This post will cover the two most important aspects of character creation: Choosing a gang & magic in this universe. Here is an overview of the entire document, in case you got the wrong section one open:
- Part 1: Setting and General Information
- Part 2: Character Creation & Setting Rules (This one)
- Part 3: Character Examples
So far we have talked about where and who you will be fighting, but we haven't covered the most important thing, one that only your character can truly answer. As a member of one of the Three Gangs of the Canine Triad:
Why do you fight?
“We are all dogs in The Bowels, and us Runa are the ugliest, the sickliest, the most unloved. But we have found one another, and we have come together, and we have come to realize that this sets us apart from you, the demons and scourge of this Hell. Full Runa is the home that I carved in the stone with bloody nails, a home for myself and my runa brothers and sisters, a stronghold for those who have nothing else, and I can give you my word, no I can give my word to every single one of you: Among this fire, my home will stand.”
- Marcus (Leader of Full Runa), while defending the Siege of Wooden Walls, vs Mama’s Boys.
People who join Full Runa often do so out of dire need or enchanted by the promise of a brotherhood that will shelter them from . So the ‘Runa’ are often simple people who will back their Runa brothers and sisters no matter what is the situation.
Most Runa come from the poorest of backgrounds, having been street dwellers or magma-workers. The mongrel gang, however, does have some of the finest chemists and medics of The Triad. The majority of Runa live in the Lower Tier of the Bowels, in their massive HQ-Citadel. Very few are permanently stationed to the Undercroft, the even deeper caves of the Volcano. They manufacture the highly addictive drug ‘Obsidian’ which grants them, as an institution, great wealth.
“I have heard the rumors, some say that I have the gift of divination. Or that my mechanical augmentations somehow let me predict the future, and I admit I have not been clear when expressing myself about the matter, but now it is time to listen. I do not see the future, neither I have augmentations tell me what to do. I just see the numbers. I don’t talk to the dead, I talk to machines, they give me information and run calculations that would be unthinkable for any person to make. I read the charts and the tendencies, I interpret the numbers. I read the probabilities and think of possibilities. I am using their knowledge against themselves. The corporations that threw us in here will fall. I can not tell you when, but what I can tell you, is that when they do, our obsidian spires of luxury and technology will have nothing the envy theirs. Still we will crush them and take back what is rightfully ours.”
-Victoria (Leader of the Blood Poodles), on the day of her raise to power.
One could say that Victoria is trying to bring Corporate lifestyle into The Bowels. She uses everything at her disposal to give her Poodles a decent hi-tech life. Most of the Poodles live in the Undercroft: The deep caverns below The Bowels, in secluded and often secret Outposts that act as small population centers.
Poodles come from all backgrounds, but men and women of knowledge often are ‘drafted’ whether they like it or not, to work for and enjoy the fruits of being part of such a ‘prosperous’ gang. All Poodles are trained in either practical backgrounds or scientific disciplines once they become full members of the gang.
They are also pretty much the only gang to have a ‘political’ agenda of some sort: Victoria’s final goal is to demolish the institutions and status quo that allows The Bowels to exist, while building a new society according to her ideas. Her reign is absolute, laws are her words just as much as her words are law. For thirty years, either no no has complained, or no one survived after they spoke up. To this day she’s still going on strong.
“For me, the question would be: Why them? Because sometimes nice words and dreams are not enough. Because their ideas glow light into this dark, but they shine when backed by a wall of soldiers carrying railguns. We fight because if we don’t, no one else will do it for us. They know how to to create, how to give light, and we know how to destroy, how to consume and recycle. But don’t be mistaken, your eyes deceive you. That flame, that flimsy fire that gives you hope, can only exist because of the dark oil that fuels it. We fight with them because the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. You can follow our shining beacon of hope, or you can be consumed to fuel it.”
- Respin Delphi (Leader of the Skull Wolves), during the first joint-gang large-scale operation.
People become Wolves for pretty much the same reason corporate leeches would join a corporate-security team. To preserve what they have built. While both of the other gangs of The Triad have an armed division, the Wolves ARE the armed division of The Triad. They are the sword and shield that attack enemies and defend the interests of The Triad and everything they have built. Without them, Runa and Poodles would crumble below the massive military capabilities of Mama’s Boys, yet without guns from the Poodles and money from the Runa, they’d be fighting with stones and sticks. It is unclear what exactly the Wolves’ long-term agenda is, given that their leader is often in hiding, but many in the other gangs fear that they may want to take over The Triad at some point in the future. Wolves often lead a nomadic lifestyle. Staying both in the fancy Poodle outposts and in the homely Runa headquarters, they do, however, spend a lot of their time in The Undercroft, specifically settling near the gates that allow exit to the lush green but forbidden lands outside the Volcano’s walls. Wolves are, in general, regarded as valiant heroes and widely respected, even outside The Triad. But they can be as violent and gruesome as any other group of angry heavily-armed, highly drugged and trained soldiers.
Rules & System
This setting works with a modified version, of a Unisystem modification called: "Zombi: All Flesh Must Be Eaten". The system has been adapted to go with the setting and to facilitate a play style much more reliant on roleplay than on numbers. There will most likely not be undead in the campaign.
The core rules for the System can be found in this book of unknown origins.
Here you will find the rules for character creation & customization, plus combat-mechanics and general gameplay information. In this book you will also find a list of comprehensive ‘gear’ that your characters may use. Keep in mind that characters follow the NORMAL char creation rules. (Rather than inspired or survivor) This document also includes pre-generated characters, and pretty much any Zombie: AFMBE character will be compatible, so reading the book is optional for the players.
I recommend to play this campaign with a “fun trumps rules” approach, with heavy reliance on improvisation, in that sense, it will work better if the players have believable, well fleshed, characters based on roleplaying possibilities rather than strengths vs. weaknesses. You will be playing in a cyberpunk setting, keep that in mind when building your characters. You don’t need to worry about dice mechanics unless you are interested, the system is simple enough to explain as it is played, and character creation is easy enough to understand on its own.
That book is missing the ‘cyberpunk’ element of the campaign. So, for cyberpunk qualities, drawbacks, skills & gear, you can use the following book. (What you are looking for is in chapter 2) Keep in mind, however that anything you pick from this second book, must first be approved by your GM, this is because the books covers everything sci-fi, from space operas to gritty cyberpunk so not everything in that book applies to our current setting. (There are, for example, no psionics or private starships in our universe. Nanotech is common in Asia, but not in the western world and all the player characters are dirt poor, so you could get only the most basic and simple of bodily augmentations at character creation (That, if your gang is Blood Poodles, else the best you can get are non-stat augmentations, like a datajack.) In this book you will also find mechanics for cyberpunk-specific activities, like code jockeying or cyberwarfare.
Finally, your character also gets a qualities/drawback pack depending on the Gang & Mentor combo you pick. you will find those below, the role will be up to you. These qualities are ‘Free.” That means they don’t add or remove any points at char creation. You must, however, take them all. The ones below are examples, I invite you to take the player character and his motivations and role inside the gang to modify the bonuses given below. The same goes for the mentor, just keep in mind the magnitude of the bonuses, they need to be important enough to make them significant, a warrior in the Poodles, should need to work much harder to get to the same skill/body level of someone in the same conditions but in the Wolves.
5 is the maximum practical limit for everything at character creation, the only way you can get more than 5 in ‘anything’ is because of the bonus you get in your qualities/drawback bundle. Your characters are human, make sure your skills/attributes reflect this. Forget about combat and mechanics, think about why she has such skills and attributes. 2 is an “average joe” level.
Character Qualities Bundles
Blood Poodle: Your character is a member of the ‘Blood Poodles’ gang. He must, at all times, wear the insignia of his gang or risk being shot on sight.
Blood Poodle: Your character leads an overall healthier lifestyle than most gangsters. This means that he is less prone to disease and infection, but it also means that having his facemask removed while in The Bowels is potentially more dangerous. (+1 to con when checking health-related matters, -1 when trying to withstand adverse environmental effects)
Blood Poodle: Your character has at least a basic understanding of most things mechanical. +1 Engineer (Robotics) +1 Mechanics (Gang Vehicles)
Blood Poodle: Being a Poodle means you are at least not sleeping on the street. Resources +1
Mentor (Poliakov): The professor is a PhD. chemist, anatomist, biologist, psychologist, has a master’s in theoretical and applied astrophysics… Well… He is 167 years old and has spent his entire life studying, teaching and researching, this means that no matter how much of a blockhead you are, you are bound to have learnt something from him. +2 to any theoretical science skill.
Blood Poodle: Your character is in the Blood Poodles. Members of the other gangs in the triads consider him arrogant and weak. -2 to Charisma checks when dealing with members of other Triad gangs.
Blood Poodle: You are not as charismatic, nor as fight-capable as any of the other two gangs, this means that when shit hits the fan, you are the last option. (-2 to one of the PC’s combat-related skills)
Mentor (Poliakov): The professor is a corporate leech. He is a fat Yachag Pharma fish. This makes him widely distrusted among The Bowels. -2 to charisma when interacting with any high-ranking dweller of The Bowels.
Skull Wolf: Your character is in the Skull Wolf gang. He must wear the Skull Wolf insignia at all times or risk being shot on sight.
Wolves’ Fangs: Famous for their tactical mastermind and quick reflexes, all Wolves are trained in many forms of combat. +2 To Brawling, +1 to any firearm skill.
Wolven Pride: When shit hits the fan Wolves are expected to take the front line, after a time such a feat becomes second nature. When not first in initiative, the Wolf may reroll his initiative and take the second roll ONLY IF it puts him first. Else, he keeps his original roll.
Mentor (Head Wolf): You have never actually seen the guy’s face. He wears a black wolf mask all the time. However he has acted as a paternal figure to you. You learnt some of your best moves from him, and he often repeats how much potential he sees in you. (+1 dodge, +1 Block)
Mentor (Head Wolf, Rank): Your talent quickly earned you ranks in the Skull Wolves. You’ve ascended to the rank of Pack Leader. (You must name your Pack) and have earned yourself some ‘special’ assignments in the gang before. Contacts (Pack) +2
Wolven Stigma: Let’s face it. You are buffed, always carry weapons and armor and you’re in a gang called “Skull Wolves”. People will assume that you don’t have a lot of light's, regardless of weather this is the case or not. (-1 to charisma)
Wolven Stigma: If rival gangs see a Wolf walking around with other members of the triad, they will assume they are looking for trouble. (RP effects)
Mentor (Head Wolf): Getting along with the top dog also means that you have certain obligations, even more than a common gangmember. Obligations (3, Skull Wolves). Read: Obligations Quality.
Mentor (Head Wolf, Rank): Many envy and outright despise you for what you have earned. This means you will find enemies in the most unexpected of places. Enemy. Read: Enemy Drawback. Come up with three ‘possible’ enemies and GM will pick one of those for you to keep.
Full Runa: You’re a member of Full Runa. This means you must wear the Laughing Mongrel insignia at all times, or risk being shot on sight.
Runa Brothers: Fraternity is everything in Full Runa. Even a Runa that you’ve never met before will stand by your side in times of dire need, and so is expected of you. (+3 bonus in any social interaction with another member of Full Runa, plus 10% discount when buying from Full Runa affiliated vendors)
Runa Lifestyle: Worm protein bar again? That’s alright, you’ve had worse. Your life has been though and you body has kind of adapted to it. +1 Constitution.
Runa Teamwork: You’re used to working with people, after all you even built your house yourself with some help from the drunkards next-door. +2 to assist rolls.
Mentor (Victor Flint): Victor is a man of profound devotion to both science and religion, however he does seem to be willing to engage in theological discussions whenever the chance arises. More than once you’ve heard him in heated debates with Samantha Thorn regarding the number of archangels that can stand in the tip of a needle. Surprisingly, you did learn a few things from said debates. +2 Discipline of Knowledge: Theology.
Mentor (Victor Flint): “More actions, less words.” As the priest often says, you know that saying you love something is meaningless if you do nothing to show it. +2 to rolls when you are trying to save someone.
Runa Brothers: Fraternity is everything in Full Runa. Even a Runa that you’ve never met before will stand by your side in times of dire need, and so is expected of you. Must pass a will save when trying to ignore the petition of a Runa brother or sister or take a -4 morale penalty to any future action for 24 hours. Repeatedly failing to uphold the values of Full Runa may prompt "banishment".
Runa Stigma: Let’s face it. When your diet is primarily guinea pig meat and worm protein and showers are unisex and communal… Yeah. Only another Runa can love you. -2 when socializing with non-bowels dwellers.
Mentor (Victor Flint): Religion has taken some heavy blows in the last century. While it continues to be a beacon of hope, it has also been breeder of hate. Many people have not forgotten this and will refuse to accept aid for someone who is affiliated with other gods that are not those of profit, but many others will open doors to people of faight. (Mysterious Effect)
Mentor (Victor Flint): Charity. Victor is all over charity, you’re not sure how, but he got you into it too. Not only you’ve given work in favor of the poor, you’ve also given up cash in favor of the poorest. (Starting wealth is diminished by ⅓)
Mage (See section on magic below)
Runa Mage: You are a Runa Mage. While technically part of Full Runa, the mages often act as an entity of their own. As a mage apprentice, you must wear your mentor’s insignia at all times or risk being shot on sight. (Can pick between your mentor’s insignia or the Thorn Family Insignia).
Mage’s Presence: People seem to trust mages blindly, as if they could do magic or something. When in times of confusion, a few words from a mage can bring order and even boost the morale of those around her. +2 Morale bonus to all actions for those in listening-range when the mage rallies or reassures her allies (once per day).
Mage’s Lore: It it said that in the middle ages wizards knew of the many arts and crafts of the Earth, learning from the spirits and the elements. In modern days, mages discovered that the more you know of the world around you, the easier it is to manipulate said world. +2 to two ‘Science’ or ‘Discipline of Knowledge’ fields.
Mentor’s Instrument (Samantha Thorn): While most of your lessons come from Sam, Alyssa has also taught you a few tricks. However the most important decision you had to make when faced with both sister’s styles is: Do you carry a spellbook? or do you keep your circles in holograms in your P.A.D.? Pick one. If you carry a spellbook, you have an easier time casting spells that you make up in the fly, but you will hard a hard time if someone takes the book away from you or if you are under the rain. If you pick the holograms, someone’d have to chop your arm off to get you away of your magic and it’s easier to ‘prepare’ the spells you want to cast (target goes down to 6), however, casting spells on the fly is slightly harder unless you take some time to modify the hologram.
Chaotic Magic (Samantha Thorn): Training under Sam is… weird. Her magic is chaotic and wild, more akin to the ever-changing forces of nature than to the well defined ‘pure’ elements of creation. For her, reading ancient tomes on the lore of demons and spirits is as important as just drawing silly faces in the ash to understand magic, and she has taught this to you, somehow. (+1 mentor bonus to any spell that replicates or interacts with nature)
Mage’s Senses: You can use your EP to ‘scan’ the area around you energy traces. 1 EP equals 5 sq. meters.
Runa Mage: You are like a golden eggs goose. Other gangs will patiently wait for you to make a mistake and try to kidnap you or execute you. Enemy (1) Everyone outside The Triad.
Mage’s Burn: Casting spells has a toll in your body. Years of training under Samantha’s chaotic regimen have passed your body a bill. -1 Constitution.
Mage’s Burden: People expect a lot of you, but you are only human. You let down someone as you were raising up to power. That person resents you still. Enemy (3). Come up with three possible enemies and GM will pick one for you to keep.
Magic in this world is rare, but also a matter of fact. Magic was confirmed to be real somewhere in the 2100s, and ever since then it has had its ups and downs. In the city states of the American Content magic is rare, but was once common enough that everyone has an old uncle or a great-grandparent that knew a spellcaster of some sort. Those versed in the arcane or historians who paid enough attention, also are aware that spellcasters have played important roles in history. Exactly how important, is a matter of debate.
For the arcano-scientific perspective, there is no distinction between science and magic, this is paradoxically, the stance of the mega corporation ClearSight, which essentially kidnaps and attempts to control any spellcasters in its jurisdiction, in an effort to understand their magic and replicate it artificially. And the stance of the Runa Mages, who seek to form an organization dedicated to acquiring and archiving magical knowledge, in an effort to understand it in the light of modern science to enrich the field of magic and create new magic.
Mechanically, magic in this setting is flexible. This means that your character has a list of ‘Known’ spells, but you can, theoretically, cast any kind of effect AS LONG as your character has the corresponding Knowledge Skill. For example: You don’t know how to cast a fireball. BUT your character has at least 3 points in “Science: Physics” or “Science: Chemistry” you can attempt to summon a fireball by using that knowledge of the natural world. You will of course incur in a penalty. Said penalty is lessened depending on your mentor. In this case, you have an easier time with ‘pure’ elemental and transformation spells.
To cast a spell you make two rolls.
To prepare to cast the spell. To draw in the energy that is in everything around you and to burn a bit of your own energy. Here you roll d6+Magic Skill+Intelligence (Need 7 to succeed)
To cast the spell itself. Here you roll d6+Magic Skill+Spell Level or half Science/D.o.Knowledge Skill. Target depends on the difficulty of the spell. 7 to summon 1L of water. 40 to Summon a Fallen Angel. (You can use D&D Spell levels to get ideas of on-the-fly spells and their difficulty)
If you fail on the first roll, nothing happens. You can force yourself to gather the energy without a roll but that takes an entire turn.
If you fail on the second roll, bad things happen depending on how far away you were from the target number. 1 is a fizzle. 35 is “You summon Cthulhu the Destroyer of Realities”
After that you take an EP hit, equal to half the target of the spell you casted. (Or tried to cast, if you fail on the second roll). If you run out of EP, you faint, just like everyone else. EP is recovered normally over time, by eating or by hitting coke.
You buy spells just like you buy skills. ‘Fireball 1’ is a tiny fireball. ‘Fireball 5’ would be a D&D sized Fireball. Ignore rules on magic in any book, I built this up for the setting. You can get creative here and go with anything you’d like, but you can also find a list of common spells in this book.
With this you should have everything you need to create a character for the Claw of Cerberus setting. If you'd rather not, don't forget to follow me for the third part: Pregen Characters & Practical Examples.
Thank you for reading! This was perhaps the funniest part to write. Trying to think of game rules that could apply to magic, understood as an extension of science, was definitely a challenging task. I hope you like this iteration of tabletop magic, and please feel free to expand or modify it for different types of campaigns. Please let me know how it goes!
Thank you, and I’ll see you next time.