More Cepheus Character Creation Thoughts

~1000 words, ~ 5 min reading time

After my last Cepheus character ended up in prison for life, I decided to make a new one. And this character has me stumped.

This one had a career as a Noble for 20 years before becoming an adventurer. This reflected her very high Social Standing stat. Anyway, as part of character creation she ended up with 3 skill levels of Carousing. She has a few other skills with 1 point each, but carousing is definitely the high one.

And I have no clue what to do with her.

Now, part of this might be because I am awful at small talk myself, and, as such, I don’t understand how to make the “great at parties” skill actually useful in completing a mission.

This brings me to a broader point about Cepheus. Character creation in Cepheus is quite random, if you play by the book. Each characteristic has a random score. The player selects a career they think the character might be good at – but they can die or get fired pretty easily. Also, the specific skills you develop in that career are largely random. (You choose between a few lists, but you roll dice to determine which skill on that list you end up with.)

This is a big difference between Cepheus and most other systems, in my experience. With Dungeons and Dragons, for example, you decide on your concept, and then build the character to fit the concept. Thus, for example, you can find websites telling you how to build specific character (“Here’s how to build Lara Croft/Wolverine/Conan the Barbarian/etc. in D&D!”). The character comes first, and then you build the statistics to fit the character. With Cepheus, though, the statistics are basically random. Then, you have to figure out what kind of character you – or, more properly, the dice – created.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’ll often introduce some randomization when I create a character in another system. Randomization can provide inspiration. However, relying too much on randomization can result in a character like this one, where I just don’t know how to play her.

Of course, this isn’t just a me thing. It’s the nature of this particular system. Reading adventures in Cepheus Journal (a free online Cepheus fanzine) have given me some ideas about how one can “fix” this. One adventure I read started with the characters being trained. In the Cepheus system, “leveling up” is really just training specific skills. It takes a few in-game weeks to do it, so you can’t train if you’re working on an urgent mission – but if you have a couple months of down time you can add a level in a skill of your choice. So, in this one adventure I read, the party was hired by a salvage company who really need them to have a Pilot, Navigator, and Engineer at least. There’s no systemic guarantee that any party would have these skills. So, the salvage company hires the group and trains them for 2 months (which should be enough for the characters to each get a level in a skill) before they take on their first job. This seems like a reasonable way around this. The trick is figuring out how to do it solo.

Which may sound weird. I mean, I’m playing SOLO – why don’t I just decide to add levels as needed? It’s not like there are other players that will be upset by this. It’s purely myself that is standing in the way. I think the issue is that, to me, with my play style, this feels like “cheating” – mostly because I have a hard time thinking of an in-character reason to do this.

Another complicating factor comes from my own style of play. RPG soloists all approach the process of soloing somewhat differently. For example, while some soloists like to play a party of 2-3 characters (maybe even 4), I tend to be a “true” soloist – in that I only want to have one player character be the focus that everything revolves around. Naturally, for a sci fi game like Cepheus this is a bit challenging. The system is designed with a “crew” in mind. (Example: there’s actually a Cepheus supplement called SOLO specifically designed for solo play – and, from what I gather, it involves the player controlling a *crew* rather than a *character*.) So, what can a crew of one do? (Note: by the book, a crew of one can’t actually fly an interstellar ship.) Or, alternatively, how can I introduce other crew members but keep them as side characters? I mean, I suppose I can keep them a bit faceless…

What I think it comes down to, ultimately, is that I need to do more character development for this character *before* I set her off on adventures. I think the previous characters I’ve played all had some set of skills that included enough “common” skills that I could basically draw up any adventure, and they’d at least be able to give it a shot. That just feels less like the case here.

Which I suppose may be a good thing. I often end up with player characters that are a bit directionless. So, their path tends to be more determined by their skills and what opportunities happen to show up than by any intentional *purpose* on their part. I think I’m going to have to reverse that, since the skills aren’t providing good inspiration. I need to get more into this character’s head and really try to come up with something she wants and will be working toward. This could justify things like acquiring new skills, for example. Naturally, I’ll let y’all know how things work out.

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