Or how I went about designing a 700 point esper weapon

When I first started running Kazei 5, I knew I was going to need a villain of 'epic' proportions. All good anime have at least one major bad guy... one who returns again and again to bedevil, fight and occasionally thwart our heroes episode after episode. Often, the villain is more popular than the heroes, mainly because he (or she) is given more depth of character (there is only one of him as opposed to five or more heroes). Classic villains in this style include Ashram from Record of Lodoss War, B-ko Daitokuji from Project A-ko, Goldie from Gunsmith Cats, Kato from Doomed Megalopolis, Anotsu from Blade of the Immortal, Shion Claris from Caravan Kidd and Jei from Usagi Yojimbo. As an interesting aside, in many cases the villain is not quite the dedicated-to-evil bad guy many of us would expect. Often the villain is a noble and honorable sort... the only problem is that they are working for the other side.

So, now that I knew who I needed to create, it was time to decide what to create. The nature of the game made certain decisions easy. Any long-term opponent for the heroes would need to be able to take on the whole team all by themselves. This effectively ruled out such character types as cyborgs, cybered street samurai and someone in a hardsuit. I hadn't fully fleshed out my mecha design rules, and besides fighting a mech was too impersonal from a character interaction point of view. This left me with the option of making the character a psychokinetic - which, upon reflection, was the most obvious choice of them all. A character like this could take on a whole team, using Force Walls and Force Fields to absorb a great deal of punishment.

Now that I had a basic character concept (high-powered psychokinetic ala Akira) it was time to start defining the look and feel of the character. For starters, I knew the character was female. Why? Because the original team was composed of four male characters and I needed a strong female presence. Besides, anime is rife with powerful/competent female villain characters (B-ko - Project: A-ko, Goldie - Gunsmith Cats, Iczer 2 - Iczer 1/Iczer 3, Priotess - Record of Lodoss War, Rosa Cheyenne - Silent Möbius, Ryoko - Tenchi Muyo!, Sonnet - Blue Sonnet). She was also going to be tall and have long hair. The height matter was more of personal preference than anything else; anime females tend to be of regular height, and even the villains aren't necessarily that much taller than anyone else (a notable exception is Goldie from Gunsmith Cats, who stands a good 6' plus). On the other hand, the current team was composed of a number of fairly tall characters, and it would help if their main opponent could look them in the eye; she could would come across more imposing that way. As for the long hair, I felt that was a given. Anime being what it is, there are more women with waist length (or longer) hair in the anime genre than anywhere else I know of. Even the male characters are often long haired, with tresses falling well past their shoulders. And, of course, there is the color factor to consider. Anime is famous for its characters having green, blue, white, pink and orange hair, despite the fact that many of the characters are supposed to be Japanese (or at least, Asian). So, in very short order, my (as yet) unnamed psychokinetic stood 6'1" with snowy-white hair that fell to somewhere near her knees.

Okay, now I had a basic design, I needed an actual physical description. Here I will admit to liberal borrowing from my source material. I had recently read the final sequences of Johi Manabe's Caravan Kidd and had really fallen in love with the character design for Shion Claris. She was tall, long-haired (and a blonde to boot) and wore this wild costume consisting of broad pauldrons, a flowing cloak, thick officer's braid, and a ceremonial 'breastplate'. I had no idea what she had on under all of this, but I didn't care - she looked way too cool! So, the character gained a basic look (the cloak and shoulder plates) and a name: Shion.

I now had a name, but still, no character. Sitting down with a piece of paper I carefully began assigning characteristics. Her Strength had to be high in order to allow her to compete with cyborgs and characters in hardsuits. I gave her a 40, and then split the stat, making half of it "Does Not Effect Figured Characteristics". This gave her a reasonable (for the genre) 'normal' Strength of 20 and kept her figured characteristics (like Recovery and Stun) in line. Her Dexterity of 26 allowed her to compete with the heavily cybered. It wasn't an unreasonable number either, as some of the psychokinetic characters in Akira had reaction times much higher than the human norm. CON and BODY were a matter of taste, while her INT, EGO, PRE and COM were more specifically figured. I felt she need to be smart and strong willed, hard to impress and very beautiful. I will admit that her PRE was bumped up over time, as the initial value (23 or 25, I forget) was too low. The rest of her stats were assign based more on feel than any specific plan. Shion's Speed stat was initially 4, with a +4 "Only to use Multipower". Since then I've changed my mind about such forms of limited Speed, deciding that it's more trouble than it's worth, abusive, and Not a Good Idea. It also got Shion clobbered in a flight, which was not part of the design plan.

Having the finished creating her characteristics, I knew I was creating a monster. Shion was 200 points and we hadn't even gotten to her powers yet. Ooh boy...

Shion's powers were both easy and hard. I wanted her to have the classic anime psychokinetic powers; force blast, force field, flight, teleport etc, but actually getting the numbers right took a little doing. I liked the idea of a Multipower, since an Elemental Control would make her far too powerful (not to mention expensive). On the other hand, I did give her a Multipower far larger than any one of her powers, allowing Shion a great deal of flexibility when switching slots. There was no specific plan behind most of the slots, although I did make her Force Field Hardened in order to keep characters with AP attacks from hurting her, and made her Force Wall 24 DEF to stop tank shells. With the rest of the slots, I simply juggled the numbers until I had achieved vales that look good... a least on paper (I found it amusing that one of my play-testers announced "she is very well-designed and well-balanced, she should be able to take on Dr. Destroyer and stand a good chance of winning").

After setting up the Multipower, I had some fun creating her side-effect powers. This was where I really tried to bring the anime influences in. In many anime (especially Katshiro Otomo's Akira and Domu), psychokineitcs tend to wreck their environment almost as much as they do the enemy. Akira, Blue Sonnet, Domu, Harmaggedon and Kimagure Orange Road are just a few examples of this.

The next element of Shion's character, her equipment, spawned a great deal of interest on the mailing list I maintained to get feed back from play-testers. Some people felt it was odd for someone with so much power to even worry about armor and weapons, while others felt it made her more "real". My position was this wasn't a superhero character running around in a skin-tight outfit and nothing else, this was meant to be a realistic design. She carried the weapons because there may be times where she didn't want to use her powers, and wore the armor just in case her Force Field failed (or wasn't up).

I had now reached the hardest part of the character, the skills. Part of Shion's skill base was relatively easy, such as her Perks and Money, while others took some thought. I decided early on that she would need to be very competent (since she operated alone almost exclusively) and that she needed to know a little bit about everything. Dark Champions, with its KS: "World" skills came in very useful, as it gave me an idea on how to express Shion's extensive knowledge of corporate society. After that, it was a matter of deciding what was logical for the character. Naturally, being a corporate mercenary, breaking and entering skills (such as Lockpicking, Security Systems and Stealth) were a must. The ability to move in the upper levels of corporate society were needed as well, especially if Shion was supposed to be the arrogant, aristocratic character I had initially pictured. This gave me Bureaucratics, Conversation High Society and Streetwise. Her languages were selected to represent both the language of cyberpunk business (Japanese) as well as languages common the world over (French and English). I threw in German since, at the time, I figured Germany to be a major technological producer.

Having completed the major skill lists, I then filled in a few for color. I wrote in Breakfall because I had given her Aikido, two City Knowledge skills for her two favorite places to work and some additional Knowledge skills. At this point, I totaled the character up... and found she was a whopping 700 points. A lot of points yes, but - in my opinion - a well-rounded 700 points.

Now it was time for Shion's disads, a task that virtually wrote itself. Most were easy, and I quickly filled in the Distinctive Features, Hunted, Phys Lim, Reputation and Watched. I decided on the Enraged since it seemed to fit the character (and the anime genre; one sure way to piss-off an anime villain is to actually cut them). Finally, I was left with the most important part: the Psych Lims. Shion's most important feature was her arrogance. Her nickname was to be "The Empress" (thus betraying her origins in Caravan Kidd), and I wanted a personality to match. She was written to be arrogant, self-centered, disdainful of 'normals' (ie. non-psychokinetics) and elitist in attitude. After that, I tossed in greed (to explain why she did what she did) and her Code of Honor, which related back to her self-image. As the "Empress" she had to live up to the image that everyone else had created for her, meaning she couldn't allow herself to give up or fail.

A little fine tuning here and there and Shion Nys, The Empress, was complete.

So... how did all this work out?

The origin (as presented above on the character sheet) was developed slowly as the campaign progressed. During the course of the game, both myself and several of the players wrote a lot (I mean a lot) of game fiction. Interludes, diary entries, mission notes, scenario introductions and full-scale stories were sent via e-mail to the various players associated with the game. I used this opportunity to explore and flesh out Shion's background (as well as the background of other characters in the game). Early on I had determined that Shion came from rather humble beginnings, and a great deal of her personality and public image came from her attempts to cover up her origins. I made her an alcoholic (or, at least, an excessive drinker) to give her a 'human side'; to put a chink in her perfect, all-powerful public perception. Finally, on a whim, I introduced Shion's sister, a street-samurai by the name of Marta; a character that allowed me to further illustrate Shion's more human side and explore her personality. When it came time to fully flesh out the character for the Kazei 5 source book, all I had to do was write down everything I knew about Shion (in order) and I was done.

During the course of the game, Shion crossed paths with the PCs numerous times. She terrified at least one PC, inspired disgust and hatred in another and sympathy (of the 'that could be me' type) in a third. A fourth PC started out as her bitterest enemy, but, as of the last few runs, stands a good chance of becoming her lover, companion and ally.

One of my players informed me that with Shion, I had succeeded in creating a character that he had always strived (and failed) to introduce into a campaign; the idea of the 'honorable villain'. By this he meant a character that wasn't necessarily 'evil', but merely at cross purposes to the PCs. Shion wasn't a villain per say, but simply someone working for the 'other guys'. She didn't have to be fought, but instead could be dealt with, reasoned with and possible even talked out of doing what ever she was currently doing (as opposed to beating her up, the typical response in many supers games). A second player told me that Shion (and a second NPC known as Kitten) didn't come across as 'male'. When presented in the assorted side stories and interludes that accompanied the main adventures, both characters came across as female (or, as she put it: "They certainly aren't men"), which made me feel good about establishing the characters' personalities.

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