Neuroshima by Tevery Best
IntroductionOriginal SA post
I was back at my mom's house for Christmas. I moved out this year, and I don't live too far away, and my actual apartment is not that big, so I still keep a lot of stuff there. I was in the mood for a nostalgia trip, so I reached into a long-unopened cupboard and pulled out my old RPG stuff. More specifically, I pulled out this:
Neuroshima, a Post-apocalyptic Role Playing Game, Edition 1.5.
Tornado Blues, the introductory short story posted:
So one time Vincent, a rich poobah in Vegas, had it in for us. We got on his bad side in a dumb way, the simplest one imaginable: we took the cash and did not do the job. We couldn't handle it. The task was hard as shit, but we could have at least given him back the money. The money we spent on Tornado and hookers.
We were in shit, in macabre shit. We had essentially nothing to lose. It was then that Spider came up with an idea that we could do this job, get some cash and buy ourselves back into Vincent's graces. Today I know that was a moronic idea, but we were all twenty-something back then.
The job was to find the legendary Eldorado of all the sick and suffering in our world - Rotkins Pharmacia.
Fifteen years ago, in 2003, at a time when the hobby was booming in the country on a scale unheard of ever before, a bunch of people in Gliwice, Poland, were writing an RPG. Those people were the Portal Publishing House, whose claims to fame until that point were a single boardgame, possibly a role playing game I have never heard about before researching this, and a bi-monthly magazine. But now, they felt the zeitgeist, they found a niche, and they were about to publish their first big break.
The game was titled Necropunk at first. Then something happened and the team split, and Portal took its part of the project, redubbing it Neuroshima.
And that was the birth of the game I spent literal weeks of my life on.
I feel I kind of need to place this in its proper context. In 2003, Poland's RPG scene was locked in a hellwar between Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. D&D was riding strong thanks to the just-released-in-Polish 3rd Edition, which was to be my first RPG a few years later. WFRP was always fighting a losing battle, but they were smug about how much better their game was nevertheless. On the fringes, old - and later new - World of Darkness drew its usual crowd of somewhat gothy outcasts (even within the fandom), occasionally, someone brought in an indie game from abroad and tried to play it with their English-speaking friends. I am fairly sure other systems just never gained any real following.
Indigenous games were a fringe unto themselves. A bunch were published in mid-90s in a now-cult magazine Magic and Sword, but they were largely extinct by the time I started getting into the hobby. One game with lasting following were the Crystals of Time; the admin of the first RPG message board I posted on was a big fan of the game and horrendously smug about how no-one else could appreciate a system that (allegedly) requires you to pull square roots in combat resolution. There was the Witcher Imagination Game, and yes, it's that Witcher license1. I had the sourcebook for that one in my hands and the most I can remember about it is that the authors followed the WoD route of making a bad, bad, unwieldy set of game mechanics and then just telling people they should not need a resolution mechanic you're adults just focus on the storyyyyyy. (It was the largest compendium of Witcher lore to date and I am not sure it was ever superseded in that role.)
Enter Ignacy Trzewiczek, Michał Oracz, Marcin Baryłka, and Marcin Blacha, the four men who are credited for this project.
Tornado Blues posted:
Behind the corner was something better: a pharmacy. Can you imagine? A regular pharmacy, like before the war. A fairly slender, dark-haired chick was sitting behind the counter, wearing a stained, chemical-burned labcoat. Spider instantly started grinning at her, but she didn't even notice him. [...] Two of us came in, we left Herman outside just in case. I saw him through a window, talking to some kid, patting him on the shoulder and handing him a couple cigarettes. After a moment he peered in through the door, looked around and said: "Wall is waiting at a bar called Eddie's Pride. He got a guide. Oh, and Morgan Ratkiller turned up."
The guide was a girl from Warhead Height, which did not surprise me, as those people would often find work as guides. They were famous for their low prices and good quality of service, as well as their bald heads and huge blue eyes. She was sitting stiff on a bench, not paying attention to Wall and Morgan toasting a fortunate meeting. Just a few moments and they were already somewhat tipsy. But it has to be said I was glad for the meet - we'd been through a lot, that son of a bitch and we.
At the time, Trzewiczek was a man who virtually single-handedly changed the face of the Polish WFRP scene. See, back then people here were not all that much in touch with Western fandom, which is not surprising - having internet at home was still fairly rare, people were only just starting to be more likely to speak English as a foreign language than Russian - and they read magazines and zines instead. And Trzewiczek wrote a cycle of hugely influential articles about WFRP titled the Jesienna Gawęda - The Autumn Tale2. Through that, he cemented the vision of WFRP as a gloomy, doomed world where it never rains, it pours, player characters are little more than glorified thugs, and all are fated to die and rot in the mud. While the Warhammer world definitely supports such an interpretation, it is incredible how well he managed to promote suppressing the more lighthearted elements of it and prop WFRP up as the grimdark counterpart to D&D. He was always a story teller, never a game designer, and today he is, if I am not mistaken, the last of the four to still work Portal (in fact, he runs the company). Nowadays he works almost exclusively on board games, which tend to have a bunch of good ideas and mechanics overshaded by some mistake or another and ending up being second-best in whatever category they can be put into.
Michał Oracz has a number of claims to fame. He wrote De Profundis, a play-by-mail Lovecraft-inspired RPG which I am told won the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, whatever that is. However, he is the one man responsible for the one thing you may know Neuroshima for: Neuroshima Hex, an AMAZING board game from the same franchise. Because, spoiler alert, the whole thing grew out into a franchise. Today he is, according to wikipedia, a freelance board game designer and professional graphic designer.
Marcin Baryłka would go on to co-author another RPG you've never heard of, Dzikie Pola, set in 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He wrote some published stories, and now he runs an IT company.
I have no idea what else Blacha achieved and where he is now.
Tornado Blues posted:
They say the world died thirty years ago. The seas boiled and the cities burned. The star named Wormwood fell from the heavens onto the third part of the rivers and the fountains of waters. They say the world died in the flashes and rumbling of explosions.
Bullshit, I thought, squeezed in behind a rock outcropping that protected our fireplace from being discovered. [...] It's all bullshit. When you're standing near the epicentre, you don't hear the rumble. All you see is a flash. A monstrous, terrible flash, going right through you. Covering your eyes won't help. You see your hand, every little bone, every joint and every nerve ending. All of it, like on a picture in a book, and just for a fraction of a second, before the shockwave takes you. You won't hear the explosion because you just won't last long enough.
Quick. And painless.
I am bringing it all up because this writeup is, for me, a nostalgia trip, something of a farewell to a game I am unlikely to ever play again. It is now outdated, obsolete, dead. It has spawned a franchise of proportions absolutely unheard of in Poland - several board games, short story collections, something like twenty official supplements, dozens of fan-made supplements, dedicated LARP events, a miniatures game, other stuff I am probably forgetting - and it is now withering. Much like, I feel, the Polish scene. Or maybe just the parts of it that were there before I left for like five years - incidentally, I am fairly sure the last supplement for Neuroshima came out five years ago. I myself no longer really enjoy crunchy games, I am too busy and old to fill out more than one tax return a year. But there was a time where this was a huge part of my life, and I am always going to remember it fondly.
So, come with me, friends, as I explore wonderful, colourful memories of a world that never was.
And I promise to be less purple-prose'y-wistful-and-sad in the writeup itself. Because that game has a lot of stupid shit in it, for real.
Tornado Blues posted:
We picked up the guns and walked up to each of them to shoot them in the head. We left Morgan for the last. Herman and Wall woke up a few minutes later. While they were jumping for joy, I noticed something that changed our lives.
Over the factory door, on a sun-beaten sign, only visible from one specific angle, the letters spelled: "ROTKINS PHARMACIA."
When we were leaving, burdened with bags of powdered Tornado, knowing we were even more fucked than before, I noticed a group of people on the hill. They were bald. One of the women waved at me. I swear she was smiling.
Trzewiczek's autograph I got on my copy of the sourcebook. The cow (yes, it's a cow) says: "Keeping radioactive milk in a vacuum flask turns it into a flashlight!"
1. Coincidentally, Sapkowski himself wrote an RPG in 1995, titled Eye of Yrrhedes. From what I gather it was more of a generic system for whatever fantasy world you come up with, so that's probably part of why it never gained much of a following in spite of him being a big deal. (Also there are TONS of stories about how the man behaved and behaves at conventions, so maybe there's that too.)
2. Gawęda is actually a unique Polish prose genre that resembles more of a loose talk to the audience than an actual tale. They tend to be narrative, filled with digressions, and originally arose among the Polish nobility of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Tornado BluesOriginal SA post
So, last time I outlined the reasons for doing this and gave you a brief introduction into how the game came to be. Let's talk a bit more about the game as we walk through the opening bits.
The book opens with a short story titled "Tornado Blues." It's nothing really to write home about, but it does a good job of establishing some themes that show up later, and, more importantly, the voice of the book. Because the entire book - aside from the obligatory chapter introducing the concept of role-playing games - is written in a conversational, in-character tone. And honestly, that is one of the things I like about it. It keeps you thinking about the game world, about the things that can happen in it, the characters you can meet - and honestly makes the entire thing more enjoyable to read than if it were more clinical. It does, however, mean that the book's formatting issues can get compounded by things looking like flavour text really quickly. No wonder Portal's board games used to have horrible rulebooks.
Next we have the Obligatory What Is RPG Chapter. Like I said before, it is the only one in the book that acknowledges the author is not, in fact, a used car salesman in Wastelandville, population 6. I can't say for sure, but I think this is the one chapter that was definitely not written by Trzewiczek - maybe Blacha or Barylka; it is very different. The one thing that should be mentioned here is that it really bears the sign of the time it was released - I think the authors were aware that at the time there was a huge influx of new blood in the hobby and that most of the new people found out about tabletops from video game discussions. "Wow, there's a Baldur's Gate/Fallout game where I can make my own story with my friends? Maybe I should try that!" The chapter keeps mentioning Fallout and making references to gameplay conventions you could know from cRPGs of the time far more often than it calls back on stuff like Mad Max or post-apo novels (although it does that too). Also it introduces the basic ideas of gaming savoir-vivre: you're here to have fun, not compete against each other or outwit the GM (and the GM is here to make sure you have fun), you should bring some snacks, don't be an ass etc. The original 1.0 Edition used to have an extended chapter dedicated solely to being a good player, both in the "how to play cool" and "how to not be an ass" sense, with tips such as "the GM has worked hard to prepare this shit, cut him some slack," "chime in for pizza if you can," "don't leave cigarette butts in the potted plants when you're playing at somebody's house ffs." It didn't make the cut into 1.5. I don't know, I guess more books could use that nowadays. (There was - and still is - a chapter for GMs as well, of course.)
All right, enough of this. Let's get into the first real chapter.
The World: First Look
Every chapter opens with a splat page like this and a blurb. I cut the blurb off, since it scanner really poorly (I hope it gets better when we get deeper into the book and it will start to balance itself on the glass).
Chapter blurb posted:
I was born five years before the war broke out. When all hell broke loose, I was just a scared little kid. I don't remember much from those years, pretty much just the fear. I remember a horrible mess and terror. Then the long years of war began. I grew up in the south, then I went north to fight the Moloch, now, after a good fifteen years of struggle, I'm tired. I'm going back south, life's easier down there...
What a nice bit of optimism to begin! The entire chapter maintains more or less the same voice and gloomy outlook on life. It's not very long, barely five pages, and it's intended to give you a brief overview of the state of the game world. I'll just go along the subsections and summarise them - often briefly, since they are like a column long, and mostly flavour or anecdotes at that, or stories quoted from various mouthpieces, or vignettes. It really feels like a Trzewiczek part, if you recall what I said about the gawęda.
World: Shit's bad, yo. Everything is ruin and despair, rubble and wreckage. Collapsed power lines, abandoned gas stations, bars that look like the owner left for a break twenty years ago and never came back. Rust, dust, broken glass, howling wind. The world became empty after the war, quiet, depopulated. Outside of city ruins it's hard to meet other people. And the time before the war is remembered as a time of fast cars, loud music, sexy ladies - the good life.
Cities: The largest cities are gone. If they're even habitable today, they're ruins. Bits of broken glass are everywhere, people live like rats in a dump, scavenging, salvaging. Most cities have some kind of a centre, even if it has nothing to do with where it used to be Before, but it's clean, has a market, a bar or two, maybe a gas station. Maybe a real shop. And human voices, dogs barking, guns shooting, music.
People: There is no such thing as society, at least in a way people of old used to think of it. Education, culture, television, the Web, all that contributed to making sure you could know what to expect of others. It's gone now. Anyone you meet can be a freak or a wannabe saviour of humanity. The first question when people meet is often "Where are you from?" People are prejudiced towards you based on where you were born, they put you into a stereotype and try to guess what to expect based on that. They're suspicious and aggressive.
Life: People are very different, but their lives are very similar. They're mostly gatherers, either larger or smaller scale. It seems unbelievable that back in the day old people would just get a pension from the President of the United States. Or buy shit for their wife and children on payday. Aside from gathering, people are also traders. The rich have their own shops and live off trade entirely. Some fortunate ones can ply their skills: mechanics, doctors, "especially dentists." Knowledge is valuable. And, well, there are career criminals. Perhaps it's they who are the most numerous. Gangs and bands of criminals raid, extort, and murder, barrelling down empty streets and highways.
Travel: Cities don't have much contact with one another. People prefer to stick to their more or less safe hiding holes rather than set out into the great emptiness. The United States are a couple cities, a few dozen larger cities, hundreds and thousands of settlements - and you never know what you'll find. Highways and old state routes are still frequented, and the few roadside bars are always full of all kinds of people with all kinds of stories. Travellers have no homes, few friends, and no sense of attachment. And they know how to fight for their lives.
Legends: Without TV, without books, without newspapers, people tell each other stories again. And that was always how legends were born. People have lost touch with what is real and what could be real, and whatever story you hear will definitely be colourised beyond recognition. But it's okay. Everyone knows it's just a story.
Moloch: Now we're getting to, you know, probably the most major of major facts about the setting. It gets namedropped in the previous paragraphs, but, only now is the reader told what the fuss is about. Moloch is a network of rebellious machines most likely responsible for the war in the first place. It entered the US from the northwest and has been spreading for the last 30 or so years, now occupying several states1, absorbing more and more cities and industrial installations into a huge machine city of wires and steel. Moloch's bases resemble nothing we know. The earth constantly quakes for miles away from the entity. The columns of smoke and exhaust fumes black out the sun. It is said the smell of the thing reaches a hundred miles south. Humans are at war with the Moloch, and they're very slowly losing.
The book is frequently interspersed with little vignettes in boxes off to the side. They tend to have little to do with whatever is currently being discussed and are not part of the narration. There's one here too, and I'll attach it for you - usually I'll only mention them if they're interesting.
There's this guy, they call him Dart. You know, he told me once he flew near the Moloch on that rotor flyer of his. He did not see much, but he snapped a lot of photographs. I haven't seen them. I haven't heard about anyone who has. But Dart says the photos are real. And that they show Moloch from above. And that when he gets the sonuvagun who stole his pics... The point is, Moloch has installed several hundred rocket launchers and whatever else. It's the largest tank in world history. And you know what? Dart says that the photos clearly showed the guns are aiming at the sky. No way those photos would show shit, all that smog means you can't see your own hand. But Dart keeps doubling down. "Moloch is scared of being bombed. We'll blow him up from above. I even have a plan..." Dart is high-grade bonkers.
Environment: In short: it's hell. Dry, humid. South is liveable, but if you start going north, at some point everything turns into a battlefield with no potable water, no green vegetation, no animals other than fucking beasts. Moloch consistently poisons everything around it and everything it can reach. The ecosystem is fucked. Down south you can live without a geiger counter and water is good to drink - it's been thirty years after the first chemical attacks, and there's no-one to spread the venom that far away.
Gamble: This has nothing to do with gambling. Gamble (sing. gambel) are the stuff you carry and the stuff you trade. Thus, the trade is often called gambling. And it's pretty much barter nowadays - and value of goods can vary wildly. Plenty of people are good with it, though - they're scam artists and savvy traders who can take advantage of the system.
I never know how much a jug of beer is worth. It drives me nuts. I never even know if I can afford to get wasted.
Tornado: Possibly the most valuable good of all is a drug called Tornado. It usually comes in the shape of small black pills and people throughout the country are just dying to get some, even if it is hard as hell to obtain (for reasons to be discussed later in the book). The reason for it is that the drug lets you experience the pre-war world in your visions. Walk around the stores, meet people, have fun. Until the bomb goes down in the evening and you wake up. The narrator says it's one of the greatest ailments plaguing humanity - "after Moloch and mutants, and recently it may even be more effective than mutants."
We are then sent off with a promise that we will learn more of the world... later.
Next: Basic Mechanics!
1. Naturally, it never says which ones. The book does not really operate on that particular concept. But it is accepted as canon that Moloch stretches as far south as northern California and as far east as the Dakotas.
Basic MechanicsOriginal SA post
Previously on Neuroshima: we learned world is a fuck, machines are coming to kill us all, better take some magic pills to take us back to the good old days.
Chapter blurb posted:
Like all games, Neuroshima has rules. This brief chapter explains their basics, so that you know what "Character on five" means right as you start reading. You'll find that knowledge handy many a time.
And between you and me - Character "on five" is not a good thing at all...
So, that's self-explanatory, let's finally take a look at how the game is actually supposed to be played. I'm going to follow the layout of the book here as well; I'm hoping this will give you a better understanding of how the rules are presented.
Checks are made by rolling three d20s. You need to roll less than or equal to the Difficulty Level (DL) on two of those; whether or not the third one is a success as well is largely irrelevant, but it gives you some extra safety.
There are seven basic Difficulty Levels: Easy, Average, Problematic, Hard, Very Hard, Damn Hard, and Lucky1. Each of them is a modifier you apply to the Ability score appropriate for the given check. (At this point the book does not explain what the Abilities are yet, which I think is kind of an oversight if you consider that it otherwise tries to be approachable for first-timers. It does not list what abilities you have, either, although it probably expects you to be looking at a character sheet at this point.) You need to roll less than Ability + Difficulty Level on two out of three dice.
Simple, right? The nice part is that it allows you to just look at your character sheet and instantly know how much you need to roll - it has spaces for you to enter every difficulty level value for every Ability score. It also gives you a nice feeling of where some characters find any given task obviously easier than others. However, this fairly elegant core gets quickly overlaid with a bunch of issues.
The first problem is that the DL modifiers do not follow a set progression, which is annoying. Easy is +2, Average is +0, Problematic is -2, and then Hard is -5. Damn Hard is -11, Lucky is -15. Since Ability scores typically run from 5 to 20, this means it is entirely possible your character will be unable to succeed at some particularly difficult checks (or, rather, almost unable - see the Slider below).
The second problem is that the game features various penalties (or bonuses!) that the GM is supposed to use to modify the difficulty level. These are expressed as percentages: +10%, +60%, whatever. They can come from pretty much anything: it's dark, so you shoot with a +20% difficulty penalty, you're wounded and in pain, so you get a +30% penalty to whatever, the bomb is about to explode and you need to hurry up, so +40% penalty. Once the GM adds them all up, they look the sum total in a table and checks what is the corresponding difficulty level. For example, less than 0% is Easy, 31-60% is Hard, 91-120% is Damn Hard and so forth. The table caps out at 160%, but it never says what happens when the penalties get bigger than that (most unofficial materials add that if you get more than that from whatever they describing, you are incapacitated somehow, but this is not in the official rules). Presumably the task is impossible to accomplish. As you may have seen, the percentage brackets do follow the modifiers - 10% above modifierx10% is the upper limit - but in a way that is not immediately obvious and also compounds the issue of DLs being irregular.
And, most importantly, that bit of the rules is simply unwieldy, and in all my years of GMing this game I preferred to just quote a Difficulty Level at players and adjust it if there were any modifiers that applied to that particular character only (usually wounds - and these modifiers are important viz. wounds and healing, we'll go back to this a lot later).
Back on track. Skills!
If you have a Skill, that means you know something about something. And that's good, you're feeling it by now, aren't you? Skills have different levels that show how good you are at something. The higher the Skill level, the better.
If you have Pistols at +1, what does that mean? In short, it means "don't leave the house at night."
Skills allow you to subtract a number of pips equal to the value of the skill from the result of your roll. So if you roll a Pistols check and have a Pistols skill of 5, you can subtract, for example, four from one die and one from another, however you please. You do it after seeing what you have rolled, of course. The DL value is still determined based on your Ability score.
The book suggests a number of optional rules that you can use with Skills.
- Descriptive Skills: your skill value tells the MG how much of a specialist in a given field you are. He may decide to simply waive the check, if your skill level is higher than the DL modifier.2 So, if you have a Swimming skill of 3, and are faced with a Problematic Swimming check (-2), the GM may simply wave their hand and say you don't need to roll.
- Related Skills: Some Skills are similar enough (Driving Cars and Driving Trucks, for example) that in some situations you may use a fraction (usually 1/2 or 1/3) of the related Skill value instead of the Skill that should apply (e.g. you can drive cars, but not trucks, so you convince the GM to let you use your Driving Cars skill instead). You cannot activate the Slider in this way. What is the Slider? Well, we'll get to it, I suppose.
- Other Skills: Per GM discretion, you can come up with extra skills you can put on your character sheet. The GM decides what Ability to roll with those skills. They cannot be purchased as packs (we'll get to this later as well!).
Open checks are supposed to tell the GM not only whether or not you succeeded, but also by how much. Roll three d20s and discard the highest roll. Apply a Skill (if any). Compare the higher of the two remaining dice to the appropriate Ability score. If you rolled less, the difference is your success points, if you rolled more, the difference is your failure points. The GM may also apply a DL modifier to the baseline you compare against.
Opposed checks are used for when you need to see who did better than someone else (e.g. one character is sneaking, another is standing watch). Both characters roll Open checks, applying the appropriate Ability score and Skill value, and any difficulty modifiers. Of course, the Abilities, Skills, and difficulty may be different for each of them (the sentry will roll a harder check in a dark, open field, while an empty, well-lit hallway punishes the sneaking guy). In retrospect, I never used opposed checks, because I am lazy and would not take the time of day to stat out skills for unimportant NPCs (I didn't do that in other games too, sue me), but it seems less unwieldy than I remembered it. It is a lot of rolling, though. And back in my day I literally did not have the money to spend on getting more than one d20, so we were usually short on dice anyway.
The Slider is essentially a reward for getting Skills to high levels. For every 4 levels of a Skill you have, all checks using that Skill are a level easier: a Hard check becomes Problematic, a Problematic check becomes Average etc. This can allow you to try doing tasks your Ability score would otherwise prohibit. However, this also has a downside. A skill of 0 makes your checks a level harder.
The Slider does not work for combat actions performed in combat - that is not a typo. It won't work when you're shooting, or stabbing, or throwing something. It will work for non-combat checks in combat, such as Pain Resistance, or when you're trying to climb something during combat, or disarm a bomb during a shootout, and so forth. It will also work for combat actions outside of combat - if you're lining a perfect sniper shot before the fight has started, you can use the slider.
Another way of circumventing the Ability score lockout is by pure luck. If you roll a 1 on any of the dice, it lowers the DL one level. Conversely, an unlucky 20 makes the entire check one level harder. Of course you need a natural result, modified 20s and 1s don't count.
That's it for the basic mechanics! But there's going to be more. Much more. If you feel like I have not been clear enough in explaining something, feel free to point it out!
Next time: Character Creation, Part One!
1. I translate is as Lucky, but the original Polish is "Fart," which means the kind of outrageous luck you wish upon your friends and curse in your enemies. It's the kind of luck that that fucking Russian kid who keeps headshotting you in CS 1.6 has. And yes, I realise it looks like the word "fart."
2. I realise they mean absolute value of the modifier rather than just the modifier but let's be real
Character Creation, Part One: OriginOriginal SA post
It drifts off with at the same rate the modifiers for that difficulty grows. There's a 20% difference between Average and Problematic, and Problematic is -2 harder than Average. There's a 30% difference between Problematic and Hard, and Hard is -3 harder than Problematic. This means that you could just convert every 10% into a -1 target number modifier.
 There's an exception in Easy, which is +2 but only slightly-more-than-10% from Average, but if the smallest increment is 10%, you need to go to -10%, or a difference of 20%, anyway.
Ah, wait, I kind of misunderstood what you said. Nevermind, the math works out to what you say, more or less. I suppose it makes that step even less relevant than I always thought of it.
Anyhow, Character Creation, Part One: Origin!
I'm not sure why my scanner cuts the top off like that, I'll try to fix it in the future somehow.
Anyhow, Character Creation in Neuroshima is divided into ten steps.
- Origin - where you come from. We'll talk about it in more detail in a moment.
- Profession - what do you do for a living. It is one of the most narratively important descriptors of your character, but mechanically all it does is award you a Profession Trait (think Fallout Traits, but without downsides).
- Abilities - you decide your ability scores, which determine the difficulty of all the checks you roll.
- Specialization - described as "the very broad, general archetype of your character," in reality it is pretty much narratively empty and mostly just determines how much you pay to buy specific Skills.
- Skills - well, skills. By far the crunchiest and longest stage.
- Tricks - special abilities that grant you various bonuses or allow you to do some things most people can't. You need to meet certain requirements to purchase them. They are very similar in principle to Fallout Perks.
- Disease - you're sick. No ifs or buts.1 You are. Roll to see what ails thee, oh Mad Max, alone and palely loitering.
- Reputation - a very underused stat that determines whether or not people you meet know you.
- The Form - answer all kinds of questions supposed to give you a better vision of your character's mentality.
- Gear - buy AK and smoke go mid
It is actually fairly important to do those things more or less in order, because Neuroshima does something I think is neat and that I can't think of seeing anywhere else (but someone else definitely has done this both before and after, it's more an indictment of me): you can trade in Traits, Tricks, or skill points to get extra gamble, which you may save for better starting equipment or, if you have enough of them, to buy skills, rep, tricks, whatever. And this only goes one way - you can only buy Ability points for gamble you get by selling your Profession or Origin Traits, for example.
Today, we're going to discuss Step 1: Origin.
A very typical woman from Detroit
Origin is, like I said, where you're from. It's where you were raised and most likely born, and it provides you with a 1-point bonus to one of the Ability scores (which is not much) and one of three special Origin Traits. You can trade in the Trait for 50 gamble, you still get to pick where you're from, though - both for the +1 stat and because, as the chapter tells us, it informs people about you. Small, postapocalyptic communities lack contact with one another, and develop their own singular cultures, and if a community is important enough, those become stereotypes. Every place is a stereotype, and that stereotype is at least partially grounded in the local culture. You don't have to follow the stereotype, but people will expect you to - everyone is prejudiced - and some of it will likely rub onto you anyway.
This section is narrated by a tough man from the Southern Hegemony, while the reader's proxy is some greenhorn from Vegas.
You know, I offed a guy from Vegas once because I knew the jerk would not run under a ladder when legging it. I knew the superstitions his mother taught him since early childhood would prevail. That is why he ended up with a bullet in his noggin. Because the jerk had to go around that damn ladder!
There is no order to how the origins are presented in the book. Southern Hegemony and Vegas come first because of the narrative, we end up with Detroit for much the same reason, the rest pretty much go at random. Let's get into it.
The Southern Hegemony is a land "ruled by a murderer," where the law of the jungle is the law of the land. The only justice you can get is the kind you win by yourself. Only the strongest can thrive, which is why although people from the Hegemony are not the greatest badasses out there, they are definitely among the most feared, and the area under their control is constantly expanding. They're tough, stubborn, and not interested in anyone's bullshit.
At this point, a question may arise in your mind: okay, so, it's in the south, because it's the Southern Hegemony, right? But... where in the South? Is it the Old South, like Alabama or Tennessee? Or is it, like, southern California? Texas? Hell, Mexico, maybe? It's a very natural question... that no European would care to ask. It's the south. Where the deserts are. Obviously. I mean, it's all the same, right? (The question is answered later in the book, in the expanded setting description, which describes all of these points of origin in greater detail. Feel free to place your bets now!)
If you come from the Hegemony, you get +1 to your Constitution score and one of the three following traits:
- Natural Born Killer - pick any pack of Warrior skills, you get all of them at +2 for free.
- You Know, I Ate My Own Dog - if you managed to intimidate someone through a Morale test before a fight, you automatically win initiative against them.
- Headstrong Son of a Gun - once per session you may substitute Character for another Ability during a check.
I'll level with you - the Traits are not really balanced and they tend not to be on the same level of usefulness. NBK is quite a significant boon (normally you cannot have a Skill above +5 at character creation, and even that is prohibitively expensive, so an entire pack of three skills from a useful category at +2 is very nice), while I Ate My Own Dog can trigger very frequently or very rarely - if your GM likes western-style stand-offs, you'll get a lot of mileage out of it, if they prefer more tactical combat that tends to start with surprise attacks and sneaking around until contact that immediately proceeds to a shootout, it just won't trigger all that much. But all of these three are at least conceivably useful - we'll get to places that get stuff so narrow in scope it virtually never comes up.
Vegas is full of mobsters and crazies. They're gamblers and opportunists, and tend to be superstitious as fuck. They're unprincipled cheats and liars, notorious for their incredible luck. They thrive on risk. You get the idea.
Characters from Vegas get +1 Agility (maybe Dexterity is a better translation? Maybe not? Eh, I'll stick with Agility, for Fallout's sake) and one of the following traits:
- Luck - you can reroll a failed roll on up to three dice per session.
- Gambler - you get all skills from the Manual Dexterity pack at +2.
- Telepath - all Bluff, Persuasion, and Intimidation checks against you are a level harder.
Desert People are not easily startled. The moniker describes very diverse groups of people who choose to live in the great deserts of the modern world, but the book implies that the original Desert People were Native Americans who survived the war nearly untouched - nobody targeted the reservations. They were later joined by people of all races and ethnicities who appreciated their philosophy of life - instead of crawling into city ruins, they chose to master desert survival, and now whenever you leave a city area, you do so on their terms. The narrator suggests they are smug, nagging bastards, but it's quite clear it's because he's a little bitch who can't survive a day out in the sand.
Naturally, their bonuses are almost irrelevant, although I've seen someone write an adventure centred around survival. 90% of the time you forget these guys exist, because unless your players are crazy about logistics or survival freaks themselves, where's the fun in rolling whether or not you die of thirst? Desert People get +1 Perception and one of the following three Traits:
- Companion - the obligatory "you get a pet" skill. It can be any mammal, bird, reptile, or any other creature approved by the GM, but you have to love it. You can also give it simple instructions.
- I Am a Spirit of the Desert - you can go cataleptic for up to three months to survive without food or water. Why would you ever take this?
- I Rely Only on Myself - when using a weapon you made yourself (non-firearms only) or any other tool you made yourself you can subtract two from one of the dice in any test. Versatile, but it's actually worse than just +2 to a Skill, since it does not trigger the Slider.
New Yorkers are stubborn and fierce, and patriotic to a fault. Washington and New York were the two cities most heavily hit by the bombs, and while D.C. is a black hole today, New York is thriving, rebuilding, and seeking to challenge Moloch. Tasteful quote (remember, written in 2003):
The New Yorkers got their asses kicked hard even before the war, because their city was the one everyone wanted to hit. When the war broke out, they were seriously fed up with any and all attacks.
New Yorkers get +1 to Character and one of the following three:
- Advantages of Classical Education - if you pick Technician as your Specialty later, you get 10 extra skill points for any skills based on Smarts. Good if you know you're going for that kind of character.
- The Vision - the GM must tell you how to best rebuild or convert any location to best suit your stated purpose (into a fortress, into a home etc.). Narrow, but sounds like more fun than it probably is.
- Patriot Games - once per session, when performing a Damn Hard check, you may add your Character score to your skill level. Which means once per session you are almost guaranteed to pass an otherwise super hard check. Situational, but lends itself to letting you do badass stuff, I suppose.
Texas is a land of strong, healthy farmers. Its people are famed for hospitality, loyalty, stable beliefs, and respect for the home and family. They'll host you, feed you, pray for you, and hand you some food when you leave, and that's a better deal than what you can get pretty much anywhere else.
Unless you're Asian. Or Black. Or Mormon, Arabian, a mutant, a sexual deviant, seriously sick, or a Tornado junkie. You get the idea.
As a Texan, you get +1 Constitution and one of these:
- A Man Called Horse - pick one skill pack: Fitness or Horsemanship. All checks of Skills in this pack are a level easier for you. Not a particularly helpful Trait, unless you desperately want to ride a horse.
- Doctor Quinn - you get all skills in the Medicine pack at +4. That's actually quite amazing. The descriptions here and in Versatility Squared (see below) seem to suggest this is a trait restricted to women only, but honestly it's hard to tell.
- Healthy Neighbourhood - you do not roll for disease during character creation. This is honestly perhaps the single most picked Trait in my experience - and in retrospect it is nowhere near as useful as that reputation would suggest, as diseases are more of a tax than an actual threat. But still!
The Appalachian Federation is a land with a feudal caste system. There are nobles, magnates, peasants, soldiers with land and titles, the whole shebang. They are stuck-up and haughty, and obsessed with old traditions that may or may not have existed in America. They can be polite and honourable, if you're on the level, but don't give a shit about the hoi poloi. They'll gladly duel one another, and say that it is the right way around, but won't bat an eye about shooting an uppity commoner in the back. The narrator suggest that their attachment to titles and castes means they tend to cause trouble wherever they go.
As an Appalachian, you get +1 to Character and one of these three:
- Noble Born - pick one pack of Character-based skills, you get all skills in that pack at +2. Can be useful both for face-style characters and for fighters, actually.
- Duellist - in single combat you can ignore the first Scratch or Light Wound you suffer. Kind of meh - Light Wounds come with a 15-30% penalty and you need at least 9 of them to die, so they are not that big a deal.
- Coddled Gun - pick one firearm you own. You take special care of it every evening, and as a result, you may always reroll weapon jam effects for that weapon. This means that it's still just as likely to malfunction, but gives you some protection against really serious breakdowns. Not very useful - most weapons only jam on a 17+, and half the time you just need to take a turn to fix the jam.
Miami is Crocodile Dundee City. That's literally it. A whole city of stoic badasses who hunt mammoth-sized alligators in the mud and carry knives the size of an elbow. The narrator says they're the most badass badasses out there, in his view, and that they all seem to want to be Clint Eastwood. The truth of the city is somewhat more nuanced, but that's what you learn about the people from this chapter. I have nothing more to add.
Characters form Miami get +1 Perception and one of the following:
- Alligator Man - whenever you conceal yourself in water during combat, your cover is considered two levels better. Moreover, when performing a surprise attack from swampy or marshy ground, you automatically surprise your opponents. Situational beyond repair.
- I've Had My Share of Sickness - you may reroll any roll to resist organic diseases and poisons. Has anyone ever rolled to see if an RPG character gets sick?
- Walkabout - you can reroll any Stamina skill check and start with the "House on My Back" Trick, which lets you carry twice as much as a regular person. Again, this sounds useless unless you insist on playing Gygaxian Realism Survival.
None of Your Fucking Business - the quintessential "Other" pick, it essentially means you are either not from one of the other places of origin or you are actively trying to hide where you come from. Or maybe you don't really know. People like this are considered suspect assholes, as your origin is basically the number 1 thing others want to know about you. But they are also well-informed and worldly, as they tend to travel a whole lot.
You get +1 to any Ability of your choice and one of these two Traits:
- Versatility - any Skills based on your highest Attribute start off at +1 if you do not otherwise invest in them during character creation. Moderately useful at best, never picked.
- Versatility Squared - you may pick any one Trait from any other Origin.
Salt Lake City is a land of crazy cultists. Mormons still play a large part, but pretty much everyone in the city is crazy about their religion. And there are a ton of cults out there. They read books, watch weird tapes, perform seances and do tons of drugs. They are, however, persuasive, and persistent as well.
If you are from Salt Lake, you get +1 to Smarts (why not Character? no idea) and one of these three:
- Damn Preacher - if you try to convince someone of something you have faith in, you can take the worst die and set it to match one of the other two. Too narrow in scope.
- I Believe - once per session, when under threat, you can tell the GM you believe. They are then obliged to give you a way out, if it makes sense. They have the final call, though. Funny ace in the hole, but not very handy.
- Everything Was Better Before the War - any Smarts-based checks related to knowledge of the times before the war cannot have a DL above Hard for you. If you're going to play a game about exploring pre-war relics, could be handy, otherwise too situational.
The great river Mississipi is inhabited by people who could just as well be mutants. There is so much terrible shit flowing down the river that it is pretty much incapable of sustaining normal life, but such a huge waterway cannot stay abandoned. Some people settle around it and make a living off it. But they pretty much never take off their gas masks and thick wellingtons. And they love to tell stories - they've seen pretty much everything.
Characters from Mississipi get +1 Perception and one of the following three:
- Something Stinks Around Here - anytime you face a person who has a mutation you can't see the GM rolls a Hard Perception check in secret. If you succeed, you intuit that the person is a mutant. Depends on how many mutants pop up in your games, I guess.
- Let's Go, He Must Have Drowned by Now - you can stay underwater twice as long as a regular person - half a minute for every 4 points in Constitution. The only system where I've seen swimming and related attributes be useful is Call of Cthulhu.
- Acid in the Veins, Chlorine in the Lungs - you can reroll any resistance roll against poisonous chemicals and caustic substances. Somewhat more useful than My Share of Sickness.
The Outpost is a mobile city of scientists, technicians, and soldiers dedicated to fighting against the Moloch. They have access to the most advanced technology the post-war world knows, mostly gained by copying Moloch's designs, and pretty much everyone there has some sort of technical training. They are dedicated to their duty and taught to follow orders from a young age. Laconic, conscientious, and aloof, they never forget who is their worst enemy, and although some of them leave the city on occasion, this is done as much to get away from the terror of the front as to perform some tasks while they're out there. No-one can be idle in the Outpost.
If that's where you're from, you get +1 Smarts and one of these three:
- It Worked in the Simulator... - you may reroll one die in all Fighting Vehicles, Heavy Machinery, and Computers skill checks. Computers can actually be handy, the others less so most of the time.
- Hi-Tech - whenever you are making a check related to operating an electronic device, you may reroll one die. Seems a lot more versatile than the above, honestly.
- Moloch? I've Heard of Him - no test related to Moloch's machines can have a difficulty level above Very Hard for you. Machines are very deadly though, and in my experience rarely feature in play outside of games specifically about them.
Detroit is a city full of crazy people. See, they enjoy the war, because it allows them to race cars and shoot each other all day. They revel in it. They all act like an eighteen-year-old who got a new car for birthday. A hundred miles an hour across wreckage-strewn streets, guns blazing, engines roaring. That's their way of life. They've been doing it for thirty years now and it doesn't seem like they really want to stop. Even though they have Moloch almost next door. And the narrator absolutely flips his shit about it.
I need some chill? What? Some what?!
Man, that's too far. We have a war going on. We have an environmental disaster on our hands. We have poverty and starvation, five years from now Moloch will eat us all and have the Mexicans for seconds...
What? What do you mean "why not fool around for a bit, then?"
You know what, sod off. Go to Detroit. You'll find people you'll fit right in with. They've got chill in spades!
People from Detroit get +1 Agility and one of these three:
- If It Has an Engine, It Will Go - you can get any vehicle with a combustion engine going in 30 seconds or less, as long as they are drivable and fuelled. As long as the GM believes it's possible to drive that car, you will make it go.
- Overdrive - when driving any vehicle with a combustion engine, you can make it go 25% above its top speed, but you'll be running the risk of killing the engine or even breaking the whole thing apart. Once you stop, the vehicle won't go again until the damage is repaired (a Very Hard Mechanics skill check).
- Now This Is Podracing - you ignore any penalties for shooting on the move, regardless of how fast you are going and in what direction. Pretty cool.
Next time: Professions!
1. Ifs or buts may apply.
Character Creation, Part Two: Professions!Original SA post
Previously on Neuroshima: we learned Detroit is inhabited by Car People
Character Creation, Part Two: Professions!
A very judgmental looking Technician
Your profession is what you do, and what you do is who you are. As far as the fiction is concerned, this is the most important part of character creation, the one that defines you in the most visible way. But mechanically all you get is a Profession Trait, which you pick from two available ones (you can also come up with your own, but that does not really happen, let's be real). Like the Origin Trait, you can sell it for 50 gamble. You still pick a profession - it is supposed to be a crucial part of your character's fiction.
The book also gives you an option to cheat a little and skip to Step 7 before you pick your Profession - Step 7 is where you roll for your disease, and if you end up, with, say, Cardiovascular Deficiency, you may want to rethink rolling a Gladiator.
The professions were originally in alphabetical order, but given how many there are, I won't bother rearranging them. Sorry!
Chemist - you are, well, a Chemist. The science kind of guy, not the guy who works in a pharmacy. But you're still a minor demigod for your average Joe Wastelander: you can tell is land or water is polluted and, if so, how to scrub that pollution, you can recognize Moloch's combat gas types, you can make meds, synthesise stuff people need... The Traits you get to pick from are Tastes Like Arsenic (-30% bonus to all Stamina checks to resist radiation and toxic contamination) and Pharmacist (you can make healing items - Painkillers, which let you automatically succeed all Resist Pain rolls for wounds and get a -50% bonus for all other Resist Pain rolls, require a Hard Chemistry check, Medpacks, which heal a Light Wound in one turn, require a Very Hard Chemistry check, DeadLines, which downgrade a Heavy Wound to a 15% penalty Light Wound within three minutes, require a Damn Hard Chemistry check; you obviously must have a lab and supplies, producing a single dose takes four hours). The former is pretty much useless unless your GM is a sadist, the latter can be pretty useful unless your GM is a petty bastard who won't let you have your work supplies.
Ganger - you're a bike gang member, the most popular job of the modern age. Few people like you, since you and your gang are a bunch of assholes, but it's okay, you like to get into fights, so even if you are on your own, you sure as hell can pull your own weight. You get either One of Them (you have a visible sign of gang membership, so most people won't stand up to you - but some will single you out just for being one of "them", you also get 100 gamble for gang Contacts; normally you only get 100 total, so it's quite a boost) or Brave or Stupid? (you legitimately can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to step up to you, so you automatically succeed with one die in all Intimidate and Morale check).
Gladiator - you're a professional arena fighter. You may or may not be a bad person, but you are quite likely ruthless and unattached to others. You're relentless and tough, and a master of melee combat with any weapon. Traits are Diehard (there's a rule that says a 1 on a hit roll in combat bumps damage up one level, you are immune to it) and Teaspoon (whatever you get your hands on, you fight as if you had the relevant skill at 4; this does not stack with your actual skill and does not apply to firearms).
Trader - in the ages-old conflict between travelling salesmen and Tesco, the winner is you. You need to know the supply and demand networks throughout the Fucked Up States of America, and you need to be able to talk yourself into a good deal. You must be able to lie and to stand your ground when someone tries to browbeat you. It's hard work and a tough job, but that's why you're a PC. You get to pick between Trade Route (you've been to all kinds of places and you've met all kinds of people, you get 150 gambles for Contacts, but they cannot be spent on people who can fight) and Used Car Salesman1 (when trading, you get +2 Smarts in Persuasion and Bluff checks... but both those skills are keyed to Character by default. Hmm.).
New Age Preacher - you're the religious leader for the postapocalypse world. You can give a sermon, you can console a person who suffered a loss, uplift the weak, boost the strong - whatever the situation and your god(s) calls for. But, in a pinch, a spade also works as a tool for persuasion. Look Me in the Eyes allows you to detect people's lies once you've talked to them for a while, if you succeed at a Hard Character check and they don't (or if you win an Opposed Character check - I think this is a leftover from 1.0 rules, which AFAIR did not have Opposed checks). Alternatively, you may pick Amen: up to three times per session, you may decide that a roll of 1 on any die is a sign from above that you're on the right path and thus counts as two successes instead of one.
Cowboy - no surprises here. You're a cowboy, you probably ride a horse, you have a ten gallon hat and a revolver in a holster on your belt. Maybe you're a cattle wrangler, maybe you're looking to set up a ranch, or maybe you just want to travel the world and build a legend. Cowboy Traits include Gunslinger (you treat a small arm in your holster as if it were in your hand at all times) and Last Bullet (if your revolver only has one bullet left in the cylinder, that shot is one level easier for you).
Courier - you carry packages and messages from one place to another. You must be an expert outdoorsperson and know the lay of the land better than whoever lives on it. This includes knowing where to find fuel and spare parts for your vehicle - and that's always a doozy. You know, this Profession is a lot more attractive to me now that I'm playing through New Vegas. You get to pick between Friends (additional 150 gamble for non-fighter contacts) and Hiding Hole (you can find or make a stash in any car-sized or larger vehicle within a few minutes; the stash ranges in size from a cigarette pack to a small suitcase; the smaller it is, the harder it is to find).
Hunter - you're in business of finding very rare and very specific items on commission. If someone needs a radiator for a 1976 Ford Buick, and are willing to pay for it, they come to you. You must have a great memory and willingness to travel, but also be persuasive and persistent. Your choice of Traits includes Photographic Memory (whenever you want to remember what a room looked like, you are entitled to a Hard Perception check, and if you pass it, the GM must tell you everything down to the tiniest detail, regardless of how much time has passed) and Persistent (whenever a failed check would set you back on the way to your objective, you get +2 to Character and Constitution for that check).
Mutant Hunter - you hate mutants and you've managed to turn it into a job. Lucky you, you merciless, armed-to-the-teeth sonuvabitch. You pick between No Mysteries (when you encounter a mutant, you can roll a Hard Smarts roll to get the GM to reveal all of their weak points, and, per the GM's discretion, some stats as well) and Mutant for breakfast (you get -20% bonus for any and all checks when fighting mutants).
The Medic was only added in the 1.5 edition, and I think it was the only profession added at that point. You can kid of tell because of the different art style.
Mobster - you're a mafia goon, or maybe you have a small-time gang yourself. You do bad things to bad people and you also do bad things to good people. You get to pick between Merciless (you gain one point of Infamy and Reputation only costs you 20 XP, but it's always bad) and Class (you're a man of honour and class, which makes you reliable and believable; you can reroll any Persuasion or Intimidation check).
Medic - hard to understate the value of a guy who can stitch you up. You gotta remember that when writing the final bill for your patients. If they survive, that is. And remember to be ruthless towards your competition, there's a reason why people pay you as much as they do and it sure as hell isn't a good supply of skills like yours. Reputation means that if you pass a Hard Persuasion check when entering a settlement, the locals will treat you like long-awaited guests, but the difficulty goes up to Very Hard if there is another doctor in the settlement. Field Medic allows you to ignore all penalties to Treat checks caused by the environmental conditions (loud screams, bumpy road when you're stitching a guy in the back of a truck, darkness, smoke...).
Technician - you are even more sought after than chemists and medics. Everything today is broken, and you have the tools and know-how to make it work again. Which means you have to be a versatile Renaissance Person, capable of doing anything from fixing a car to insulating a building. You pick between Matches and Safety Pins (+2 to Smarts when fixing or rebuilding a mechanical or electronic device) and Troublesome Surplus (if you succeed a Hard Mechanics or Electronics check, you can disassemble a machine, reassemble it and be left with a handful of parts worth as much as 20% of the actual machine).
Mercenary - your job is to do what people tell you to do, as long as they pay for it. Usually it involves killing. That's about it for the flavour text. Your traits include Reputation (you start with 15 additional points of Reputation and every point of Reputation only costs you 20 XP) and Killing Machine (you may temporarily increase any Ability score by 2 points, but this bonus is only usable in combat. After an hour passes or you roll 10 checks of that Ability the bonus disappears and you receive a 50% fatigue penalty, which decreases by 10% every hour; you cannot use this Trait again until the penalty is fully gone).
what's up with those specs buddy
Bodyguard - you protect people who are in danger of being shot dead. You better not fuck up - nobody hires a failed bodyguard. Gotta say this is not a very popular profession, probably due to how hard it is to shoehorn someone like that into your standard postapocalyptic adventuring party. Muting allows you to ignore any negative modifiers for Perception rolls caused by noise, darkness, and other similar environmental factors when protecting your client. Before He Does means that when the life of the person you are protecting is in danger you automatically win Initiative and go first in combat.
Judge - you protect the law and fight criminals. Maybe you do it for some organisation or authority, maybe you're a vigilante (although you prefer the term "freelancer"). In any case, you're not a cop, you work like Judge Dredd - investigate, chase down, sentence, execute. Uniform and Badge means that when you're trying to psych the enemy out before a fight your opponents have to pass a more difficult Morale check; when you're interacting with people who are not hostile towards you, you get +2 to Persuasion and Leadership, but any kind of scum of the earth likes you less. One of Us means that any law enforcement can instantly tell you're one of them, and you also get 150 gamble for contacts with Judges and vigilantes.
Specialist - you're a fountain of knowledge. As for applying that knowledge, well, it varies. But really knowledgeable people are quite in demand nowadays, and you sure can exploit it. Even the dumbest ganger knows a Specialist is best kept alive. Education means you have all skills in the General Knowledge pack at 2 - and this is a lot of skills, since that pack usually has you pick three fields from a list of eight. Focus means you can isolate yourself from the outside world when at work at a Smarts-based task. You ignore any penalties caused by noise, crowd, or chaos, and get +2 Smarts to boot. However, you get a +30% penalty to any other tasks, decreasing 10% every fifteen minutes after you finish whatever you were doing.
Shamans differ from New Age Preachers in that where the Preachers are leaders and more or less social people, focused on bringing their religious ideals to people, Shamans focus on their own experience. Their minds are open to the spirit world, and they care little for the opinions of others. Maybe it was called by a reactor leak, maybe by too much drug abuse, in any case, they have an aura of supernatural ability around them. Their Traits include The Spirits have Spoken (you can go into trance, typically drug-induced, during which the GM should reveal additional information about a person or location, but you must pass a Hard Constitution check or "go around all day as if someone socked you in the head with a buttstock", but there is no mechanical effect of that listed) and Totem (pick a totemic animal from a list; every animal has an Ability associated with it. You may at any moment become "more alike" your totemic animal by passing a Problematic test of the associated Ability to get a +2 modifier for that ability in exchange for lowering all other Abilities by 1 for the duration; this lasts as long as you want, but no less than an hour, it also ends if you fall asleep; afterwards you get a -1 penalty for all Attributes for as many hours as you spent with the bonus).
Rat is literally a hobo. This game has a hobo class. I am not exaggerating or joking. Listen:
Rat description posted:
They say Rats were once called "vagrants". Weird. What's a vagrant? Like, me? I am no vagrant, no sir, just a regular person, normal. I live in a den in the ruins of one of the buildings in town, I live off scavenging, I eat what I find or I hunt down, I put on whatever's warm, I don't go no barber shops.
I like to snoop around, visit houses, pubs, look for all kinds of interesting items from the old days. And let me say rifles and shotguns are not cool stuff, although I gotta admit I can exchange them for food or a little booze later. I don't need to be brave, or fight well, or to have any traits an assassin or bodyguard could not go without. I am a simple man who does quite well in these - supposedly - hard times.
Wanna join me?
Their traits include What Do I Care Anyway, which allows you to automatically pass any Stamina checks against poison, disease and radiation (this does not make you immune: those checks are like CoC Sanity checks or D&D save for half), you can eat stuff that's pretty much not good to eat anymore and not give a damn, but everyone instantly knows you're a Rat, no matter how well you try to hide it. You still roll for chronic illness in Step 7 as normal. Grey lets you make a Hard Smarts check to move completely unseen in any environment that fits a Rat, because other people pretty much ignore you.
Beast Trainer - it's what it says on the tin. The pet owner's profession. Traits to pick from are Beast (you start the game with a trained beast approved by the GM and you can tame and train wild animals, you know how to approach them, you can issue simple orders to your trained animals) and Wolf's Tooth (you fight like an animal, in unarmed combat, you boost your damage up a level on a roll of 1-3. NOBODY EVER PICKED THIS.).
Tracker - a Tracker is a person who guides people around the wasteland, reads animal and human tracks, and is a general survivalist. Traits are Adjusted Senses (all Spotting and Listening checks in open ground get a +3 Perception boost) and Recognizing Creatures (you automatically succeed on one die in all Hunting and Tracking checks when identifying any creatures you encounter, the GM may tell you some statistics of the animal).
Highway Warriors are vigilantes who live on the highways. They enjoy the thrill of it all, and relish in going alone against a horde of gangers. They hate that scum, so they fight. There's not much more to it, because there does not need to be. Door to Door gives them +2 Dexterity for all checks related to manoeuvring their car. Car Cover means they can use their car as cover (giving the enemy up to a 60% penalty when shooting at the driver) without any penalties to driving, and all passengers in the car get 20% cover as well.
Clan Warriors are members of Desert People clans. They are pretty much your Brave stand-in. Dedicated to their clans, they will go to any lengths to protect it, and derive their mental strength from trust and admiration they receive from it, shrouding it in an ever-present layer of mysticism and exoticism. Traits include Us and Them (you get one automatic success die in all Character checks involving Native Americans and Desert People) and This Is My Home (you get 150 gamble for Native American contacts - for all the lip service the book pays to saying non-Natives are desert people too, it sure as hell does give off a different impression).
Assassins are contract killers. But you have to be a tracker, not just a murderer, as your victims have a lot of space to run away to and hide in nowadays. You never quit and never have second thoughts. Traits include End of the Job (when you have a contracted mark in sight, every action bringing you closer to closing your contract gets one success die; the contract must come from an NPC and be notable enough for the GM to agree that the trait applies) and One Shot (you get +2 to a Skill you use during the first check in a given combat encounter and the damage you deal if you hit after that check are boosted a level).
Machine Killer - you specialize in fighting and killing Moloch's machines, and this may just be the most dangerous job in the world. You must have inhuman reactions, be immensely tough, precise, smart, and calm. And being a bloody loonie probably helps quite a bit as well. Traits include Weak Spot (if you pass a Hard Perception check, the GM must reveal the weak spot of the machine you are encountering, and may also tell you some of its Abilities) and Empiricist2 (you receive a -30% bonus to all checks when fighting robots).
Thief - exactly what it says on the tin. Stealing stuff is a lot more dangerous now that there are no cops to arrest you and no juries to acquit you. Traits include Electronics Technician (you get a +4 Smarts bonus when dealing with electronic security systems) and Cat (whenever you're trying to hide, sneak, or camouflage something, any checks the opponents make to detect you or that thing are two levels harder).
Soldier the last Profession in the book is your regular frontline grunt. May not have the flair of a Machine Killer or Mutant Hunter, but gets the job done. Soldiers pick between Training (you get all skills in Firearms and Pyrotechnics packs at 1 for free) and Routine (you automatically pass the stare-off tests before combat).
That's a lot of stuff and I'm glad to be done with it. To be honest, I think most professions are sort of bland in this book, and their bonuses are either too situational or too strong. But, then again, it's the GM's job to make sure you get to make use of those bonuses, isn't it?
Also, it has been brought to my attention that it may be easier to explain some points of the character creation process if we do roll a character in the process, so if you have any origin/profession combination you would like to see created, let me know!
Next time: Abilities!
1. The original Polish calls this trait "Glazier". It's a pun, you see, as glaziers used to fit windows with putty, and in Polish wciskać kit (to push in putty) means "to bullshit someone".
2. The 1.0 rules had a bunch of traits that granted you additional or unique equipment when starting the game. They've all been replaced in 1.5, but there are, as you can see, some callbacks, and the name of this trait is one of them.