The first step in making a character is the character concept. This is in the form of a sentence up to a short paragraph, and it spells out in normal language what the character is about. This concept is referred back to numerous times throughout the rest of the creation steps.
Every character has Momentum, which is that special something that separates heroes from regular characters. Momentum can be spent to gain special benefits. These are gaining a +3 bonus on a roll, gaining an extra action on your turn, or gaining a recovery action regardless of when the next one is due. The GM may define other uses for momentum as well.
Additionally, players can tie their use of Momentum to their Talent, Flaw, Anchor, or Motivation. Using it in this way (as part of roleplaying their character) upgrades the benefit, making the roll twice and taking the better result, allowing the player to take an additional full turn immediately after this one, or automatically removing the highest level condition on a single tracker. Only one point of momentum can be spent per turn, and it only applies to the action it was invoked for, and only for the character invoking it.
Characters start every episode with 1 Momentum, and can gain a maximum number of momentum points equal to their Power Level (minimum 1). Momentum is gained by the player choosing to "take a complication," or to purposefully use their Talent, Flaw, Anchor, or Motivation to negatively impact themselves and the party. NPCs should never have access to momentum, even heroic ones.
Everyone is good at something. A character's Talent is the one thing they are better than everyone else at. This does not have to be a Skill, like Pilot, but can be something more nebulous like "strategy games" or "extreme sports." Each character's Talent is unique, and no other player can have one that is the same or even sufficiently similar, with the GM as the final arbiter.
When the character’s talent could be reasonably determined to come into play, the character can get a benefit. This should typically not be a bonus on the roll (although it can be) and should instead be something like extra information or roleplay opportunities they otherwise might not have gotten (job opportunities, admirers, etc). It can also lead to hubris and failure due to overconfidence.
Below is a small list of example Talents.
- I'm the best at (insert type of game)
- I'm the best at (insert type of sports)
- I know all about (insert subject here)
- I'm the best at (school subject)
- I'm not afraid of anything
- My family is famous/important/powerful
- Everyone likes me
- I know all the gossip
- I play guitar
- I stand up for others
- I am the most wanted person in the country
A person, place, or thing that holds emotional value for the character. This is the thing the character is fighting for, and pushes them to do great things. This can literally be anything (GM has final say), and does not have to be physically present to be used. The classic version of this is the picture taped to the fighter pilot’s cockpit.
Anchors can inspire heroic actions, fighting for loved ones or to protect important places, but they can also inspire acts of great evil as that desire drives a character to whatever means necessary to reach their goal.
Below is a small list of example anchors.
- Picture of someone important
- A memento from a special trip or experience
- An item that once belonged to a loved one
- The home that the character grew up in
- The character's mother or father
- A sibling or best friend
- The name tag of the character's first pet
- The character's current pet
- The character's coach or commanding officer
An anchor is a person, place, or thing that drives a character, but a Motivation is an ideal or circumstance. Again, this could be anything, like Altruism, Purity, Greed, or a circumstance like War, Famine, or Plague. The thing about a motivation is that it can inspire heroic action, especially the more “positive” motivations like Altruism, but it can also inspire zealotry, intolerance, and other negatives if others do not conform to your views. Meanwhile, the “negative” motivations, like Greed can still cause positive outcomes in the right situations.
In most settings and genres a character will only have 1 motivation, however in some cases the GM may allow or even require more.
The following chart shows some example motivations, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
Internal Motivation Examples
Internal motivation is a motivation that comes from within the character, usually a belief or a goal. The character seeks out or follows this motivation because they want to, even if they may feel that they do not have a choice: "I can't help it! I just have to find out if I am the greatest martial artist in the world." There is nothing forcing the character, though, but their own desires, including the expectations of others. If the character is not motivated by themselves but instead by what others see or think then it is an external motivation instead.
- Altruism: The belief that the good of others is more important than the good of the self. Includes ideas of charity and kindness, and often manifests as a desire to help others regardless of the hassle to the individual.
- Curiosity: The drive to explore, find, and discover. What is beyond the horizon? What is behind that door marked "Employees Only"? A character with this motivation just wants to know, regardless of if the knowledge itself is useful.
- Faith: The belief that there is a greater power and that it is worth upholding and striving to serve. Not always religious is the traditional sense, some types of faith can involve the proverbial Crown and Country or some other philosophy like stoicism that is short of a religion but which one can live their life by or in service of.
- Fame: The search for recognition, to become a household name, and by extension the riches and power that usually comes with it. Typically fame is achieved through artistic or athletic pursuits, although famous scientists, politicians, and many other occupations obviously exist.
- Glory: Similar in some ways to Fame, Glory has the added connotation of history, often in the notion of deeds being remembered for all time as opposed to being well known within her lifetime. Many times this is in relation to military pursuits but can also be in relation to other aspects of life. Glory fits more with a fantasy or historical games, but is not restricted to them.
- Greed: The simple desire for wealth above all else. Characters with this motivation will rarely do anything without compensation, and will often try to negotiate higher rates, sometimes in situations where it is distasteful. This is sometimes coupled with a similarly strong hording tendency, but other times the greedy character is also a big spender, always lavishing themselves in luxury.
- Honor: Honor has many different meanings across different cultures, but most versions agree to a concept of disciplined action, honesty, integrity, and upholding tradition. Honor is often held as the measure of a person in societies that value it, and its loss is often seen as a grave issue worthy of severe action to prevent, often including violence.
- Justice: Law above any other concerns. That would be the simplistic way to describe this motivation, but it is usually a little more involved. Characters tend to desire equality and safety and see the law as the best way to achieve this. This is not to say they will not break laws, but if they do they will be doing it knowingly and for a reason, like Rosa Parks did; a philosophy known as Civil Disobedience.
- Nationalism: Nationalism is a belief that one's country or nation is the greatest and that other nations are naturally inferior. Similar to Patriotism, the difference is that Nationalism focuses on negativity, denigrating and disrespecting those from other nations and cultures. This can sometimes lead to hatred and violence, but not always.
- Patriotism: Patriotism is a belief that one's country or nation is great and that they should do everything they can to protect and preserve it. Unlike Nationalism, Patriotism is more focused on what the individuals can do to make the country better and is more positive in its expression, wanting to share the greatness they see with others.
- Responsibility: "With great power comes great responsibility," is the mantra of characters with this motivation, believing that if they have the ability to do something to change or make something better then they have a duty to do something. This does not mean that the think everything is their fault or they believe that they are the only ones who can solve the issue, just that they have to try.
- Revenge: The other side of Justice, Revenge is not fair, nor is it lawful usually. But it comes from the same emotional need to see wrongs righted and bad people punished. The biggest difference is that Revenge is a more purely emotional desire: "They must be made to pay for what they did to me!" as opposed to "They owe a debt to society for their actions."
- Validation: This character not only seeks to accomplish something, but they seek it to prove to themselves that they can, either because they fear they can't or that they don't deserve it. The triggering events that make a character seek validation come from outside the character, but this is an internal motivation because they are making the choice to fight back in spite of those inhibitions.
- Wanderlust: Similar to Curiosity in some ways, Wanderlust describes a character who can't stay in one place for long. Maybe its because they never feel at home, or maybe its just that no one place is able to hold their attention. Regardless, they are the stereotypical vagabond passing through.
External Motivation Examples
Unlike Internal Motivations, External Motivations are imposed on the character from outside. This could be from a person or persons, but as often as not it is the natural world, the environment, or the what
- Duty: This is a feeling of belonging to something greater and owing that person, place, or thing some course of action or behavior. Duty is, unlike Responsibility, something that the character is told they have, possibly even indoctrinated into, while Responsibility is more naturally occurring.
- Family: The idea that blood is thicker than water, that sharing a common genealogy, especially being raised in close proximity is a virtue, and forms unbreakable bonds. This can arise naturally as an internal motivation, but is more often imposed on the character growing up.
- Famine: The lack of food is a great motivator, forcing characters to change where and how they live, and even shake core beliefs and challenge cherished values. Even after the famine is over, these changed personality traits and beliefs will persist and can still drive major decisions in their lives.
- Necessity: A more generalized form of Famine, Necessity is the motivator of the survivor. Making hard choices and engaging in activities that they might have found questionable before they were faced with it, Necessity is, like most other external motivations, very dark and best fits character's in horror or other dark stories.
- Obligation: Similar to Duty, Obligation is often something that was at one time chosen, but is almost always considered negative now. Signed contracts, sworn oaths, and codes of conduct are all great examples of this.
- Plague: Like Famine, Plague is an external motivation that drags out both the best and worst in a character. This can either be a pandemic or a more personal brush with disease that changes or warps the character.
- Religion: Either for good or ill, religion has been the motivation for a large percentage of the actions of humanity over the millennia. Motivations from religion often focus on dogma, but can focus on the perversion of religion by religious leaders, or even struggling to live up to or by religious strictures.
- Revenge: Often confused with Justice, Revenge is more primal, retaliatory, and punishment driven form that invariably stems from an outside source of wrong. On the other hand, Justice can be personal, such as bringing a criminal to justice, or it can be a high ideal.
- Rewards: The search for wealth and status can be an internal motivation, see greed above, but when a reward, bounty, or other such boon is used to draw characters it is external. It may be a short lived motivation (until it is earned) or it could be recurring, in that the character is constantly seeking new rewards to challenge them.
- War: War is another societal level motivation, like Famine and Plague. Like those, it can be both a present tense motivator, involving what a character does to survive the war as well as a past tense look at how the war has changed them and their outlook.
Every character has something negative in their life, something that gives them problems or weighs them down. This could be guilt or other mental issues, a physical handicap, or even something social like a secret identity or a family they have to protect.
Regardless of what the flaw may be, characters can either give in to their flaw, allowing it to bring them down and defeat them or they can fight against them, using them as crucibles that forge them into greater versions of themselves. In most settings or genres characters will only have 1 flaw, but can have more at GM discretion.
The following list shows some example flaws, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
- Physical handicap
- Code of conduct
- Distinctive features or mannerisms
- Social class
Every character should have some type of story connection to at least half of the other characters in the troupe. These connections could be familial, friendships, or even a rivalry. Just remember, relationships between player characters have to be agreed on by both players. This connects the troupe together into something more cohesive, and gives them a reason to work together while also still allowing some conflicts to occur just as they do in real relationships.
In addition to the relationships with other player characters, each character should also define relationships to at least two NPCs. These can be any of the above relationships, but they could also be mentors, dependants, or even enemies. These NPC relationships give the GM ways to connect the character to the world and the events.
By this point the character should be fairly well defined and have all the basics needed to fulfill the role(s) that relate to the original concept. The next steps will fill in the rest of the character sheet with ranks and other information.
First, however, it is time to give him or her a name, physical description, and history. These are, in many ways, the last details to be decided, although sometimes these details are the first bits of information a player will decide on, and be part of the character concept. For settings that exist or are mostly similar to the real world, baby name books and websites are invaluable for this type of thing. For more fantastical settings the GM should be able to point you to a list of names or other such resource.
|VERS Playtest v20.7 - Online Rule Reference|
|Making a Character||Character Profile - Mechanical Aspects (Attributes - Skills - Abilities - Gear)|
|Gameplay||Mental Conflict - Physical Conflict - Social Conflict - Stunts|
|Optional Rules||Not Yet Complete|
|Gamemastering||Not Yet Complete|
|Storytelling and Drama||Not Yet Complete|
|Advanced Techniques||Not Yet Complete|
|Appendices||Example Abilities||Fantasy - Psionics - Superheroes|
|Example Gear||Prehistoric to Dark Ages - Medieval to Renaissance - Modern - Sci-Fi|
|Example NPCs||Animals - People - Fantasy - Horror - Sci-Fi|