3 – Creating Characters

Creating a character in NRP involves three (or four) steps: selecting attributes, drives, and skills and, depending on the game setting, selecting a race.

CLASSES

NRP does not have the concept of class found in other RPGs, but instead relies on a combination of attributes, drives, and skills to allow players to build their own class-like archetypes.

Naturally, familiar classes might arise in this process, recognizable as fighters, clerics, wizards, rogues. Likewise, the game setting may contain organized groups that simulate classic RPG classes, military forces, religious orders, magical academies, thieves’ guilds.

This is for the narrator and players to work out.

RACES

Each game setting will have its own set of races but, like most RPGs, NRP is designed so that humans are the measure and their average characteristics are considered normal and unmodified.

Depending on the narrator’s vision, the game settings may require all characters to be human, or the narrator might decide to permit a broad range of character races with different attributes, drives, and skills available to them.

GAME THEORY BEHIND CHARACTER CREATION

A situation is the basic element of conflict in NRP, pitting the character’s goals (determined by drives) against obstacles determined by the narrator. The only reason for a character to have attributes, drives, and skills is to use them to modify action rolls against obstacles, called the character’s approach to a situation.

In NRP, the character’s attributes, drives, and skills are described not by scores but simply by modifiers that are applied to action rolls. These all work the same way, adding bonuses and subtracting penalties from the competing d6 rolls of the players and narrator.

ATTRIBUTES

Unlike most RPGs, which usually have a brief list of character attributes, in NRP there is a virtually endless number of possible attributes, but most attributes are assumed average, thus negating the need to rank each of them for each character or record them on that character’s sheet. But, this allows far greater personalization than systems with fewer, more broadly defined attributes.

ATTRIBUTES For example, rather than the typical generic STRENGTH score, NRP has FORCE, which is the full-bodied power to move things (what people once referred to as “main force” as in “Captain Brody shoved the door open by main force”) and GRIP, which is the ability to hold onto things.

While FORCE is a general attribute that inheres to the character as a whole, GRIP is a specific attribute, meaning that it inheres specifically in the character’s hands, or arms, or even legs or jaw. A character with high FORCE would kick a door in, while a character with high GRIP in his hands would yank a door off its hinges, which naturally affects game play without extra rules for every action … just different attributes.

This way, any given action roll could have an array of attributes that affect it, which could be logically worked out ad hoc, and the character’s activity modified by all of them. Thus, a character with average FORCE but strong GRIP would fight differently than a character with average GRIP but strong FORCE. Different sorts of criticals and fumbles.

Similarly for characters with different AGILITY (full-body motion), DEXTERITY (fine motion with the hands or feet), and BALANCE, etc. The different styles of action roll emerge naturally and logically from these attribute without requiring a giant book to spell out a complicated set of rules.

Smith X with high FORCE but average ENDURANCE could craft a heavier item than smith Y with the opposite scores, but smith Y could spend all day crafting smaller items … both with the same smithing skill. You can logically assume a smith with high AGILITY (a general attribute) would craft better items at the macro scale, smiths with higher DEXTERITY (a specific attribute) would make finer details at the micro scale, and so on.

For more, see Creating Characters – Attributes.

DRIVES

The basic idea behind drives is to capture the character’s personality in a way that affects action rolls, experience, and character development. Just like attributes, drives are defined entirely by the modifier they apply to action rolls. Also as with attributes, there is a virtually endless number of possible drives, but most are assumed average and thus not recorded. Drives include basic fears like heights and snakes, desires to improve one’s skills and attributes, loyalty to groups and principles, etc.

Spelling out the characters’ drives also helps players maintain their dramatic distance as actors in the narrator’s setting, allowing the characters to be their own people.

Drives fall into two types: intrinsic drives that are healthy and moral, and extrinsic drives that are addictive and indulgent. When the player chooses the character’s initial six drives, there must be at least one intrinsic and one extrinsic drive. There is no benefit in trying to game this balance, however, as the narrator can (and should) present each character with obstacles that present a balanced challenge to his or her drives. This means really pounding any isolated intrinsic or extrinsic drive surrounded by opposites.

This fact, however, can drive character creation. If the player wants a virtuous character tortured by a single flaw—a celibate monk tempted by lust, a detective given to drink, a loyal military officer torn by loyalty to a traitorous family—giving the character that single contrary vice can serve as a signal to the narrator.

Likewise, if the player wants a roguish character whose vices are sabotaged by a single virtue—a brutal knight with one true love, a gangster with a soft heart for children, a space smuggler with a deep respect for artists—giving the character that single intrinsic drive would let the narrator know the player’s intention.

Also, like attributes, drives can be general or specific, although most are specific. For example, a character can be driven by patience in all situations, or by the desire to improve a specific skill or attribute.

For more, see Creating Characters – Drives.

SKILLS

Since NRP is an all-purpose RPG, the skills available to characters depend on the game setting the narrator has chosen or designed. Skills are generally organized by tech level—Stone Age, Ancient, Medieval, Enlightenment, Industrial, etc. Typically, each level is available to the levels that follow but, of course, certain archaic skills tend to be lost. The specific way skill availability works depends on the game setting.

Unlike with attributes and drives, skills are not presumed to be average, meaning without modifiers. Instead, complete ignorance of a skill incurs a -5 penalty, and increased familiarity can bring this modifier up. This does not mean that the player needs to record the character’s familiarity with all possible skills, particularly as this would be exhausting. Generally and at first, a character’s record should indicate only those skills with which the character has some basic training (penalty -1) or better.

Like attributes and drives, however, skills can be general or specific. For example, hunting is a skill specified by habitat, but knowing how to hunt in one habitat gives the character bonuses to action rolls and advancement in hunting in other habitats.

For more, see Creating Characters – Skills.

CATEGORIES OF ATTRIBUTES, DRIVES, AND SKILLS

Action rolls are organized into five categories, the four that organize character attributes and drives—vital, physical, social, and mental—and a fifth cross-over type for skills, crafting.

Vital attributes, drives, and skills affect the characters’ ability to use their willpower in interaction with their own decision making and the underlying nature of the game setting. Any supernatural abilities allowed in the game setting, like psychic and innate magical powers, derive from vital attributes.

Basic vital attributes include DISCIPLINE, ENERGY, PRESENCE, and RESOLVE.

Physical attributes, drives, and skills affect the characters’ ability to use their bodies in interaction with the physical environment. This includes combat, movement, healing, etc.

Basic physical attributes include FORCE, GRIP, CONSTITUTION, FLEXIBILITY, AGILITY, DEXTERITY, BALANCE, AIM, PACE, SPEED, HEIGHT, and WEIGHT. Basic vital/physical attributes include TOUGHNESS, RESISTANCE, CONTROL, IMMUNITY, and ENDURANCE.

Social attributes, drives, and skills describe characters’ ability to use their personalities in interaction with other creatures. This includes deception, persuasion, negotiation, etc.

Basic social attributes include AFFINITY, EMPATHY, CHARM, COMPASSION, INSIGHT, and ACUMEN. Basic vital/social attributes include FOCUS, VERSATILITY, and PERSEVERANCE. Basic physical/social attributes include ASPECT and EXPRESSION. POISE is a basic vital/social/physical attribute.

Mental attributes, drives, and skills describe characters’ ability to use their minds in interaction with ideas (models, methods, practices) about the environment. This includes investigation, detection, and calculation, as well is magic enacted by conducting rituals.

Basic mental attributes include AWARENESS, PERCEPTION, REASON, MEMORY, WIT, RHETORIC, SHREWDNESS, and VISION. Basic vital/mental attributes include ATTENTION, ADAPTABILITY, and CONCENTRATION. Basic physical/mental attributes include TARGETING, ARTICULATION, and REACTION. Basic social/mental attributes include FAMILIARITY and SHARPNESS. COMPOSURE is a basic vital/mental/physical attribute.

Crafting skills describe a character’s ability to apply mental and social attributes through physical attributes to create tools. This includes directly creating objects to be used by characters, and metholodies for creating new objects.

Naturally, there is some overlap between these categories, even the non-crafting ones. Certain attributes, drives, and skills belong to multiple categories, and affect action rolls in each category, depending on the situation. For example, the attribute POISE measures how well the character can resist reacting physically (that is, visibly to other characters) to negative emotional stimuli, and thus is both physical and social in nature.

Focusing on particular categories can help the player define the character, evoking traditional RPG classes. Sorcerers and psychics and mystics might focus on vital attributes, drives, and skills. Fighters and gunslingers and space marines would focus on the physical. Rogues and private eyes and political agents might focus on the social. Wizards and engineers and scientists would focus on the mental.