John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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The Troubleshooters RPG Character Creation - Claude Emile Lambert

Since I'm about to start running The Troubleshooters</i> RPG, the roleplaying game being published by Helmgast, for the month of December and into the new year, on both my Friday night and Sunday afternoon gaming groups, I thought I would post up here a detailed example of character creation for The Troubleshooters RPG.

Game: The Troubleshooters RPG
Publisher: Helmgast
Degree of Familiarity: Somewhat familiar with it. I've read the game rules, and have created a couple of player characters for the game so far. :)
Books required: The Troubleshooters RPG Core Book.

Please note that this post is extremely long, as I've gone into the game mechanics a bit in terms of character creation, and have provided background on the character and the choices. Hence the majority of this post is behind the cut. That said, there is some of the game mechanics and descriptions of game world elements that I've skimped on in this write-up, so if you want to know more, just drop me a line in the Comments.

For those who don't know, The Troubleshooters is an action-adventure roleplaying game rooted in the Franco-Belgian comics tradition, such as Tintin, Spirou et Fantasio, Yoko Tsuno, Blake and Mortimer and others, as well as tv series such as The Avengers The Saint, Mission Impossible, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well Scooby-Doo, Carmen Sandiego, and Jonny Quest among others. The player chracters are part of a group of friends to whom adventures happen - and they gladly participate. It could be a hunt for a lost treasure, helping someone get their inheritance, stopping spies from stealing military secrets, or foiling The Octopus’ evil plans for world domination - the characters are just normal, everyday people who happen to go out and have adventures.

Step 0: Creating a Team
The Troubleshooters is a roleplaying game where the players are friends, or at least acquaintances, and work together to solve problems or get involved in adventures in some fashion as determined by the Director (the game's term for the Gamemaster). As such, the player characters form a team. Once the players and the Director have decided on the type of campaign she has in mind and the group discusses the expectations for the game, its setting and location, and the roles the player characters will take on, the players should decide on the Theme for the campaign. There are four Themes provided for in the game itself, each with sample suggestions for types of groups of characters as well as examples from comics and tv series of said Themes. The Theme the players choose in consultation with the Director gives a good idea of what types of adventures the players and their characters will have.

Since I'm creating this character for the game on my own, with no context of a group... I look over the four Themes provided in the rulebook, and decide that I like the Curious Adventurers theme. The player characters are just friends, and are sometimes they're dragged into adventures by their own curiosity or as a result of their job assignments.

This also gives me an idea for the character type that I think I'm going to create as well. :)

The next part of this step is to determine the Role that each player will have on the team.
The basic roles that are part of the genre include the Doer (self-explanatory), the Investigator (self-explanatory), the Muscle (self-explanatory), the Fixer (has the contacts, has been everywhere, knows the right people, makes sure the group gets jobs, has a base camp ready, the team has proper equipment, and leads) and the Specialist (really a jack-of-all-trades, but is just better at one special thing).

Looking at the Roles that one can have on the team, and having an idea of what I want to create here, I decide that my role is the Investigator. This will become obvious as I continue to create the character.

Next up, the Director and the players determine the Location for the game campaign. To begin, this should be a city or town where all the player characters live, and acts as their home and base of operations.

Since the game is set in Europe, because of its origins and the genre on which it is based, I decide that the game will be based in Paris.

Step 0-A: Come up with a Character Concept for the player character that you want to play.
The first step that I always include in my games is to have the player come up with a Character Concept for the character they want to play. This is basically a one- or two-sentence bit that gives you all the essentials about what the character in question is.

Given that the game is based on the Franco-Belgian comics of the 1960s and the like, I decide right off the bat to stick with the conventions of the genre for this character. After looking at some of the material for the game, and based on what I had decided on in Step 0 above, I decide to go with the Tintin type of character, and will create a male character. He's a journalist, naturally. :)

However, I'll flesh him out a bit more here. The character grew up in a loving family, but was orphaned when he was 5 after his parents were killed in a car accident. The police didn't treat it as anything but an accident, even though there were suspicious circumstances about it. He was adopted into a good and loving family, the Dumarests, when he was 7, and grew up with two sisters who treated him as the brother their parents never had. However, he never gave up his family name, and came to learn through mysterious circumstances (up to the Director!) that his father was a photojournalist and that his parents' deaths may not have been an accident. Pursuing a career in journalism became his goal, as he intends to solve the death of his parents and gain some peace for himself.

That's a good start, I think.

Looking at some French first names, I decide to call him Claude Lambert.

Step 1: Pick a Template for the character.
The player begins the creation of their character by picking one of the Templates that are available. The Templates are nearly finished characters that require little extra work to finish up, and are a good source of inspiration. Templates consist of 11 Skills with Skill values; a list of 5 Abilities (choose 2); a list of 3 Complications (choose 1); the starting Vitality; Extra languages; a list of 3 gear kits; and a list of Plot Hook suggestions. Combat oriented characters are not common in the genre, so the Templates do not usually provide for more than a modest level of a combat skill, and thus are competent enough to participate in a fight scene.

There are a total of fifteen (15) Templates provided in The Troubleshooters book, ranging from the Adventurous Scholar and Caring Veterinarian to the Suffering Artist and Vigilante Lawyer. Needless to say, the game cannot cover all the types of characters that might be possible for play in the game, and there are guidelines provided for creating new Templates as well as providing a means of creating Template-less characters.

Looking through the list of various Templates, I see there is one that is relatively perfect for the character. I choose the Investigative Journalist as my Template, and thus am prepared to put numbers and abilities to the character.

When I feel a bit more comfortable creating characters for the game, I'll also do a detailed example of character creation of a Template-less character, but for now this works for me.

Step 2: Set the Skills for the character.
Each Template for The Troubleshooters has a set of eleven (11) Skills with pre-set Skill values. The spearhead Skill has a Skill value of 75%. The four (4) Core Skills have Skill values of 65%, and the six (6) complementary Skills have Skill values of 45%. Any Skills which do not have a specific Skill value are set at 15%. Needless to say, the Skills provided for the Template may not be a perfect match to what the player envisions for the character, but the Skills can be customized later on, as part of Step 8, below.

Looking at the Skills provided for the Investigative Journalist Template, the character will have the following Skills. The character has Contacts at 75%, Alertness, Investigation, Search and Subterfuge at 65%, and Charm, Languages, Melee, Prestidigitation, Status, and Vehicles at 45%. All other Skills are set to 15%.

So what I've got here so far is a set of Skills that looks like this:

Skills: Contacts 75%, Alertness 65%, Investigation 65%, Search 65%, Subterfuge 65%, Charm 45%, Languages 45%, Melee 45%, Prestidigitation 45%, Status 45%, Vehicles 45%.

I have a good mix of Skills here for the purpose of being the journalist, but I think I'll want to tweak it a bit and personalize it some as well (see above).

Step 3: Pick two Abilities for the player character.
Abilities in the context of the game are special rules that allow player characters to do things that most people can't. These include things such as driving a car like a professional or wielding a sword like a master. Abilities usually have several effects, sometimes with stipulations attached. The most common of these is that it will take Story Points to activate the Ability in question. Abilities are ranked in Tiers (Tier 0, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3). Tier 0 Abilities have no prerequisites at all. A Tier 1 Ability usually requires that you have a minimum Skill value in one or more Skills. A Tier 2 Ability requires that the character have one or more specified Tier 0 or Tier 1 Abilities. A Tier 3 Ability requires the character to have one or more specified Tier 2 Abilites. In character creation, a player may pick a Tier 1 Ability as one of their Abilities, even if they do not have the required Skill value. For Tier 3 Abilities, the player must still fulfill the requirements even in character generation.

Each Template lists a series of Abilities that a player may choose for their character. The player may pick two of these Abilities for the character, even if they do not meet the requirements for Tier 1 Abilities.

Looking at the Inquisitive Journalist Template (see Step 1, above), the Abilities that I can choose from include Been Everywhere, Empathy, Good Reputation, Investigator, and Press Credentials. I decide the character, Claude Lambert, is not yet well-travelled, nor is he empathic, and he is not experienced enough yet as he's still learning the job, so I choose the Good Reputation and the Press Credentials Abilities for the character. I note these down.

The Good Reputation Ability allows the character to spend Story Points to have someone introduce me to another in a social situation, to gain a positive modifier in a social situation, or to have someone vouch for the character to get them out of trouble at times. Press Credentials can help with getting access to someone (but can also work against the character if they're not on friendly terms with that person), and to spend Story Points to gain access to a press conference or to a news publisher that one does not work for.

Quite useful abilities for a journalist. :)

Step 3-1/2: Pick one Complication for the player character.
Complications are aspects of the character that make life...well, more complicated. :) They serve as a guide for the players on how to act during play, but are also a source of inspiration for trouble that the Director can insert into the the plot. Complications are one way of getting Story Points, so players and Directors will want them to be active as often as possible.

Each of the Templates lists three Complications from which a player may choose for their character. The player should pick a Complication that will lead to interesting situations, not one that the player thinks will never come into play.

Looking at the Template for the character, the three Complications that are on offer are Bad Reputation, Code of Honour, and Honest. Since the character has the Good Reputation Ability as noted in Step 3, above, I shouldn't take the Bad Reputation. The Code of Honour strikes me as too obvious, so I don't choose that one. I decide to take the Honest Complication.

The Honest Complication gives the character Story Points when he take a negative modifier when trying to lie or bluff, as well as when his honesty gets the character in trouble with the law or a powerful Director character, or when his honesty makes an enemy of a powerful Director character.

Fun stuff. :)

Step 4: Determine the player character's Max Vitality.
The Vitality of the player character is, effectively, the amount of damage that the character can take. A character's Vitality is determined and set on the Template the player chooses for the character. Technically, Vitality depends on the character's Agility Skill value and the value of one or more combat skills. (However, those Skills are pre-set on the Template, though Vitality can change when and if the character gets Customised (see Step 8, below). When the character's Vitality reaches 0, they are Out Cold. If a character takes on the Mortal Peril condition, they can die if their Vitality drops to 0.

Looking at the Investigative Journalist Template once more, I see that Claude starts with a Vitality of 5. I note this down.

Step 5: Pick Languages for the character.
From the beginning, the player character can speak, read, and write at least both English and French. If the character is from an English-speaking country, English is the character's native tongue and French is a second language. Conversely, if the character is from a French-speaking country, French is the character's native tongue and English is a second language. If the character is not from an English- or French-speaking country, English and French are both secondary languages and the country's language is the character's native tongue.

In addition, each Template indicates if the character gains any additional language picks. This usually depends on the character's Languages Skill value, and if the Languages Skill is increased or decreased through customisation (see Step 8, below), this can change.

Since Claude was born just outside of Paris, he is French by nationality. This means that he speaks French as his native language, with English as a secondary language.

The Investigative Journalist Template grants the character one extra language. Given where the character lives and the political and socioeconomic landscape around him, I decide to choose German as the extra language.

I'm sure it will come in useful. :)

Step 6: Select the Gear Kits for the character.
Gear kits are defined as a collection of things (each kit may consist of several items) that are potentially important for the story. They often have rules effects, mostly in the form of what are called Tags. Gear kits can also define the character and be a part of their persona. Each character has five (5) slots for Gear Kits. Each Gear Kit lists a number of effects (for example, Binoculars allow the character to spot at a distance and give a bonus to the dice roll), and may also have a requirement, either a Skill value or an Ability.

Each Template provides 3 Gear Kits that the character gets, regardless of whether they meet the prerequisites or not. The player chooses one of these, and makes it into the character's Signature Gadget. The Signature Gadget is part of the character persona, and grants the character other effects as well. In addition, the player may choose two more Gear Kits for the character, if they meet the prerequisites for them.

Looking at the Investigative Journalist one more time, I see the character starts with a Camera, a Forensic kit or a Tape Recorder, and a Compact car or a scooter. I don't necessarily see the character doing forensic investigations, and opt for the Tape Recorder, and I decide that a Compact Car will be quite useful during the course of adventures. So my three Gear Kits are the Camera, the Tape Recorder, and a Compact Car. I decide the Tape Recorder is my Signature Gadget.

Looking over the lists of Gear Kits, I decide to take a Flashlight and ask the Director to permit me a File Cabinet as the second Gear Kit. She agrees, and says the file cabinet holds all manner of files, maps, and the like that are of no use until he needs them, giving +2 pips to Investigation. In addition, it has most of the information the character has gathered so far about what happened to his birth parents.

Step 7: Choose two Plot Hooks for the character.
Plot Hooks are designed to get characters into the adventure. Thus, each character should have one (preferably two) unique Plot Hooks out of a list of eleven (11). No character should have the same Plot Hook(s) as the other characters in the group. Plot Hooks literally serve as a means of getting the player characters involved in the scenarios, and literally have several other functions that I won't go into here.

Each Template has a list of suggested Plot Hooks. Each player character should have one (or preferaby two) unique Plot Hooks that no other character has. This is usually accomplished by talking to the other players and the Director and compromising and picking a Plot Hook or two that can work for the character in question.

Delving once more into the Investigative Journalist Template, I can see the suggested Plot Hooks are Looking for an Adventure, Foreign, Do-Gooder, and I Owe You. Since I'm creating the character as a solo character per sé, I could go with any of the Plot Hooks suggested other than Foreign, since he's not. The Do-Gooder is too obvious for the character here, so it's between Looking for an Adventure and I Owe You. Both of these can work; while he's honest (see Complications, Step 3-1/2, above), he is somewhat adventurous. And I Owe You can work here as well, since perhaps he owes a huge favour to someone for his start in journalism.

I decide to take only one Plot Hook for the character, and go with I Owe You. I'll leave it to the Director to decide who I owe.

Step 8 (Optional): Customise the character.
This step is one that players do not have to take, but it allows them the chance to customise the character with the Director's approval. The options that the player has here are varied. These include:

Get Other Skills - Replace one or two Skills with Skills not on the list; the values remain the same;
Swap Skills Around - Decrease a Skill by 10% and increase another Skill by the same amount; this can be done twice, and can be combined into one swap of 20%. However, no Skill may have a starting value of 85%;
Check Vitality - Determine starting Vitality again. Vitality 4 is the default, and this is modified by whether one's Agility and weapon Skills exceed certain values;
Check Languages - Pick an extra language if Languages Skill is at 45%, take two extra Languages if Languages Skill is 65%+;
Another Ability - Replace one Ability pick with one that was not part of the Template; if it is a Tier 2 Ability or higher, the player must meet the requirements;
Another Complication - Pick a Complication that is not on the Template's list);
Make Things More Complicated - Pick a third Ability, not limited to the Template's list, but only if you choose another Complication as well. As noted above, you only have to meet the requirements for Tier 2 and above Abilities); and finally
Change Gear - Replace one gear pick with one other Gear Kit not on the Template's list.

Here's the point in character creation where I can make some tweaks to the character.

When it comes to the character's Skills, I decide that I want to make one modification. I swap 10% out of Prestidigitation, and put those points into the Sneak Skill, since I can see the character needing that ability from time to time. That gives me Prestidigitation at 35%, and the Sneak Skill at 25% (since all the Skills not listed as part of the Template begin at 15%).

Since I didn't change my Agility Skill value or alter the Melee Skill value, my Vitality remains the same, and stays at 5.

My character's Languages remain the same, as I didn't alter that Skill value either.

I don't see the need to take another Ability or Complication for the character, nor do I make things more complicated, and I leave the Gear as it is as I'm content with that.

Step 9: Design the character.
The next step in character generation is to design the player character's appearance. All characters in The Troubleshooters are meant to be distinguishable, from Tintin's quiff and Spirou's concierge uniform to Yoko Tsuna's headband and bangs. The idea is to find one or two prominent features for the player character. The Design Ideas table in the rulebook offers some options and inspirations in this regard as a starting point, so the player can roll D100 on the table two or three times.

In addition, the player should have reached a decision on everything else about the player character at this point: Name, Description, and so forth. The rest of the information on the Character Passport (i.e., the character sheet) can be filled in at this time.

Thinking about the character's description and appearance, given his job, I could go for the typical investigator's look, but decide to see what the Design Ideas table offers me. I start with a roll of "62" on the table, and this comes up: Round face. That's something that I kind of like for the character, and I decide it will make the character somewhat distinctive (since men's faces don't tend to be round!). My second roll on the table is "76", yielding Something Green. Hmm... Ordinarily I'd dismiss this, but decide to incorporate it into the character's look. His birth mother always favoured green, and so he always wears something green. This could be a tie, a shirt, a belt, a handkerchief, and so forth. Between that and the round face, the character definitely has a distinct look. My third roll on the table comes up "15", and this gives me a Bushy moustache. I think about this for a moment, trying to see it on the character's round face, and I think it works. The character has a bushy moustache.

I now look at the Character Passport (the character sheet), and fill in the rest of the details.

The character's Profession is Investigative journalist.

His last Name, as I decided earlier, is Lambert.

His given Name is Claude, and I decide his middle Name is Emile.

I decide that Claude's Residence is a small apartment in the Montparnasse area of Paris.

The character stands 178 cm (about 5'10") tall and weighs 75 kg (about 166 lbs).

Claude has dark blue eyes.

Claude has dark brown hair, somewhat curly, with that bushy moustache. :)

As a Special Peculiarity, I decide that Claude has a small mole just to the left of his nose. You can barely make it out because of the moustache.

Claude is 27 years old, and was born March 16th, 1938.

Claude was born in Strasbourg, France, but he was adopted by Parisian parents.

And that wraps up this step of character generation. :)

Step 10: Decide how you met.
The final step in character generation is to decide how each player character met the others and became friends. The group starts with one player, who rolls on the Meetup Location table to determine where he or she met another character. The player chooses one other character and then spins a tale about how they met at that location, based on the earlier discussion about the team. The second player proceeds to roll another location on the table, chooses a third player, and repeats the process. Note that the last player in the group does not get to roll on the table and spin a story about meeting another player character, unfortunately.

While I've created Claude in something of a vacuum, with no other player characters created, for the sake of providing an example, I'll undertake this part of character generation to show how it works.

I decide that the player I choose is playing Marc St. Louis, something of a thief. I start by rolling D100 on the Meetup Location table, and roll a "57", and get Munich, Germany. I decide that it was February or so in 1962, and Marc and I broke into the same hotel room in Munich. I was trying to find evidence that an Italian jet setter was actually a Soviet spy, while Marc was out to get his recent lover's jewellery. The two of us joined forces, after some misunderstandings, and succeeded at both jobs. We've been friends on and off again for the last three years.

At that point, Marc's player would now roll on the table, pick a third player, and recount the story of how they met.

And thus, Claude Emile Lambert is born.

Here's the full game statistics for the character. What I do wish I had here was a graphic or illustration in the Franco-Belgian comic style for the character.

Claude Emile Lambert

Hi, there! My name is Claude Emile Lambert. I'm an investigative journalist for one of Paris's newspapers. I grew up in a loving family, but was orphaned when I was but 5 years old after my parents were killed in a car accident. The police didn't treat it as anything but an accident, even though there were suspicious circumstances about it. I was adopted into a good and loving family, the Dumarests, when I was 7, and grew up with two sisters who treated me as the brother their parents never had. However, I never gave up my family name, and came to learn through mysterious circumstances that my father was a photojournalist and that my parents' deaths may not have as accidental as it seemed. Pursuing a career in journalism became my goal, as I intend to solve the death of my parents and gain some peace for myself.

Profession: Investigative journalist
Given Name: Claude Emile
Residence: Montparnasse, Paris, France
Height: 1.78m Weight: 75 kg
Eye Colour: Dark blue
Hair Colour: Dark brown
Special Peculiarities: Small mole to the left of his nose
Date of Birth: March 16th, 1938
Place of Birth: Strasbourg, France
Nationality: French

Skills: Alertness 65%, Charm 45%, Contacts 75%, Investigation 65%, Languages 45%, Melee 45%, Prestidigitation 35%, Search 65%, Sneak 25%, Status 45%, Subterfuge 65%, Vehicles 45%
Vitality: 5
Abilities: Good Reputation, Press Credentials
Complications: Honest
Languages: French (native), English, German
Plot Hooks: I Owe You
Gear: Camera, Tape recorder, Compact car, Flashlight, File cabinet (holds all manner of files, maps, and the like that are of no use until he needs them, giving +2 pips to Investigation. In addition, it has most of the information the character has gathered so far about what happened to his birth parents.)

And there you have the character that I created for the The Troubleshooters Roleplaying Game. This character took me about 25 minutes to create, with about 15 to 20 minutes of leafing through the Core Rulebook and the like. Character generation in The Troubleshooters can definitely take a while, if one doesn’t know what one is trying to do. If one has an idea of what one wants in the player character, and with some practice under the belt at doing so, the process will definitely take no more than about 15 minutes or so, but to be honest, this is a game system that is a lot of fun to work with, even if it doesn’t seem to present a wide variation of characters.

Comments and feedback are welcome. :)
Tags: character creation, claude emile lambert, personal, rpg, rpg hut, troubleshooters rpg

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