that this section contains a villain (Flowstone), who has numerous superpowers but no super attributes, as well as ninjas who have no superpowers but lots of skills, even though there's no such thing as skills in this game.

I should also point out that the game is very specific about calling them "superior" powers and not "super" powers. The reasoning for this is that the game is meant to have a more low-power supers feel, as if we're playing nobody heroes in the DC/Marvel 'verses. That's fine, but I don't know how that works when you could theoretically have a character with 2,700 strength.

Anyway, back to character generation. I don't get powers, but I do get one talent. This is something that I can name myself. Then I pick an associated stat and roll a 1d6. When I use the talent, I use the adjusted stat instead of the base stat. Since Charisma is my best stat, I decided to make my character Intimidating. Then I rolled a 2, so my total is 17.

The book states that I have three Undiscovered Talents, which the GM will allow me to unlock if I roleplay well. The talents I unlock will be based on the roleplay that I do to unlock them. As someone who tried to make a freeform magic system where the GM decides what happens by fiat, I have a feeling this isn't going to work out too well in practice.

Now it's time to get equipment. The game states that I may not have superpowers, but I can get gadgets that give me superpowers. Neat! The gadgets, however, have punishingly high Strength and Dexterity requirements (18-35 or more). If I had stats that high, it would also mean that I had superpowers, so I wouldn't really need gadgets, so I don't know.

Also, some of these gadgets are devastating. One of the things I can get (ST 10, DX 19) is a disintegration pistol that will vaporize someone if they fail a save.

I can also get regular equipment, such as weapons and armor. Again, stat requirements for these are very, very high. I need a DX of 16 to use a rifle and a DX of 17 to use a bow. Gah! Armor is interesting in that ST requirements from different armor pieces stack. I can wear a police stab vest (ST 10), but I cannot also use a police riot shield (ST 5), because that makes the ST requirement of my armor a 15.

It is interesting to note that none of the items in the book have a Wealth requirement. This became rather obvious to me when I came to the Other Equipment section and found that I could live in an apartment, house, or mansion. Since there was no Wealth requirement, I picked mansion. Hello, Alfred!

In the end, this results in one of the shortest character sheets I have yet designed. A pity it took so much work getting there!

The Towering Terror



Talents: Intimidating (17)

Equipment: Police Stab Vest (4 Protection), Cool Black Cloak, Staff with Skull that has LEDs in its Eyes (2d6+4 Damage, ST 6, DX 7)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Uberbeans!

Uberbeans is a rules-light, funny, superhero game made by my friend Josh McGaw. I had a hand it it as well for, as Josh once said, "Geoff took all of the papers and cocktail napkins I had written on, turned the Joshinese into English, and put it in rulebook format."

I even get name dropped in the FAQ at the front of the book. Like so:

So, where did the name Uberbeans come from? The name came from a close friend, Geoff Bottone (of Geoffquest Games). While I can't tell you the particulars of that night until after the trial, let's just say that it was just something funny he said after a rhino chased the strippers out of the auto parts store while we hung from a chandelier. It still cracks me up to this day.
Was that before or after the Muppet flogging at the pee-wee golf pro shop? Hmm. I'm not really sure. It's still kinda fuzzy.
Who was that woman you were with? And why were you in a gorilla costume? Hey, that's it, buddy! You were warned! This interview is over!

The actual game is somewhat less silly, but Josh's love of comic books shines through on every page. Though the system is rather simple, it allows you to make a surprisingly large variety of superheros (and villains), with all the powers and tropes that one can find in many a graphic novel.

I started off without a character concept, but the character I wound up with is actually pretty solid and would probably be a lot of fun to play. Here's a quick overview of the character creation rules and the decisions I made along the way:

This is a one or two-word description of the character's worldview and personality. You could be a Boy Scout (like Superman), a Vigilante (like Batman), or a Loner (like...Wolverine, maybe?). I decided to go against my usual inclinations and pick Dirtbag. According to the rules, "Okay, so you're not the friendliest kid on the block, but that's just the way life is. Tough if the rest of society is too busy being polite. You do the things that have to be done, morals be damned."

My character has six attributes (Balance, Balls, Beauty, Body, Brains, and Karma). I start out with one point in each and get 9 points to spend however I like. The game uses a roll-under mechanic with a single d6, which means that, if I want to do something, I have to roll under my attribute to succeed. Attributes have a maximum of 5, but certain Uberpowers will allow me to give them pluses (written like Body: 4+). What this means is that I get to roll one die, plus one die for every + next to the attribute, and take the best of the results.

Attributes also give me modifiers to other things, including my secondary attributes (Hit Points, Stun Points, Recovery, Karma Pool, Initiative, Move, Action Pool, Dodge, Base Damage, Spot, and First Impression).

As is typical with point-buy systems, I made a character with balanced stats to start with, tweaking them once the concept gelled in my mind.

Josh writes, "once I thought that I could create a skill list so complete that even the creators of Rolemaster would be awestruck. However, I have a life."

He has instead decided to go with a short list of general skills. These skills can be given a focus, if you would like, but I don't know that it's necessary. So I could have Athletics 2 or have Athletics (Bocce Ball) 2. I also get the skill Well, Duh!!! at Rank 2.

Well, Duh!!!: Everyday skills that just don't matter to me, such as driving to the supermarket, taking a high school exam, or cooking macaroni and cheese. You may read, write, type, perform first aid, and drive a car, among other trivial things. This cannot be made a specialty.

I wound up leaving the skills for last, because I didn't know what sort of character I was going to make yet. Other than that he was a Dirtbag with balanced stats.

Uber Skills
These are self-taught abilities for heroes and are based off of one of my attributes. I get one to start with. After a lot of thought, I picked Shoot Guns Just Like Bruce Willis, which is based off of my Balance.

I'm a Dirtbag who likes to shoot guns? Maybe I'm a mercenary. Hmm. Interesting!

This is where it gets fun. I get 5 Uber points to spend on Uberpowers. Some of them are single-purchase, while others are rank-purchase. I was flipping through this section, not sure what to pick, until I spotted the Aqua Man power. "Haha, Aquaman. So lame, right?'m going to be Aquaman. This'll be great."

After some more flipping back and forth, I picked some powers that gave my character the ability to move and survive underwater, generate a mucous-like slime that covered him like armor, and made his skin (or the slime, probably) toxic, causing damage if he was touched.

It was then that I knew what my character's super name was. I christened him, "The Hagfish."

I rounded out my character with some basic weapons and armor. Here's how those things work in Uberbeans.

Armor has variable amounts of Stop and Soak. If you get hit, subtract Stop from the damage. If there's any left over, subtract Soak from the remainder. Stop can be used for every attack, but Soak can only be used until it's gone. Any other damage that gets through Stop and Soak hurts me. My armor regains Soak points when I repair it.

Weapons do a set amount of damage on a hit, which can be modified by skills and Uberpowers. Most weapons also have a special damage type. For example, my pistols do Bleed 2 on a Breach. What that means is that if one of my attacks hits and does damage to my opponent, I get to roll another d6. If I roll 2 or less, my opponent starts to Bleed, losing one hit point per combat turn until they get first aid.

There are some more rules about armor, damage, and vehicles, but none of those things are particularly relevant to my character. So, that being said, here's my character!

Paul Navino “The Hagfish”

Concept: Dirtbag,Ex-Special Forces Mutant, Contract Killer for Hire

Karma Pool
1d6+1 (+3)
1/+1 (0)
Action Pool
1 (+3) (+4)
1 (+1)
Base Damage
2 Stun
Hit Points
Stun Points
First Impression

Skills and Stuff (17 Skill Points)
Well, Duh: 2
Shoot Pistols: 5 (+2 Damage, +2 Initiative)
Athletics: 3
Pilot: 3
Military: 3
Survival: 3

Uber Skills (1 Point)
Shoot Guns Just Like Bruce Willis (Balance): This skill, inspired by The Man, allows you to use a pistol in each hand without the off-hand penalty and only half the shooting penalties for that situation.

Uberpowers (5 Points)
Armor (1): Generate hideously slimy mucous. +1 Stop, +3 Soak (total with suit: Stop 4, Soak 8)
Aqua Man (1): +5 Initiative, +1 Dodge, +1 Action Pool, Swim 45 MPH, Double Movement (water only)
Amphibious (1): Swim to depths of 250’. +1 Action Pool, +1 Initiative. Remain underwater for 1 hour without air.
Toxic (2): Anyone touching me must make a Body roll or suffer Biohazard 1.

Energy-Dispersing Spandex Suit: Normal, Stop 3, Soak 5, -1 damage from all attacks, -1 Beauty
Dual Pistols: Damage 3 (5), Contact N/A, Breach Bleed 2, Ammo Bullets

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Exciting Crossover Event: Part II

With all of these related posts, it's starting to feel a bit like Marvel up in here!



In my previous post, I talked about my design philosophy for Boldly Go, (though, at the time, it was called Velour and Go-Go Boots), and the simple and straightforward stat/skill system I created for the alpha version of the game.

As is often the case with game design, the system described in Part I got tossed out of the window with both hands. The short reason is that I found a way to make the game do what I wanted it to do in a much better way. The significantly longer reason is...this post.

I made up a bunch of sample characters for the game, so that I could quickly run it for my friends, or for random strangers at conventions. These characters have become the "iconics," to use a D&D term, of the game and feature prominently in the rulebook.

The first versions of these characters were...well...they were okay. One of the problems that I noticed was this: With only a handful of stats and skills, there was going to be a lot of overlap between characters. In some ways, this is fine. Remember my example from last time: everyone on the Enterprise knows some Science, but Spock knows the Most Science, and it all works out.

The real trouble came when I started adding advancement rules. The iconic characters don't have to worry about advancement--they'll remain perfectly adequate starting characters from now until we have a soft continuity reboot 43 years from now, featuring more attractive art and better special effects.

Player characters, on the other hand, are going to advance. No matter how few advancement points one gives them, and no matter how rarely they are allowed to advance, players will buy skills. In a game whose skill pool is a very, very tiny pond, that means that all of the characters are going to look pretty samey pretty rapidly.

I want to park that train of thought in the station and get up a full head of steam on a second train of thought. This particular train started because I noticed something else about the TV show that I tried to emulate in the rules--interpersonal ethical conflict.

This is a thing that happens all the time on the show, but which doesn't really feature at all in any of the other Star Trek games. For instance, Spock will say something coldly logical about how people dying is inevitable, but...and then, before he finishes, McCoy jumps in and says terrible things about Spock's ears and/or blood and then demands that the crew SAVE those people, goddamn it, because he's a doctor and that's what you do.

This is one of those things that happens once an episode in The Original Series, and many, many times per episode once we get to The Next Generation, and I desperately wanted to get it into the game.

The rule behind it was easy: Any time something happens that triggers your personal code of ethics, positively or negatively, you get a Drama Point for it (Drama Points are those thingamajiggers in other games that allow you to spend them to alter reality, or improve your rolls, or whatever). If you get into an argument with another player and both of your personal codes fire (such as Your Needs of the Many versus their Still a Doctor, Goddamnit), you both get a Drama Point.

The implementation was much clunkier. Okay, so now we have this new mechanic, so there's this new spot on your character sheet where you list your characters basic ethics. Oh, but I need to have examples, so here's twenty ethical codes that a player can pick from, such as Honest, Compassionate, and all that, plus a brief description of what that means. Then there's the problem of whether or not players can take multiple ethical codes at once, because people are complex, and blaaaaahaaaahahaaa...

It was then that Bob Dunham, secret savior of all games, came swinging in on a vine and said (and this is paraphrased), "I think it would make more sense if you made all of character creation work like the personal code of ethics system works." Then he threw a smoke bomb and vanished. It was hella dramatic.

And thus (he said, in his best Cartoon Network announcer voice), the Traits System was born!

This required a couple of months of rewriting, in which I pulled out the old stats/skills system, along with the personal code of ethics system, and installed a brand spanking new thing that works a bit like this. Your character has X number of traits to start with. Some of those traits are determined by your character's species and occupation, but the others are ones that you get to pick. There's a short list in the book of example traits, but you can come up with pretty much any trait you can think of and add it to your sheet.

Since that all sounds terribly, terribly abstract, let me show you what it looks like in practice. Here's the first of the iconics: Janine Tarian, human security officer.

Species and Occupation Traits
Other Traits
Indomitable, Outside the Box, Warrior Species, Academy Training, Security
Alert to Danger, Cocky, Intimidating, Physically Fit, Weapons Training

One thing to note is that any trait listed in italics is a negative trait (usually), while any trait that's listed normally is a positive trait (usually). Positive traits usually help you, while negative traits usually hinder you, but, depending on the situation, they can flip. You never know what's going to happen.

The way the new version of the rules work is as follows: Any time you try to do something, you may list off any appropriate traits. You get one die for free (as described by one of my players as the, "I am a person doing a thing die"), plus one die for each trait you use. If Janine wanted to shoot someone with her rayser, she might pick Warrior Species, Academy Training, Security, and Weapons Training, giving her a total of 5 dice to roll.

In addition, any time Janine is in a situation where one of her traits forces her to do something or prevents her from doing something she wants to do, she gains a Drama Point. For instance, say she and a fellow officer are sneakily sneaking around a base somewhere when they spot a lone guard. The other officer might insist that they continue sneaking, but Janine is Cocky and knows that she can take this guy. So she steps out from around the corner and tries to hit him with a stun beam. Since that changed her plans, Janine gets a Drama Point.

Let's further say that the fellow officer has the Quite Discreet trait and wants to get through this base without attracting any attention at all. The officer and Janine might have a quick, whispered discussion right before Janine stands up and rayser blasts the guard. Since the fellow officer was trying really hard to be discreet and was trying to prevent Janine from doing anything cocky, they also get a Drama Point.

The nice thing about this system is that players don't just buy more points in a set number of skills. Instead, they get to increase the depth and breadth of their character's personality and knowledge through play. For instance, if your character got taken over by some kind of technological hive mind for a game or two, you might want to give him the Lover of Autonomy trait, or similar. Because traits are mostly picked by the player, and because every player and character is different, that means that no two Boldly Go characters will ever look exactly the same.

But that's more than enough of talking about why my game is awesome and great. Next post, I'll be going back to rolling up characters for other people's games.