The Publisher: White Wolf Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: Very, yes. I've written for it and run it a few times.
Books Required: The World of Darkness Rulebook and nothing else.
The World of Darkness is the final version of the system that got started in Vampire: The Masquerade. Between then and now it's been used and abused, showing up in different forms in seven modern horror games, three historical games0, a SF game, two supers games, a pulp game, and a fantasy game. All those different games twisted the system in new and interesting ways, and the final result of all that experimentation lies in two different games. One is Exalted 2nd Edition, a tactical and involved fantasy game. The other is The World of Darkness.
This is how system evolution should be. Go from a start point, figure out what works for what genre, and then learn over time how to tune the system. I'm a big fan of the Storytelling system, and it demonstrates how a modern occult game should be: transparent mechanics that have evolved over time to evoke the theme and mood of the setting. Virtue and Vice show up how they do to give characters incentives to be nasty most of the time, but occasionally really good. Combat isn't cinematic, but most people don't want to kill other people, and it takes an act of will to do it.
That doesn't mean that the system is without it's wrinkles, but it's a nice, stable thing that with the release of the World of Darkness Rulebook jumped a major version number and encouraged a whole range of patches not just for additional features but to tweak it to individual specifications.
I've been listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys recently (it's nice to hear a band with a Yorkshire accent). Teddy Picker is a song about the desire to jump in on the teddy picked (coin operated claw game) of reality shows and hoping that they get picked, and how crap it actually is to get picked.
So let's run with that. Without knowing what kind of game we're starting—is the character going to become a monster? Is he going to poke his nose into the shadows, or have the weird shit come for him? Who can say! If we start with a strong character, then we can jump into almost any character-focused game.
Step 1: Concept
I want to make someone who's been through the wringer. Star of last year's Big Brother, won the show, did the chatshow circuit, celebrity endorsements, loved every fucking second. All of a sudden, he had cash and people wanted to be near him. Thing is, a new series has just ended and he's looking back and seeing how the media machine has told him to bend over throughout the past year.
He's seen glimpses of weird goings on, but that's all just stuff for the idle rich, he hasn't put it together. Doing so will likely be high on his list of priorities when he realises that he's been party to more than just some sick jokes.
I'm thinking he's in his early 20s, with estranged parents. He moved out when he was 19 and hasn't looked back. Last time they saw him was on a chat show, slagging off his then-girlfriend. He's never had much vocation in life, just picking up work on building sites and claiming unemployment benefits, often in the same week. He had a girlfriend of just over a year before he went on the show, but since then he's not been able to keep one. He's tried getting back in touch with his ex, usually around four thirty in the morning when he's staggered home, but nobody's seen her for months.
Step 2: Attributes
Social as primary. He had to have something to wow the watching people. Physical as secondary, as he's no stranger to going shirtless on camera. That leaves Mental as tertiary.
Three points into Manipulation and two into Presence: He knows how to work an angle, and people do like him, but he's not yet got hold of himself.
For Physical, I drop one in each and the extra into Strength. He works out enough to have an effect.
Mentally, I drop a point across the board. He's average, but he never really used his potential.
Step 3: Skills
I'm going to stay the course in Skills by making Social primary and Physical secondary.
Socially, he gets three points in Empathy and Socialize right off the bat. He can play people like instruments. Two more go into Streetwise, it'd be higher if he hadn't shifted from one set of streets to another just a year ago. Two points go into Subterfuge, and the remaining one into Intimidation.
Of his Physical skills, I'm going to drop two points into Athletics (again, he actually backs up his image), one into Drive, two into Larceny (hotwiring cars and ripping stuff off? Those were his teenage years), and two into Brawl.
Mentally, I drop one point each into Academics, Crafts, Computer, and Medicine—the fragmented bits of skills training he'd got from the job centre.
Step 4: Specialties
I like Specialties. I tend to think of them as Aspects (in the Spirit of the Cenrtury sense) tied to individual Skills. He can get hold of just about anything, putting Black Market on Streetwise. He was a minor Celebrity, which goes onto Socialize. Finally, he's a useful thief but better at Boosting Cars, which hits Larceny.
Step 5: Add Supernatural Template
There is no step 5.
Step 6: Determine Advantages
Size is 5, Speed is 10, Health is 7, Initiative is 4, and Willpower is just 3. I could drop Morality, but I figure his crisis of conscience is as good a reason as any to leave it at 7.
His Vice is easy: Greed. He wants whatever's coming to him and won't be denied. His Virtue, though a bit harder, I figure Prudence works. If it ain't broke, he isn't going to fix it.
Step 7: Merits
I think enough of his celebrity past is around to still haunt this guy, so two dots go into Fame. He won the reality show, and he's still got plenty of disposable income thanks to a bent accountant, to the tune of three dots of Resources. He used to be a Barfly, though he's really trying to turn his back on that side of himself he still knows all the tricks. He's also got an in with a couple of guys who have run celebrity features on him for the glossies, counting as Contacts (Celebrity Media).
Now all I need is a name... Mikey Chapman. Sorted.
Name: Mikey Chapman
Concept: Burned-out Celebrity
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2
Physical Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 2, Stamina 2
Social Attributes: Presence 3, Manipulation 4, Composure 1
Mental Skills: Academics 1, Crafts 1, Computer 1, Medicine 1
Physical Skills: Athletics 2, Brawl 2, Drive 1, Larceny (Boosting Cars) 3.
Social Skills: Empathy 3, Intimidation 1, Socialize (Celebrity) 3, Streetwise (Black Market) 2, Subterfuge 2
Merits: Barfly, Fame 2, Contacts (Celebrity Media), Resources 3
0: I'm only counting games with the full core rules, so no Wraith: The Great War or Mummy: The Resurrection.