Character Creation Guidelines

The character creation guidelines for Carcosa are rather simple. The focus is on concept rather than on statistics. To guide you in the steps necessary to create a character for our setting, we have provided you with examples. Please note that we request that you endeavor to create a rather ordinary person as a character for this game. Every person, no matter how seemingly normal and ordinary, has skills and experiences to bring to the table. While we appreciate that FBI agents and Occult experts can be ordinary people, too, having 25 such characters in a game can and will necessarily cause a concentration in one set of skills at the expense of all others. Therefore, we ask you to be creative, but to make the same kind of person that you might run into in your own everyday life.

(For those who do not wish to make their own characters, a variety of pregenerated characters will be available at the door on the day of the event.)

Step 1: Character Concept- All that is needed here is a brief description of your basic character idea, at most a sentence or two. Even a simple, summary statement will do for our purposes. The goal here is to create an ordinary person who will be thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

Examples:
  • Zoe is a former housewife, who after caring for her children for the last eleven years, has decided to make use of her BA in Social Work to reenter the workforce. She started her new position at a gang outreach program three months ago and is still getting settled in.

  • Carl is a computer programmer who dropped out of college in the late 1990s to take a job at a large software development company. After more than a decade in the field, Carl has tired of his life as an application developer, and is looking for an outlet for his creative energies. He has recently taken up playing the guitar.

  • Sam is a criminal defense attorney. He grew up in a bad neighborhood, and although he had quite the misspent youth, he managed to escape the lot of his fellows through study and hard work. He remembers his childhood friends fondly, and fights passionately for his misguided clients as a result.

Step 2: Dream- Here, you need to decide what the most positive aspect of your character's personality may be. In other words, who is the person that your character dreams he or she is? A part of your character's dream should be goals for self-improvement or advancement. The more you give us to work with, the better it will be for your character in the course of play, as your dream is how we determine your character goal for a given game. Each game, we will give a specific character goal, some short term act in furtherance of the best aspects of your character. If you manage to pull off this goal in the course of play, you will be rewarded, either with an additional dot of permanent Sanity, or relief of an indefinite insanity (for more information on this, please see the Rules page). Ideally, we would like to get a robust paragraph.

Examples:

  • Zoe has always been a good listener, and it's that very skill that helped her to become a social worker. What she enjoys most however, is how her careful insight of others helps her to better understand herself. For Zoe, the real goal is to not just understand what drives others, but to understand what drives herself. She is a genuinely caring person, and often acts as a mother towards others.

  • Carl dreams of being something more than a nine-to-fiver. He is extraordinarily creative and artistic, but his creativity has been kept in check by the need for a steady income and the desire to keep his family near him. Nevertheless, his wish to share his inmost creative self with others has caused him to start writing and playing music. His ultimate goal is to be known not as Carl the Office Monkey, but instead as Carl the Artist, and to be remembered by others for emotions his music evokes.

  • Sam has a soft spot in his heart for the underdog. Seeing his friends be sent to juvenile hall as a youngster drove him to become a defense attorney. He is a true believer in the idea that there is some good in every person. Sam's dream is to see that no accused person in his charge goes without a good defense, and that every jury sees the human being underneath the criminal exterior of his clients. In doing that, he believes he can prove that every person has worth and value, and is deserving of some measure of dignity.

Step 3: Nightmare- As one might expect, this is in contrast to the dream. What we want here is a robust paragraph which reveals the worst secret about the character. It can also be a fundamental fear or any other weakness of character. In essence, if Dream is what your character wishes he/she was, then Nightmare is what your character fears he/she is.

Examples:
  • As one might guess, Zoe's personal examination in part comes out of a decided lack of self confidence. She tries her best to help others to make decisions perhaps because she finds them so hard herself. In a truly clutch situation, she can be indecisive and prone to second guessing herself. With this comes guilt and shame at her inaction.

  • Carl's wish to show his creativity comes from a fear that he really is nothing more than a humdrum hack, heading steadily toward middle age and ultimate mediocrity. Carl's worst fear is that after he dies, no one will remember his name.

  • Sam fears that his unpreparedness and lack of skill will someday lead to an innocent (or undeserving, at least) person being punished for his failings. This fear sometimes causes Sam to overcompensate for his self-perceived lack of skill by being overly critical of others, alienating them. It will also sometimes paralyze Sam into inaction at critical moments, especially where Sam must take responsibility for someone else.

Step 4: Traits- When creating your character, you receive 20 build points to assign to two different types of Traits: Innate Traits and Trained Traits. Innate Traits are abilities that all people possess to some degree (that is, each character starts with a 1 in each Innate Trait), while Trained Traits are those which have to be learned at some point.  A five is the maximum rating that a PC can buy in a trait with build points.  There are also Special Traits, but these cannot be purchased with build points, and are instead awarded by the staff over the course of play. (For more information, please see the Rules page.)

Step 5: Quirk- Finally, each PC has a special skill, aptitude, or ability which is called a Quirk. It is the goal of the staff to have each PCs quirk to be unique. Quirks either provide some simple, constant benefit, or provide some extraordinary ability which can be used once per game. Quirks can even do things that are not covered by the trait system or are not normally permitted by the rules. What we would like from each player at character creation is just an idea. Don't worry about rules. We will figure out how to tailor your idea to the rules. Be reasonable but interesting. Remember that you are making an ordinary person who is pushed into an extraordinary set of circumstances.

Examples:

  • Zoe is a good judge of character. As someone who puts herself out there to help others, she has painfully learned that some will abuse her good nature. As a result, she is apt at spotting deception and falsehood, thanks to the various scam artists she has encountered.

  • Carl has always been able to think outside the box. It's part of his creative nature. He can, as a result, often perceive factors that will lead to a valid solution to a problem which would escape the notice of most other people.

  • Sam has a very glib tongue, and can lie as easily as tell the truth. As someone who must make convincing arguments with which he doesn't always agree, Sam has often been able to convince almost anyone of almost anything.

Some Additional Rules, Notes, and Suggestions for Character Creation

  • So What's Normal?
    The guiding principle for characters in Carcosa is this: Ordinary people transformed by extraordinary circumstances. The goal is to begin as a typical person, with diverse skills, modest strengths, and believable weaknesses. This does not need to mean boring or weak. Our concern is that too often, PCs appear to be "raised in a box", as if their whole lives have been a refining process to prepare them to be intrepid adventurers. Ex-Navy SEALs who have opened up occult bookstores may indeed exist in the real world, but not in the density that such concepts seem to crop up in games. Some examples of pre-generated concepts we have: Ironworker, War Zone Correspondent, Trust Fund Kid, Civil Engineer, Small Town Mayor, and Cover Band Lead Singer. Need a good starting point? Check out the show "Dirty Jobs". Combine job skills with those granted by hobbies and personal passions and you can easily create a reasonable character with a diverse set of abilities to bring to the table.

  • But Not Too Normal...
    The recurring joke for Mythos inspired games is that the best concepts are half Guy Montag, half Usain Bolt. But in truth, a character who never investigates anything and is only good at running away would make a terrible protagonist. While your character should be normal in terms of skill spread, they should not be typical in terms of drives and desires. This is a game set in a world of dreams and nightmares, and your character should reflect the appeal of that. We are not saying your character should be recklessly curious, but there should be a spark that makes them want to peel back the layers of the world and see what is beneath. Your character be someone willing to explore, take risks, and trying to grow.

  • The Clothes On Your Back
    Carcosa has a certain, Steampunk inspired aesthetic. It's a cultural mash up from the tail end of the 19th Century into the first decade or so of the 20th. When your PC first comes to Carcosa, they should be wearing what they "typically" see themselves wearing. This can be how they dress at work, or perhaps how they like to look in a casual setting. We encourage you to wear the same outfit each time, unless you get new clothing while in Carcosa itself. As time goes on, we look forward to you wowing us with your costume creations, and we plan to make style guide suggestions available in the future. As for equipment, a first time PC is permitted one item of mechanical use, with the requirement being it must be small enough to fit into a pocket. Examples: A pistol, multi-tool, lock picks, or an extending baton. While a PC can have electronics like a cell phone, they will find the batteries are always dead in Carcosa. Trust us that gear and the resources to get and in time make gear will be readily available to players.

  • From Distant Shores, Friends and Foes Meet
    One of the features of Carcosa is that the Dreamlost can come from anywhere in the contemporary world. This is in part possible due to a quirk of linguistics while in the realm of dreams. Regardless of what an individual language a PC may speak, all humans, Dreamlost and Dreamborn alike, understand each other as if they spoke and wrote in the same tongue. We encourage you to not limit your concepts to people who come from the USA, and instead branch out from anywhere on Earth that interests you. However, we request that you avoid creating grouped concepts. PCs should not know each other or have met previous to first arriving in Carcosa. We believe there is an elegant tragedy to people who are friends, foes, or even beloved, but only in a world of dreams, to forget it all when they awaken.

A sample character sheet is included below for reference.