lll. Character Creation.
Most importantly, the whole character creation process in Alternacy requires close cooperation between the player and the referee. Players are given a lot of freedom over how potent their character is going to be, and since the rules aren't really designed to tell players what they can and can't have, that unpleasant job falls to the referee. On the other hand, refs are given quite a lot of power, and may find it easy to abuse. So, it's important that both players and refs keep in mind that this is a game and everybody's supposed to be having fun. Temper tantrums and power-tripping are definitely Not Fun! If (when) disagreements arise during character creation, both parties need to sit down, explain their position, and come to an understanding. If an agreement can't be reached, all "ties" go to the ref; his decisions are final, just so long as he doesn't abuse that right and find himself rolling dice all by himself in a cold, dark room.
Character Creation is divided into two parts, a player's and referee's section.
For players, character creation begins with a discussion with the referee about what sort of environment the game will be set in. Your ref will tell you about the world in which your character lives; what sort of people are there, the technology level, if magic is present, and so on. Once you've got an idea of the setting your character comes from, you can decide what kind of character you want to run. Don't worry about any of the mechanics or scores at this point, just decide on what you want your character to be like in general; what sort of abilities he has, what are his weaknesses, what does he like and dislike, what he's been doing before the game begins, and so forth. Your ref may want to participate in this process with you, going through your character's history as you develop it, or he may just turn you loose to see what you come up with. Once you've come to a decision, run your idea past the ref, if you haven't created the character with his help already. He may want to rule out elements that don't fit well in his setting and make suggestions for things that would be more appropriate.
When you're both in agreement about who the character is going to be, it's time to start translating that vision into game terms. Your ref will give you a number, your Talent Points Total. This is the number of points you get to spend on your Talents. If you want an Administate of 6, then reduce your total by 6 and move on to the next skill. Continue until you've spent all the points, then let the ref see how you've arranged the points. When you and your ref are both satisfied with the distribution, move on to skills.
To determine the character's skills, you and the ref first need to go through the skills listed in the previous section and decide which ones your character has learned. Let your ref know what kinds of interests your character has had so he can tell you which skills would represent them in his world. Write down the skills your character is going to begin play with.
When you're satisfied that the list is complete, it's time to decide just how much the character has improved his skills. This is done by completing five statements about your character's development of each skill. The statements cover five different aspects of your character's progress with a skill, and each has ten possible responses, each represented by a number. They are:
A) Length of Time: "My character has been developing this skill for ." This is how long your character has been using or training in the skill. The responses are based on a generalized human life span, so if you're playing a creature that lives for great lengths of time, try to put your answer into human terms (unless your ref tells you otherwise). The possible responses are: 1=1 month or less, 2=1 to 3 months, 3=3 to 6 months, 4=6 to 9 months, 5=9 months to 1 year, 6=1 to 3 years, 7=3 to 5 years, 8=5 to 7 years, 9=7 to 10 years, 10=more than 10 years.
B) Attitude: "My character is improve(ing) this skill." How much does the character care about the skill? Is it something she's forced to learn, something she does to pay the bills, or does she want to be the greatest (whatever) that ever lived? The possible responses are: 1=Reluctant to, 2= Apathetic about, 3=Somewhat interested in, 4=Interested in, 5=Motivated to, 6=Eager to ,7= Passionate about, 8=Determined to, 9=Driven to, 10=Obsessed with.
C) Frequency: "My character trains in or uses this skill ." How often the character does something that will allow him to improve the skill. The meaning of the answers will vary from skill to skill; for instance, if you lifted weights during every waking moment, you'd actually do more harm than good to your Brawn skill, while if you studied physics the same amount of time your Physics skill would improve. The possible responses are: 1=Rarely, 2=Infrequently, 3=Occasionally, 4=Regularly, 5=Often, 6=Very Often, 7=Frequently, 8=Very Frequently, 9=Constantly, 10=Incessantly.
D) Quality of Training: "For this skill my character has had teachers." Did the person or persons training your character have any idea what they were talking about? Could they communicate their knowledge? Did they care whether or not your character learned? This aspect covers the whole relationship between the student and teacher, and may result in different characters getting different results from the same teacher. The possible responses are: 1=Awful, 2=Inadequate, 3=Poor, 4=Average, 5=Good, 6=Excellent, 7=Exceptional, 8=Superior, 9=Amazing, 10=Incomparable.
E) Opportunity/Facilities: "My character has had opportunities and facilities for improving this skill." This can be whether or not your character had lots of trees to practice his Climbing skill in, if he had plenty of ammunition and a nice pistol with which to develop Sidearms, and whether he had access to an old medical text or a state of the art laboratory for learning Biology. This aspect differs from Frequency in that a character can train as frequently as he likes, but if his materials aren't good he won't develop as well. "Opportunities" refers to skills where materials don't really apply, for example, a combat veteran or policeman has had opportunities to develop his Courage score that most average people don't. The possible responses are: 1=Awful, 2=Inadequate, 3=Poor, 4=Average, 5=Good, 6=Excellent, 7=Exceptional, 8=Superior, 9=Amazing, 10=Incomparable.
For each skill your character will start play with record your responses to the questions (with one exception, see the last paragraph in this section). Since Length of Time is the most limiting of the factors, the response you give to that question is the maximum possible answer for the other four questions about that skill; substitute the Time answer for any others that would otherwise be higher. For example, if your character has studied Ride Horses for 2 years you would write down "6" as the answer for Length of Time. Even if the character is Obsessed with becoming a better horseman (Attitude 10) and has Superior teachers (Quality of Training 8), you would answer each of those questions with a "6" as well.
The other factors are pretty subjective and will be interpreted differently by every referee, so don't agonize over getting exactly the right choice. Just keep in mind that they represent greater improvement the higher they're ranked, and choose whichever one seems most appropriate. Don't try to max everything out! Your ref probably won't allow it and you're doing yourself a disservice by making a character that's not going to feel real even to you, so just be honest! When you're done, give your work to the ref for his approval. If you and your ref disagree on something, don't try to start a debate over it. Let him know why you made the award, accept his decision, and move on.
Once the referee has okayed the responses, either you or the ref need to go down the list and calculate an average for each skill. This is done by adding together the numbers for the five responses, then dividing the total by five. Round fractions off. The resulting number is the Beginning Development Number for that skill. Cross-reference it with the score of the Talent that governs the skill on the Talents and Initial Skill Levels Chart to find your starting score in each skill. If a score seems too high or too low, talk with the ref about it and, if he agrees, adjust the score. When you've determined your scores, find each skill's Development Level by subtracting the score from twenty and adding or subtracting the Talent's Development Level Modifier-this number is important later for deciding when scores go up or down.
A different process is used for the Physique skill Health. It is rated on the scale used for Talents rather than the one normally used for skills, and a character's Health score is determined in a different manner than other skills. Your ref will provide you with your character's Health score.
The first thing you need to do when creating characters is to decide what sort of environment the game will be set in. Obviously, characters in worlds of fantasy are going to be very different from those in galactic exploration settings. Depending on your style, you may want to come up with notebooks full of detailed information on the landforms, cultures, and history of your world, or maybe just a few scrawled notes on scratch paper about the town the characters come from. Once you have at least a basic idea of the setting, explain it to the players so that they can begin to come up with ideas for the types of characters they wish to play. At this point you can either let them come up with ideas for their characters on their own, or you can work with them to develop a background. Whichever method you (and your players!) prefer, make sure you talk with them at some point about their plan for a character. If it seems inappropriate for your setting, figure out what the problem is and try to find alternatives acceptable to both you and the player.
First, decide on an average number for character Talents. In most cases, this will be the same for all players; that way, they may have wildly different scores for particular Talents, but they'll all have the same amount of ability to spread around. Choose a number based on what sort of "power level" you want for your campaign, which basically means you're deciding if the characters are a bunch of average guys or if they're the most all-around talented people in existence. In some low-power campaigns the number may be 5 (or even lower), while in other epic settings the number may be much higher. Feel free to use decimal points if no whole number seems quite right. Once you've chosen an average, multiply it by the number of Talents you will be using in your campaign and round off any fractions. If you're using all the talents presented in Alternacy with no additions, you multiply by 16; if you've dropped a few or added some of your own, modify the calculation accordingly. Write the resulting number down, it's the Talent Points Total for your campaign.
Give the players their total, and let them distribute that many points around the different Talents. You may want to be there when players allocate these points, or at least review the final arrangement. Some Talent scores may require an explanation, like "how did the character raised by peaceful shepherds wind up with a 10 in Combat?". When you're both satisfied with the distribution of points, record the scores and move on to skills.
When you're creating a skill list with a player, much of your effort will be a simple matter of writing down the name of a Core Skill; if the warrior Cho-Mal's people use scimitars and composite bows, he's probably learned some Blades, Large and Bows. At other times you will need to define some of the Custom Skills; Cho-Mal's people are steppe nomads that speak a language called Bokwei, so you would decide that he has also developed Steppe Hunting and Speak Bokwei. Pay attention to what the player wants his character to know and, as long as it fits in your world, define your own skill to match.
When the player is done assigning responses for his skills, take a look at his results. You and your player may have some different ideas as to what a character's been up to prior to the start of the game, and you may want to change some of the responses. Keep in mind, though, that this is more than just an opportunity to keep players from getting out of hand. Lower responses that seem too high, but also keep a watch for those that might be too low. Maybe the player didn't think you were serious when you told him that the people of his tribe learn to ride before they can walk, or that she attended the very best medical school in the world. This method of determining starting skills presents a great opportunity for players who want to take advantage of it and make ridiculously over-powered characters, and you should "help" them rein in that impulse, but you should also be fair. If there is a disagreement over a response, talk to the player to find out why he made the choice he did and see if you agree. If it can't be resolved, remember that your decision is final. Once the responses are settled on, you or the player can calculate the Beginning Development Numbers and determine the Initial Skill Levels as described in the players section. Review the scores with the player and make any adjustments you think are necessary.
There are two final steps to make the character ready to play. The first is to determine the character's Health score, which is handled differently than other skills. Health scores use the same rating scale that Talents do; they fall between 0, Awful, and 10, Amazing, rather than the usual 0 to 30. Also, instead of using the normal process, you choose the character's score based on your knowledge of how healthy his lifestyle has been before game play begins. In most cases it's best to assign a starting score equal to the character's Physique. However, if the character has lived a particularly healthy life you may want to raise it a point or two; likewise, if he has failed to take good care of himself, or has been mistreated by circumstance or other people, a one or two point deduction may be in order. Raising or lowering the starting score more than two points should be fairly uncommon. Note that Health is the only skill that is handled in this way.
The final step is to determine the character's Handicap Level numbers. These scores represent how well the character's body can sustain multiple injuries. Find the character's Physique score on the Handicap Levels Chart. The numbers listed below determine how rapidly multiple wounds will impair a character's actions. Write the numbers listed for the character's Physique on your character sheet; their use is explained in the Combat chapter.
And there you have it, the character is ready for play. If you realize later that you forgot to list a skill the character should have, you can use these rules to calculate a score in mid-game (as long as players don't get in the habit of "remembering" new skills whenever it's convenient). Now go play some Alternacy, and have fun!