We will be using GUMSHOE (mostly a hybrid of Mutant City Blues and Night’s Black Agents) as the system for this game, as it’s mainly about investigation and suchlike. The ideal is that a three-player group has one character each from the FSB, the OIS and the Ashcroft Foundation, up to a five-player group split up as two FSB Agents, two OIS Agents (if anyone in the group is going to be a parapsychic or sorcerer, it should probably be one or both of these) and one Ashcroft Foundation Advisor.
Character creation breaks down into six main steps:
- Choose your Concept and Race – see below
- Choose one or more Backgrounds
- Choose your Investigative Abilities – you get 24 in a three-player game, 22 in a four-player game, or 20 in a five-player game. 1 point means you are expertly trained, practiced, and well-read in that area. 3 or 4 points means you are at the top of your field.
- An Ashcroft Advisor gets Human Terrain 1 and Negotiation 1 for free
- An FSB Agent gets Cop Talk 1 and Evidence Collection 1 for free
- An OIS Agent gets Intimidation 1 and Occult Studies 1 for free
- Choose your General Abilities – you roll a D6 and spend points to see if these abilities succeed. You get 52 in a three-player game, 51 in a four-player game, or 50 in a five-player game.
- You receive Health, Sanity and Stability at 4 for free
- Health is capped at 10
- Stability is capped at 12
- Sanity is capped at 10 (minus your rating in Sorcery)
- Your second-highest General Ability must have at least half as many rating points as your highest-rated one
- This potentially includes Sorcery or Parapsychic Powers
- if you take one, you can’t ever take the other, and most people will have neither (ideally only one PC will be parapsychic, and only one will be a sorcerer)
- You may not start play with any Illegal Sorcery spells
- If you are a Sorcerer or Parapsychic, you will be registered with the New Earth Government and your superiors will have a full accounting of your powers
- Build out your Personality and Dossier
- Choose your Sources of Stability
- Choose your Pillars of Sanity
- Choose your Drive
- Set your Trust
- Make a note of your Gear
- FSB and OIS agents start with a CS-40 Defender pistol & holster, Sentrytech Mk-IV concealable armoured vest, a good PCPU with wireless earpiece and AR eyepiece, a flashlight, a pair of decent handcuffs, and their badge. As federal employees, you can assume they’re comfortably middle-class and have a place to live, although not an expensive one, as well as clothes, food, transportation (more likely a decent public transport pass than their own vehicle as they likely live in the arcology).
- The Ashcroft Adviser will start with an excellent wardrobe and a top-of-the-line PCPU with wireless earpiece and AR eyepiece – as well as a nice residence, multiple vehicles, and a decent investment portfolio
- Everyone starts with whatever equipment is reasonably implied by their skills – someone with Medic likely has a medkit readily available, someone with Surveillance will have a pair of binoculars and perhaps a shotgun microphone, someone with Occult Studies likely has a decent occult library at their house or loaded onto their PCPU
Basically, the FSB agents can easily be any sort of FBI-type character from TV or movies – the straight-arrow, the expert profiler, the medical doctor, the former soldier, the sidelined (vindicated?) weirdo, the one transferred in from an intelligence agency, the career bureaucrat, the tech specialist, the ex-cop, the forensic specialist or anything else you can think of that fits the genre! The Blacklist, Blindspot, the X-Files, Fringe, Person of Interest, The Wire, True Detective and White Collar are all good places to look to for character ideas.
OIS characters can be a little more offbeat because they’re often recruited for their skill at sorcery or parapsychic powers. Perhaps they used to be an undercover cop in the Arcane Underground, or part of a Special Power Armour Team? Equally, they could be very similar to any of the FSB backstories/concepts suggested above.
The big differences between the FSB and the OIS can be found in the Play Style page, but basically the FSB are seen as the “good guys” and generally handle crime that doesn’t specifically involve extradimensional monsters, sorcerers and parapsychics, whereas the OIS are seen as the unaccountable and overpowered baddies who focus almost exclusively on sorcerers and parapsychics.
As for the Ashcroft Adviser, being some kind of expert in law, criminology, forensic psychology or similar would make a lot of sense, but they’re also likely a very smooth operator and kind of a “face” for the group – they’re nominally in charge of the task force, despite not being in either the FSB or the OIS. Perhaps they used to be a military interrogator or are simply a gifted scientist and skilled businesswoman?
Characters may be either Human or Nazzadi. Human characters start with +1 Investigative and +3 General Abilities; Nazzadi characters get nightvision, which allows them to see in very low light conditions, though not in complete darkness, up to 50 yards. It takes no time for their eyesight to adjust from light to darkness. This vision is black and white. In the dark, their eyes reflect direct light like a cat’s.
You can have as many of these as you can afford. FSB should start with the Federal Agent package; OIS characters are very welcome to take this, alongside the OIS Parapsychic or OIS Sorcerer backgrounds. After that, choosing backgrounds and skills to fit your history, concept and specialisms makes the most sense.
The Ashcroft Adviser, predictably, ought to start with the Ashcroft Adviser background, but after that is entirely free to choose whatever backgrounds, skills and so on fit the concept.