[FATE] Wandering Stars: Character Creation

edited October 2006 in Actual Play
I ran character creation for a new short-run FATE game called Wandering Stars. It's my cybernoir lovechild of Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. In 2112, several dead or executed criminals (the PCs) are revived, sans certain memories, and work to repay their debt to their mysterious benefactor. The player group was a mix of my weekday players and my weekend group. This is the second RPG for two of the players (Mountain Witch being their first), so it was interesting to see how well/fast they picked up the concepts and came up with ideas for their characters.

Mechanically, character creation broke down into the following phases:
1. Background - The character's upbringing and childhood, as well as information about what kind of lifeform they were (human, cyborg, android, robot, AI).
2. Career - Profession, adulthood, possible pre-criminal activity.
3. Crime - Information about what they did that got them killed or executed.
4. Flashback #1 - A memory - just a scene - that they remember from the time that is otherwise lost to them. Ideally, it involved another PC or one of the aspects was contributed by another player.
5. Flashback #2 - A second memory.
And each character had one predominant skill - the thing they and they alone were best at - that will go at the top of their skill pyramid. All other skills will be chosen and locked down On the Fly.

I didn't hold fast to the phase structure, using it more as a framework for getting at good aspects for the characters. I was loose on players giving each other suggestions, how much the players knew about their characters' crimes, whether they'd been killed on a job or executed for a crime, and a few other things. As long as they ended up with strong, tasty aspects and some connection to one or more of the other characters, I was happy. About halfway through the process, it was pretty clear what each character's skill was going to be.

Also, the character names are deliberately weird. I told the players that there was an information war in the 21st century which destroyed a lot of human records. The new convention for names were to take the names of historical figures, even if it lead to weird combinations. Some of the names may sound silly, but I think one of the things we're looking forward to is playing the characters straight - they don't know that some of their names are patently ridiculous; they take them seriously and wear them as badges of honor. The names below aren't necessarily finalized - there still a bit of discussion going on regarding them.

Here's what we ended up with (listing aspects in order of the phases during which they were chosen):



    "I Will Be Number One"
    "I Never Miss"
    One Last Job
    "I Get Carried Away Sometimes"
    "Fool Me Once..."
    Set Up
    "I Decide Who's Guilty"
    Sucker for a Pretty Face

    Skill: Shoot

    Background: Trained as a marksman, employed as an assassin, Barrow has a cybernetic arm and considers himself a protector of the people, when he's not killing people for hire. His first flashback involves the job where he was set up and killed. The second involves being manipulated by a supposed innocent (read "femme fatale") into killing someone perhaps not as guilty as Barrow thought.

    TESLA "TESSIE" BORGIA (not finalized - some combination of Nikola Tesla and Lucretia Borgia is being considered, with Anastasia in the mix for good measure)

    Ice Queen
    Scientist for Hire
    Right Person for the Job
    "No Victim Is Innocent"
    Most Treasured Possesion
    "He Who Hesitates Is Lost"
    Nothing to Lose

    Skill: Engineer (her second one will be Doctor)

    Background: Borgia is all about compensation. Emotionally abusive parents drove her to be a better one. She did this by making her "perfect" android, Lennon McCartney (see below). Not entirely satisfied with the results, she set out to "fix" people's emotions, with nanotech and biology. Her first flashback is of a boy with white-blond hair playing with his toys on the floor, a picture of his parents on a dresser behind him. Her second flashback is her reaching toward a computer panel, stopping to look at Lennon across the room.


    Completely Human
    "That Shouldn't Break"
    Friends in Low Places
    If It Has Wings...
    Only Full Humans Are Real Humans
    They Think They're Better than Us
    Make Them Pay
    The End Justifies the Means

    Skill: Pilot

    Background: The only "fully human" member of the group, "Red" is a bigot. Already indoctrinated to believe that cyborgs aren't truly human, witnessing the oppression of squishy humans by steel-and-plastic cyborgs cemented his beliefs. He's an ace pilot who doesn't tend to attack directly. His first flashback is of a middle-school-aged human kid being crushed by a cyborg bully. His second flashback is him flying away from a burning, melting asteroid - a cybernetics factory and its attendant support colony.


    Emotional Flatline
    Hypnotically Androgynous
    "Yes, Mother"
    "How Does That Make You Feel?"
    Short Circuit
    Crime of Passion
    Blood on My Hands
    "Where's My Mother?"
    I Love What I Destroy
    I Destroy the Thing I Love

    Skills: Connect (our socialize/empathy skill)

    Background: Lennon is the android creation of Borgia. He is very devoted to his mother, but he was programmed without emotions. Fascinated by what he lacked, he developed a strong understanding of human behavior and psychology. His first flashback is of him with blood dripping from his hands and soft crying in the background. His second flashback is someone saying "I love you" to him while he is crushing someone's throat.


    "I Can't See Without My Glasses"
    Smarter than You
    High-Tech Fixer...for the Mob!
    When Good Jobs Go Bad
    My Weapon of Last Resort
    Out of Ammo
    Nowhere to Run
    "Where Do I Know You From?"
    Too Much Information

    Skill: Network (our contacting skill)

    Background: Monty is a wheeler-dealer with cybernetic goggles in place of eyes. He's the guy in the know, the man with the information. He knows everyone, but this also proved his undoing. His first flashback is of a restaurant in Saturn's belt, surrounded by cops. His second flashback is riding in a hovertaxi driven by Red.
  • There's a lot more subtext than may be apparent here, but most of the characters knew each other in some capacity in their former life. Although I was fine with repentant criminals with a past they wanted to escape or redeem, several of the players went dark very fast. The player of Borgia, a nice sweet young lady new to roleplaying, came out with a sociopathic mad scientist right out of the gate. (I believe she avowed "I want to be evil!" early on.) Things went dark from there. Her husband, Barrow's player, also new to gaming, had the hardest time making his character. His experience is with MMOs, so I think he expected a certain kind of crunch that wasn't present. However, even he was fine with a little guidance.

    Man, these are broken characters. "Damaged people" doesn't begin to do them justice. Each of them have their issues, and I think I have more than enough flags to work with. Ostensibly, the sessions will be episodic in nature, with a mission for them to complete, but I expect that the subplots involving the characters and their memories will be the real heart of the game. That's fine by me, as it means I have to work a lot less on plot and just make sure there are plenty of opportunities to push their character's buttons...and they are almost *all* buttons.

    Something I read recently described the dichotomy between "literary" and "genre" fiction, and why the proponents of the one never really understood the other. Basically, literary fiction is about incompetent people with internal problems becoming more competent and dealing with their internal problems by the end of the story. The character change and grow. However, genre fiction tends to feature competent characters with external problems (the world is messed up). In the course of the story, they themselves don't change much, because they're already OK - instead, the world tends to change as they try to fix it. This series should give me the chance to mix those two notions. These are highly competent people (in their areas of expertise) with internal problems. The world may simple get fixed or broken as a byproduct of them changing themselves and each other. I look forward to seeing the results.
  • Those are some very interesting characters-- Monty has a heap of trouble, but he still has a lot to contribute. It'll be interesting to see how it goes... what madness you can weave from these threads.
  • Solid stuff. You should publish your skill list too, as well as the fully-detailed sheets once they're done.
  • I love the style you're got going on. Is there a soundtrack?

  • Oh, of course there's a soundtrack. I try and put together a soundtrack for every project I work on. Ideally, I'd like to do a little Flash intro for the game, as though it was an anime series. As such, the opening theme would be "Under the Gun" by Supreme Beings of Leisure. (I have it on the Animatrix soundtrack.) The end title is "Wandering Star" by Portishead, which really kicked the whole thing off for me.

    Some, but not all (yet), of the characters have theme songs:
    Borgia's theme is "Chinese Burn" by Curve (off the La Femme Nikita TV soundtrack).
    McCartney's theme is "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones (how could I not?).
    Red's theme is "Firestarter" by Prodigy. (This is my wife's character, and she chose the song.)
    I don't have songs for the other two characters yet, and I don't expect their players to come up with ones, as I don't think that's their thing.

    Other music comes mostly from soundtracks, particularly anime: The X-Files (movie), The X-Files (TV), Pi, Fight Club, Animatrix, Natural Born Killers, Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, Passengers, Tank Girl, The Matrix, Supercop, Oni (the video game), Noir, and others. And I'm adding to it all the time.
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