by guest writer Quentin Long
©2006 Quentin Long
Editors note: Unfortunately, Wanderer (the real columnist here) has been unreachable over the past several weeks. Given his admirable customary level of reliability, we rather suspect this is due to Internet service outages caused by the recent storms. Whatever the reason, we wish him well, and weve chosen to pinch-hit for him this issueYr obedt editr, Quentin
Theres a not-inconsiderable degree of overlap between the furry community and RPGers (i.e., people who play Dungeons & Dragons, or Champions, or other such pencil and paper role-playing games). Thus, weve decided to do something a bit different this issue: Were going to take an existing character whos tolerably well-known, and were going to write him up as if he were a character in a role-playing game. As you may already have deduced from the title of this column, were going to stat out the TBP character called Jubatus. As for the RPG rules well use, theres really only one choice: the HERO System. This rule-set is flexible enough to handle bloody near anything a body might throw at itand frankly, were going to need that kind of versatility.
This column is written under the presumption that its reader will have a basic degree of familiarity with the HERO System rules. For those of you who lack any such familiarity, dont panic! HERO Games, the company which produces this rule-set, offers some free-for-the-downloading PDF (i.e., Adobe Acrobat) files that can help you get up to speed: Intro to the HERO System (2.7 MB), and Two-page Combat Summary (about 470K).
The Readers Digest Condensed Version: When youre creating a character in HERO System, you start out with a generic, middle-of-the-road persona, and you have a certain number of character pointsthe exact number is determined by the Game Master (GM) of the campaign youre making your character forthat you can spend to enhance that personas abilities. You can spend these points on building up their physical characteristics (strength, dexterity, etc), on superhuman abilities (magical spells, superpowers, etc), on skills (knowledge of how to program computers, martial arts, etc), and various other things. If you dont have enough points to pay for all the things youd like your character to have, you can get more points by assigning Bad Stuff to your character.
Since Jubatus was never intended to be used in a role-playing campaign, weve decided not to care about whether or not he ends up being a playable character; were just going to stat him out and let the points fall where they may.
Jay Nelson Xavier, far better known as Jubatus Acinonyx, is a cheetah-derived animorph SCAB. He is what some refer to as a high-degree animorph in that his body is, in purely physical terms, almost identical to that of a normal cheetah; the only significant points of difference are (a) an oversized braincase, and (b) the digits on his forepaws are a great deal longer and more dexterous than those of a normal cheetah (which isnt saying much
). Since Jube is basically a normal cheetah, physically speaking, any attempt to write him up must necessarily reflect cheetah traits.
Jube is also a chronomorph SCAB, i.e., he doesnt age in the usual one second per second manner. Unlike many other chronomorphs, whose anomalous aging is strictly a biological phenomenon, Jube actually manipulates Time, making it run faster or slower. This is good, because Jube lives at a rate 6 times faster than the normal world around himthat is, hes permanently stuck at what he calls a tempo of 6. If he were unable to slow down Time, he would be incapable of interacting with other people in anything even vaguely like a normal fashion. Jube refers to his Time-shifting ability as upshifting or downshifting, depending on whether hes using it to speed up or to slow down. Since this power actually does affect the flow of Time, it has certain physical consequences that should be accounted for in his writeup.
In the TBP setting, it is quite common for victims of SCABS to be the victims of prejudice from bigoted members of the norm community. There is also at least one extremely widespread hate group, Humans First, whose members make a point of going out of their way to harass and injure SCABs. Thus, obvious SCABs, such as Jubatus, have the Disadvantages Social Limitation: SCAB and Hunted: Humans First.
Jubatus is one of those animorph SCABs who does not suffer any ill effects from age. He should, strictly speaking, but his supercharged metabolism heals that sort of damage faster than the ravaging of aging can inflict it. Thus, Jube has the Power Life Support: Longevity (Does Not Age).
Jubatus is not a healthy person, psychologically speaking. He has never truly accepted what SCABS did to him, and his adamantine denial of (this particular aspect of) Reality is the root of a number of highly intense personal quirks. In the HERO System, undesirable personality traits can be represented by the Psychological Limitation Disadvantageor, in Jubes case, several Psych. Lim.s: Self-Loathing, Antisocial, and Code vs. Causing Injury (by analogy with the Code vs. Killing that many superheroes have). He also has an ingrained habit of taking lots of gods names in vain, most notably those of the Greek and Norse pantheons; thus, Jube has Distinctive Features: Polytheistic Blasphemer.
Jubatus is a highly competent individual, which Ive represented by giving him Overall Skill Levels that can be applied to any task; Deduction; and Inventor. As a successful freelancer, he has Trading and Bureaucratics. Jube prefers to think of himself as a technical writer, and his expertise in that field is why he has Professional Skill: Technical Writer; Knowledge Skills: Writing and Graphic Design; and Cramming. Hes probably better known as a troubleshooter, in which capacity he exploits his Professional Skill: Troubleshooter; Electronics; Computer Programming; and various other technical skills. Jubes ability to perceive and react with superhuman speed makes him an excellent driverthus, Combat Driver. He reads a lot of stuff, hence he has Knowledge Skill: General Trivia. His readings include the holy books of various religions (how else could he be a polytheistic blasphemer?), hence he has Knowledge Skill: All the Worlds Religions. Unlike most Americans, Jubatus is not monolingual; he has basic fluency and literacy in French and Spanish, not that he gets many opportunities to put these languages to use. And given the number of times hes filed complaint reports with the police, because of property damage inflicted by anti-SCAB bigots, Jube has picked up a bit of Criminology.
Characteristics, aka statistics or stats, are numbers which measure some the innate capabilities of a character in a role-playing game. In Dungeons & Dragons, there are six stats; in HERO System, there are fourteen.
Since Jubatus is all but indistinguishable from a normal cheetah, appearance-wise, he has the Disadvantage Distinctive Features: Cheetah. His forepaws are somewhat less functional than human hands; this means he has Physical Limitation: Paw-like Hands. Cheetahs have claws and fangs, but these built-in weapons are weak by comparison to those of most other predators, so Jube has 1D6 Hand Killing Attack (a significantly weaker attack than lions or tigers have). The claws could also help Jubatus climb things, by giving him a firmer grip on whatever surface, so he has the Power Clinging. His fur offers a bit of protection against injury, so he has the minimum amount of the Power Armor.
Cheetahs can reach a top speed of about 70 MPH, and they can maintain this impressive velocity for all of 10-15 seconds before theyre forced to slow down to avoid overheating. This is obviously the Power Runningbut how much Running? That all-out 70 MPH sprint is roughly (70 / 1.609 =) 112 KPH, which, in turn, is a bit over 31 meters per second. Converting to HERO System game-scale measurement, this works out to 16 inches per second. For humans, with a base SPD of 2 and therefore 6 seconds per Phase, that means 96"/Phase of Running. Since this is an all-out sprint, its got to be non-combat movement, which means Jube has 48" of Running.
While cheetahs cannot speak, they can produce an unusually wide range of sound effects, far beyond what most other cats are capable of. In fact, cheetahs can do bird calls of such fidelity that they actually use this ability as the basis of a hunting technique! Thus, Jubatus has the Power Images (Sound). Although Jubatus is technically incapable of normal speech, he can fake it by using his human intelligence to assemble appropriate sequences of sound effects. This ersatz speech is reasonably comprehensible, but it also sounds like nothing else most people have ever heard. Thus, Jubatus has Distinctive Features: Bizarre, Inhuman Voice.
In the HERO System, there is a large suite of Powers which fall into the category Enhanced Senses. As you might expect, cheetahs, like many other predators, have a number of these Senses.
Since SCABS altered Jubes brain a bit, he has some hard-wired cat-like behavioral traits. Most of them Im treating as Skills; these include Breakfall, Stealth, Shadowing, Mimicry, and Climbing. In addition, his instincts are continually watching for possible threats and if the instincts see something they dont like, Jubatus upshifts involuntarily. The realtime threat assessment is the Talent Danger Sense; the involuntary upshifting is the Disadvantage Accidental Change.
Jubatus lives 6 times faster than normal. Since a normal human has SPD 2, Jubatus therefore has SPD 12which means that from his point of view, each day is about 150 hours long (or longer, depending on how much upshifting he does in that particular day). Having that much more time on his hands than anyone else, it should come as no surprise that a perfectionist like Jube can (and does!) catch errors that few other people would, and even so, he still can finish up the job faster than anyone else. As a result, Jube can not only take on more contracts than anyone else, but he can get away with charging higher rates, too. Thus, Jube has the Perquisites Reputation (Very fast and competent), and Filthy Rich.
As you might expect, Jubes high-speed metabolism requires a vast quantity of calories; its been established that he tends to crash badly if he hasnt eaten anything in the past few hours. This is accounted for by the Disadvantage Dependence: Food and water consumed within the past 4 hours.
The best game-mechanic for this is that Jubatus has the power to vary his SPD. Downshifting isnt a problem; Jubatus exploits the fact that the HERO System rules allow any character to voluntarily reduce their SPD. Upshifting isnt a problem either, but thats only because Im not paying attention to point-totalsJubatus has some extra pips of SPD with the Limitation Costs Endurance. Since each pip of SPD costs 10 points, this gets expensive real fast. But, again, Im not worrying about the point-totals. So how much extra SPD does Jube have? Well, in his stories he can upshift as high as 40-odd times faster than normal, which means he should technically have 80-something extra pips of SPD. However, there just isnt any point to a SPD that obscenely excessive! Thus, Im only going to give him +12 SPD, which is enough that he can hit SPD 24. Is SPD 24 excessive? Absolutelybut (a) it's a great deal closer to sanity than a SPD of 80-odd, and (b) if he didnt have some degree of excess, he just wouldn't be Jube.
Jubatus Time-bending power has certain side-effects. Consider gravity: Normally, under Earths gravity it takes 1 second for an object to fall 16 feet. But when Jubatus is running faster or slower than normal, it could take that object significantly more or less time to complete that 16-foot fall (from his point of view, anyway)! In effect, gravity gets weaker when Jube upshifts, and stronger when he downshifts. The way Ive chosen to handle this is to give Jubatus some extra pips of STR which are only usable when his SPD is within a certain range of values. If Jube gains extra pips of STR when hes upshifting, should he not also lose pips of STR when hes downshifting? Yes, he should; thats why Ive given him -5 STR when SPD <6 as a Physical Limitation.
When Jubatus is running X times faster than normal, he percieves all waveforms (light and sound, mostly) as having doppler-shifted to 1/X their normal frequency. When hes running faster than normal (i.e., X > 1), this means high-frequency waveforms are getting dopplered down into the normal range of perception; when hes running slow (i.e., X < 1), low frequencies are dopplered up. Ive chosen to account for this by giving Jube some Enhanced Senses which are only usable when his SPD is within a certain range of values. Thus, Jube has Infrared Perception that only works when hes downshifted; Ultraviolet Perception, when hes upshifted a little; and N-Ray Perception (the HERO System answer to Supermans power of X-ray vision) when hes upshifted a lot.
Since Jube spends so much of his life in reduced gravity, hes learned to handle himself more than competently regardless of his current weight; this amounts to the Talent Environmental Movement (No penalties in reduced gravity).
When Jubatus is upshifted, he is quite capable of dodging bullets, which are often the only objects that he percieves as moving in the first place. Thus, Jube has the Power Missile Deflection (All Ranged Targets). And when hes really upshifted, he may even be able to pluck incoming missiles out of the air and toss them at other targets of his choosing; this is the Power Missile Reflection (Any Target), with the Limitation Not Against Heavy Missiles (i.e., if he doesnt have the strength to physically move the thing, he cant redirect its flight path).
And now, for your reading pleasure and edification, here is Jubatus HERO System character sheet:
|Total of Characteristics||232|
|3||Breakfall (DEX)||40||+4 Overall Skill Levels|
|1||Stealth (DEX) -- Familiarity (8=>)||3||Knowledge Skill: All the Worlds Religions (INT)|
|1||Shadowing (INT) -- Familiarity (8=>)||10||Knowledge Skill: General Trivia (INT+7)|
|3||Mimicry (INT); sounds, not speech||1||Language: Spanish (basic fluency)|
|3||Climbing (DEX)||1||Language: French (basic fluency)|
|1||Criminology (INT) -- Familiarity (8=>)|
|3||Professional Skill: Troubleshooter (INT)||5||Cramming (INT)|
|3||Professional Skill: Technical Writer (INT)||1||Inventor (INT) -- Familiarity (8=>)|
|3||Knowledge Skill: Graphic Design (INT)
|3||Knowledge Skill: Writing (INT)|
|3||Computer Programming (INT)|
|3||Electronics (INT)||3||Cryptography (INT)|
|3||Systems Operation (INT)||3||Bureaucratics (PRE)|
|3||Security System (INT)||3||Combat Driving (DEX)|
|112||Total of Skills|
|15||Filthy Rich: Net worth on the order of $10 billion|
|3||Reputation: Very fast and competent (the technical community, 14=>)|
|18||Total of Perquisites|
|32||Danger Sense (Works as a Sense, Out of Combat): PER + 10|
|4||Environmental Movement: No penalties in reduced gravity (including freefall)|
|3||Speed Reading (10*)|
|42||Total of Talents|
|7||(10)||Clinging (normal STR) --|
|-1/2||Requires a Skill Roll|
|160||(240)||+24 SPD --|
|84||||Characteristics: +42" Running (total of 48" Running)|
|7||(5)||Characteristics: +5 STR|
|+1||0 END Cost|
|-1/2||Only when SPD =>15|
|5||(5)||Characteristics: +5 STR|
|+1||0 END Cost|
|-1||Only when SPD =>18|
|4||(5)||Characteristics: +5 STR|
|+1||0 END Cost|
|-11/2||Only when SPD =>21|
|3||(5)||Characteristics: +5 STR|
|+1||0 END Cost|
|-2||Only when SPD =>24|
|9||||Enhanced Senses: +3 Enhanced Perception (All Senses)|
|5||||Enhanced Senses: Nightvision|
|3||(5)||Enhanced Senses: Infrared Perception|
|-1/4||Only when SPD < 6|
|3||(5)||Enhanced Senses: Ultraviolet Perception|
|-1/2||Only when SPD =>15|
|-11/2||Only when SPD =>21|
|3||||Enhanced Senses: Ultrasonic Perception|
|5||||Enhanced Senses: Discriminatory Smell|
|4||||Enhanced Senses: +4 Telescopic Vision|
|5||||Enhanced Senses: Tracking Scent|
|9||(15)||+1D6 Hand Killing Attack (fangs and claws)|
|20||||Images (Sonic), -5 to observers PER roll|
|5||||Life Support: Longevity (Does Not Age)|
|11||(20)||Missile Deflection (All Ranged Attacks)
|-1/4||Only when SPD > 12
|25||(30)||Missile Reflection (Any Target)|
|-1/4||Not Against Heavy Missiles|
|-11/2||Only when SPD =>21|
|385||Total of Powers|
|20||Distinctive Features: Bipedal cheetah (Not Concealable, Major Reaction)|
|10||Distinctive Features: Bizarre, Inhuman Voice (Not Concealable)|
|10||Distinctive Features: Polytheistic Blasphemer (Not Concealable)|
|5||Accidental Change: Involuntarily upshifts to a SPD of 13-24 (GMs choice, based on severity of threat) whenever his Danger Sense picks up on something (Common, Always)only worth 5 points because its practical consequences (i.e., he sometimes expends END when he wasnt expecting to) are rarely deleterious|
|20||Dependence: Food and water consumed within the past 4 hours (Very Common, Incompetence, 1 minute)i.e., Skills are penalized|
|20||Dependence: Food and water consumed within the past 4 hours (Very Common, Weakness, 1 minute)i.e., Characteristics are penalized|
|5||Physical Limitation: -5 STR when SPD <6 (All the Time, Slightly)since the cost of 5 pips of STR is only 5 points, it would be stupid for a lose 5 pips of STR Disadvantage to be worth more than 5 points|
|15||Social Limitation: SCAB (Very Frequently, Minor)|
|20||Hunted: Humans First (Less Powerful, Non-Combat Influence, Very Frequently)|
|15||Physical Limitation: Paw-like hands (Frequently, Slightly)|
|5||Physical Limitation: Cant Hear Sounds <100 Hz (Infrequently, Slightly)|
|5||Physical Limitation: Poor Color-Discrimination (Infrequently, Slightly)|
|25||Psychological Limitation: Code versus Causing Injury (Very Common, Absolute)|
|25||Psychological Limitation: Self-Loathing (Very Common, Absolute)|
|25||Psychological Limitation: Antisocial (Very Common, Absolute)|
|25||Psychological Limitation: Perfectionist (Very Common, Absolute)|
|250||Total of Disadvantages|