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Creating a Character


Here at Undying King Games we tend not to believe that role-playing thrives on complex systems involving lots of rules and numbers. Instead we feel that it's important for the player to have a character concept that they can identify with and on whose behalf they can make convincing decisions and actions.

So in this section, rather than providing a load of character creation points, lookup tables and so on, we've just given you a framework in which you can generate a character who is plausible within the context of the game, but who accords with your own concept of what you want to play.

We will help you develop your character from its initial concept: you don't have to submit it fully formed. You should get back to us with your ideas, and we can fill you in with more detail so that the particular segment of the world in which that character moves can be made to come more to life for you. We also strongly advise that you do some reading about the period: we've endeavoured to make this game as historically accurate as possible, so anything you read will be relevant. See the bibliography later.

Placing your character in Victorian Society

This creation system has been designed to aid you in the development of a character concept which is realistic in Victorian England. It is based on the class system that was prevalent at the time. The choice of social class for your character is critical, it will determine not only your level of income and lifestyle, but most importantly, the manner in which the rest of society treats you, from the greetings given by shop clerks through to the type of care that you would receive should you fall ill.

There are advantages and disadvantages accorded to those in each class, detailed alongside the corresponding flow chart. Once you have decided which class you think would be the most appropriate for your character concept, make a choice at each subsequent stage of chart until you reach the end. These are only a framework – they do not attempt to constrict the personality of the character. However, one should bear in mind that the character should be as plausible as possible in accordance with the period, and as such the following should be heeded:

It would be a good idea to read some source material if at all possible to give one a flavour of the attitudes of the time. Social commentaries and actual surviving personal journals and letters exist in abundance, and give a feel for the attitudes of the time in a much more effective and comprehensive manner than can be conveyed here.

Another thing to bear in mind is that you can't play well-known real-life figures of the time. Because we're keeping the game within historical authenticity, we can't have Queen Victoria suddenly going mad or whatever.

Nobility

High status and a comfortable lifestyle come with a price. As a Duke, Duchess, Lord or Lady, you will be watched closely by the society columns and not only your peers but also the press and social commentators of the time will judge your every move. Your behaviour is constricted by the expectations that society places upon you and you walk a knife-edge to maintain the respectability of your family. One slip and your family name will be damaged.

Flowchart for noble characters
Upper Middle Class

Whilst those of this class are less subject to scrutiny, there is a great deal of pressure caused by the competitiveness and snobbery prevalent in high society. If your wealth was acquired through business you will feel a definite sense of inferiority imposed upon you from having 'new money'. If your wealth comes from the family, you are expected to act in a manner appropriate to its position.

Flowchart for upper middle characters
Middle Class

Whilst you live a modest and comfortable life financially, perhaps having a large town house and several servants, you have to work for your income and will never be accepted into society higher than your colleagues. As a women, you are constantly encouraged to save money, and so running the household is a full-time job: you are responsible for everything related to the money put into the maintenance of the household.

Flowchart for middle-class characters
Working Class

You have no real rights in the eyes of the law, no vote, and life is very hard, always on the brink of extreme poverty as there is no family wealth to bale you out should you fall upon bad times. Conditions of work are atrocious, especially for those who work in the factories. Seamstresses are also subject to terrible conditions, of which the rest of well-dressed society are oblivious: many die from overwork and starvation. However, despite these hardships, you have many contacts and friends in your area of work, and have more of an idea of what is going on in the city than the MPs do. Apart from these examples, any of the occupations in Mayhew's London would do.

Flowchart for working-class characters
Pauper

Every day is a fight against death on the streets. As a result you are resilient and creative in methods of survival. You are not easily fooled, though life has dealt you a hand that will have shown you the worst horrors of the human condition and the threat of disease, abuse and starvation are never far away. Paupers, male or female, might include beggars, street performers and vendors, pickpockets, housebreakers...

Occupations that span classes

These cannot be readily fitted into a strict class, as in many cases people of that profession were found in many classes. For example, an actor or actress can be a bawdy music-hall singer popular with the rowdy working-class crowds, or a respected player in an elite company who has mastered the airs and graces that can achieve acceptance into higher society. The same is true of prostitution: while the vast majority of prostitutes suffered a horrific existence on the streets, there were many mistresses of rich gentlemen, paid to live a lifestyle more amenable to his tastes. Academics will be recognized by the scholarly community on the merit of their intellectual ability, although when moving in social circles away from their colleagues they will find it difficult to avoid prejudice against their antecedents. In the case of the police, their role in society make it difficult for the average bobby to fit into his original class, yet those at the peak of the police structure enjoyed respect in the higher classes and an income to match.

Case studies

Patient A was admitted two days ago having been accosted by a policeman close to Trafalgar Square. He was behaving in an extremely agitated manner, screaming at carriages as they passed. The policeman decided to have him admitted here after he had determined that the outbursts were not a result of alcohol consumption.
After usual procedures for quieting rowdy patients, the man has regained a degree of lucidity, and has told me that he was angry with the passers by because they "kept taking my thoughts and laughing at them before I could think them to myself." We have been unable to trace the family of the gentleman, and he says that he left his home some time ago as his wife was "putting thoughts into his head" and telling him to do things that he didn't want to do.
It is clear that he is not suitable to mix with society in his present state, and a full course of restraints and water treatment will follow to reduce the number of violent outbursts.

Mrs F has shown little improvement since her arrival three months ago. Her husband has ceased his visits and has arranged a private account into which he can deposit the cost of her maintenance anonymously. I fear that she will remain here indefinitely if the course of treatment with the Tranquilliser does not modify her behaviour. Despite many hours without stimulation she persists in moving the straw in her cell into the same five points in the room and remains adamant that it is necessary "or they will come to kill everybody here". Some of the nurses have refused to take food to Mrs F as they find her expositions on the devil and her own magic disquieting. One has remarked that she found herself almost believing her when she was expounding the merits of positioning straw and furniture in certain patterns for the purposes of protection. Her obsession with her vulnerability to "They or Them" shows no sign of abatement and I must admit that I find her an enigma.

In my evaluation of Miss J I find it hard to write my observations, as I find them too incredulous for my scientific sensibilities. However, I cannot deny that on many occasions it seems as if I was talking to a completely different person. In my interviews I have sometimes found her to be a meek, fearful childlike individual, at other times she has shouted at me and seemed enraged for no apparent reason which invariably leads to a spell in the isolation room until she becomes more amenable to conversation. O other occasions she s entirely different again, and behaves as if I had never spoken to her before. I am intrigued by the noticeable gaps in her recollections of her childhood and adolescence. Efforts on the part of my secretary to locate the father of this poor girl are beginning to bear fruit and I am hopeful that they will be reunited within the month. Yet when I try to reassure the girl of this she obviously cannot contain her relief and behaves in a curiously absent manner, as if I were not present in the room with her.

Character creation of the mad, delusional and dissociated

In terms of character creation, you need to decide whether you would find the 'experience' of one of these disorders interesting, and it will be the responsibility of the GM to take you through the progression of the symptoms. There is no need for you to research the disorders in great detail, indeed much of what is documented about them today was in no sense classified or identified in the same manner in the 1860s. However, reading around the subject will give you a clear idea of what to expect, even though the people you interact with in the game will call it by other names and treat you in a much less sympathetic tone than is present in today's research.

Below you will find a brief description of some conditions. Along with this is a list of characteristics that are common in those who suffer from these disorders. They are by no means comprehensive, nor designed to restrict you in the design of your character. They are listed to guide you in the development of the personality concept of your character in a realistic fashion - for example, it would be unreasonable and inaccurate to design a gregarious, active and bubbly character who is then expected to develop schizophrenia.

Alongside the three main disorders listed below there are many other conditions from which your character may suffer. However, these should be secondary to your choice from those below which are more appropriate to the nature of the game. These conditions include:

There are many others that are too numerous to list here. An excellent source of general information on psychological disorders and a great source for links to other useful sites is http://mentalhelp.net. This is only secondary in the character creation process however: the critical decision is which of the disorders below should be the prevailing aspect of your experience within the game. We strongly encourage you to discuss your ideas with the GM before making a solid decision.

Schizophrenia

Common attributes of the sufferer
Actual disorder

This is a remarkably complex disorder, and unrecognised in the time of the game. Symptoms include delusions and hallucinations along with a cluster of other symptoms, the appearance of which varies from patient to patient. There are different classifications of schizophrenia:

The best handle for this disorder is the nature of the delusions and bizarre beliefs that characterise extreme forms of the disorder. Often the patient believes that people are stealing or inserting thoughts into their mind. They can complain of hearing voices giving a running commentary of their actions, or talking about them as if a third party is evaluating them. In the more extreme cases of the delusional they can believe that they are being persecuted by a person or group of people, or even that they are somebody incredibly famous or important, even religious figures.

OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Common attributes of the sufferer
Actual disorder

This can be most debilitating and involves obsessional thoughts that surface unbidden in to the patient's mind. One of the most common concerns is that they will harm themselves or others, yet they do recognise that these statements come from within their own mind rather than an external source such as in Schizophrenia. As a response to the obsession, the patient develops a "ritual" or set of repetitive behaviour that can provide temporary relief from the extreme anxiety caused by the obsession. These take more than an hour a day and can seem entirely unrelated to the fear e.g. counting to one hundred before stepping through a doorway to somehow "protect" them committing a violent act. Another common ritual is constantly adjusting the position of objects in the home to ensure that they are in exact alignment, or washing hands because of a fear of contamination. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure as to which compulsion your character would develop it would be very easy for you to leave that to the GM if you speculate upon what the character fears or has at the centre of their obsession.

MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder - now known as Dissociated Identity Disorder)

Common attributes of the sufferer
Actual disorder

The roots of this disorder always lie in an extremely traumatic event in the patient's background, usually in childhood before the age of twelve. It is theorised that it develops from a childhood coping strategy of dissociating oneself from one's body during abuse, reinforced as the abuse continues over time. This can develop into a full disorder characterised by having several personalities within the same body.

Each personality has full control over the body when it is dominant, to the point where other personalities have massive bouts of amnesia. Indeed amnesia is usually the first sign of the disorder. It should be noted that this condition is extremely distressing and probably the most detached from the experiences of an average individual, so you should be warned that role-playing through this could be traumatic in itself.

Milder forms of this condition cover the spectrum of dissociation disorders, from amnesia related to a single traumatic event, to dissociative amnesia in which the patient has blocked out the event but still reacts in a traumatised fashion to any stimuli that were present at the time of the attack. The web-site quoted above offers links to many sites written by people who live with this disorder if you want to get an idea of it before making your choice. However, the people who write the sites have been treated in the 20th century and as a result have much better coping strategies than you will be exposed to in 1860s London. The experience within the game world will be closer to terrifying, rather than personal acceptance.


Contents:


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