In other news, are people enjoying my random little snippet reviews of the games? I'm not foolish enough to gen a character in my spare time and then just post a sheet, but sometimes I can veer into pseudoreview territory. Would anyone be interested in my expanding that (in the Darren MacLennan "Wall of Text" style) into actual reviews?
But enough of the questions. I'm here to make a character, and today's contender is:
The Game: Deadlands: Hell on Earth
The Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.
Degree of Familiarity: I've played and run Deadlands a few times but not in recent memory, and I've only played Hell on Earth once.
Books Required: Deadlands: Hell on Earth
Well, I say just the corebook. Deadlands more than anything else is the shining star of the "supplement treadmill" endemic of 90's games. Many people point to White Wolf as leading the way, and they did, but PEGInc really did take the trope and make it their own. The corebooks for the two Deadlands games didn't even contain the full systems for the weird powers. To get that, you had to pick up the expansions. The corebook systems are good enough, but knowing that the "real" rules were going to be published later put a lot of people off. I could crack open The Junkman Cometh or Children of the Atom, but I don't own all the sourcebooks so I'd be prejudicing my choices of character.
There's a random bit of backstory here, For those with sharp eyes who have perused the list will notice both Deadlands: Reloaded and Deadlands: The Wasted West, yet no Deadlands: The Weird West. I had a copy, and some supplements, but when water riddled the floor of my old flat it took a number of books with it. Fortunately, it didn't take any of the real classics—it didn't impact on my complete collection of Wraith books—but it hit some of the fun stuff.
Anyway. I'm rambling. Deadlands: Hell on Earth is the followup game to Deadlands: The Wasted West. The former was a western game shot through with supernatural horror and steampunk elements, with a recently skewed history. Hell on Earth updates the world to a post-apocalyptic modern world, where a bomb made of Ghost Rock has devastated the continental United States and tuned it into to a post-apocalyptic world of psychics, templars, cowboys, savages, and mad scientists. It's a broad-strokes setting (the actual world is presented in another book) that is less concerned with internal consistency than with presenting a backdrop to strange adventures. The game presents a range of archetypal characters, but nuts to them. This challenge is all about making characters, rather than tweaking pregens.
The character creation section starts off with a section on concept, though it boils down to two paragraphs saying "Have an idea of who you want to play before you start" and two pages of archetypal character ideas. Each one has a name, and it lumps characters with special powers into their own type, rather than assuming that a dispossessed adventurer or a wandering tale-teller could be a Junker or Syker. It also highlights the game's very stereotypical treatment of Native Americans. In many ways it's just too shallow to be of much help.
So who do we want to play? I love the Junkman, the idea that people roam the blasted wastes of the post-apocalyptic world to put together bizarre contraptions. Mad science is fun. Don't play around in the ruins, make them into something new, something different—and when it breaks, make that junk into something else. If it blows shit up or saves hundreds of people, more's the better. I like that mad inventor vibe, Iron Man meets MacGyver meets Scrapheap Challenge. Get a sledgehammer with "Proper Job" on it and everything.
I'm thinking an affable type of guy, likable, but he assumes that everyone knows what he knows and it's just the fun and interesting leaps that he needs to mention. Very intelligent, but easygoing, and probably easily lead when it comes to other people. He's been working as a tale-teller and wandering handyman before the game starts, wandering the wastes and fixing people's stuff with a witty catchphrase and a puff of cigar smoke.
Shaggy dirty brown hair, kept of his eyes by a pair of welding goggles, Long duster with plenty of pockets to carry smaller tools and bits. Worn clothes the colour of dust from all the traveling. Cigar in mouth all the time, re-lit with the flame from a portable gas-axe. Black eyes, sun-worn skin, fairly short, wiry build, hands covered with old scars and calluses, usually seen with about a week's worth of beard but that tends to get scorched off (along with his eyebrows). He has seen some weird shit, and that shows in his eyes—there's a reason he hides them behind his goggles.
Junker stuff is in Chapter 8. I make a note of that to go back to.
Unfortunately, the concept's not going to play out as I hope thanks to random stat generation. There's ten traits, five physical and five mental, and they're rated in Co-ordination (number of dice for an unskilled roll) and Trait (the size of die to roll). Dice explode, and only the highest number from the pool matters. I draw twelve cards and discard any two except deuces and jokers.
I draw: 2H 3S 7D 7H 7S 8C 9C 10H JC JH KS and a red joker. I can't drop the Joker (wouldn't want to), and I can't drop the deuce, so I'm going to suck at something. I pitch the 7D and 7H—the suits are ranked C, D, H, S in ascending order. I toss the remaining 10 cards to the ten Traits.
Science: Occult Engineering is the main skill for Junkers, so I drop the Joker into Knowledge. I draw again to get the Co-ordination. 6C. Arse. That'd be 1D12, then. Ah, well. I stick the deuce in Mien, because for all he helps out people don't trust a wanderer. The 3 and the 7 go into Spirit and Nimbleness, and the 8 into Quickness. The 9 hits Strength, and the Jack of Clubs hits Vigor. The 10 and the remaining Jack go into Deftness and Cognition. My King goes into Smarts.
Normally, it's up to the Marshal to work out the Mysterious Past, but as I don't have one I'll draw for myself. Ace. Destiny. Means that he can't actually die until his destiny is completed. Rock.
He starts without Grit, and with 6 Pace. As a normal human, his Size is 6. Strain doesn't matter. Wind is the die type of Spirit and Vigor added together, so 14.
Aptitudes go from 1 to 5 at chargen, and define the die pool for most rolls. They matter even for Traits with a high Co-ordination, as without an Aptitude you suck down a -8 modifier. Aptitudes and Edges (next step) are bought from the same pool, which is the sum of Cognition, Knowledge, and Smarts die types. Good thing I'm going for a brain. It's a straight 1-for-1 system. I've 30 points to spend.
For Cognition, I buy two ranks in Search, which combines with the one that comes free with any character. Under Deftness, I take four points of Shootin': Junkgun (the junker signature weapon). Knowledge is where I'm going to blow a lot of points. I need Academia: Occult 1, and Science: Occult Engineering 3 to be a Junkman, so I buy them. I then bump Occult Engineering to 5. I figure he's not too shabby when it comes to helping out, so I take two ranks of Trade: Weaponsmith. I don't bother with Mien, because no matter how affable he is, he's wandering around with some strange shit to hand. For Nimbleness, I pick up three ranks in Dodge, two in Drivin': Contraptions, on the understanding that it covers whatever he builds and bugger-all else, and two more to boost Sneak. Smarts is my next stop for Aptitudes, because it's the home of Scroungin', Survival, and Tinkerin'. Four points into Scroungin', five into Tinkerin', and three into Survival: Desert. Finally, under Spirit, I drop three points into Guts. The remaining Traits don't have any Aptitudes.
Have I mentioned yet how the game seems to believe that the apostrophe is a perfectly serviceable replacement for the letter 'g' at the end of a word? It's atmospheric in an in-character voice and really cocking annoying when it's in the rules text. When it's part of skill names? Just fuck right off. You're no HoL. You don't get to slip your twee pseudo-dialect spellings into the basic mechanics of the game.
I had to get that off my chest. 35 points spent of my 30 point budget. Ah. Bollocks. That's not good, especially because I need three more points to the Arcane Background. I could monkey with Aptitudes, but I'll only do that if I can't make up eight points in Hindrances. Fortunately, that's the next bit.
A chance to get some of those wondrous points back. Scanning the list, Curious looks like it might be a good fit, finding out interesting stuff. Death Wish looks like it might play well with Destined: The guy knows he has a destiny and is doing his best to avoid it, but the devil won't let him die yet. Oh yeah, I'm sold. I need to work out what the Destiny is and why he doesn't want to do it. I also want to work out a name for this guy, because "he" and "this guy" get boring real fast. Anthony, shortened to Ant rather than Tony. Barnes as a surname, for reasons that only fans of Scrapheap Challenge will ever understand.
Ant Barnes is a stranger in a strange land: he knows he's destined to end up founding an enclave and protecting it with his Junk Science. Unfortunately, he knows enough about where his strange machines come from that he knows that town is going to be under the close, watchful eye of every strange beast in Christendom. His Destiny might be as a saviour, but in his own mind he's going to round up a great big herd of humans who'll grow soft and plump for the Devil to feast upon, and he'd rather die. Thing is, suicide doesn't work. Hell, nothing works for long. Fate will have the last laugh.
I pick up a few others that don't hit as hard. A one-point Hankerin' for cigars is enough, especially with the relative rarity of everything after an apocalypse. Night Terrors would be going over the top. I instead grab a three-point Obligation to a group of villages to keep their stuff working. While he wanders through a whole mess of places that he'll only see once, he's got three or four that he has to visit every month. They've done something for him, and he's obligated to help them. That's twelve points back. Subtracting the five I've already spent, that's seven points free.
There's one Edge I have to take. Arcane Background: Junker. Costs three, leaves me with four points. Mechanically Inclined is a no-brainer, and cheap for what it gives me. Finally, three points go on Luck o' the Irish. That's me done. I consider "Veteran of the Wasted West" to really bump myself up—fifteen free points is a lot—but it doesn't fit the concept. So that's this step done.
And no. 'o'' is not a word. The word is "of". Learn it and use it, you fucking cretins.
I've already figured out some of the background in the Hindrances section above, but it makes me want to flesh out some more. Ant has always been a tinkerer, he's good with his hands and better with his brain. He's an all-round good guy that people don't seem to take to. That could be because he's always the first to volunteer for the dumb risks and suicidal missions. He knows what he's got to do through his dreams, but he's scared shitless about what that means for people. He wasn't anything much in the world before the Bomb, just some schmuck who knew how to fix things up. He's spent his time since the Bomb fixing up random bits of machinery for everyone. Only after several years did he feel compelled to gather people together. At the same time, he learned enough to wrestle strange blueprints from the Manitou. Since then, he's tried looking for his death but he hasn't found it yet. He fixes people's stuff still, but he's always on the move, not wanting to set himself up with a group of people for too long.
I have $250 and some clothes and that's it. Time to go shopping. As a Junker, I get a G-Ray Collector and a Junkgun for free. Makes up for not having powers I can whip off in combat. A duster, shirt, and jeans should set me back a hundred seventy five, but I'm going to take those as the clothes on my back. A backpack is 30, a leather shirt (to keep Ant is alive) is a hundred, fifteen bucks gets me a mess kit, and the remaining five gets me a pack of cigars. He's got a belt full of tools and useful shit, which I figure is worth near enough a hundred given the strange pricing going on in this game.
Name: Ant Barnes
Shootin': Junkgun 4
Drivin': Contraptions 2
Academia: Occult 1
Area Knowledge: Home Area 2
Language : Native 2
Science: Occult Engineering 5
Trade: Weaponsmith 2
Survival: Desert 3
Arcane Background: Junker
Luck o' The Irish
Hankerin': Cigars 1
Toolkit and toolbelt
0: With my sincerest apologies to annajaneclare.