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Character Creation

The game system itself is a tool for creating and role-playing fictional characters to tell a story. In this section we present a recap of the of the character creation rules, including important table and charts, so that you don't have to flip back and forth to various pages throughout the book.

Characters have numerical scores that define their capabilities. Each character has attributes, traits, benefits and skills. These are described in detail below.

Character Concept

The first step in creating a character is to think of a concept. What kind of character do you want to play? A strong-willed, square-jawed, two-fisted hero? A mild-mannered reporter? A sneaky covert operative? A rock star?

To simplify things, start with a single idea.

Ross is creating a character for a modern intrigue game, something like one of the conspiracy shows that is so popular on television. Ross only needs one idea to start. He think about it for a moment and into his heads pops "Jack Limps." In this one idea we know two things: the character thinks of himself as Jack, and he limps.

Where to go from here? Think about the five Ws: Who, What, Why, Where, and When?

Who is Jack? Jack is sometimes a nickname for John, but is also a name in and of itself. So is Jack a nickname? No. We decide that Jack is his given name. Does Jack have a last name? Yes. We decide that Smith fits as a last name. So we know that Jack Smith limps.

What does Jack do and where is he now? This doesn't have to be Jack's job. It can be a hobby or even a talent that Jack possesses. We give it some thought and decide that Jack was an astronaut. He was an astronaut, so he isn't one any more. He could have been hurt in an accident and that could explain the limp.

Why was Jack hurt? Jack was on a space mission and he discovered something. Whatever it was that he discovered, it shook him up so badly that he did something stupid and accidentally hurt himself, so now he walks with a limp.

Where and when did the accident occur? Was it recently? We decide that Jack was recently discharged from the space program, so the accident that caused his injury has also resulted in Jack being released from the space program. Maybe Jack didn't report what really happened out there in space that fateful day, so maybe Jack has a secret.

Ross records the character's basic information on the character sheet.

With the beginnings of the character firmly in mind, we can start thinking about and determining Jack's attributes.

Buying Attributes

Characters have numerical scores that define their basic capabilities, called Attributes. Each character can also have traits, benefits and skills.

Attributes cost 1 Attribute Point for each level in an attribute. To buy a STR of 5 for a starting character, for instance, has a cost of 5 Attribute Points.

Each player gets a number of points to divide among the character's attributes. This number is usually equal to the number of attributes used in the game multiplied by a number (based on the campaign level), with the result rounded to the nearest 5. (See the table below.)

(A!S Core)
Attribute Pts
Realistic 4 6 25
Cinematic 6 6 35
Extreme 8 6 50

Attributes can be improved after character creation by spending experience points (see Character Improvement Costs, page 86). To increase an attribute by one level costs 5 times the new level in experience points.

The game Ross is playing in is a Cinematic level game, so Ross has 35 Attribute Points to spend on his character's attributes. Ross decides on the following attribute scores for his character, Jack Smith: STR 4, REF 8, HLT 5, PRE 7, INT 5, WIL 6. Ross records Jack's attribute scores and attribute-based information on his character sheet.

Calculate Derived Attributes

Once your character's primary attribute scores are determined, it's time to calculate your character's derived attributes. Record your character's derived attribute scores on your character sheet.

DEF   =   REF + 10
INI   =   (REF+INT)/2
TGH   =   (STR + WIL)/2
LIF   =   (HLT x 3) + (WIL x 2)
MOV   =   REF + (STR+HLT)/2

Ross calculates his character's derived attributes and records the scores on his character sheet. Jack wears no armor and doesn't have any INI bonuses, so Ross leaves those spaces blank. Because the character is being created for a Cinematic level game, his MOV can be higher than 10.

Unspent Attribute Points

Any unspent Attribute Points may be converted to Character Points at a rate of 10:1 to buy advantages or skills. That is, for every 1 Attribute Point that a player wishes to spend on something besides his character's attributes, the player can "exchange" the Attribute Point for 10 Character Points. Character Points can't be used to increase a character's attributes, however.

Ross has spent all of his Attribute Points so he has none left over to convert to Character Points.

Buying Traits

Advantages are purchased with the pool of Character Points available for skills (see Buying Skills) or with Experience Points (with GM's permission). The cost (for Advantages) or the value (points gained for Disadvantages) is listed in the description of each.

Characters can buy innate traits only during character creation, except with the permission of the GM.

For a detailed description of each trait, as well as guidelines for creating new Traits, see the Traits chapter.

Jack is a veteran and can stay cool under pressure. He is adamant about not revealing anything to his former employers and is generally stronger-willed than the average person due to his experiences. Ross decides to buy the following Advantages for Jack to reflect his character's back story -- Cool Headed (Edge), and Strong Willed (Gift). The total cost for the Advantages is 15 Character Points.

Because Jack saw something in space that he's keeping a secret from the government, Ross also selects the Secret disadvantage at the Hardship level, gaining 5 Character Points. He also selects the Enemy disadvantage because government agents are following Jack and trying to capture him to find out what he knows. Ross determines that this is normally worth 5 CP as a Hardship level Enemy, but the government also has far-reaching influence and access to tremendous resources, so the GM allows him to take it at the Peril level, for an additional 10 CP. Jack also has that limp, so Ross takes the Physical Disadvantage at Inconvenience level, as well.

The 15 CP cost for the Advantages is covered by the -17 CP value gained for the Disadvantages, leaving Ross with 2 extra Character Points to spend on his character.

Ross records Jack's Advantages and Disadvantages on his character sheet.

Buying Skills

You get a number of character points to divide up among the character's skills based on the campaign level, as shown on the following table.

Points (Core)
Realistic 6 50
Cinematic 8 75
Extreme 10 100

Skill Groups cost 5 points per level. Skills -- including Skills requiring a specific "Type" -- cost 1 point per level. A Specialty costs 1 point for 2 levels. Levels in a specialty may only be purchased in groups of 2 (i.e., a character cannot purchase 1 level in a Specialty).

A character must have at least one level in a Skill in order to purchase levels in a Specialty. A character need not have any levels in a Skill Group, however, in order to have levels in a Skill from that group.

The cost for each level of skill is shown below.

Level Cost
Group 5 Pts./Level
Skill 1 Pt./Level
Skill (Type) 1 Pt./Level
Skill (Specialty) 2 Level/1 CP

Once you have purchased your character's skills, record the skill names and scores on your character sheet.

Because the game is a Cinematic level one, Ross gets 75 CP to spend on skills for his character (see Buying Skills). Adding the 2 CP left over from his character's Disadvantages (after subtracting the cost of the Advantages), Ross has a total of 77 Cp to spend on skills.

Here are the skills Ross buys for his character, Jack, using the Modern Espionage skill list.

5 Athletics Skill Group 1 1
2 Climbing* 2 3
1 Para 1 2
2  -  Parachute 4 7
3 Swimming 3 4
2 Unarmed Combat (Brawling)* 4 5
0 Throwing* 2 3
0 Instruction* 2 2
0 Persuasion* 2 2
1  -  Propaganda 2 4
2 Writing 2 2
2  -  Reports 2 4
3 Stealth* 5 5
0 Language (Native)* 3 3
2 Area Knowledge (Houston, TX)* 4 4
3 Awareness* 5 5
1 Concentration* 3 3
5 Intuition 5 5
3 Intel Analysis 3 3
2 Surveillance 2 2
2 First Aid 2 2
0 Maces/Clubs* 2 2
2 Fish and Game 2 2
2  -  Hunting 4 6
3 Navigation 3 3
3 Survival 3 3
5 Sciences Skill Group 1 1
4 Astronomy 4 5
3 Pistols 3 3
3 Society 3 3
5 Technical Skill Group 1 1
1 Driving (Cars)* 3 3
5 Piloting (Space Craft) 5 5

The total cost for Jack's skills is 77 CP. With all of his character's skill recorded on his character sheet, Ross is ready to move on.

A Few Last Thoughts

After you've selected all of your character's attribute scores, traits, and skills, and written them on the character sheet, there are a few things you may want to do before playing your character in the game.

Putting it All Together

Now that your character is almost finished, take a moment to review his attributes, traits, and skills. There may be something about your character that sparks an idea. Perhaps you selected a Disadvantage for your character that wasn't quite clearly defined, such as an Enemy that has yet to be named, or a Physical Disadvantage, such as an injury, that you haven't included in the character's background story.

Reviewing your character can give you ideas to tie up all the loose ends in your character's background, so that you can explain (or at least know yourself) why the character has a great shooting skill but a phobia of guns, or why the character comes from a wealthy family but has no real wealth of his own.

A well-rounded character is not just one that is point-balanced in terms of the game rules, but also one that has enough of a back story that the player can interact with other players in-character, or role-play, during the game. Understanding your character's fictional history can make deciding what actions your character takes during the game much easier.

Introducing the Character

Take a moment to describe your character to the other players and the GM. Try to describe your character in terms of what the other characters would perceive about him or her. What does he look like, talk like, and act like? Your character's motivations and other traits may not be immediately evident to casual observers.

If the other players' characters are not assumed to know your character well (i.e., if they are not already good friends, co-workers or relatives) then it's okay to keep a few secrets about your character that the other players (and their characters) can discover later.

Mike is playing a member of a S.E.A.L. team in a modern covert ops game. Mike has decided that his character is new to the team, so he describes his character's general appearance and also tells the other players and the GM that his character is a bit of a practical joker but dedicated to his job. What Mike also tells the GM, but doesn't tell the other players, however, is that his character has a Psychological Disadvantage (Prankster) which compels him to play practical jokes and gags on others, even at inopportune moments, such as during missions! The other players' characters will learn just what kind of joker Mike's character is when they find smoke grenades in the latrine...

Getting Into the Story

Think about how the character can get into the game. In other words, think of a way that the GM can introduce your character into the story. In more realistic games, the way a character is introduced should make sense. A character who works the night shift at the newspaper plant will not likely be found in a night club, unless the character is on his day off or perhaps just lost his job. The GM is free to set the opening scene of the adventure at any time or place that makes sense for the story, but if you provide the GM with some ideas or suggestions it can help out a lot.

In more cinematic and less realistic games, the characters could just "happen" to be at the place where the opening scene takes place. This is a common occurrence in superhero genre games.

Alternatively, the opening scene may not involve the characters at all. The opening scene may simply be a way to introduce elements of the story to the players but involve something that the characters will discover later. For example, the opening scene may involve the theft of an artifact from a museum in India, which the GM describes to the players. The characters they are playing, however, may only learn about the theft in a later scene. This technique is good for planting the seed of the adventure in the players' minds in order to grab and keep their attention. Characters of players who want their characters involved are much easier to get into the action!

The most important thing to remember is that games are supposed to be fun, so have fun with your character.

Time to Play!

Once you have your character's background thought out, and his attributes, traits and skills purchased, and everything is noted correctly on the character sheet, you're ready to play.

You should give your character sheet to the GM to look over, just to make sure that everything is okay for the GM's game.

That's all there is to it. While it may seem a little complicated at first, you'll soon find that it's quite easy to create a character and you'll be doing it on your own in no time. You're always free to use this section (or any portion of the book) to help you during character creation.