USR Wednesdays: A Package Of Specialisms

It only takes moments to create a Domino Writing-style (or really any) USR character, but the one part of character development that does require a little bit of time is coming up with Specialisms. They’ve been discussed before; remember:

Specialisms are what a character can do, or how he or she does it, in a way that’s appropriate to the setting.

This includes:

  • Skills (Climbing, Computers, etc.)
  • Natural abilities (Charming, Tough, etc.)
  • Supernatural abilities (Magic, Psionics, etc.)

But it also includes:

  • Races (Animal-Folk, Elf, etc.)
  • Traditional RPG classes (Gunslinger, Wizard, etc.)
  • Personality traits (Lone Wolf, More Interested In Machines Than People, etc.)
  • Setting-specific characteristics (Disgraced Member Of The Royal Family, Knight Of Eagle’s Watch, etc.)
  • Signature equipment (All-In-One Pocket Tool, Fast Car, etc.)
I'm a little of everything.
So many Specialism ideas…

The one thing a Specialism usually isn’t is a combat-specific ability: guns, swords, shields, and the rest is represented as weapons and armor and “purchased” with Combat Gear points. That said, there’s nothing wrong with a Specialism like Sharpshooter or A Dagger In Each Hand, to add to attacks, or other actions (a Sharpshooter is just as good at putting out a flickering candle from across a room as he is at taking out a bandit gang).

How can you get a character ready to play instantly? Try a Specialism package: One personality trait and two skills (or one skill and one class, if you’re playing in a setting with archetypes the players and game master all understand). That gives you some abilities to use in the adventure, and a little bit of background to make your character more than just a set of combat statistics.

Here’s a few more kinds of Specialisms that can be used to put that package together, borrowed from the great RPG Risus:

  • Adventuring necessities (Athletics, Persuasion, Observation, Driving, Technology, Medicine, Wilderness, Knowledge, Spying)
  • Degree of dedication (Master Of Martial Arts, Laser-Focused On Fire Magic, etc.)
  • Social and financial status (Billionaire, On The Streets, etc.)
  • Appearance (Dashingly Handsome, Scheming, etc.) — you can use celebrities or stock characters to help with Specialisms, too (Albert Einstein, Casanova, etc.)
  • Relationships (Father Figure, Falls In Love With All The Women, etc.)

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