Friday, October 5, 2012

Hopeless Characters?

In my "Death Station" game, I decided to have players pick from the pregenerated character list in the adventure, just to keep things simple. The leftovers were characters that could best be described as "hopeless", or at least obviously disadvantaged compared to the other characters in the list.

In a random character generation system like Traveller's, this is unavoidable. The rules are pretty strict - if you don't like your character, sign it up for a dangerous career and hope it doesn't survive. That's kind of harsh to be sure, but it also leads to characters who suddenly become interesting because of their training, or who you begin to root for anyway during the generation process.

One of the folks considering joining the game wanted to know how to interpret these "hopeless" characters, so I wrote up a potential bio for each of them, to give an idea how seemingly "bad" character stats can lead to fun characters to play.

I doubt these exact characters will be of any interest to anyone, but since I like to read articles like this myself, maybe others will too. If you're not familiar with Traveller, 7 is the average statistic, which range from 2-12. Skill level-1 is competent, level-2 is accomplished, level-3 is expert, etc. "Soc" is not like Charisma, it's your social status. Low Soc doesn't make you bad, but it does mean that society ignores you (at best). Attacks are what "plus" you get to hit with that weapon and how many dice you roll for damage.

4) Ex-Other 658573 Age 30 3 terms 
Str: 6     Dex: 5     End: 8     Int: 5      Edu: 7     Soc: 3
Skills: Brawling-1, Gambling-1, Streetwise-1, Bribery-1
Attacks: Blade +0 2D, Fists +1 1D, Carbine +0 3D (Note, low dex makes any other firearm impractical)
Equipment: Cr2,000

This guy is probably a petty thug, skilled in pushing people around (bribery, streetwise), gambling and fist fights. He’s not very strong, but he has a passable endurance, which would help in in a fight. He’s kinda below average in most respects, and his Social Standing is so low, he’s either some sort of illegal alien or other social undesirable. Considering his average level of education, he’s probably not a barbarian or street urchin, so there’s probably a story there.

He does, however, have a fair amount of cash compared to everyone else, probably resulting from his Gambling skill. I picture this guy as a small-ish but surprisingly sturdy person who may not be the world’s sharpest intellect, but has learned how to “work the system”, even though “the system” has very little use for him. I would guess that he wound up on the mining colony to help pay off some “bad choices” made on another world, and has steadily been currying favor and running some petty gambling games to make money on the side.

5) Ex-Marine Lieutenant 966855 Age 30 3 terms     
Str: 9     Dex: 6     End: 6     Int: 8      Edu: 5     Soc: 5
Skills: ATV-1, Tactics-1, Brawling-1, Cutlass-1, Revolver-1
Attacks: Cutlass +1 3D, Fists +1 1D, Revolver -1 3D (yes, -1, due to his low Dex), Dagger +2 2D
Equipment: Cr4,000

This guy is big, strong and smart, though not in the best shape, and not very well educated. He’s mostly all about the close-in fighting or armor tactics (ATV includes crewing tanks and APCs, and his Tactics skill indicates he was at least the vehicle's commander.)

If it weren’t for his high Intelligence, I’d say he’s your basic big violent jarhead, though he did made it to Lieutenant, and he’s managed to save more money than any other character in the list, so how dumb is he? I imagine he’s at the colony because he found he was at a loss to find gainful employment when the marines no longer needed him, and maybe didn't know enough about how the world works to read the fine print on his employment contract.

8) Ex-Other 586AA4 Age 26 2 terms
Str: 5     Dex: 8     End: 6     Int: 10     Edu: 10    Soc: 4
Skills:      Forgery-2, Dagger-1, Streetwise-1
Attacks: Dagger +1 2D
Equipment: Cr1,000

And this guy is another street punk, but this time with high dexterity and VERY high Int and Edu. With Forgery-2, I suspect he’s the archetypal “guy you go to to get whatever you need”, with a specialty in fake documentation – sketchy and slightly built, but slippery and able to handle himself in a knife fight. His education may be the result of some sort of scholarship offered to “socially disadvantaged” students with great potential, or it could be a personal obsession with learning that has allowed him to gain an encyclopedic body of knowledge without any actual ability to apply that knowledge.

He’s possibly on-world “playing dead” to avoid some crime boss back home. If he could just get passage off world, well, the Imperium is a big place and he’s good at not being found.