Creating An Extra
Making an extra starts with a conversation. This should happen during game creation or character creation.
Your group needs to decide on the following:
- What elements of your setting are appropriate for extras?
- What do you want the extra to do?
- What character elements do you need to fully express the extra’s capabilities?
- What are the costs or permissions to have extras?
Once you’ve figured all that out, look to the examples in this book to help you nail down the specifics and create a write up similar to what can be found here. Then you’re done!
Chances are that you already have some ideas for extras in mind after your work in game creation; pretty much every fantasy game has some kind of magic system in it while a game about superheroes needs powers. If the action revolves around some important location—like the characters’ starship, a home base, or a favorite tavern—consider defining that as an extra.
By nature, extras tend to steal a lot of focus when they’re introduced—gamers have an inveterate attraction to whiz-bang cool options, so you should expect them to get a lot of attention by default. When you’re talking out options for extras, make sure you’re prepared for the elements you choose to become a major focus in your game.
Amanda and company talk about extras for Hearts of Steel.
Zird’s magic (and the magic of the Collegia Arcana) comes up as an obvious first choice, as do Landon’s martial arts. Lenny and Ryan both note that they’re not interested in lengthy lists of spells or combat moves. Also, because it’s a fantasy game and magic exists, they agree that enchanted items need consideration.
Going over the game’s issues and locations, they decide not to worry about making any of those into extras—they’re supposed to be traveling from place to place anyway, and the characters don’t have enough of a stake in any of the organizations to make it worthwhile.
What Extras Do
In broad terms, sketch out what you want the extras to be able to do, compared to what your skills, stunts, and aspects can already do by default. Also, think about what the extra looks like “on camera.” What do people see when you use it? What’s the look and feel of it?
In particular, consider these points:
- Does the extra influence the story, and if so, how?
- Does the extra let you do things that no other skill lets you do?
- Does the extra make your existing skills more useful or powerful?
- How would you describe the use of the extra?
This is an important step because it may reveal that the proposed extra doesn’t actually contribute as much as you thought, which allows you to either add more stuff or remove it from consideration.
For Zird’s magic, the group decides that they want to keep things pretty low-key and abstract—it’s just another method of solving problems, like Landon’s martial arts or Cynere’s swordthiefery (which Lily insists is a technical term)—a highly trained wizard is to be feared as much as a highly trained swordsman, but no more.
They agree that it influences the story for several reasons. They imagine vistas full of unknowable magical effects and plot devices for Zird to stick his nose in, as well as the Collegia’s territorial desire over the lore.
They decide that Zird’s magic will let someone interact with the supernatural in a way that other people simply can’t do, and can affect and harm people, but again, they stress that it shouldn’t be more powerful than other skills. Basic effects would just use the normal four actions, and rituals will use challenges, contests, or conflicts as appropriate.
Specifically, they rule out the presence of world-altering “high” magic, creating things out of thin air, firebombing whole cities, and so forth. If those things exist, it’s a thread for a scenario, and the product of several people making huge sacrifices.
The group doesn’t see magic influencing other skills much, which helps it keep its compartmentalized nature.
Using Zird’s magic is all about the weird. Ryan imagines making up odd lists of requirements and ingredients that don’t really follow a consistent pattern—some things he can do quickly, others he can’t, and it’s all about dramatic interest in the moment to determine which is when. The group is comfortable with this looseness, so they assent.
Assigning Character Elements
Once you have the general idea down, figure out what parts of a character you need to make up the extra.
- If the extra influences the story, then it should use aspects.
- If the extra creates a new context for action, then it should use skills.
- If the extra makes skills more awesome, then it should use stunts.
- If the extra can suffer harm or be used up somehow, then it should take stress and consequences.
An extra might use an aspect as a permission—requiring a certain character aspect in order to use the other abilities of the aspect. Your character might need to be born with some trait or have obtained some level of status to make use of the aspect. Or the extra might provide a new aspect that the character has access to, if it’s the extra itself that is important to the story.
There are a few ways an extra can use skills. The extra might be a new skill, not on the default skill list. It could re-write an existing skill, adding new functions to the skill’s four actions. The extra might cost a skill slot during character creation or advancement in order to be obtained. It’s possible that an extra might include one or more existing skills that the character has access to while controlling the extra.
Writing up an extra as a stunt works just like building a new stunt. One extra could have a few stunts attached to it—it may even include the skills those stunts modify. Extras that include stunts often cost refresh points, just as stunts do.
An extra that describes some integral ability of a character might grant a new stress track—beyond physical and mental stress—directly to that character. An extra that is a separate entity from the character—such as a location or a vehicle—might have a physical stress track of its own. You might also designate a skill that influences that stress track—just as Physique provides extra stress boxes and consequence slots for physical stress.
With a firm grasp of what the extra does, you’ll choose which character elements best reinforce those ideas in play and how you’ll use them.
For Zird’s magic, the group decides that it should use aspects and skills for sure—there’s a clear story influence, and magic creates a new avenue of dealing with problems. They don’t want it to enhance other skills, but rather stand alone, so it doesn’t use stunts. They don’t envision any kind of “mana pool” or other resource associated with it, so it doesn’t use stress or consequences.
Permissions and Costs
A permission is the narrative justification that allows you to take an extra in the first place. For the most part, you establish permission to take an extra with one of your character’s aspects, which describes what makes your character qualified or able to have it. You can also just agree it makes sense for someone to have an extra and call it good.
A cost is how you pay for the extra, and it comes out of the resources available on your character sheet, whether that’s a skill point, a refresh point, a stunt slot, or an aspect slot.
Fortunately, because extras use character elements that are already familiar to you, dealing with costs is fairly simple—you just pay what you’d normally pay from the slots available to you at character creation. If the extra is a new skill, you just put it into your pyramid like normal. If it’s an aspect, you choose one of your five aspects as the one you need. If it’s a stunt, you pay a refresh point (or more) to have it.
GMs, if you don’t want players to choose between having extras and having the normal stuff available to a starting character, feel free to raise the number of slots all PCs get at character creation to accommodate extras—just make sure that each PC gets the same amount of additional slots.
Amanda establishes that Zird should have an aspect reflecting that he’s been trained in the Collegia’s magic, as a permission. Zird already does, so that’s a non-issue.
As for cost, because his magic is going to be primarily skill-based, she’s just going to make him take the magic-using skill and put it in his skill pyramid. Further, in order to save effort, she decides that the skill in question is going to be just plain old Lore, and suggests that anyone with the appropriate training and a high Lore skill could call on magic, rather than it being an issue of genetics or birthright. Ryan likes this, because it’s simple and down to earth, and agrees.
Once you’ve got all the elements together, you can make a writeup for your extra. Congrats!
Extra: Collegia Arcana Magic
Permissions: One aspect reflecting that you’ve been trained by the Collegia
Costs: Skill ranks, specifically those invested in the Lore skill (Normally, you’d probably also charge points of refresh, because you’re adding new actions to a skill, but Amanda’s group is lazy and is handwaving it in favor of group consensus.)
People who are trained in Collegia magic are able to use their knowledge to perform supernatural effects, adding the following actions to the Lore skill:
OOvercome: Use Lore to prepare and perform magical rituals successfully, or to answer questions about arcane phenomena.
CCreate an Advantage: Use Lore to alter the environment with magic or place mental and physical impediments on a target, such as Slowed Movement or A Foggy Head. Characters can defend against this with Will.
AAttack: Use Lore to directly harm someone with magic, whether through conjuring of elements or mental assault. Targets can defend against this with Athletics or Will depending on the nature of the attack, or Lore if the target also has magical training.
DDefend: Use Lore to defend against hostile magics or other supernatural effects.
Extras and Advancement
Extras advance a lot like their base elements do, according to the milestones in The Long Game. That gives us a set of base guidelines:
- An extra’s aspect can change at any minor milestone, or at a major milestone if it’s tied into your high concept.
- An extra’s skill may advance at any significant or major milestone, provided the move is legal, and you can get new ones at those milestones as well. You can also swap skill ranks between another skill and your extra at a minor milestone, like any other skill.
- An extra’s stunt may advance at a major milestone when you get a refresh point. This might mean you add a new stunt effect to an existing extra or buy a new stunt-based extra. You can also change out a stunt-based extra at a minor milestone, like you can with any other stunt.
Of course many extras use more than one element. It is recommended that you allow the players in your game to develop the separate pieces of such an extra at different milestones, in order to minimize confusion during play.