Mindjammer RPG: Genotypes and Extras
Last week we looked at the upcoming Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game very broadly, talking about the kinds of transhuman science-fiction games you can play. This week I’d like to drill down a bit into the details, and take a look at one of the ways in which Mindjammer uses the new Fate Core “Extras” rules.
When you create a Mindjammer character, you generally choose a culture, a genotype, and an occupation, which in turn help you define things like your high concept, trouble, skills, stunts, and contribute to your phase trio. In many ways you can view cultures, genotypes, and occupations as extras, although to be precise they’re aggregations of these.
This week’s preview contains four pages from Chapter 4: Cultures, Genotypes, and Occupations, showing some of the pregenerated genotypes you can select for your characters (guidelines are also provided, like most things, for creating your own). In the preview you’ll see sections from two genotype groups – synthetics, representing created life forms; and hominids, also known as homo variens, representing the many divergent spin-offs from homo sapiens found through Commonality Space and beyond. Mindjammer provides many more genotypes, but these are a good start to get a handle on how they use extras.
In Mindjammer, a genotype is basically your “race” or “species” – there are genotypes for humans, xenomorphs, hominids, installations, aliens, and so on. Your genotype describes the parameters of what your character is capable of, physically and mentally, and offers examples of the typical occupations he might choose, as well as typical aspects, skills, and stunts. They’re templates to help you create your character, as well as blueprints for the GM to quickly generate a representative NPC from that genotype.
Check out the “Installations” genotype on page 47. That’s the genotype you select if you want to play, for example, a sentient starship character, though you can play other installations, too – you could have a character who’s a space station, or a node mind operating a global Mindscape, or even a massive sky or star city, a grav tank, grav base, or more. In the Installations genotype you’ll see suggestions for occupations – you don’t have to choose one of these, but they’re a good place to start. Then you’ll see two entries for “Typical Enhancements” and “Mandatory Extras”. These are both extras in Fate Core terms – special stunts, skills, or aspects, or aggregations of two or more of these, which your character can take using his or her extras budget, and which represent abilities, equipment, etc, which are somehow fully or partly external to your character.First, enhancements. “Avatar” is actually a pretty good example – it’s a piece of gear, a remote-controlled, usually humanoid body which your starship character can use to interact with humans and other similar characters. It has its own skills, and even stunts, and your starship character can also use some of its own skills, as appropriate, through it (often this may require a stunt). An Installation is what we call a construct in Mindjammer, meaning it’s a large-scale artificial creation which acts on an entirely different scale to human-sized characters; constructs have their own skills and stunts, and use slightly different rules for actions. If you have a starship character, that means it can easily interact with other starships (and space stations, star cities, and so on), but might have difficulty easily interacting with something as small as a human. By buying an avatar extra, your starship character has a vehicle (literally) for interacting with humans, and using character skills.
Next, look at “Mandatory Extras”. This is as it sounds – the “Human” genotype is the norm in Mindjammer, and the further your character goes from this, the more likely it is that some of his abilities, and specially his extras, are going to be pre-decided. For extras, your starship character actually gets off pretty lightly; he must spend his extras budget’s aspect point on the Mindscape Instance extra, which is basically the mechanical / installation version of the Mindscape implant – it connects your starship character to the Mindscape, but also gives him a small portable version of the Mindscape he can transport in his hull, which can be useful in missions beyond the Commonality Frontier.
Below that, you’ll see one more “mandatory spend” for an installation character – this time an aspect. If you’re an installation, you must take the “Exotic Transhuman Intelligence” aspect, or something derived from it, as one of your aspects. You might be able to roll it up in your high concept (in fact, this particular aspect is easy to do that with), but either way you must incorporate it into your character sheet.
Some genotypes have more onerous mandatory spends: the Chembu, also on page 47, must spend 3 aspects and 1 stunt on abilities determined by their genotype, and they also get a flaw, a negative aspect, in addition to their usual aspects.
Extras are a very versatile tool in Fate Core; using them for “external” abilities such as genurgic modifications, mechanical enhancements, and equipment is an easy and obvious way of using them, and Mindjammer‘s “Extras” and “Technology” chapters provide lots of examples of these. But there are other cool things you can do with extras, too – a couple of weeks ago we looked at Max Proffitt’s “starship extra” for the Rosemary Princess as an example.
In our next preview, we’ll take a look at occupations, and how they incorporate extras more broadly into your character.
This week’s preview’s art is by the awesome Andreas Schroth, whose work graces many of the pages of Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game.