Unknown Armies 2:3 Characters, Cabals and the Stage

As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, the process of character creation in Unknown Armies is a group activity, led by the GM. So obviously (if somewhat annoyingly), that process is detailed in the GM’s book, Run, rather than the book sold as everything players need to know (harrumph). Therefore I’ve jumped forward to cover the relevant chapter now.

The PC group is referred to as the Cabal. But the process of character generation does just create that group, its creates the word they adventure in. That world is our world of course but with the addition (or if you like, the revelation) of magick. What the players do as they create their cabal is set the stage; “the important locations, themes and relationships.”

This isn’t something you do at the beginning of your first session, it deserves the whole of your first session. And it you have one, a cork-board, pins and bits a string – like a proper conspiracy theorist, If not, some big sheets of paper and markers. Oh, and everyone should bring some images that inspire them…

Then we are ready to begin with the cabal defining their objective. What is this story going to be about? It can be about pretty much anything you can imagine. The examples they give are things like removing a politician with mind-bending powers from office (this was written before last year’s US elections); escaping from a terrible situation; changing the world through magic rock and roll; tracking down and destroying every copy of a reality warping book; or, bringing dragons back into the world. Everyone round the table takes a turn at proposing an objective, and then the group (hopefully) agrees on one, which I guess could be an amalgam of more than one suggestion. Then they sketch out a rough idea of the milestones along the path to meeting that objective.

For best results, work within the framework of desperation, obsession and occult weirdness.

Then, they start defining their character by “notching their Unnatural meter” (ooh-err missus). They describe the event that convinced their character that the unnatural is real, and add up to five hardened notches in the Unnatural meter. Its entirely up to them but you might suggest that being pretty convinced you saw a ghost might be worth one hardened notch, while being brought up since childhood to be a sacrifice in a weird cult’s ritual might warrant the full five.

Back in the world, each player adds either a character or location and connects it to their character or any of the other elements that have already been put down.

Switching back to their characters, each players names their character’s obsession. Magick-using adepts have to make their form of magick their obsession. Then they define their first Identity, and give it anywhere between 15 and 90 percentage points.

The image of the game is blurry at this point. You have disparate elements, half-formed character who are little more than bundles of urges, funneled together in pursuit of a shared objective.

So stage two involves each player connecting their character in a relationship another PC: responsibility; guru; favourite; mentor; or, protege. Next, they give themselves a second identity, with a percentage value as before.

Then they turn back the the world, and each takes a turn at connecting to elements that were not connected before. If they want to connect one of the elements to another players character, they have to ask that player’s permission first. And, with four possible relationship types left, each player takes a turn to use one of them to describe their character’s relationship with the group as a whole.

Moving on to step three, each players distributes up to ten hardened notches across two of their shock meters. They don’t have to use all ten, they don’t have to distribute any points, if they want to play a less hardened character. Then they define their passions: “what pisses him off, scares him, and inspires him?” They can add more identities if they want, and if they have any percentage points left out of the original 120 that they started with. And its at this point they decide which identity best supports their obsession.

The final stage involves adding up to ten hardened notches on their last two meters. Then each player adds another element – GMC or place to the world, and another connection (which doesn’t have to be with the element you just added). They should make sure that each identity has its two features, and that the total number of points allocated to identities adds up to 120.

Then its time to pay the piper. Each player counts up the number of hardened notches on their meters. The total divided by five (rounded up) is the number of failed checks they must allocate. The player can allocate these however they wish across the five meters.

And we’re done.

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