All The Characters

All the Characters #1: N.E.W. Sci-Fi RPG

This is the start of a series I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time, where I go through every single RPG I own and create a character. And probably one for each supplement too. Sometimes this’ll just be the bare bones character write-ups and sometimes it’ll be more involved. Sometimes, like today, it’ll also contain some elements of a review.

Today I’m doing the most recent addition to my library – N.E.W. Science Fiction Role-Playing Game. A most unfortunate name. It’s published by EN World and is part of their What’s O.L.D. is N.E.W. system that features three entries: N.E.W. for sci-fi stuff, N.O.W. for 80s stuff, and O.L.D. for classic fantasy stuff. All three are fully compatible with one another. N.E.W. is my first encounter with the system, which I’ve heard is somewhat similar to HERO’s. We shall see.

Today’s write-up will be a bit disjointed – I basically wrote it as I created the character and I’m fairly confident that if I take the time to polish it up, it’ll just never get published…

I’ve only read the book up to the start of the character creation section – which is basically right at the start of the book, I don’t even know what the basic dice mechanic is yet except that it appears to be sum of Nd6.

I don’t have a strong concept in mind. Some sort of explorer with few allegiances and a tendency to careen off in pursuit of a new curiosity at the drop of a hat.

It looks like it’s using some sort of life path system, but the chapter is not laid out brilliantly. Anyway, step one is apparently to note down my starting attributes – 3 pts in everything except PSI and REP, which I’m guessing are Psionics and Reputation.

The next step is to choose a Species and apply its modifiers. I’ll be going with human – there’s no default setting for N.E.W. and I haven’t decided if my setting has non-humans in it or not. I’m sort of leaning towards a Star Wars style plethora of alien species, but lets see what falls out during creation. On the way to flicking forward to find the Species section, I discover the Attributes section – I guessed right about PSI and REP. I got INT wrong though, it’s Intuition not Intelligence (I did think it was odd to have both Intelligence and Logic).

Skills are also listed before Attributes, which seems weird given that we’ve not had any mention of skills yet… I do much prefer a character creation chapter laid out in the recommended order for creating a character.

Anywho, being human grants you +2 to Luck. And then going with the old Humans-Are-Versatile trope, you get to pick another attribute to get +2 and one to get +1. I’m not a massive fan of that approach, it just seems boring. Though I’m increasingly not a fan of attribute differences for races anyway as I think it lends itself to creating a one-true-way-to-play where every elf is a ranger and every cleric a dwarf. Anywho, getting off track. I decide to give a +2 to Intuition, figuring my character who has just been named Dirk, has a well-developed gut. Figuring I should double-check that my intuitive interpretation of the attributes matches their descriptions, I flip back to the attributes section. And promptly discover that their idea of intuition is more akin to emotional intelligence, though it does also encompass perception and natural instinct. Conundrum. I want Dirk to have a well-developed gut, but maybe be a bit clueless about emotions – especially his. He just buries himself in work when life gets challenging. The default +2 Luck can probably represent his following his gut. I’m not sure where to put the +2 now, I’m leaning towards Agility for the +1 as I see him as somewhat graceful under pressure. He might not be the best shot or particularly strong, but he can duck and weave adroitly. The other contenders are Logic and Willpower. Whilst far from stupid and possessing a broad education, I don’t really see him as super-smart and maybe a +2 is excessive. Though I get the impression most of the attribute score will come from the careers we take later so maybe it doesn’t matter so much. Willpower’s important because I see him as calm under pressure and highly focused. I think that’s where we’ll put the +2.

I note down that humans are medium sized (why are we always medium sized? Can someone write a game in which we are bizarrely tall or short compared to all the other aliens?).

You also get to pick three skills from a list for your species. Never a big fan of that. Skills should be based on what you learn not what your DNA says. Anywho, getting off the point, I choose running – I imagine Dirk doing that a lot in an Indiana Jones / Doctor Who sort of way. Humans can also pick any scientific skill, so Archaeology is an easy choice. And, having decided that there are lots of aliens – or at least alien ruins – I’ll take Xenology.

Humans also get an exploit called Explorers which grants them bonus xp when they set foot on a new planet. Which is pretty damned handy for Dirk.

Up next, we choose a homeworld type. Dirk was born on Earth. I don’t really know much about his parents yet, I think I want them to be gone by the time he’s finished. Maybe his mum was an officer in one of Earth’s space navies and died in the line of duty. He was raised by his father, a well-meaning man who became somewhat hopeless after his wife’s death. He passed shortly before Dirk’s 18th birthday leaving Dirk a small amount of money and no real connections to Earth. Dirk cashes out his mother’s pension and leaves the planet to explore.
I’m not sure what type of homeworld Earth should be. In fact the idea of an entire planet having a single type seems somewhat ludicrous to me. I imagine Dirk grew up in the inner regions of a less-than-prosperous city. I have a noir-story sort of vibe in my head – probably ‘cos I named him Dirk. Anyway, I choose the City homeworld type. It grants a CHA bonus and a penalty to END along with my choice of two skills – I go for Bureaucracy because of Dirk’s experiences navigating military pensions.

Next up we choose a hook. The hook is the second blank in a character’s descriptor which takes the form ‘Dirk is a ____ who ____’. It sort of functions like a catch-all skill. For Dirk I want something related to his curiosity, exploration, or tendency to run off to explore that new shiny thing. Or possibly to represent that he’s seen a bit of everything before. Actually, I sort of like that idea. Something like “knows a guy who knows a guy” or “heard about something like this once before”. Wording stuff like this is always tricksy. I’m not sure about these though. They don’t feel quite right. I’m going to go with “hoards trivia” in a sort of Librarian-esque way. With your hook, you also pick an attribute. During the career stage of character creation, when you get an attribute increase from a career you can instead increase your hook or one of your species attributes. I pick Logic.

Next we choose our careers. Starting with an Origin career.
I pick the Everyman origin, after a brief flirtation with Navy Brat – but Dirk didn’t really spend all that long in space (if any time at all). Rolling some dice, Dirk pops out of his first pass of Everyman at the tender age of 13. Dirk picks up the Ordinary exploit, a handful of attribute increases and gets to choose two skills. Rather than picking from the Everyman skills, I take two defensive skills: Concentration and Conviction. Not sure that it makes sense to take both of these, but what they hey.
As I imagined Dirk not leaving home till closer to 18, I take another pass at the Everyman career. A dice roll puts him up to age 16. This time he drops the Charisma bonus in favour of a Willpower bonus. He also picks up an extra rank in Xenology (Everymen can take any scientific skill. Dirk might not have done well in class, but he was fascinated by other civilizations) and Conviction. As he’s already got the only exploit available to the Everyman, he gets to pick from the Universal list. I take Lucky Escape, which allows me to avoid all damage from a single attack once a day. Reading through the exploits it becomes apparent that this game is highly focused on combat.
I’d imagined that Dirk would spend the next few years travelling across Earth, exploring the cultures around him before heading to the stars to explore their cultures. None of the career options really jump out at me as fitting this. Drifter could maybe work, but he’s far more focused than that. A closer look reveals that the Scientist path could actually work for a field scientist and Dirk meets the pre-reqs thanks to his Archaeology and Xenology, so let’s go with that.
According to the dice, Dirk spends two years travelling the globe, during which time he picks up the fundamentals of Anthropology and Survival. He takes the default attribute bonuses and then picks the Scientific Knowledge Base exploit. This gives him a staggering 4 scientific skills at rank 1. He chooses geology, psychology, medicine, and meteorology.
For his fourth career, he gets passage on a merchant vessel as a general dogsbody, as represented by the Space Jockey career. This takes another 3 years bringing him up to 21 years old, which seems on the young side – here’s hoping I roll high on his 5th career whatever it may be. I move the Logic bonus to Willpower and take Zero-G and Engineering as the skill choices. For the exploit, I grab Hitch-hiker enabling Dirk to get free passage on civilian ships.
For his final career, he hitch-hikes around the galaxy exploring all the cultures and ruins he can find on the Scientist track again. I roll a 2 for the number of years, but that doesn’t fit my character concept nicely, so lets pretend it’s a 6 and Dirk is now 27. A bit younger than I’d hoped, but anywho.
Dirk takes Xenology and Archaeology as his skill picks and Improviser as his exploit (which basically lets him be MacGyver). He moves the Logic bonus to Agility and keeps the rest where they are.

Moving past the career phase, he takes Feint rather than Aim – allowing him to gain a bonus on his next melee action. And takes Dodge as his free universal exploit.
Next up is picking a trait, which is either based on your lowest or your highest attribute – ignoring Luck and Psionics all together, and only counting Reputation if it’s your highest. Dirk ended up with a Strength of 3 as his lowest and Willpower at 8 as his highest (drawn with Luck). Neither of the Strength traits appeal to me (they all give you bonuses regardless of whether it’s for your lowest or highest), so I’m left with the two Willpower traits, ultimately going with Unflappable, making me hard to distract or surprise.

Now we’re on to derived stats.
Attributes and Skills go from ranks to dice using a simple trinagle progression. So Dirk ends up with 2d6 in Strength, Endurance, Intuition, and Charisma; 3d6 in Agility, Logic, Willpower, and Luck; and 1d6 in Reputation. He has no score in Psionics. With the exception of Xenology at 2d6, he has all his skills at 1d6: Running, Archaeology, Concentration, Conviction, Anthropology, Survival, Geology, Psychology, Medicine, Meteorology, Zero-G, and Engineering.
The next set of derived stats require some rolling. Based off END + WIL, he ends up with a HEALTH of 19. SPEED comes from STR, AGI, and Running and ends up at 6. A bunch of other speeds are derived from this, mostly by substituting Running for something else & halving the total. They never specified whether to round up or down which is irritating, I went up.
There are three types of defences: Melee, Ranged, and Mental. Each based on the average result of an attribute + skill + gear roll. Turns out putting points into both conviction and concentration was a complete waste. Oh well, live and learn.
Derived stats talk a lot about equipment bonuses, but you don’t have any gear yet. This section clearly should’ve come after the next step which is buying gear.

To buy gear, you need credits. You get starting credits based on rolling your REP + LUC dice pool. Dirk ends up rolling poorly and getting 180 credits – high enough that it doesn’t need to be raised to the automatic minimum, but I’m thinking still not great.

I’m not going to go through the hassle of choosing gear for Dirk. There’s a fair list provided, but being a sci-fi game you end up having to read through most of the descriptions to work out what you’re getting.

Overall, the character creation system for N.E.W. is decent. As with most life-path systems, it helps create a nice bit of backstory and to flesh out the character. I feel the system is let down by its clear focus on combat – but then I always think that. The life-path system would benefit from some more randomness or variability – something like the random events you see in MechWarrior or various Traveller editions. Even if they didn’t want it to be random, they could have listed a set of life/career events and had you pick one each time – something to add a bit more colour / flavour. My experience with Dirk was a little repetitive and he didn’t spend the entire time in a single career path.

Oh, I forgot to finish off his descriptor: Dirk is an unflappable human scientist who hoards trivia.

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