Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Attributes & Skills Guide
“In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvelously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill.”
“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.”
Attributes are the basic abilities that every character possesses, and are the foundation for most dice rolls. There are nine Attributes, split between the Mental, Physical, and Social categories. If a rule refers to a “Physical action” or a “Social roll,” it is referring to an action that uses an Attribute from one of these categories.
• Mental Attributes suggest how smart, quick-thinking, and strong-willed your character is. They are Intelligence, Wits and Resolve.
• Physical Attributes indicate how strong, graceful, and tough your character is. They are Strength, Dexterity and Stamina.
• Social Attributes determine how charismatic, manipulative, and unflappable your character is. They are Charisma, Manipulation and Composure.
The Attributes of ordinary people are rated from 1 to 5. Each score suggests the degree of your character’s raw capability in that area.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: Unexercised, unpracticed or inept.|
|●●○○○||Average: The result of occasional effort or application.|
|●●●○○||Good: Regular practice or effort, or naturally talented.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: Frequently applied, tested and honed, or naturally gifted.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The peak of normal human capability. Continuously exercised or naturally blessed.|
It’s possible for someone to have 6 or more dots, but these individuals are typically beyond the human ken, partially or fully a part of the supernatural world.
Mental Attributes represent a character’s mental resilience, intellect, and acuity.
• Intelligence is your character’s book smarts and ability to process data. It represents memory, general knowledge, and ability to solve complex and difficult problems.
• Wits represents quick thinking and improvisation. A character with a high Wits responds quickly to new information and situations. It also represents perception and the ability to notice details and subtle tells.
• Resolve represents your character’s patience, concentration, and determination. A high Resolve allows a character to focus despite distractions or discouragement.
“I’m sick of this,” Becky announced in frustration. She immediately regretted her outburst as her words echoed throughout the musty old library. Fortunately, this late at night, even during exams, no one else was there to hear. She had been working on her thesis for weeks without getting anywhere. Once again, she wondered if a degree in Linguistics was a good choice.
Her research was simply not panning out as she hoped, but after another pep talk, she forced herself back into the stacks. What other choice did she have? It was when reaching for a book on Sanskrit that she made her real discovery. A dusty old volume that seemed to have fallen between bookcases. It was bound in leather—or something like it—and had no publication date. Indeed, the book was nothing like she had ever seen before. No end papers. No table of contents. It just launched into some strange text.
The next thing she knew, Becky had passed hours studying the book. It had characters reminiscent of Latin and Greek, yet different, with odd pictographs throughout. As near as she could tell, it was dedicated to a religion or to ceremonies of some kind, but from what culture she had no idea.
She would find out, though. All she needed was time.
The raw power of the mind. Cognitive capacity. The inherent capability to digest, comprehend and remember information—and to learn more. Intelligence is a direct measure of how smart your character is. They may be dull-minded or have narrow-vision. They may be book-smart, or they may simply be able to grasp concepts, interpret situations and solve problems quickly. Intelligence is valued by planners, theorists, scholars, white-collar employees, and organizational leaders.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: People call the character stupid.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character’s intelligence is normal, though they might still overestimate themselves.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character is smarter than most people. Teachers in school called them bright.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character is a genuine intellectual. Teachers in school called them gifted. They’re actually as smart as a lot of people think they are.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character is a certified genius. Even most people who overestimate themselves don’t pretend to be this smart.|
Martin had accepted some weird jobs, but this one took the cake. He’d installed or repaired plumbing across the city. He liked the work; jobs could be challenging and fun. Busting open drywall and messing with pipes was like tinkering with the skeleton of a building. You got to see straight into people’s private worlds. Sometimes you even got to peek at the skeletons in their closets.
But why be hired to do a full re-pipe at this place and be told not to go on the top floor? Martin had to know. So, when the greasy guy who hired him caught him at the top of the stairs, Martin had to think fast.
“Yeah, I tried to find you. It’s uh… it’s what I was afraid of. An old building like this, the fittings have given way from wood rot or something. We’re, uh… we’re gonna need to re-route all the pipes upstairs instead of running the same lines.”
Damn, that was good, he thought. Might be able to squeeze some extra bucks out of this job.
The other man didn’t seem convinced.
The ability to think on one’s feet, under pressure or duress, without letting them see you sweat. Wits also encompasses an eye for detail, the ability to absorb what’s going on in the environment, and to react to events. It might mean recognizing that the temperature in a room slowly drops, that a landscape painting incorporates a disguised human face, or that a trap is about to be sprung. Wits involves the powers of perception and response. Your character may be oblivious, dumbfounded, quick-eyed, or wary. The trait is useful for entrepreneurs, charlatans, athletes, tacticians, lawyers, and criminals.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: The character is slow on the uptake. They get the point eventually, but it takes explaining. If they have a high Intelligence score, they’re the quintessential absentminded professor.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character knows when to bet or fold in poker. They can apply the emergency brakes in time. Usually.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character is good at thinking on their feet. They are seldom surprised or left speechless in day-to-day situations. They can analyze a situation and quickly work out the best escape route.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character is almost never caught on the back foot. They can run mental circles around most people and leave them thinking, “Ooh, I should have said…” the next day.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character is fiendishly clever. They think and respond almost more quickly than their own body can react and faster than most people can comprehend. They have instincts on par with a wild animal’s.|
Josh only really came to his senses when he threw up in the toilet. He had been conscious the whole time, he knew, but it was like he’d been in a daze, walking around like a zombie. He thought back to how it all happened. He’d left his apartment a few hours ago to run errands. It was a nice enough day for winter. He’d gotten some groceries, and then…
All he could remember was a blur. Something was there. Big. Strange. He remembered eyes, like an animal’s. They stared straight into his soul in a weird, almost primitive way. It was like his lizard brain kicked in and told him to run and hide, like a rabbit under the shadow of a hawk.
Josh had a fleeting glimpse of the oranges he’d just bought rolling across the sidewalk, and then all he knew was being back in his apartment, getting sick. How did he get there? Why did he come back? How come he couldn’t remember? And what was that thing?
Josh wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t content to let it go, either.
The focus and determination to see your character’s will done. The capacity to stay on target, ignore distractions and to resist coercion or browbeating. Resolve is your character’s mental fortitude. Their personal conviction. Their clarity of vision or spirit. Your character may be easily distracted and unable to concentrate, or resolute and single-minded. This trait is pivotal to resisting supernatural forms of mental control; it acts as a veritable defense of the mind. Resolve is valuable to leaders, motivators, soldiers, athletes, police and organizers.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: The character isn’t very certain of themselves and easily gives up. Other people call them spineless or feel sorry for them.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character is as determined as anyone else is. They can settle in for the long haul, as long as it’s not too long.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character is certain of themselves and doesn’t give up easily. Distracting them takes more effort than most people want to spend. Other people call the character stubborn.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character is exceptionally strong-willed. They know what they want and are rarely deterred from their goals, and can brute-force their way to a deduction past many obstacles. The character may or may not be inspiring (a function of Charisma), but other people call them relentless.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character has a will of iron. Seemingly nothing can break or sway their single-minded tenacity. They can think in a gunfight or watch the door in a blood orgy and then clean up every shell casing or spilled droplet. Other people are in awe of their determination.|
Physical Attributes reflect a character’s body control and fitness.
• Strength is a character’s muscular power and ability to use the force of their body. It is used for a large number of physical tasks, and is important for most applications of violence.
• Dexterity represents hand-eye coordination, agility, and physical speed. A character with a high Dexterity has fast reactions, a good sense of balance, and accurate control of physical force.
• Stamina is your character’s general fitness and health. It is used for sustained effort, as well as determining how much physical punishment their body can take.
“God damn,” Martin grunted as he pulled on the drain cover in the basement. Somehow, water was still backing up in the system. Everything else checked out, so it had to be a clog in the outtake to the sewer.
The building was so old that it still had a dirt-floor basement, yet the drain cover was stuck like a son of a bitch._
I could dig around it, Martin thought, but that would take time. This was the last place he wanted to be pulling late hours. The whole building and the guy who hired him really gave him the creeps. It was like the guy resented Martin being there, as if the plumber was intruding on something the guy wanted for himself.
Fuck it, Martin thought, and went to his truck to get a crowbar. Jamming it between grilles, he pried with everything he had. He pushed so hard he thought he was going to piss himself, when the cover cracked loose with a clang.
Aiming his flashlight down the hole, Martin saw something he couldn’t explain. Like a man who’d done this work for years, he reached down the pipe to his shoulder. When he pulled his arm free, his hand was coated red.
Physical might. Sheer bodily power. The capacity to lift objects, move items, hit things and people, and do damage. Strength is a measure of muscle. Your character could be a 98-pound weakling, they could carry a spare tire, or they could be lean and cut or bulky and brawny. Your character’s Strength score is used in hand-to-hand combat. This trait is instrumental to laborers, thugs, athletes, brawlers and law enforcement agents.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: The character can lift about 40 lbs. They are a figurative 98-pound weakling. Other people describe them as scrawny, and they might have been a target of childhood bullying.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character can lift about 100 lbs. Their upper body strength is normal.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character can lift about 250 lbs. They are in fit shape and get less winded by feats of strength that other people find exerting. Physically, the character looks trim and toned, but no one would mention the size of their muscles in a casual description.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character can lift about 400 lbs. They have an excellent physique and can accomplish feats of strength that most people wouldn’t even attempt. Physically, the character has noticeable bulk and musculature. People describe them as “big,” particularly if they go shirt-less.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character can lift about 650 lbs. They have an impeccable physique and can accomplish feats of strength that most people would dismiss as impossible. Physically, the character draws stares and comments. People describe them as “built like a haystack,” “thick slabs of muscle,” or simply “fucking huge.”|
Josh had retraced his steps back to where he fell, to where he saw that thing. He turned on the sidewalk, surveying his neighborhood. It wasn’t the best place to live, but he couldn’t afford any better. The worst of it was the bums and homeless, but they left him alone if he gave them some change.
Josh snapped out of his daydream and realized that he’d been staring glassy-eyed at the alley across the street. There was something about it. He shook his head to clear it and waited for a couple cars to pass.
The alley lay between rundown tenements and ran past an old parking lot. No one parked there anymore. Cardboard boxes and scattered blankets used by bums blocked the way. Josh almost turned back, not wanting to piss off the street people, but then he remembered how angry he got back home.
He steeled himself and headed down the alley. Almost immediately, open hands reached out from what looked like heaps of trash or discarded clothing as the homeless muttered for money. After a moment, their pleas turned to angry shouts as Josh ventured further into their territory. Panicking, Josh jumped up the chain-link fence next to him. It was the closest escape route. He wished he hadn’t when he got to the barbwire at the top, but forced himself upward and over. He didn’t quite make it, and the rusted steel tore through his pants and into his leg.
Quickness. Response time. A delicate touch. Dexterity indicates how quickly and with how much finesse your character responds to their physical world. While high Wits dots helps your character spot trouble, high Dexterity dots help them react to it, whether with a counteraction or to simply get the hell out of the way. Dexterity also helps with hand-eye coordination, be it to fire an accurate shot, to juggle objects, or to perform delicate jobs such as handle explosives. Your character might be sluggish, clumsy, slight, quick, or nimble. Dexterity is invaluable to criminals, sports stars, surgeons, and dancers.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: The character is clumsy and awkward. They trip over their own feet.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character is no clod, but they’re no ballerina either.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character is nimbler on their feet than most people and has athletic potential.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character could be a professional ballerina or tightrope walker.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character’s movements are liquid and hypnotic, almost superhuman.|
Becky thanked the pizza guy absently as she closed her apartment door. His nose wrinkled in distaste, not because she failed to tip him but because of the smell of her room, because of her greasy hair and because of her clearly unwashed appearance.
Becky never noticed the silent insult. She hadn’t really noticed anything for weeks. In fact, eating had become something that she had to remind herself to do. Now it was the book that consumed her. Even as she pushed aside scattered and wadded up papers to sit down, she kept her nose in the book. It demanded every ounce of her attention. Translating and understanding it had become her obsession. It superceded sleep, food, even her thesis. At first, she hoped the book would be invaluable to her research. Now she pored over it for its own sake. If she kept studying, kept interpreting. She knew comprehension would come.
As the night wore on, Becky continued to work. The pizza box went unopened.
Sturdiness. Steadfastness. Sheer physical resilience. Stamina is a measure of how tough your character is. It indicates how far they can push their body, and how much physical abuse they can endure. Your character might be sickly and frail, or hardy and unstoppable. Bouncers, brawlers, triathletes, survivalists, heavy lifters, and workaholics thrive on Stamina.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: The character has a frail constitution and bruises in a stiff wind. They easily get sick or tired.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character is as healthy as anyone and can take a punch or two. They can take a beating, but consider suing for peace.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character is in good shape and rarely falls ill. Several days of hard hiking with a backpack is no problem for them.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character could regularly win marathons or take copious amounts of pain. They virtually never get sick.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character has the constitution of a draft horse. Nothing gets them down—and even less keeps them down.|
Social Attributes reflect your character’s ability to navigate social situations and deal with others.
• Charisma is a character’s raw charisma, assertiveness, and ability to command. Characters with a high Charisma dominate a room and are adept at changing people’s thoughts and moods.
• Manipulation represents your character’s ability to choose their words, mask their intentions, and subtly convince others to go along with their ideas.
• Composure is a character’s ability to keep control of their emotions and resist others’ manipulations. It also represents poise, dignity, and the ability to keep a level head when under fire (metaphorically or literally).
Martin was stunned. He wasn’t sure how long he stared at the blood on his hand, bewildered by what it might mean. Was the guy who owned the place some kind of psycho, killing people and pouring their blood down the drain? He wasn’t sure, but he finally decided that he didn’t want to find out. It was weird, though. It was like he couldn’t think straight. This should have scared the shit out of him, and here he was kind of out of it, like he’d had a few.
When he got upstairs, he realized the lights were on. It was already dusk outside, given the last light coming in through the windows. “When did that happen,” he wondered. “I meant to—”
His thought went unfinished. Standing before him at the foot of the stairs was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Normally, he didn’t go for brunettes. They reminded him of his ex, but somehow this one made it work. Did she ever.
“What was I doing?” Martin muttered, but no answer came.
The woman’s dark eyes contrasted her pale skin, and focused intently on the blood on Martin’s hand, on the blood that he’d absently smeared across his shirt.
“Did you hurt yourself?” the woman asked. “Here, let me make it better.”
Bearing. Stature. Assertiveness. Charisma suggests the power of your character’s very identity. Attractiveness is only part of the trait. Your character may be jaw-dropping gorgeous, plain-Jane or downright ugly, but their Charisma means much more. It reflects their sheer command over the attention of others. It’s their capacity to impose their will on others by being socially aggressive or powerful—a veritable bull in a china shop or someone who simply doesn’t accept no for an answer. This trait is essential to leaders, enforcers, interrogators, models, politicians, and salespeople.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: People rarely notice the character. They might seem sketchy, or maybe they’re just non-assertive and easy to overlook.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character is as likable as anyone else and probably has a few friends.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character’s friends look up to them. Strangers sometimes buy them drinks.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character has significant personal magnetism. People go out of their way to make the character’s acquaintance.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character could lead nations. People remember them for the rest of their lives after they meet.|
“What the fuck am I doing?” Joshed wondered as he picked his way down the trash-strewn hallway. “This is exactly where I didn’t want to go.”
He had evaded the homeless people in the alley, but then had nowhere to go except into one of the old tenements. His leg burned from the long scratches the fence left him. He hoped his tetanus shot was up to date; he couldn’t remember. The place smelled like piss. He could hear music blaring somewhere, and a baby crying. “Who could raise a kid here?” he wondered.
He didn’t have time to think about the answer, though. His eyes were suddenly drawn from the stained carpet to the light at the end of the hall. Three shapes filled it. Two more turned the corner behind him. They were the people from outside. Maybe they weren’t so homeless, after all.
On the verge of panic once again, Josh recognized one of the men. “Hey, Eddy, it’s me, Josh. What’s going on?”
The five dirty, disheveled men stopped a few feet away, with menacing looks on their faces. “What are you doing here, Josh?” Eddy asked.
“I was looking for somethi—a guy. I thought I saw him go in here. Maybe you could help me find him? I think I got a couple bucks….”
“We don’t want your fucking money.”
For a second, Josh wondered if he saw that same bestial look that he’d seen earlier that day—but this time in Eddy’s eyes.
Manipulation reflects your character’s capacity to play upon the desires, hopes, and needs of others to influence them. It measures finesse in social situations and how well someone can appeal to, gain the favor of and generally coerce others. Manipulation is applied to win smiles, to put people at ease or to gain favors. Where Charisma deals in social force, Manipulation focuses on social subtlety. It’s the tool and trade of businesspeople, politicians, salesfolk, and publicists. Your character may be a wallflower, they could frequently make off-color statements, they might have a winning smile and a hardy handshake, or they may be able to sell sand in the desert.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: A person of few (often ineffectual) words.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character can convince people of some things, some of the time, just like everyone else.|
|●●●○○||Good: People generally acede to the character’s will.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character could be a career politician or cult leader. They are an expert at getting people to do what they want.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: People are marionettes, and words are the character’s strings. There’s almost no one they can’t play.|
“Do you understand now?” the priest asked.
Becky was in shock. Moments before, she’d stormed to her door, ready to unleash her frustration on whomever had dared to interrupt her. Her research had not gone well. The meaning or purpose of the book still eluded her, and she was at the end of her rope.
Once she recovered sufficiently from the shock of finding a priest at her door, she answered. “What?”
“Do you understand now? About the book? About what it says?”
Becky continued her look of disbelief. How could this perfect stranger—and a man of the cloth—know anything about her, or more importantly, the book?
“I see,” he continued as he let himself in and shut the door.
Becky didn’t object. She could scarcely complete a thought.
“You might be confused. I understand. Rest assured, though, you’re the one. The book chose you. It knows you’re ready. Well, almost. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to help open your eyes.”
And with that, everything Becky had stared at and studied moved about in her mind like the pieces of a puzzle. They spun, crisscrossed and overlapped—and finally formed a complete picture. Looking at it was like looking at the sun. It was like staring into the void and knowing that the void stared back. In that moment, Becky’s mind snapped.
Poise. Dignity. The capacity to remain calm and appear—and actually be—unfazed in social and threatening situations, usually harrowing ones. Your character might lose their temper at the slightest perceived insult, collapse emotionally under a mere pretense, weather a storm of verbal (or literal) slings and arrows, or have the nerve to look unspeakable horror in the eye. This trait is a measure of emotional fortitude, restraint, and calm. It’s ideal among leaders, soldiers, moderators, and anyone whose movements are public consumption. Composure is vital to resisting social influence and pressure—overt, covert, or otherworldly.
Composure is pivotal to resisting supernatural forms of emotional control; it acts as a veritable emotional defense. The trait is also vital to efforts among supernatural beings such as vampires and werewolves to restrain themselves when their blood is raised and frenzy threatens.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Poor: The character has poor control of their emotions. They might have a stubborn will (Resolve), but other people can still get under their skin easily.|
|●●○○○||Average: The character generally keeps it together, but loses their cool during times of stress.|
|●●●○○||Good: The character can keep it together when most people don’t. Their friends look up to them during difficult times.|
|●●●●○||Exceptional: The character comports themselves with exceptional dignity and poise. They could serve as a highly-regarded judge.|
|●●●●●||Incredible: The character is a veritable James Bond. Almost nothing cracks their mask. That isn’t to say they act like a robot—other people just have an incredibly hard time getting under their skin.|
A character’s Attributes measure their innate physical, mental and social qualities—how strong they are, how quick they think on their feet, and how well they interact with other people. The different ways in which a character can apply these Attributes are determined by their Skills. A character’s Skills reflect the education and training they’ve acquired over the course of their life, and are a reflection of their origins and interests. Skills can be acquired in any number of ways, from institutionalized learning to hard, hands-on experience. A young recruit at the police academy is trained to use a handgun, while a gangbanger learns to shoot as a matter of survival.
Like Attributes, Skills are broken down into three general categories: Mental, Physical and Social. Skills are rated from 1 to 5, with each score suggesting your character’s relative level of proficiency and knowledge in that area.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: Basic knowledge and/or techniques. The character might be a dabbler, hobbyist, or newcomer in the field.|
|●●○○○||Professional: Solid working knowledge and/or techniques. The character could hold an undergraduate degree in the field.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: Broad, detailed knowledge and/or techniques. The character could hold a postgraduate degree in the field.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Exceptional depth of knowledge and/or techniques. The character could be a nationally regarded expert in the field.|
|●●●●●||Master: Unsurpassed depth of knowledge and/or techniques. The character could be a world-renowned expert in the field.|
If your character doesn’t have any dots in a Skill that requires formal training (most Mental Skills and some Physical ones), they take Disadvantage (roll twice and use the worse result) on rolls with it.
Mental Skills generally represent knowledge, book learning, and understanding of facts or procedure. They cover things like remembering a fact, searching for a clue, or diagnosing an illness. Mental Skills are often gained through formal training, and a character may have certificates, degrees, or doctorates in their area of study. However, the rating in the Skill does not necessarily map to a certain level of education.
Mental Skills are commonly paired with Mental Attributes. However, they are sometimes used with Physical or Social Attributes. For example, repairing the wiring in a broken CB radio requires a Dexterity + Crafts roll.
Doctor Carlton’s library was a shambles. Bookshelves leaned on broken supports as if drunk, and piles of antiquated tomes lay scattered amid bits of broken glass and ceramic on the carpeted floor. Julia picked her way through the debris to Carlton’s desk and examined a large, leather-bound book resting on the ink-stained blotter. “It’s his journal,” she said, running a slim finger over the careful lines of script. “The last thing he wrote looks like Latin: ‘mali principii malus finis.’”
“The bad end of a bad beginning,” Stapleton translated, bleakly surveying the damage from the doorway. “I told him that damned idol would be the death of him.”
Academics represents general higher education and knowledge of arts and humanities. It covers topics like history, language, literature, law, and economics. It is a very broad Skill that covers general knowledge in all of these areas, but Skill Specialties can be used to represent a specific focus. The Academics Skill often represents the amount of schooling a character has. However, some characters are self-taught or have learned a great deal about relevant topics without actually setting foot on a college campus. Also, some people with advanced degrees pay no attention to topics outside their area of expertise, and have a low rating in Academics.
Sample actions: Recall historical facts (Intelligence + Academics), Research (Resolve + Academics), Translation (Intelligence + Academics)
Sample Specialties: Anthropology, English, History, Law, Linguistics, Psychology, Religion, Research
Sample Contacts: College Student, Law Professor, Head Librarian, Rare Book Dealer
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: Someone with a basic knowledge of the humanities, such as a liberal arts major or attentive high school student. The character knows how to conduct effective research and probably did well in school.|
|●●○○○||Professional: A graduate student, a teacher, or someone who is well-read enough to have a solid grasp on a number of liberal arts fields. The character can recall details about many different topics, and understands how to find more information on subjects that they do not immediately recall.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: Someone with an excellent general education in the liberal arts, and high expertise in one or two areas (generally represented with Skill Specialties). They are a college professor or PhD, or someone who is a truly voracious reader.|
|●●●●○||Expert: A liberal arts PhD at a prestigious school or an acknowledged expert. Someone with extensive knowledge and experience with conducting research, or a self-taught polymath and genius. They can probably teach master classes on a number of different topics, and are up-to-date on the latest ideas within many different humanities fields.|
|●●●●●||Master: One of the top minds in academia, the acknowledged expert in their field. A walking Wikipedia, with a fact for just about any occasion. The character’s memory and breadth of knowledge on the liberal arts is astounding.|
Martha pressed the carving tool gently against the smoothly spinning wood, shaving off a steady curl of pine with the whispery, scratching sound that she once loved. She hadn’t been down in her workshop since Howard died. She’d forgotten how much she enjoyed working with her hands.
She heard the basement door open, and Angela’s voice, heavy as lead, sank down the stairs. “Mom? What are you doing down there?”
“Just a quick project, hon,” she called back over her shoulder. “Should be done in a few more minutes.”
“Okay. Listen… I’m going to start cleaning out Dad’s stuff. I could use some help.”
Martha put down the carving tool and switched off the lathe. She tried to keep her voice even. “I’ve got to go out for a while today. Can it wait till I get back?”
Not waiting for an answer, she undid the clamps and pulled the chair leg from the lathe. The end was now tapered to a fine, strong point.
The Crafts Skill represents a character’s knowledge of repairing, designing, and creating things. It covers tasks like rebuilding a car engine, laying a foundation for a house, or sewing clothing. It also has some overlap with Expression for purposes of creating paintings or sculpture. In general, Crafts should be used when you are trying to make something that is accurate (a scale model, an eye-witness sketch, or a reconstruction of a damaged manuscript) or useful for a specific task, as opposed to something that is being created to be beautiful or convey emotion.
A character using the Crafts Skill will generally need specific tools and materials. They have the knowledge to make something, but they usually cannot do it with their bare hands. However, this generally should not cause them problems unless they are in a situation where the tools or materials are rare or difficult to access.
Sample actions: Look for flaws (Wits + Crafts), Design object (Intelligence + Crafts), Repair item (Dexterity + Crafts)
Sample Specialties: Aircraft, Automotive, Carpentry, Forging, Jury Rigging, Plumping, Sculpting, Sewing, Welding
Sample Contacts: Automotive Engineer, Construction Worker, “Makerspace” Enthusiast, Police Sketch Artist
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character can perform basic automotive repair and maintenance like replacing brakes, oil, and belts. They can make simple repairs and fix plumbing around the house. They understand how to read and create blueprints or design diagrams.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can produce high quality and professional blueprints and designs. They can perform extensive repairs of cars and other vehicles, work as a professional handyman, or work on a construction crew for anything from a house to a high-rise.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character is a very talented builder or architect. They can design and build a house from the ground up, completely rebuild a car, and handle industrial electrical and plumbing for office complexes.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can build just about any design they can imagine. They can weld just about anything, build a new car from scratch, or machine precision parts.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character can repair anything, or build working devices from the scraps other people throw out. They are a da Vinci, able to draw stunningly realistic diagrams or design fantastic devices.|
All the other detectives were convinced. An arsonist had set the hotel fire and vandalized the fire hydrant out front so firefighters couldn’t put out the blaze.
But Janet wasn’t so sure. The hydrant was literally ripped from of its moorings. Who could do that without something like a truck and tow chains? Who could do that so quickly, without being seen?
She contemplated the answer as she picked through the building’s smoldering remains.
When she stumbled across a charred wooden stake, she knew something was not as it seemed.
Investigation is a character’s ability to find and put together clues and solve mysteries and puzzles. It represents the ability to think laterally and make useful intuitive leaps, find meaningful patterns in confusion, and draw conclusions from the available data.
Using this Skill is different than the Perception Attribute task that can be found under Wits and Composure. Perception is typically checked when a character is not actively searching, but could potentially see something out of place or unusual. Investigation is a Skill that the character actively uses to find clues and information and create a more concrete picture of the situation.
Sample actions: Examine a crime scene (Intelligence or Wits + Investigation), Identify a pattern (Wits + Investigation), Solve a riddle (Intelligence + Investigation)
Sample Specialties: Autopsies, Crime Scenes, Cryptography, Dreams, Forensic Accounting, Riddles
Sample Contacts: Conspiracy Buff, Medical Examiner, Lawyer, Police Detective, Private Investigator
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character is a good armchair detective and excels at puzzles, riddles, and brainteasers.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character is very good at putting details together to form a larger picture. Someone who works as a coroner or crime lab attendant is probably at this level.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character has an excellent eye for details that most would overlook, impressing even experienced detectives. They fill out crossword puzzles in pen and solve riddles without breaking a sweat.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Most people can’t even follow the character’s thought processes without a diagram. The character can see connections between details that seem completely separate, make amazing intuitive leaps, and can easily see patterns in massive amounts of data.|
|●●●●●||Master: Sherlock Holmes. The character’s investigative instincts seem downright supernatural. They can pull jaw-droppingly specific information about people out of seemingly thin air.|
The Land Rover’s tires squealed as Anderson took the turn as fast as he dared. Wind whistled through the bullet holes in the windshield. “Jesus Christ!” he yelled, his hands wrestling with the SUV’s steering wheel. “How bad is it?”
Robert was slumped on his side in the back seat, a thin, keening moan escaping his lips. Jenny clambered out of the passenger seat and looked him over. There wasn’t much she could see in the shifting bands of light from the street lamps. Biting her lip, she ran her hands over Robert’s chest and back. When she held them up to the light, they were red-black with blood. “Shit,” she said, noting a froth of bubbles in the blood on her palms. “The bullet’s hit his right lung. I need a credit card!”
“Plastic! I need something stiff and waterproof that I can use to plug the hole or his lung will collapse! Give me your damn wallet!”
Medicine is a character’s knowledge of the human body and the medical techniques used to keep it healthy. It represents a practical and applicable knowledge of biology, anatomy, and chemistry. A character with the Medicine Skill can use it to treat wounds and diseases, diagnose illness, apply first aid, or even perform surgery.
Sample actions: Diagnosis (Intelligence or Wits + Medicine), Perform surgery (Dexterity + Medicine), Treat disease (Intelligence + Medicine)
Sample Specialties: Cardiology, First Aid, Pathology, Pharmacology, Surgery
Sample Contacts: Bio-Tech Company Researcher, Chronic Patient, EMT
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: A student or someone with basic medical training. The character can perform first aid and stabilize injured people, identify common diseases, and care for serious (but non-critical) injuries.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can work as an EMT, nurse, or other practitioner with a good general knowledge of medicine. They can handle emergency treatment, administer medication and care for patients, and identify most conditions and disease.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character can work as a doctor, specialist, or surgeon. They can treat most illness and injuries and care for people with serious or obscure health problems.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character is one of the best doctors in the region, possibly even the country. They can diagnose and treat obscure conditions, and can handle just about any medical emergency that comes their way.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character is one of the top doctors or surgeons in the world. They can perform near miracles, and have knowledge of pretty much any illness or injury they come across.|
Samantha flicked on the light in the pantry and scanned the shelves. “C’mon, I know Mom keeps a box of the stuff around here somewhere.” Absently, she gestured at Lisa. “Get me the cookie jar on the counter. If there’s anything in it, empty it out.”
Lisa opened the jar and spilled its contents—a scattering of stale crumbs and a small plastic bag with a spare key—and carried the ceramic jar to the kitchen table. “Are you sure this is going to work?”
“Ah! There you are!” Samantha pulled the box of sea salt from one of the top shelves. Back at the table, she poured half the salt into the cookie jar. “Sea salt drains spiritual energy from objects,” she said, fishing Mr. Chamber’s pocket watch from her jacket. “Or, at least, that’s what the book says.”
She dropped the watch into the jar and poured the rest of the salt over it. “I guess we’ll know for sure by midnight,” Samantha said grimly, sealing the jar.
The Occult Skill is a character’s knowledge of myth, folktales, and urban legends about the strange things that exist in the dark corners of the world. Occult can help a character separate fiction and myth from fact and determine which stories are likely to be actual supernatural events and which are just rumors. That said, there are a lot of strange things out there, and many of them defy easy categorization. The Occult Skill doesn’t necessarily give a character a line on the absolute “truth” about what’s going on, but instead represents an array of knowledge about encounters and theories that others have had, and the ability to personally build on those theories.
Sample actions: Debunk a fake (Intelligence + Occult), Identify a sliver of truth (Intelligence or Wits + Occult), Relate similar myths (Intelligence + Occult)
Sample Specialties: Eastern European Folktales, Ghosts, Mothman Sightings, Psychic Phenomena, Urban Legends, Theosophy, Witchcraft
Sample contacts: Anthropology Professor, Horror Author, Neo-Pagan Hippie, Parapsychologist, Weird Hermit Down the Street
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: This character is scratching the surface of the strange and creepy stories out there. They have heard of many different phenomena, and are aware of many obvious fakes and debunked stories, as well as some of the more plausible tales.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character has done a great deal of research into folklore, myth, and urban legends, and can find slivers of truth in what they have read. They have a solid understanding of major stories, and can identify and disregard many false claims.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character has been working with weird things for a while, and is very good at sifting actual facts and useful information from rumors and stories. They may have seen a variety of strange things themselves, or they may simply be very good at recognizing common patterns in various legends.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character is very tuned into the strange, and can remember a number of obscure and useful pieces of information about just about any odd occurrence. They may well have pieces of the truth about various supernatural creatures, and are very good at putting those pieces together.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character can almost unfailingly identify actual supernatural events and creatures. Even when running into a completely new phenomena, their instincts are impeccable.|
For more on Occult, see: The Occult Skill in Application.
Edgar Young spread his pasty, perfectly manicured hands and gave Wilson one of his trademark grins. “Mr. Wilson, I’m the governor’s political adviser, not a member of the Public Health Service. I don’t have the authority to do what you’re asking.”
“No, but the Public Health Commissioner is a political appointee, and if memory serves, he’s one of the governor’s golf buddies,” Wilson replied. “I’m sure if you made a suggestion to the governor—and pointed out to him the risks of being implicated in a criminal cover-up—he’d persuade the commissioner to close the orphanage. Then we can relocate the kids until we finish investigating the disappearances.”
The condescending smirk melted from Young’s face. “Let me make a few calls,” he said coldly.
Politics represents a character’s knowledge of political bodies, figures, and issues. It helps a character to navigate bureaucracies and play the political game to get what they want. They know how to follow the money and how to play the face rivals off each other. A character with this knowledge may have run for office, worked for the government, or may simply be a follower of local politics.
Sample actions: Identify authority (Wits + Politics), Navigate bureaucracy (Resolve + Politics), Mudslinging, (Manipulation + Politics)
Sample Specialties: Bribery, Bureaucracy, Elections, Local Politics, National Politics, Scandals, Specific Political Party, State Politics
Sample Contacts: Career Bureaucrat, Civil Servant, Corporate Lobbyist, Journalist, Lawyer, Personal Assistant to the Governor, Political Blogger, Union Leader
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|○○○○○||Uninformed: The character either doesn’t follow politics closely or gets their information from poor and/or limited sources like cable news. That isn’t to say the character is gullible—the public is more discerning than many pundits give them credit for and they get more cynical every year. A Politics 0 character can still watch a presidential debate and conclude it’s nothing but pageantry, or listen to a politician’s speech and decide they’re full of crap. The character just hasn’t made a serious study of the reasons why. Put the character on a televised debate and they’ll probably look inept next to seasoned political personalities, even if they might ask more piercing questions than typical media softballs. Politicians who tell inept lies or pull transparent blame-shifting games will fail to sway the character. Politicians who orchestrate more competent deceptions can regularly pull one over on the character.|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character knows something of what they’re talking about when politics comes up. They can ably articulate the current state of the political landscape and can probably cite numerous issues and past actions they disagree with their favorite politicians on. The character might be a newcomer to politics, such an intern or college major in a related field. They also might just be a political junkie who consumes regular podcasts, news articles, and video segments. The character can look relatively informed in a debate against a Politics 0 character, but there are still holes in their knowledge. They could sound presentable on TV or a podcast, but listen to them for long enough and the limitations in their knowledge will become apparent, especially next to someone who’s a regular media personality.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character has an impressive understanding of political issues. Put them on a Reddit “ask me anything” and they’ll come off as seriously knowing what they are talking about. The character likely has personal experience with politics, not just passive consumption. They might be a staff member to a public official or work in a related field as a pollster, media pundit, political academic, or investigative journalist, but they probably don’t have a ton of experience yet. The character also might be a seasoned activist, many-time campaign volunteer, or someone who’s consumed a prodigious amount of political information but is doing something else with their life. This level of Politics is also typical for first-time candidates who’ve decided to run for local office, state congress, or a U.S. representative seat. They can easily crush an uniformed character (Politics 0) in a debate, all other Attributes being equal.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character is a seasoned pro. They already know many of the ins and outs of politics that trickle down to mainstream audiences through leaked reports: e.g., “Did you know John Boehner used to put Obama on speaker phone, hit the mute button, and laugh with aides over how long he’d monologue at them?” A political junkie can recite tidbits like that too, but a Politics 3 character knows them before they come out in books and articles. The character can go on podcasts or TV interviews, talk for hours, and draw on their extensive personal experience to come off as polished and informed the whole time. The character can publish books about what they know (though they probably won’t be bestsellers) and make mincemeat of amateur political junkies (Politics 1) in a debate. This level of Politics is common for many local and state politicians who are no longer wet behind the ears, U.S. representatives, moderately experienced higher officials (e.g., newly-elected governors and senators), and many people in the Politics 2 professions (political journalists and academics, media pundits, etc.) who’ve sunk a decent amount of time into their careers. Less experienced presidents are likely to have this Politics level when they begin their presidencies (e.g., JFK, George W. Bush).|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character has seen and done everything that most people are likely to do when it comes to politics. They are privy to many behind the scenes thoughts and details that don’t make it out to the public, and truly know the thoughts and mental processes of political insiders beyond their stage personas. The character likely has decades of experience at politics or has been groomed since childhood to run for office. This level of Politics is typical for experienced U.S. senators, senior House members who’ve decided not to pursue Senate seats, and almost all presidents after some time in the Oval Office. It’s also common for retired senators who work as lobbyists, some of the most seasoned pundits and pollsters in the game (e.g., Charles Cook) and scholars who’ve devoted decades of study to political issues (e.g., Noam Chomsky).|
|●●●●●||Master: The character’s political knowledge is downright encyclopedic. There’s close to nothing they don’t know, and it’s hard for amateur political punkies to even articulate how much they know. This level of Politics is typical for particularly effective congressional leaders (e.g., Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi), “chief legislator” presidents (e.g., Roosevelt, LBJ), and some particularly effective governors (e.g., Huey Long). The character can still make bad political decisions out of indecisiveness, unpopular ideology, or being “too smart for their own good” and getting caught up in convoluted procedural tactics that voters don’t actually care about. Still, the character has the knowledge to accomplish most anything they want politically, so long as circumstances aren’t stacked against them. “We just don’t have the votes” doesn’t stop the character—they can twist ears and exert pressure to get the votes, even across partisan lines. The character could go down in history as an adroit politician.|
As a final note, while one can make no end of cynical “how much more corrupt can WoD politics be than RL politics” commentary, politics in the World of Darkness are much more cutthroat and byzantine than in our world. Scandals and power struggles play out like they do in House of Cards, with machievellian sociopaths hatching elaborate schemes to ruin one another’s reputations if not lives. The vice president personally murdering a nosy journalist (or ordering his subordinates to) is something that could actually happen. As a consequence, characters with Politics 4 and Politics 5 are more common than in real life. The World of Darkness has more machievellian masterminds than actually exist in real life.
The young woman’s body looked far worse beneath the harsh light of the autopsy table than it did at the crime scene. The antiseptic glare revealed her terrible injuries in gruesome detail. Even Wagner’s partner Robison had a hard time concealing his discomfort. Wagner took out a notepad. “What have you got, Doc?”
Dr. Feingold, the city’s medical examiner, chose his words carefully. “For starters, the four lacerations across the victim’s chest are equidistant from one another, and measurements indicate that they struck the body with equal force. Thus, I believe that they were inflicted at the same moment, rather than separately.”
Wagner eyed the four deep furrows running diagonally across the man’s chest. They’d cut through tissue and bone as cleanly as a saw. “Four guys couldn’t have done that at the same time. No way.”
“Not four assailants, Detective.” Feingold raised his left hand to the light. “Four fingers. These are claw marks.”
Science is a character’s understanding of the natural and physical sciences. It includes subjects like biology, physics, chemistry, geology, and meteorology. Science is useful for understanding how the world works. It also helps characters make excellent use of resources and helps with the design of and theory behind many items that can be made using Crafts. A character with a high Science Skill can explain what chemicals and proportions are needed to make an explosive, or determine the best materials for making a cage to hold a strange creature.
Sample actions: Assess variables (Intelligence + Science), Perform experiment (Wits + Science), Recall formula (Intelligence + Science)
Sample Specialties: Biology, Chemistry, Genetics, Geology, Mathematics, Metallurgy, Optics, Particle Physics
Sample Contacts: Engineer, Experimental Physicist, Geology Professor, Lab Technician, Mad Inventor, STEM Student
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character is a hobbyist or knowledgeable student of the sciences. They have a basic understanding of scientific principles and theories, can perform basic experiments, and can make practical use of basic physics and chemistry (designing a slingshot or making black powder, for example).|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character could work as a researcher or teacher. They have an excellent grasp of science concepts, know how to perform experiments and understand the data, and can apply concepts in novel ways. Vampires can accurately explain the competing scientific theories of the Embrace to another vampire.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character knows a great deal about up-to-date theories and concepts, and can explore advanced new concepts and theories. They make an excellent STEM professor or scientific manager; they can run a laboratory, interpret scientific findings, and get up to speed on scientific research in most fields. They can ably repair scientific equipment.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Top of their field. The character is researching cutting edge concepts and working with some of the best scientists in the world (or at least certainly could).|
|●●●●●||Master: The character is an Einstein, Curie, or Hawking. They are on the verge of revolutionary concepts, and are at the apex of their field.|
The photo was a grainy digital reproduction, but the faces of the uniformed men were clear enough to be recognizable. Carla pointed a trembling finger at one of them. “That’s Mr. Denisov. Oh my God, where did you get this?”
As grim as the situation was, Robert couldn’t help but smile. “There’s a closed Facemash group dedicated to supernatural research conducted by the Soviets during World War II. You can find damn near anything online if you know where to look.”
Almost everyone in the modern day can turn on a computer, use the internet, and perform basic searches. This Skill represents a character’s ability beyond that level. Having the Technology Skill allows the character to develop programs, diagnose and repair major software and hardware problems, and perform more carefully focused and effective searches for data. It can also be used for things like digging into a file system, finding hidden or encrypted files, cracking encryption, hacking into computer systems, or sabotaging computer networks.
Sample actions: Hack into a computer system (Intelligence + Technology), Internet and database searches (Intelligence or Wits + Technology), Programming (Intelligence + Technology)
Sample Specialties: Artificial Intelligence, Data Retrieval, Digital Security, Hacking, Programming, User Interface Design
Sample contacts: AI Researcher, Black Hat Hacker, Technology Science Student, Hardcore Technology Gamer, Programmer, White Hat Hacker
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character has probably used computers more extensively than the average person. They have a basic grasp of programming, can handle complicated searches, and can find and interpret files that were hidden or encrypted by the average (unskilled) user.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character could be an entry level programmer or IT professional. The character has a solid grasp of programming principles and can perform more elaborate computer tasks easily. They can hack relatively unsecure networks and personal computers.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character has excellent training and talent, or has been working with computers for a while. They are extremely adept at finding the information they need, even when someone skilled has taken steps to hide it. As a hacker, the character can break their way into the files of companies that have solid security.|
|●●●●○||Expert: An expert in computer theory. The character can find extremely obscure information by correlating data from many sources, and can track down just about any irregularity in a computer’s files. If they are a hacker, they have the knowledge and patience to get into government and even military systems.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character is one of the best in the world. They have worked with the absolute cutting edge in computer technology, and can break into pretty much any computer system in the world. No information is safe from them.|
Physical Skills are those Skills that represent the application of force, endurance, or coordination. They are generally learned through practice and personal experience, rather than extensive schooling.
While these Skills are usually paired with Physical Attributes, they can be rolled with other Attributes as well. Casing a building, for example, uses Wits + Larceny.
John made it onto the balcony just as the hotel room door opened. There wasn’t time to close the elegant French doors to the patio, and the breeze already ruffled the drapes. It wouldn’t be long before Logan—or worse, one of his pale-faced bodyguards—noticed and checked outside.
There was nowhere to hide. John looked about frantically and saw that the balconies to either side were at least 12 feet away—too far to risk a jump at 20 stories up.
John stared down at the balcony below and tried not to think about how small the cars looked. He swung his legs over the railing, taking all his weight on his arms, and hoped that all the rock climbing he’d done last summer would pay off.
Athletics broadly covers a number of different areas of physical ability. It represents training in specific sports, from kayaking or parkour to professional sports like basketball or football. It can be used with any general application of physical power and coordination, such as running a marathon, jumping between buildings, climbing a fence, or dodging threats. It also determines a character’s ability with thrown weapons in a fight. Just about any World of Darkness character is likely to find some use for the Athletics Skill. Sometimes, the only reasonable response is to run away.
Sample actions: Acrobatics (Dexterity + Athletics), Climbing (Strength + Athletics), Running (Stamina + Athletics)
Sample Specialties: Acrobatics, Baseball, Basketball, Climbing, Kayaking, Marathon Running, Rock Climbing, Swimming, Throwing
Sample contacts: Parkour Enthusiast, Physical Therapist, Police Officer, Professional Athlete, Running Club Buddy, Soldier, Survivalist
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: A character is fit and takes good care of themselves. They may go for runs regularly, constantly play sports with friends, be a regular backpacker or hiker, or just make an effort to stay in shape.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character is serious about their fitness and activity. At the very least, they are playing sports and training regularly, or performing a serious workout regimen. They could probably play minor league or low-level professional sports.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: An athlete at this level could certainly play professionally, and if they do, they have probably made a name for themselves. Their general levels of fitness and ability are noticeably above average.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Olympic athletes might have this level of athletic ability. The character can compete on national teams and contend with the best in the world.|
|●●●●●||Master: This level of Athletics represents gold medal winners, world record holders, and the absolute best, fittest, and most talented people in the world.|
He was the stereotypical biker: big and broad-shouldered, the sleeves of his T-shirt straining around muscled, tattooed arms. He loomed over Miles. “You and me are gonna have a little fun, college boy,” he said through yellow teeth. “And then me and your girlfriend here are gonna have a little party.”
Miles leaned back and the biker took the bait, bending down to leer at the young history student. Miles’first punch struck the biker square in the Adam’s apple. The gag reflex doubled the man over, and Miles followed up with a shot to the ear.
The biker hit the floor like a sack of wet cement. “Party on, asshole,” Miles said in the silence that followed, and then took Angela’s hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
The Brawl Skill is the fine art of hurting another person with no weapons other than the character’s own body. It can represent martial arts training, bar fight experience, or simply a bad temper and a willingness to hurt others. It covers throwing punches and kicks, but also things like grappling, throws, head butts, and blocking in hand-to-hand combat.
Sample Actions: Breaking boards (Strength + Brawl), intimidating display (Charisma + Brawl), identifying a fighting style (Intelligence + Brawl)
Sample Specialties: Blocking, Boxing, Dirty Tricks, Grappling, Muay Thai, Throws
Sample Contacts: Biker, Boxer, Club Bouncer, Gangster, Police Officer, Self-Defense Teacher, Soldier
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|○○○○○||Green: Never had any formal training or been in a fight. The character is likely to be adverse to physical violence or not athletic. They are likely to react to physical attacks with panic. May do more harm than good when trying to fight back or defend themselves, especially against experienced fighters. Completely in fight or flight in response to physical aggression and, as described by experts, “in the black” where their logical functions are broken down by instinct and simple reactions.|
|●○○○○||Novice: High school bully or football player, young or inexperienced street fighter, novice martial artist (e.g. less than six months), Air Force, basic police, basic Navy. A character with Brawl 1 has been punched in the face before and can react without panicking. Capable of fighting through pain and remaining relatively clear-headed. They may be self-taught or have limited formal training. Capable of limited techniques, but not likely to be in practice or capable of executing complicated motions under pressure.|
|●●○○○||Professional: Experienced police officer, bodyguard, bar fighter or country fighter, high school or college wrestler or boxer, basic Army or Marine training, intermediate Navy training, experienced street fighter, average bouncer, martial arts training (less than black belt). The character has been in multiple fights or bouts and almost certainly has a degree of formal training. They are comfortable with physical violence.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: Commercial black belt, advanced military training, amateur MMA fighter. A character with this level of skill has formal training or coaching and likely multiple years of it. They may have an off-the-shelf black belt from a karate academy (belt factory) or have attended an advanced certification course. They have extensive experience in physical conflict and may be inclined to resort to violence. Capable of seamlessly dismantling an unskilled fighter, even a more physically gifted one, with confidence. A character with this level of skill is a proficient trainer for another individual.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Black belt, training in multiple disciplines. MMA fighter. A character this proficient has devoted a great deal of their time and resources towards the mastery of unarmed conflict. They may be an martial arts instructor, a trainer, a professional fighter, or a highly dedicated amateur with both a lifetime interest and the resources to pursue it. They likely have years of formal training. They may hold a black belt, and if so they hold it in a meaningful discipline rather than a belt factory.|
|●●●●●||Master: World-class fighter. Top of the line MMA fighter. Multiple black belts. The character is a legitimate possible contender for a world championship or gold metal. They have at least a decade of advanced training and likely have significantly more. Such a character almost certainly pursues fighting as a professional career and is capable of seamlessly dismantling an almost unlimited number of untrained fighters.|
They took the turn with a screech of tires, coming out onto a deserted street. The pursuing pickup truck took the turn wide, riding up onto the far curb and flattening a mailbox before the driver got his vehicle under control.
“Hang on!” John said, hitting the brakes and pulling on the wheel. Jenny and Robert were thrown against the far doors as the Volvo spun and headed back the way it had come, right at the oncoming truck. John got a glimpse of the other driver’s shocked expression before the man swerved and the truck struck a fire hydrant.
Robert looked back at the wreck shrinking in the distance. “Holy shit,” he said, shaking his head. “Where did you learn to drive like that?”
John laughed. “Who says you can’t learn anything from The Dukes of Hazzard?"
Drive is a broad Skill used for the operation of any motorized vehicle. It is used for maneuvering and controlling automobiles, motorcycles, and even boats. It’s assumed that pretty much any modern character can perform basic driving under safe conditions, even without this Skill. However, if a character gets involved in a high-speed chase or tries to elude a tail, Drive is used to determine how well they handle themselves. The Drive Skill is needed when the character is in a dangerous or stressful situation, is trying to do something tricky, or is driving at very high speeds.
If you want your character to be capable of piloting aircraft as well, you need to take the Skill Specialty in Piloting. A character without the Piloting Specialty takes Disadvantage if they attempt to operate a plane or other aircraft.
Sample actions: Pursuit (Dexterity + Drive), Stunt-Flying (Dexterity + Drive), Tailing (Wits + Drive)
Sample Specialties: Chases, Evasion, Motorcycles, Off-Road, Piloting, Racing, Shaking Tails, Sports Cars, Stunts
Sample Contacts: Bush Pilot, Car Thief, Courier, Emergency Responder, Mechanic, Street Racer
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character keeps their head when driving in dangerous weather or treacherous road conditions, and anyone trying to run them off the road will find it surprisingly difficult. With the Piloting Specialty, the character can handle small, private aircraft.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character could easily work as a truck driver or cabby. They have driven in just about every type of condition at one time or another. A pilot at this level can fly pretty much any private aircraft, and could probably fly a commercial jet in a pinch.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: Skilled race car drivers and stuntmen have this level of Drive. A pilot at this level might work professionally flying commercial jet liners.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can handle a high-speed chase in downtown traffic or drive through a war zone without blinking. Pilots at this level can smoothly handle fighter jets.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character operates anything with a motor like an extension of their own body. They can make vehicles all but dance when they’re behind the wheel.|
Theodore Logan was a well-protected man. His hillside mansion was surrounded by a high stone wall, topped with barbed wire and sensitive motion detectors. Cameras covered every inch of his property. Armed guards patrolled the grounds 24 hours a day, accompanied by huge dogs. And then there was the fortress-like manor itself.
Simon checked the wind speed once more and noted it on his homemade range card. It had taken him almost a week to find the perfect vantage point on a hilltop nearly a mile from Logan’s property. From here, he had a clear view of the man’s heated pool. Logan was a creature of habit. He liked his nightly swim. And habits, as Simon had learned in sniper school, could get you killed.
Reaching into his pocket, Simon pulled out the heavy, silver-tipped bullet, carefully loaded the scope-sighted rifle, and raised the stock to his shoulder. The night-vision sight revealed the poolside in eerie shades of green. Logan was climbing from the pool as Simon settled the crosshairs over the man’s heart.
Firearms represents a character’s familiarity and comfort with guns. It reflects their ability to shoot, maintain, and identify any type of personal firearm. This Skill cover pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and other weapons that can be carried by one person. The Firearms Skill also covers the use of weapons like bows and crossbows.
This Skill can represent formal training provided to the police and military. Criminals, hunters, and gun enthusiasts are also likely to have the Firearms Skill, due to hands-on familiarity.
Depending on where you are in the world, guns can be fairly common or highly restricted. Characters with the Firearms Skill generally understand local gun laws, and are good at obtaining Firearms when necessary.
Sample actions: Identifying a gun (Intelligence + Firearms), pick a good firing position (Wits + Firearms), trick shooting (Dexterity + Firearms)
Sample Specialties: Fast-Draw, Handguns, Rifles, Shotguns, Sniping
Sample Contacts: Gun store owner, local law enforcement, military veteran, sharpshooter
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|○○○○○||Liberal/California Resident: No experience with firearms. Capable of pointing and shooting, but may not be capable of loading or unloading without help. Not capable of meaningfully using gun sights. Not familiar with basic safety rules or safety features (e.g. safeties). Bullets are bullets, guns are guns. Anything not a pistol, shotgun, or sniper rifle is a machine gun. A danger to themselves and to others when using a firearm. Likely to be surprised by basic aspects of the weapon (e.g. ejection of spent casings) and side effects of firearm operation such as the barrel of the weapon becoming extremely hot with use, gunpowder residue, and recoil.|
|●○○○○||Novice/Technically Proficient/Texas Resident: Level of proficiency displayed by casual gun owners but not regular shooters. Likely practices semi-annually or annually. Comfortable with single shot rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Familiar with basic shooting stances such as weaver & isosceles. Capable of identifying bullet types in absence of weapon (e.g. rifle round, pistol round, shotgun shell). Capable of identifying a the sound of a firearm based on multiple shots fired. Proficient at loading and unloading most standard civilian firearms. Understands and is capable of following basic rules of firearm safety (Treat, Never, Keep, Keep). Understands basic proficiencies such as squeezing triggers rather than pulling triggers, but may not be capable of executing in a stressful environment. Appropriate for those who have handled firearms in the past or received a few hours of instruction. Appropriate for average gangbangers, criminals, rent-a-cops, or relatively untrained shooters. Capable of clearing jams and basic firearm malfunctions given time. Knows the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic weapon, as well as various weapon safety features.|
|●●○○○||Proficient: Level of proficiency of interested civilian gun owners, most bodyguards, beat cops, normal Army and Navy personnel. A shooter with this level of expertise is likely capable of operating any conventional firearm given a moment to familiarize. Capable of identifying various normal brands of firearms and their general quality. Relatively knowledgeable about most bullet calibers and their relative merits. Capable of identifying the difference in wounds caused by various types of firearm (e.g. pistol vs. shotgun vs. rifle). May have experience with automatic weapons. Capable of basic firearm maintenance and quickly fixing jams and most common malfunctions on the fly. Likely shoots on a semi-regular basis (e.g. quarterly). May have very limited experience under pressure. Likely comfortable with rifles, pistols, shotguns, and military style rifles. Capable of identifying firearm types by their sound (e.g. rifle vs. pistol vs. shotgun).|
|●●●○○||Technical Expert: Level of proficiency of Marines, combat veterans, less proficient SWAT team members (e.g. more rural areas vs. well-funded major city programs), and average civilian firearm competition shooters, high-end doomsday preppers & militia members. Characters with this level of expertise are likely to be familiar with a wide array of firearms, including more obscure and technical ones. Likely familiar with automatic weapons. Comfortable with assault-style rifles, pistols, shotguns, and sub-guns. Capable of identifying many firearms at a glance and familiar with most brands of firearm and their relative quality, as well as likely number of rounds held in each firearm type (e.g. a Glock 17 holds 17+1 rounds). May be able to identify specific calibers of weapon based on the sound of shots. Capable of identifying differences in firearm wounds if significant (e.g. 9mm vs. .45ACP). Capable of making modifications to weapons and minor repairs and seamlessly fixing jams and other malfunctions without meaningfully affecting the firearm’s operation. Likely shoots on a weekly or monthly basis. Highly likely to have experience shooting under high-stress circumstances (e.g. combat). Characters with this level of expertise are capable of providing relatively high-level instruction to others.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Level of proficiency of most special forces, career combat zone individuals (e.g. veteran mercenaries, senior enlisted Army/Marine personnel), high-level civilian competition shooters (e.g. weekly). A character with this level of expertise is familiar with virtually all types of firearms, including military specific ones and automatic weapons. Experienced with shooting under high stress and on the move. Knows relative merits of different calibers off the top of their head. Easily able to identify firearm wounds by caliber and weapon type. Easily capable of identifying different calibers and even specific weapons based on sound alone. Well aware of the various strengths and weaknesses of various firearms. A character with this level of expertise likely shoots on a weekly basis and is capable of making shots that a novice shooter might find nearly impossible including, potentially, mile shots.|
|●●●●●||Master: Level of proficiency of career special forces (Delta Force, Navy SEALs) and very best civilian shooters in the world. Characters at this level are among the most skilled in the world and are capable of feats with firearms that other individuals might find bizarre. Capable of identifying not only type of firearm in use, but likely distance. Identifies wounds easily based on their caliber and likely direction of origin. Likely capable of telling caliber of weapon used and direction based on blood splatter. Extensive experience with shooting under extreme circumstances and on the move. At this level of familiarity, a shooter’s weapon is an extension of their will. May be capable of things that normal shooters would find impossible, like accurate shooting with a weapon in each hand, accurate shooting with fully automatic weapons in long bursts, and mile+ shots.|
The burly security guards hustled Susan and Carter through the lobby and out into the plaza. As soon as the guard holding her let go, Susan spun around and tried to push past, but the guard caught her and shoved her backward.
“Don’t show your face here again,” one of the men said, pointing his finger at Susan and Carter in turn. “Next time we won’t be so gentle.”
Carter watched the guards march back into the lobby, and sighed. “Well, so much for that idea. What’s plan B?”
Susan turned, a faint smile on her face. “We wait until tonight and see which one of these fits the front door,” she said, showing him the guard’s thick key ring.
Larceny covers the generally-illegal skills of breaking and entering, lock picking, pickpocketing, safecracking, and similar activities. There usually aren’t schools for this sort of thing. Larceny is learned “on the job,” one way or another.
In addition to criminal applications, Larceny is used by magicians and illusionists for sleight of hand. Most locksmiths will also have at least a little bit of knowledge of Larceny, as they understand how to open locks.
This Skill includes most of the tasks involving actually defeating physical security, or the sleight of hand required to pick a pocket or palm an item. It does not cover sneaking around, hacking and digital crimes, or the social aspects of running a con or distracting a mark.
Sample actions: Casing a building (Wits + Larceny), Lock picking (Dexterity + Larceny), Sleight of hand (Dexterity +
Sample Specialties: Alarm Systems, Breaking and Entering, Hiding Things, Lock Picking, Pickpocketing, Safecracking, Sleight of Hand
Sample Contacts: Cat Burglar, Government Agent, Shady Pawn Shop Owner, Parole Officer, Private Detective, Three-Card Monte Dealer.
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character knows sleight of hand and understands the basics of how to open door locks, padlocks, and similar consumer-grade locks or security.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character knows how to bypass electronic security or alarm systems and can run confidence games. They can break into most houses or offices easily.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character has probably been working as a criminal for a while. They can crack safes, get past high-end security systems, and gain entrance to buildings with active security.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can pickpocket other thieves without them noticing. They can break into high-end vaults and secure facilities.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character is a Harry Houdini. They can get out of any lock, break into secure sections of the Pentagon, and take the glasses off of someone’s face without them noticing.|
Linda’s books dropped to the pavement as the dark-clothed man stepped from the bushes. Her hand tightened on the haft of her umbrella. The man smiled, his teeth gleaming white through the hole in his black ski mask. He raised a long-bladed hunting knife. “I’m not gonna hurt you unless I have to, honey,” he whispered.
Linda set her jaw and took a half-step forward, bending her knees into a fencer’s stance. She raised the umbrella point even with her assailant’s nose.
“The fuck you think you’re going to do with that?” the man snarled as he swiped at the umbrella with his free hand. His snarl turned to a shriek as Linda flicked the umbrella under his hand and stabbed the metal point neatly through the mask’s right eye hole.
Melee is the ability to fight with hand-to-hand weapons. A character with this Skill can wield knives, swords, baseball bats, or even things like a length of chain or a chainsaw. If you are using a tool (other than a gun or bow) to do violence to someone, Melee is the appropriate Skill to use.
While guns are generally more dangerous, there are definitely times when you do not have access to one. You can almost always find something that you can use as a hand weapon, even if it’s just something like a screwdriver or a broom handle.
Sample actions: Identify fighting style (Intelligence + Melee), Impressive display (Dexterity + Melee), Size up opponent (Wits + Melee)
Sample Specialties: Baseball Bats, Clubs, Duels, Improvised Weapons, Knives, Swords
Sample Contacts: Fencing Instructor, Gang Member, Western Martial Arts Enthusiast
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|○○○○○||Swing Away Johnny: This level of skill represents general inexperience and clumsiness with a weapon common to most people, even those otherwise relatively skilled at fighting. They may be off balance or uncomfortable with the weapon in question, and potentially leave themselves open to counterattack.|
|●○○○○||Mechanics: Baseball player, athlete, gangster, chef, Navy training, Army training, basic martial arts, beat cop. A character with this level of skill knows basic body dynamics related to using a weapon. They may have training with weapons (e.g. baton training) or may simply be familiar with swinging something without allowing it to throw them off balance and/or using a knife. Such an individual is potentially lethal with a weapon and capable of directing it against others with acumen without leaving themselves immediately vulnerable to reprisal.|
|●●○○○||Formal Instruction: Basic martial arts training involving weapons (eskirma, aikido), high school level fencing, veteran gangbanger, bouncer or police officer experienced with riot duty, Marine. This level of skill is indicative of a degree of formal training with hand-to-hand weapons or a great deal of hard-won experience likely paid for in blood.|
|●●●○○||Dedicated Instructor: Marine weapons instructor, advanced college-level fencing, black belt in a discipline that makes heavy use of weapons (eskirma, aikido), free scholar (HEMA and associated historical groups). Historical man-at-arms. This level of skill is appropriate for characters with a deep interest and significant experience in the use of hand-to-hand weapons. They have extensive experience and likely practice at least semi-regularly. This level of aptitude and skill is rare in the modern era given the proliferation of firearms and indicates a degree of dedication that is substantially outside of social norms.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Master martial artist in a discipline involving weapons (eskrima, aikido), senior free scholar (HEMA & other groups), Olympic level fencer. Veteran historical knight. Nominally the greatest level of skill likely in modern mortals. Even the most skilled historical martial arts practitioners (e.g. John Clements) do not claim a level of skill beyond this in the modern era. A character at this skill level is one of the best in the world, likely to an even greater extent than five dots in Brawl or Firearms represents in relative terms.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character can actually perform the sort of feats action movie stars pretend to be capable of. Almost no mortals in the 21st century possess this level of expertise with handheld weapons. This degree of skill represents mastery of weapons use on the level of historical masters from previous time periods, such as Fiore or Miyamoto Musashi.|
The trick was to keep his weight evenly distributed, gliding across the floor rather than taking unbalanced steps. John moved soundlessly down the hall, slower than he’d have preferred, but speed and silence simply didn’t mix. He never let his entire weight come down on either foot, and the old hardwood floor never uttered a creak of protest.
It took a few minutes to reach the dark kitchen, and then he was through the door and gone with no one the wiser.
Stealth is a character’s ability to stay hidden, unseen, and unheard. It covers sneaking around in the shadows, blending into a crowd, using a disguise to appear as just another bystander in the background, or taking advantage of an appropriately timed distraction. Any means a character uses to avoid being noticed by those who are looking for them will use this Skill.
Sample actions: Losing a tail (Wits + Stealth), Lying in wait (Stamina + Stealth), Shadowing (Wits + Stealth), Sneaking (Dexterity + Stealth)
Sample Specialties: Crowds, Hiding, Moving Silently, Losing Tails, Security Cameras, Shadowing, Stakeouts, Woods
Sample Contacts: Bow Hunter, Burglar, Hunter, Lookout from a Former Job
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character knows how to find a shadowy corner to hide in, or how to blend into a crowd.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can follow someone without tipping them off or sneak past a sentry.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character is rarely seen unless they wish to be. They can evade people actively searching for them and ditch a tail in seconds.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can avoid being noticed on security cameras in the heart of London. They can disappear from sight in moments.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character is a ghost. They are almost impossible to find or follow unless they allow it. They can hide in an open field or walk up behind an alert guard without being noticed.|
Stephen picked his way carefully down the riverside, sticking to the rocks rather than leaving foot prints in the mud. He expected that the police had searched his hotel room by now, and there would be APBs posted all over the city. He’d have to lay low for weeks before he could risk going back to look for Anna.
He stopped at his first trout line and tested it. Sure enough, there was a good-sized fish twisting in the swift current. Stephen smiled. He could last here as long as he had to.
Survival represents a character’s experience and ability to “live off the land.” They know how to find shelter, gather food, and endure harsh elements and environments. They can use the Survival Skill to find clean drinking water or hunt animals for food, build simple structures, and build a fire. The Survival Skill is not limited to wilderness or rural locales. It can also be used to survive in an urban environment when you have no other way of getting food or shelter.
The Survival Skill does not cover dealing with animals beyond hunting. The character can track an animal, but without the Animal Ken Skill, doesn’t understand much about the animal’s behavior. They wouldn’t have much luck trying to calm a bear that found its way into their campsite.
Sample actions: Foraging (Wits + Survival), Hunting (Wits + Survival), Sleeping in the open (Stamina + Survival)
Sample Specialties: Foraging, Hunting, Meteorology, Navigation, Shelter, Weather
Sample Contacts: Explorer, Homeless Person, Hunter, Off-Grid Survivalist, Scout Master
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character is probably a regular wilderness camper or hiker. They can care for themselves while lost in the wilderness for a few days.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character has spent a great deal of time out in the elements. They might have gone on wilderness excursions in Alaska, worked in a national park, or have been forced to fend for themselves on the streets for weeks at a time.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character can care for a small group of people in the wilderness, keeping them fed, healthy, and safe until they are found or they have a chance to return to civilization.|
|●●●●○||Expert: Barring a disaster, the character could live off the land indefinitely. They may not be particularly comfortable, but they can take care of necessities.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character could be dropped into the Andes or Sahara with nothing but the clothes on their back—and maybe not even those—and walk out just fine. They know how to survive in the harshest environments on earth.|
Social Skills involve the application of a character’s charm, poise, and personality. They generally don’t represent formal training so much as a combination of innate talent and experience interacting with others. Social Skills are sometimes paired with Physical or Mental Attributes, such as when you roll Strength + Intimidation for a show of force.
Patrick followed the blood trail through the woods. He knew it was only a matter of time before the deer he had shot would collapse. The red drops scattered across the leaves and ground leapt out to his trained eyes.
Or they did until he reacted instinctively to a nearby sound. To Patrick’s surprise, a wolf emerged out of nowhere and barred his path. It’s on the blood trail, too, he thought. Then he reassured himself, It’s alone. It won’t attack without its pack.
Or so he thought, until a malicious glimmer shone in the animal’s eye that Patrick had never seen before.
Animal Ken represents a character’s understanding of animal behavior. A character can use this Skill to train animals, calm frightened or injured animals, or cow violent and aggressive creatures. Characters with Animal Ken understand how animals think and behave, whether through intuition and respect for animals or analytical observation.
Sample actions: Animal training (Composure + Animal Ken), Cowing an animal (Charisma + Animal Ken), Soothing an animal (Manipulation + Animal Ken)
Sample Specialties: Calming, Dogs, Exotic Pets, Horses, Training, Wild Animals
Sample Contacts: Animal Rescue Worker, Crazy Cat Lady, Park Ranger, Rancher, Rodeo Horse Trainer, Zoo Veterinarian
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character has a knack with animals and is good with just about any common animal. They can make friends with any domesticated creature, and can establish a good relationship with most nonaggressive wild animals.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can work with animals professionally. They know how to handle and train commonly domesticated animals like dogs and horses, and have some idea how to train many wild species, even ones that are normally aggressive or difficult to work with.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character can easily train any domesticated animal, and seems to have a sixth sense for how animals behave and what they are feeling.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can train animals to perform well beyond their normal behaviors. They can train horses for combat or for movie tricks, or even train wild animals like tigers.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character can all but speak to animals. They are an absolute expert in the behaviors of even wild animals, and can soothe or cow an angry bear or a hunting cougar.|
The crime scene was the usual mix of order and chaos. Detective Wagner pushed her way past the news hounds and under the yellow police tape. “Where is he?” she said to the first officer she found.
“Over there, Lieutenant.” The cop pointed at the open rear door of a squad car. “Don’t know how much you’re going to get out of him. He’s messed up pretty bad.”
Wagner headed for the car, stepping around the form splayed out on the asphalt, which was only partly covered by a blood-soaked tarp. She saw Dr. Feingold a few yards away, kneeling by the parked car, playing a small flashlight over what looked like a severed hand.
The boy was curled up in the fetal position in the back of the squad car, pulling a blanket around his shoulders as if it could shut out the world. There was matted blood—his fiancé’s blood—in his hair. His white-knuckled hands trembled.
Wagner closed the rear door of the car and got into the front seat, putting a barrier between the two of them. She was going to have to play this very carefully if she hoped to get any useful information from her one and only witness.
Empathy is a character’s ability to read and understand others’ feelings and motivations. It can represent careful observation of body language, tone, and other cues, or it could be an instinctive sense that the character isn’t even entirely aware of. It can help the character detect deception or uncertainty, as well as discern their target’s mood. It does not inherently mean they are agreeing with or even behaving in a friendly fashion towards their target. The Empathy Skill is simply the ability to understand and work with the emotions that someone is feeling.
Sample actions: Determine intentions (Wits + Empathy), Sense deception (Wits + Empathy), Soothe nerves (Manipulation + Empathy)
Sample Specialties: Buried Feelings, Calming, Emotions, Lies, Motives, Shoulder to Cry On, Witnesses
Sample Contacts: Counselor, Diplomat, Entertainer, Police Profiler, Psych Student, Psychic, Social Worker
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character regularly gets a “vibe” from people, and is likely a source of stability or advice for their friends.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character might actually be a therapist or social worker. They can usually tell when friends are keeping secrets or when something is bothering them, and excel at figuring out what it is.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character can gain deep insights into another person’s feelings and behavior, even strangers.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can draw out even the most guarded people. Even tiny details of behavior can be the clue to figuring out what someone wants.|
|●●●●●||Master: Human behavior is open book to the character. They can all but read minds.|
Pubs weren’t supposed to be this quiet. Daniel stepped up to the bar, feeling every eye in the place bore a hole in him. The bartender looked him over him suspiciously while Daniel ordered a shot of whiskey.
The tension was tightening around him like a noose. He’d heard of bars in parts of the city that were militant hangouts, but he never imagined anything like this. Still, if there was one place where he’d learn the truth about Finn O’Donnell, this was it.
That is, if he didn’t get himself beaten to a pulp.
The bartender pushed a shot glass across the polished wood. Daniel took a deep breath, raised the glass and turned to the staring crowd. “May Ireland’s enemies never meet a friend!” he cried, and tossed back the whiskey. “Now who’ll drink with me?”
Expression is the character’s ability to communicate their thoughts and emotions. It covers writing and spoken communication, art like painting or sculpture, and performances like acting, music, and dance. A character can use this to compose a song or poem, write a book, or put together exactly the right words for a rousing speech.
There is some overlap between this Skill and the Crafts Skill. Expression is generally used when trying to create a piece of artwork specifically for aesthetic or emotional reasons, as opposed to making an accurate copy or model, which uses Crafts.
Sample actions: Composing a poem (Wits + Expression), Dance performance (Dexterity + Expression), Reciting a prepared speech (Charisma + Expression)
Sample Specialties: Acting, Dance, Drama, Guitar, Journalism, Painting, Poetry, Saxophone, Singing, Speeche
Sample Contacts: Ballet Dancer, Investigative Journalist, Movie Star, Political Speech Author, Reclusive Poet, Rock Star, Writer
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character has a knack for turn of phrase, an excellent ear for music, or undeniable artistic talent and ability to convey emotion.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can work as a session musician or local reporter. Their command of language is careful and effective.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character’s words and movements can convey feelings with astonishing power. Their performances and speeches impress and inspire.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character could be a best-selling author, top-20 composer, or presidential speech writer.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character’s speeches or performances could go down in history. They have the power to sway everyone who hears their work.|
Susan came back into the apartment, white as a sheet. Carter glanced up from his phone and shot from the couch, eyes wide with concern. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I went to get the mail… and this was in the box.”
She held up a rifle bullet and a small piece of paper. The note bore a single sentence.
‘Bullets are cheap.’
Intimidation is the art of using fear to convince others to do what you want. A character can use this Skill for threats, interrogation, subtle implications, or even a direct show of force. It can convince characters to back down from a con- frontation, reveal information they don’t want to share, or get them to cooperate against their better judgement. It can’t change their minds, but it can certainly change their behavior.
Sample actions: Show of force (Strength + Intimidation), Stare down (Charisma + Intimidation), Subtle threat (Manipulation + Intimidation)
Sample Specialties: Bluster, Direct Threats, Interrogation, Murderous Stare, Physical Threats, Torture, Veiled Threats
Sample Contacts: Barroom Tough Guy, Bodyguard, Gangster, High-Powered Executive, Police Interrogator
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character wins most staring contests, and the right words from them can rattle a person and make them do something stupid.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character knows exactly when to bluster and when to shut up and let the silence work for them. People back off when they are angry, and they can scare most people into doing what they want.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character ends more fights with a look than with actual violence.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The toughest criminals crack after ten minutes in interrogation with the character. They can clear a room with a look.|
|●●●●●||Master: A word and a glance can make drill sergeants or mob hitmen run from the character.|
Melissa put on her best “Please?” face, the one that always worked on her father. She needed access to the stacks in the basement library, the old archives that were reserved for “special studies.” She now recognized that meant “the coven’s rituals,” but she couldn’t let on.
She found the head librarian Mr. Richards in the Humanities section and pleaded her desperate case. “If I don’t do well on this paper, I’ll flunk Philosophy. Professor Ingram talked about some first editions in the archives. If I can quote them, maybe I’ll get extra credit.”
The kindly old librarian’s eyes seemed to soften with pity. “All right, my dear. Let me get the key,” he said. In truth, it was Melissa’s physical assets that impressed him.
Persuasion is about using influence, charm, and careful arguments to change minds and influence behavior. It can involve logic and reason, glib fast talking, or appealing to emotions or baser instincts. Unlike Intimidation, Persuasion doesn’t just involve forcing a character to change how they act, Persuasion is about changing their mind and how they want to act.
Sample actions: Fast talk (Manipulation + Persuasion), Impassioned plea (Charisma + Persuasion), Seduction (Manipulation + Persuasion)
Sample Specialties: Fast Talking, Inspiring, Negotiation, Sales Pitches, Seduction, Sermons
Sample Contacts: Car Salesman, Con Artist, Corporate Executive, Pickup Artist, Speech Coach, Trial Lawyer
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character often knows the right words to say. They’re good at finding a solid argument, and knows how to pursue it to get what they want.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character could work as a salesman or trial lawyer. Given a little bit of time, they can find a tack that will get someone to see their side of things.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character regularly wins sales awards. They can get people to question even strongly held beliefs.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character knows how to make people want what they’re selling, no matter what it is. They understand how to get around a person’s defenses and persuade them of things that they normally wouldn’t even consider.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character could sell ice to an Eskimo. Give them a few minutes and they can make a person want or believe just about anything, at least for a short time. Even beliefs that make up a large chunk of a person’s self-identity can be questioned.|
The receiving line stretched out past the ballroom and down the mansion hall. Julia stood close to Stapleton near the end of the line. She wrapped her stole around her bare shoulders and tried not to shiver. “How long is this going to take? I’m freezing.”
Stapleton smiled. He looked like a picture out of a 1940s fashion magazine, poised and comfortable in his tailored tuxedo. “I don’t expect it to take more than half an hour,” he said, eyeing the procession. “Everyone wants to get to dinner and start sampling the wine. By the time we get to Chancellor Martin almost everyone else will be seated, giving us plenty of time for our… conversation. Just make sure you have the amulet ready.”
The Socialize Skill is the art of small talk, polite gestures, and fitting in. It represents your ability to interact with people in a variety of social settings, from dive bars to state dinners. It covers dealing with groups of people and behaving with the right balance of sensitivity, friendliness, etiquette, and dignity for the setting. A character with a high Socialize is the life of the party, or at least able to meet almost anyone they wish who is at an event.
Sample actions: Carouse (Manipulation + Socialize), Fit in (Wits + Socialize), Get attention (Charisma + Socialize)
Sample Specialties: Bar Hopping, College Parties, Formal Events, Political Fundraisers, Private Clubs, State Dinners
Sample Contacts: Diplomat, Entertainer, Drinking Buddy, Society Matron
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character knows which fork to use (or when not to use one), can avoid insulting anyone, and can fit in at social situations from formal dinners to wild parties without causing a faux pas.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can gracefully blend into just about any social situation.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character is invited to all of the parties and makes sure everyone has a good time. They could make a living as a diplomat.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can fit in anywhere. It’s not considered a party unless they are in attendance, and they can make even hostile groups of people feel at ease together. Her Majesty would find them charming.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character is smoother than silk. They go beyond merely fitting in: they define the social environment around them, anywhere. Her Majesty would take notes.|
There were four kids playing a pick-up game at the basketball court across the street from the tenements. Joshua eyed the neighborhood warily as Brenna stepped up to the edge of the court. “How exactly is this supposed to help?” he asked worriedly.
“Chill out,” Brenna said and turned. “Hey, Carlos!” She raised her hand and waved at one of the kids. Carlos stopped and tossed the ball to a friend before trotting over.
Joshua’s eyes widened. “Are you kidding me? This kid’s 12 years old!”
“It’s not him we’re dealing with, it’s his brother,” Brenna whispered as the boy approached. “Carlos is the cutout. We tell him what we need and he names a price. Watch and learn.”
A character with the Streetwise Skill understands how life on the streets works, and is adept at surviving and thriving by its rules. They can navigate the city, know who to go to for information or help, and know where they will be safe. Streetwise characters can make use of the city’s unique resources, buy and sell on the black market, or find out secrets. It’s an important Skill for any character that needs to avoid the law, navigate the dangers in the city, and keep from ending up on the bad sides of the wrong people.
Sample actions: Find a shortcut (Wits + Streetwise), Get the word on the street (Manipulation + Streetwise), Work the black market (Manipulation + Streetwise)
Sample Specialties: Black Market, Gangs, Navigation, Rumors, Undercover Work
Sample Contacts: Bartender in a Rough Part of Town, Drug Dealer, Homeless Person, Undercover Cop
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character knows their neighborhood well and knows who to go to get the information they need.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character knows where to ditch a hot car and who might be able to handle a specific minor favor.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character is an insider and true fixture of the street scene. They know who can make the proper introductions and who can actually get things accomplished. They could head their own gang.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character almost never gets surprised in their town. And it is their town. They know everyone, and everyone knows them. They could head a major drug cartel.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character seems downright omniscient. They know the streets like the lines of their own hands. There isn’t a secret in town that they can’t access.|
Simon stepped into the lobby, a bored look on his face. He ignored the cameras and the security guards near the elevators. Guards expected people to behave like sheep, unknowing and unaware of what was going on around them. Overly alert, fidgety sorts were the kind of people who drew their attention.
The guard at the reception desk glanced at Simon as he stepped up to the sign-in book. “Can I help you, sir?”
“I’m here to see Mr. Moran in suite 702,” Simon said, scrawling a name in the register. He briefly made eye contact with the guard. “Busy day,” he said noncommittally. The guard nodded and reached for a visitor pass. “The third elevator on the left will take you right up.”
“Thank you,” Simon replied, clipping the badge to his lapel and joining the crowd of other businessmen congregating at the elevators. The worst was over.
Subterfuge is the fine art of deception. With Subterfuge, a character can lie convincingly, recognize when they are being lied to, or convey hidden meaning in what they say. They can hide their own motivations and emotions. Generally, this Skill is used to trick others, but some characters learn it in order to avoid being tricked themselves.
Sample actions: Conceal emotions (Composure + Subterfuge), Disguise (Wits + Subterfuge), Lying (Manipulation + Subterfuge)
Sample Specialties: Con Jobs, Detecting Lies, Hidden Meanings, Hiding Emotions, Lying, Misdirection
Sample Contacts: Actor, Con Artist, Grifter, Lawyer, Politician
|Dots||Level of Aptitude|
|●○○○○||Novice: The character’s poker face has some practice and they don’t involuntarily reveal what they’re thinking.|
|●●○○○||Professional: The character can pull of a good bluff or short con, often getting away without the victim even knowing they were had.|
|●●●○○||Experienced: The character can keep track of complex webs of lies and double-dealing. Even suspicious people can’t tell when they’re lying.|
|●●●●○||Expert: The character can pull off years-long con games with style and ease. They can lie to anyone’s face without a flinch or a flicker of doubt.|
|●●●●●||Master: The character can regularly wheel and deal with elder vampires.|