A lot of groundwork had to be laid before the cast of premade RPG characters could be constructed. Many questions had to be answered, such as how abilities and weapons work; the kinds of technology available to characters; and what aspects makes the RPG races unique. Answering those questions led to the creation of the initial cast of One Shot RPG characters.
Setting Goals for Premade RPG Characters
When creating premade RPG characters for one shot adventures, there are four areas to think of: gameplay, narrative, diversity, and visual. Mixing and matching these different aspects of character design will lead to a cast who feel like real people—who feel uniquely One Shot RPG.
Gameplay goals relate to how the tabletop RPG character interacts with the mechanics of the game system and in relation to the rest of the party. Characters are designed around a thematic class fantasy, one that needs to resonate with players. Because each RPG one shot provides a set group of characters per adventure, each character needs to focus on a different niche. Focusing on a unique niche provides players with a balanced party, one that won’t have any mechanical holes. Avoiding mechanical holes, providing a balanced party to choose from, and focusing on a specific character fantasy contributes to One Shot RPG’s accessibility.
Narrative goals relate to how the character exists within the story of the setting. Characters should come from varied backgrounds, each with their own motivation for becoming a scum fighter. These different motivations will add drama to the roleplaying aspect of the series, especially when players have to decide what to do with the scummed. Each character also has to have a unique personality. This personality should cause interest for the party, but shouldn’t cause it to descend into a bickering mess.
When talking about character diversity, I don’t just mean the color of their skin or their alien species. Diversity in One Shot RPG also focuses on a character’s gender and body shape and how it relates to their role in the party. Diversity means having a spread of ages and different sexual orientations. Diversity also relates to mental illness and disability. Focusing on these aspects will make characters more relatable, which means that the horror aspect of One Shot RPG can shine. Mental illness in particular is important in horror, as the character’s anxieties and flaws become the player’s.
In any character-driven franchise such as One Shot RPG, how a premade character looks is as important as how it plays. Character design should focus around a strong visual element, one that makes the character feel like themselves. Combined with secondary visual characteristics, the aesthetics of a character can be used to tell a story. Each character’s features should reveal something about their backstory, motivations, or personality.
A Basis for RPG Weaponry and Abilities
Striking a balance between realism and science fantasy in a sci-fi RPG setting is a difficult art form. Each end of the spectrum has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. A realistic setting allows encounters with horrific monsters to be more dangerous, but characters can’t be as unique and game mechanics may become unfun. Science fantasy allows mechanics to shine and can produce a wide variety of characters, but if everyone has superpowers, then the monsters feel like trash mobs and not bosses. One Shot RPG falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
Character weapons and abilities focus more on physical aspects, and damage sources should have a source behind them. Direct damage involves slashing, stabbing, biting, hitting, and shooting. Indirect damage comes from explosions, burns, and poisons. These sources of damage have a physicality to them, they come from shooting stuff instead of energy. An example of this methodology is that there are no blasters in One Shot RPG. Instead of firing beams of light, characters shoot magnetically propelled shards from railguns. Abilities and weapons fall on the more realistic side of the science-fantasy scale.
To make scummed feel more dangerous, they don’t follow the same rules that characters do. They don’t need to have an explainable source for their abilities, their very existence defies logic. They have superpowers, such as controlling elements, moving things with their mind, and bending and warping reality to suit their needs. The scummed truly feel like powerful monsters that only trained fighters can take down.
Adding Technology to Characters
Being from a sci-fi setting set a few hundred years into our future, technology has spread to every aspect of the character’s lives. There is no concept of a “digital native” because advanced computers have been around for generations.
The first aspect of a character’s technological identity comes in the form of an Internet connected chip and the AI that comes with it. People in the world of One Shot RPG are always connected to the internet through a chip that’s implanted into their brains. They simply have to think of a question and the AI that lives on the chip will look it up for them. This ability represents the players at the table, asking the AI a question is asking the GM a question. Scummed can mess with this connection, limiting the information a character has access to, which adds to the horror feel of the setting. When the chip is fully functioning, it acts as a hub for the character’s peripherals—interfaces that provide more functionality than simple questions and answers.
Characters in One Shot RPG integrate machines into and heavily modify their bodies to gain the appearance and abilities they want. They can replace almost their entire body with a machine, classifying them as a cyborg. Characters can alter their body through a modification process. A human could graft horns onto their heads, change their hair color purple, and insert lights under their skin—if they so choose. If a character opts not to alter their bodies, their DNA could have already been modified before they were even born.
Playable RPG Races
One Shot RPG doesn’t have elves, dwarves, and halflings. As a sci-fi setting, it has playable alien species instead. These species come from different planets and have unhuman physiology. These races were named according to a few rules to keep the RPG one shots accessible.
The abundant are an alien race hailing from an alternate version of Mars. Members of the race fall on a scale of plantyness, where individuals on one end of the spectrum are made of plant material, while those on the other side of the scale are made of mostly stone material. Each abundant grows a high collar at the back of their neck, giving the race an air of nobility. Their plant material is based off of Earthen non-flowering flora, while the stone material features rocks and minerals found on our planet. Regardless of which side of the sale an individual falls, they are the same species and are able to produce offspring with each other—via spores of course.
The chimera are an RPG race of animal people found on One Shot RPG’s version of Venus. Chimera look like a mixture of various Earth animal body parts. Their bodies resemble that of a fur-covered ape and their legs come in a standard set: bird, ungulate, and lizard. Their heads can come from any air-breathing chordate known to man. A chimera has fierce claws, sharp talons (if they have toes), and fangs, which gives them a monstrous appearance. What a chimera doesn’t have is a tail; to them a tail represents a lesser creature, one without intelligence. Members of the chimera lack most secondary sex characteristics, and the easiest way to tell the genders apart is through their voice.
The final playable alien species is the reforged, a species made up of living metal. Do not confuse them with androids or cyborgs, they are very much alive and their metal exteriors are naturally grown. They are not from any of the explorable planets, for their origins are shrouded in mystery. They feature a ring of spikes on their back, which flare up when they enter battle. Their name comes from the process in which they reproduce. Members of large, tight-knit communities combine their scrap parts together which gives birth to a new offspring. The community raises the child together, which means a reforged has many parents and a large family.
Brainstorming the Initial RPG One Shot Premades
The initial cast of premade tabletop RPG characters began with a brainstorm. The brainstorm covered a wide array of ideas from a character who controlled insects through radio control, to a chimera that’s a riff on an occult demon figure. The ideas were narrowed down to a group of five, centered around creating a balanced party.
The heavy was a professional bodybuilder until she replaced most of her body with machine, becoming a cyborg in the process. When she decided to investigate the disappearance of a former rival, she discovered the world of a scum fighter. She seeks to constantly improve herself, she’s loud and confident, but she suffers from major depression. She covers her frame in multiple graffiti “tattoos” that document her triumphs since becoming a fighter. The character has many lights embedded into her frame, which are used to convey her mood. The heavy acts as the party’s tank, her large hammer is used to cripple enemies so they can’t reach the squishier characters.
The hunter is a bird-headed and bird-legged chimera that became a scum fighter after seeking a new purpose when her village was wiped out. She views scummed as her prey, which she ruthlessly stalks and fells. She’s quiet in her movements and in conversation, which plays into her survivor’s guilt. The hunter covers most of herself with a hooded shawl, which is used to hide from the world and hide from her past. She attacks with her claws, which she coats in powerful venoms. There’s a venom for each type of situation, and their slow-acting effects can turn the tide of battle to the party’s favor.
The fallen captain was a high-ranking official in the Earth military, before the time of the tri-planet alliance. She was unfortunate enough to lose most of her soldiers to the first wave of the then-unknown cosmic horrors. Her research into the new threat drew ire from the higher-ups, who served her an honorable discharge to silence her. The captain’s outgoing and well-connected, her many contacts can help the group when they’re in tough situations. She acts as the party’s leader, able to make clear decisions even in the heat of crisis. But she suffers from anxiety, every decision made can cause her agony. She managed to reclaim her confiscated uniform, which she’s altered to match her new role as a scum fighter. The RPG character still wears her old-fashioned communicator device, which she uses to keep in touch with her many contacts. She attacks from range with a railgun rifle, which fires at a slower rate but does more damage.
The flamethrower premade RPG character knows firsthand how dangerous a scummed can be. His sister became one, and attempting the cure lost him his remaining family and his arm. He is a protector of his new scum fighter family, and his tragedy allows him to connect with others on an emotional level. But before he’s kind and caring, he’s untrusting and cold towards others. You first have to prove you’re not going to betray him before you can be on his good side. The character fights with a flamethrower that he replaced his lost arm with. The long-ranged prosthetic weapon is able to produce large amounts of flames or is able to launch a sticky, burning substance when fire is risky. He also utilizes a buckler which he uses to mitigate some damage against the backlines.
The final premade RPG character is the corporate R&D, a character who has extreme loyalty to his employer. Because of his natural upbringing, he was born premature and blind. When he was scammed into a botched eye surgery which left him scarred, a high-ranking employee of one of the ruling corporations took him in. The R&D was given new, striking cybernetic eyes, but the cost was his unyielding devotion to his new employer. Tasked with developing a procedure that grants the recipient superpowers, he’s set out to research scum. His ambition and confrontational personality led him to climb the ranks of his employer, but he thinks that the corporation is beyond reproach. He completes his outfit with a company-branded scarf. The character is a scrapper, his informal fighting techniques involve alternating between a small knife and a small handgun as the situation demands.
The concept for each of the starting cast has been decided upon, but they still need to be designed. A later series will go over the process of creating RPG character artwork for the initial cast.