ANACHROMERICA CHARACTER DESIGN GUIDELINES
© Guy Hoyle 2006
You'll need the Risus rules (available here
). I recommend using the standard method of splitting 10 dice amongst your clichés, with a maximum of 4 dice in any one cliché. (I recommend having at least 3 or 4 clichés with no fewer than 3 dice in any one cliché.) Advanced Options I, II and III are recommended (Hooks and Tales, Pumps, and Double-Pumps), which affect the starting number of dice you wind up with. Funky dice are not permitted for beginning characters, but may be acquired by experience.
Example: John Watson, the Crime Doctor, is an Unrecognized Criminological Genius (4), a Celebrated Popular Novelist (3), Successful Private Physician (2), and Celebrated Sidekick of World-Famous Detective Sherlock Holmes (1). He starts with a total of 12 dice (10 + the extra dice from his Hook and Tale, see below), but he has reserved 2 dice for his Sidekick, the actor playing Sherlock Holmes (see below)
His Hook is that everybody thinks he's really like Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories, when he's really the crime-solving genius; for this, he gets an extra dice to start with.
His Tale (briefly summarized): Dr. Watson is the real creator of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, who he based upon himself. As the stories became more popular, he was forced to hire an actor to play Holmes. This actor, a drunk, an idiot, and a coward, is as diametrically opposed to the fictional Holmes as Watson is to the fictional Watson. Now he must to be a second banana to his own fictional creation in real life, which galls him constantly. (With a few more details, this Tale is worth another dice to start with).
The rules for Inappropriate Clichés are not allowed. When someone does not have an appropriate cliché to use, refer to "When Somebody Can't Participate" (Risus
, p. 4)
You can also use these Advanced Options from the Risus Companion: Lucky Shots and Questing Dice (p. 50), Sidekicks and Shieldmates (p. 51), Eye of the Tiger (p. 52), and Boxcars and Breakthrough (p. 54).
Dr. Watson spends two of his starting dice to buy a Sidekick, Reginald Kincaid, an actor, to play the part of the celebrated (if fictional) Sherlock Holmes: Ham Actor Playing A World-Famous Detective Far More Intelligent Than Himself (4), Drunken Buffoon (2)
- For an introduction to the setting, take a gander at Guy Hoyle's Anachromerica. When creating a character for Anachromerica, the concept is the key. You don't have to play a combination of two or more modern, historical, and/or fictional characters that have something in common... but then again, why not?
Example: Actor Christopher Lee played Count Dooku in the Star Wars movies and Saruman in the Lord of the Rings films (well, OK, only "The Two Towers", really), so he might be a lightsaber-wielding wizard named Count Dookuman. Lightsaber-wielding wizards are a bit uncommon in Anachromerica, except maybe in Hollyweird, but this is just an example anyway.
Example: Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Frankenstein have several things in common. Their last names begin with "Frank-", and can be easily combined into "Franklinstein". They were both scientists dabbling in electricity, another plus. The image of a cackling Ben Franklinstein winching a kite up into the sky to provide lightning for the reanimation of a stitched-together corpse is utterly irresistable!
- Substituting one element of a famous character for another is a fine tradition in Anachromerica.
Example: William Shatner owns a horse ranch, and is an avid rider. Wild Bill Hickock was a gunslinger and Wild West showman. So Wild Bill Shatner, horseman, gunslinger, and scene-chewer extraordinaire, is born
Example: During the Civil War, the Irish Brigade was a collection of Irish immigrants fresh off the boat drafted into the Union army. In Anachromerica, however, those Irishmen are Celtic warriors and druids, bare-nekkid berserkers and bearded, robed spellcasters.
- Since Anachromerica is a genre-bending setting, basing your character on other multi-genre characters from literature is also a legitemate way of creating a character.
Example: A combination action hero, rocket scientist, neuro-surgeon, and rock musician, similar to Buckaroo Banzai
Example: A California girl, cheerleader, and monster hunter, similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Take established character concepts and put a weird twist on them.
Example: A combination riverboat gambler, lovable rogue, and occult investigator, sort of like a cross between Bret Maverick and Carl Kolchak Example: An unusual Girl Threesome, consisting of a Scientific Girl, a Magical Girl, and a Religious Girl, like a weird Charlie's Angels. Example: Combining a Fast-Healing Mutant with Concealed Metal Claws with Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name
Example: Pirates of the Missourippi!
There are probably many other ways to create a character in Anachromerica, so feel free to devise any character that appeals to you. In a place like Anachromerica, there's probably room for him somewhere!
OTHER RACES AND CULTURES
Generally speaking, there are no offical "races" other than the various human ones in Anachromerica. Unofficially, however, other choices present themselves to the player. Talking dogs, earthbound angels, stranded aliens, weird mutants, and hidden humanoids such as the Abominable Snowman and Bigfoot exist (of course they do on our planet, too; it says so in the tabloids...).
Another culture is generally just a modifier strapped onto a cliché. If you're an Evil French Overlord, then being French would be a part of one or all of your clichés; it usually isn't worth being a separate cliché.
Tools of the Trade
As per standard Risus rules (Risus, p.2), characters start the game with whatever equipment suits their cliché. No Paddlewheel Captain would be complete without a Paddlewheel Boat. No American Ninja would be caught dead without his red, white, and blue ninja suit and a fistful of shuriken. No Femme Fatale would be nearly as fatale without her slinky red dress with the plunging neckline, a grand piano to slink by, and a gallon jug of "Jungle Lust" perfume. Tools of the Trade can also be (according to the Risus Companion, p. 27)) larger, non-portable property such as residences, fortresses, and cruise ships, where replacements for tools normally can be stashed. "Yes-men" such as a hairless cat, an evil warlord's henchmen, and anything else that moves around with a semblance of free will.
Losing your tools might cripple your ability to participate in a conflict, or render it useless. Getting special equipment (such as a Flying Saucer) is often a matter of picking the right cliché (such as a Bug-Eyed Alien Disguised As A Human) when your character is created.
ANACHROMERICA STOCK CLICHÉS
This is by no means a definitive list of stock characters that can be found in Anachromerica. The items on this list are meant to stir your imagination, to provide a nucleus for your own pearls of great value. I have broken them down into several different categories for convenience' sake. Feel free to tinker with them and adjust them to your liking. Some suggestions for tinkering with them are given afterwards
LINKS TO SPECIFIC CLICHÉ LISTS
These are not so much like traditional character classes of many role-playing games, but more like dramatic roles from literature, movies, television, and comics.
OCCUPATIONS, PROFESSIONS, ETC.
There are thousands and thousands of things your character can do on a daily basis. Here are some of them.
SUPERS, SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, & HORROR
Flashily-dressed spandex-clad youths with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Bearded, robed wizards peering into a cloudy ball of crytal! Bold adventurers going where no one has gone before!
- American Ninja
- Anti-UFO Crusader
- Armored Superhero
- Astral Projector
- Brain In A Tank
- Champion of Truth, Justice, and the American Way
- Defender of Humanity
- Earthbound Angel
- Evil Overlord
- Four-Color Superhero
- Golden Age Superhero
- Graphic Novel Superhero
- Masked Avenger
- Masked Luchador
- Meddler in God's Domain
- Mindless Zombie
- Monster Hunter
- Mystic Guardian
- Nose-Wiggling Witch
- Occult Investigator
- Oriental Sorcerer
- Six Million Dollar Cyborg
- Strange Visitor from Another Planet
- Talking Dog
- UFO Lobbyist
- Unfrozen Caveman
- Weird Being
- Witch Hunter
No, it's not what you're thinking; get your mind out of the gutter! The various incarnations of Charlie's Angels are the stereotypical example of the Girl Threesome; each Threesome exemplifies a different combination of traits (The Bossy Girl, The Brainy Girl, the Flirty Girl; The Black Girl, The Caucasian Girl, The Asian Girl; etc.)
Girl Threesomes don't just have to take one type of Threesome. One team could simultaneously be a Asian-Hispanic-Black Threesome and a Naive-Flirty-Streetwise Threesome, and they could all be Ass-Kicking Girls.
- The African-American Girl
- The Ass-Kicking Girl
- The Athletic Girl
- The Blonde Girl
- The Bossy Girl
- The Brainy Girl
- The Brunette Girl
- The Caucasian Girl
- The Flirty Girl
- The Hispanic Girl
- The Magical Girl
- The Naive Girl
- The Oriental Girl
- The Redheaded Girl
- The Religious Girl
- The Scientific Girl
- The Sensitive Girl
- The Sophisticated Girl
- The Streetwise Girl
- The Gun-Expert Girl
- The Melee-Weapons/Archery-Expert Girl
- The Martial Arts Girl
It's very tempting to look on a cliché as a "skill" or a "character class", but you can pack an incredible amount of character information into one.
- Profession: Jobs, occupations, or pursuits.
Examples: River Boat Gambler, Six Million Dollar Cyborg, Flesh-Eating Zombie
- Race or Species: Something that sets you apart from normal humanity.
Examples: Earthbound Angel Meddling In The Lives Of Others; Cowardly Talking Dog; Helpful But Naive Alien "Pet"; Persecuted Mutant
- Cultural Background: Affects personality and abilities of the character
Examples: Aristocratic Southern Actor Bent on Avenging the South; Aspiring Actress Trying To Make It Big In The City; Washed-Up LaLaLand B-Movie Star Who Wants To Direct
- Personal History: What you used to be still affects what you are.
Examples: Defrocked Priest; Ex-Champion of Truth, Justice, and the American Way; Retired Air Force Pilot
- Degree of Dedication: How committed you are to your pursuit.
Examples: John Wilkes Booth's Biggest Fan; Part-Time Mystic Guardian; Amateur Assassin; Overzealous Masked Avenger
- Religious or Philosophical Bias: Beliefs about life, the universe, and everything.
Examples: Devout Catholic Zombie-Master; Nietschean Ubermensch; Atheistic Exorcist.
- Social Class or Financial Means:
Examples: Struggling Actress; Sharecropper's Son; Polo-Playing Dilettante; Society Matron
- Gender: Either embracing or working against the typical gender of a cliché.
Examples: Brightly-Clad Toreador, High-Paid Gigolo, Beautiful Aviatrix
- Group Affiliation: The perks and responsibilities of membership in a group or organization.
Examples: SWAT Team Member; 33rd Level Mason; Corrupt Civil Servant; High School Freshman
- Demeanor: Personality
Examples: Grumpy Elf; Cheerful Assassin; Cynical Motivational Speaker
- Appearance: Judging a book by its cover
Examples: Shabbily-Dressed Private Detective; Mammarially-Enhanced Country Music Diva; Bookish Librarian
- Ham-Handed Reference: Direct allusion to real or fictional people.
Examples: A Modern-Day Julius Caesar; Don Knotts as a Cyborg; The Cleopatra of the Missourippi
- Goals: Aspirations that motivate a character's activities and abilities..
Examples: Mad Scientist Meddling In God's Domain; Self-Tortured Genetist Trying To Resurrect His Dead Wife; Self-Taught Financial Genius Trying To Make A Killing On The Stock Market
- Self-Image: Who the character is, and who he thinks he is.
Examples: Superhero With a Messiah Complex; Surgically-Enhanced Supermodel Who Thinks She's An Ugly Duckling; Bumbling World Conqueror-Wannabe Who Thinks He's Adolph Hitler, Alexander The Great, and Genghis Khan Rolled Into One
- Sub-Plots and Relationships: Interactions with other people.
Examples: The Ladies' Man; A Modern-Day Knight Errant Trying To Win The Love of A Southern Belle; The Guy Who Knows People, If You Know What I Mean
- Problems: Imperfections, challenges, and handicaps that make playing a character more fun.
Examples: Wheelchair-Bound Dodgeball Coach; Midget Gunslinger; Disembodied Brain In A Tank
Stop looking at this epilogue! You've spent way too much time reading about making up a character, now go make up one!