Character Generation

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Character Idea

Df8littlechicagowip21. Power Level (YS 53)

The campaign’s Power Level will determine your options regarding magic and playing more powerful characters.

  • Feet in the Water: You are just getting started with your supernatural life. Essentially, this is the “enhanced mortal” game—you can do stuff that even the best of humanity cannot (but only barely).
    • 6 Refresh, 20 Skill Points, Skill Cap @ “Great”
  • Up to Your Waist: This level really represents “name level”—the point at which you can definitively be respected as being “that thing” (whatever it is). You might not be all that experienced, but at least you start to register on the supernatural sonar.
    • 7 Refresh, 25 Skill Points, Skill Cap @ “Great”
  • Chest Deep: You are playing with at least minor-league power.
    • 8 Refresh, 30 Skill Points, Skill Cap @ “Superb”
  • Submerged: You’re in the big leagues now…
    • 10 Refresh, 35 Skill Points, Skill Cap @ “Superb”

This blog has an excellent summation of the Power Levels and what they really mean…

2. Choose a Template (YS 72)

3. High Concept (YS 54)

High Concept is a phrase that sums up what your character is about—what and who she is. It is also an Aspect —one of the first and most important ones for your character.

Think of this like your job, your role in life, or your calling. It is a constant in your life and comes with some good and some bad.


  • Special Investigations Lead Detective (Karrin Murphy)
  • Knight of the Cross (Michael Carpenter)
  • Wizard-in-Training (Molly Carpenter)
  • Wizard Private Eye (Harry Dresden)
  • Fallen Prince of the Raith Family (Thomas Raith)
  • Hot-Shot Warden (Carlos Ramirez)

4. Trouble (YS 55)

What complicates your High Concept? This is your Trouble. It is also an Aspect. Generally a character’s Trouble is either internal or external. Trouble drives the character to take action, voluntarily or not. Most characters will have several troubles they have to deal (reflected in their other Aspects ), but there is usually one core Trouble that shapes the character. This is the Aspect that is generally gets “compelled” the most—allowing characters to earn back Fate Points.


  • Unbelieving Bureaucracy (Karrin Murphy)
  • Family Man (Michael Carpenter)
  • True Love in My Family’s Hands (Thomas Raith)
  • Doom of Damocles (Molly Carpenter)
  • Temptation of Power (Harry Dresden)

5. Name (YS 58)

Give your character a name. You can name them anything you want, but often there is a certain poetry or meaning behind them.

  • For example, the name “Harry Dresden” was inspired by the city of Dresden, which was firebombed in WWII, and a private eye character in the movie Cast a Deadly Spell.

Character Background

Character background is developed in Phases. Each Phase will have an Aspect.

Note: Before developing Phases, you need to have figured out your Template, High Concept, Trouble, and Name.

There are 5 total Phases. Each Phase is a key event in your character’s past that form who he is.

Each Phase will ask you to write down two things on the Phase worksheet:

  1. A summary of the general details of what happened in that phase of your character’s life (generally about a paragraph, but more if you’re inspired).
  2. An Aspect that reflects some part of that Phase.
Where Did You Come From? (YS 59)

This phase covers the character’s youth. It often describes the core concept for your character as a “normal person” and a launching pad for the character’s High Concept.

Questions to Consider:

  • What nation is your character from? What region? What culture?
  • What were his family’s circumstances like? (Rich? Poor? Scholarly? Isolated? Religious?)
  • What’s your character’s relationship with his family?
  • How big is the family?
  • How was your character educated?
  • What were your character’s friends like? Did your character get into much trouble?
  • If your character is supernatural, how and when did her learn this? Did this cause problems?

Aspect Examples:

  • Angry Orphan
  • Adopted Prodigy
  • My Mother’s Silver Pentacle
What Shaped You? (YS 59)

This phase represents the character’s "middle history—when her High Concept comes to the forefront. Think about that High Concept and a situation that would call it into sharp relief forcing her to make a choice or otherwise take decisive action.

This may be when supernatural power awakens within the character, or simply when she is first faced with a difficult choice between right and wrong and stps up to bat as a protagonist within the game’s larger story.

Questions to Consider:

*Who were the prominent people in your character’s life at this point? Does she have enemies? close and fast friends?
*How did your character’s High Concept and Trouble Aspects shape her and the events around her?

  • What were the most significant choices the character made?
  • What lessons did this time period teach the character?

Aspect Examples:

  • Chivalry Is Not Dead, Dammit!
  • More Innocent Than I Look
  • Political Survivor
  • Born Teacher
What Was Your First Adventure? (YS 60)

This is your character’s first true adventure—his first book/episode/case/movie/whatever. You need to come up with a title for this adventure (but don’t spend too much time on it). Then write down the basic details of the story for the Phase summary. Generally, just a couple of sentences should be sufficient. Your fellow players will help fill out the details in the next Phase.

Example Summary:

When a series of grisly supernatural murders tears through Chicago, wizard Harry Dresden sets out to find the killer. But will Harry succeed when he finds himself pitted against a dark wizard, a Warden of the White Council, a vicious gang war, and the Chicago Police Department?

Then, fill in an appropriate Aspect.

Whose Path Have You Crossed? (YS 61)

In this phase, each character in the group contributes a minor supporting role (guest star) in another character’s first adventure.

  1. Write your character’s name, story title, and story summary on an index card.
  2. Distribute the cards however you like to the other players, so long as no one has their own character’s story card.
  3. Collaborate with the story owner to add a brief sentence or two that reflects your character’s supporting role in the story.
  4. Write this story title and your character’s contribution down on your Phase worksheet. The person who owns the story should also add this contribution to their worksheet.
  5. Determine the Aspect formed by this contribution.

Supporting roles come in three forms:

  • Complicating a situation : Your character has made some part of the story uncertain. Don’t go into too much detail here—you know you come out okay as this has happened in the past (“Trying to save a girl, Michael starts a giant monster fight” or “Thomas gets captured by the monster”).
  • Solving a situation : Your character somehow solves a complication that the main character has to deal with or aides him in the central conflict (“Murphy travels with Harry to the Nevernever, watching his back” or “Billy and the Alphas take on some foes to buy time for Harry”).
  • Complicating AND solving : Your character either solves one situation but creates another or creates a situation but later solves a different one (“Murphy comes to Harry, stumped by a mysterious case. Later, she helps him fight off a beast in a department store”).
Who Else’s Path Have you Crossed? (YS 63)

This phase is identical to the previous with the sole caveat that no character can contribute to the same story twice.

If you have fewer than 3 players, then you can either:

  • Skip Phase 5 and make up another Aspect
  • Skip Phase 5 and only have six Aspects
  • Come up with a third joint-story together
  • Have the GM also make a character. This character should be an NPC and not actually play with the PCs.

Finish Up Your Character (YS 65)


Refer to the Power Level of your game to determine the number of Skill Points you have to spend and for the Skill Cap (the highest level of Skill allowed to buy).

Level SP Cost
Superb 5
Great 4
Good 3
Fair 2
Average 1

Skills begin at Mediocre. Also you cannot have more skills at any level than you have one level down from that. So…

  • To have a Fair skill, you must have at least one Average skill
  • To have a Good skill, you must have at least one Fair and one Average skill
  • To have a Great skill, you must have at least one Good, one Fair, and one Average skill
  • To have a Superb skill, you must have at least one Great, one Good, one Fair, and one Average skill.

You might also look at the Skill Packages listed on YS 65.

Stunts and Powers

Refer to the Power Level of your game to determine the Refresh level you will begin at.

To purchase Stunts and Powers, you actually spend your Refresh level—so keep in mind that Refresh you spend now means Fate Points you’ll have to earn later.

Each Stunt you take will cost one Refresh level. Generally, a non-supernatural High Concept should expect to spend close to half their Refresh on Stunts.

Some Powers cost more than one Refresh level. You must take all of the powers that are mandatory for the character template you’re using. After that, you may only take Powers that fit your character template and High Concept.

You May Not Reduce Your Refresh Level Below One : This is the line dividing a mortal’s free will from a monster’s unnatural compulsions.

Final Refresh Level, Fate Points, Stress, & Consequences

Final Refresh : Take your starting Refresh (determined by Power Level of the game) and subtract all Refresh spent from purchasing Stunts and/or Powers. This is your final Refresh.

Fate Points : Your starting Fate Points (FP) are equal to your final Refresh.

Stress Tracks : Each character has a Physical, Social, and Mental stress track. Some may have a Hunger track as well. By default, each track starts at two (2) boxes/circles.

  • Endurance skill adds boxes to the Physical track
  • Presence skill adds boxes to the Social track
  • Conviction skill adds boxes to the Mental track
  • Discipline skill adds boxes to the Hunger track

Average or Fair skills add 1, Good or Great adds 2, Superb+ adds 2 with a additional Mild consequence.

Consequences : Each character gets one (1) Mild, Moderate, and Severe Consequence by default. These can be used for ANY form of attack (Physical, Social, Mental). Superb skills and certain Stunts and Powers will add additional Consequence slots.

Conclusion (YS 68)

At the end of the process you should have:

  • A summary of your character’s early history…
  • A summary of your character’s rise to power and call to action…
  • Your character’s first story and two other past adventures, establishing ties to the characters of at least two other players…
  • Seven Aspects (one for the High Concept, one for the Trouble, and one for each of the five Phases)…
  • A number of Skills, depending upon the number of Skill Points allowed by the Power Level of the game…
  • Your character’s mortal Stunts and/or supernatural Powers
  • Your character’s base and final Refresh level…
  • Your character’s initial Fate Points (FP) based on the final Refresh level.

Character Generation

The Dresden Files: Portland pencilneckgeek