School Colors Out Of Space: Characters

As in any RPG, SCOOS characters are described with lots of numbers and cryptic notations and stuff, usually written on a piece of paper that will be lost after the first session and need to be laboriously reconstructed. In the case of SCOOS, this piece of paper will have written on it the following things:

Of these, Abilities, Perks, Powers, Knacks, and Flaws are bought out of a pool of 55 points (yes, Flaws have negative cost), and the rest are just made up.

Each of these entries is explained in detail below.

Name

Human names are easy: open the phone book to a random page.

Monster names are harder, but if you throw in enough Gs and Ls and THs, it'll probably be okay. Read lots of Lovecraft stories to get a feel for the kinds of names he used, and then make one up.

Or, you can just have a nickname. This is especially common for monsters, whose real names tend to be unpronounceable in the original and alarming in translation.

Character Types

Humans

As the primary setting of SCOOS is Earth, humans are the default character type. It is expected that you have some idea what modern humans are like. You can come from any 1990s background; it is also possible for your parents to be typical of a much earlier decade and just not in tune with the modern world, which can provide plenty of roleplaying opportunities.

Monsters

Abhuman entities from the depths of space/time/the oceans are collectively referred to as monsters. This category includes mi-go, deep ones, ghouls, chthonians, nightgaunts, byakhee, cats from Saturn, flying polyps, shoggoths, fire vampires, serpent people, dark young of Shub-Niggurath, dimensional shamblers, colours out of space, and many more. You could be a teenaged example of any of these, although there are a few caveats.

First, this is a humor game, so these are going to be lighthearted and possibly silly versions of Lovecraft's monsters. No messily dismembering people or oozing slime everywhere unless you can do it in such a way that the other players laugh.

Second, romance is an important part of the genre, so monsters should, in general, be cute enough to make this feasible. A chitinous blob with a monstrous lust for human cheerleaders is fine, but one goes a long way. A catgirl from Saturn who looks good in a jeweled bikini will probably get a lot more romantic subplots.

Third, monster characters are built on the same number of points as human characters, so they will not automatically stomp all over humans, and you shouldn't expect to be able to. However, a monster can freely spend up to 6 points in Powers, so it's not all hopeless.

If you are temporarily devoid of inspiration, you can read over the descriptions of a few common monsters.

Half-Breeds

Enough monsters have monstrous lusts for humans that some half-breeds are born. These prodigies of biology range from the nearly human (Deep One hybrids) through fairly horrible (Wilbur Whately) to completely abnatural (Wilbur's twin brother); at the farther end, the same considerations apply to them as to monsters with respect to appearance.

Half-breeds are usually not very popular in either realm, but can function acceptly where half their pure-bred friends are gibberingly useless, which can be a considerable advantage.

If you're playing a hybrid character, you need to specify whether you count as monster or human for purposes of Competence and Sanity loss.

Abilities

Each Ability is rated numerically from, normally, 1 to 6. A rating of 1 is pretty bad: with a 1, you'll be noticeably impaired in activities governed by that Ability. 2 is still kinda bad, and will slightly impair you. 6 is really good and you'll have a distinct advantage in that area. Ordinary humans have about 2-3 in each Ability: it's fairly common for people to be dim or wimpy or neurotic, but not everyone is.

Some Abilities can decrease during play, as you get beat up, expend magical power, or become (more) mentally unstable. The qualitative rating for these Abilities is based on the current level: if your Fighting is normally 5, but you've been run over by a train and lost 4 of those 5 points, you are (for the moment) just as wimpy as Fat Freddie who only bought Fighting 1 to begin with.

If one of your Abilities is reduced to 0, you are incapacitated with respect to that Ability. At 0 Fighting, you're unconscious or just too beaten up to do anything; at 0 Sanity, you're insane; at 0 Standing you're grounded. This incapacitation lasts until the relevant Ability is raised to 1 or more.

Each point of each Ability costs 2 points of your original 55, so the best you can get (not counting Flaws) is a total of 27, or an average of just under 4 in each, which is not terribly impressive. However, you can save back some points to buy Knacks, which will add to your Abilities in the appropriate circumstances.

Appeal

Although it's a given that all characters will be drawn as cute or yummy (none of the animation staff has had a date in four years; something about being manacled to their desks), some characters spend their entire high school sentence pining hopelessly after someone who never gives them a first look, and others are constantly surrounded by adoring members of several sexes. The difference, naturally, is how much Appeal they have.

Appeal is also used as for any rolls that involve getting along with people, even ones you don't want to sleep with.

Competence

Competence is the ability to deal with day-to-day life as either a human or a monster. If you're human, Competence lets you use ATMs, cross streets without getting run over, and order in restaurants; if you're a monster it lets you use abhuman artifacts, travel nonEuclidian geometry without getting folded, and suck out cerebrospinal fluid without dripping everywhere. In general, if it's not clear what other Ability applies to a situation, it's probably Competence.

You must specify whether your Competence is human or monster; usually this will be an easy decision. You have one-quarter (rounded up) that much in the other realm. If you take the appropriate Perk, you can have half or even all of your Competence in both realms; if you take the Flaw Narrow-minded, you have 0 Competence outside your realm.

Erudition

This Ability is used as a general measure of how much you've learned, and how well you pick up new information. Erudition applies primarily to academic or intellectual knowledge; practical knowledge falls under Competence. It also determines how many languages you know: ancient inhuman knowledge is a big part of SCOOS, and that knowledge tends to be recorded in massively inconvenient forms, such as Aklo Glyphs, or PostScript, so being able to read those moldy old tomes can be a big help when there's an Elder God menacing the Homecoming game.

For each point of Erudition, you know one language. Everyone should know English (unless you're willing to roleplay not doing so); beyond that, feel free to make things up. Humans will generally know human languages like French (almost inescapable in high school), Gangsta Slang, or Binary (popular among geeks), while monsters will know very old languages like Akkadian or abhuman languages like Glyphs or Yuggothian Slang, but crossover of the two realms is the entire point of SCOOS.

Fighting

You can't save the world from the Outer Gods without knocking a few heads; in fact, sometimes you can't get to class without an all-out melee! This Ability determines how well you can hold your own in such struggles, as well as your general athletic ability and physical toughness. Being beat up (or sick, or otherwise impaired) reduces your Fighting; when it reaches 0, you're out or at least incapacitated until you recovers. Although a character with 1 Fighting can use that Ability normally, it should be kept in mind that she is quite weak and not up to great exertions.

Mojo

The world of SCOOS is rotten with magic. Sorceries ancient and inhuman writhe through it like maggots through living- sorry, were you eating?

In any case, SCOOS is a magic-intensive game, and even if you don't cast spells youself, you'll need to stand up to them. The innate power of sorcery that allows you to do so is Mojo.

Like some of the other Abilities, Mojo decreases and sometimes increases during play. Unlike the other variable Abilities, Mojo does not completely incapacitate you when it goes to 0, but it does make you helpless magically, and leaves the pathetic remnants of your soul a nice cozy nest for psychic possessors.

The unconscious use of Mojo is commonly referred to as "luck"; any time sheer random chance is the primary determinant of your doom, Mojo is what will save you. If anything can.

Sanity

Everyone goes insane sooner or later. There's just no getting around it. High school is traumatic enough, and when you add the weirdness of SCOOS, you can see it's only good sense to keep a strait jacket handy.

The level of Sanity you bought at character creation time is your maximum Sanity; you will often have much less, as the psychological and psychic traumas of high school life eat away at your stability.

As with the other variable Abilities, a Sanity of 2 or 1 impairs you slightly or significantly, and at 0 Sanity, you're incapacitated. If your maximum Sanity is 2 or less you're that way all the time, of course, and should specify your lunacy ahead of time. Having more than 2 San doesn't preclude you from being weird, of course; you're just better-adjusted.

Sanity does apply to monsters; they just lose it in slightly different circumstances. If you're human you'll lose Sanity when exposed to nonEuclidian geometry, crushed by the sarcasm of an upperclassman, presented with the sight of a naked member of the opposite sex, or sent to the principal's office; if you're a monster, you'll lose Sanity when exposed to infomercials, crushed by the sarcasm of an upperclassman, presented with the sight of a naked member of the opposite genus, or sent to the principal's office. See, it's not so different after all.

Sanity is also used for rolls involving temptation and self-control.

Standing

Every character, sadly, has someone in a position of power over her. For a human, this is usually your parents; for a monster, it could be almost anything, up to and including an Outer God. In any case, this is the authority who provides allowance and who can dish out extra chores, loss of privileges, or even grounding, and therefore must be mollified. Like Sanity, the level at which this Ability is purchased represents a practical maximum; in actual play, it will usually be lower. See the rules on Losing And Regaining Standing for details.

You need to specify who your Standing is in relation to on your character sheet.

Perks

Sometimes it's not who (er, what) you are, it's what you have or who you know. The wide variety of such benefits is lumped together under this heading: each point (or sometimes multiple points) of Perks gives you some social or material benefit. A sample list is provided below, but you may certainly add to it (with the GM's approval).

Some Possible Perks:

Powers

Many monster characters have powers beyond human ken, or at least powers that require a good special effects budget. Some humans may have powers as well, for a variety of reasons up to and including the unanswerable "It's funnier this way". As with Perks, you can spend the listed number of points to get some of the Powers from the following list, and the list can be expanded with GM approval. 6 points of Powers is about as high as you should go without explicit GM approval.

Some Possible Powers:

Knacks

A Knack is, well, something you're good at. It might be an actual learned skill (although you'll have to talk fast to persuade your GM to let you get away with something so unadolescent), or just some aspect of one of the admittedly fairly broad Abilities that you're particularly gifted at.

Either way, a Knack adds to one of your Abilities when you do things related to that Knack and that Ability. (For details on what that means, see the Action section, but right now just keep in mind that bigger numbers are better.) It is certainly possible for a Knack to add to different Abilities in different situations, but not all Knacks do so.

Hopefully there will not be any dispute as to whether a given Knack applies to a given situation, but if there is, the GM's judgement as to what is funniest prevails.

Although it might be tempting to take the Knack "Win With Style" at +4, it is not actually funny for one character to dominate the game, so the GM won't let you. It is also not kosher to, for example, take "Body Of Titanium" and claim that it adds to your Fighting in all ways. A Knack should cover less than an Ability, even if it overlaps multiple Abilities. For example, "Perfect Legs" only adds to your Appeal if your legs are visible and the person you're trying to impress is an appropriately-oriented biped. "Master Of Weasel Style Kung Fu" lets you clobber people, and probably wiggle out of tight spots, but doesn't make you stronger, tougher, faster, or otherwise like someone who really bought up their Fighting.

As a rule of thumb, it should take at least three or four Knacks to completely cover all aspects of an Ability, and even then there will probably be a few gaps.

The highest you can buy a Knack before the game is +4. Your GM may let you improve your Knacks beyond that during play, if you ask nicely.

Now that you have been sternly enjoined against evil, go wild. If you're lacking inspiration, here are a few examples:

Whine & Wheedle Useless Trivia of the Universe
Attract Male Attention Have (Expensive) Object on Person
Attract Unwanted Male Attention Shop
Look Cute In Grease Smudges Juggle
Master of Obscure Chinese Martial Arts     Perfect Figure
Actualized Psychic Potential Drive Like A Maniac
Sneak Outta Class Wear Tight Spandex Pants Lewdly
Dodge Like Heck Worship Shub-Niggurath
Look Innocent Play Guitar Devastatingly
Pass Classes Without Ever Attending Sunbathe
Make Anything Taste Good Play Football
Swim Like A Fish Return From The Dead

Keep in mind that by buying a Knack means you want it to feature in the game, so if you buy Return From The Dead, expect to be killed. Remember also that just because you have a Knack in something doesn't make it easy (but might make the difference between impossibility and bare attainability).

Spells

Some Knacks, like Worship Shub-Niggurath and Actualized Psychic Potential, let you work magic. Which Ability is used to cast spells depends on what kind of magic it is (ie, it's up to you), but typically Worship is based on Standing, hermetic/intellectual magic is based on Erudition, and psychic power on Mojo. Competence is always an option, of course, although it will be monstrous Compentence.

In addition to giving you knowledge of whatever, each point you spend on such a Knack lets you cast one particular spell. You have to write up these spells before play, and get the GM's approval. For each spell you need to provide a description of what it does, how many people it does it do, what undoes it, and what you need to do to cast it; the GM will then decide how much Mojo and how much Sanity the spell consumes.

Many spells produce an object or substance which is later used to produce the effect of the spell, such as a potion that you can carry around and drink only when you need it. Each such object or lump of substance can be used only once, and the maximum number of them, totaled over all your spells, that you can be assumed to be carrying around at any random time is equal to your monstrous Competence. This is further limited by your Sanity: you only carry as much as you could make in one go without regaining any Sanity. This rule does not restrict you from making more during play (if you have the Mojo and Sanity to do it); it just regulates how much magic stuff you have handy when unexpectedly assaulted by the Shallow Ones.

If you're stuck for ideas, consult the list of sample spells, which also describes an algorithm the GM might use to determine Sanity and Mojo costs for spells you make up.

Flaws

Flaws are pretty much the inverse of Perks or Powers: hindrances to your pursuit of happiness that are not just low Abilities. Each point of Flaws taken gives you 1 extra point for Abilities and Knacks, just like a negative Perk/Power/Knack.

A point or two of Flaws is plenty for most characters, although the GM can of course allow more, or even require some.

Some possible Flaws:

Motivations

Every character needs a reason to get involved in the wackiness, instead of keeping her head down and entering a state of denial like a sane person. In the roleplaying world, we call these Motivations. Every SCOOS character should have at least two motivations: one positive (something you love or want) and one negative (something you hate or fear). If you're feeling particularly inspired, you can take a bonus third motivation, which can be either positive or negative. More than three motivations probably makes a character too complex for SCOOS.

These should be motivations central to your character, that you spend a considerable amount of time pursuing or avoiding, and will definitely react strongly to if the triggering person, object, or situation arises. If you're afraid of weasels, you should be running screaming from the prospect of entering the Weasel Warrens beneath the cafeteria, not looking vaguely nervous for a moment and then sauntering in. The GM is perfectly within his rights to ask for a Sanity roll if you try to act in opposition to your motivations, or to impose a penalty if you do so.

Description

This isn't one of those games that uses cheesy pseudoneurological technobabble to force you to draw a picture of your character (although you can if you want), but you should at least note down enough that you can consistently describe your character to other people.

You can get monster descriptions from any of the Lovecraftian source material (Mythos cards, CoC books, or Lovecraft's own writing), but keep in mind the caveats above about this being a humorous game in which romance plays a major part when deciding what your monster character looks like.

If your character has Powers or spells or whatever, you should decide what those look like too, so you can describe them excitingly (or nauseatingly, as the case may be).

Additional Background Information

This is sort of a catch-all section, for any information about your character you want to record. If you want to write up a detailed history of your life before you got to HPL High, this is where it would go. If you want to write down your most treasured possessions, this is where that would go. If you just want to scribble notes about the names of major demons you've pissed off... yah, you got it.


This file was last modified at 1559 on 23Aug99 by trip@idiom.com.