Character Creation, Standard Start:
Players will ‘draft’ their character, getting three random options for four different categories, until they have a prepared starting character. They can check all their options and move between stages, locking in choices until they’re done.
Making sufficient progress in game will allow for some additional options and starting benefits, as well as progress toward new game types and scenarios. Re-entering the draft selection will turn up the same options, and repeated early game losses or abandoned runs (‘scumming’) will mean less or no options or progress toward these special rewards.
There are twelve classifications or general classes of parahuman, broad categories of power:
Within each category are a number of individual powers- these abilities are a large part of the game’s focus in development, being broken down and designed in such a way that a player shouldn’t get or see the exact same power twice.
More details will come later in this document. For now, it should simply be stated that the power is typically going to be a player’s primary focus, with other aspects selected to build around it.
With default settings, the player will get three complete powers to choose from and take one.
The character’s personality dictates who they get along with, the events that shape their lives, and abstractly, their approach to things. Events are scenarios or key moments in the character’s day to day that arise, and the bulk of the events a character has available to draw (at least initially) are dependent on their general personality type and on the slant of their personality.
The secondary effect of personality is it dictates one’s social ability in combat. People can shout out to or communicate with others in the heat of combat, and this is represented by a social action that one has at the start (provided they have both aspects of a personality, with a type and slant). The effect is generally fairly minor and/or mixed, but talk is cheap, and communicating in the heat of battle is relatively quick and easy. As such, an angry personality might curse at an enemy or ally in times when they don’t want to (or can’t) outright attack yet. Their next turn will come up sooner because the action was easy, though it won’t come up quite as fast as if they just passed and did nothing with their turn.
Rather than each personality having its own custom deck, it will use one of the four types (such as Aggressive) and one of the seven slants (such as Conflict). Personalities are:
The player will draw three random personalities and pick one of the three.
Archetype shapes the character’s natural abilities and tendencies by emphasizing the things the individual is good at doing and the things they aren’t as good at. There are seven stats; a character will have two stats they favor and one stat that is penalized. Through one’s archetype, they’ll also decide their starting skill.
The Seven Stats:
Each stat governs a suite of game mechanics, with some overlap. Health, for example, is primarily governed by Guts, but Brawn offers a partial benefit, and Athletics offers a small one.
The stats are:
The starting skill, like the character’s social action, will be available on the start, alongside actions like attacking, moving, and using their power. These skills are broken down into categories based on the most relevant stat, and each character will start with something they can do in combat that matches one of their strong stats, representing natural ability and inclinations in a fight.
A character will have three archetypes available, each with a contained set of bonuses, penalty, and starting skill.
Dispositions reflect a character’s overarching goals and approach. They will have three options to start and pick one. This dictates some events, affiliations, and the means of victory.
The most iconic two are ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, but the list includes options like sponsored capes, who are backed by a person or group, believers, who support an ideology (which the character will later choose a subclassification for, including faith, environmentalism, or political), mercenaries, who are primarily focused on money, and others, including the violent, the independent, and F-lister.
Dispositions get touched on in this general parahumans document.
Character Creation, Alternate methods…
The player chooses from quotations and statements, answering somewhat abstract prompts. The end result is the same, but it’s abstract, more story-driven, and it works backward from method one, using the fragmented quotations that conclude standard character creation.
“I triggered after…”
“My mother pulled a knife on me.”
(Power goes striker)
“A hundred people stared at me in horror, as humiliation flushed my face.”
(Power goes stranger)
“I was used to dealing with my problems by ___, but my usual methods wouldn’t solve this.”
…”swinging my fists.” (Aggressive personality)
…”shutting down.” (Passive personality)
And so on. The character could mulligan while answering the questions or after seeing the end result. They might get a slight bonus or more mulligans over Method One characters.
Just noting in brief, but the game could very well have a ‘Cauldron’ option where credit for good runs or not start-scumming would be spent on unlocking things for a ‘choose whatever you want’ kind of run.
So you could finish a game with a madness breaker and you can spend points to unlock the ‘madness’ aspect of the breaker power, maybe with a few random unlocks if so desired.
Not something to be included right away, but options like playing a case fifty-three or another angle on approaching being a cape might pop up in very rare cases (such as if the same archetype, personality, or power root is rolled twice). These could couple with Method Three for challenge runs and other things that are ‘unlocked’.
Let’s look at a sample character… See here for a better illustration of the set of options given to the player before they settled on the sample character below. The descriptions given are abbreviated. All options were generated randomly from existing lists, with accompanying icons drawn after (that is, this is something that was generated randomly, not crafted for the example).
And finally, we have her power. For the power she chose, it rolled Striker (melee or touch-based effects), generating the Drum ability, specifically…
This is only one half of the power, however. This outlines a melee strike that sends enemies flying, and leaves them surrounded by [element]. This gets plugged into the other half of the power to determine the effect. It could leave foes in a cloud of smoke, surrounded by ice, or in a bed of flame.
In her case, however, she gets Fissure, which creates cracked ground…
Aurora drafted this in conjunction with the archetype that gives her ‘Pounce’ because the player wanted to use the gap-closing feature of Pounce with the ability to augment her melee hits, and because Pounce’s added ability to apply status plays well with the fact that those within a fissured area are prone to falling down.
The ‘contemplative’ personality doesn’t influence the power much, though the slight chance to percentages helps slightly, given the multiple facets of the power (chance to hit, chance to apply an impact status effect, chance to knock down). Where the contemplative personality works is with pounce and the character’s general inclination to bide their time, wait for an opportunity, and strike for optimal effect. In short, waiting before using pounce increases pounce’s effect, and the character can stay put and plan while waiting.
Finally, Aurora took the Mercenary disposition. There’s a focus on money, and an implied willingness to bend personal rules or work with either side if there’s profit in it. She’s likely to pick up another disposition, indicating a general area of preference or her attitude when money isn’t the priority, but that comes at a later date. It gives her a starting ‘milestone’ – effectively an achievement or a quest with no expiration date. If she can pass this test of personal growth, she’ll get a more concrete ‘level up’, for lack of a better term.
In the background, the game creates some general interpersonal stuff. A list of contacts, including people in Aurora’s family and friend group, and enemies of a mundane sort. These characters are liable to turn up in her story, being pulled out when an event calls for it. The player can also pick their face.
As the character creation menu fades away, Aurora conceptualized and ready to start, the game draws on the individual elements to generate a loose backstory. It’s fragmented with individual segments appearing here and there on the screen, fading in from black. It’d be impossible for there to be a full story, so we just create the loose idea, each fragment pulled from a different aspect of the confirmed character. We’ll see a bit of this later.
For Aurora, the image is painted of a car crash, followed by her being attacked by a guy with terminal road rage. Her brother was in the car, but (presumably) unconscious. There are some other menus to check the end result of the gen, including what was randomly determined for starting assets and family. Aurora has a mom, stepdad, and the brother she was with, and her assets are pretty average to start.
The player hits go, confirming all choices made, and leaps into the tutorial mission.
Before we get to that, a digression…
Powers, Construction & Handling
A primary goal in the Worm SRPG is to have powers that feel sufficiently varied. It should not be common for the same power to be seen twice. With this in mind, each power has at least two aspects that are generated independently of one another and then combined. These form our building blocks – some powers may have other variables, though tertiary variables are liable to be small and won’t impact gameplay in a serious way.
A bulk of the game’s design would be aimed at providing the necessary assortment of building blocks. This would include the powers within the twelve broader classifications of powers, and it would also include the elements (like ‘Fissure’, described above, the ‘bullets’ fired by blasts or the effects applied by melee hits), mutations (for changer, some brute or breaker, a rare few tinker), and tinker equipment.
Aurora, our sample character, is a Striker. This is the category that covers touch and melee powers. Her power is broken into the two halves ‘Drum’ and ‘Fissure’, covered above. Let’s assume a completely different roll to illustrate how the building blocks might play out.
With just these powers and elements in play, there are four options (Fissure Drum, Winter Drum, Fissure Scythe, Winter Scythe). The goal would be to have a wide assortment of individual building blocks.
Strikers, Blasters, Shakers, some Brutes, some Movers, some Breakers and the rare Changer might draw on the element options, like Winter and Fissure above. Fissure could be a card drawn by any of these – a striker delivers melee hits that employ Fissure, Winter, or other less ‘elemental’ elements like Gravity or Madness. A blaster fires projectiles that employ these things. A shaker generates area effects, often leveraging the environmental aspect of them, instead of having them be secondary as they are in Drum. A Brute might have a personal forcefield that flares out with an element when hit or delivering especially heavy hits.
Tinkers are more self-contained. These are the inventors, and for them, they have a methodology, the rules by which they’re inspired and they build, as well as the restriction of what they can build (say, only being able to build armor and melee weapons, or only being able to build elemental guns). Some of the devices built may lean on the element list. It’d be possible, for example, to have a tinker of a certain stripe build guns that use/apply the fissure element. Tinkers are versatile, varied, and have a lot of options in terms of what they can do, but they’re also very much restricted in terms of time and the resource investment that goes into their stuff.
Changers, some breakers, some brutes, some strikers and the rare tinker might employ the mutation list.
Tutorial Fight: A First Encounter
The game opens with a simple ‘mugging the dragon’ fight. If there’s material to borrow from in the trigger, we might drop in elements from the trigger event. Otherwise, it’s the character going about their business when they’re mugged or otherwise faced with a relatively easy ‘tutorial’ fight.
For Aurora, we skip past the usual opening prelude of combat and move straight into the encounter itself. Aurora, a man, and two wrecked cars. This is a basic tutorial fight, but it’s not, on the surface, an easy one. Text appears and disappears, outlining Aurora’s trigger in disconnected, fragmented sentences.
After the text fades, we see Aurora’s objective: survive. She’s wounded, with half of her health missing and she’s ‘weak’ due to an injury, so her attacks do less damage. Her opponent, the road rager, is full health and he’s a strong, tough guy. A turn counter button and notification about her objective pop up.
Aurora and her target take turns. Behind the scenes, each individual on the battlefield has a countdown timer, starting at 100 (typically) and counting down in increments. When it hits zero, they get a turn. Any remainder applies to the next turn.
The increment it counts down by is one’s initiative. While each individual has seven primary stats, they have derived stats that draw from combinations of primary stats. Health, for example, draws from Guts, Brawn, and Athletics. Initiative, in this case, draws from Athletics, Dexterity, and Wits, with Athletics being the biggest contributor. Aurora has high Athletics and Wits, and counts down by 7.4 points each interval. Her opponent counts down by 5.
In practice, we don’t see the countdown happen. We only see the resulting turn order, where, assuming normal turns are taken, Aurora will get a double turn after she and her opponent have gone twice.
And so it continues in this fashion. after the text has faded, we can see the timer icon at the top left and can hover over it for a sense of which turns are coming up:
In reality, however, there are a few limiting and complicating factors that may shuffle this around. Some actions will refund initiative or they’ll cost additional initiative, delaying or speeding up the next turn. Sometimes taking damage might cost a bit, or conditions and powers might slow someone down or speed them up. A controlling factor of taking a large number of additional turns is that it can be exhausting, but more on this later…
During each turn, Aurora and her opponent can take two actions. She gets her first turn but she spends it dazed and having the text pop up, giving us context. This effectively hands her opponent the ability to start combat – this is a really shitty situation and Aurora gets no breaks. He walks up and he strikes her, a melee hit that takes 16 of her 31 remaining health. Each melee weapon has a chance to append certain effects or conditions, but the unarmed attack (a punch or a kick) doesn’t really offer much and the chance is low. It’s just damage for now.
Aurora now gets her two actions. In addition to moving, her skill bar shows the basic options at the bottom of the screen:
At the far left ?Q? we Aurora’s first active skill, Pounce, with two empty slots for others she may pick up later. She only knows Pounce, which she started with due to her archetype. A short distance leap that works better against unaware foes. The remaining active skill slots are empty and grayed out.
To the right, we have a number of other icons, with hotkeys A, S, D, F, G, and H. In brief…
[A]ttack is a strike with whatever weapon the character has on hand, or an unarmed hit if they have none.
[S]peak is talking, to oneself, allies, and/or enemies, depending on the character’s personality.
[D]efend raises one’s guard and turns focus in one direction. Allows attacks if someone hostile tries to move through the area, and reduces damage coming from that direction.
[F]ind is searching. The character takes a second to examine an area. Study foes and spot hidden things.
[G]rab is a general context-dependent action, used for interacting with the environment, picking up things or people, opening doors, or operating a computer.
[H]eal is pausing to recuperate, stop bleeding, and breathe. Recovers a percentage of missing health and restores some spent stamina.
These options are almost always available and form the backbone of what the character can do.
(We also have three belt slots above the basic action bar, which would be where sheathed weapons, pepper spray, grenades, or bandages would be kept, assigned hotkeys , , and . These are grayed out.)
Pounce can’t be used against foes right next to her, and moving a few feet back would be half her turn. Defend would mitigate damage and potentially allow a counterattack, but that doesn’t get her to a better position. Heal would potentially let her recuperate from the weakness effect and restore some health, but it’s not going to restore more health than her attacker is taking with every blow. She decides her best option is to attack.
Some actions have special benefits when doubled-down on, costing stamina to do so. Double attacking, for instance, can grant additional attacks. With her Dexterity being at 3, her first attack lands normally…
9 damage and a stagger. The stagger is one of the possible effects of landing a punch, comes with a delay to the road rager’s next turn (changing the required countdown to 125), hampers their movement, hurts their accuracy, and limits their ability to defend against what follows. It naturally ends at the end of their next turn of actions.
With the second attack, she clicks the icon and sees two options, and she can click-drag left to select ‘full attack’ or click-drag right to do a standard attack. She chooses the first, spends one stamina (one of her four notches under her health bar), and she strikes out a number of times based on her Dexterity: with 3 dexterity she strikes 1.5 times, that half attack having half the chance to hit and half the damage. Her second punch lands for another 9 damage, and this time knocks her opponent back. He staggers back 10’, and for her half-attack, she uses pounce.
Pounce closes the distance as she attacks, while offering the same sort of options that a good punch or kick could: possible stagger, knockback, inflicting weakness or knockdown; this is on top of her odds with a punch. She pounces- and she whiffs, missing. Stamina aside, there is no energy or ‘mana’ costs in this game, and instead the back and forth of actions is about turn orders and economy of action. Pounce’s cost is to delay her next turn by 15 units of time, setting the countdown to her next turn to an effective 115).
Because her opponent is slow, being staggered affects him a fair bit more than the delay cost of Pounce impacts Aurora. The next turn comes up, and it’s hers.
There’s a slight catch, however. Accelerated turn-taking detracts from stamina. Going too many turns in a row can exhaust her, and as she moves her cursor around to look at options, she sees the turn order change around. Pounce delays her next turn, but [S]peak, [D]efend, [F]ind, and [H]eal are the opposite: they’re ‘easy’ actions. They refund initiative, accelerating how fast her next turn comes up. With her current stats, she gets 25 initiative back. She could [S]peak to talk to herself and plan, granting a minor buff, but this isn’t really worth it.
[H]eal is an easy action that involves taking part of a turn to catch breath and cover up some wounds, though it provokes attacks from those nearby. Thankfully, her opponent isn’t in range to swing a punch. Heal recovers spent stamina, and heals 30% of her missing health- not her total health, but 30% of what’s been lost from it. She’s missing 48hp, and if she heals she recovers 14. She also gets a 50% chance to lose the ‘weak’ condition.
Because this is an easy action, it impacts turn orders. She just took an action, she gets this action, and she heals and ends her turn. Weakness gone, 14 health back (she’s at 29 now). After, her enemy gets to act, and then she gets to act twice in a row again. The benefits of economizing actions and initiative.
Her hope is that with the added hp, her high dodge chance from stats, and her opponent being staggered, he won’t be able to hurt her too badly.
She doesn’t get so lucky. The Road Rager follows up and he attacks her twice. 14 and 16 damage, with the second hit applying a knockdown, which doesn’t matter because she just dropped to zero.
In regular combat, when a character of any meaningful status (ie. not a civilian, useless fuckhead of a minion, dog, or summoned goblin) is taken to zero, they get a chance to get back into the fight. This is typically 50%, unless the character has high or low Guts (the defensive, health and willpower stat), and dwindles with each repeated attempt. Teammates can help at the cost of part of their turn, but Aurora doesn’t have teammates.
Because this is the tutorial, however, Aurora auto-succeeds. She lies there, scared and hurt, and we’re treated to a flicker of violent, raw and cryptic images. We see the remainder of the text from her trigger…
My friends used to joke I had my head in the clouds, but now the clouds feel so far away, there’s just cold dirt and raw fear…
More images appear.
I saw something impossible and monumental… I reached out for shattered landscapes and felt power in my hands. Gripping that ruinous power and feeling it seep through my clenched fists, I started hitting back.
On her skill bar, the ‘Fissure Drum’ power she selected appears. Being knocked down, she’s limited in what she can do for the turn, with only one action available, and she chooses to attack, using her power to boost the punch. She’s not weakened anymore, so her base attack damage is 12, and Fissure Drum boosts her damage slightly, making it deal 14. More importantly and more helpfully, it sends her opponent flying. He’s thrown twenty feet back, takes 8 fall damage, and creates a crater of broken earth around him.
Now she’s standing, and she gets that second turn she planned for. The objective updates. She’s supposed to kill him or scare him off. The latter is theoretically easier: just her having a power makes him pretty scared, but it gets easier if his health is lower than hers, which is a tall order considering she has the one point of health right now. Whatever option she picks will impact things, however, changing the course of her story.
Healing again so soon after the last attempt would have diminishing returns, so she instead approaches, judging the distance between herself and him, moving and then [S]peaking to herself. She applies the ‘Plan’ buff, which boosts all of her percentage chances to be rounded up to the nearest multiple of 4, increasing every roll she makes by 0-3%, depending. It’s not strong, partially a consequence of her low Social score, but it’s something.
He stands, and moves back, putting himself in safer territory. As there is no ‘grid’ to this game, movement is simply a measure in feet, represented by a warped circle around the person moving. Intervening terrain, obstacles, and having to climb will limit the area that can be moved through, and special textures will mark where certain actions are required, such as leaping or hurdling. Because the cracked earth is difficult ground, his movement is heavily restricted, essentially halved.
Her turn comes around again, and she has options when it comes to movement. As attacks were doubled down on, she maintains the ability to double down on movement, sprinting. This would let her double-move, and as with attacks, gives more than the sum total of its actions, with additional distance covered and some evasion granted against any attacks that movement provokes. A headlong dash through a hail of bullets, potentially. Problem is, this course of action puts her near her enemy then ends her turn, letting him act, and he’d probably just hit her and knock her out. If she stops to heal, he can match her by doing the same and heal for more, and while she’s likely to win in a drawn out encounter (inevitable with her being unable to be knocked out for good in the tutorial fight, but that’s beside the point), there’s another aspect to movement, when range is displayed…
Because of the passive benefit of her power, she’s untroubled by difficult terrain like her own craters, but she still lacks the range. While the solid orange circle indicates the area she can comfortably move, there’s a larger circle around that represents how far she can move if she pushes herself. In a pinch, when one needs to get away, chase, or get to cover, they can test their Athletics stat to try to move further. On a failure, it may abort the turn early, or leave the parahuman more vulnerable. On a success, it’s a bit of extra distance.
It’s the distance she needs, and she’s athletic enough that her odds are good, and she has the plan buff for just a slightly better chance to cover extra ground and land that hit. She charges in, closes the gap, tests her Athletics, and succeeds. A single attack sends her opponent flying again. It’s enough for him, and he offers to surrender.
Aurora lets him go, knowing he’s going to be a problem later. She gets no rewards for the tutorial fight, and the player gets the ability to skip any such encounters in the future and jump straight to any decisions needed.
The Gameplay Loop: Phases
The gameplay loop is as follows, after character creation and the tutorial:
Event Phase (or Day Phase) – The player will see two events (one if it’s an Escalation event) drawn from a list determined by their personality and background – this may add quests and subquests, impact the conflict phase that follows, or alter the character’s growth If they have teammates, events may arise with the team dynamic. Finally, once these events are resolved, the player will decide the character’s schedule, filling in X time slots.
Conflict Phase (or Night Phase) – Going out in costume. Choose locations to venture into and/or objectives to start. The conflict phase takes place on a broader city map with districts. Traveling to distant districts may cost time or risk random events in areas that are passed through. There are chains of combats, with players deciding how far they push it, as they don’t recover all of their injuries or resources at the close of a given combat.
Each fight or night-phase event will have its own rewards and contributions to character growth. Once they decide to end their night, they’ll return home and recuperate back to full.
Aurora starts the event portion of the day phase. She has a list of events, drawn from a list compiled from her character’s background and personality. 15 common events, 15 events from ‘Assertive’ (one half of her personality), 10 events from ‘Dreamer’ (the other half of personality), 10 from Mercenary, then ten power-related events, pulling from keywords (Striker, Rumble, Fend, Heavy, Earth).
There’s also the addition of a ‘He Knows’ event, which follows from her letting the Road Rager go in her tutorial; Had she killed the man, it would be a ‘They Found the Body’ event. Events are added and shuffled into the mix as things occur in the character’s journey, reflecting who they are and the choices they’ve made.
Finally, there will be four or five ‘Escalation’ events, not listed above. Escalation events are distributed evenly through the deck (the first one in the first 15 cards, the second in the 15 that follow, etc). These are game-changers, and reflect major things happening in the city. More on this later.
The first event is drawn. ‘Belief and Conviction’:
The flavor text pulls from little details like the cause of Aurora’s trigger being a car crash.
In this case, she has four options. The icons at the right of each bar indicate which ones have follow-up pages (?), which could be further scenes and decisions, selecting a reward, or choosing a penalty. If Aurora passed a Knowledge check (a percentage chance as the event first comes up) then she might gain some insights into this, with icons glowing to indicate she can hover over them for hints about what might unfold or what her odds are really like.
Off on the side, the player can see the relationship status with the two people most relevant to the event. These are liable to change as the event progresses. She doesn’t get along with her stepdad, so it’s much easier to lose affection or trust with him (their personalities are wildly divergent), and she kind of gets along with her mom. Who she gets along with naturally is largely dependent on personality. She has a personality that’s similar to her mom but has nothing in common with her stepdad. More on this in a (much) later section, as we talk about teammates and team balance.
Why is this important? The better her relationships with the people around her, the better certain events are. Further, as noted in the listing of events above, there are certain ‘Test’ events that may come up: [Morale Test], [Relationship Test] and [ID Test]. These won’t come up in the first week or so, but when they do pop up, they drop an ‘oh shit’ situation on Aurora… and if her morale, secret identity, or relationships are compromised, things get really mucky. Long-term injury or 10 purely negative events shuffled into her ‘deck’ mucky.
With the options given, the first option would cost Aurora time she could otherwise use to prepare for her night out in costume. It’s time that could be spent on training, on getting her costume ready, shopping, or getting her homework done. The icon suggests there’s a follow-up.
The second option in her event doesn’t have a follow-up screen. Selecting it would end the event. It wouldn’t quite end things here, however. The icon on the button indicates that there’s a quest. Agreeing to attend church in the future would mean using her schedule slots to do so a certain number of times in a certain span of time. Is that better than the first option? Considering it’s her first night out in costume that’s coming up, it might be better. More than that, the rewards or penalties could be above and beyond what selecting the option now could be. Experience, even more trust and affection than she would have gotten, or other benefits for being zealous in her faith.
The remaining options involve rolls. Saying no but trying to talk to the parents means testing her social. Aurora’s social score is bad (starting stats range from 2-4 and she has a 2), so the outcome might not be great.
Making up an excuse is just as tricky, but might bring other things into play. It tests her social again, but it also tests her relationship with the family members in question. People who are fond of her are more likely to believe her.
Let’s assume she goes forward with attending… It’s the first option, and the icon to the far right indicates there’s a follow up scene. More story and decisions to be made.
Trust and affection go up with Aurora’s parents, and there’s a secondary benefit of gaining some morale. This is the result of a test of her relationship with them that happened in the background.
That said, so is the fact that she’s at odds with her stepdad. It impacts the stakes with the decisions given.
The first two options offer bonuses. These are short-term buffs that will by default last a day and a night.
Zealous encourages an aggressive, risk-taking play, where Aurora would stay out at night for extended periods of time. This increases her stats by a fractional amount each time she sticks it out, that will definitely matter by the end of the night. Skeptic is more cautious, giving a small bonus to percentage rolls to avoid being deceived.
What one chooses may depend on the other consequences, and sometimes the player has to make an educated guess or draw on past experience with events they’ve seen before – in Aurora’s case, taking the Skeptic angle may hurt her relationship with her family but preserve morale, while taking the Zealous route might hurt morale some – it ticks her off to have to let her stepdad be a dildo, but it maintains the peace. In a city with a lot of Believer superheroes and supervillains, being a skeptic may be problematic. Aurora, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of an idea what the dynamic is like in the city.
These bonuses don’t last long (though some skills may extend them) but can be maintained by meeting requirements. For Zealous, continuing to go to church will reaffirm the bonus and keep it going. For a Skeptic, research gives a chance, not a guarantee, that the buff continues. While this may sound worse, gaining knowledge is fairly useful and is likely to be something Aurora is more inclined to be doing regardless. The bonuses, if extended for long enough, can be improved, gaining additional benefits while scaling up the benefits already noted. Zealous II helps with finding the inner strength to get back into the fight, giving a +15% chance to self revive, while Skeptic II helps with tactical knowledge by second-guessing enemies, and is especially helpful with avoiding ambushes. If lost, these bonuses maintain some of their progression from prior use, so someone who was Zealous for a time who lapses and then picks it up again will retain much of their progress.
The final action is available because she’s a dreamer – a personality type that dwells on thoughts and dreams, not necessarily a smart person, but a thoughtful one. This option shuffles another event into the deck that will come up later- a [Belief & Conviction Ⅱ] event. There are a couple of other hidden selections that might lead to this same follow-up event, such as if she’d selected the Believer disposition instead of the Mercenary one, and there are other possible end results she can’t and won’t see because she doesn’t meet the requirements. If she already had skeptic or believer, for example, this would have added an option to the very first screen.
Aurora takes the second option. She loses some of the ground she gained with parents affection-wise, but her morale remains untouched. Taking Zealous, she reasons, is a hit to morale with a bad first night out in costume potentially really sinking her, because of Zealous’s drawback.
Events are drawn in twos, and if the first isn’t an Escalation event, then the second won’t be either. Conversely, a drawn Escalation means nothing else unusual happens in the character’s day to day – these things tend to be noteworthy enough that following the news takes priority. Examples of Escalations might include a new drug hitting the streets (possibly not wholly natural), a tinker enclave visiting the city and auctioning off tinker gear (if she doesn’t buy it, someone else might), or an A-class Kaiju appearing in the city (does she join or hang back?). Each escalating event adds new sub-events to the mix for future days and impacts the city & the game going forward, raising the difficulty or complexity as a general rule.
However, Escalation events don’t happen this early on, and the game has a tendency to give the character something relating to their cape experience for their first night. If it wasn’t a Mercenary event, it could be a Power event, relating to her striker nature, subtype, or element. For example, Lashing Out gets into some lingering trauma from her trigger event (the car accident and road rager attacking her) and sees her getting angrier, with a possible step one to changing her personality to something more aggressive, taking on a ‘warrior’ buff (as with Skeptic or Zealous), or entering the next night with a self-imposed quest to break some faces.
Aurora is a mercenary, and she draws a mercenary event, Contracted. It’s a mercenary job, and it’s a tricky thing, because Aurora hasn’t had any chance to gather information, and there’s a lot of question marks involved. The cash is okay, but it requires teaming up with others, and she doesn’t know those others.
She selects the ‘information’ tab in the top left and right clicks names to bring up panels with some information. She started with some, but it’s not much…
For now and for the next fifteen days, it’s a team that Aurora can group with; in combat the player will be able to control the others if they don’t despise Aurora. After those fifteen days are up, she could attempt to form a team and get one or both of the others to stick with her. That’s the good. The bad? For one thing, she doesn’t know much about these guys.
Any new character will know a smattering of information, and she barely has anything on these guys. She doesn’t even know what Lickspittle looks like, but she knows he’s a Money-grubber. That means he doesn’t just have the Mercenary disposition, but also the Scum disposition – his overall approach to being a cape pretty much doesn’t care about reputation, and may have him dealing or using drugs, or doing other unsavory things.
Alekhine is self-promoting, according to her information panel. That means she’s sacrificing the privacy of keeping her information secret to get her reputation up and her name out there. Like Aurora, she’s just a Mercenary. She has a chess aesthetic to her costume, and a power with some sort of area-effect component. This is honestly pretty ideal, and Aurora is interested in the job if for nothing other than associating with potential allies.
She could delay replying, but that eats into her schedule, and Church already did so. Instead, she moves into negotiating. She has poor Social and rather than let the job get away from her, doesn’t ask for more or try to adjust the conditions: some are firm, but ones like ‘Alekhine and Lickspittle can’t die or leave’ or ‘no killing’ could be negotiated by a more social character. She accepts what’s offered: a fifteen day job, roughly one robbery of specific locations every five days, and the added condition that she can’t kill.
The deal is struck. At the end of the next night out, she’ll meet her new teammates. A new box appears at the upper left, indicating the quest and quest details, and she gains some more information, with the data centers added to the map – all viewed through the information panel in the sidebar.
The day phase has a more freeform aspect where Aurora can decide what she does with the day when she isn’t in school or at work.
As always, the sidebar on the right allows viewing of current status, switching between tabs to view statistics, equipment, information, and relationships, as well as the newly acquired quest, appearing as a new tab. The options for filling time slots are the primary means of impacting these things.
There are four time slots by default, which is cut down to three because Aurora decided to attend church. If she delayed responding to the contract offer, it would be cut down to 2. She’s also given the opportunity to skip school/work; there are short-term penalties to doing so, consequences may take the form of events that are shuffled into her deck for later, but it would give her another time slot.
For now, simply shift-clicking or dragging the options to the side will fill the spots. Each can also be opened with a right-click to see the options available within.
Aurora chooses to Shop, to Craft, and to Train. With the third option selected, the button to progress appears. She moves on with the selection.
Aurora has $200 to spend to start, but the amount of cash available isn’t the only concern. Each item purchased will have a degree of heat associated with it. Buying things that can be traced to her costumed life will make information available to her nebulous enemies. Items like weapons or custom-made costumes will draw more heat than innocuous items. Aurora is fine with this however, and her focus is on getting set up so she can craft something. She buys a hockey mask, a flashlight, and some first aid stuff.
$65 spent. Only one hit of ‘heat’ – Aurora’s player watches a small red file icon with the letter H fly over to the information tab on the sidebar.
She has nine inventory slots to put things in, and the slots are for the most part indiscriminate. The Heavy Coat doesn’t occupy the body slot, and she could thus layer multiple tops. For each slot she leaves empty, by contrast, she’ll gain a freedom of movement bonus to a variety of things: movement, jumping and climbing rolls, evasion, and an aesthetic boost to her appeal. Certain items, like the rugged boots, have icons that mark them as restricted (she couldn’t wear another item with the foot icon)
Obviously, the items as provided don’t make up a very good costume. Her objective is to make something more satisfactory. She starts with the mask, dragging the newly bought hockey mask into the crafting screen. She gets a number of options, some costing money. Adding a stat/feature to an item (like armor, health, stealthiness), removing one, turning the item into something costume suitable, trashing the item for cash, or repairing broken gear.
Aurora elects to turn her hockey mask into something more costume-suitable, which tests her Dexterity and Knowledge. On two successes, she gets to pick the bonus. On one success, she picks one of three. On two failures, it’s something random, with a 50% chance it’s a penalty instead of a bonus. In any event, she does get to turn her hockey mask into a proper full-face mask. She gets a perfect success, gets to pick, and gives it +health.
She transforms her coat as well as her second craft. With one success, she gets three options and takes ‘Emblem’ – a symbol that she sports to promote her brand and build rep faster. For her third craft, she fixes up her boots, just giving them a bonus, spikes. She’s out of cash for now.
As was the case with crafting, one of her vital statistics determines how much she can do here. Within one stint of crafting, with three Knowledge, she can do three things.
Building a file on a cape gives bonuses when dealing with them. Visiting her available sheet for someone like Lickspittle, she might see:
She has a 3% bonus to all rolls involving Lickspittle because she has this much information on him. Collecting more information can increase the percentage, which is useful whether one is dealing with friend (events, encouraging them in battle, healing them) or foe (accuracy chance, dodge chance).
Information also has its own purpose with the scheduled action ‘utilize intel’. It can be sold, traded, or existing information can be extrapolated from. If you know a teammate well, you can try to provoke a positive event or build a relationship. If you know an enemy well, you can intuit where in the city they might be.
Aurora researches Alekhine, Lickspittle, and does a general research check.
The city is generated and involves a set number of tiles – six to twelve, depending on parameters set as the game opens. Each tile has its traits and some special locations, but to start with, Aurora doesn’t necessarily know much about the city except her neighborhood.
Aurora has the option of moving to a neighboring area or staying in the one she’s in. The primary option will be to patrol- roaming around, keeping an eye out for opportunity. Just patrolling gives her some influence, some information, and it offers a high rate of random encounters. She can also access a dropdown of objectives similar to those available during the day, to visit locations in costume, surveil, self-promote, etc.
Each neighborhood has several locations within its area. These can include:
Doctors Offices, for getting wound care in the middle of the night. They come in a variety of forms.
Training locations, for better improving stats.
Cape meetup spots. Villain hangouts, mercenary bars, courthouse roof, under the bridge.
High value targets: banks, penthouses, tech companies, casinos.
Special shops: black markets, tinker depots, drug hubs, costume makers.
Labs and Libraries: for advanced research options.
Places for sale: front businesses, apartments for relocating or situating hideouts. May be innocuous, may be something the opposition is using.
For the time being, Aurora doesn’t have much info – she knows where the church is and where her home (doubling as headquarters) is. The map displays the three computer companies she’s to target, but as the quest hasn’t yet started, all she can do is surveil and gather info. She would have to travel over to them, as well. She instead opts to do a circuit, starting at River Hill. If things go wrong, she can head back home at any point.
Aurora runs into gang members.
The scene opens with a short dialogue, getting into the options available, which may differ each time.
Not every scene is a combat, though they will tend to lean in that direction. In this case, if Aurora were a villain, the ‘approach and talk’ option could be the lead-in to them joining the High Flow gang, or to try to poach some prospective initiates to said gang. Instead, she looks at ambushing – she has a little icon to the side, signifying that one of her skills (pounce) falls into this general department, providing a small bonus to the roll. She attempts it:
Normally, if a fight is initiated on fair terms, it would come down to tactics – had Aurora taken the first option above instead of circling around, she would have relied on tactics. Being smarter, having more information on the enemy, and having more control of a territory affect one’s tactics. With a slight difference in tactical edge, it might come down to the player getting to choose first and the AI choosing second, or vice versa.
Succeeding in the ambush bypasses this. She can pick where they deploy to combat, and where she starts. The options include two nearby rooftops, which are open only to her, and three spots on the ground.
Having the edge also plays into combat – a high tactics score (or artificially high, as in the case of an ambush) puts the other side on their back foot. This impacts their early rolls and how long it takes them to reach full effectiveness in combat – typically a round or two where they aren’t quite as accurate or quick to react.
The Course of the Night
The major risk/reward interplay in the conflict phase is how far one pushes their patrols. Aurora wraps up one encounter, and she can decide what she does next. She can retire, a bit premature, or she can carry on. Wounds and bruises accumulate over the course of the evening and make each subsequent encounter riskier. Further, difficulty may escalate if she finds herself dealing with a lot of foes from one group. If she runs into more of the gang’s members tonight, they’re going to be on their guard because she just beat up two of their buddies, or they might have more people with them.
However, reputation gains increase as the evening goes on.
The player will generally chain together 2-6 encounters before they retire for the night. Moving to areas further from home makes for the risk that there will be incidents on the way back. Setting up a headquarters gives them an alternate starting point for their nights out in costume, while giving them some added influence in their area.
Teams and Relationships
There is no strict limit to how many capes can be on a team, but personalities and conflicts can make things difficult, and it’s not unheard of for teams who grow too large to self destruct. In a game sense, this is an interplay of compatibility, events, and the various decisions the player makes in events.
At the conclusion of her first night, Aurora meets her new, temporary team. They gather at a dark alley, and conversation opens:
The opening option is pretty straightforward – it leaves the door open for a more independent or solo mercenary,
and doesn’t force the team to happen. This might be the default option if the player were already on a team, doing some moonlighting as a mercenary.
Aurora agrees to form the temporary team, and there’ll probably be a chance to form a permanent one after, or to pick someone she gets along with and team up with them. Then some conversation opens. Social, Wits, and some other minor factors determine who gets to bring up topics. Lickspittle starts, and his choice of topic gives a pretty good indication of where his priorities lie:
When Aurora picks [Cool. (Take both)] she gets two buffs on her buff bar, alongside the ‘Skeptic’ effect. One is ‘Inebriated’, while the other shows Lickspittle’s portrait and a little ‘??’ sign. Both have durations of 0 days, suggesting they won’t last for very long. The ‘inebriated’ effect reduces stress, lowers her Wits (which might mean she misses things) and her Dexterity (which isn’t likely to apply). When it ends, she’ll have a chance of being hung over, impacting her for the next day. She’s had one drink and one joint… so she’s probably in the clear. On the whole, not too risky a course of action, though there may be events that come up later or with more levels of intoxication.
Hovering over the icon with Lickspittle’s picture, she sees that she has a team interaction effect with Lickspittle:
Aurora doesn’t really know what Lickspittle brings to the table social-wise, though she’ll figure it out quickly when & if he grants her the buff. The buffs don’t really come into consideration… not yet. Other interactions, ongoing relationships, and even penalties like feuds within the team can pop up like this, short term or even permanent.
For right now, however, She gets her own chance to speak, and to raise a topic of conversation. With a Social stat of 2, and this being a short conversation, she gets to bring up two things. She can Propose, Offer, Ask, or Negotiate. Hitting an option opens up a word cloud.
From a strategic point of view, it’s useful to know more about her teammates: if she gets a bit of information about them, she’ll get a small percentage boost to all future rolls with her team, due to how intel works. Given that they’re sticking together as a team for the next fifteen days and she might run into them after those fifteen days (since they’re liable to stay in the city), this small bonus seems worth it.
When she selects ‘ask’ and then hovers over Lickspittle, to ask Lickspittle about himself, she sees a number: (71-101%). When she does the same for Alekhine, she sees: (47%.)
Not happy with that number for Alekhine, she considers another option, going to ‘negotiate’, and offering a trade: some information about herself in exchange for information about Alekhine. Even then, the result is not super great, at 67%.
What’s going on? Why are the variables so different?
Compatibility is how well she naturally gets along with her new teammates, and for that matter, anyone else she knows or meets. Compatibility impacts things like the baseline chance to recruit someone, social actions in downtime, deal-making and other negotiation, the handling of certain events, cooperation, the chances of critical successes in the use of social abilities, and how long someone might remain on a team.
The two big factors that play into compatibility are disposition and personality.
In asking for information, Aurora is trying to accomplish a task that has a 40% chance of success. She gets a small bonus to the chance for already knowing some stuff about the people she’s interacting with: 6% for Lickspittle and 2% for Alekhine.
Disposition & Compatibility: The fact they’re all mercenaries has two benefits, the first of which is that sharing a disposition (mercenary in this case) grants 20% to their compatibility. Their approach to how they act as capes and their broader sensibilities about the world line up. Villains ‘get’ villains, believers ‘get’ believers (especially if they share a cause), and in this case, mercenaries ‘get’ mercenaries.
The second benefit is that mercenaries get a bonus to their group dynamic. Because they tend to form haphazard teams, they get a resistance to some of the most negative outcomes of social interactions. The job comes first, and as a consequence, it takes a lot for them to leave the team or start slinging punches (or laser punches). This only applies for the negative consequences, and dwindles over time. This gets much more complex as multiple party members may have two dispositions, not always matching.
Personality Compatibility is a major factor as well. Each person has a personality type and slant. Aurora is Contemplative, an assertive (type) dreamer (slant). Being assertive means she likes connections, straightforwardness, and is fairly friendly and trusting. Being a dreamer means she spends a lot of time in her own head, thinking about ideas, goals, symbols, and concepts. Her pool of events is going to see things come up in her day to day that relate to these things; dealing with a broken school friendship when friendship is important to her, or seeing graffiti that inspires her and coming to an internal resolution that changes her course in the long term.
Each of the types and slants have people they get along with and people they don’t. Aurora’s preference for connections, trust, teamwork and open communication runs contrary to personalities that are naturally suspicious and prone to lying or misdirecting (Indirect types). Her dreamer nature puts her at odds with Wanderers (who may act more on instinct) and Performers (who act instead of thinking).
Alekhine’s personality is known from the bit of research Aurora did: Ambitious (Passive Performer).
Here’s the breakdown:
Compatibility & Events: Team events may test compatibility. When the event stage rolls around, the game may do a check of the various people on the team. Checking Aurora vs. both Alekhine and Lickspittle, then Lickspittle vs. Alekhine. Sometimes these events are minor, and might break down to a simple ‘[name] is getting along with [name]’ buff or a ‘[name] hates [name]’ debuff. Other times, they’ll present a choice. The team could find itself divided on simple questions, like whether to hang out in public while out of costume. Personalities dictate one’s preferences, and if the player is asked to break a tie, will they side with pleasing the majority, make choices that keep the most dejected from getting dissatisfied and leaving the team, or choose for the bonuses and penalties that come with a course of action: a higher chance of people getting along & fighting with a chance someone recognizes the group by body type or voice, and works out their costumed identities vs. keeping identities safe and the costumed relationship professional.
Ramifications: When building a team over the long-term, there are things to consider that don’t necessarily have to do with powers or raw capability. One will want to be mindful of who they get along with, and the sacrifices they’re willing to make. For now, Aurora won’t have any big concerns. But as the team grows, the number of possible bad interactions increases. Past a certain point, teams won’t be sustainable or will split into subfactions.
The Gameplay Loop
Growth and Progression
For a more in-depth (and somewhat outdated) look at growth & progression, as well as a look at some example skills, see the SRPG: Growth doc. Bear in mind there’s some redundant information and examples in there.
Stats start out between 2-4 each, with some options offering a rare 5 in one stat. The default start is to have +1 in two of the seven stats, and -1 in another. Aurora, our example character, has bonuses to Athletics and Wits, and a minus to Social.
Gains occur in fractions, typically as a result of events, experience and training, with training being the most reliable means. Aurora might gain .2 Athletics from an event, then another .1 from training, which starts off by being able to increase a given stat by .1 to .3.
Stats only have a permanent, secure impact when they total a whole number. Until then, a combination of the character’s statistic and their morale determines the end result. 3.5 in a stat and average morale? 50-50 odds that it’s treated as a 3 (fail) or 4 (success).
Finding venues to train (potentially paying for better training) vastly increases these chances for secondary benefits or increases the numbers offered. Being well rested, having nice living accommodations and making the right life choices (or even just time to enjoy oneself) can improve one’s odds by impacting morale and affecting the stat in the end.
Raising stats has diminishing returns. After improvements reach a certain point, the ‘roll’ for improving stats will drop from .1-.3 to .0-.2. After reaching the next point, it’ll just be a 33% chance of a .1 increase. After, they can be moved around with training, but not really raised as a whole. Increasing one’s standing by achieving milestones or getting through major events will adjust the numbers and open new doors.
Skills break down to active and passive skills. Active skills go on the hotbar (with limited room) while passive ones are an always-on character effect. A good comparison for skills is relics in Slay the Spire or Risk of Rain; the player curates a selection that fits a playstyle, though they will typically be picking from a limited and random set of options than picking from a list of every skill in the game. A player’s choice of archetype decides the starting point, and guides much of what follows.
Example Major Skills:
These skills aren’t powers – they impact the options in combat, and affect the flow – a person without skills would beat someone with them, but they aren’t strict game changers. Here we have an option to shift gears and beat someone down mentally, get a burst of speed now at a cost of burning out in a longer combat, and a combat stance that represents leaning more toward defense and studying one’s opponent.
Minor nodes break down into a few categories:
General-use stat increases. Tends to come in the form of a paired set of stats, not always related. Niche stat increases offer bigger bonuses. Common.
Stat increases linked to special benefits. One stat is increased, and a very minor passive special ability is linked to that increase. Common to Uncommon.
Benefits tied to the stat, without a strict passive benefit linked to it. Special rules and features with more focus than the other options. Rarer.
Possessions – Gear can be updated- each piece of gear has up to four qualities- some of which can be negative. Crafting or buying updates to gear can provide a solid bonus in the conflict phase. Greater possessions like vehicles and headquarters can be bought or rented.
Allies – A greater swing to and fro will occur as one recruits allies. These can be powered and unpowered. Again, there’s a doc that outlines allies and how dispositions or personalities play into things here, with some redundant info toward the character creation part and the latter part.
Milestones – Here and there, the player will be prompted to pick up milestones. They’ll start with one as a major long-term goal and they’ll pick up others as they draw certain common cards. These are the overarching character arcs and long-term goals. Prove (to yourself and others) that you have money to spend without breaking the bank, and you qualify as a proper Mercenary. If you find and corner the person responsible for your trigger event, what do you do? You find another cape that you actually love, and enter into a long-term relationship. Completing a milestone provides a massive leap in personal growth and raises the ceiling when it comes to stat growth, skills, the number of people one can have on their team, and the development of their power.
Progression Across Multiple Runs
Players accrue ‘shards’ on finishing a run- losing them if their run ends very early (namely if the player is scumming starts instead of trying to use what’s given in the initial draft). Shards are turned in for Cauldron vials, which are essentially used for custom runs, rather than the random drafts.
After the initial game is won, there may be more unlocked options. ‘The Child’ may put the player in the role of a very young parahuman, with a school dynamic and very undeveloped character at the start. ‘The Case 53’ gives them horrific mutations and a different deck of cards than the common ones.
Further, achievements and goals may involve things like defeating each of the Class S threats at endgame, or seeing the game through as a mercenary.