Character Creation

1. Choose a Playbook

Your Playbook is basically your character class. It determines some of your stats and, more importantly, your starting and future selection of Moves, personal abilities that give you more freedom to bypass obstacles and the GM's will. Note that regardless of which Playbook and Moves you choose, your PC will be a skilled operator from the get-go and far from useless in a fight. You may want to avoid picking multiples of the same Playbook, but in general, don't worry about party composition — when all you have is a team of shit-hot hackers, every job looks like a cyberspace heist. And there's nothing wrong with that.

The available Playbooks are as follows:

  • The Director has a plan for every possibility, and a contingency for every plan. They excel at leading missions and battles from the frontlines, inspiring and supporting their team. Play a Director if you want to be the one everyone turns to when things go south.
  • The Fixer is a master of connections. Whether you're looking for jobs, gear or people, the Fixer has you covered. They also start with a crew of NPC associates to order around. Play a Fixer if you want to pull strings and cash in well-earned favors to solve problems.
  • The Hacker makes their living jacked in to the extranet Matrix, navigating information streams and breaking down firewalls. Play a Hacker if you want to transcend meatspace and subvert security measures to help your team.
  • The Hunter knows the city like the back of their hand, finding that which is lost or hidden. Play a Hunter if you want to take down your target through tracking, stakeouts and parlor scenes.
  • The Infiltrator specializes in staying hidden, either by using unconventional access routes or by hiding in plain sight. Play an Infiltrator if you want to do crime without leaving a trace.
  • The Killer uses violence and cutting-edge technology to achieve their goals. They start with a higher level of augmentations and have access to powerful customized weapons. Play a Killer if you want to be an unstoppable terminator or sleek cyborg ninja.
  • The Pilot can traverse land, air, sea and void by assuming direct control of vehicles of all kinds. Play a Pilot if you want to pull off high-speed heists and getaways in hostile conditions.
  • The Pusher is a visionary, pushing their agenda through all of the channels of the modern world. They have a talent for sharing their perspective with others and are capable of gathering a following ready to move mountains. Play a Pusher if you want to enact change in the world around you and lead people to a future of your choosing.
  • The Reporter works tirelessly to expose the truths of this world, risking both their career and their life. Play a Reporter if you want to gather evidence and piece together sprawling mysteries before the truth is lost forever.
  • The Tech is a tinkerer, specializing in one or more fields of technology to build, modify and break down technology both in their workshop and on the field. Play a Tech if you want to look at anything with a circuit board as a solution rather than a problem.

2. Name and describe your character

Here's a few things to consider when creating your character's name and appearance:

  • Name: You can write down your character's real name, Ghost handle or any combination of aliases they use. Do they favor one over another? Why?
  • Species: Which of the known species of the Milky Way does your character represent? (Syntax' note: In Rusting Chrome, a character's species has little direct impact on the already-light game mechanics. I really just don't want to get into the game design nightmare of balancing Krogan blood rage or Vorcha regeneration with the other species' bonuses. They'll still definitely be considered when they're dramatically appropriate or sufficiently awesome, though.)
    • Available species are: Asari, Batarian, Drell, Elcor, Hanar, Human, Krogan, Quarian, Salarian, Turian, Volus, Vorcha.
  • The general descriptors on the sheet are Eyes, Face, Body, Wear and Skin. Feel free to be as terse or verbose as you want with these, or drop them entirely in favor of a short paragraph. Other distinguishing characteristics could be tattoos, hairstyles, purely cosmetic implants (or aesthetics of non-cosmetic implants), behavior and habits.

Now, let's move on to more mechanical decisions.

3. Choose your starting stats, Moves, cyberware and equipment

Assign stats

Assign each stat one of these numbers: +2, +1, +1, +0, +0, -1. The Director's main stat is usually Edge.

  • Cool describes your ability to maintain your composure and continue operating efficiently despite the circumstances. Cool moves: act under pressure, apply first aid.
  • Edge describes your ability to use your accrued experience to quickly size up situations and opponents, as well as project that experience towards others to intimidate them. Edge moves: assess, play hardball, get the job.
  • Meat describes your ability to withstand physical exertion, whether from combat, extended running or just bleeding out on the street when your time is up. Meat moves: mix it up, acquire agricultural property.
  • Mind describes your ability to process information to overcome obstacles. Mind moves: research, Matrix interactions.
  • Style describes your charisma; your ability to make a positive first impression, to negotiate a better deal out of a contact, impress or frighten others and talk your way out of situations. Style moves: fast talk, hit the street.
  • Synth describes your affinity with the machinery pervading this world, whether interacting with the real world through cyberware augments, or navigating the virtual world of the Matrix. Synth moves: biotic god, cyberware moves (investigation with cybereyes/cyberears, hand-to-hand combat with cyberarms), Matrix interactions.

Note that many moves and cyberware augments allow you to roll certain basic moves with a different stat, allowing you to use your strongest stats in more situations. Consider your available starting moves when finalizing your stats!

Choose starting cyberware

Below is the starting selection of cyberware available to a Director. Choose one, then answer the questions below the table — cutting edge technology may be necessary to keep up with the competition, but it doesn't come free! You may not choose to forgo augmentation.
Starting Cyberware: Director
Cybereyes Replacement eyes that grant supernatural visual capabilities. Aesthetic considerations are also important to many buyers.

When you have cybereyes installed, choose two of the following tags: +thermographic, +light amplification, +magnification, +flare compensation, +recording, +encrypted, +inaccessible partition. When your enhanced sight helps, you may roll Synth to assess.
Cybercoms An internal headware communications suite which allows silent, thought-activated communications.

When you have cybercoms installed, choose two of the following tags: +encrypted, +jamming, +recording, +satellite relay, +inaccessible partition. When monitoring communications or giving orders in a tactical environment, you may roll Synth for assess.
Skillwires A headware expert system linked to the brain's muscle control centers that triggers specific muscular reactions which simulate the instincts and actions of an expert practitioner. The system contains a number of external slots into which skillchips can be slotted, granting a small number of skills in parallel. Skillchips often include a knowledge database covering non-physical aspects of the programmed skill.

When your slotted skillchip is appropriate to a move you are making, take +1 ongoing if your relevant stat is +1 or less. Standard skillwires come with two slots, housing one active chip each.

If you start with the skillwires augment, you also start with one chip per slot. You can acquire more skillchips in play like any other gear.

Example skillchips: martial arts, breaking and entering, rock climbing, skydiving, scuba diving, planning and logistics, firefight combat, extreme piloting, parkour, first aid, military history and tactics.
Tactical computer An expert system core to calculate distance, environment and movement factors and to provide a suite of tactical tools to enhance the user's understanding of an operation within a tactical environment. When you assess in a tactical situation, hold +1, even on a miss.
Neural interface with Targeting suite A headware interface that translates the brain's neural signals into machine control impulses. This allows a user to control an appropriately configured external device such as a vehicle, mounted weapon, recording device or hacked electronic system at instinctive neural speeds. A neural interface is needed to use the Pilot move second skin and the Hacker move jack in.

Targeting suite: Uses a direct neural link between a hand-held gun and the user to project targeting information into the user's vision. When you fire a weapon you are +linked to, you may inflict additional harm equal to your Synth. You may also roll Synth instead of Meat to mix it up with +linked firearms. You may precisely define the area of effect for weapons with the +autofire tag to exclude or include potential targets for weapon damage.

After you have chosen your starting cyberware, consider the following for each augment installed:

  • Augmentations are expensive. How did you cover the costs? Choose one:
    • You scrimped and saved to buy it yourself, making compromises in quality. Choose one tag to apply to that piece of cyberware: +unreliable, +substandard, +hardware decay, +damaging.
    • Someone else paid for it; now you owe them. You're owned. Choose your benefactor. This may be a corporation, faction or person. They will come to collect on this debt sooner or later, and they will expect you to comply without hesitating.
    • You screwed someone over to get it. You're hunted. Choose your hunter. This may be a corporation, faction or person. Given half the opportunity, they will track you, hunt you down and make an example of you. It would be wise to be prepared.
  • What made you decide to replace a part of your body with electronics? Was it voluntary or a necessary prosthetic? Did you do it to follow in the footsteps of someone you look up to, or does it reflect your ideology?

Remember that your starting cyberware options only apply to character creation. When you acquire cyberware in play, you can pick anything you'd like! If you acquire them through XP, you'll still need to choose who paid for it.

Choose Playbook Moves

The Director starts with these two moves:
Here's the plan When you plan a Mission, everyone to whom you assign a task takes +1 ongoing while they act on that task according to the plan. Anyone who rolls a miss or goes off the plan loses their bonus for that mission. If you get paid, mark experience.
I love it when a plan comes together At the start of a mission, roll Edge. 10+: gain 3 hold. 7-9: gain 1 hold. During the mission, spend 1 hold for one of the following effects:
  • you have that piece of gear you need right now
  • you appear in a scene where you are needed right now
  • 6-: gain 1 hold anyway, but your opponent has predicted your every move; the GM will advance the Legwork Clock.

Then choose one more from the Director move list in Playbooks and Moves.

Choose starting equipment

Choose two weapons:

  • Heavy pistol (3-harm close/near loud)
  • Assault rifle (3-harm near/far loud autofire)
  • Fragmentation grenades (4-harm near area reload loud messy)
  • Flashbangs (s-harm near area loud reload)

Choose two:

  • Armored vest (1-armor)
  • Armored clothing (0-armor, +discreet, subtract 1 when rolling the harm move)
  • Communications relay or +communications armor tag (choose +encrypted or +jamming)
  • Scouter or +optics armor tag (choose two: //+thermographic, +light amplification, +magnification, +flare compensation)
  • Medi-gel supply (allows the user to apply first aid to characters at 2100 harm or less) or +medbot armor tag

4. Consider background and contacts

This point is fairly academical for now, but will be very useful in play, so it's good to be prepared. Think about what kind of career your character has led so far, and what kinds of connections they've made along the way. When they need a specific piece of gear, or outside help to solve a problem, who do they turn to? Do they know reliable people in the crime world, in private security, a quirky back alley doctor? These are the kinds of people you can declare as Contacts during a session, introducing them as a potentially helpful NPC in the game with their own services and problems, thus helping to flesh out the living metropolis of the Hive. It always helps to have a fresh NPC in your back pocket, and this is a great spot to cameo your favorite NPCs from elsewhere.

5. Choose Personal Directives

Personal Directives portray the character's personal agenda, or their goals and motives that often span across their entire careers. To put it briefly, they award experience to characters when they either accomplish goals that require them to go out of their way during a mission, or cause trouble for the team because of their personality or priorities. In narrative terms, then, they're a way for the GM to incite conflict for single characters or between party members by dangling hopefully difficult choices in front of them with the promise of experience, and sometimes plot intrigue or sweet loot.

Choose two Directives out of the list below, or workshop your own. The blanks in the directives can be filled out with corporations, factions, individual characters or groups as needed. As a note, GM consideration still applies to these. For example, for a Directive like Masochist that looks a bit too simple to grind out XP with without particularly meaningful choices, I've usually raised the bar for what constitutes "getting hurt" beyond just "took 1 damage" or just setting a cap of one XP per mission for it. Most importantly, it's important for the Directives to be clear to the player and GM from the very beginning, since a vague or misunderstood Directive is often as good as having no Directive at all.

Here's a list of example Directives:
Personal Directives
Behavioral Describe your ethical code. When adhering to your code hinders the mission, mark experience.
Compassionate When you put your compassion for the powerless ahead of the mission at risk, mark experience.
Deceptive When your lies about your identity or your past put the mission at risk, mark experience.
Filial When you put the advice of ______ ahead of the mission, mark experience.
Financial When you hinder the mission for a chance at extra profit, mark experience.
Hierarchic When you improve your standing or impair a rival's standing among ______, mark experience.
Illustrious When your desire for fame draws unwanted attention to the mission, mark experience.
Intimate When you put your friend ______ ahead of the mission, mark experience.
Masochistic When you solve problems by getting hurt, mark experience.
Network When your membership in ______ hinders the mission, mark experience.
Proselytizing Describe your belief system. When you persuade others to act according to your beliefs, mark experience.
Protective When you put your responsibility to ______ ahead of the mission, mark experience.
Prudent When you resolve a charged situation without violence, mark experience.
Rejected When your former membership in ______ hinders the mission, mark experience.
Revealing When you discover more information about ______, mark experience.
Survivalist When your instinct for self-preservation puts the mission at risk, mark experience.
Vengeful When you harm ______ or their interests, mark experience.
Violent When you deliberately choose to use violence to overcome a problem when other options exist, mark experience.

6. Corporations

Steps 6 and 7 are a collaborative process more than the rest of this page, but I'll describe them here for completeness' sake. Sprawl as a system has a neat concept of the table building the world together, as well as the corporations that are its major players. In this case, the setting is pretty clearly established, but the corporations could be anything from inside or outside the ME canon. Usually, the players and GM would all bring one concept each to the table and workshop their details and relationships, but I'm not entirely sure how we'll do this for a game like this. We'll figure it out when we've established a potential group for playing this.

If you're feeling particularly inspired to write up your OC (Original Corporation) or are interested in exploring something specific in the setting, here are some of the key things to consider:

  • Name and logo/branding
  • What line(s) of business are they in?
  • Who, if anyone, are they backed by (governments, other organizations)? Similarly, are there factions or corporations they have particularly hostile relations with?
  • What is their signature method of dealing with people who cross them?

7. Generate Links

Links are a stat essentially measuring the PCs' Social Links with one another, fictionally depicting how comfortable these two characters are operating together.

At the start of the game, the players essentially go around the table and share some short stories of previous jobs they've been on against the corporations established in Step 6. Other players can contribute to these vignettes and declare they were also on the job, describing what their job was. This lets everyone establish what it is their characters specialize in and why they're cool, in addition to giving the characters some past experience with one another to avoid an overly traditional "tavern start" to the game. It also lets the GM raise the threat level of the corporations at the start of the game, but you shouldn't worry about that.

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