It turns out that spending 3 weeks on a pirate side-project is exactly the mental break I needed to feel inspired to work on Karma in the Dark again. I've spent the last few days reviewing the completed chapters and chipping away at the incomplete ones.
Version 4.0 is going to come with the long-promised antihero playbooks. When a PC would die or be forced to retire from becoming too jaded, they can come back as an antihero instead.
[Rule summary after the break]
ouThis is the current summary of the antihero creation process. The exact special abilities are still being finalized (about 2/3rds done right now). In the advancement section it mentions "jaded powers"; these are an antihero specific set of powers, regardless of playbook, that allow you to do cool/powerful things...that will likely push push forward your team's conformity tracker (formerly karma tracker).
Needless to say, this is still rough and in development/needing testing:
You should be dead. Somehow you're alive. Which means someone, somewhere, still has a use for you . . . and your life belongs to them now.
When a PC would normally die or become fallen to corruption, you can choose to make them an antihero playbook instead. Antiheroes are fundamentally different from standard characters and the PC's original playbook. When a PC becomes an antihero, they go through a recreation process.
1. Choose an antihero playbook.
Each soul has an antihero playbook. You can select the playbook that matches the original soul or your PC can be changed to a different soul in this process.
Cyber Souls: The Refit
You are an artificial copy of the original PC. Are you a synthetic AI, a robot, a clone, or an extensive cyborg? Discuss with your GM an artificial replicant that matches your group's setting.
One thing is true: the Refit maintains your personality, general appearance, and some memories...but it is all programmed. And only your programmer knows your true purpose.
Magic Souls: The Summoned
You were on your way to ... somewhere else, when a powerful force yanked you back into the physical realm. They bound you to an earthly form, and now you're stuck here, until you find a way to cut free or they banish you back into oblivion. Your vessel might be a healed version of your original body, or you could inhabit another creature of similar sentience. How much you know about your summoner is up to you and the GM, but you can never forget the way their power binds you to this life.
Mortal Souls: The Haunted
No one survives what you survived. A black site ... a wilderness ... a massacre ... a twisted research lab ... what you saw can never be described to anyone. They wouldn't understand, and the ones who spared your life wouldn't appreciate it either.The memories that haunt you cannot be killed or fixed. They come back to you: in a nightmare, in a shadow, in misheard words, in the stare of a stranger on the street. The one that captured you and the angel who saved you might be the same person, or different. Either way, you owe your life to another.
2. Select your inherited abilities.
Some of your original special abilities carry over, even if you changed souls.
Same soul: Select two special abilities from your original character to keep.
New soul: Select one special ability from your original character to keep and one special ability from a disciplines under your new soul. This represents the fundamental shift that accompanied your darkening into an antihero.
EXAMPLE: Hexlore started out the game as an Occultist. When her character died, she reviewed the playbooks and became interested in the Haunted option, which is a mortal soul playbook. She decided to become a mortal soul. She reviewed her playbook and decided to keep the special ability "Curse" because she could see her bitter, new antihero leaning more into the dark powers, even as she loses all other magic. She reviewed the mortal soul disciplines to select her new special ability. She decided to pick "Hunting Grounds" from the Shadow, which allows her to hide a body to avoid taking the heat. She decided her character learned all about death and making people disappear during her harrowing experience.
3. Transfer your attitude ability.
You usually keep the same attitude ability. If your experiences have fundamentally changed the character's personality, you can talk with your GM about picking a different attitude ability to reflect this shift.
4. Transfer action ratings.
The trauma of your past damaged your memory and slowed some reflexes. Select three action dots from your original PC to lose. All of the other action dots are transferred onto the antihero playbook.
Each antihero playbook starts with two action dots assigned. If any action would have more than 3 dots after the transfer, assign the extra dot to a different action. (Unless your team has the safe house upgrade that allows one attribute to have actions with 4 dots, then only reassign actions that exceed that 4-dot limit).
5. Choose your master and learn of their agenda.
Each antihero is under the control of another power. The Refit was created by a programmer; the Summoned was brought back by a summoner; and the Haunted was saved by an angel. Look at the original PC and team's existing contacts to select a likely choice and record their name.
Your master is pursuing an agenda and they are using you. Discuss the master's agenda with the GM. You will know the agenda as a player, but the antihero character does not know it consciously...at least at first. The PC will often make decisions and take action that furthers this agenda without knowing it; when the PC furthers their master's agenda, they gain xp.
6. Choose your drive and new personal code.
You lost your desire to rebel. Something else drives you now. It may serve to offer comfort...or distraction.
Once you choose your drive, add a detail of how it applies to you. For example, "Vice: gambling," or "Challenge: trial by combat," or "Justice: for children," or "Nostalgia: food from childhood."
The loss of your rebellious spirit also means you lost your old personal code. Write a new code based on your new drive. It retains the same format: "If _____ then I will always _____."
Someone with a gambling addiction might choose: “If I’m presented with long odds, I will always take them.”
Someone with a need for competitive challenge might right: “If I see someone more powerful than me, I will always try to best them.”
7. Describe your form.
Now that you have chosen your antihero playbook, choose your new appearance. You can return to the same physical appearance as the original PC or something different...in some cases, very different. As you decide on your antihero's appearance, think about how it will affect the PC's return to the team.
8. Select your items.
You barely made it out alive--or ran from you life when you became disillusioned. What you kept had to be carried with you. Review your original character's old item list. Select 9-load worth of items to keep, from any combination of playbook gear or general character gear.
You spend downtime acquiring more items, but they will still be temporary assets. You will never be able to hold onto more than 9 load again; you need to be ready to move at any moment...for yourself or your master, you aren't quite sure.
9. Adjust your relationships.
You came back with a chip on your shoulder...or didn't let people even know you were back until an awkward run-in...or maybe you blamed them for what happened to you. However it happened, you lost all of your friendly contacts. Change any bonds to an equal number of grudges.
At the same time, your new darkness changed how two of your old rivals saw you. Maybe they liked that you had to ask for help, or they found your black humor to be an improvement. Pick two contacts with grudges against your original character; inverse the relationship, so you now have an equal amount of bond with them.
10. Remain jaded.
Copy over the same jaded instincts from your original character. If you became an anti-hero from exceeding your max jaded boxes, you can replace 1 of the jaded instincts with a different one.
Anti-heroes cannot become more jaded than they are, so you will stay at this max level, still able to gain xp when you roleplay those qualities. When you antihero advances, you have the option of gaining a new special ability related to your specific jaded instincts.
You gain xp at the end of the session for three reasons:
1. Playbook Triggers
Refit: Your prioritized your survival or a machine's survival over a living creature.
Summoned: You saved or ended a life.
Haunted: You addressed an obstacle with immediate force or denied someone mercy.
2. You expressed your drive, attitude, or jaded nature.
3. You furthered your master's agenda.
When you have filled up your playbook xp tracker, pick one advancement:
Design notes: The antihero playbooks are intended to give players a way to continue exploring the story with the same PC while offering a different flavor to the play style. They are not meant to be stronger than regular PCs, and switching over does entail a loss of ability and items on purpose.
Instead of losing an antihero to becoming too jaded (that ship has sailed), you can lose an antihero to burnout. Essentially, each time you exceed your stress tracker, your permanently lose a stress box. When you lose your last stress box, your nerves are shot and you cannot continue.
For characters with max stress boxes (9), this is a slow wear down; for characters with max relevance and only 5 stress boxes, this can happen relatively quickly. It also means that antiheroes will become progressively more vulnerable to becoming consumed by their drive when they try to recover stress. In this way, the antihero playbook gives you more time with a PC, but you will watch that PC slowly fall apart if they take the same over-stressing risks that brought them to this point originally.