The Unisystem uses a “point system” to create characters. Basically, you “buy” different abilities by spending character points. The better or more powerful a characteristic is, the more “expensive” it is. Some negative features, known as Drawbacks, do not cost any points. Instead, they have a negative value—by acquiring them, you actually get more points to buy other things. Keep in mind, of course, that these Drawbacks limit or hurt your character in some way, so loading them on carelessly is not a good idea.
Not everything is based on points, either. Some character elements are creativity-driven: your character’s concept (what kind of person she is) and personality, as well as her name and history. These depend wholly on your imagination.
- Type: Character Type determines the general power level and nature of your character. Second level characters are tough and skilled. First level characters are normal people who depend on their wits and luck to survive.
- Attributes: What are your character's natural abilities, both mental and physical?
- Qualities and Drawbacks: What innate advantages or penalties affect your character?
- Skills: What does your character know?
Character Type Edit
Character Types in Cinematic Unisystem have three levels of experience.
Character Type determines how many points you have to “spend” on each character component — your character-building “budget,” in accountant-speak.
Attributes are inborn characteristics: your character’s strength, intelligence, senses and so on. By selecting a set of Attributes, you are defining the limits of what the character can and cannot do.
Attributes can be bought up to level five on a one-for-one basis (i.e., Strength 3 would cost three points, Strength 4 four points, and so on). Attributes above level five are more expensive: three points per additional level. Level six is the effective human maximum (buying an Attribute up to level six would cost eight points). Beings with supernatural abilities (Slayers, vampires, demons, and the like) can have Attributes above six.
At the other end, at least one point must be put into each Attribute.
Some Qualities (like Slayer) provide bonuses to one or more Attributes. These modifiers are applied after Attributes have been purchased normally. For example, if you spend five points on Dexterity, and your character has a Quality that adds a +1 to Dexterity, Dexterity 6 is the final result.
The Meaning of Numbers
Level 1: The character is below average in this Attribute. Strength 1 indicates a poor physique, either a petite or flabby, sedentary person. Dexterity 1 indicates clumsiness, someone likely to drop things—not to be trusted with delicate manual work unless the person has trained very hard to do so. Characters with a Constitution 1 are delicate and often in poor health. Intelligence 1 is below average—not mentally challenged, but certainly a bit slow on the uptake. Perception 1 depicts someone not very aware of her surroundings, likely to miss what’s before her face. Willpower 1 results in a person who is easily intimidated and influenced by others, a follower instead of a leader, and somebody who is likely to succumb to temptation. In other words, Attributes at level one are not flattering. If your character has an Attribute at level one, she is going to be pretty feeble at some things.
Level 2: This is the average for human beings. Most people in any given group have Attributes at this level, typically with one or two at levels one or three. Nothing wrong with being average, but the character is unlikely to shine with such Attributes unless her skills are so high she can compensate.
Level 3: This is above average but not extraordinary. Strength and Constitution 3 show some athletic aptitude—somebody who works out at least three times a week, or a natural athlete who has not taken time to develop her talent. Characters with Dexterity 3 are graceful—good dancing partners, grabbed near the beginning in pick-up sports, unlikely to suffer from butter fingers or Klutz Syndrome. Intelligence 3 indicates a bright person who can easily learn new skills, if she has the temperament to do so. With Perception 3, a character has good senses and intuition, and is not easily fooled or confused. Characters with Willpower 3 are rarely bluffed or bullied under normal circumstances.
Level 4: An Attribute at this level is well above average. Very few people—perhaps one out every ten in a random group—have one or two Attributes at this level. Strength and Constitution 4 can be found only in athletes (including the best football players in a large high school or college campus), extensively trained Special Forces soldiers, and other people who spend a large amount of time and effort keeping in shape. A Dexterity 4 would only be common among gymnasts, acrobats, dancers and other talented and graceful individuals. Mental Attributes at level four indicate near genius (Intelligence), highly acute senses and intuition (Perception), or an “iron will” (Willpower).
Level 5: This is the “practical” human limit. People at this level are extraordinarily talented, able to perform complex and difficult feats with little practice. While people with Attributes at level five are not record-breakers, they are among the best and the brightest. In a small or medium-sized community, only a handful of people have one or two Attributes at this level, and they are likely to be well known for their strength, wisdom, or toughness. Cities, large college campuses, and groups of demon fighters have more of these extraordinary individuals, but even there they are not common.
Level 6: This is the basic human limit. A few people with “freakish” features may exceed it (to level seven), but they are a handful even among the teeming billions living in the 21st century. Characters with one Attribute at level six are very rare, something on the order of one in ten thousand, or less. People with more than one Attribute at level six are perhaps ten times less common, and so on.
Level 7+: Now we are talking superhuman. Someone with Strength 7 would be as strong as a horse; a Dexterity 12 connotes inhuman grace; and so on. These folks can perform at a level that normal folks can hardly comprehend. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
A measure of your character’s physical power, Strength determines how much damage she inflicts with hand-to-hand weapons, how much weight she can carry, and how much she can withstand before collapsing. Strength is useful to people who do a lot of heavy lifting or anybody likely to enter hand-to-hand combat.
Dexterity indicates your character’s physical coordination and agility. It helps with any task that requires motor control and precision, from performing card tricks to shaking booty to feeding knuckle sandwiches (Dexterity helps to land the punch; Strength determines how much it hurts the punchee).
This Attribute shows how physically hardy or healthy your character is. Constitution is important when it comes to resisting disease, damage, and fatigue. It is also used (along with Strength) to determine how much of a pounding your Cast Member can take and still keep ticking. Constitution also comes into play with skills that involve endurance, like swimming and long-distance running.
This mental Attribute determines your character’s ability to learn, correlate and memorize information. The higher her Intelligence, the easier it is for her to employ “scholastic” skills. Also, this Attribute is used to understand and interpret information. Note that intelligence and education are two separate things; you can be brilliant but illiterate. Education is covered by your character’s skills, which determine what she has learned in her life.
This mental Attribute governs the five senses of the character and is important for wannabe detectives (to spot those important clues), people with enemies (to see or hear them coming), and mystical or psychic types (to detect “disturbances in the Force”).
This Attribute measures your character’s mental strength and self-control, and her ability to resist fear, intimidation, and temptation. Any supernatural ability that tries to control or influence victims is resisted by Willpower. It can also be used to intimidate and dominate others through sheer force of will.
Life Points Edit
Life Points represent your character’s physical health. The Strength and Constitution of the character are the determinant factors; a big muscle-bound athlete can survive more punishment than a pencil-necked, coldcatching nerd. Life Points determine the amount of physical damage the character can take before being unable to function.
Life Points are determined by adding the character’s Strength and Constitution, multiplying the result by four, and adding 10. This formula is for human beings (and human-like beings, such as Slayers and vampires). Some creatures have different Life Point totals (many demons are much tougher than normal humans, for example).
The Hard to Kill Quality is a good way to increase Life Points. Players should figure out Life Points at the end of character creation after all Attributes have been figured out normally.
Qualities & Drawbacks Edit
See also: List of Qualities & Drawbacks
Qualities are innate characteristics that give the character an advantage or positive trait.
Some Qualities are package deals—your character buys one Quality but gets a number of benefits, or some benefits and some downsides. In general, your character is limited to purchasing one of these types of Qualities.
Drawbacks are characteristics that somehow limit or detract from the character—bad eyesight, emotional problems, or being oh-my-god-it’s-hideous ugly, for example. When Drawbacks are acquired, the character gains extra points that can be used to buy Qualities or skills. Think of the extra points as a little reward for making the character a bit more three-dimensional and entertaining than some plainvanilla, “nothing wrong with me” bloke.
Beginning characters are limited to 10 points in Drawbacks. That does not mean players have to get 10 points’ worth of Drawbacks; most will probably end up with less than that.
Changes During Play
After creating the character, some Qualities and Drawbacks may be acquired or lost in the course of a game. For example, a scarring wound could reduce the character's Attractiveness, or a change in fortune might increase or decrease the character's Resources or Social Level. When such a change is brought about during play, no experience points are needed to purchase them. If players want to purposefully change a Quality or Drawback, they must spend experience points and come up with a good reason for the change.
See also: List of Skills
Skills are learned abilities, the result of training, study or experience. In general, anything that can be taught is considered a skill. The character’s background, education and life experiences determine what skills she would be likely to have.
To acquire skills, use the character points allocated to the skills category as determined by the Character Type. Skills cost one point per level for levels one through five. After level five, each additional level costs three points.
The Meaning of Skill Numbers
Like most numbers in the Unisystem, high is good and low is bad. The higher a skill level, the more proficient the character is at using that skill. In general, a level one indicates a beginner or amateur, somebody who has just learned the rudiments of the skill. A level two or three represents general competency—the ability to perform average tasks with ease. A level four or five indicates extreme competence in the subject, the result of a lot of study or practice. Higher levels indicate true mastery of the skill or craft, and the ability to perform the most difficult tasks with relative ease. A master of Kung Fu would have a skill level in the 7-10 range, for example.
Combat Maneuvers Edit
See also: List of Combat Maneuvers.
These are your character’s preferred moves. (there’s no costs or limitations on these).
Combat Maneuvers have three elements.
- Bonus The total of your character’s appropriate Attribute, skill, and other modifiers. The bonus is what you add to the attack or defense die roll.
- Damage The base damage of the maneuver (if it does any damage). Add Success Levels after rolling.
- Notes Any special effects. A stake through the heart, for example, does a lot more damage to vamps than to humans.
Drama Points Edit
Sometimes a character needs to succeed at something, no matter what odds. In a movie or TV show, the scriptwriter just decides the character succeeds, period. In the Cinematic Unisystem, we simulate this with Drama Points. When you use a Drama Point, your character gets a huge bonus to her chances—think of it as the universe lending a helping hand.