the primary role.
The basic element of any roleplaying game is the character. Traditionally, a character is the person or creature a player identifies with, the player’s alter ego in the imaginary world of the game. Players decide what a character’s personality is like, what abilities he has, and what actions he attempts. If roleplaying is a grown-up version of “let’s pretend”, then the character is who or what you are pretending to be, your representative in the game world.
When creating a character, start with a character concept. This is your vision of who the character is; how he moves and speaks, what he looks like, what he thinks and feels, what he knows, where he’s been and what he’s done. You’ll want to discuss your concept with your referee, so that he can make sure it fits with the game he’s running. Once you have an approved concept you must quantify its traits, assigning names and numbers to some of them. This is done so that fair judgements can be made about what the character is capable of.
The first character attribute you need to select is the Primary Role. This is the most fundamental descriptor of who the character is, the one all other traits are based off of. In most cases the Primary Role describes which species the character is a member of, the character’s gender, and the character’s age. Other possible elements might include disabilities or special powers, such as being confined to a wheelchair or having an innate ability to fly.
When choosing the Primary Role you need to determine which facets of your character concept sum him up at the most basic level. Since all other attributes are described in relation to the Primary Role you’ll want to create a good base upon which to build.
Example: Tom, the referee, is running a game set in the present day. Lisa, his player, is creating a character. Humans are the only allowable race and Lisa wishes to play a female. She also wants her character to be young, about 22 years old. Tom agrees to this and the character is given a Primary Role of “Young Adult Human, Female.” Lisa names her character Andrea Thomas.
Example: Lisa eventually decides to run a game of her own. Unlike Tom’s, her world is a very high-powered fantasy setting. As a joke, Tom asks if he can play a dragon and is surprised when Lisa says yes. After a bit of negotiation Tom begins a character with a Primary Role of “Male Western Dragon, Age 50,” and calls him Charakodax.
The next step is to determine the character’s Talents. Talents are a character’s inherent abilities, they tell you what the character is naturally good at. For the basic version of Mnemonic 7 default Talents are used. Your ref might add new Talents or delete some of those listed; she might even play without any predetermined Talents at all. Be sure to find out which ones she is using before making your character. The 7 default Talents are:
Agile: How quickly and nimbly the character can move.
Dangerous: How good the character is in a fight. Covers aggression and ruthlessness, the desire to win.
Disciplined: The character’s focus and willpower. It allows characters to force themselves to take on difficult or frightening tasks, and in some cases can represent resistance to magical or psychic attacks.
Handy: Hand-eye coordination. Characters use this Talent when they’re shuffling cards, juggling, drawing, or repairing an engine. It basically represents getting your hands to do what your mind wants them to.
Influential: How good the character is at social interaction, whether its dominating subordinates, telling jokes, or sucking up to the boss.
Smart: How clever the character is. It does not include judgement; the quality of a character’s decisions is in the hands of the player. Instead, Smart deals with the character’s perceptiveness and the ability to remember and collate information.
Tough: The character’s health and physical strength.
The mnemonic device used for memorizing the default Talent list is: “All Deadly Dogs Have Itchy Skin Tonight.”
Mnemonic characters have a rating in each Talent. The following scale is used to describe Talent level:
+1 Not very
The ratings serve as a verbal representation of the character’s degree of ability. They are used by asking, “How (name of a Talent) is the character?” and answering with one of the listed ratings. The ratings can also be used in the form of a statement about the character’s abilities, as in “The character is (rating level) (Talent).” The meaning of the numbers associated with each rating will be explained later.
It’s very important to note that a character’s rating describes how talented the character is for someone with his Primary Role. That is, not every character who is Very Tough is equally strong. The Very Tough character whose Primary Role is “Adult War Elephant” is immensely stronger than the Very Tough character whose Primary Role is “Young Field Mouse”.
The standard method for assigning ratings to Talents is to simply choose the level that best describes your character concept. If you think your character would be Fairly Handy then write it down, she is. Once you’ve assigned a rating to each Talent you’re ready to move on to the next step in character creation. However, since there are other methods you’ll want to check with your ref to find out how he wants ratings to be assigned.
The Primary Role gives you a sense of what a character basically is and Talents tell you how much and what kind of aptitude he possesses. These are two of the major descriptors of a character; the third is the character’s Life Roles. These tell you what a character has learned to do and what experiences he has had.
Life Roles are typically broad areas of ability and knowledge. They serve as general reminders of what a character knows and can do, so they don’t have to list every little ability or experience a character possesses. A Life Role is usually defined by the character’s job, hobby, or other experience, and where and/or when the experience takes place. The character is assumed to have all the abilities and knowledge of a typical person with that experience.
Example: Andrea Thomas, the “Young Adult Human, Female” has been working for the Sheriff’s Department in rural Buffalo County, so she is given the Life Role “Buffalo County Sheriff’s Deputy.” This means that she has attended the state Law Enforcement Academy, and so has been trained in hand to hand fighting, using firearms, driving, and basic police procedures. She probably knows many local citizens through her contact with the public, especially repeat criminals and people involved with the courts. She should have a very good sense of the relative safety or danger of different parts of her jurisdiction, she can perform basic first aid, and she’s at least somewhat aware of the local political scene (as it determines the quality of her gear and salary!).
Example: Charakodax the Dragon has been raiding villages and sleeping under the stars in the remote Turak Mountains. Thus, he is given the Life Role “Turak Mtns. Wild Dragon.” It represents the knowledge he has gained about the flora and fauna of the region, locations of settlements, and the behavior of the humans in the area. He has skill at fighting villagers and the dreaded Turakian Giants, and has learned to hunt goats, stags, and livestock. He is accustomed to flying through the area’s turbulent updrafts and storms, and knows of several good hiding places. All in all he is a tough and skilled survivalist, though he’s rather uncultured for a dragon.
All of the abilities listed for these two characters represent the defaults for their Life Roles, the kinds of things an average Buffalo County Deputy or dragon of the high Turaks knows and should be able to do. Of course, some deputies and dragons are better at what they do than others. In part this is due to varying Talent ratings, but ability is also influenced by dedication to learning, interest in the topic being studied, the amount of time spent practicing and learning, and opportunities to gain experience. To represent this, Life Roles are rated in the same manner Talents are. Thus, one character might be rated as an Extremely Skilled Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Deputy, while another might be rated as a Somewhat Experienced Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Deputy. They both have the same skill, but one of them is a bit better at it for some reason.
“Skilled” is the most common way of referring to Life Roles, though anything that makes grammatical sense can be used. When you’ve selected a Life Role (and it’s been approved by your ref) rate it as you did the character’s Talents.
Example: Andrea Thomas graduated from the Law Academy and became a sheriff’s deputy just 6 months ago. However, she’s worked very hard to learn the ins and outs of the job. Had it not been for this dedication she might have been rated as a Not Very Experienced Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Deputy; thanks to her hard work, though, she gets a Somewhat Experienced rating.
Example: Charakodax has been living by his wits in the Turak mountains for about 20 years. He has a lot of tricks left to learn and he hasn’t had to deal with much opposition, but he’s a pretty typical example of the wild dragons of the region. He gets a rating of Moderately Skilled in his Turak Mountains Wild Dragon Life Role.
Now that you’ve gotten a Life Role, stop to think if there are any aspects of the Role at which the character is much better or worse than average. If you can think of any, create new Roles for them. You don’t need to note every single variation in knowledge or skill; Life Roles are pretty broad and vague, and they allow for quite a bit of subtle deviation in ability. Also, variance that is due to experience is handled by Rating levels. New Roles are only created when the character is significantly better or worse at some facet of the Role than you would expect for someone with their Rating level.
Example: Lisa wants Andrea Thomas to be a rough and tumble patrolman, one of the toughest officers in the department. She spends a lot of time lifting weights, practicing martial arts, and otherwise improving her ability to take a suspect down. She dedicates enough effort to improving these skills that Tom rules she is significantly better at them than the average Somewhat Experienced Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Deputy. Thus, Andrea receives a new Role, Martial Artist, for which a Rating of “Fairly Skilled” is selected.
On the downside, she’s not a very good driver. In fact, she barely passed the vehicle test at the Academy. This might be because she spent time working out and sparring when she should have practiced behind the wheel, or she might be one of those people who just can’t pay attention to the road. Either way, another new Role, Police Driver, is created for her, and is given a rating of Not Very Skilled.
At this point a character is nearly finished. You’ve chosen and rated a Life Role which serves as the default value for many of the character’s abilities. You’ve determined which areas covered by that Role need their own rating because they’re much better or worse than is to be expected. The final step is to figure out which aspects of your character’s life still aren’t covered by a Role. This can include other jobs, hobbies, special interests, past experiences, and so on. Such abilities are often not covered at all by the first Life Role you choose, so they can’t really default to that Role’s value. They need to be treated as separate Roles with their own ratings.
Example: The typical dragon in Lisa’s world has no magical ability. They can fly and breathe fire and mesmerize lesser creatures with their sly words and penetrating eyes, but they can not generally work spells in the way a human wizard does. This is doubly true of the unsophisticated wyrms of the Turaks. Charakodax, however, can work magic. He inherited the ability from his mother, and through her training has become proficient at casting a few minor spells and charms.
Charakodax’s Turak Mountains Wild Dragon Role says nothing about magic use, if anything it would suggest that he can’t cast spells. Thus, a new Life Role is created, in this case Amateur Magician, and rated as Somewhat Skilled. For tasks involving the use or understanding of magic, he will rely on this Role.
Continue with this process until all the major areas of the character’s experience have been accounted for. Don’t feel compelled to create a Role for every bit of knowledge and ability the character possesses, just those that she’s devoted some time to or will need in the game. Once you’ve selected and rated all your character’s Roles and Talents and the ref has approved them, the character is ready to play.