The Disadvantages You Never Knew You Had!
! Reputation/Species: Automatic in a species “home range”, 14- nearby, 11- at middle distances, and 8- in distant realms. The exact definition of these ranges, and the reactions caused, are up to the game master. A starfaring race in a scifi campaign may well be known for light years around their homeworld. An obscure race, normally found in a single forest in a fantasy setting, may be virtually unknown a hundred miles away. In any case, this covers some basic information about the type (Humans… Oh yeah. That odd species that spawns so inefficiently that they’ve gotta worry about their kids and who don’t like bathing in nice warm magma! Better wear an atmosphere suit, I hear that they actually breathe frigid oxygen and other poisons). Overall, this is worth about (-15).
! Distinctive Features/Species: This should be fairly obvious; “Sounds like a lion-centaur to Me. That sorta narrows it down, there’re only two of them in the entire valley…” (-15).
! Psychological Limitation/Sociable: Creatures with this disadvantage need to be involved with other beings on a relatively “friendly” basis; they don’t like – and generally cannot remain sane – in continuous isolation. Lacking ordinary companionship they will acquire “pets” – but this is a stopgap measure at best. Characters who lack this disadvantage are usually either disinterested entities who become involved only when something forces them to or are actively “antisocial” entities who don’t want to interact with anything but food – and who often express that sentiment forcibly. Both Sociable, and Anti-Social (If it should matter), are worth (-20).
! Physical Limitation/Differentiated Tissues: This bothersome limitation is responsible for a lot of grief and hardship for those it affects. Any species with this limitation possesses specialized tissues and organs, used for specific purposes and not generally interchangable. Damaging or destroying an organ cripples some function, with possibly fatal results if it’s vital. Beings with this disadvantage can thus recieve “specific” injuries, such as ruptured kidneys, concussions, broken legs, and so on, as well as simple BODY losses (-15).
! Physical Limitation/Neural Overload: This common limitation indicates that a character’s central nervous system – in whatever form it takes – can be temporarily overloaded or “knocked out” without actually sustaining serious damage. In “game terms”, the character can take stun damage. This subsumes “Chaotic Neurology”, listed below (-30).
! Psychological Limitation/Survival Instincts: This disadvantage is almost invariably present in naturally- evolved and “uplifted” (genetically modified for sentience) species – and is quite common in fully-designed entities as well. Survival instincts are expressed as a variety of instinctive fears and attractions. Examples of fears include a fear of heights and falling in a nonflying species, of water in those which cannot swim well, of fire, of brightly-colored (and thus likely poisonous) organisms, of dead bodies (which often carry disease), of predatory creature types, and of any other common survival hazard in a species evolutionary history. While these rarely really control behavior in a sentient species, they certainly influence it. That’s why perfectly sensible humans must often be persuaded and encouraged to jump from a burning building. The fear of falling NOW is more powerful then the fear of burning a few minutes LATER.
Regardless of their exact nature, fears are usually expressed as a few phases of hesitation before doing things your instincts are against. Even MIGHTY MAN, who can readily survive a lengthy fall, may well hesitate (failing an ego roll) a few moments before hurling himself over a cliff., attractions (Normally to necessities which were rare in the species evolutionary history, to areas and items that seem “safe”, to whatever’s “associated” with successful reproduction, and – commonly in those species with long childhoods and thus a need for extended care of the young – the characteristics associated with those same young.
Attractions are usually overridden by fears if and when they come into conflict, but guide long-term behaviors more. The human attraction to foods containing lots of fat, salt, and sugar – necessities that were difficult to come by through much of humanities evolutionary history – is a major cause of human death and illness under “civilized conditions”. Attractions generally result in the taking of apparently-minor risks in the pursuit of minor – but satisfying – things. This means that there will be many times when the character will be off-guard and relatively isolated. He or she will “have a life” rather then being constantly on the ready.
Related instinctual behaviors normally include “body language”, courtship behaviors, dominance and submission signals, pack, herd, flock, school, and/or troop organizational behaviors (as appropriate), and so on. These can offer perceptive observers clues as to what a character may be likely to do, if they’re bluffing, and to their current mood and motivations. All in all, the Survival Instincts package is worth about (-30).
! Physical Limitation/Chaotic Neurology: This somewhat peculiar limitation indicates that the character’s “brain” – whatever it’s form – includes a major element of randomness. While this allows for creativity and “free will”, it also allows for dreams, hallucinations, weird mental disorders, epileptic fits, and panic. Secondarily it means that the character’s cental nervous system can be briefly “stunned” – pushed into a fully chaotic state – by powerful stimuli. In “game terms”, the character may be “stunned” – even if the character does not take stun damage. In this case the character can be stunned for a phase by a sufficiently powerful attack – but cannot be “knocked out”. This is worth about (-15), but does not stack with Neural Overload, above.
! Psychological Limitation/Emotional: Entities with this disadvantage suffer from irrational – and very often contra-survival – urges and drives. They get upset, lose their tempers, fall in love, have heroic – and malevolent – impulses, become obsessed, and otherwise let “feelings” get in the way of survival and achieving whatever their goals may be. As a rule, virtually every character will have this limitation, if only because they’re being run by people who have it (-20).
! Physical Limitation/Non-Regenerative : Another very common problem among those with Differentiated Tissues, this particular disadvantage means that the character’s incapable of naturally regrowing many, or most, of it’s specialized organs and limbs. Note that the Regeneration power does not necessarily allow it’s user to do so, it simply permits acclerated normal healing (-10).
Some possible improvements on the regeneration power include; the ability to regenerate organs and limbs (10 points, commonly taken with an extra time requirement), and “Broad Spectrum” regeneration (restores lost points to any one attribute/power which is below normal, +.25, restores points to everything that’s which is currently below normal, +2). If someone want’s to apply the basic regeneration power to something other then Body, that’s fine; one clown of a player applied it to his characters credit rating.
! Physical Limitation/Faulty Memory: Most creatures – whether organic or not – tend to forget things. They patch edited memories together out of wishful thinking, partial recollections, and embarrassment. “Eyewitness accounts” aren’t really very reliable. It’s a very rare specimen – a character with “Eidetic Memory” – who only sees and remembers what was actually there (-10).
! Physical Limitation/Extended Childhood: A fairly common disadvantage, especially among sentient species, this indicates a lengthy, near-helpless, infancy stage, as well as a lengthy “learning period” during which the child must be cared for and protected (-5) Other species bypass this stage by “preprogramming”, but this lacks adaptability if it’s done on the genetic level, creates excessive conformity if done thru mental contact – and leaves opportunities for all kinds of awful errors if somehow done consciously. Other species just produce vast numbers of young and let the fittest – and luckiest – survive. None of these are exactly ideal, and thus they’re all worth about the same number of points.
! Physical Limitation/Rigid Structure: Beings with this limitation are more-or-less solid. Whether they’ve got bones, shell, chitin, or merely dense tissues, they have a fairly definite shape and have things which they can break. They can’t readily squeeze through cracks or squash themselves into irregular spaces (-5). Nonrigid creatures usually have another limitation – either 1.5x Body from rending damage as they can be pulled apart a lot more readily or (if they’re very stretchy) a -5 penalty on their base strength due to lacking any internal leverage. If a character wants to be a giant amoeba without penalty, it’ll cost five points.
Where They Go;
So, now that you’ve added up the points that you didn’t know you had, where have they gone? Well:
Basic Point Allocations (for humans and near-humans); Base 10 Attributes (125), Figured Attributes (-), 6″ Running (12), 2″ Swimming (2), Base Tolerances (10, see below), Standard Senses (15, See Below), Reproduction (4, again see below), Manipulatory Limbs (15), 10 Everyman Skills (10), a Native Language (4) the ability to Speak (or some other sort of communications display, 5) – and a Package Deal Bonus on the “everyman skills” and native language (-2). This mess totals 200 points. Of course, the disadvantages listed above only total 190 points. The remaining 10 are reserved for more race-specific disadvantages. Some of the major possibilities for human types include;
! Psychological Limitation/Combative: Species with this particular tendency have serious problems as their technology increases. A tendency to resolve differences through combat is more or less acceptable in a primitive culture, but needs to be either ritualized or restrained later on (-10).
! Psychological Limitation/Mob Mind: Characters who suffer from this disadvantage tend to get carried along by the “spirit of the moment” – caught up in the frenzy and irrationality of a confused crowd. Given that a crowd of “people” with this problem tends to exhibit behavior somewhat nastier then the worst that the most obnoxious person in it ever exhibits in any given situation, this can cause quite a lot of trouble (-5).
! Psychological Limitation/Quirks: Sample “quirks” include;
– Reflexive Response. The character almost invariably tries a particular strategy in response to any problem first, regardless of it’s suitability. Typical strategies include physical action, thinking about it, talking it over, and running.
– Impassioned. The character gets overly-excited and emotional about everything.
– Tribalism. Characters with this limitation identify with a single, small, group, and tend towards an “us against them” attitude. They rarely have much sympathy for “outsiders”.
– Dedicated. This may or may not be a good thing in general; much depends on the beliefs adopted. It does, however, bring with it a pesky tendency to interpret everything which turns up in terms of said beliefs, to “preach” at everyone – and to rely on unjustified assumptions (“Once we begin the revolution, the people will rise to support us! How can we fail?”) to the exclusion of reality (if there was all that much support, why are you a fringe movement?)
– Enthusiastic. Characters with this limitation hate to abandon pet theories – and have little respect for logic. If it sounds good, it must be right!).
– Ethics. Down at the core, characters with this limitation are simply decent people. This is pretty limiting in a lot of ways.
– Unethical. While this doesn’t limit anyone much personally, it shows in a lot of little ways – and tends to make everyone just a little distrustful and cautious around them, limiting their social opportunities drastically.
– Inattentive . Characters with this limitation tend to be “wrapped up inside their heads”. This often leads to minor accidents, burning dinner, and “clumsiness”
– Social Climbing. Individuals like this really want to move up the social hierarchy. As far as he or she is concerned, authority is more important then being right, reputation is vital – and questions are attacks.
–Security Seeking. These characters hate to take even the most calculated risks with the most minor of consequences, are always getting ready for the worst, and tend to hoard things. This is fine in it’s way, but is often pretty encumbering.
Many other quirks are obviously possible, but these ten are common in humans. While they can be carried to excess, as a rule, a quirk is normally worth (-5).
Occult Disadvantages are game master tools used to enforce a particular genre. Some of the most common occult disadvantages are described below;
! Physical Limitation/Nonarcane: Species with this disadvantage lack any natural reserve of psychic or mystic (pick one) energy. Such powers are profoundly unnatural for them – and any who foolishly dabble with them despite this must substitute one of the following limitations: a) Susceptibility; 1D6 Stun with body, from casting any “major” spell/employing an active psychic power, b) 3D6 Unluck, only to attract arcane events and entanglements (-.5), c) 1 Pip NND cumulative transform (To madness, a servant of supernatural powers, living gateway, or some such as the GM specifies) from casting any major spell/ employing an active psychic power. This heals normally – at least until the transformation actually occurs, d) DNPC; An annoying familiar of some sort, 14-, e) Psychological Limitation/Dedication to a particular faith, cause, or ideal, f) Physical Limitation/May only employ ritual and ceremonial magic. Other possibilities may be added as they occur to the GM (-10).
! Vulnerability/Twice Effect From Ego-Based Powers: A standard limitation for the “Mystic Masters” campaign setting, such powers are still generally uncommon (-10).
! Psychological Limitation/Stress: Characters with this disadvantage can accumulate long-term effects from excessively stressful or sanity-bending situations… A system for handling this can be found in “Horror Hero”, but is hardly necessary (-10).
! Physical Limitation/No Power Frameworks: Mostly found in settings where more-or-less normal humans have limited access to supernormal abilities, this generally leads to them buying highly-limited powers (-10).
! Physical Limitation/Required Limitations: A very common “companion” limitation to “No Power Frameworks”, this disadvantage means that any powers a character has must have a (more or less) specific set of limitations. For example, magic in “high fantasy” worlds usually requires gestures, invocations, and skill rolls (-5).
! Hunted/Tempted by/watched by powers of evil/good: While this option is a true classic, as well as being a standard feature of many fantastic “historical” settings, it virtually demands both the presence of, and the active intervention of, potent and influential immortal powers in mortal affairs. This is rarely recommended, since it tends to take the emphasis off the characters, and drastically limits their choices. It’s common in literature, but characters run by the players are much less cooperative then those which are under the full control of an author (-10).
! Physical Limitation/Corruption: While related to the “Nonarcane” limitation, there is a distinction; The “nonarcane” disadvantage deals with the consequences of channeling magical energy. “Corruption” deals with the consequences of acquiring arcane lore. Characters with this disadvantage may only buy arcane skills and powers with points from psychological limitations, insanities, and other mental disorders. If they acquire such skills or powers by doing something like reading an elder tome of occult lore, they must take new disadvantages to pay for them… Powerful mages and psychics afflicted with this limitation are usually mental basket cases (-10).
! Physical Limitation/Elemental Affinity: A fairly uncommon limitation, this limits any single character’s powers to a single “field” – alchemy, telepathy, nature magic, demonology, or whatever. While these are usually inborn affinities, they can also be determined by which god you chose to follow, what school of magic initiated you, or by whatever means the GM desires (-10).
! Psychological Limitation/Racial Memories: People with this disadvantage suffer from seriously disturbing ancestral traumas, memories that are never clear enough to be of much use, but are still capable of causing bad dreams, phobias, nervous breakdowns, and nasty irrational fears. Racial memories do occasionally offer clues, but few think they’re really worth the trouble. Truly nasty racial memories may cause severe problems if/when their bearer encounters the type of being that inspired them. This disadvantage is common in lovecraftian settings, and among “primitive” races (-10).
! Physical Limitation/True Name: This disadvantage requires a certain amount of GM adjudication. According to tradition, knowing someone or something’s “true name” gives the “user” knowledge of, power over, and a direct link into, the inner essence of the thing named. While this is a bit much, employing somethings “true name” in an attempt to use an appropriate skill or power against it provides a +50% bonus on the effect (-10).
It is quite possible for characters to wind up with a positive total after adding up their various “hidden” disadvantages. For example, a standard character in the “Horror Hero” setting usually has “Combative” (-10), at least one “Quirk” (-5), and the occult disadvantages of “Nonarcane” (Option “B”, -10), “Stress” (-10), No Power Frameworks (-10), and “Required Limitations” (-5). This simply helps pay for their base point allocation. The “Adventurer” limitation (see below) usually covers what remains.
! Physical Limitation/Non-Sentient : Creatures which take this limitation are animals. In general, this can be taken to mean that they lack the ability to combine, extrapolate, and manipulate, abstract ideas regardless of their intelligence score. Associated with this is the lack of advanced linguistic skills and higher mathematical abilities. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be alert, cunning, and show complex behavior patterns – but they won’t be coming up with complicated plans or anticipating things. Given that the players and GM are – presumably – sentient, characters are normally sentient by default. “Nonsentient” is worth (-20).
! Psychological Limitation/Unluck (Adventurer): The special disadvantage that makes a major character, this implies either a taste for “adventure” or a tendency to get dragged into them willy-nilly, the responsibilities of various missions, some degree of “party loyalty” (or some overriding ambition) – and having to deal with all kinds of opposition. The precise “point value” of this disadvantage depends on the level of “opposition” which the character(s) will have to deal with and on just how bad failure will be. This could range from zero (e.g.; George the accountant has to deal with ledgers, annoyed customers, and annoying neighbors. Overall, no serious opposition or consequences), on up through “cosmically- potent” opposition and worldshattering consequences for failure (150 points or more). As a rule, most of the characters in any campaign will have to have totals for this disadvantage in roughly the same range (Varies).
Building the “Heroic” character:
! Assumed Disadvantages; Normal Characteristic Maxima (-20) and 75-Point Base (-25).! Equipment Pool; Active points of devices may exceed pool limits with GM approval (+.5), Foci Required (-.25 or more), Change only with time AND access to new items (-.75), Foci weight/encumbrance applies (-.5), user must be able to explain his or her access to items (which may be an adventure in itself, -1), Use of devices requires appropriate skills and familiarities (-.5). Most items will also be built with the Available Technology (-1) limitation (a lesser relative of “Independent”, such items can be permanently taken away – but you can always just buy another when you get a chance. Items that can’t be easily duplicated can’t take this limitation). As a note, this pool can also be used for items such as vehicles and computers. Most items “built” using the pool will be at -5 (IIF), -5.25 (OIF/IAF), or -5.75 (OAF) as a base limitation level. 38 Point Power Pool (38) plus Control Cost (7).
If you need more than the 200 points worth of equipment that this would normally allow, something is really, really, wrong.
Extended Life Support; Tolerances
“Base Characters” normally have tolerance ratings of “2” in everything. These charts are mostly included for use in designing exotic alien races.
0 Little or none. Cannot withstand normal background radiation for long, sunlight is swiftly fatal.
1 Can withstand low-level background counts and (very) brief exposures.
2 “Normal” tolerances. Can withstand moderate-to-high background counts and lengthy exposure to sunlight, but will “burn” or sicken eventually.
3 Can withstand indefinite solar exposure and/or large doses of radiation. Typical of bugs and plants.
4 Can withstand extremely high-radiation environments, major doses of radioisotopes, and unfiltered stellar radiation (IE; Beyind the atmosphere).
5 Immunity to Radiation.
Tolerance/Disease (optionally includes poisons);
0 Minimal. Will require special protection to survive. Also known as the “Boy In The Bubble” syndrome.
1 Impaired immune system. AID’s syndrome.
2 Limited resistance to intruding microorganisms. May occasionally get sick, but will usually recover.
3 High resistance. Rarely becomes ill – and will recover without aid from all but the most virulent diseases.
4 Incredible resistance. Even the most horrible micro-organisms rarely induce more then a brief illness.
5 Immunity to Disease.
0 Extremely fragile. Unable to tolerate any notable change in pressure.
1 Reasonably tolerant of pressure peaks and valleys as long as they’re brief and relatively minor. Able to survive in a fairly wide environmental range.
2 Brief tolerance of vacuum or extremely high pressure and considerable adaptability to slower changes. The “default” level of tolerance for humans.
3 Tolerant of swift pressure changes, immune to tissue traumas and disorders produced by such changes, such as “the bends”.
4 Able to survive tremendous pressure extremes – given time to adapt – within the limits of organic tissue.
5 Immunity to extremes of pressure and pressure changes, including levels which would normally destroy tissue through physical changes such as vacuum dehydration, gravitational crushing, or depth compression.
0 Unable to tolerate more then a few degrees change in temperature.
1 Lives in a narrow temperature band. Will suffer from cold or overheating quickly and easily, often from a temperature variation of a mere 1% absolute (About 5 degrees Fahrenheit).
2 Capable of survival within a basic temperature band, usually around +/-5% absolute. This will ordinarily suffice for survival in a fair portion of a planet’s environments.
3 Capable of surviving in all “normal” environments on it’s homeworld, as well as brief exposures to either extremely high (forest fires, magma) or extremely low temperatures.
4 Capable of withstanding extremes of temperature short of near-absolute zero (liquid helium, etc) or fusion plasma temperatures for extended periods.
5 Immunity to extremes of temperatures ranging from 0 Kelvin up through the levels found in supernovas and stellar cores.
0 Lifespan is best measured in days or months.
1 Lifespan is best measured in years.
2 Lifespan is best measured in decades.
3 Lifespan is best measured in centuries.
4 Lifespan is best measured in millenia.
5 Creature is effectively immortal.
Dietary Tolerance is too complicated for a chart, as it includes at least three factors; how often an entity needs food, how specific it’s dietary requirements are, and how resistant to toxins it is. Given that this, along with not needing to sleep, is available for five points it is much easier to simply use limitations and various disadvantages to represent specific effects.
Buying the “Normal” Senses:
! Sight; Detect Photons, Sense, Ranged, Discriminatory and Targeting (35 points). Limited spectral range (-2), Restrainable (-.5), Always On (-.5), Limited Perception (May be deceived by optical illusions, the “persistence of vision”, afterimages, glare, etcetera – all the stuff that goes along with being a real sense, -1), Sensitive (IE; Affected by tear gas, smoke, and many other things that bother your eyes, -1), Won’t work through anything which blocks the passage of photons (-1). Net cost = 5 Points.
! Hearing; Detect Vibrations, Sense, Discriminatory, and Ranged, 360o Degrees (25). Limited Spectral Range (-1), Restrainable (-.5), Always On (-.5), Only works on air- borne vibrations (-1) and Sensitive (IE; Affected by loud or disagreeable noises, water in the ears, and many other things, -1). Net cost = 5 points.
! Smell/Taste; Detect Chemical Composition, Sense, and Ranged (10). Must inhale/ingest substance (-2), Always On (-.5), Sensitive (IE; Affected by unplatable things, stuffy noses, masking tastes and scents, etcetera, -1) – and Only works on oil- or water- soluable substances (-.5). Net cost = 2 points.
! Touch; Detect Contact, Sense, and 360 Degrees (15). Always On (-.5), Sensitive (IE; Fairly readily affected by irritants, numbed, or confused, -1), Primary conduit for pain stimuli (IE – the user is highly vulnerable to pain, shock, torture, and many similar difficulties, -2), Sometimes reacts when nothing’s there (Itching, phantom limb syndrome, etcetra, -.5). Net cost = 3 points.
Net Cost for Normal Senses Package; 15 points.
While the point costs for “buying” normal senses are rarely important, sometimes PC’s want to buy advantages – or buy off limitations – on them.Buying Reproductive Abilities :
! Reproduction: “Summon” (Q.V.) any (+.25) “100-Point” individual of the same species. Time Delay (one season or more to complete said summons, -5), must simultaneously be used by two individuals of opposing sexes (-.5), new character(s) arrive as babies (-2), no conscious control (use is not exactly voluntary, no control over what you get, -2), point level of the “summoned” character(s) is essentially random, but centers on 10-25 (this may mean getting two or more worth fewer points, -1), “no range” (-.5), summons is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and potentially dangerous for at least one participant, and may endanger both participants via disease transmission, internal stress, or simple expenditure of physical resources (-.5), the summons only succeeds on a 14- (stillbirths and spontaneous abortions will happen sometimes, -.5), side effects (12d6 Mind Control; “you’re really enjoying yourself”, when the initial attempt to activate is made, normally leads to many attempts to activate this power, and often leads to an excessive interest in doing so or in related behaviors, -1). 62 active points, at a net cost of (4).
-This is intended to represent reproduction for very complex, sentient, beings. Simpler creatures generally have much shorter time delays, since spawning quickly and efficiently is their major survival strategy. While that ups the cost, their “non-sentient” disadvantage should cover it.
! Information Display: Images versus two senses (in humans hearing and scent, could be more detailed scent, radio frequencies, or visual displays in species which change color or use pure scent to communicate, 15), zero endurance Cost (+.5), revealing (may give away more information than the user intended, -1), no range (-.5), can only produce data-communications “images” at relatively low intensity (-.5), will not work in under inappropriate conditions (e.g. humans can’t speak underwater, in a vacuum, while gagged, or while choking on smoke, can be readily drowned out, and so on, -1). Net Cost = 5 points.
So what’s the point? Partially it’s an exercise in how to build things. Partially it’s to show how to build that really alien character you’ve been wanting to make. Partially it’s to help in setting up just the campaign that the game master wanted – and mostly it’s because it was fun. Isn’t that the point of these games?
-Paul M. Melroy