Yes! I would love to! I’ve wanted to be a part of something like this for so long but have no friends in Chicago that play tabletop games.
Hooray! That’s four players!
One slot still open, everyone.
I’ve played a bit before. Unknown Armies is a really cool settings! I think I only have access to 3rd Ed at the moment, though.
Color me interested. I’m quitting my toxic tabletop group and could use the extra writing experience.
Consider yourself colored! And no worries if you don’t have access to the Second Edition–I’ll be laying out the basics for everyone, enough to get all the characters on their feet and into the game. So no need to purchase anything!
Anyway, with this being a horror story, the PCs won’t start with access to some of the…hrm, more interesting options of full-fledged UA, we’ll say.
That’s all of our players!
Here’s how we’ll move forward:
-I’ll lay out a comprehensive guide to character creation a little later on today. I’ll set it out in steps, so it’ll be easy to follow!
-After characters are created, there will be a few rounds of questions that I’ll ask the players for the purpose of boundaries, limits, identity building, and a tiny bit of world building (in the style of any “Powered by the Apocalypse” game, for those familiar). If the need arises, players may also need to ask question of myself or other players, which will be just fine too!
-Once all the questions are answered, I’ll switch this topic over to be a “Meta” thread. If players need to plan outside of the play thread or have questions, we’ll try to keep them in the Meta thread to prevent messing up the flow of the story thread. I’ll also create the new story thread, begin with an opening scene, and we’ll move forward from there!
In the meantime, let me know if anyone has questions! Excited to play with you fine folks!
Perhaps for internal stuff that won’t be a public part of the adventure we switch to a chat client or email?
We can use PMs, or a Discord?
Discord works for me - I’m ArcherAnderson on dc
Wow, I haven’t had a discord before! This is all so new and exciting!
Edit: I’m “getting dunked”? what the fuck kind of young person nightmare is this!? xD
after coming to terms with being certifiably old by internet standards I’ve set up a discord. I hope you guys are happy! lassemomme#0870
Also, if our Game Master is being coy about the more strange aspects of UA, do yourself a favor and don’t look anything up about the game. So many sweet, sweet nuggets.
Love it. I want to know nothing.
@Lassemomme I know… discord is a great tool, but it makes me feel so damn old every time it boots up and says something like “finding dankest memes.” Naw, I’m good.
I’m going to split the rules / character generation into two posts–I guess to make it a little less "wall-of-text"ish?
It’s a lot to take in, and I apologize. As always, please let me know if you have any questions!
Game Basics - Dice Rolls, Results, Kinds of Checks, Skill Penumbras, and Shifts
Before we begin with characters, let’s lay down the very basic dice rolling mechanic of Unknown Armies. All rolls you make in this game will be made with 2 10-sided dice (2d10, or percentile dice, as most games will call it). Most of the time you’ll be rolling against your Skills, which we’ll discuss in a bit. Skills are measured in percentages; for example, you might have Climbing 25%. That means you’ll at the skill succeed if you roll a result of 25 or less. Rolling a 01 is a critical success. Rolling 00 is a critical fumble.
Now you might be saying “25% chance of success? That’s terrible!” And you’d be right–it ain’t great! But here’s the rub: Unknown Armies’ philosophy about skill checks and dice rolls is that the percentage doesn’t measure how likely you are to succeed in normal circumstances, but rather how likely you are to succeed under stressful oh-shit-he’s-got-a-gun situations. It’s a horror-themed system, after all!
As an added wrinkle, there are two additional kinds of results you can get on your rolls: matched successes, and matched failures. Let’s go back to that Climbing skill for an example.
Your character is running from suits with Uzis in an apartment building, and you’ve just bought yourself time by opening a window and hanging out of it by your arms. You can hear them kick open the door and start trashing the area–sooner or later one of them is gonna notice your fingers. Your only choice is to try and climb down. So you roll…
Matched Success: …a 22! Because 22 is under 25%, that’s a success, and because both numbers are the same, that means you perform the skill exceptionally well. You not only manage to clamber down to the floor below, but do so quick no one gets a chance to see you were ever there. And hey, the window below is open!
Matched Failure: …an 88! Yikes–not only is that higher than 25, but it’s also matched, which means the skill went exceptionally wrong. You let go of the window, but lose your balance and cry out. Flailing your arms, you catch yourself below on another window, but Jesus you definitely just pulled your shoulder muscle, cowboy. As you look up, you see two of the mirror-shades glaring down at you.
I mentioned before that Unknown Armies has a philosophy concerning when dice rolls are appropriate, so let’s go over the types of checks you’ll make with your skills. Each of these has to do with the context of the situation at hand, starting from very relaxed to deadly serious.
Minor Checks: When there’s no danger in the situation or you have plenty of time and tools to accomplish the task, that’s a minor check. If the relevant skill is 15% or above, you automatically succeed, no roll necessary. If you don’t have the relevant skill, subtract 30 from the governing Stat (in the case of the Climb skill, that would be the Body stat), and roll against that number. If you roll equal to or lower than the number, you succeed, but things didn’t go like you planned (a weak success).
Significant Checks: When there’s stress involved in the situation, limited resources, or serious consequences should the action fail, that’s a significant check. You’ll succeed if you roll your Skill percentage or lower. If you roll over your Skill percentage, but under the Skill’s governing Stat, you get a weak success. If you roll over the governing Stat, the check fails. If you’re attempting a significant check but don’t have the relevant skill, reduce the governing Stat by 30 and roll against it for a weak success.
Major Checks: When shit is about to hit the fan in a situation, when you’re down to your last bobby pin lockpick, when failure means bodily injury or death to yourself or others (think: combat), that’s a major check. You only succeed if you roll your Skill percentage or lower. If you don’t have the relevant skill for a Major Check, don’t reduce the governing Stat. You’ll only succeed on a matched success or a critical success.
UA also has some flexibility when it comes to skills. If your character is really good at yoga, they’d probably be better at wiggling through a smaller space than someone that doesn’t stretch at all, right? In UA, these are called Skill Penumbras. Maybe someone good at cooking has a better nose for if food has been poisoned; a professional speaker might be able to gauge the mood of a room. If you think a skill you have could apply to a different kind of action, make your case and I’ll make a call on it.
The last item is what we call Skill Shifts, which are basically on-the-fly modifiers to make a skill roll easier or harder depending on the circumstance. Trying to Climb in the rain might give you a -10% shift–so even though your Climb skill is 25%, it’s been reduced to 15% for this roll due to the rain. But if you’re climbing a designed rock wall at a local gym, that might get you a +20% shift; since it’s pretty easy, your skill would be boosted to 45% for that roll.
And that’s basically the basics!
Now, on to…
Character creation is broken up into a few parts: your Personals and Passions, your Stats and Skills and finally your Stresses. Your Personals represent details about your character; Your Passions represent what sets your character off in certain fashions; your Stats represent your natural talents; your Skills represent your honed abilities; and your Stresses represent what shit you’ve seen and dealt with (or haven’t dealt with, as the case may be).
Let’s start from the top and work our way down.
In a document of your choosing, fill out the entries below. If you’d prefer to add more detail than three words, go for it!
-Three Word Description:
Each character will have three passions: your fear passion, your rage passion, and your noble passion. These passions can be triggered over the course of the game; each time they are, you’ll be able to flip-flop a roll or get one reroll associated with the passion. What’s flip-flopping, you say? Let’s say you roll a 81 on a skill check–that’s probably a failed roll. But if you flip-flop the roll, it becomes an 18–that’s a probable success! Passions can let you do that for one roll.
Fear: The Fear Passion is what your character fears. If you trigger this Passion, you can only flip-flop/reroll a roll being made to flee from the object of your fear, never to fight it. Your fear always has power over you. The Fear Passion is also associated with one Stress, which we’ll go over below. As an example, a fear of the dark would be associated with the Helplessness or Isolation Stress. A fear of dogs might be associated with the Violence Stress.
Rage: The Rage Passion is what enrages your character beyond the scope of reason. If you trigger this Passion, you can only flip-flop/reroll a roll being made to attack or destroy the object of your rage. You’d use this skill to swing a baseball bat at that asshole drunk driver, not the car he was driving.
Noble: The Noble Passion is what drives your character to be the best person they are. If you trigger this Passion, you can only flip-flop/reroll a roll being made to take a selfless action that furthers your noble goal. The action has to be immediate. You’d use this passion to break the lock on a food warehouse to feed hunger children, for example.
Stats and Skills
Every character has four Stats: Body, Speed, Mind, and Soul. Each of these Stats comes with a few Innate Skills. Each Innate skill starts at 15% (except for Initiative, which starts at 1/2 your Speed Stat).
Body: This measures the character’s health, fitness, endurance, and attractiveness. The Body Stat governs skills that have to do with strength, resisting physical ailments like injury, disease, or torture, and physical beauty. Your Body Score also represents how many Hit Points your character has. The innate skills that come under the Body Stat are General Athletics and Struggle.
General Athletics indicates a character general physical fitness, and is used for most checks concerning jumping, climbing, swimming, etc., if a more specific skill doesn’t exist.
Struggle indicates your general ability to fight enemies with your body.
Speed: This measures the characters speed, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination, and governs skills that rely on those things: sprinting, juggling, and firearms, for example. The innate skills that come under the Speed Attribute are Initiative, Dodge, and Driving.
Initiative indicates how quickly a character reacts in a crisis situation (like combat). When combat begins, a character can choose to forgo rolling by simply taking their initiative score. A character can choose to roll against their Initiative Score instead, with a success meaning going before all “taken” numbers and all failed rolls. Failing the roll means you’ll go after all successful rolls and “taken” numbers. Here’s an example: John, Mary, Susan, and Tina are about to enter combat with a rabid bear. Their Initiative scores are 35%, 20%, 40%, 55%, and 30% respectively. John, Susan, and the bear decide to “take” their scores, and make no Initiative roll. Mary and Tina decide to roll for initiative. Mary rolls a 10%, a success. Tina rolls a 76%, a failure. The initiative order is as follows: Mary (10%, successful roll), Susan (40% taken), John (35% taken) Bear (30% taken), and Tina (76%, failed roll).
Dodge indicates how good the character is at avoiding being hit. In combat, you must spend your entire turn dodging to gain the benefit of this skill. If you are attacked while dodging, you can make a Dodge check with a minimum roll equal to the attack roll made against you. If you’re successful, you take no damage from the attack. If you fail, but your Dodge Skill is higher than the attack roll, you take half damage. If you fail and the roll is higher than your Dodge Skill, you take full damage.
Driving indicates how easily a character can drive a vehicle or perform risky manoeuvres with a vehicle in stressful situations.
Mind: This measures the characters ability to learn, remember, observe, and maintain self-control. It governs skills related to knowledge, observation, and technical mastery. Mind is also your measuring stick for how well you deal with stress. The innate skills of the Mind Stat are General Education, Notice, and Conceal.
General Education represents your general knowledge, if a more specific skill doesn’t exist.
Notice represents your character’s ability to see things that others might miss.
Conceal represents your character’s ability to hide physical things from others, including themselves.
Soul: This measures the characters attunement with themselves and others. It governs skills related to creativity and social interactions. The innate skills of the Soul Stat are Charm and Lying.
Charm represents your character’s ability to improve your relationship with others.
Lying represents you character’s ability to deceive others.
The world is a fast-paced and stressful place, and no one lives in it without the occasion scar. These are represented in the form of the five stresses, indications of what your character has grown accustomed to and what is close to driving them mad.
Violence is stress that occurs when the character witnesses or is subject to violence.
Helplessness is stress that occurs when the character loses their agency or is unable to control something they feel they ought to be able to.
Unnatural is stress that results from the uncanny, or from things that attack how you know the universe is supposed to work.
Isolation is stress from being physically or socially removed from others for extended periods of time.
Self is stress resulting from the chipping away of the character’s constructed concept of who they are/what they stand for.
Each stress has two types of notches. Hardened Notches represent stress checks you’ve beaten. You are immune to stress check equal or lower than the number of hardened notches you possess, Numbered 1-10 (for example, getting attack with a weapon would be a Violence Check 1. Getting tortured for an hour would be a Violence Check 8). Failed Notches represent stress checks you’ve failed, Numbered 1-5.
If you do not have a hardened notches of the same level as the stress, make a Mind Roll. If you succeed, mark off your lowest level hardened notch. If you fail, mark off your lowest failed notch and choose:
Panic: Run away at high speed.
Paralysis: Indecision, terror, deer-in-the-headlights. May or may not be silent.
Frenzy: Attack the source of stress by any means. Act this way until the source of stress is gone.
You make no stress checks if in a failed-stress states.
If you have 5 failed notches in a meter, you always fail that stress check unless your hardened notches void the check. The first time you hit 5 failed notches in a meter, you gain some type of mental aberration.
Generating the Character
-Everyone starts with 220 points to distribute between their four Stats. No Stat can have a score higher than 70, and no Stat can have a score lower than 30 Once you’re divided your points, give your attributes a descriptive phrase. Body 30 might be “Puny” or “Can’t Shake This Cough”; Mind 70 might be “Mental Calculator” or “Brilliant and Knows It”.
-Once you’ve set your attributes, use the points you put in each Stat to improve your Innate Skills or make new Created Skills. Each Stat comes with a few Innate Skills (listed above) which start at 15%. Initiative starts at half the score of your Speed Stat.
Unlike other systems, Unknown Armies does not give you a set range of skills to choose from when making your character. Instead, you create the skills yourself, and place them under the appropriate attribute to govern them. Is your character adept at cooking thai cuisine? Give yourself “Thai Cooking” under the Mind Attribute. Can you drink anyone under the table? “Hold Your Liquor” goes under the Body Attribute. If you’re confused about where a skill might go, ask the GM. Created Skills are intended to make you unique, so get creative!
Even in approaching your Innate Skills, feel free to rename them to reflect a certain specialty or focus in regards to that skill. For example, you might rename “General Athletics” to “Rock-Climbing” or “Marathon Runner.” “Struggle” could be “Boxing,” “Karate,” “Beatdown,” or “Dirty Fighting”. “General Education” could be “Masters in Biology,” “School of Hard Knocks,” or even “Skipped School” for a character that maybe isn’t too bright.
Unlike Innate Skills, Created Skills start at 0%. Both Innate Skills and Created Skills are improved with Stat points, and increase on a 1-to-1 basis. The score of a Skill can never be higher than the score of the Stat that governs it. Some example of created skills for each Stat are listed below for inspiration.
Example Body Skills: “Endure Torture,” “Elephant’s Pain Tolerance,” “Hold Breath,” “Distracting Beauty,” “Distance Throwing,” “Parkour,” “Sleep Anywhere.”
Example Speed Skills: “Juggling,” “Pistol Shooting,” “Tight-Rope Walking,” “Run Like Hell,” “Dive for Cover,” “Pickpocket,” “Sneaky Sneaky.”
Example Mind Skills: “Computer Hacking,” “Speed Reading,” “Speak Mandarin,” “One-Track Mind,” “Market Intuition,” “Legal-ese,” “Know a Guy that Knows a Guy.”
Example Soul Skills: “Cold-Eyed Stare,” “Retired Diplomat,” “Shoulder to Cry On,” “Self-Taught Guitarist,” “Demagogue,” “Hobbyist Writer,” “No Habla Ingles!” “Life of the Party.”
Obsession Skill: Once you’ve written up all of your skills and distributed points, pick one skill to be your Obsession Skill. This is the skill that defines the most about your character. Mechanically, any roll you make with your obsession skill can be flip-flopped, or given one reroll. It’s pretty important, so choose wisely!
If your character has already seen some shit, you’re welcome to create them with up to three hardened notches, divided as you please. For every hardened notch you take, though, also give yourself a failed notch in the same Stress. Gotta give to get.
And finally, here’s a blank text character sheet. Feel free to use or ignore!
Three Word Description:
BODY: Score - (Descriptor)
General Athletics - 15%
Struggle - 15%
SPEED: Score - (Descriptor)
Initiative - (half Speed score)%
Dodge - 15%
Driving - 15%
MIND: Score - (Descriptor)
General Education - 15%
Notice - 15%
Conceal - 15%
SOUL: Score - (Descriptor)
Charm - 15%
Lying - 15%
Violence - Failed Notches () Hardened Notches ()
Helplessness - Failed Notches () Hardened Notches ()
Unnatural - Failed Notches () Hardened Notches ()
Isolation - Failed Notches () Hardened Notches ()
Self - Failed Notches () Hardened Notches ()
Also, I just signed up for Discord; Z-Paran0ia#1646. This will definitely be new for me!
I just gave these systems a brief once over and they seem really simple buy flexible! I’ll dig in more tomorrow.
I’m having a little trouble creating my character because I’m not sure what kind of setting the game is taking place in. Is this relevant or should I just create a character outside of the context of the setting?
A fair point! Let’s go with the general atmosphere of “present day”, even if no exact year is specified. Sound okay?
Looks good, I’ll get my character done on Monday if that’s okay?
thanks, that helps a lot!
sweet! should be able to get something put together over the weekend.