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Character Creation

Game Level

Your GM will tell you the Game Level (GL) for the campaign she wants to run. Average people are created at GL 9, and the default GL is 10. Write it on your sheet.

Stage One: Before Inevitable

Concept and Homeworld

Conceptualizing your character is probably old hat for you, but give it some thought. What did you do for a living, and how did you kill time when you had time to kill? Any particular habits or hobbies or talents or interests? This stuff is meaty and delicious.

If you're stuck on a concept, start with your homeworld. It can be the typical Earth-with-different-geography (
Oleander and Molten Shores), a racial or ideological society (I've seen Leviticus and Sparta), a government-sanctioned way of life (Blackwood is pseudomedieval and Singularity is ruled by machines), or any other sort of place that's cool to you. The naming convention is such that it's usually one or two words, comprehensible by the other players, and not ridiculous; Ghost Dance and Silo and Constantinople are good, Drum of a Thousand Drops of Mercury and Watashi O Kande and (Planet) Hollywood are not.

The only other restriction is that it can't be at war with the empire, nor violating any of the imperial laws. Said laws are pretty simple, meant to be hard and fast: worlds can't maintain interstellar fleets over a certain size, imperial taxes are paid first, citizens are allowed one free emigratory spaceflight from their birth world to any other, that sort of thing. You and the GM can come up with some others if you want, but planetary governments are given a lot of autonomy; issues like slavery, human rights, tyrannical despotism, forced indoctrination, and whatall are up to the planetary custodians, whoever they may be.

Stats

So you've got an idea of your character and his backstory. Take your GL and put that many points in each Stat category. Then take another GL of points and spread them amongst all nine Stats. A rating of 4 is average. You can make your numbers representative or go with values you think are interesting: if it's cool to you that your professor is absent-minded, let Perception suffer a little in favor of Acumen.

Traits

Remember those interrogative bits from conceptualization? They're Traits. These can be written as skills ("Nuclear physics"), attitudes ("Public speaking is cake"), descriptive facts ("I am one tough hombre")... so long as you and your GM know what they mean, it's gravy. Traits don't have values like Stats and you get a number of them equal to your GL, so if it's interesting to you, write it down. If you're picking Traits and you've run out of concept, let your remaining Traits expand your concept.

Also, if you want, you can take up to three Consequence Traits for free. You can bid these Traits just like any others, but they come with the Consequence tag (©). Flaws like "© I don't hear as well as I used to" or even "© Lost my legs in the war" are fine, but the point is to take Traits that'll make your life more interesting when they come up. "© I stick to my guns, and I mean guns" and "© Violet is my one true love" are sweet.

Stage Two: Your Crime

What You Did

No matter what your life was like during the last stage, you're going to commit a crime that gets you a life (or death) sentence. You can be innocent, framed, dead-to-rights guilty. The charges are inflated (or deflated) by the prosecution or despite your defense, by the circumstances, by outside influence like politicians and organized crime, by discrimination against you, any number of factors. Its heinous or well-intentioned or anything else, but it gets you ejected from your society and there's no going back.

Categories

  • Violence is a crime of destruction. This can be against a structure or a location or the like, but it mostly involves hurting people. For example, arson is violent but probably won't get you life in prison unless it killed some people in the process.
  • Fraud is a crime of misrepresentation. You can cheat people or organizations, lie under oath or coerce the perjury of others, break contracts (if they matter enough), or commit some other form of deception. Depending on the circumstances, it doesn't even have to be intentional.
  • Larceny is criminal violation of consent. The obvious examples are theft of property, service, or currency, but any act that involves depriving an individual or group of something without consent is larcenous. Rape counts. Child abuse and negligence count. Kidnapping counts.
  • Treason is a crime of betrayal. Typical cases include conspiracy, sabotage, providing your nation's (or employer's) enemy (or rival) with privileged or advantageous information, unsuccessful revolution or secession, et cetera.
  • Contraband is a crime of the forbidden. Usually, this involves possessing, maintaining, manufacturing, distributing or transporting outlawed commodities. This can be guns and drugs, technology and information, heresy and thoughtcrime... anything that can be banned. 

Values

Crime signifies the public perception of your culpability, so of course it starts at 100% – you're on Inevitable, aren't you? Over the course of the game, you can work to decrease this percentage, gaining popular support and the (few) benefits that come with it. Assuming you want to get off Inevitable, your Crime percentage determines the likelihood of your pardon.

For each category, rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 5; if a category is inapplicable, leave it blank (it's effectively a 0). You can have as many or as few points as you like with two exceptions. First, at least one category must be rated 3 or higher – otherwise you wouldn't have receiving such a severe sentence. Second, if your crime was so severe that the GM decides it's warranted, a single category can begin at 6; this is usually represented by widespread genocide (Violence 6) or some other such horrifying act.

In the history of the Waiting Game, only one person has received a Treason value of 6: Goldstar. You can't have it.

And if you're wondering, your Crime percentage isn't known within the game world, but your category ratings are. They show up on your stat screen with your win/loss record and your standings and whatall.

Stage Three: The Waiting Game

History

You sit in your cell for a period of time and eventually decide to play the Waiting Game. Figure out the reason why: you need to prove yourself against other inmates; you have to prove your innocence; you have to win the Olympics and return home to see your wife again; you're really, really bored.

When prisoners sign on to play, they get labeled duffers. This is a cross between the minor leagues and a culling process. They compete against other duffers in order to earn the fame and power to graduate to pro status. If you die in the process, them's the breaks. Think of how you managed to make it through your time as a duffer. What did you do? What did it do to you?

Sponsorship

You survive, pro status awaits. You're approached by one or many sponsors, one of which you accept. (Or not. Alphas don't benefit from sponsorship, but maybe you have a stake in some organization or you plan to change your Track later on. Either way, you alone have the choice to accept nominal sponsorship or not.) Who is it? What does it do? Why do they want you, and what's your attraction to them?

Track

Your Track is the category of enhancements (Powers) you receive. These usually come from your sponsor, but some sponsors provide only monetary support, so your enhancements come through the fine people of The Network. Here's the rundown.
  • Alphas are regular humans. You have no enhancements to speak of and may purchase no Powers. You survive by your wits and guts and a whole lot of luck. Alphas are the only Track who may (with approval from their sponsor) change their Track later in their career with no penalty. 
  • Thetas are also regular humans, but they use items and equipment that themselves have Powers: a ring that lets them create energy constructs, an enchanted sword that grants battle prowess, a suit of powered armor with energy blasters and flight capabilities. Thetas are the only Track who can affect the power source of other Tracks (each via a different, Track-specific item). Thetas can also change their Track to Alpha at any time (with their sponsor's approval, of course), but it costs them 90% of their Fame and all of their vchips. 
  • Betas receive their Powers from drugs and medical conditioning. The process is taxing and addictive, so betas pay a vchip upkeep cost before each game (equal to their Power ranks) to activate their powers; this addiction prevents them from changing Tracks. Betas may only have powers that enhance their Stats (super-strength, super-speed, super-intelligence, etc.), but they pay less per rank when purchasing Powers. 
  • Mus are Alpha-type humans who've undergone the Ritual of Initiation, opening their souls forever to the fabric of magic. They're able to learn and cast spell, but they can never unInitiate, so they're unable to change their Track. On the bright side, each Mu receives the Trait "Magician" (or "Sorcerer" or whatever you like) – free with their Initiation – which they can bid in any conflict in which they cast a spell. 
  • Psis are much like Mus. Alpha-type humans whose guided meditations have unlocked mental capabilities beyond that of unEnlightened humans. While their powers run toward telepathy and psychokinesis and similar tropes, they can conceivably evoke the same effects as any other enhanced prisoner. Like Mus, they can never undo their Enlightenment, so they can't change Tracks, but Psis may spend Soul boost points to boost Mind Stats in rolls that involve a psionic Power.
  • Sigmas are cyborgs, pure and simple. Technological implants and replacements make them better than human. Moreover, they can wirelessly connect to external computer technology using the neural interface that allows them to Focus their Powers  (though not with Waiting Game computers, which have safeguards against such intrusion); it's tough to do anything with that connection, but they've got the chance. Since surgical removal of their cybernetics is a high-morbidity operation that no sponsor is willing to permit, they can't change Tracks. 
  • Deltas are given Powers via radiation-induced genetic mutations, granting them abilities which are innately unstable. Every Delta Power has the Consequence tag (©). On the plus side, Deltas get the same price break on their Powers as Betas, but they aren't limited to a specific subset of powers like Betas. Flavor-wise, Deltas tend to have the weirder Powers like spines that stick through their skin or eyes that fire blasts of Delta energy or a body made of steel, but they're just as likely to have typical unweird Powers. 
  • Omegas derive their powers from targeted genetic manipulation developed as a stable replacement for the Delta method. Due to the sophistication of this precise approach, Omega energy is inviolate – Omegas can't have their Powers manipulated or suppressed or what have you, even by other Omegas. The sky's the limit with Omega Powers, and that's what makes them so special: they're seen as the apex of possibility in the Waiting Game. High-powered Omegas are awesome to behold, and newly-manipulated Omegas radiate a sense of imminent greatness; the recent performance of Goldstar has only enhanced this perception.

Status

Medical technology being what it is, healing is unrealistically fast. Even mental degradation and the hopelessness that Mind or Soul damage represents are easy to repair with the right combination of therapy, drugs, counseling, and guided introspection. What's more, you can spend vchips to purchase active treatments that rid you of damage even faster. Even death isn't permanent – when you die in a game, you're whisked away within a few seconds and immediately resuscitated. The experience of death is jarring (all your boost pools drop to 0 and all your Consequence burns off as though it were Aftermath, probably netting you some tagged Traits), but nonetheless you're back.

When you go pro, you choose to to go Standard or Hardcore, and you can't change your mind later. If you're Standard, all the above applies as written. If you choose Hardcore, every game you win pays double the vchips, but death is forever. Maybe 15% of all inmates are Hardcore, but Hardcore players are sparser the higher up the ladder you look.

Note your Status on your sheet with your Track, like "Alpha Standard," or "Mu Hardcore."

Powers

What you're been waiting for (unless you're an Alpha). You have your GL in ranks to distribute amongst your Powers. More ranks means more, um, powerful. Your GM will be able to help you define the effects of your Powers. A few notes, however.
  • You can have any sort of Powers you like, save two: time manipulation and gravity manipulation. Temporal manipulation has been proven impossible, so represent the effects you might want with super speed or probability control. Gravity manipulation is outlawed by The Network because it'd be too easy to overpower the camera-guards if you can mess with their metagrav drives, so instead take levitation and telekinesis or the like.
  • Only one Power applies per conflict. If you have Super-Speed 5 and Flight 3, flying around won't let you take advantage of your Super-Speed. If you want to make a faster flyer, put more ranks in Flight.
  • Any Powers with more ranks than your Focus gain the Consequence tag (©). If your Focus drops below a Power's ranks due to damage, tag the power until your Focus returns. This tag is cumulative with the automatic tag that all Delta Powers receive.

Fame

Contrary to it's name, this isn't an abstract indication of how well-known you are, but a real number that's displayed on your stat screen with all the rest. The idea is to give viewers an idea of how well you stack up to other inmates, power- and entertainment-wise. Besides, calling it Fame is self-fulfilling as far as The Network is concerned.

Your Fame starts at your GL or the sum of all your crime category values, whichever is higher.

Vchips

The virtual chips that regulate the Waiting Game's economy. Win a game, your Fame increases by 1 and you're paid a number of vchips equal to your new Fame. They can't be traded or transferred, and inmates earn them only by winning games, but there are many ways in which they can be spent. It costs vchips to increase your Stats, learn new Traits or Powers, buy simple items (but nothing as good as a Theta's power items, which are represented by Powers), and to remove Consequence tags from Traits (or remove the Consequence Trait altogether). It's also common to buy information about your opponents prior to a game, as well as to purchase luxuries like better food, more comfortable quarters, and (most often) time with other human beings outside the Game.

You start with vchips equal to Fame X GL, or twice as many if you're an Alpha. You can either hoard them or spend them on the following table.

To It costs
Raise a Stat 20 vchips
Buy a Trait* 10 vchips
Buy or raise a Power 20 vchips (15 for Betas and Deltas)
Buy an item varies
* You can list the Trait on your sheet like in Stage One or you can make a note like "2 unassigned Traits." Leaving Traits unassigned lets you reveal aspects of your character during play, assigning them as you go.

The cost of mundane items is described here. It's a good idea to spend as many vchips as possible on Stats, Traits, and Powers as they're more expensive to buy in play than in character creation. Regardless, any unspent vchips get written on your sheet.

Boost Pools

Hey, remember those parenthetical blanks next to your Stat categories? Average the three Stats below them (rounding normally) and put that number in the blank. You can spend points from a boost pool to increase an associated Stat's value for one conflict. You can spend as many as you have, even. These pools are derived from your maximum Stat values, so they don't decrease if their contributing Stats take damage. You get one boost point back per day and you choose which pool it goes into (Body, Mind, or Soul). Unfortunately, there's no other way to get boost points back. Sorry.
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