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Ah, the reason we are here. The heroes and the villains of the world we create in our minds. The edgerunners we aspire to be or the leftovers we dread to realize that we already are.
Characters are the primary elements in a game of Edgerunner that all the players including the referee use to drive the story. Everyone gets a single character to play as they like at the very least. As a player, your character is probably your only means of pushing the story where you want.
Characters in Edgerunner are defined by a few sets of simple characteristics. These are used to drive the story whenever the need arises to resolve an ambiguous situation. You will also see that many other things in Edgerunner are modeled very much like a character. Learn to build a character and you probably can build anything else.
When creating a character, you should first think of a character concept that describes the kind of character you want to play. The roles in Edgerunner are designed to give you a starting point for a concept and they come with special abilities that are typical of dark-future-edgerunners. So, a role should be the first thing you pick for your character.
The role you picked roughly defines what your character is right now but to have a unique and refined character, you will need aspects. But to generate consistent and nice aspects for your character, you will need a backstory first. In Edgerunner, we call that backstory a lifelog.
The lifelog is a short account of the character’s past consisting of five phases. Writing a lifelog is a collaborative activity in this game, and unlike other RPG’s where player characters are assumed to have just met, Edgerunner assumes that the characters are already part of each others' history. This helps in getting the story going without requiring the referee go through a cliché scene, and helps you make more interesting characters.
The characters are created together. Everybody, including the referee creates a character
The lifelog has five phases describing the character’s past. Each one of these phases correspond to an important part of the character’s backstory but they are not limited in terms of time or duration. A phase may tell about something that happened to the characters' parents before he was born, or something that happened just before the play began. It may even jump between the extremes. The events depicted may span minutes or years. There’s no limit.
The actual limit is on the subject of the story you will be telling. Each phase has a title and a subject, and that’s what you must talk about. First, tell your story to your friends around the table. Answer and clarify if they have any questions. Then write down your phase, and keep it short. Two or three sentences is all that is needed to give an idea about the important stuff. Once everybody has told their story and written it down, move onto the next phase. Repeat until you have gone through all five phases.
Phase 1: Boot sequence
This is the story of the character becoming an edgerunner. How he became what he is now, and how he acquired his role. This is a good place to mention his initial ideals if any. Tell your story and write it down in 2-3 sentences.
Phase 2: Login
This is the story of how all the characters became a team, and what kind of team it is. Discuss among yourselves, decide together, and write from your character’s perspective.
Phase 3: System Error
This is kind of a different phase. It’s the story of the major crisis in the character’s life and how this event transformed him. But it also has something important to do with another character being created right now. When telling this part of the story, make sure the character of the player to your right has an important part in it. You may assume that character is new to your story at that point, or that she had been in your character’s life for a while by then. The part that matters is that she should play an important role in your major crisis story. Tell and write.
Phase 4: Remote access
Remember the story that the player on your left just wrote for phase 3? Remember that your character was important for that story. In this phase, you are going to re-tell that story from your character’s perspective. Do not overrule the original story but add to it. Bring out the parts that mattered for your character. Then write it down.
Phase 5: Shell prompt
This phase isn’t actually about the past. It’s about the present, and the future. Tell and write about where your character stands now, and what he aspires to do in the future. Reveal your character’s motivations.
After you have written down your five phases, you should extract aspects from them. A character has six aspects that define him. And they come from the backstory you just wrote. Think of how the events you described shape your character, and put them down as the aspects you character has. Talents surfaced, reputation gained, friends or enemies made or lost, habits made or broken as the result of the phase are all good aspects.
There are two special aspects here. The first one is your role aspect. Your role aspect is the one sentence answer to the question “Who are you?”. It is the core aspect that defines your character, and it should be truly unique to your character. And it should also refer to the role or special ability you picked for your character. e.g.
Rocker with a dark secret,
The icy stare of authority,
The calm and collected mediaor
Once a SWAT solo
The other special aspect is your character’s style. It is what makes him visibly unique in a world mass-educated corporate drones. It is what makes him stand out, sometimes even to his detriment. It is the detail that fans, employers and cyber-assassins will look for when seeking you out. It is the thing that boostergang kid sporting retractable arm blades will remember about him after cutting him down in a dark alley over a quasi-imagined slight.
Four other aspects are there for you to further detail your character as you see fit. Write them wisely, they will be your main tool in playing this game.
Read your aspects to other players, clarify and rephrase them as needed.
Skills determine what your character is good at. Everybody is very good at one thing and less so in others. This is modeled in Edgerunner by a skill pyramid. You get to pick 10 skills from the skill list and assign them to the slots on the pyramid. The top slot at level 4 represents what your character is best at. Level 3 is stuff he is known to be good, and level 2 is enough to earn a living. Level 1 means he regularly uses that skill for some purpose. Your character is assumed to be mediocre at anything that you haven’t included in the pyramid.
Pick and place your skills on the pyramid, justifying your choices with the events in your lifelog.
Upgrades are special rules that apply to specific use cases of skills. By definition, They are also aspects on your character. They are not limited in their number or potency, but their inherent risk of humanity stress puts a practical limit on what you would want to take up. Define your own upgrades by the guidelines in the Upgrades page.
You may have also invested in upgrades that boost your stress thresholds. If such a boost is a general boost, just add it to the threshold now. If it is conditional, then mark the two thresholds, one general purpose, and the other for the specific situation in the upgrade.
Now here’s another twister for you. Edgerunner is a third-person game. You have your character but you are not your character as in many other RPG’s. You as a player are a gamemaster, everyone at the table is, but a restricted one. You get to tell the story as long as everyone agrees but your character is the only part of the game world that you have final say over.
And there’s something that you should internalize. Since you are not your character, you should always maintain a dual awareness. What you know as a player may be much more than what your character knows. There are no secrets among players in a game of Edgerunner. You are expected to play your character according to what he knows, not what you know, just like the way a traditional GM plays a traditional NPC.
If you have played traditional RPG’s before, you will probably be tempted to use your knowledge as a player to gain an advantage for your character. Resist that urge. In Edgerunner, characters don’t ever “improve”. There are no levels, no XP, no skill advancement etc. Characters change, but their overall potency remains the same. What you want to do is make your character part of a great story, and great stories often involve conflicts, troubles and hardship. So don’t tell that your character “suddenly decides to take the long and arduous route instead of the convenient shortcut” where you -not he- know that an ambush is waiting for him. Knowingly walk him into the ambush because he doesn’t know. If you think he’d have the wits to detect and avoid the ambush before walking into it, just say so and be prepared to back it up with his skills and aspects. Because someone else at the table may challenge your assumption and then you would have to roll the dice and see how it turns out.
The traditional notion of character advancement in role playing games does not hold for Edgerunner. Characters don’t gain abilities as they progress in the story. They are assumed to be quite competent from the beginning, they are the edgerunners of the dark future after all. They do change as the story progresses, but they do not gain levels and become immeasurably stronger as in some other games with “singing birds and happy elves”.
But they do accumulate experience as they change. The experience they accumulate is not in the form of higher skills or abilities, but in the form of past aspects. The collection of all the aspects, upgrades, and peak skills a character has ever had is called their ghost. You may access your character’s ghost by spending a fate point, which gives you the ability to use any aspect or skill in the ghost once.
A fresh character’s ghost is empty. All she has is her active aspects, skills and upgrades. Whenever the character changes, (in a refresh or as the result of being taken out) the ghost list changes as well. Permanent character aspects that get swapped out go to the ghost list, as a part of the character’s past. Upgrades lose their boost and stress potential, they become bare aspects as in their name when they are transferred to the ghost list. A peak skill gets its own place in the ghost list when it loses its peak status.
When transferring aspects to the ghost list, feel free to rephrase them to reflect their past status. So,
Fencing mastermay become
Once a fencing master
Once you spend the fate point to access your character’s ghost list, you may invoke aspects or use one of the skills in there, for a single roll. Ghost aspects cannot be compelled at all.
As a result of this, experienced characters are not any stronger than fresh ones, but they are full of surprises. I believe this mirrors real life more closely, and it probably is a very unique feature of this game.