Characters: The Pure Mortal

Starting today, and continuing every couple weeks into 2009, we’ll be doing a series of posts talking about the types of characters — character templates, in our game’s parlance — that are available to players in the Dresden Files RPG.  This is all draft material that we’re releasing here, and may see some edits and changes prior to publication, but in general what you’re getting is exactly what we want to see in the game — characters from all supernatural and non-supernatural walks of life, coming together to face the greater darkness that bears down upon the world.

Ultimately what limits the kinds of character templates available as PCs is simple: it’s a question of whether or not the type of creature represented has so much power it loses any capacity for the mortal gift of free will.  Free will is what makes PCs — and heroes — possible in the Dresdenverse.  And when you lose it all, that’s when the dictates of nature take over.  When wizards fall too far into the black or reach too high for power, when changelings make the choice to become full blooded fae, when a politician makes every moral compromise necessary to take the reins of influence,  that’s when they stop being people and start to resemble monsters.  It’s a slippery slope that’s all too easy to slide down.

So that’s the context; here’s the content.

We’ll start with the templates chapter’s intro, then get on into the first of the available character types — the pure mortal.

Character Templates

While the GM and players can work together to devise new and strange character types for their own campaign, the Dresdenverse has many already-established peoples (mortal and semi-mortal) to draw from.  In game terms, we refer to these “pre-packaged” character types as templates.

In this chapter, we’ll cover those templates best suited for player characters—or at least those that are least prone to turn into zero-refresh-or-below monsters without free will (a look through the What Goes Bump chapter might give you some other notions, if the GM is amenable).   Players are encouraged to look over these options before settling on a character concept for the game and should make note of the musts portion in particular, as each template has requirements that must be fulfilled during character creation.

Some of these templates won’t be viable for certain power level campaigns.  For example, if the GM sets your campaign’s starting refresh level at 6, full-blown Sorcerers, Wizards, and some other kinds of creatures are going to be off limits due to their “must” refresh cost of 6 or higher.  A starting refresh level of 8 will accommodate most of the options here, if barely in some cases.  If you have any questions about this, make sure to talk to your GM and let her know what character types you’re most interested in playing.

It may be possible to combine some of these templates with each other, if a player can make the costs work.  That said, it will be rare that those costs will work out; you won’t see a Wizard-Lycanthrope-Red-Court-Infected-Changeling-potamus on the side of the good guys at any point in Harry Dresden’s casefiles, for a good reason.  Bring that much mashed-up mojo to bear in one character, and you’re on a fast train to negative refreshville.

Regardless, the options listed here are hardly the only ones available in the Dresdenverse, but they do represent what we think is the best set of options for the would-be heroes of your game world.  Enjoy!

Pure Mortal

Karrin MurphyPure mortals are ordinary (or mundanely extraordinary!) people who don’t have anything supernatural going on—save perhaps for the company they keep or the things they’ve seen.  Pure mortals can come from all walks of life—police, doctors, mobsters, actors, students, and more.  People like Karrin Murphy, Waldo Butters, and “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone all qualify as pure mortals, at least as we first meet them in the Dresden casefiles.

That said pure mortals need a reason to be involved in supernatural goings-on despite a lack of supernatural mojo.  This reason can be determined in advance, or it can be supplied quickly during play by dropping the character into the middle of some nasty circumstance.

While they don’t bring any supernatural oomph to the table, pure mortals can still pack quite a wallop in terms of their mundane, “civilized world” influence, connections, and resources.  Karrin Murphy has the resources of the Chicago P.D.’s Special Investigations unit available to her, while Marcone has been investing his blood money in expanding his power base both in mortal and supernatural affairs.

Musts: Pure mortals may not take any supernatural ability stunts.  In exchange for this restriction, pure mortal characters get a +2 bonus to their starting refresh.  If this character ever develops a supernatural ability, this refresh bonus goes away immediately.

Options: Pure mortals may take as many mundane mortal stunts as they can afford without putting them at or over the zero refresh cut-off.  That said, some NPC mortals do exactly that!  It doesn’t always take supernatural power to corrupt someone beyond the capacity for free will…

Total Refresh Cost: None! Instead, increase your starting refresh by 2 before taking any mortal stunts.

Stay tuned for our next installment, when we take a look at the Champion of God character type.