unusual primary roles.
success check options.
fussing and fighting.
The basics of the character creation process have already been covered in the Player’s Guide. This section lists a few expansions to the material you’ve already read.
The information on Primary Roles in the Player’s Guide implied that characters were normally humans, near humans, or intelligent animals. This is typically, though not always, the case.
In Mnemonic, a “character” can be a vehicle, an army, or even a nation. Such characters can be created as easily as more traditional ones, so long as you select appropriate Talents and Roles for them. For example, if you want to create an 18th century frigate as a character, you might consider using Talents such as Fast, Maneuverable, Sturdy, and Well-Armed. As with normal characters, the ratings assigned to these Talents would be appropriate to the Primary Role, so a Very Sturdy Frigate would be much stronger than a Very Sturdy Rowboat. You can mix and match new Talents with standard ones, or change the names of the normal ones so they sound more fitting (in the example Sturdy is basically Tough, Well-Armed is Dangerous, etc.).
The Talents you choose will reflect the standard, basically unchanging capabilities of the character, the “hardware.” The Life Roles, on the other hand, reflect those elements which are more changeable, usually the human component. In the example of the frigate, Roles would represent the abilities possessed by the ship’s crew and officers. Possible Life Roles include Cannoneers, Navigators, Boarders, or Sailors, which would represent the collective ability of the ship’s personnel to fire their guns, navigate, board other vessels, and run the ship in an efficient manner.
In the case or a larger group, such as an army or fleet, the Talents would again represent the “hardware.” Even though an army is made up of people, the Talents would address their equipment, their overall fitness and health, and so on. Roles would cover both individual and collective skill. If each of the warriors in an army is a brilliant swordsman, that will be a boost to their collective rating, but if they’ve never trained or fought together, or if their culture discourages cooperative efforts, their group rating will suffer.
When dealing with unusual character types, it’s very important to keep in mind differences implied by different Primary Roles. A starship might have excellent Talents and Roles for engaging in combat, but if the opponent character is a fleet then the lone vessel is in for some terrible Chances ratings if it attacks. Should her captain choose to hide in a gas cloud instead, the Chances would be much better for the lone craft than for the fleet.
A nice feature of using unusual characters is that you can flip back and forth between larger and smaller scales, depending on the time and detail you want in a situation. If the character’s fleet engages another you might run each ship individually, so that the players can get right into the thick of the action. However, if you wish to quickly sum up a similar battle they weren’t a part of, you can handle each fleet as a single character and resolve the fight in general terms.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is select a list of Talents for your game. The default Mnemonic list, Agile, Dangerous, Disciplined, Handy, Influential, Smart, and Tough, is a fairly versatile and comprehensive selection. However, you may wish to add to, reduce, or entirely replace the Talents on the list.
The primary consideration in adjusting the Talent list is the nature of the game’s setting. For example, many horror games include some type of sanity or mental stability attribute, the idea being that loss of one’s mental health is a major component of the genre. Should you decide to run a horror game, this is the type of Talent you may wish to include. Similarly, in a fantasy setting you might include a Talent that represents inherent magical power.
Creating new Talent lists is particularly important when you’re using unusual Primary Roles. Any set of appropriate Talents can be chosen, so long as you remain consistent over multiple characters with similar Primary Roles.
As mentioned in the Player’s Guide, the typical method for assigning ratings to Talents is to simply allow the player to choose the most appropriate rating for a given Talent. Of course, the player’s selections are subject to your approval, but the basic method starts with the assumption that players are more interested in creating good characters than taking advantage of a lenient system. You should at least give it a try to see what happens; if players aren’t being told that the rules exist for them to try to beat, then they might not try to gouge the system.
However, there are some gamers who’ll be delighted at the opportunity to give their characters Extremely ratings in everything. In case you have one of these folks, the following ideas might help lend some structure to the rating process.
First, start all Talents out at a given rating level. For a low-powered game the level might be Moderately, while a more potent game may have a starting level of Fairly or Very. From there, players can adjust ratings upwards or downwards. For lower-powered characters you can require any raise of one level to be paid for with a corresponding drop of a level in another Talent. For more powerful characters, you can allow a certain number of “free” raises. For example, the first three rating increases might occur without any corresponding rating reduction; subsequent raises cost a level reduction, but the character has a cushion of improvement.
If it does become necessary to impose this structure on the creation process (or if you just prefer to), experiment ahead of time to find the right balance for your game.
This section contains additional guidelines and options for resolving character actions.
In most cases the ratings for one Talent and one Life Role are added together to determine a character's Aptitude. However, this is not always appropriate. At times a character will have no Life Role that's even remotely relevant to the action being attempted, so another method is used.
When none of a character's Life Roles seem to fit the task at hand, you must default to the Primary Role. If the action is something to which the Primary Role is reasonably relevant (normal, healthy humans can run, even if they haven't developed skill at doing it well) then assume the Primary has a rating of Moderately. Add the +3 for Moderately to whatever Talent is involved, and assign a Chances rating appropriate to the Primary Role.
Another possibility is to use an optional Talent called Lucky. Lucky basically represents how blessed the character is by fortune. Should you use Lucky, add the proper modifier for the character's rating to whatever other Talent is involved, and again assign a Chances rating appropriate for the Primary.
If possession of the Primary doesn't naturally lead to ability at the task (just being a human doesn't mean you know anything about operating a nuclear submarine) then assume the Primary has a rating of Not At All, as in "The average (Primary) is Not At All skilled at this task." Most technical or academic tasks will fall into this category. For the other half of the Aptitude use the most relevant Talent. Assign a fitting Chances rating, based on your estimation of the Primary's likelihood of success, and perform a Success Check.
When a character is attempting an action you need to select a Chances rating to represent how likely it is that the effort will succeed. The Chances ratings are re-printed here, along with their corresponding modifiers.
The modifiers listed for each Chances rating are suggestions only. If you think the likelihood of success at a given action is Bad, but not particularly Bad, feel free to assign a -4 or -5 modifier, rather than the listed -6. Similarly, a really Good, but not Great, likelihood could lead to a modifier of +7 or +8.
The standard randomizer for Success Checks is the roll of a single 12-sided die. To give your game a somewhat different flavor, this section offers some alternate methods. Whichever technique you choose, it's recommended that everyone playing use the same randomizer, as each leads to different probabilities of given results.
A) Three Dice: Under the normal d12 method there can be a very wide variety of results, as any outcome on the die is as likely as any other. To get results that are more likely to cluster around the middle of the possible values (6 or 7), roll three d12's, or one d12 three times. Select the median result, that is, the middle number. If the same result appears more than once, then that result is the one chosen.
Note that this method will lead to characters being more likely to give average performances. They can still get very lucky or unlucky results at the extremes of the 1 to 12 range, but they're more prone to get results towards the middle of the range.
Incidentally, since Mnemonic strives to be a truly portable roleplaying game, a simple means of rolling dice on the move would be helpful. My suggestion is to go to a gum ball machine, the type that gives out toys, and get one of those plastic shells with the clear dome top. Place a d12 inside the shell and shake it whenever you need a roll. You might want to sand off the small plastic bump in the center of the shell bottom. Once you do, you have a portable dice roller that's also a great noise-maker, and you've got a nifty prize!
B) Playing Cards: A deck of playing cards can be used in place of dice to select random numbers. Just use a regular poker deck; aces count as ones, jacks count as elevens, and queens count as twelves. Jokers and kings are ignored, so you may wish to remove these cards before play .
A nice feature of this technique is that cards are highly portable. A small slip of paper can be bound to the deck's box with rubber bands, allowing the cards and a mini-character sheet to be carried in one hand. Furthermore, once you've tired of roleplaying for the day, you've got a deck of cards handy for a more traditional game.
Note that the procedure used for Three Dice, above, can also be applied to cards; draw three cards and select the middle value.
C) Verbal: Use this method to play Mnemonic with no equipment. When conducting a Success Check, you and the player each choose a number between 1 and 12. The player reveals his choice, then you reveal yours, and the two are added together. If the total is 12 or less, that's your number; if it's 13 or greater, subtract 12 to get the actual result.
This method gives each possible result an equal chance of being selected, and so is basically equivalent to a single d12 roll or card draw. A variation allows a greater probability of getting a result towards the middle of the range, similar to the Three Dice or Three Cards methods. This is accomplished by having the player and yourself each choose a number between 1 and 6 and either the letter A or the letter B. The player reveals his choice, then you reveal yours.
Add the two numbers together, to get a total between 2 and 12. Next, check the letters you each chose. If they are both the same (a pair of A's or a pair of B's) then add the total of the two numbers to zero. If you each chose different letters (you chose an A and the player chose a B, or vice versa) subtract the total of the two numbers from 13. The result of your calculation is the Success Check number.
While combat actions in Mnemonic are really no different than any others, there are a couple of noteworthy points to keep in mind when running fights:
Timing of Actions: In most cases you will determine the order in which characters check to see if their actions are successful. Decide on the order by taking into account how quick the characters are, what they’re trying to do, and any other relevant environmental factors. If you’re really uncertain who would go first in a given situation, have the involved characters either act simultaneously or have them perform Success Checks using Agile to see who goes first.
Attacking and Dodging: The standard Mnemonic rules do not call for Success Checks when characters parry or dodge. Each character involved in a fight describes their actions, and if the intended victim is doing something that would make him a more difficult target his opponent’s Chances rating is worsened. However, only the attacker’s Success Check roll is made; how well the defender evaded is left up to your description, based on the outcome of the attack.
If you prefer, you can adopt an “opposed rolls” method instead. One possibility would be to have both the attacker and the target roll and subtract the target’s total Successes from the attacker’s, then apply the attacker’s Chances rating. Doing so will consume more time but does reduce the likelihood of extreme results, as well as allowing targets a more active role in their own defense.
Results: If an attack Success Check results in a negative number, the victim escapes unharmed. Should the attack succeed the victim may suffer an injury. Based on the nature of the attack and the overall number of Successes (the more the better, don’t worry about the exact number) you’ll need to form a general idea of how punishing the assault was. The next section tells you how to determine what impact a successful attack has on its victim.