Personality and Dossier
Sources of Stability
You must identify what and who keeps you going when the stress of your life threatens to overwhelm you. These provide you with the strength, release and hope to keep fighting the good fight.
Damage or threats to your Sources of Stability may trigger immediate, difficult Stability tests. If you can’t access your Sources of Stability, you can’t refresh Stability during or between cases. Name your three Sources of Stability, as follows:
This is a non-human representation of something or someone you value: a religious medal or crucifix, your country’s flag or your father’s dog tag, a picture of your innocent niece or a voice mail from your dead wife. Seeing it or handling it — a few minutes of meditation or reverence — reminds you of why you fight, why you must stay intact. If you do so during an case, you may immediately refresh 1 pool point of Stability; you may do this only once per session.
If you lose your Symbol, you lose 1 rating point of Stability at the end of the operation if it remains lost. Some Symbols cannot be so lost; if you rally at the sight of the Union Jack, you lose no rating points of Stability if someone burns a British flag. If, however, you used a flag patch from your mate’s uniform as your Symbol, you would lose the point if it got stolen.
The Symbol should ideally be connected somehow to your Drive, if only in your character’s own mind.
If your Symbol is ever proven valueless — e.g. your dead husband faked his death to join a Cult — you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
This is the person you seek out for human contact, to make the pain and stress recede for the time being: your current boyfriend, a friendly bartender, your old CO. A name and identifying phrase are sufficient. You may not use fellow characters on your team; they go through the same stresses you do and remind you of the horrors you confront. It’s permissible, but risky, for multiple characters to lean on the same folks as members of their support network.
Relying on others is a source of strength, but also of danger. Once you come to the attention of monstrous conspiracies, they may use your loved ones against you. They may corrupt them, turn them to evil or inhumanity, or take the tried and true route of subjecting them to horrible tortures.
If you can spend six hours — of talk, quiet companionship, sex and sleep, athletic training, or other normal human interaction — with your Solace during a case, you may immediately refresh 2 pool points of Stability; you may do this only once per session. This time must be safe from violent or supernatural interruption.
If you spend at least a day of such interaction with your Solace between cases, you may fully refresh your Stability pool. Again, this time must be safe from violent or supernatural interruption.
If your Solace ever betrays or rejects you, you immediately lose 2 rating points of Stability.
If your Solace is ever turned by the enemy or killed, you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
This is the person and place you would flee to without thinking: your old trainer’s cabin in the Alps, your mother’s house in Cornwall, your best friend’s apartment in Paris, a beachfront condo in Ibiza you’ve bought under another name. Simply knowing that such a refuge exists gives you hope that you can some day escape the shadowy world in which you dwell. At the end of any session in which your place of Safety remains inviolate, you may refresh 1 pool point of Stability.
If you do get there, it counts as a haven (see p. 92) where you can immediately refresh three General ability pools. Any Preparedness tests you carry out there have a Difficulty that is 2 points lower than normal. In the very unlikely instance that you get there unobserved, you can refresh your whole Stability pool there, as well.
If your place of Safety has an owner or caretaker, you can activate them as a free contact (without spending any Network points) with a rating of 6. This rating cannot be rebuilt with Network or experience points. You can only activate this contact once during the entire life of your character.
If your place of Safety ever turns you out, or its owner (e.g., your old trainer, your mother, your best friend) betrays you, you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
If enemies destroy your place of Safety or its owner, you immediately lose 3 rating points of Stability.
Pillars of Sanity
For each 3 full rating points your character possesses in Sanity, you must define one Pillar of Sanity: some human concern that you believe in and trusts implicitly. Pillars of Sanity are abstract principles, not individual people or objects. Pillars of Sanity can be damaged or destroyed by revelations about the true nature of the world. Some examples of Pillars include:
- Religious faith (can be a specific denomination, or a general trust in a benevolent or rational deity)
- Family (especially family honour, purity of one’s blood, and suchlike)
- Human/Nazzadi dignity and value
- Scientific progress or the value of the intellect
- Physical laws and the reality of scientific knowledge
- The goodness, beauty, or worthiness of Nature or the environment
- The innate goodness of humanity
- Moral principles
- Aesthetics or the high principles of art
- Epicureanism; living life to the fullest
- Patriotism and national virtue
- Love of one’s home city or town
As you might expect, revelations that undermine these Pillars will cost you additional Sanity.
Every character has a Drive, a motivating factor that propels them into the storyline and motivates them to act as a thriller character ought. Drives prevent players from making boring, cowardly choices for their characters. They don’t require foolish or suicidal recklessness, just the same degree of courage and initiative you’d expect from a heroic protagonist.
When playing roleplaying games, we sometimes tend to overprotect our characters, who we identify with more directly than we do the lead characters of books, movies, or TV shows. This habit can bring the story to a halt as the PCs hunker down and avoid trouble when they ought to be leaping into it with loaded guns or confident swagger. Even when you can work around this tendency, it feels discordantly out of step with the sorts of stories that inspire the game. Drives remind us to break this habit. Most of the time, a Storyguide who realizes you’ve slipped into overcautious mode and are holding up the progress of the story can spur you to action simply by reminding you of your Drive. They might explain to you why your Drive would spur you to action. Better yet, she could prompt you to explain it.
When invoking Drives, Storyguides should take care not to guide the player’s specific response to the situation. The goal is to lead the player to move forward, not to force a particular choice. Avoid this by listing several viable choices, if the player has been stumped by his own caution.
If the player digs in and refuses to have their character move, the Storyguide may assess a stress penalty. This reflects the character’s loss of concentration as they act against their fundamental nature. The cost of all Investigative spends increases by 1, as does the Difficulty of all General tests, until the character returns to form. The typical game unfolds without a single stress penalty coming into play, as players willingly follow the path they themselves have chosen.
On the other hand, if the character really dives in and lives their Drive, possibly at great risk to himself, the Storyguide may allow the character to refresh 1 or 2 pool points from any General ability, reflecting the inner certainty that comes of following deep-seated psychological motivations. This reward is limited to once per session per player.
Choose your character’s Drive at the beginning of play, from the following list. Think of it as a key to their personality. Feel free to propose to the Storyguide a custom Drive that fills the same function as the ones given here. Write up an explanatory paragraph in the same vein as the supplied Drives. If not immediately apparent, your Storyguide may ask you to supply hypothetical examples of situations in which the Drive will keep the character making active, interesting choices in solving the mystery or advancing the case at hand.
You got into the game to protect innocents from terrorists, or disease, or war, or tyranny. You’re no innocent yourself now, but that only lets you know just how much innocence normal people have left to lose. With a potentially compromised agency telling you what to do, doing the right thing becomes not just harder, but imperative.
You did something wrong: committed a crime, betrayed your friends, killed someone undeserving, allowed someone else to die or prosper who shouldn’t. Maybe nobody else would think you need to atone, but maybe those are the things you most need to atone for. Possibly you want to clear your name; perhaps you just need to clear your conscience.
You might specify your sin during character creation, or at the beginning of play, or leave it open for a dramatic revelation at any time during the game. You can tell the other players, or just the Storyguide, or keep it to yourself. If you choose to set up your past misdeed as a mystery, be sure to drop hints along the way, to increase the impact on the other players when the secret finally comes out. Alternatively, you could wait for an interesting possibility to arise during play, and then tie your past history into the current action. Clear it with the Storyguide first, to make sure that the facts you’re adding to the narrative don’t conflict with the plot you’re investigating.
You might have been motivated by abstract or material concerns when you first signed up, but over the months or years, that all fell by the wayside. The real reason to be part of a team, you came to realise, is for the intense bond between men and women who depend completely on each other for their lives and livelihoods. Your team might be a crew of mismatched and cynical professionals, but deep down, they’re like a family to you. The ties you’ve forged under fire are in many ways stronger than blood. No value is more important than personal loyalty. No people matter more than your teammates.
When confronted by a mystery, you can’t help but investigate. Damn the risks, there’s something going on here and you’re going to figure it out! If you don’t, it will just drive you crazy worrying about it.
You know it’s dangerous and ill-advised, but somebody’s got to go down those steps or bust up that cult. And you’re elected, because if you don’t take care of things now, they’re just going to get worse. If you don’t, who is? Some time-serving goldbrick just counting down the days until their pension? Don’t be ridiculous.
Perhaps you had one experience that you’ll never get again, or perhaps you’ve just read about such things in decadent yellow-backed novels. You’ve tried everything else, and nothing else matters. So what if it might kill you? At least that would be different.
In The Blood
Quite frankly, you’re not sure why you keep coming back to the moldering graveyard, or poring over those antique texts. But odd behavior runs in the family, apparently. Outsiders wouldn’t understand.
You are driven to solve a mystery: this might be a personal mystery (What happened to my old partner? What happened during my missing week?) or a political mystery (Were the cults behind the Iraq War? Behind the Nazis? Behind the Templars?) or an arcane mystery. If you have a personal connection to the mystery, your motives are relatively clear; otherwise, you have one of those brains so very attractive (and attracted) to intelligence agencies, a brain that cannot rest without solving a mystery or tearing itself apart.
You’re proud to serve the New Earth Government, and are working to advance its interests and to protect it from the darkness you’ve seen rising.
Aliens, cultists or monsters hurt or killed someone you cared about deeply. Although you weren’t able to stop that tragedy — and you might not have even known what they were at the time — you resolved to hunt them down and punish them.
Decide whether you have already succeeded in taking vengeance on them, or (perhaps more interestingly) have so far been unable to find them.
In the first instance, you were left with your rage unslaked when you finally did catch up with whoever killed your mother or turned your son. You realized that monsters of all kinds crawl in shadows all over the world. Still feeling empty inside, you resolved to take similar vengeance on behalf of the myriad other victims who can’t do it for themselves.
In the second case, the Storyguide will look for opportunities to weave your hunt for the bad guys into her scenarios. She may dole them out in stages, so that successful revenge against one of them puts you onto the trail of another perpetrator, and so on. Storyguides should be careful not to force you to choose between your vengeance and the investigation of the case at hand — they should go hand in hand. Should you finally achieve your vengeance you then, as above, choose to continue on bringing true death to those who remind you of your hated quarry.
You joined up thinking of Rambo or James Bond. Maybe you just wanted to prove yourself at first, but now you know the truth: there’s nothing better than surviving danger. You feel a new kind of alive when you’re closest to death. Nothing beats live fire for high stakes; not sex, not sports, not gambling, not coke. Maybe your team calls you an “adrenaline junkie,” but they’re sure glad to have you take point. When you know where to aim, you go in guns blazing, pitying people who will never know the feeling.
From among your fellow player characters, pick one whom you most trust, and assign 3 Trust to your relationship with that agent. Then pick the one whom you least trust, and assign 0 Trust to your relationship with that agent. Assign 1 Trust to each of your relationships with up to two other members of your team, depending on the number of players.
You also automatically give your home Agency (i.e. either the Ashcroft Foundation, Federal Security Bureau, or Office of Internal Security) 2 Trust, as well as the above.
You must assign the scores in secret, reveal them simultaneously, and do not change them until after the first operation. After trust scores are decided and revealed, make a note of how much trust you’ve gotten from each of your companions.