What does a first level character look like?
I’ve talked a fair amount about both modern gaming and first level characters, so I figured I’d write up an example of what a first level character looks like in my developing rules. Creating one of these characters takes a few steps, and I’ll try to provide some “time hacks” so you can get an idea of how long it takes. It’s a bit long, but this isn’t something you distill into 150 characters.
1) Develop a Character Concept. For me, the most important part of character creation is sitting down with a player and figuring out what kind of character they want to play. I explain the basics of the setting, and they talk about what they see their character doing or being in that setting. Then I come back with the Professions and we work to find the best fit for their concept. This takes as much time as needed, but new players normally need more time than experienced ones.
2) Roll Stats. In order to correct the persistent problem with rolling stats in RMU, I’ve created a roll modification table. It’s used for both Temp and Pot stats. Using this table, no player will start with a stat under 26. I also allow players to place their rolls in any stats they wish. Any roll below 90 is modified in some way (Temps stop being modified at 51). This takes about 5 minutes or so, depending on the player.
3) Pick a Culture. I’ve beefed up Cultures quite a bit in my games, since it’s representing the first 18 or so years of a character’s life. Normally the player ties the Culture to her character concept. Most of the skills are pre-selected, but there’s also room for some player choice (languages and lore-type skills are most common). Characters come out of a Culture with about 18 skills and 35 Ranks spread through them. This can take 10 minutes or more, depending on the culture and how much detailing the player wants to do.
4) Go to Work or School. I do a great deal of modern setting gaming, and either workforce experience or college plays a role in most people’s lives before they settle into their first career. Characters come out of this with a solid base of skills (either academic or trade), which also reduces the DP burden later on. I’ve got profiles build for Liberal Arts, Science/Engineering, and Workforce, all using the same number of skill ranks. This template gives characters 5-6 Skills and 30 Ranks between them (with the main focus getting 11). This also takes between 10-15 minutes, since all the player’s doing is assigning skills to the pre-determined skill ranks.
5) Pick a Background. This may seem out of order until you understand that my Background Options tend to cover a wide span of time, possibly including time spent after college in a particular occupation. These cost DPs, but give characters more skill ranks and possibly some other benefits. Backgrounds cost from 20-50 DPs and distribute a number of Skills and Ranks. Backgrounds are quick; no more than five minutes here on average.
6) Buy Talents and Flaws. This is an optional step in many of my games, but it takes ten minutes or more (again depending on the players). I’ve reworked many of the Talents and Flaws to fit non-magic settings, but I’ve also found they’re not strictly necessary in those settings.
7) Develop First Level. In all my games, each Profession has an associated First Level training profile. It’s called various things depending on the setting, but it insures each character starts with the necessary basic skills while leaving some DPs available for player choice and customization. It also cuts down on the amount of time needed to develop to first level, since on average at least half the DPs are already ‘spent.’ Below is the First Level scheme for Direct Action, the Assassin Profession in my modern setting:
Body Development: 2 ranks
Combat (Handguns): 3 ranks OR 2 ranks Handguns, 1 rank Rifle OR only 1 rank if not main weapon (must choose between firearms and melee for primary weapon)
Combat (Unarmed): 2 ranks
Combat (Melee): 1 rank (or 3 ranks if main weapon)
Perception: 2 ranks
Stalk/Hide: 1 rank
Combat Expertise (Subdual): 2 ranks
Combat (Sub-machine Guns): 1 rank
Ambush/Sniping: 2 ranks
Medical (First Aid): 1 rank
Surveillance (Physical): 1 rank
10 DPs for electives (skills chosen by the player – this can be increased by unspent DPs left from earlier parts of the process or those gained from Flaws)
8) Generate Luck and Street Smarts. This takes under 5 minutes. I use these in the same way many use Fate Points. Street Smarts are gained each level. Luck never refills. Also, players don’t roll for Luck Points – the GM does. That way they never really know when their luck runs out.
9) Setting-Based Step. This is reserved for any unique requirement of a setting. For example, espionage games require a player to pick a cover occupation for her character. This can take 10 minutes.
So that’s how I go about first level.