This is the definitive guide to creating your Contractor. It will walk you through the character creation process, step by step, and contains all the basics you need to begin your journey through the Great Game. More advanced info can be found by following the various links to more specific articles on the wiki. In general, there are two main steps to creating a Contractor: First, determine your Character-Concept, which includes your backstory, ambition, etc, and second, create a statistical representation of that concept through Abilities, Attributes, Merits, Flaws, Traumas, and Willpower.
Each character must have a unique concept. Who is your character, what is their role in the world, to what do they aspire? This is simultaneously the most important facet of character creation and the most difficult. Your concept will inform not only the statistics you select and thus your capabilities in game, but should ideally be the root of your role-playing as well. At it's core, House Games (and to a certain extent, all role-playing games) are a game about storytelling and acting. Characterization is therefore crucial, and the strength of the foundation you lay with your initial concept will have a profound impact on how easy it is to properly perform as your character.
That being said, don't be intimidated by the process of developing a character concept! It is not necessary to have fleshed out every detail prior to playing a single game. The goal of a character concept is to paint a broad picture of the character's past, present, and future, so focus on nailing down a few key elements of each. Think about their back-story: try and touch on the stereotypical major elements of life, such as residence/status at birth, education, major relationships, and parents. Think about their present situation: what is their job, which person do they spend more time with than any other, what are one or two major interests outside of their work? Finally, think about their momentum and their goals: Contractors should not be content with a mundane life, they should aspire to something beyond what most people achieve, so give some thought to the direction they are headed.
There are no real restrictions on character concept beyond your own ability to roleplay the character effectively. House Games doesn't utilize any sort of character class system; players have a broad sandbox to play in when it comes to character design and personal story arc. The only constraint of note is that, while your character concept can and often should have some sort of super-natural element to it, you cannot start your character at that point. All Contractors begin as ordinary fuckin' people, but exceptional ones, whose path will lead them to either greatness or death.
Your Driving Goal is what pushes your character to risk death and achieve greatness. Determining your Driving Goal is the most critical element to the process of detailing your character: this ambition is the channel that focuses the loose river of character concept into a powerful stream of ass-kicking adventurer. Your Driving Goal should be zealously pursued; if your character would not be willing to face down a biker gang for even a marginal step towards his ambition, you're not trying hard enough. Your Driving Goal must also be broad and deep enough that you can push towards it in lots of little ways and keep striving over a long period of time. If your ambition can be achieved by the use of a power or two - for example, a goal of killing a specific nemesis, or of flying with the birds - then it is far too shallow for our purposes.
A character need not constantly talk about, or even be consciously aware of, their Driving Goal, so long as it bubbles under the surface and informs their decisions. For instance, a doctor whose goal is to purge the world of sin and sin's physical manifestation in this world - disease, obviously - probably isn't consciously or actively plotting to murder all the sick people in their care. But they would act with disgust towards those who don't get better, would eagerly euthanize patients even if they still might recover, and would likely be religious in a significant way. Be sure to think about all the smaller character choices that might be shaped by your ambition or driving goal, and don't feel like every character has to be a hyper-focused, goal oriented sociopath.
See Character-Concept for more tips.
Once you've conceptualized your character, it's time to figure out how to use numbers to represent that concept. Much like any tabletop roleplaying game, you'll do this by allocating a set number of points between different types of traits, each of which represents something different about your character.
Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Perception, Wits, and Intelligence: Attributes are the basic building blocks of your character and represent inherent and broad characteristics. Are you strong? Quick witted? Charismatic? These sort of traits are represented by Attributes. The majority of dice rolls in the game will be partially based on one particular Attribute that is relevant to the given action; for example, inspecting a crime scene would generally use Perception along with the relevant Ability.
Each attribute begins with one point automatically, and can range as high as 5. Each successive rank represents the following standard:
· – Very poor
·· – Average or a bit below average
··· – Above average
···· – Superb
····· – World-class
You are given 12 points to split between attributes, which increase by one for each point spent. The attributes are The names are quite descriptive, but greater detail can be found on the Attributes page.
While Attributes are the basic building blocks of your character, Abilities show the specific tasks in which you excel. They represent skills you have learned and knowledge you have acquired. Are you a long distance runner? You need Athletics and Endurance. How about a master violinist? Performance is a must. Are you a Hollywood stunt driver? Then you better have some ranks in Pilot.
Characters start with 0 points in each ability, and can progress as high as 5 points initially, with each point representing the following level of training or education:
· – Competent
·· – Skilled
··· – Professional
···· – Master
····· – World-class
You are given 25 points to split between abilities. Spending one point increases an ability by one. There are 22 Primary Abilities, which are listed on the character sheet, each of which represents a somewhat broad category of skill or knowledge. Additionally, players can opt for a more specific Secondary Ability, which increases your character's capacity at that particular task, at the cost of being capable of other related tasks. Primary Abilities will likely be sufficient for most characters.
The Primary Abilities are detailed on the Abilities page, where you can also find some examples of Secondary Abilities.
Freebie Points: Willpower, Merits, and Flaws
Your character is fairly well-represented at this point, but still needs a bit more to push them over the edge and capture their uniqueness. Much of your character's background and personality quirks will not need a statistical representation, and will simply come through having a well-developed Character-Concept, in combination with quality roleplaying. However, some traits have enough impact on the game that they need to exist on paper and have consistent rules which govern them. In House Games, these things are represented through Merits-and-Flaws. These, as well as the extremely important statistic of Willpower, are determined by Freebie Points.
Freebie Points are the only means of acquiring Merits and Willpower (Flaws actually add to your Freebie Points, see below). However, unlike the points for Attributes or Abilities, Freebie Points can be spent on any aspect of character creation. This means that you may choose to invest all your freebie points in powerful merits such as Rich and Jack Of All Trades, you may prefer to purchase your Willpower pool all the way up to 10 points, or you may want to push your Attribute or Ability scores super high. You get to choose the balance between these categories that best suits your unique character concept.
Willpower is an expendable resource that measures your drive, dedication, and overall life force. It is represented as a pool that may have up to 10 permanent points, and each game begins with a number of temporary points equal to your permanent rating that may be spent on a wide variety of actions. Willpower rolls are extremely common, and it's recommended that all characters start with at least 4 or 5.
Merits and Flaws
Merits-and-Flaws represent very specific facts about your character that give you an advantage or a disadvantage. Some examples include having perfect pitch, having an enemy, being famous, having hemophilia, or just being lucky. Merits and Flaws will not generally have rolls based of of them as Abilities and Attributes do, but instead have a narrow impact on a certain facet of gameplay, which sometimes includes rolling dice.
Merits are purchased using Freebie Points. Flaws, on the other hand, do not have a cost but instead provide you with a number of extra Freebie Points depending on the Flaw value. A character may take a maximum of 7 points in Flaws (or two Flaws totaling any amount). This limit may be exceeded later, as GMs are allowed to grant new flaws as appropriate during a game (disfigured if your face was slashed with acid, as an example).
Go here for a complete list of the various Merits-and-Flaws that are available.
Costs to increase a trait with Freebie Points is as follows:
- Attributes: 5
- Abilities: 2
- Willpower: 2
- Merits: Cost is equal to the Merit's rating.
Finally, you need to determine your character's Traumas. These are simply a way of codifying which events or actions would have a chance of traumatizing your character. For the most part, the specifics of your moral code should be a matter of roleplaying, not systems and numbers, but it’s also important to make sure that characters have some measure of consistency, and to make sure that there are consequences for characters making extreme choices. Traumas, therefore, represent the big stuff, the hard lines that your character has drawn which are so integral to their personality that violating these principles will cause your character’s sanity to degrade.
Unless your character has some sort of abnormal psychology, you can simply take the three default human Traumas:
- Murder: Kill a human for any reason other than immediate self defense.
- Humanity: Witnessing a humanitarian atrocity (torture, massacre, mutilation, rape)
- Torture: Being tortured (solitary confinement for an extended period, physical torture)
The Mental-Health page contains additional options for less traditional characters.
Other Elements of Character Development
At this point, your character is more or less complete! Well done, you made it all the way through. You must have a Willpower score of 10.
You are more than welcome to begin roleplaying at this point, but there are some other elements of character development that are worth considering before you start, and are especially important to keep in mind as you continue on through the game.
Your character will need to keep a detailed and up to date equipment list. Anything that your character would realistically have access to and might want to use at some point during a game should be on that list. Some GMs are a little more lax than others, but the going rule is: If you don't have it written down, you don't have it. It may also be wise to keep track of what your character has access to at their residence in addition to what is brought along during the game. This can save time if your character ever happens to be given an opportunity to prepare for a Game, or if you have access to adequate transportation during.
In general, it is important to be thorough, but it’s not necessary to be anal. No GM will care if you use Energizer over Duracell, for instance, but they will care about the difference between a pocket flashlight and a portable floodlight. The type of item, and any systems if applicable, are more important than getting bogged down in being nit-picky. It’s also very important to make sure that the items you bring are grounded in a strong sense of character. An accountant, for example, probably wouldn’t carry around pruning shears in his backpack, nor would a gardener keep a grenade in his bag of tools. Don’t fall into the DnD trap of giving every character the same standard adventuring tools; be creative, and let your character express themselves through their choices. Finally, make sure you take into account your level of resources, as money can be a determining factor. A basic character has access to $7,000 per month in game, which is one week in real world time. This can be adjusted through Merits-and-Flaws, so be aware of your character’s situation and plan your items accordingly.
The Equipment page has detailed lists with numerous options for many different categories of items, but here are a few general things to think about:
- Weaponry: Does your character plan on fighting at all, or are they at least concerned about self defense? If you have any combat skills outside of brawling, you’ll certainly want to keep a weapon or two on your person. Weapons are an area where it can be worthwhile and flavorful to pay attention to the nitty-gritty details; we all know that a swordsman will have a sword, but which type of sword you choose can make all the difference in your characterization. Just knowing that one character carries an UZI while the other carries a six shooter tells you a lot about their personality.
- Armor: Would your character realistically have some sort of armor? If you’ve been on any Games before, there’s a good chance the answer is yes, but for newbies and novices, whether or not you would wear armor depends a lot on your backstory. If you regularly engage in combat in your line of work, rather than just for fun, you would probably wear something, but otherwise it’s mostly just the paranoid folks wearing the Kevlar.
- Clothing: It’s important to have a clear visual image in your head of what your character looks like. A large part of personality comes out through clothing, so give your character an outfit that says who they are, or deliberately hides things about themselves. Plus, you never know when a belt or a shoelace might come in handing during a sticky situation. Again, it pays to be thorough.
- Technology and Money: This is largely determined by your income, as mentioned above. Standard characters will likely have a smartphone (though of course they may choose not to, if they’re some kind of fuckin hipster) and roughly $7,000 divided between their bank and what they keep on hand. Certain professions might carry additional tech with them, feel free to get creative here.
- Miscellaneous Supplies: If your character would carry a notepad and pen, write it down. If you’d never be caught dead without your yummy trail mix, then write it down. If you don’t leave home without some light Dominatrix equipment, be sure to write it down. Like everything else, these odds and ends are far from trivial; they are an important means of developing a unique and flavorful character. Some element of practicality is important, true, but it’s far more important to get yourself fully engaged in the roleplaying and come up with fun, quirky choices for your item list. Always carrying around spearmint Tic-Tacs and American Spirit cigarettes is a character trait, not a waste of time - it speaks to an addictive personality driven by habit.
Always remember that you are a storyteller, and the items you carry are a vital piece of that story. Plan your equipment list with that in mind.
You will have touched on your backstory to some extent while coming up with your character concept. This is enough to begin playing, and in fact, it can be detrimental to have everything figured out before you enter a game; a lot of the fun of playing a character comes from the little things that you can only discover while interacting with others.
Still, if you have the time and the inclination, feel free to start fleshing out all the details. The best thing to do here is just write things down; don't be scared to be silly and creative, nothing is set in stone until it's been roleplayed in a game or included in a Journal submission (an optional way to gain bonus xp). If you're feeling stuck, the experience page contains a number of structured exercises that are useful in discovering more information about your character, many of which have the added bonus of granting bonus experience when you submit them to your GM.
It can also be useful to make a rough sketch of how you expect your character to progress. Again, this is entirely unnecessary to begin playing, and is simply a useful exercise to give yourself a more thorough framework within which to roleplay.
The most important things to think about here are your Powers and your supernatural paradigm. The world of House Games is a supernatural one, and the primary means of character advancement are the Powers they receive as a reward for completing games successfully. The actual base effects of your Powers will be standardized and (hopefully) balanced, but the flavor of your power is entirely up to you and is dependent on your character concept. Do you want to be a vampire, seducing women and climbing the ladder of political power? Would you like to be a man who delusionally believes himself to be a Sci-Fi action hero? What about a one-armed psychic cop who doesn't play by the rules, or a modern-day samurai swordsman?
Any paradigm is viable; what matters is that your paradigm fits your concept. Since you receive a new power after every successful game, some planning ahead can be quite useful.