As I said, I’m going to take these books slow, chapter by chapter, writing a post for each. The first chapter is called Go. As the introductory chapter, it of course kicks off with a what is roleplaying section. Like many games it uses a percentile dice system, and suggest where newbies might find them. It does point out some differences to other RPGs very early though. In the fourth paragraph it puts the onus on players to set the objective – normally something in the GM’s remit. Later on it indicates what sort of objective that might be:
Instead of stopping the cultists or killing the beast or protecting the status quo, you are the cultist, the beast, the threat to tradition.
The game really pushes hard that its about characters in Unknown Armies are different. In many games characters are define primarily by what they can do – abilities and skills. In UA, they are defined by their objectives, by their history and how its affected their psyche, by their obsession and by their passion. They do get abilities, but these come first of all from their “shock gauges” and their identities. This last might sound like character Class, or Archetype, but unlike a lot of games, its not their first thing you do in character creation.
Then we dip into the world, and its our world, this one, now. Except your characters know better, because they believe in magic. They know that the “normal” world the rest of us see is just a thin veneer over what is really going on. They know that the world is defined by the Invisible Clergy, who used to be human but they ascended to embody something that the whole world recognizes as a social role: the Mother; the Fool; the Firebrand; and, the Star to name just a few. Your characters don’t know what they are all called, or even how many there are.
They know this though: they know there aren’t (yet) 333 of them. Because when there are, the world ends.
Beneath the Invisible Clergy, in power terms, are Avatars, Adepts and Gutter magicians. These are all things that player characters can be, but they don’t have to be any of them.
After the brief introduction to the world, there’s an pretty full description of the mechanics. Success is determined by percentile dice – preferably two d10 of different colours. If you have a a rating of 45% in Lie, you need to roll that or under to succeed. If you roll 00, that counts as 100 and a fumble, even if your rating was 100%. Ff you roll a matched success or failure, 44 or 55 for example, something unusual happens. Unusually good if its less than your rating, unusually bad, if you failed. If you roll 01, that’s a critical success. In certain circumstances you can flip-flop the dice, turning a 54 into a 45 for example. There are also circumstances where you you get a hunch roll. You roll the dice and have to use the result for your next action. So if you roll high, you want to do something where the consequences of failure are minimal.
The chapter finishes with a discussion of triggers and a piece of fiction.