Sci-Fi High Concepts
Okay, now we’ve explained the basic formatting in our previous post, we’re going to provide a series of ideas for creating the description, job and twist sections of the high concept for a science-fiction character.
There are lots of different types of science-fiction ranging from hard sci-fi to space opera, post apocalyptic and everything in-between; in this article we’re shooting for a more general science-fiction vibe, but we may cover specific sub-genres in future articles.
Please note: Some of the description options suggested on our previous high concept posts may also be applicable for science fiction characters, feel free to pick and choose, we try to offer different options below. A number of the options in the Modern Day Character Concepts post would work in a sci-fi setting and the Magic Powers as Aspects could easily be re-skinned to represent psychic powers if your setting allows them.
The alien types below are given generic names such as “warriorborn alien” and “intellectual alien” to cover the common types of such species encountered in science-fiction stories, feel free to rename them as appropriate for your own game. An
|No.||Name||When to invoke||When to compel|
|1||Warriorborn alien||Whenever you are involved in a fight or your sense of honour allows you to resist mental compulsions.||Compel to be drawn into an ill-advised conflict or take rash actions because your honour has been challenged.|
|2||Space-born||Invoke when working in zero-G or making a test that relates to knowledge of spaceships or conditions in space.||Compel to have your character experience difficulties in higher gravities or to have them take extra damage from projectiles and physical injury due to their weaker bones.|
|3||Primitive||Invoke when forced to survive without the benefits or technology.||Compel to have yourself misunderstand how technology works or to make a misstep in galactic society.|
|4||High-tech||Invoke when using advanced technology or when trying to figure out how alien/advanced tech works.||Compel to have yourself fail to use more primitive technology or to place yourself at a serious disadvantage with primitive societies due to not understanding their social structure.|
|5||Well educated||Invoke when researching history or academic subjects.||Compel to have your character create a bad impression when revealing his knowledge to those less educated or to have your characters lack of practical knowledge cause complications.|
|6||Veteran||Invoke when involved in combat or when making strategic decisions of a military nature.||Compel to have something remind you of an old conflict and cause trauma or to have your character lose it in the middle of a combat.|
|7||Robot||Invoke whenever you would benefit from robotic strength or the ability to ignore the limitations of the human form.||Compel to have your characters lack of empathy and understanding of human emotions cause problems.|
|8||Mutant||Invoke whenever your mutant abilities (you should decide roughly what these are with the GM prior to the game) would give you an advantage or when dealing socially with other mutants.||Compel to have your characters mutant status cause serious social problems, they may even be hunted by others.|
|9||Cyborg||Invoke to interface with technology or to have yourself push past the limits that a normal human body could endure.||Compel to have feedback, EMPs or other electronics issues cause you complications.|
|10||Technophobic||Invoke when your character is fighting against a robot or other enemy of technological origin, or to help shrug off the effects of any tech-based mental powers.||Compel to have your character refuse to use technology, step on a spaceship or anything similar that causes serious issues.|
|11||Human-like alien||Invoke to pass for human or when some characteristic of your species would give you the edge over an average human.||Compel to have your character make a mistake due to their lack of understanding of human culture, the mistake should cause social complications.|
|12||Intellectual alien||Invoke to research, re-call facts or other area where your superior intellect might help.||Compel to have your character offend those who are less intelligent than himself or to have your character's lack of physical abilities hinder them.|
|13||Monstrous alien||Invoke to intimidate and scare others with your appearance.||Compel to have your character ostracised due to their appearance by more human-looking races.|
|14||Heavy gravity adapted||Invoke when operating in heavy gravity or for physical activities such as jumping, running, etc in normal gravity.||Compel to create complications for your character in lower gravities because they're not used to it (they might jump for a platform and overshoot it for instance).|
|15||Light gravity adapted||Invoke when operating in light gravity or in situations when manual dexterity would help.||Compel to create complications for your character in heavier gravities because they are not used to it (they might not be able to run as fast as they are accustomed to for instance).|
|16||Galactically reknowned||Invoke to use your celebrity status to influence other people socially or when it comes to obtaining credit for a purchase.||Compel to cause complications when your character is trying to remain undercover or low profile because the galactic paperazzi and fans make it difficult.|
|17||Religious||Invoke when your character is able to draw strength from their faith to resist psychic or mental compulsions.||Compel to have your character drawn into a disadvantageous situation due to the tenets of their faith.|
|18||Energy alien||Invoke when your lack of biological form is an advantage or when taking control of/shorting out machines.||Compel when atmospheric interference or other electrical effects cause you complications or when fine physical manipulation is called for.|
|19||Psychically awakened||Invoke when your character is using their psychic powers (you should decide what these are with the GM prior to the game).||Compel to have the character more easily influenced by other mental powers or to have strange side-effects occur due to their psychic power use.|
|20||Academy trained||Invoke when your character is performing actions as part of a clear chain of command.||Compel to have your character forced into a complicated situation by the regulations and strictures of the agency they were trained by, or to have them bought up on charges if they break the code (the GM and players may wish to discuss the tenets of the academy code prior to the game.|
|No.||Description||When to invoke||When to compel|
|1||Pilot||Invoke when flying a vehicle or piloting a spaceship.||Compel to have your character's lack of knowledge of ground vehicles causes them issues when driving them or to have your character's desire to test-drive new or unusual ships get them into trouble.|
|2||Mercenary||Invoke during combat or when having to survive in hostile circumstances.||Compel to cause social complications because mercenaries can have bad reputations, or to have someone hire them for a mission that proves to be more complicated than advertised.|
|3||Mechanic||Invoke when repairing or building technological devices.||Compel to have your character cause complications due to their desire to tinker with or acquire technology (perhaps when the captain goes to access warp drive it doesn't work because the mechanic took it off line temporarily to improve it).|
|4||Bounty Hunter||Invoke when tracking or bringing down a quarry.||Compel to have your character get in trouble with the legal authorities or to cause social complications because bounty hunters have chequered reputations.|
|5||Scientist||Invoke to experiment with chemical compounds and to deduce the likely outcomes of various scenarious (example: 'If we boost the shields and park the ship between the closing blast doors I estimate there is a 75% chance we can keep it open without being crushed).||Compel to have your character drawn into a complicated/dangerous situation due to their scientific curiosity or to have one of their experiments go awry.|
|6||Marine||Invoke when in combat or military situations.||Compel to have your character get into complications when dealing with civilians or to have his short-temper with non-military types cause issues.|
|7||Rebel||Invoke when directly engaged minions of the organisation that you are rebelling against.||Compel to be detained or otherwise harrasses by minions of the organisation that you are struggling against.|
|8||Security Officer||Invoke when detaining or questioning someone suspected or known to have committed a crime.||Compel to have yourself forced into a complicated situation by security protocol or to have someone you have arrested previously try to settle the score.|
|9||Strategist||Invoke when attempting to formulate a plan or when taking advantage of a previously planned action.||Compel when your character reacts poorly to unexpected circumstances, getting themselves into more trouble.|
|10||Smuggler||Invoke when attempting to sneak past law enforcement or smuggle goods.||Compel to have yourself harrassed by the law or pursued by bounty hunters.|
|11||Noble||Invoke when deally socially with those who value status or to call on your noble family for aid.||Compel to have another member of your family call on you for aid at an inconvenient time or to have yourself targeted by robbers or opportunists.|
|12||Xeno-archaeologist||Invoke when researching or attempting to understand alien cultures.||Compel to have your urge to explore alien environments overcome your caution and get you into troublesome situations.|
|13||Explorer||Invoke when exploring previously uncharted space or planets.||Compel to have some unexpected element of the new territory rear it's head and cause problems.|
|14||Communications officer||Invoke when attempting to initiate communications, block other comms or smooth over a potentially dangerous situation.||Compel to have your character misunderstand a cultural imperative and cause issues because of it.|
|15||Space pirate||Invoke when attacking another ship or attempting a boarding action against a foe.||Compel to have your lust for wealth draw you into a complicated situation or to find yourself pursued by people seeking to bring you to justice.|
|16||Salvager||Invoke when attempting to find usuable parts and components on a derelict ship or in other suitable environments, or when attempting to sell such merchandise.||Compel to have someone that you sold a part to track you down because the part malfunctioned or they think you have ripped them off, or compel to have you attempt to board a dangerous derelict because it's an opportunity too good to pass up.|
|17||Mystical Knight||Invoke when your ancient traditions provide guidance or when your mastery of ancient mystical powers allows you to overcome opposition.||Compel to have yourself pursued by fallen members/enemies of your order or to have yourself forced into a complicated situation by the strictures of your order's code.|
|18||Diplomat||Invoke when attempting to diplomatically resolve a situation or defuse a tense situation.||Compel to have a social misstep escalate the situation rather than defuse it.|
|19||Conman||Invoke when attempted to socially manipulate someone or come out on top of a deal at someone else's expense.||Compel to have a previous partner track the character down to even the score or to have them get in trouble with the law.|
|20||Average Joe||Invoke when dealing socially with normal people or to have yourself overlooked in a crowd.||Compel to have yourself overlooked for promotions and benefits or to have yourself thrown in with the rest of the prisoners/victims by the villain.|
|No.||Description||When to invoke||When to compel|
|1||Has a big Gun.||Invoke when using the big gun in a combat.||Compel to have the gun jam or run out of ammo and become useless until it can be un-jammed or more ammo can be found.|
|2||Has a laser-sword.||Invoke when cutting through things or deflecting energy blasts.||Compel to have your character marked/targetted by people who want to claim the rare weapon for themselves.|
|3||Flies a spaceship.||Invoke when travelling from one place to another using your ship, or when attempting to use your ship's systems.||Compel to have your ship require maintenance or have some part of it malfunction.|
|4||Is an alien replicant.||Since you are not quite human, invoke to overcome psychic manipulation or to push yourself beyond human limits.||Compel to have some alien characteristic (perhaps you don't blink or have strange pupils) become obvious at an inopportune moment and cause you social complications, or to have your alien masters activate some part of your conditioning at an inopportune moment.|
|5||Is a clone.||Invoke to have||Compel to have your character hunted by enemies of the original template or perhaps the template themselves, or to have gaps in your memories due to the cloning process cause complications.|
|6||Is a wanted criminal.||Invoke when attempting to invade the law or when dealing with other criminals.||Compel to have agents of the law or bounty hunters attempt to apprehend you.|
|7||Is an escaped slave.||Invoke when attempting to stay below the radar or keep yourself hidden.||Compel to have agents of your previous master attempt to recover you or to have another recognise a slaver's mark on you and attempt to apprehend you.|
|8||Has psychic powers.||Discuss the limits of your psychic powers with the GM prior to the game and invoke this aspect when using them.||Compel to have yourself more easily affected by other psychics, to have some bizare occurrences happen around you due to psychic energy bleeding into your surroundings or have your powers activate at inopportune times.|
|9||Has an alien companion.||Invoke when your companion can assist you in a challenge.||Compel to have yourself obliged to assist your companion with something dangerous, or when your companions urges/manners cause you problems.|
|10||Knows people everywhere.||Invoke when you makes a Contacts roll or when you need to call in favour with someone.||Compel to have one of your contacts call in a favour that draws you into a dangerous or complex situation.|
|11||Knows galactic law.||Invoke when attempting to use your knowledge of galactic law to get yourself or someone acquited of criminal charges.||Compel to have your services requested by a friend in a situation where they clearly seem guilty, or to have an official notice that you exploited legal loopholes in a previous case and demand a retrial.|
|12||Travelled through time.||Invoke when your hazy recollection of future events gives you an advantage in the situation.||Compel to have your character make things worse or actually bring about the complication they were trying to avoid either because of a mistaken recollection or because something they did earlier has already changed the timeline.|
|13||Is out of place in this world.||Invoke to stand out in a crowd or intimidate someone.||Compel to have your lack of social graces and understanding get you into complicated situations.|
|14||Has a mech.||Invoke to move more quickly, or when grappling or fighting with mech weapons.||Compel to have the mech overheat and shutdown temporarily, to have some component of it require repair or to result in complications due to the mech's weight and metallic construction.|
|15||Is an expert with computer systems.||Invoke when using computer systems or electronics.||Compel to have your character trigger in-built security or fry part of a system due to feedback.|
|16||Was kidnapped by aliens.||Invoke when attempting to attack or research the aliens that kidnapped you or when dealing socially with other enemies of that species.||Compel to have you abducted again or to have your character cause themselves complications due to their fanatically pursuit of their abductors.|
|17||Has built/stolen an experimental drive system.||Invoke when using the drive system in a space vehicle to travel quickly from one place to another.||Compel to have the drive malfunction and send the party somewhere or to have it attract attention from people who want to take it from the group.|
|18||Is a student of ancient earth history.||Invoke to understand the function and use old-Earth artifacts, also to know about the history of earth.||Compel to have your character mis-use some piece of modern technology or to have difficulty related to people in the modern world because they are so absorbed in how people in the past used to live.|
|19||Has an evil twin.||Invoke to intimidate people or take advantage of your twin's reputation.||Compel to have yourself hunted by people your twin has double-crossed or to have yourself arrested for things that your twin has done.|
|20||Is an uplifted animal.||You are an animal that has been uplifted in a bipedal intelligent humanoid, invoke when your animal characteristics would give you an advantage (you should discuss what animal you are uplifted from with your GM prior to the game).||Compel to have your character's bestial insticts override your reason and get you into unfortunate situations.|
I’m going to roll 3 times on the table and see what I get, so using the online dice roller I’ve rolled: 1, 19 and 16.
Looking at the tables this gives me the following:
I’m a warriorborn alien average joe who was kidnapped by aliens.
I can invoke my aspect:
- Whenever you are involved in a fight or your sense of honour allows you to resist mental compulsions.
- When dealing socially with normal people or to have yourself overlooked in a crowd.
- When attempting to attack or research the aliens that kidnapped you or when dealing socially with other enemies of that species.
And I can compel it:
- To be drawn into an ill-advised conflict or take rash actions because your honour has been challenged.
- To have yourself overlooked for promotions and benefits or to have yourself thrown in with the rest of the prisoners/victims by the villain.
- To have you abducted again or to have your character cause themselves complications due to their fanatically pursuit of their abductors.
I quite like this as a concept, although my character comes from a proud warrior race I wasn’t a great hero or mighty fighter, I was an average member of the species, perhaps a simple worker who is out in galactic society because he was kidnapped by aliens and then abandoned; knowing that he would never be able to show his face in his honour-driven society unless he took vengeance for his kidnap my character has embraced his warrior heritage and now pursues his abductors across the galaxy.
Coming Next for All about Aspects: ???
Circuit board tree image designed by Mastermindsro, you can see the full design here; used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Spaceship graphic labelled for re-use on Google Image Search.