Roleplaying games: Making Characters

I’m working on my next campaign. Uncharacteristically, I decided to test out the rules I’m going to be using a little bit before running the campaign.

And so I inflicted making characters on my friends… And I learned something. I learned that I’d screwed up in making the character backgrounds.

Here’s how:
I created three character backgrounds. The players would be staffing Earth’s embassy to a star spanning empire. Owing to the fact that psionic abilities are a given in this empire, Earth only sends people who have them into space. Of course, people from Earth don’t naturally have psionic abilities so they undergo a fairly intense bout of drug taking and gene therapy to gain them.

So here are the backgrounds:
Exceptionally gifted: Someone who’s a true genetic freak with regards to psionics.
Academy Trained: Someone who’s well trained at psi as well as some other specialty–a soldier, diplomat or whatever.
Barely Trained: Just gifted enough in psi that they are allowed to leave the planet. Probably pushed through rapidly so that they can get on with whatever else they need to do. Someone with good connections or a necessary skill for the embassy.

Well guess what? Of three people who wanted to make characters, every single one chose the exceptionally gifted background.

After a bit of thought I figured out why.

In the campaign a person’s psychic abilities are within one of four stages of growth. Each stage is exponentially better than the one just below it.

Most people stop growing at stage one. At this point a person’s abilities are totally unreliable and remarkably weak. At stage two (all players rate stage two), abilities become reliable and you’re capable of doing most of the things psychics can do in books and stories. At stage three, a person is even more powerful. At stage four, a person is so powerful that they lose interest in human affairs and disappear from human society, sometimes making brief appearances thousands of years later.

I allowed people in the exponentially gifted category to have one ability at the third stage despite the fact that all their other abilities are in the second stage. In short, they’re just on the cusp of moving up into the third stage if they can only figure out how.

In short, the nice little additions to traits and additional relationship dice that I gave the other backgrounds do not in any way equal having one ability at a level that’s exponentially greater than anyone else in the campaign.


How is stage two different from stage three? In teleportation for example, a stage two person can teleport up to one hundred miles. In stage three, a person can teleport to another planet and up to an hour (or so) in time.

That’s a difference.

I’m thinking that I’ll add bigger dice to the other two backgrounds’ traits and make one other modification to exceptionally gifted characters’ destinies. Each character is supposed to put 5 dice into describing that character’s future destiny. They can use these dice to affect any action in the game, but the price is that they must explain how it moves their character toward the destiny in question.

I’m thinking that for the exceptionally gifted character two of those five dice will automatically assigned to being hunted down and executed by the Clade or possibly by stage four psychics. I’m not sure which. Perhaps it might be nice of me to give the player a choice.

I’m also thinking that I might up the number of dice that the “Academy trained” people have in their psionic attributes. That way even though they don’t have access to the same level of ability, they do have access to the same number of dice in psi abilities as well as greater traits and relationship dice.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking. Suggestions are always appreciated.

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