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Character Creation

Character Creation
Character Creation

You might want to start with a character sheet.

You build a hero using a “budget” of Character Points. There are also certain limits and guidelines imposed by the game’s power level, chosen by the Gamemaster, but within those limits you can build a wide range of characters.

The quickest and easiest way to create your own hero is to look through the various pre-made archetypes, choose one that fits the type of hero you want to play, and customize it to match your ideas. With just a few quick choices, you have a new hero, complete and ready for the game!

Each archetype offers a complete, ready-to-play power level 10 hero, the recommended starting power level. Some archetypes offer a few simple choices in terms of skills, advantages, or sets of powers to fit different themes. For example, many archetypes offer a choice of an Expertise skill to round out the character’s background and interests outside of superheroism.

Some archetypes also offer an Options section, where you can change some of the preexisting trait choices to create a different kind of hero. For example, the Crime Fighter archetype has options for a hero with less equipment, but super-human senses, or a special vehicle of some type. Other archetypes offer similar options.

Even if the archetype does not have an Options section that does not mean you cannot customize the archetype to suit the type of hero you want to play! The archetypes are just starting points: if you are more familiar with character design feel free to change any or all of your chosen archetype’s traits. So long as you stay within the bounds of available Character points, series power level, and your Gamemaster’s approval, you’re fine.

Please note, the sample characters using archetypes include some advantages in italicized print. Those advantages are from an Enhanced Advantage effect listed in their powers.

HERO DESIGN

Designing a hero from scratch follows a series of simple steps. You’ll need a copy of the character sheet found in the back of the book (and also available online) and some scratch paper to design your character.

1. HERO CONCEPT

Before you get started, consider what sort of hero you want to create. What are the hero’s basic abilities? What are the hero’s powers? What’s the hero’s origin? You may want to take a look at some archetypes for ideas of the different types of heroes you can create. You also can draw inspiration from your favorite characters from comic books, television, or movies. Take a look through Advantages and see if any of the powers there inspire a character idea. You may want to jot down a few notes about the sort of hero you’d prefer to play, which will help guide you through the rest of the character design process.

2. GAMEMASTER GUIDELINES

Your GM may have particular guidelines for characters in the game, such as not allowing certain powers or concepts or requiring particular descriptors. If there are no aliens in the setting, for example, then you obviously can’t play an alien hero. Likewise, if your Gamemaster bans mental powers from the series, then a psychic isn’t appropriate. Run your hero concept by your Gamemaster before you start working on it! You might also want to consult with your fellow players so you can design your characters together and ensure they’ll make a good team.

3. POWER LEVEL

Your GM sets the starting power level for the series. Generally, this is level 10, but it may range anywhere from level 5 to level 20 or more. The power level determines the player characters’ starting Character points and exactly where you can spend them.

See Power Level for details.

4. ABILITIES

Choose the ability ranks you want your character to have and pay 2 Character points for each rank. Choose defense bonuses for your character, paying 1 Character point per +1 defense over the base rank provided by your hero’s abilities. To improve your hero’s Toughness, see Advantages and Power.

See Abilities for details.

5. SKILLS

Choose the skill ranks you want your character to have and pay 1 Character point per 2 total skill ranks.

See Skills for details.

6. ADVANTAGES

Choose the advantages you want your character to have and pay 1 Character point per advantage or rank in a advantage.

See Advantages for details.

7. POWERS

Create your hero’s powers by choosing their desired effects and paying the effects’ base cost, adjusted for any modifiers, and multiplied by the number of ranks.

See Powers for details.

8. COMPLICATIONS

Choose at least two complications for your hero. You can have more, if you want, and the more complications your hero faces, the greater your chances for earning victory points during the game.

See Complications for details.

9. DETAILS

Go through the limits listed under Power Level and make sure your hero’s traits all fit within them. If not, adjust the traits accordingly until they do.

Go back through and add up the costs of your hero’s abilities, defenses, skills, advantages, and powers. You should end up with a figure equal to the starting Character points shown on Table: Starting Character Points. If not, double-check your math and either remove or add traits to your character to reach the starting Character point total.

Figure out things like your hero’s name, appearance, origin, background, and motivation. If you can, consider creating a sketch or detailed description of your hero’s costume.

10. GAMEMASTER APPROVAL

Show your new hero to the Gamemaster for approval. The GM should check again to make sure your Character points are spent and added up correctly, your hero follows the power level guidelines and any other guidelines set for the series, and that the character is generally complete and suited to the overall game. Once your GM has approved, your new hero is ready for play!

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CHARACTER POINTS

You design a hero by spending Character Points on various traits. Each ability, skill, advantage, power, and other trait has an associated Character point cost.

STARTING CHARACTER POINTS

The game’s power level provides a guideline for how many Character points you get initially to design your character, as shown on the Starting Character points table. The Gamemaster can vary the starting Character points as desired to suit the series.

SPENDING CHARACTER POINTS

Each trait costs a certain number of Character points. You “spend” or allocate your points to give your character different traits. Once spent, Character points cannot be reallocated without the use of a particular power or the Gamemaster’s permission. The basic costs of traits are given on the Basic Trait Costs table, with specific costs for powers given in Powers.

POWER LEVEL

Power Levels

Heroes cover a diverse range of power levels, from the first costumed adventurers of the Golden Age, who relied solely on their skills and a few gimmicks (and modern vigilantes of the mean streets, who do much the same), to the greatest protectors of the world, who take on cosmic threats on a regular basis. The following are some common power levels and starting Character point values suitable for different games:

POWER LEVEL 8 – MASKED ADVENTURERS

This power level fits the “Mystery Men” era of the Golden Age of comic books, as well as for teams of mostly non-powered adventurers: heroes who rely more on their skills and wits (and maybe a few gadgets) rather than amazing powers. The suggested starting value of 120 Character points creates well-rounded heroes at this level, particularly if the emphasis is on skills and advantages—and maybe a power or two—rather than a lot of powers. A higher starting Character point total allows for more diverse capabilities within the same limits.

Heroes at this level often focus more on skill than sheer damage output, often having fighting skills in the 10–12 range, but commensurately lower damage and effect ranks (using just their fists or small arms).

POWER LEVEL 10 – SUPER HEROES

The suggested starting power level suits mature and experienced “adventurers” of the previous level along with a wide range of younger or focused superhumans.

Power level 10 heroes may have a balance of attack and effect, defense and resistance, or may go for being stronger on one side than the other, having great combat skill, but comparatively limited damage, for example, or great Toughness, but lowered defenses.

POWER LEVEL 12 – BIG LEAGUES

Power level 12 is where you find many of the more experienced and powerful heroes. They are “senior” heroes, usually with considerable capabilities (and, often, experience). Those lacking superhuman powers have amazing levels of skill and resources to draw upon while the superhuman types are often among the most capable in their particular area, often worthy of titles like “King” and “World’s Greatest”.

In areas where power level 12 heroes tip the balance of their combat capabilities, they can have amazing ranks in attack or defense.

POWER LEVEL 14 – WORLD-PROTECTORS

Heroes at this level are among the most powerful beings of the universe. They are largely capable of ignoring lesser concerns and tend to focus on “big picture” problems like alien invasions and world-conquerors along with natural disasters (although they may still handle some of the “small stuff” as well).

Power level is an overall measure of effectiveness and power, primarily combat ability, but also generally what sort of tasks a character can be expected to accomplish on a routine basis (see Routine Checks in The Basics).

TABLE: STARTING CHARACTER POINTS
POWER LEVEL CP
1 15
2 30
3 45
4 60
5 75
6 90
7 105
8 120
9 135
10 150
11 165
12 180
13 195
14 210
15 225
16 240
17 255
18 270
19 285
20 300
TABLE: BASIC TRAIT COSTS
TRAIT COST IN CHARACTER POINTS
Ability 2 per ability rank
Defense 1 per defense rank
Skill 1 per 2 skill ranks
Advantage 1 per advantage or advantage rank
Power ((base effect cost + extras – flaws) x rank) + flat modifiers

Power level is a value set by the Gamemaster for the series as a whole. It places certain limits on where and how players can spend Character points when creating or improving their heroes. Power level imposes the following limits:

Skill Modifier: Your hero’s total modifier with any skill (ability rank + skill rank + advantage modifiers) cannot exceed the series power level +10. This includes untrained skill modifiers using only ability rank, and so sets an effective limit on all abilities associated with skills.

Attack & Effect: The total of your hero’s attack bonus and effect rank with that attack cannot exceed twice the series power level. If an effect allows a resistance check, but does not require an attack check, its effect rank cannot exceed the series power level.

Dodge & Toughness: The total of your hero’s Dodge and Toughness defenses cannot exceed twice the series power level.

Parry & Toughness: The total of your hero’s Parry and Toughness defenses cannot exceed twice the series power level.

Fortitude & Will: The total of your hero’s Fortitude and Will defenses cannot exceed twice the series power level.

TRADE-OFFS

Note that the averaging effect of power level—the fact that all the traits it limits are paired with other traits—allows for a measure of “trade-off.” For example, attack bonus and effect rank added together cannot exceed twice the series power level, but this does not mean the two traits must themselves be equal, or that neither can be greater than the series PL. It’s entirely possible to create a hero with more fighting skill than damage capability (like the Crime Fighter or Martial Artist sample archetypes), a hero with more sheer power than skill (like the Powerhouse), or a hero who is a roughly equal mix of both (like the Warrior) who are all within the series limit, PL10. The same is true of the various other traits, such as placing a greater reliance of Dodge and Parry over Toughness, or vice versa.

The GM may want to keep an eye on combinations that swing wildly towards one side or another: the hero with no Dodge/Parry bonus to speak of but a massive Toughness bonus, or the one with no real attack bonus but capable of dishing out a tremendous amount of damage. For the most part, these designs are self-limiting, but they can pose problems in comparison to better-balanced heroes. A disparity of more than 50% between a pair of power level limited traits is something to look at closely before approving.

POWER LEVEL & NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS

While the GM should keep the power level guidelines and suggested starting Character points of the series in mind while creating villains and members of the supporting cast, non-player characters are not restricted by the series power level and are built on as many Character points as the GM wants to give them. In other words, there is no need to add up the “cost” of a non-player character. Just assign the appropriate traits at the desired ranks.

Determine an NPC’s effective power level based on the character’s highest appropriate offensive and defensive trait(s). This power level is simply an approximation to show what level of challenge that NPC offers, and is not necessarily related to the NPC’s Character point total, which may be greater than or less than the recommended starting Character points for that power level.

Example: The Gamemaster is creating a villain for a power level 10 series. The bad guy has a +8 total attack bonus with a primary attack doing 16 damage. Adding these together and dividing by 2 gives the GM a power level of 12 [(16 + 8)/2]. So long as none of the villain’s other traits exceed this, the GM notes the villain’s power level as 12, a reasonable challenge for a group of PL10 heroes.

REALLOCATING CHARACTER POINTS

Normally a hero’s traits are fixed. Once Character points are spent on them, they remain there. In some cases, however, the Gamemaster may allow players to reallocate their characters’ points, changing their traits within the limits of the series power level, perhaps even losing some traits and gaining entirely new ones. This is typically a result of the transformed condition, either due to a power or encountering a transformational effect (intense radiation, mutagenic chemicals, cosmic power sources, and so forth). It’s up to the GM when these character-altering events occur, but they should be fairly rare unless their effects are intended to be temporary complications .

COMPLICATIONS
Under the Hood: Complications and Up-Front Rewards

Some roleplaying game systems include complications, disadvantages, or similar problematic character traits which offer “bonus points” for creating the character; essentially, you get more points for your character’s good traits when you take on some bad ones.

The problem with such “up-front” rewards for giving a character flaws is that the player gets all of the reward (the bonus design points) immediately, but the disadvantage only occasionally limits or affects the character, sometimes even randomly. Since there is only so much “screen time” in a game session, there is virtually no way for the GM to spotlight every one of every character’s disadvantages, so some end up being worth “more” in the sense of reward in exchange for drawbacks. Plus, after they have “paid out” their initial benefit, front-loaded negative traits are nothing but a burden to the character from that point forward, leading players to try and avoid or mitigate them as much as possible.

Complications address this issue by having a “pay-as-you-go” approach: if the GM uses a complication in the game, and the player responds by going along with it, the player gets a reward in the form of a victory point. This means that although the hero has to deal with some “bad stuff” from time to time, there is an upside, and a reason for players to want their characters’ complications to come into play! Why do powerful heroes lead such complicated lived? They need the points!

Comic books are full of storylines involving personal complications, and players are encouraged to come up with some for their heroes. Complications have a specific use in the game as well: they give the Gamemaster a “handle” on your hero, different challenges to introduce or include in adventures. When the GM does so, you earn victory points you can use to enhance your character’s chances of success, amongst other things. (See Victory Points in The Basics and Action & Adventure for more information.)

CHOOSING COMPLICATIONS

Choose at least two complications for your hero: a Motivation and at least one other. You can take as many complications as you wish, although the GM may set limits for the sake of being able to keep track of them all. complications are also self-limiting, in that you only earn victory points for those complications that actually come into play. So even if you have more than a dozen, if the GM can only include a couple in a game session, then those are the ones that earn you victory points for that game. You can—and generally should—look for opportunities to include your hero’s complications and offer suggestions to the GM, who makes the final decision on which complications come into play at any given time.

The GM also decides what complications are appropriate for the game and can overrule any particular complication, based on the style and needs of the story and the series. Keep in mind the adventure needs to have room for all of the heroes’ complications, so individual ones can only come up so often.

MOTIVATION

Every hero has something that drove him or her to become a hero in the first place—a motivation that keeps them going when things get tough. Sometimes motivation is the only difference between a hero and a villain. What made your hero decide to fight for justice rather than turning toward more selfish goals? How does it affect the hero’s methods of fighting crime? Is there anything that might change or affect the hero’s motivation?

Motivation is a complication because it often determines what a hero will do in a particular situation. The GM can use your hero’s motivation to encourage certain actions, and enemies may do the same. When you properly play out your hero’s motivation, even if it isn’t necessarily the “smartest” thing to do, the GM awards you a victory point.

Common heroic motivations include the following:

Acceptance: The hero feels different or isolated (perhaps for being a non-human in human society) and does good to gain the trust and acceptance of others and perhaps discover what it means to be human. Some such heroes see their powers as more of a curse than a blessing, but try to do some good with them while hoping and looking for a way to have a normal life.

Doing Good: Some heroes fight the good fight simply because it’s the right thing to do and they believe in doing the right thing no matter what. Their strong moral center may come from a good upbringing (or a bad one that showed them what not to do) or the guidance or inspiration of a mentor or idol.

Greed: There are those motivated by nothing more than the opportunity to make a profit off their heroic careers. They may be mercenaries for hire or marketing machines who do good deeds but also rake in the proceeds from licensing fees and public appearances. More altruistic heroes tend to look down upon their profit-mongering peers.

Justice: An overwhelming thirst for justice drives some heroes, a need to see the innocent protected and the guilty punished, even if they are beyond the reach of the law. These heroes walk a thin line. For some justice becomes a thirst for vengeance for injury done to the hero in the past, like the death of a loved one.

Patriotism: Heroes are often devoted to the ideals of their home (or adopted) nation, and seek to serve that nation and its people with their abilities. Patriotic heroes are often honored as champions of their homelands, but it is the service, and not necessarily the recognition, that matters.

Recognition: Some heroes just want recognition or attention, and dressing up in a bright costume and fighting crime is one surefire way to get people to notice you. The hero may be a shy nobody out of costume or a glory-hog who loves the spotlight.

Responsibility: The responsibility of having great power can be a heavy burden but some heroes feel it is their duty to use the powers they’ve been given for the greater good. Oftentimes these heroes are trying to live up to an ideal like a mentor or a predecessor who inspired them.

Thrills: For some the life of a superhero is all about excitement, thrills, danger, and challenge. These heroes are in it for the action more than anything else.

MOTIVATION AND INFLUENCE

A shared motivation can create an empathic bond with others. With the GM’s permission, you might get a circumstance bonus on interaction skill checks when dealing with someone with the same motivation as yours. Similarly, you may suffer a circumstance penalty to interaction when dealing with characters of a strongly differing motivation.

MOTIVATIONS AS DESCRIPTORS

At the GM’s option motivation can function as a descriptor for powers (see Descriptors), allowing character to have a power affecting only subjects with a particular motivation, for example, or the ability to detect characters with a particular motivation (see Detect). Gamemasters should be very careful when applying power modifiers based on subjective qualities like motivation. An attack power affecting only “evil” targets, for example, is useless against inanimate objects, constructs, and animals (which cannot have such a quality) as well as “good” targets. It might also not affect characters without a specific evil motivation (such as selfish mercenaries, violent vigilantes, or despots devoted solely to order, but not “evil” per se).

MOTIVATIONS AS ORIGINS

Some characters may derive their powers from their motivation in some way, such as heroes who draw strength from their convictions, faith, or morality. This provides a descriptor for those powers, but the hero may also suffer Power Loss (see Complications) from a change or wavering in motivation.

MOTIVATIONS IN CONFLICT

A character with different motivations may find them in conflict from time to time. Such conflicts provide roleplaying opportunities and complications for players and story hooks for the Gamemaster. For example, a hero motivated by Patriotism may discover a secret government agency acting against the interests of justice in the world. What is stronger, the hero’s patriotism or the desire to see the truth known and justice done? Some conflicts may even result in heroes changing motivations.

See Changing Complications, in the following section, for more on this.

OTHER COMPLICATIONS

Other possible complications, and their uses in adventures, include:

Accident: You cause or suffer some sort of accident. Perhaps a stray blast damages a building or hurts an innocent bystander, your fire powers set off sprinkler systems, or you cause volatile chemicals to explode. A hero with this as a regular complication may be especially accident-prone, inexperienced with their powers, or even jinxed! The GM decides the effects of an accident, but they should be troublesome. Accidents can lead to further complications; perhaps the hero develops a guilt-complex, obsession, or phobia involving the accident.

Addiction: You need something, whether for physical or psychological reasons. You’ll go out of your way to satisfy your addiction, and being unable to satisfy it may lead to other complications, either involving your own faculties or your relationships with people. Several comic book heroes have struggled with various addictions and the effects on their lives.

Disability: You are limited by a particular disability, such as being blind, deaf, or paraplegic. When your disability places serious challenges in your path, your complication comes into play. Many “disabled” heroes have powers or other compensations for their disabilities, such as a blind hero with other enhanced senses or a paraplegic who is a powerful psychic with matchless mobility of mind over body. Even though their powers sometime make up for their disability, this complication is still appropriate because they may have to deal with it from time to time.

Enemy: You have an enemy, or enemies, trying to do you harm. The GM can have your enemy show up to cause you trouble, and adventures involving your enemy tend to be more complicated for you; even personal grudge-matches, if the enmity goes both ways. When having an enemy causes a particular problem for you (such as your enemy abducting a loved one or laying a trap for you), you get a victory point.

Fame: You’re a public figure, known almost everywhere you go, hounded by the media, swamped by fans and well-wishers, and similar problems, which create various complications.

Hatred: You have an irrational hatred of something, leading you to actively oppose the object of your dislike in some way, no matter the consequences. Complications involving your hatred tend to overwhelm your better judgment.

Honor: You have a strong personal code of honor. Generally this means you won’t take unfair advantage of opponents or use trickery, but you can define the exact terms of your code with the GM. Your honor becomes a complication when it puts you in a bind or on the horns of a moral dilemma.

Identity: Heroes often maintain secret identities, creating various complications as they try to keep them secret from friends and enemies alike. The dual-identity can even go beyond mere disguise for heroes who actually transform into a different persona, creating complications around controlling that transformation, or a lack of powers or abilities in one persona.

Obsession: You’re obsessed with a particular subject and pursue it to the exclusion of all else, which can create quite a few complications.

Phobia: You’re irrationally afraid of something. When confronted with it you have to fight to control your fear, causing you to hesitate, flee, or act irrationally.

Power Loss: Certain circumstances cause some or all of your powers to fail or stop working, or rob you of them altogether. You might depend on particular objects others can steal or take from you, or lose your powers during the dark of the moon, or when exposed to exotic radiation. You may even simply lose faith in yourself, resulting in temporary weakness. When this happens, and poses a challenge for you, your complication comes into play.

Prejudice: You are part of a minority group subject to the prejudices of others, which create problems. Similarly, characters with unusual origins or appearance might face prejudice, such as a demonic-looking hero who is considered suspect. Some Gamemasters and gaming groups may prefer not to deal with issues of prejudice in their games, in which case the GM is free to ban this complication.

Quirk: Complications can often come from various personality quirks: likes, dislikes, hobbies, neuroses, and so forth. For example, a hero might have the quirk of always leaving some sort of “calling card” for the authorities along with a captured criminal. That could become a complication if somebody else starts imitating it, or uses it to cause trouble for the hero.

Relationship: The important people in a hero’s life are a source of strength, but they can also complicate matters considerably. If they are not in on the hero’s costumed identity, then there is juggling two lives and keeping loved ones safely in the dark. On the other hand, if the people in a hero’s life do know the truth, they are in danger from the hero’s foes and others seeking to find out.

Reputation: You have a bad reputation, affecting what others think of you (whether you deserve it or not). Having someone adopt a bad attitude toward you because of your reputation is a complication. You might struggle to overcome your reputation, taking chances or facing difficulties others do not as a result.

Responsibility: You have various demands on your time and attention. Responsibilities include family obligations, professional duties, and similar things. Failing to live up to your responsibilities can mean loss of relationships, employment, and other problems.

Rivalry: You feel a strong sense of competition with a person or group and have to do your best to outdo your rival at every opportunity.

Secret: You have something potentially damaging or embarrassing you’re hiding from the world. The most common secret for heroes is their true identity, but it could be a secret weakness (another complication) or some dark secret from your past. Occasionally, something (or someone) may threaten to reveal your secret.

Temper: Certain things just set you off. When you lose your temper you lash out at whatever provoked you.

Weakness: Some things can hurt you, badly. You might have a weakness that overcomes your normally strong defenses, like a werewolf is vulnerable to silver, or you may suffer harm from things that are harmless to others, from water to cold iron or exotic energies or materials. A weakness may add degrees of effect or impose an entirely different effect. Affliction (see Powers) is the typical effect, but some weaknesses inflict outright Damage, Weaken the target, or have some other effect. You and the GM can discuss common effects beforehand and it is up to the GM to decide what happens when the particular weakness comes into play. When the GM uses your weakness against you, it’s a complication.

CHANGING COMPLICATIONS

Complications and Injuries

Various challenges heroes face over the course of a story make suitable complications. For example, while the game rules don’t have specific details for how to handle a hero with a concussion, it can make for an interesting story. The easiest way to handle it is as a complication: whenever the injury causes the hero trouble (a lost action due to dizziness, a villain getting away, etc.), the GM awards a victory point. You can do the same with anything from a malfunctioning device to a persistent distraction.

Complications can (and generally should) change over the course of a series: old enemies die or are put away for good, rivalries and psychological issues are resolved, new romances and relationships begin as others end, and so forth. Work with the GM to come up with new complications for your hero as old ones are resolved. As mentioned previously, the Gamemaster may set limits as to how many ongoing complications your hero can have in play at any given time.

BACKGROUND

A lot of background details go into making your hero more than just a collection of numbers. Take a moment (if you haven’t already) to consider some of the following things about your character:

NAME

What is your character’s name? That is to say, what is the name the hero uses in public, that appears in one-inch type in the newspaper headlines? Most heroes adopt unique and distinctive “code names,” so consider a suitable name for yours. Code names are often based on powers, theme, or style. Here are some options to consider:

ORIGIN

A name may be based on the hero’s origin, power source, nation (or even world) of birth, and such.

POWERS

Choose a name based on the hero’s powers: Firestarter or Blaze for a flame-controlling character, Thunder or Spark for an electrical character, and so forth.

THEME

Maybe the character has a theme or style suggesting a name: Paladin might be a medieval knight displaced into the present day, with a magical sword and armor. Madame Macabre may be all about magic and the occult.

TITLES

Names may include various titles like Mister, Miss, Ms., Doctor, Sir, Lord, Lady, and Madam or even royal titles like King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Duke, Baron, Emperor and so forth. Military ranks are also popular parts of hero names, especially General, Major, and Captain.

GENDER

Names often include gender designations like Man/Woman, Boy/Girl, Lad/Lass, and so forth.

SOUND

Some code-names don’t really have anything to do with a character’s powers or background—they just sound cool: Kismet, Scion, Animus, Damask, and so forth. They may hint at the hero’s powers or origin, or have nothing to do with them.

REAL NAME

Some heroes go by their given name, not using a code-name at all. Oftentimes these names still sound like codenames, however. They may also be nicknames, such as “Dash” for someone with the name Dashell, or “Buzz” for someone with the name Buzcinski, or whatever other nickname a character may have, such as “Stretch” or “Tiny”.

ORIGIN

What’s the origin of your hero’s powers? It can be anything from a character born with the potential for powers to someone granted them by an accident—exposure to a strange meteor, radiation, genetic engineering, or any of countless similar encounters. Here are some of the more common superhero origins:

ACCIDENT

Perhaps the most common origin. The hero gains powers accidentally from exposure to some force like radiation, chemicals, unleashed mystic energies, being struck by lightning, and so forth. Accidents are often one-time events, although sometimes there is an effort to recreate an accident to deliberately make super-beings. The current science of the setting tends to influence accidental origins. Golden Age heroes in the 1940s often gained their powers from chemical accidents while Silver Age heroes in the Atomic Age of the ‘60s got their powers from radiation and modern heroes acquire powers from accidents involving genetic engineering, nanotech, and similar cutting-edge technologies.

ALIEN

A hero may be a member of an alien race with unusual powers compared to humans. Either all members of the race have similar powers or particular conditions (lighter gravity, solar radiation, etc.) grant them powers while on Earth. Some “alien” races in the comics are actually super-human offshoots of humanity living isolated from the rest of the world. “Aliens” also include mystical beings from other dimensions, from angels and demons to elementals and actual gods, as well as mortal half-breeds descended from them. An alien hero’s powers might even have another origin; being an alien only explains part of the character’s powers or is merely a background element.

ENDOWMENT

Some outside force grants the hero powers. This might be an experimental procedure, a godlike higher power, a secret organization that hands out powerful devices, a mysterious wizard, or something similar. The patron might expect something in return from the hero for this boon, or the gift could be unconditional.

EXPERIMENT

Some heroes gain powers from a deliberate effort, such as a scientific or mystical technique for transforming someone into a super-being. Like accidents, experiments are often impossible to duplicate. The hero may be a willing volunteer or a victim chosen to test out the technique. Some heroes create their own powers, either developing the power-granting procedure or building their own devices.

MUTANT

A hero may simply be born “different,” with the genetic potential for super-powers. These latent powers typically emerge in a time of stress, especially the changes brought on by puberty, although they might also appear as a result of an accident (combining the accident and mutant origins).

TRAINING

Finally, some heroes acquire powers through hard work and training, whether physical discipline, studying esoteric martial arts techniques, meditation and introspection to unlock hidden mental powers, or mastering the arts of magic. Such training is typically arduous and not everyone has what it takes to accomplish it. Heroes who gained their powers through training may have rivals or foes who trained with them (see Enemy and Rivalry complications).

ORIGINS AS DESCRIPTORS

Origins can serve as descriptors for a character’s powers (see Descriptors in Powers). For example, a super-powered mutant has the “mutant” descriptor, meaning the character may be detected by mutant-detection powers, affected by mutant-specific devices, and so forth. The same is true for a mystic, an alien, or any other origin.

ORIGIN GUIDELINES

Your GM may decide to limit the origins for the series you’re playing for story reasons. The Gamemaster may set specific guidelines, ranging from restricting certain types of origins (no aliens or no mystics, for example) to requiring all heroes share a common type of origin, such as everyone is a mutant or the result of a unique accident. Consult with your GM before you choose a particular origin for your hero.

AGE

How old is the character? Superheroes tend to hover in that indeterminate age between 20 and 40, but some heroes are younger, often teenagers, and some are older, possibly much older, depending on a hero’s background. For example, the hero might have fought in World War II but ended up in the present day due to time travel or suspended animation. Heroes with Immunity to Aging are effectively immortal—they might be thousands of years old.

Consider the effects of age on your hero. Someone who fought in the Second World War is likely to have a different worldview than a modern teenager who just acquired super-powers, to say nothing of an immortal who has seen civilizations rise and fall or a godlike being from the dawn of time. A character’s age may influence the choice of certain traits. Aged characters are likely to have lower physical ability ranks, for example, while younger ones may have fewer skill ranks (having had less time to train in various skills).

APPEARANCE

What does your hero look like? Consider things like the character’s race, sex, ethnicity, and other factors in appearance. Is the hero even human? Superheroes can be aliens, robots, androids, spirits, and beings of pure energy. Is the character short or tall? What about hair and eye color? Does the hero have any distinguishing marks or unique features; is his appearance unusual in any way (apart from running around in a costume, that is)? Does the hero qualify for the Attractive advantage? (See Advantages for details.) What about complications stemming from the hero’s looks?

COSTUME

A costume is a big part of a superhero’s appearance. Like code names, most heroes have a distinctive costume, usually something skin-tight and colorful, often emblazoned with a symbol or logo. Other heroes wear more military-style outfits, fatigues or body armor with numerous bandoleers and belts. A suit of armor may serve as the hero’s costume: anything from ancient mail to a high-tech battlesuit. A few heroes don’t wear a special costume, just ordinary street clothes (which in itself can be pretty distinctive among a group of spandex-clad heroes).

In the comics, costumes are generally immune to the kind of routine wear-and-tear a hero’s powers should inflict on them. For example, heroes who can burst into flames don’t usually incinerate their clothing. The same is true for heroes who change their size or shape. Although a hero’s costume can be damaged or torn by attacks and other circumstances, it’s usually immune to the hero’s powers. This doesn’t cost any points; it’s just the way costumes work.

For more on costumes as equipment, see Gadgets & Gear.

ALTERNATE IDENTITY

Although heroes spend a lot of time fighting crime and using their powers to help others, most also try to find time to have lives of their own. Consider the hero’s “normal” life, both before acquiring super-powers and since. Does the hero maintain a secret identity, hiding behind a mask or other guise in order to have a semblance of a normal life while “off duty”? Describe the hero’s other identity and what the hero does while not out fighting the forces of evil.

Other heroes abandon all pretense of a “civilian” identity, revealing their true names to the world and living in the public eye. This means no juggling two separate lives, but also no refuge from the media, adoring fans, or the hero’s enemies, who can all keep track of the hero more easily. Both approaches have their good and bad points. Consider which is best for your hero.

PERSONALITY

How would you describe your hero’s personality? While heroes tend to share a desire to use their powers for good and uphold the law, they also show a diverse range of attitudes. One hero may be dedicated to the ideals of truth, justice, and equality while another is a vigilante willing to break the law in order to ensure justice is done. Some heroes are forthright and cheerful while others are grim and unrelenting. Consider your hero’s attitudes and personality traits. Don’t overlook the effect of Motivation on your hero’s personality and vice versa (see Motivation, previously).

GOALS

Finally, what are your hero’s goals? All heroes want things like peace and justice to one degree or another, but what other things does your hero want? One hero may want to find his long-lost family while another may want to avenge a terrible wrong done to her in the past. A monstrous or alien hero may seek acceptance and a new home on Earth, while a teen hero may want to live up to the legacy of a mentor or predecessor. Giving your hero a goal beyond simply “doing good” can help give the character more depth and provide opportunities for roleplaying and complications during the game. Don’t overlook it.

MAKING THE MOST OF ADVANTAGES

The Gadgeteer and Martial Artist archetypes rely a great deal on their advantages (as do other archetypes like the Crime Fighter and Weapon-Master). You’ll want to read the descriptions of all of the character’s advantages from Advantages so you know the benefits they provide. Remember to make use of them during play to give your character every appropriate, well, advantage.

In particular, note how some advantages and even powers work together. The Gadgeteer can use Quick-Thinking to speed up the process of inventing (see Inventing) and Skill Mastery (Technology) to make some inventing checks as routine. Similarly, note the Martial Artist’s Power Attack advantage, good for doing extra damage to slow, tough, opponents, and the Skill Mastery (Acrobatics) advantage for pulling off formidable (DC 25) Acrobatics checks as routine!

KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

The Mimic and Mystic archetypes are both very flexible, although in different ways, and it pays to know what your character is capable of doing before you are immersed in the midst of a game.

In the case of the Mimic, the GM may wish to put together note cards or some other quick reference to the powers of other characters whom the Mimic might wish to duplicate. That way, you can see at a glance what traits the character can copy, and simply hand the card to the player for reference. Experienced Mimics may even build up a “hand” of such cards they reference often.

For the Mystic, in addition to choosing your character’s five set Alternate Effects (see Alternate Effect), read the Magic sample power and give some thought to power stunts your character can do; spur of the moment spells whipped up to fit a particular need. Mystics are very effective at power stunts and you might want to reserve a victory point (or two) for that purpose.

FUN WITH STRENGTH

The Paragon and Powerhouse archetypes are among the strongest archetypes, able to lift and carry a lot of weight. Just to give you an idea, the Paragon can lift a loaded 747 aircraft, whereas the Powerhouse can lift four times that amount. Both can easily smash through stone or bend steel.

Both archetypes are pretty tough, too. With their 12 ranks of Impervious Toughness, both can shrug off the damage of most conventional weapons, including guns, grenade launchers, and flamethrowers, without even having to make a resistance check! It would take the equivalent of an exploding shell to penetrate their skin.

FAST FACTS

In addition to formidable ground speed, and the ability to run across water or up sheer surfaces, the Speedster’s Quickness rank allows opportunities to do a lot in a short span of time. A Speedster subtracts 10 from the time rank required to accomplish any routine task, doing in six seconds what it takes most people two hours to accomplish! That can include reading, fixing things, or searching an area, just to name a few.

HIGHER AND LOWER POWER LEVEL ARCHETYPES

The archetypes presented here can serve as models for higher and lower power level versions suitable for different series, ranging from as low as PL8 (PL6 for some archetypes) to as high as PL15 or more. Reworking an archetype for a different power level requires rebuilding the character to ensure everything matches the power level limits, but here are some quick guidelines for modifying an archetype on the fly. They are particularly useful if the Gamemaster wants a character of a different power level for a game, but doesn’t want to go through the trouble of creating the character from scratch:

For every +1 power level, increase the archetype’s attack bonuses, defenses, and skill ranks by 1. Also increase the archetype’s powers offering a resistance check by 1 rank. If desired, shift an increase to a trait you don’t want to go any higher to the corresponding trait in a pair, such as applying an attack increase to power rank, or a Toughness increase to either Dodge or Parry.

For every –1 power level, decrease the archetype’s attack bonuses, defenses, and skill ranks by 1. Also decrease the archetype’s powers offering resistance checks by 1 rank each. You can likewise shift a decrease from a trait you want to keep at its present rank to the corresponding trait in a pair, like applying an attack decrease to power rank, or a Dodge decrease to Toughness.

Check to see that none of the character’s traits exceed the new power level limits and add up the character’s new Character point cost. If you are creating a starting character for that power level (rather than a non-player character), adjust the total Character point cost to match the recommended starting total, adding or removing traits as needed.