Sunday, January 16, 2022

Space 1889 in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

Day 16 of #charactercreationchallenge. In which I dedicate myself to tearing down the corrupt edifice of the British Empire while exploiting the hell out of a game loophole 

I've built a couple of Space 1889 characters and played in one short campaign, and I admit to a fondness for the genre between this and Castle Falkenstein. Still, every time to try to build a character I get caught in how this is a as much a simulationist character creation system as Jorune or Twilight 2000, just with fewer points, and that leaves be flummoxed because the game doesn't present itself as that. Coming out in 1988, with 6 attributes and skills under them, my brain keeps wanting to make it Star Wars d6. That's on me, but it always throws me. 

Space 1889 has 6 characteristics: Strength, Intelligence, Agility, Charisma, Endurance, and Social Level. Each are rated 1-6. There are also skills under each attribute, but only the first skill on each actually gets a direct benefit, being rated at the Attribute -1. The rest of them are free standing… except that during character creation when you spend your free skill points (either 6 if you took one career or 2 if you took a second career) skills cost half if your characteristic is a 5 or 6. So if you're high in an area it's easy to build up skills in it… at the start of play. No benefits once play begins. 

Careers are packages of skills, theoretically of equal value, but some careers have more stringent entry requirements in terms of Characteristics, and those careers give more points. If the career requires a 5 or 6 Characteristic on entry it makes some sense to reward higher levels in skills that fall under that characteristic as per above, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The main thing is that in a world simulation fashion there are careers separated by social class, physical skills, intellect, and gender (though there's a sidebar on how women can pretend to be men to enter the career); it's a fictional 1889, but in order to have it feel like 1889 at all there have to be a lot of restrictions. 

Classic character creation is setting each of the six characteristics at numbers 1 to 6. That is to say your stat spread is always 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Or you can split up 21 points, or you can roll 3d6. The curve is VERY tight in that a 3.5 is still average, but a 6 Strength makes the sample character one of the strongest men in Europe. So 6 Int is a Sherlock Holmes level genius, 3 is slightly below average. Anyway, I decided to go with the third method, which is randomly rolling 1d6 for each characteristic and play them where they lay. I fired up Anydice and asked for a 6 1d6 distribution. 

6 STR, 6 INT , 5 AGI, 4 Charisma, 3 Endurance, 6 Social Level. GREAT GOOGLY-MOOGLY! He's a veritable Superman! Looking over the options I realized I hadn't built a shady character in a while and one of the secondary careers for players is Master Criminal, but you need a 6 INT to enter it. Sold! I decided on Foreign Officer as his first career and ongoing cover, stationing him in various places around the British Empire where he can form nodes of his burgeoning criminal empire.

A quick roll of 3d6*100 indicates starting wealth (1400) but being a Master Criminal increases that by x50 (!), so 70,000 pounds. Since he's social level 5+, he has that as an annual income. I'm not sure the game designer really anticipated this combination!

With a 6 Social Level he's of the aristocracy, so I did some quick research and discovered the strange affairs of the 5th Viscount of Bolingbroke – which included having some illegitimate children under an assumed identity who he tried to get into the peerage to before he died. I decided that my PC, Roland St. John, was one of those kids. He joined the Foreign Office as it was a posting his father could get him while waiting for his peerage to come through. When it never did (and he was passed over for his half-brother whose servant mother had married his father in Bath just a couple years before father's death) he saw the whole hideous edifice of the British Empire – the colonialism, the Opium Wars, the inbred idiots being in charge – and started his master plan to bring the whole thing down. Thus, was born Doctor White, the scaped palimpsest of the future world. 

In a campaign maybe the other PCs are his agents, working with him on his master plan. Or they are people he knows in his cover identity as a foreign office agent wherever the campaign is set who he is "helping" for reasons of his own. 

High as his starting characteristics are, his starting skills are a little diffuse, so he's balanced against other more focused player characters, despite his herculean physique, Holmesian intellect, peerage, and limitless money. OK, Maybe not. 

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