Bulletproof Blues 2e EN:Creation
Making up a Bulletproof Blues character should only take about 30 minutes, once you are somewhat familiar with the process. The hardest part is thinking up a character background and choosing what kind of character to play. In this chapter, we offer a few suggestions to help you out, along with a checklist of the steps that you should probably follow. However, just because we list them in this order doesn't mean you must. Jump around if it makes you happy: feel free to fill in what you know, and come back to what you don't.
It is up to you to make up a character who can get along with the other player characters and add to the fun of the game. Realism in Bulletproof Blues, as in most games, takes a back seat to playability. Your character can be the most fascinating, detailed character ever written, but if they undermine the fun of the game you have failed to make up a good character.
Fortunately, making up a character is a fairly simple process, and if at first you don't succeed you can try again. It is possible to make up a fun and interesting character who gets along with the other PCs, and in the long run it is much more fun than making up a character that, despite being a brilliant creation, disrupts the game.
Before You Start
The ultimate goal of Bulletproof Blues to help you have fun with your friends. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions that we think will help point you in the right direction.
Create A Team
If at all possible, try to assemble the players and make up their characters together. That way, you can avoid having two or three players with the same power archetypes, or all with the same fields of expertise. It's usually more fun if each character has their own specialties, and their own role to fill.
Form A Bond
It can sometimes be difficult to find a plausible reason for characters to stick together. Why would a brooding loner who likes to brood lonesomely on skyscrapers ever join a team of people wearing brightly colored spandex? You might consider establishing a reason before the game even starts, by having some previous connection between characters. The previous connection could be something as simple as, "Hey, you helped me fight those bank robbers that one time", or "Hey, that's the superhero that rescued me from those bank robbers that one time (although they don't know that because I was in my secret identity at the time)". If every character has a connection to at least one other character, getting them past that awkward "getting to know you" stage will be a lot easier.
Know Your Limitations
Charleton Heston once said, "Hard is what I do best. I don't do nice." What a superhero can't do (or chooses not to do) can define them almost as much as knowing what they can do. A character that can do everything isn't as interesting as a character that has limits. We love Superman and James Bond, but what works for a single character in a movie doesn't necessarily work for a team of characters in a game. What fun would it be for the other players when James Bond knows everything about everything? How much fun would Batman's player have if Superman solved every problem just by listening intently?
Try to focus on what your character should be able to do, rather than on doing everything the letter of the rules permit. If all of the characters have their own specialties, then they can each get an opportunity to take center stage without another character stealing their thunder.
We have found that it's easiest if you create a character by following these steps. However, it's just a suggestion. Jump around if it makes you happy: feel free to fill in what you know, and come back to what you don't.
- Background: what is the character's history and description?
- Origin: where did the character get their powers?
- Archetypes: what basic role or roles does the character fill?
- Motivations: why does the character use their power for good?
- Complications: what keeps the character from achieving her full potential?
Once you have the important parts of the character worked out, then you can start buying attributes, skills, advantages, and powers which are appropriate to the character concept you have in mind.
- Attributes: what are the character's basic physical and mental traits?
- Skills: what does the character know how to do?
- Advantages: what gives the character an edge over most normal people?
- Powers: what powers set the character apart from normal people?
Before you start writing up your character, try to focus on who they are, rather than what they can do. In superhero games more so than in any other type of tabletop roleplaying game, there is a temptation to pay attention to what the character does rather than who they are and why they do it. There is a good reason for this: what the characters can do is what makes Bulletproof Blues a superhero roleplaying game rather than some other kind of roleplaying game. And after all, super powers are fun! However, what makes a game fun to play over the long term is the growth and exploration of each character's personality, the difficult choices the characters must make, and the interplay between characters.
How does your character act around other people? Are they serious but kind, grim and menacing, or wacky and easy-going? It's up to you to bring your character to life. If you have a clear idea of how your character interacts with others, you will have a strong foundation to build on when choosing the character's origins, powers, and motivations.
For example, what are the character's interests and hobbies? Are they intellectual, scrutinizing the world around them, or are they passionate and impulsive, doing what feels right without analyzing their motivations? How about the character's family? Do they come from a large, close-knit clan, or is the character an orphan? What is their education and their moral philosophy? Each clue to your character's personality will help you portray them realistically, which will add to your enjoyment and the enjoyment of the other players.
What a character looks like is not as important as their personality, but it does have an impact on how they interact with others and how the players see the character. Describe the character carefully, starting with easily-noticed things like their height and general build. Hair color and general style of dress help emphasize the character's personality. Does your character wear a special costume or uniform? If your character has a special costume, do they wear it all the time? Does the character have a wide variety of costumes, or would they stick with one outfit they like?
Appearance takes into account such things as gender, age, and any mannerisms or odd quirks. Is your character wealthy, dressing in the most expensive fashions? Do they carry themselves loosely, or with a rigid military posture? What do people notice about the character when they first meet? Is your character attractive (as most posthumans seem to be)? The more detail you can add to your description, the easier it will be for you and the other players to imagine them.
You don't need to know all of this at the beginning of the first game, of course. If you aren't sure about the details, start with the broad strokes, and fill in the details as the character develops in play.
Unless your character in an amnesiac or was grown in a vat, they will have had years of life experience before the first game starts. Where did they come from? How were they raised? Have they been in the military? Were their childhood years relatively carefree, adventurous, or marred by Tragedy? When did they first realize they had abilities beyond those of ordinary mortals? Did this realization come suddenly, perhaps as a result of a trauma, or was it something they had always known on some level?
With great power comes great responsibility, according to Peter Parker's Uncle Ben. But where does great power come from?
XXX tie these in more closely with the most common origins in the Kalos Universe
Characters who are merely human can make up for it with the right equipment. Whether it's an alien artifact, a magical sword, or just military body armor and a stockpile of pistols, the well-equipped character manages to hold their own.
Examples: Stargirl, Black Knight, Witchblade
These characters derive their abilities from a super-expert level of knowledge. Their knowledge isn't necessarily science, but it is in a subject that provides super powers, and they are far in advance of current popular thinking.
Examples: Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Henry Bendix
Some people have bad luck when it comes to laboratory experiments, cosmic rays, and radioactive wildlife. No matter the source, it's an accident that transforms a relatively normal person into something more, whether they like it or not.
Examples: Flash, Spider-Man, Doctor Manhattan
When a powerful organization or individual picks a person, the potential super may not have much say in the matter. Whether benign or malevolent, the people in charge turn the super from a regular guy into a powerhouse.
Examples: Green Lantern, Captain America, Midnighter
In extreme cases individuals are in some way outside of normal society and must develop extraordinary skills to fend for themselves. Castaways, feral children raised by wolves, secret agents, what-have-you -- these supers have turned unique circumstances into an advantage with their drive to survive.
Examples: Green Arrow, Vulture, Zealot
Aliens, robots, super-sentient animals, godlings, people from the far future or past -- outsiders come in all shapes and sizes, and frequently have amazing abilities.
Examples: Wonder Woman, The Vision, Mister Majestic
Some people are born to be different from everyone else. In some people these differences are subtle, but in others they are pronounced, even flamboyant, and can result in extraordinary powers.
Examples: Black Canary, Cyclops, Jenny Sparks
When writing up a character, it can be useful to have an archetype in mind for inspiration. An archetype is a brief description of the powers and modus operandi of the character, and their role in the group dynamic. Many popular comic book characters actually combine two or more of these archetypes. You aren't limited to these archetypes, of course. These common archetypes are just here to offer you a jumping-off point for your character.
The Beanstalk can dramatically change their size. They might be able to grow to massive heights, or shrink down to the size of a dust mote. A Beanstalk who can do both can solve a number of difficult problems all by themselves.
Examples: Atom, Atlas, Mighty Man
Common powers: Growth, Shrinking
The Calculator knows the variables and takes all of them into account. The Calculator might be a chess master, a scientific genius, a brilliant military strategist, or a robot that can think millions of times faster than a human being. When there are questions, the Calculator is the one who comes up with the answers.
Examples: Mister Terrific, Henry Pym, Henry Bendix
Common powers: high Reason, Danger Sense, Immortality, Mind Shield
The Cannon is the proverbial big gun, capable of firing blasts of astonishing power. Since they focus on ranged combat, many Cannons have an alternate form of movement, such as Flight or Teleportation. Most Cannons are capable of dishing out far more than they can take, which is why they are sometimes called "Glass Cannons".
Examples: Starfire, Cyclops, Apollo
Common powers: Blast, Flight, Force Field, Teleportation
The Clay can change their physical form in some way. The Clay might be able to change their appearance to mimic other people, or perhaps they can take the form of animals or inanimate objects. Alternately, the Clay might not be able to take on other shapes, but might instead be able to stretch and twist their body in amazing and unsettling ways, or take on the physical attributes of various substances.
Examples: Plastic Man, Copycat, Menagerie
Common powers: [Element] Form, Shapeshifting, Stretching
The Dolphin is at home in the sea. The Dolphin may be a ruler of an undersea kingdom (Atlantis, for example), an aquatic visitor from another world, or a freak of nature. Some Dolphins can control sea creatures, while others can command the sea itself. Regardless of their origins, a Dolphin in their element is a force to be reckoned with.
Examples: Aquaman, Namor, Fathom
Common powers: Animal Control, [Element] Mastery, Life Support, Super-swimming
The Elemental is the living embodiment of a force, substance, or idea. Some Elementals can physically transform into the appropriate material. Others can create limitless amounts of their chosen element, or mentally manipulate it. Some Elementals can do all three.
Examples: Red Tornado, Human Torch, Jenny Sparks
Common powers: Blast, [Element] Form, [Element] Mastery
The Gadget isn't the strongest or fastest character around, but they always seem to have a gizmo or incantation on hand to make up for it. The Gadget might have a utility belt filled with clever devices, or they might be a magician with a spell for every occasion. With the Gadget on the team, you'll probably have the right tool for the job.
Examples: Zatanna, Iron Man, The Engineer
Common powers: Force Field, Super-senses, [Ultra-power]
The Hammer is the heaviest hitter in the neighborhood, and perhaps one of the heaviest hitters in the entire world. The Hammer is usually super-strong, but they might have a mighty weapon instead of great strength (or in addition to it).
Examples: Superman, Thor, Mister Majestic
Common powers: high Brawn, Invulnerability, Strike
The Mirror wields forces beyond the material world. The Mirror might be a sorcerer, a psychic, or a mathematician who has unlocked the secret equation that controls the universe. When the paranormal knocks, the Mirror is the character who answers the door.
Examples: Doctor Fate, Professor X, The Doctor
Common powers: Amazing Movement, Mind Shield, Telepathy, [Ultra-power]
The Rocket is fast -- super fast. The Rocket might be born to move with preternatural quickness, their speed might come from years of training, or they may just wear a jet pack. The Rocket may be a runner or a flyer (or, rarely, a swimmer), but whether it's by land, by air, or by sea, few vehicles and fewer characters can keep up with the Rocket.
Examples: Flash, Quicksilver, Swift
Common powers: high Agility, high Prowess, Haste, Multiple Attacks, Super-running, Flight
The Shadow can go where no one else can go, and can appear and disappear without a trace. The Shadow might be a super-spy, a ninja, or even a ghost. However they do it, the Shadow makes being spooky look easy.
Examples: Batman, Black Widow, Spawn
Common powers: Flight, Intangibility, Invisibility, Swinging, Teleportation
The Sword is a fighter, through and through. They may hail from an ancient warrior tradition, they may be a genetically modified super-soldier, or they may be a serene kung-fu master. Regardless of where they came from, the Sword can be found on the front lines trading blow for blow with the enemy.
Examples: Hawkgirl, Iron Fist, Midnighter
Common powers: high Prowess, Danger Sense, Multiple Attacks, Strike
The Tank is an immovable object in a world of irresistible forces. The Tank may be inherently super-tough, they might wear high-tech armor, or they may be able to project an impenetrable force field. The Tank can take any damage the world can dish out, and then some.
Examples: Black Adam, Invisible Woman, Caitlin Fairchild
Common powers: high Brawn, high Willpower, Barrier, Force Field, Invulnerability
Changing the world is no easy task. Aside from the criminals and supervillains who make life difficult for our heroes, there are ordinary people who either benefit from the way things are or fear that any change would make it worse. Spider-Man saves the people of New York on a regular basis, but the editor at the Daily Bugle never cuts him any slack. Charles Xavier's team of heroic mutants, the X-Men, wage a constant war against dangerous mutants like Magneto and Sabretooth, and they regularly put their lives on the line to protect normal people who definitely would not return the favor. Batman faces walking nightmares like Two-Face and the Joker, but the people of Gotham are as afraid of him as they are of the psychopaths he fights.
So why do they do it? What makes an individual go out of their way to help people who make it clear they don't want to be helped? According to an article in Scientific American, great heroes have a lot in common with great villains. They are some of the most hard-headed, rebellious scofflaws we have. The all-important difference between sociopaths and heroes is empathy: the hero has empathy for other people, while a sociopath does not.
So what motivates your character? How does their empathy for others interact with their internal motivations? Here are a few motivations to get your creative juices flowing. Mix and match a couple, and think of some new ones, if you like. Take notice of the fact that, without empathy, most of these could just as easily be motivations for villains (and even then, a few of these are morally questionable on their own merits).
Your character has an adventurous spirit and rarely turns down the opportunity for a bold quest or a dare to overcome some daunting challenge, as long as these tasks are noteworthy, risky, and exciting. They tend to carry out any task with a bit of swashbuckling flair. This can be a good or a bad instinct depending on the circumstances.
People usually think of anger as a negative emotion, but anger is a strong motivator. Anger can drive a hero to overcome challenges and exceed their limits. Perhaps the character is driven to destroy the source of their anger, or defend it. An angry hero may be seen as inflexible or difficult to work with by people who do not share that anger, and this can cause friction with other heroes.
Your character is an adrenaline junkie driven by a desire to experience thrills and risk. They crave action and speed, and often leap before looking. On the positive side, this sort of person often deals well with chaotic situations that require quick reflexes and spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Your character detests the chaos of human society, and seeks to impose order and discipline. They conduct their own affairs with well-planed precision, and they impose that same order on others when possible. If they are truly ambitious, the character might seek to control global events as a kind of benevolent dictator or as a mastermind pulling strings behind the scenes for the benefit of the masses, who aren't competent to lead themselves.
Your character lives and breathes to solve the world's mysteries. Their focus might be on cracking the puzzles of the natural world or on unraveling the enigmas of the human heart and mind, but whatever their obsession, ignoring a riddle requires great effort. The expression "curiosity killed the cat" comes to mind.
Your character is reckless and enthusiastic, and may be young and naive. Though well-intentioned, following directions is not a strong suit. Sometimes this jolt of energy is just what the doctor ordered. Other times it is a recipe for disaster.
Your character lives to seek out new places and new ideas, to "boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before." The same old routine is not stimulating enough, and though proper planning is important, cautionary tales are often ignored in favor of seeking the new.
The character believes in something which is not supported by empirical evidence, and this belief gives meaning to their life. They may feel compelled to adhere to a code of conduct inspired by their faith, or they may strive to spread their beliefs to others. Depending on how militant the character is about their faith, their beliefs may cause friction with those who require objective evidence for extraordinary claims, or those whose beliefs conflict with the beliefs of the character.
Your character wants fame and acknowledgment of their greatness. Self-sacrifice in the service of others is not out of the question, but anonymous acts of benevolence are not on the agenda. Practicing poses and quips for the cameras is a likely pasttime, as is hogging a certain amount of the credit.
Your character is driven by a desire for redemption from real or imagined sins from their past. Doing good deeds, particularly selfless acts, assuages their guilt. On the down side, this can lead them to meddle where they aren't wanted, to try to rescue other lost souls, and to fall for sob stories without checking into them thoroughly.
Your character believes that their worth as a person is tied to their adherence to a code of conduct. This code of conduct may be formal or informal, but it includes such tenets as keeping one's word, appropriate use of force, and respect for rank. Depending on the character's other traits, it may also include a desire for respect by one's family, employer, or peers, and a sense of obligation toward them.
Your character believes in some cause or ideology so strongly that they would willingly die to protect it or uphold it. (Whether they are willing to let someone else die as well depends on their other motivations.) Any challenge to these ideals is sure to provoke a strong response.
Your character believes that the rights of the individual hold the highest moral value, above any society, religion, or philosophy. The character seeks to be self-reliant and independent, and encourages these traits in others. A character motivated by individualism might work with a team, but their reasons for doing so would be personal, rather than out of any sense of obligation.
Your character feels inadequate, as though they don't measure up to their peers or to some hypothetical standard. They might try to overcome this insecurity by performing extraordinary acts and pretending to have a bravado that they do not feel, or they might seek out characters that they look up to, and make an effort to emulate them.
Your character seeks to ensure that misdeeds are met with appropriate punishment. If the structure of society is such that the judicial system usually works as intended, then the character would seek to deliver criminals to the appropriate authorities (along with evidence of their crimes, if possible). However, if the system is corrupt (or if the character believes it to be so), then the character may decide that the cause of justice would be best served by taking the law into their own hands.
Your character loves someone or something, or a group of someones or somethings, very dearly. They will go to great efforts and make tremendous sacrifices to protect what they love from harm or danger, real or perceived.
Your character wants to amass great wealth. Whether they spend it freely or even pursue philanthropy on a large scale is likely based on other personality traits, but the accumulation of riches is an end in itself for this character. Some might even call them greedy.
Your character's true calling is the education and enlightenment of others. Nurturing talent and preserving or establishing a legacy are key goals in their life. They may seek to provide a moral compass to the wards in their charge, or they may be prone to probe and test their students' abilities.
Your character was born to rule and command the respect of their lessers. They may look out for the little people based on a sense of noblesse oblige, but they take action because they feel it is necessary and proper to do so, not because someone else demands that they act. At best, a slight condescension is apparent in most interactions with others not of exalted lineage.
Your character has a visceral, perhaps even savage, nature that they often struggle to control. At the same time, they may have a strong sense of loyalty or compassion. In general, your character is ruled by emotions and has to work to fit into a rational world, but they may also have insights that logical people overlook.
Your character seeks to personify the ideal of something, whether a culture, race, social class, or profession. They hold to an exacting standard of behavior and expect to be in the public eye, commanding respect for what they represent. They are not likely to appreciate scandals or public slights.
Your character wants to protect others, particularly the innocent and the helpless, no matter who or where they are. Seeing people in danger brings out the character's strongest instincts to act. By the same token, the character will tend to be quite careful when using their powers in public places.
Your character doesn't fit into the larger society, living as a loner due to prejudice or personal choice. The rebel scoffs at popular trends and pays little heed to public morays. They may seek out other iconoclasts who follow their own drummer or they may just want to be left alone.
Your character has powers that they would rather not possess, but feels that getting rid of them or refusing to use them would be selfish and irresponsible. If offered the chance to become "normal", the character may have a crisis of conscience.
Your character is or was plagued by inner demons and seeks freedom from the mistakes or tragedies of their past. Maintaining a spiritual, mental, and emotional balance is a daily struggle. It's probable that they try to avoid situations that might trigger bad memories or unhealthy behaviors, but learning to face these challenges is an important step toward recovery.
Your character believes in structure, tradition, and the chain of command. They appreciate the value of respecting authority, and of following and giving orders. They thrive on stability, structure, and clear objectives. This can potentially create a crisis of conscience if those orders conflict with their personal morals.
Your character seeks revenge for some past wrong done to them or their loved ones. Any personal sacrifice is worthwhile. Depending upon the character's other motivations, sacrificing others might be worth the cost as well.
All of the best heroes have complicated lives. As if seeking out injustice and fighting criminals were not dangerous enough, most heroes have physical or mental impairments, old enemies that never seem to give up on their quest for vengeance, or plain old social awkwardness. Think of one or two complications for your character. This will add depth to your character's background, and provide an easy way for the GM to come up with stories that are uniquely suited to your character. Additionally, when one of their character's complications causes a serious problem for them during the game, the player may gain a plot point. Plot points are spent to alter the game world, gain a skill bonus, or gain an advantage in combat. See Actions for more information.
The character is an outlaw, hated and/or hunted by people more powerful than they are. Perhaps the character is on the run from the shadowy government agency that gave them their powers, or perhaps one of the character's childhood friends blames the hero for some tragedy. Maybe the enemy is obsessed with the hero, and won't stop pursuing the character until the character falls in love with the enemy or converts to the enemy's world view.
Sometimes being a super hero isn't pretty. Perhaps the laboratory accident or genetic manipulation that granted the character their powers twisted or changed them in some startlingly horrific way. Perhaps the character is from another world or plane of existence and is considered handsome among their own people, but hideous among humans. Whatever the reason, the sight of the character horrifies adults and makes children cry. They may have difficulty in social situations, particularly when meeting someone for the first time.
There is a strong tradition of super heroes who are "not from around here". Perhaps the character is from the distant past, or is the sole survivor of a doomed world. Alternately, the character views humans from an utterly alien point of view. The character might be a robot, lacking emotions, or a telepathic alien that does not understand how a society can function when no one knows what anyone else truly means by what they say. A character such as this is unfamiliar or perhaps simply uncomfortable with social norms and customs. It's up to you to decide whether your character will eventually acclimate to the Earth and the mannerisms of humanity, or whether they will never quite fit in.
For some characters, their powers are as much a curse as they are a blessing. Perhaps the character can't reduce the force of their plasma blasts below "full power", and they are dependent on a device to do it for them. Alternately, the character might not be able to turn their powers off, and they must be careful to keep from accidentally hurting anyone with whom they make contact. Another form of uncontrolled power might be that the character has both a "normal" and a "heroic" form, but can't control when one form changes to the other. Perhaps the two forms even have completely separate personalities and memories.
The character may be injured by an otherwise harmless element or substance, such as water or sunlight. The character's Endurance is reduced by 2 during each round that they are in contact with the substance. If the affected attribute is something other than Endurance (Brawn, for example), the attribute is reduced by 1 during each round that they are in contact with the substance. Protection powers such as Invulnerability are not effective against this damage, and this damage will not begin to heal until the character is no longer in contact with the substance. While painful and debilitating, a vulnerability of this sort will not actually kill the character.
Points And Power Level
Once you have the the important parts of the character sketched out, you can start writing up the character's abilities. Characters in Bulletproof Blues are created using "character points". The player begins with a pool of these character points, based on the power level of the game, and then spends them to buy attributes, skills, powers, and so on.
A lot of us have a tendency to want to be extraordinary even in things that aren't particularly important to the character. For example, rank 4 Perception is up there with the most perceptive people on Earth. A medal-winning Olympic weightlifter would only have a Brawn of rank 4, and even a normal guy who exercises and has well-defined muscles might only have a Brawn of 3.
Similarly, powers don't need to be rank 8 to be impressive. A rank 6 Blast is plenty powerful: it can blow right through concrete on an average roll. Similarly, rank 3 Flight is as fast as a Formula One race car, and Flight of rank 5 can catch up to the fastest jet airplanes in the world. That's fast. In the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark was playing tag with the jet fighters -- he wasn't simply outrunning them. So even he is probably only Flight rank 4 (in that movie, anyway).
Just something to keep in mind.
All that being said, here are some point values that we have found to be useful starting points for characters of various power levels. At each power level, the combat attribute rank, damage rating, and protection value of the characters should be within a rank or two of the suggested values. This is not a guarantee, or a replacement for common sense: simply a guideline.
(XXX table: add points to power levels, probably by making up sample characters first)
|Normal Joe||?? pts||2-3|
|Street Samurai||?? pts||3-4|
|City Defender||50 pts||4-6|
|National Icon||?? pts||5-7|
|Global Guardian||?? pts||6-8|
|Galactic Sentinel||?? pts||8-10|
|Cosmic Entity||?? pts||9-11|