Dresden Files: Shades of Gray
Character creation in The Dresden Files RPG is broken down into three parts: Aspects, Skills, and Stunts/Powers.
Aspects are the first stage and most important. They are often used in play and are used in creation to define who your character is. Each PC has seven aspects: High Concept, Trouble, Background (where you come from), Origin (what made you who you are), First Case, Crossover 1, and Crossover 2. Aspects are Compelled whenever the GM offers you a fate point in exchange for the Aspect creating some problem or narrative consequence for you. You can then use fate points to Tag an Aspect and get a couple of different benefits to a relevant roll. Aspects are often short sayings or facts about your character but can sometimes refer to physical objects as well.
Your High Concept is a short phrase summing up your core character concept, i.e. The Chosen One, Last of the Jedi, Dark Knight Detective, etc.
Your Trouble is the main thing that creates problems for you. It can be internal (Seduced by the Dark Side) or external (Outlaw Vigilante, Enemy of the Empire). You want trouble to be pretty broad so it can crop up often and earn you fate points.
Background is who you were before you became what you are now. It’s mostly childhood but could also include something about your parents or other ancestors. For example, Harry Potter’s might be Saved by Love while Batman’s would be Son of Wealth.
Origin is the event or events that made you what you are now. It isn’t just your power source (that’s usually your High Concept) but what made you decide to do what you do. Spider-man’s Origin Aspect would be With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.
First Case is your first major story (as if your character was in a book or TV series) that sets the tone for your character. The Dresden Files book recommends that each player come up with a naming system for their cases such as ‘song titles from a particular band or genre’, ‘rhyming pairs words’, or ‘lines from famous literature’. That’s not really necessary but you should at least name your cases. The Aspect can be anything that plays a clear role in the story even if it existed before. So for example, Luke Skywalker’s First Case Aspect might be My Father’s Lightsaber while Bruce Wayne finishes Batman Begins with the Aspect of Master Your Fear.
Crossover 1 and Crossover 2 are when your character is a part of another PC’s story and gains something from the experience. Basically this is another character’s second case but you get the aspect from it instead. You should work with the other player to figure out the story. This also helps to explain how everyone knows each other before the game begins so the crossovers should at least bond everyone within two or three degrees of separation at most.
Here’s an example of creation with some examples for each part.
Name: Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds
High Concept: Renegade Starship Captain
Compelled – Since Serenity isn’t exactly a reputable ship, Mal has few options when it comes to hiring a crew and has to take on a doctor with an unstable sister and a selfish mercenary.
Tagged – When Serenity is being pursued by a crime lord he owes money to, Mal tags this aspect to come up with a good place to hide.
Trouble: Find a job, Keep flying
Compelled- With Serenity in dire need of fuel, Mal is looking at few options for jobs. The only one that’ll pay the bills means robbing a well-armed train for a psychopath.
Tagged- When the shit hits the fan, Mal is able to tag this aspect in his desperation to finish the job and save his crew
Background: I Aim to Misbehave
Story: Raised by his mother and about 40 ranch hands on the planet Shadow, Mal grew up with a hard life. He never found much fondness for the Alliance or authority types in general.
Compelled- Mal is undercover as an Alliance recruit when a callous Alliance Officer orders him to shoot an unarmed civilian for being rebellious.
Tagged – Mal is being interrogated an Alliance officer and tags this aspect to withstand through his distaste for such men.
Origin: You Never Leave Serenity
Story: Mal joined the Browncoats against the Alliance in the Unification War. He killed lots of folks and saw a lot of men, good and bad, die. He led troops and fought like Hell until the Browncoats surrendered at Serenity Valley. It left an impression and broke Mal’s faith. He named his ship Serenity as a way of holding on to the past.
Compelled – While enjoying a drink at a bar, a couple of thugs start hassling Mal about the Unification War.
Tagged – The Operative tries to paralyze Mal with a strike to a nerve cluster but Mal tags the aspect to counter that maneuver, saying that nerve cluster got taken out in the war.
First Case (“The Train Job”): Honor Among Thieves
Story: Mal and the crew are hired to rob a train. After things go south, he and Zoe are trapped in town where they find out the train was carrying badly needed medical supplies. Mal decides to give the supplies back, give back the money he was given for the job, and deal with the wrath of the psychopathic crime lord that hired him.
Compelled- Mal finds out that the equipment he and the crew stole is actually medicine for a town that desperately needs it. If he returns it, he’s going to have a very angry psychopath on his hands but if he doesn’t, he’s got to live with the guilt of taking from those in need.
Tagged- After turning in the medicine, Mal tags the Aspect to get the Alliance official searching for the thieves who stole the medicine to look the other way after he returns the stuff.
Crossover 1 (“Shindig”): Nobody Disrespects Inara But Me
Story: Mal and Kaylee accompany Inara to meet a wealthy and respectable client (for once) at a high society function. While there, a rich man insults Inara and Mal decks him. Mal then finds himself in a duel for his life. He manages to win against the highly skilled swordsman through some unorthodox fighting (tagging “I Aim to Misbehave”). Mal once again denies having feelings for Inara.
Compelled – Inara is held hostage by an Alliance Operative.
Tagged- Mal tags this aspect to actually give Inara a bonus when she’s trying to cut a deal to get Serenity through some red tape, frustrating her enough to negotiate just to get away from Mal for awhile.
Crossover 2 (“War Stories”): With friends like these
Story: Mal and Wash go on a mission after Wash refuses to let Mal go on another mission with Zoe. Since the mission is a milk run, Mal reluctantly agrees to try to sooth things out with his pilot. Unfortunately, Niska returns looking for revenge. Wash and Mal are tortured but eventually saved through the efforts of Zoe and the crew.
Compelled- Jayne considers selling out River and Simon but changes his mind when the Alliance tries to cheat him. Mal is forced to decide what to do with his crew member.
Tagged – While Mal makes a lot of enemies, the people he befriends will stick up for him. When he inadvertently challenges a spoiled rich brat to a duel, Mal’s wealthy client offers to be a second and help Mal learn to fence.