In a roleplaying game, you—the player—take on the role of a character within a fictional world. You decide what your character thinks and does from moment to moment. Or, to be more accurate, what your character thinks and attempts to do—because success is certainly not guaranteed. The game host takes on the larger role of the world in which your character exists, including any friends (other than the characters of your fellow players) and enemies your character encounters.
Player’s characters within the When Shadows Rise game exist at two levels of reality. At one level, they are everyday people much like you and me, living their lives, working their jobs, pursuing their hobbies, hoping for happiness—until something evil interferes. However, at their core is a spiritual essence that runs as a thread through many such incarnations. Sometimes, one incarnation may gain glimpses into another, a “past life” or “future life.” Always, however, the thread of Light that runs through them all must play a subtle game to avoid drawing the notice of the Dark.
I. Spiritual Essence
The very first time you play the When Shadows Rise game, you must determine the nature of the spiritual essence that resides in all your lives. To do so, roll 1d13 and consult the following table. (You may choose, instead, with your game host’s approval.)
- Anarchist: The anarchist spirit holds forth that life thrives in disorder. It opposes order in virtually every form, with the intent of freeing beings from their self-imposed “fetters” of civilization. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the anarchist is the most uncommon aspect of the Archangel Metatron. (Note that playing the anarchist requires a deft hand. All too often, chaos becomes a pathway to the Dark.) Incarnations of this spirit tend to favor the color black, with silver elements.
- Rebel: The rebel spirit values its personal freedom above nearly everything else. While capable of joining group efforts, it does so only as a free agent, willing to cooperate but unwilling to take direct orders. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the rebel is an aspect of the Archangel Metatron. Incarnations of this spirit tend to favor the color black, with ruby elements.
- Trickster: The fun-loving trickster spirit perceives itself as a catalyst of change, primarily to keep things lively. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the trickster is the most common aspect of the Archangel Metatron. Trickster incarnations tend to favor the color black, with turquoise elements.
- Avenger: The avenging spirit is driven by a need to punish injustice, especially that perpetrated upon the innocent by the powerful. Incarnations of this character are perhaps the most likely to sacrifice themselves on a mission to defeat evil, although they do not sell their lives cheaply or foolishly. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the avenger is represented by the Archangel Uriel. Avenger incarnations tend to favor the color red.
- Champion: The champion spirit perceives itself as a defender of the innocent. Like the avenger, it is willing to sell its life in battle if necessary, but it is more likely to do so in protecting good than in pursuing evil. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the champion is represented by the Archangel Michael. Champion incarnations tend to favor the color orange.
- Helper: The helper spirit is one of healing, comfort, and friendship. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the helper is represented by the Archangel Raphael. Helper incarnations tend to favor the color yellow.
- Creator: The creator spirit is primarily concerned with generating beauty—whether in art, music, literature, culture, or other endeavors. This spiritual essence is perhaps most in tune with the balance of existence, having been central to the initiation of light and life in the universe. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the creator spirit is represented by the Archangel Gabriel. Incarnations of this spirit favor the color green.
- Visionary: The visionary spirit is the inspiration for philosophy, invention, and science. It is primarily concerned with transcendental truth. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the visionary is represented by the Archangel Remiel. Incarnations of this spirit favor the color blue.
- Scholar: The scholar spirit is the patron of science, being concerned with acquisition of knowledge and experience. In that effort, it creates schemas and codifications to explain the information it accumulates. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the scholar is represented by the Archangel Raziel. Incarnations of this spirit favor the color indigo.
- Leader: The leader spirit is adept at inspiring others to act together for the common good. Like oil in a machine, the leader smooths frictions within a group, enabling each member to best help with the current group task. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the leader is represented by the Archangel Raguel. Incarnations of this spirit favor the color violet.
- Prophet: The prophet spirit is most concerned with guiding other incarnations to goodness. A common quotation of a prophet might be, “You have missed the way. Let me show you.” In Judeo-Christian tradition, the prophet is the most common aspect of the Archangel Sariel. Incarnations of this spirit favor the color gray.
- Ascetic: The ascetic spirit is devoted to preserving its own purity. A quotation of an ascetic might be, “You have missed the way. Do not contaminate me.” Still, an ascetic character is capable of working with a group, as long as its needs for purity are respected. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the ascetic is another aspect of the Archangel Sariel. Incarnations of this spirit favor the color white.
- Zealot: Unwilling to accept its fleshly abode, the zealot takes a dedication to “purity” to the extreme. Incarnations of this spirit are disdainful of pleasure, and are careless of suffering in themselves or in others. A common quotation of a zealot might be, “You have missed the way. Repent or face damnation.” In Judeo-Christian tradition, the zealot is a rare aspect of the Archangel Sariel. (Note that as with the anarchist, playing the zealot requires care to avoid disrupting group efforts against the Dark—which is, of course, the greatest evil.) Incarnations of this spirit have no favor for any color, scorning ornamentation of any sort.
II. Spirit Name
Create a name for your spiritual essence (e.g. Chronos the Avenger).
III. Incarnation’s Social Role
Adventures in the When Shadows Rise game can occur in widely different settings of both time and space. Consequently, most new adventures will involve a different incarnation of your character. The first step in creating a new incarnation is to roll a d13 for (or choose) that character’s social role.
Next, roll 1d4 for (or choose) your current incarnation’s gender. Odd = male; even = female
There are four basic “abilities” by which every character in the When Shadows Rise game is rated, representing innate physical and mental strengths. To generate the beginning values or your current incarnation, roll 1d4+1 for each (or divide 14 points among them, to a maximum of 6 points in any one ability). Note: Each ability is also related to one suit of a deck of cards, as indicated below.
- ♣ Brawn (clubs)
- ♠ Grace (spades)
- ♦ Wits (diamonds)
- ♥ Will (hearts)
The base range for characters in the When Shadows Rise game is from 10 to 49 years old. To determine this initial age, roll 1d49 (1d4x10 + 1d9). (If the game host allows, you may choose an age in this range instead.)
VII. Psychic Ability
A common element of many horror tales is the involvement of psychic abilities. If psychic abilities are appropriate to the current adventure, draw 1 or 2 cards at random from the poker deck, at the game host’s discretion. If any are face cards or jokers, your character has some level of psychic ability, as follows:
- Jack: 1 level; add 5 years to your base age.
- Queen: 2 levels; add 10 years to your base age.
- King: 3 levels; add 15 years to your base age.
- Minor Joker: 1 level in 2 abilities determined by the game host; add 10 years to your base age.
- Major Joker: 1 level in 3 abilities determined by the game host; add 15 years to your base age.
(The added age represents years spent trying to contain your psychic ability.)
The suit of the face card determines the type of psychic ability your current incarnation exhibits:
- ♣ Telekinesis (clubs): the ability to manipulate objects with the mind.
- ♠ Teleporation (spades): the ability to instantaneously transport objects with the mind.
- ♦ Telesthesia (diamonds): i.e. clairvoyance, the ability to “read” inanimate objects
- ♥ Telepathy (hearts): the ability to sense the thoughts and feelings of living creatures.
Note 2: Keep any non-face cards for later use during play. (See “Using Poker Cards” in the “Randomizers” chapter.)
VIII. Life Force
Subtract your incarnation’s total age from 99 to determine how many points of “life force” remain to him or her. Life force is used to initiate psychic powers and may also be drained by creatures of the Dark.
IX. Health Points:
Use the following formula to determine your incarnation’s physical health: (Brawn + Will) x 2.
While “abilities” represent your incarnation’s basic aptitudes, “skills” represent his or her training and practice. Most task rolls (see the “Randomizers” chapter) involve an ability and a skill together. Choose skills appropriate to your incarnation’s social role (see step III, above). Skill levels are purchased from a pool of training points based upon the following formula: Wits + Will + Base Age (age before psychic skill adjustments).
The first level in each skill costs 1 point, the second costs 2 more points (for a total of 3), the third 3 more (for a total of 6), and so on. Maximum level is 5 in any skill.
Sleight of Hand
*Declare a specialty; others are at half that rating (round down).
Italics denote skills not available in all eras.
**3x per adventure: The first at Easy, the second at Average, and the third at Difficult