Welcome back to our weekly Kickstarter preview! This week we’ll be discussing how to make a character in Terrors and Tommyguns. Character Creation is one of the longest chapters in the book, and the one that players will likely spend the most time in, so what follows beneath is not the entirety of the chapter nor an exhaustive list of options but rather a high-level overview of how to get started in Terrors and Tommyguns.
Before we start, let’s discuss how rolls are derived in Terrors and Tommyguns as this will inform how we want to build our characters and the significance of some of these numbers. In the previous article we discussed Assets and Liabilities. The way that those are determined is the following:
(Attribute Pool Assets + Skill Assets + any Talent Assets) ± Any Situational bonuses/penalties = Total Assets/Liabilities made for a Roll.
“What are attributes?” the aspiring player asks.
We’re here to help you, friend.
Attributes are used to determine what your Character is good at and not so good at and is divided into Vim, Vigor, Wits and Moxie. Every +1 to an Attribute adds an Asset to a relevant check: every -1 creates a liability. Your attribute pools are derived from your starting job as well as your chosen Skills: Every 5 ranks you purchase in an attribute’s Skill will increase the Attribute Pool for that attribute by one. This will also increase either your Endurance Points pool or your Lunacy Points pool accordingly.
Vim: You know how to move through the world. Vim and its associated Talents and Skills represent a Character’s fine muscle movement and their ability to move precisely. A Vim check is required when a Character is trying to execute a maneuver requiring finesse or dexterity. Vim, along with Vigor, help to make up your Exhaustion Pool.
Vigor: A workhorse doesn’t have to be smart. It just has to be vigorous. Vigor, and its associated Talents and Skills represent your Character’s ability to dish out, and take, physical punishment in all its forms and glories. A Vigor check is required when a Character is trying to withstand pain or execute feats of strength. Vigor, along with Vim, help to make up your Exhaustion Pool.
Wits: The world’s finest Scienticians think that the brain is a muscle, and you see no reason to disagree with them. Wits, and its associated Talents and Skills represent your Character’s education and ability to retain, recall, and combine concrete facts into particular knowledge, as well as their ability to sift through BS and come out the other end. Wits, along with Moxie, make up your Lunacy Pool.
Moxie: You either got it or you don’t, kid. Moxie, and its associated Talents and Skills, represents your Character’s abilities to read a room, convince others of a point, or talk your way into (or out of) a sticky situation. It also represents a certain kind of Internal Power that the Old Gods find pleasing; many members of the Collective draw upon this power for their infernal rituals. Moxie, along with Wits, help to make up your Lunacy Pool.
So now we know about Attributes and how they’re used to make rolls. Now it’s time to Get a Job, Ya Bum.
Step 1: Get a Job, ya Bum
Players will pick a job from the list (or create their own with the help of their Director). Each will have its own background, as well as Assets and Liabilities to Attributes. Additionally, each Job will come with a complimentary starting Talent.
Players are encouraged to add to these “bare bones” background stories to help make their Character their own.
Additionally, if you’re unsatisfied with the Starting Talent for a certain job, feel free to discuss changing it out for something more appropriate with your Director. Is your prize fighter more of a Willie Pep than a Jake LaMotta? Maybe she’d prefer Cover Up, Kid rather than The Ole 1-2. The Job List is meant to be more of a set of guidelines to help facilitate character creation than a hard-and-fast “character class” ruleset.
Here are a few Jobs from our Corebook:
Prize Fighter: You coulda had class. You coulda been a contender. Hell, maybe you were. Maybe you still are. People say your flat nose and cauliflower ears give your face “character”. Doesn’t keep them from looking at you cock-eyed.
Attribute Modifiers:+2 Vim +4 Vigor -1 Moxie
Starting Talent: The Ole 1-2
Private Investigator: Policing is for suckers. They have to work bad hours for worse pay. Of course, that’s the same for most PI’s, but at least you’re your own boss, and since you’re not guided by City Hall, you can make up your own mind about things.
Attribute Modifiers: +1 Vim +2 Wits +2 Moxie
Starting Talent: Tear The Place Apart
“Surgeon”: It takes a deft hand to save lives. Unfortunately, the state of surgery being where it is, you’re more of a showman than a healer. With a thick smock, thicker saws and ether, you (occasionally) save lives but you almost always sell out of tickets.
Attribute Modifiers: +1 Vim -1 Vigor +3 Wits +2 Moxie
Starting Talent: Dial it In
Con Man: See Politician. Boom. Nailed ‘em.
So we’ve decided to make a retired prize fighter named Rocky Luciano. Now that Rocky has his Job, we can derive his Hit Point totals. Terrors and Tommyguns uses three hit point pools for different types of damage:
Exhaustion Pool: Your Exhaustion Pool, or EP, represents nonlethal physical damage dealt to you during your time in New Babylon. EP is (2+ Attributes in Vim and Vigor, minimum 2), so Rocky’s starting EP pool as a Prize Fighter is 8. Pretty beefy.
Lunacy Pool: Your Lunacy Pool, or LP, represents mental, spiritual, psychological and/or psychic damage visited upon you during your adventures. LP is (2 + Attribute Points in Wits and Moxie, minimum 2). So Rocky’s LP is, unfortunately, only 2. He’s tough as nails, but he ain’t too smart.
Both EP and LP pools are used to take damage and spent as a resource when using talents. When you reach your EP or LP total, you begin to suffer Liabilities to checks as outlined in the book and on our handy dandy Character Sheet. If you reach 5 times your EP or LP total, and you’re still alive, you fall unconscious for 6 hours. Nothing can wake you in any meaningful way during this time, and upon awakening your body and mind bear the brunt of your overburdening it: You suffer a random Scar.
But not everything is out to wear down your body, mind and spirit. Some things are just trying to kill you. You’ll need Mortal Hit Points for that:
Mortal Damage: Protect ya’neck. Mortal Damage is anything meant to kill. Guns, knives, sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, etc. This is the serious stuff. Your Mortal HP total is equal to 3 + Assets in Vigor and Wits (minimum 3). When your Mortal Hit Points go to 0, you will be dead. We don’t know much, but we’ll give you this sage piece of advice: Don’t get dead. Rocky would begin his time in Terrors and Tommyguns with 7 Mortal Hit Points.
All pools can be replenished reasonably quickly with natural or supernatural healing and, more slowly, with rest.
In the interest of being able to show as many options as possible, we’re going to leave Rocky behind for now, but he’ll be back once we fund and make our Character Creation Stretch Goal video.
Oh no… we’ve said too much.
Step 2: Spend Character Points on Skills/Talents
Skills and Talents are character abilities that allow your Characters to survive within the dangerous world of New Babylon.
Skills: Skills are some of the more mundane things your character can do. Each is tied to an Attribute and, in the absence of spending into it, can attempt any skill using their Attribute Check (with any situational Liabilities the Director feels are appropriate). Skills include things like Sneaking, Unarmed Attacks, Armed Attacks, Investigation, Persuasion, Intimidation. Buying ranks into them increases how many Assets you gain when making a skill check for that roll. Additionally, every 5 ranks of a Skill you buy in a certain Attribute will raise your Attribute Pool by one. If a character takes 3 ranks in Sneaking, and 2 Ranks in Driving (both Vim skills), his Vim pool will increase by one, bringing up their EP total and ALL Vim checks made in the future.
Talents: Talents are specialized tasks that allow for powerful, and sometimes supernatural, things to happen within the world. Talents are a one-time Character Point purchase, and most are associated with an EP or LP cost– the more you use them, the more risk is associated. Weighing Risk vs Benefit is important when using Talents. Fortunately for you, every player starts with one Talent: Gaze into the Abyss.
Gaze into the Abyss:
You hear the voices, but you don’t always answer them. In your times of greatest strife, however, you allow the Old Gods to overtake you, and are forever changed as a result. Every Character begins the game with the ability Gaze Into The Abyss. Gaze Into the Abyss will allow you to turn any roll (excepting a reality check) into a success, changing your roll and any modifiers to the Rollover stated by your Director for success. This must be declared before you make the roll. However, a glimpse behind the curtain of reality always comes with a cost: you will suffer a random Scar. Gaze Into the Abyss can only be used once every 24 hours.
Below are a few Talents from the Corebook. Bear in mind that at current time of writing we have almost 70 Talents in the Corebook with more coming as quickly as we can dream of them and balance them, so this represents a VERY small part of all the things your Characters can do.
If you have questions about the taglines (Combat, Support, Magical, etc) we’ll be explaining those in a future Kickstarter article in just a few weeks. Patience, Grasshopper.
Called Shot (Combat, 1 EP): Call it, friend-o. You’re aiming for something specific here. Choose a value within 5 above your Rollover. If you hit the range, deal an additional 2M damage and choose either to disarm your opponent or hobble them, rendering them unable to move for the next 2 rounds. If you miss the range, deal -2M damage.
Safe Cracking and Cuff Breaking (Environmental, 1 EP): You’re particularly good at getting where you’re supposed to be. Upon using this Skill, you automatically succeed at any check involving opening doors/safes or escaping bonds that have a Rollover under 20. If the Rollover is over 20, take 3 Additional Assets to the roll. This skill can be used in combat or otherwise under duress.
Manassa Mauling (Combat, Unarmed Only, 4 EP): Let it all hang out and leave everything in the ring/on the street. Make an attack, dealing Damage + 1E on a hit. If you hit, attack again. This time, on a hit deal Damage + 2E. Keep going until you miss, adding 1E to Damage every time. If you miss on the first shot? Tough luck, Buster.
We Have Ways of Making You Talk (Environmental, Passive): You’re not on the Brute Squad. You are the Brute Squad. You may use your Vigor score instead of Moxie when attempting to intimidate someone physically. On a success, they are more likely to offer you information, passage, etc as determined by your Director. On a failure, they are thoroughly nonplussed by you and are likely to escalate the situation or even attack.
Electromagnetic Necrometron (Support, 1 LP): A Mad Science tool for detecting the fields of bodies whose light has recently been snuffed. Light up any bodies that have been dead for less than 48 in a radius equal to your Wits check in yards. Bodies that have been dead for longer immediately explode and then turn to ash.
Situational Awareness (Support, 1 LP): You pay very close attention to intents, and read the room. This talent can answer one of the following questions:
Who is in danger?
What is the source of danger?
What is the fastest escape route?
Into The Darkness (Support, See Description, Magical): Pulling the shadows from around you, you attempt to cloak yourself, and others, in darkness. This ability can be used on up to 10 willing targets who must remain within Dustup Range of each other. The cost of this ability is 2 LP per target (including yourself). This LP cost can be split among the targets of this spell as they desire. Any target of the spell can use the initiating character’s Moxie check in place of their own Vim score when attempting to hide or sneak past an obstacle. If a check is failed, all targets of this spell are spotted and the effect ends. When moving as a group, only one check is needed.
Mass Hysteria (Combat, 8 LP, Magical): The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together! Mass Hysteria is your way to ensure that a scene will be made. Make a roll. Your result on this roll is the number of targets in a given area that are affected (Your Director may, at their discretion, allow a crowd to be designated as a single target). For the next two rounds, hysteria reigns. Each target, friend or foe, will either attempt to flee or strike a random target near them. However, this does not come without its own costs: you will suffer a Scar as the Elder Gods answer your call to drive others to madness.
Step 3: Assign Scars
Scars represent the invisible marks that psionic, physical, and psychological trauma has left on your character.
Personality Traits: Scars do not offer a particular bonus or penalty in game. It is up to the player and their Director to collaborate on how best to play a character with different combinations of Scars. Of course this is difficult to quantify but we ask players to act within The Spirit of the Game and use their character’s Scars to add to the story line and flesh out their character, even if it occasionally causes some problems for the party as a whole. In our experience, hilariously bad character decisions are some of the most memorable parts of our games.
Reality Check: Certain moments of physical or psionic danger can bring deep-seated issues into the forefront. At certain moments of tension (as well as upon taking a critical hit), the Director may call for one or more characters to make a Reality Check. The Reality Check is a straight d20 roll, with a Rollover equaling 2 per Scar that the character has. If you should fail, the player reads out their list of Scars and the Director decides what the character does as a result of failing their Reality Check.
The Corebook contains a table of 25 random Scars characters may assign randomly (or choose with the blessing of their Director). Here are just a few:
Delusions of Grandeur: Don’t listen to your companions. You are the Queen. Of. The. World. Nobody’s ever been as strong as you, as smart as you, as handsome as you. You can do whatever you want.
Irrational Exuberance: EVERYTHING IS JAKE, PAL. There’s nothing, NOTHING in this world a positive attitude can’t solve, and your attitude is the positivist!
Pathologically Forgetful: Wait, what was her name? Oh dang. This can’t keep happening. She says she’s your “mother”, but what is a “mother”, honestly? Seriously. What is a mother?
Alien Limb Syndrome: This presents itself in two ways: either you think you have an extra limb that grants you powers, or you occasionally just lose control of one or all of your limbs. It happens to everyone, right?
Phantasm Spasm: There are monsters and spirits in these worlds. But they’re not the ones that are talking to you. You uh… you probably shouldn’t listen to these voices either. You hear voices whispering to you from ages long gone, compelling you onward toward a hidden goal.
Scars can be removed via natural, as well as supernatural, means. This will be discussed in part next week as we dive into The Collective.
Step 4: Spend Starting Dough
Characters will begin their adventures in New Babylon with $50 in their pocket and, if the Director wishes, up to 10 Florins (discussed next week). They may bank this or they may spend it on any number of items: weapons, body armor (such as it exists), mad science equipment, spy gear, feather boas, pinstripe suits. With over 70 unique items at time of writing, There’s a more robust item economy in Terrors and Tommyguns than we had included in Sagas of Midgard, but the intent is the same: to give your characters a modest bonus based on what they’re wearing/wielding/using but more importantly, to help flesh your characters out within the world and help them feel like they are a part of the interactive story the group is telling together. This will be further helped along by the assignment of an Heirloom Item, described below.
Step 5: Assign Heirloom Item
Characters can pick a special item from their past and, so long as they have it on them and it remains solvent, they get 2 Assets to a relevant Skill as agreed upon by the player and the Director. This does not count as a purchased skill for purposes of increasing Attribute pools. Maybe this is a special rifle passed down. Maybe a jewel that sharpens the senses. Maybe it’s your dad’s over-sized pinstripe trousers. Not our business. What is our business is that your character is beginning to take shape, so its time to work with your Director and fellow players on the final step…
Step 6: Figure out Your Characters Place In The World
Where is your Character from? What motivates them? How did your Character come to be in The Collective? How did they come to meet the other Player Characters? These are important questions that, in our experience, are best answered before the game ever begins to help give the party a shared purpose as they begin a very strange set of adventures together.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this cursory look at Character Creation within Terrors and Tommyguns. If you have any questions, or would like more information believe it or not, we tried to keep this brief), please contact us via our website or hit us up on social media.
Next week, we will be exploring The Collective, the secret paranormal society that has a hand in just about every supernatural occurrence within New Babylon and its secretive, powerful leader Lux Hammersmith. See you then!