Designing a character

Generating a character for a Dark Door game is intended to be easy for both the novice and veteran of LARP events alike. To take part in a game you will need to complete a Character Sheet in which you should detail your character, providing information on his/her name, occupation, and personal background, which can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Against this you will also need to furnish your character with appropriate skills, indicate any weapons they intend to use, and calculate their sanity score. Many experienced Live Role-players will notice the absence of any reference to 'Hit Points' on the character sheet; this is because we feel they would go against our approach of minimal rules and regulations. The effect of an attack on your character, be it by claw, tooth, knife, gun, or even tentacle, is left to the referee's judgment.

Below are further details and booking information, along with tips that will be helpful to you in creating your character, completing the character sheet, and preparing for a game:

The Character Sheet

The character sheet is used to provide information about your character and to detail their skills and abilities. The Character Sheet is divided into two halves. On the left hand side of the character sheet are sections for entering information about the character you will be playing during the game. On this side of the character sheet, starting from the top down, you will find sections for your character’s name, their occupation, background, and typical quote. Completing the information required is left down to your own imagination, though some hints and tips are provided below to assist you.

The right hand side of the character sheet is where the skills and abilities of your character will be entered and completing these sections is of a more technical nature. Working from the top downwards you will see sections for Sanity, then Skills, and lastly Weapons Use. To complete the sections on this side of the character sheet you will utilise Skill Tokens. Skill Tokens are primarily used for generating your characters Skills and allocating a Skill Level to each one, but if you wish they can also be used to “purchase” the use of a weapon and any ammunition required for that weapon. When you first generate a character you are allocated 10 Skill Tokens to distribute amongst your Skills and Weapons Use as required.

Character Occupation

While the term Occupation is used in this section of the character sheet, it is merely intended as a convenient term for your character's lifestyle as they may of course be a person of private means who does not work, or even perhaps a criminal. In The Dark Door we do not have any pre-set “character classes” that you must choose from, so within reason players can create their own investigator as they please.

Examples of the type of character you may wish to consider are: journalist, historian, archaeologist, priest, private detective, a member of the armed forces, dilettante, explorer, hunter, author, para-psychologist, scientist, psychic, mystic, nurse, doctor, etc., the list could go on! Often the theme of the game will help inspire you.

Character Background

This is where you should tell us a little bit about their personal history back and what sort of person they are. In this part of the character sheet it is not necessary for you to provide a detailed biography from birth - all that is required is an outline of your character to give the referee an idea of the sort of person you will be playing.

As a guide you will perhaps want to concentrate on those details of the character's background that are most closely related to the game.

Typical Quote

This section of the character sheet is really just a bit of fun, but we would ask that all players complete it as this will encourage you to think about how you intend to portray your character and it does give the referee a good insight into your character's personality.

Skills

Most of the actions and abilities of your character will of course be limited only by your own. However, for practical reasons and because the character you choose to play may possess knowledge or skills you yourself do not, handling some skills requires a different approach. For these you will need to select a minimum of four key or specialist skills appropriate to your character, though you may choose more. You will then need to allocate a Skill Level to each one to identify how competent you are. For this we use four "descriptive" Skill Levels; Basic, Good, Skilled and Expert, each representing your characters understanding of, or level of skill in, a given ability. The referee will then use their discretion based on the Skill Level allocated to decide on your character's success or otherwise. Any skills you select for your character are only acceptable at the discretion of the referee and so on some rare occasions you may be asked to alter your choice of skills.

To select a Skill Level for each skill you choose, you are allocated 10 Skill Tokens that are then used to purchase the Skill Levels concerned. The number of Skill Tokens that must be spent to buy a particular Skill Level is shown on the table below:

 

Skill Level

 

Skill Tokens required

 Basic  1 Skill Token
 Good  2 Skill Tokens
 Skilled  3 Skill Tokens
 Expert  4 Skill Tokens

Your chosen skills should then be listed on your character sheet under the column marked "Skill" with the selected skill level shown to the right under "Level". It is down to you to state those skills that you believe your character would posses, but you are encouraged to pick skills that fit in with your choice of character, for example an archaeologist must perhaps have History amongst his skills. Equally the type of character played will dictate the Skill Level required, for example would it would not be appropriate for a Doctor to select only a "Basic" level First Aid skill. Where you plan to bring a piece of equipment that would have required some kind of specialist training or experience to use, your character will be expected to have the appropriate skill selected to do so.Additionally it is not usual to allow purely physical type skills (e.g. Hide, Dodge Blow, etc.), as these are difficult to portray in a LARP setting. Unless the player concerned is actually able to perform the physical skill for real it would interrupt the game play while the referee explains to everyone present that a certain player skulking in the undergrowth in full view cannot actually be seen as he has a Camouflage skill, or that as another player has a Dodge Blow skill, a particular sword blow did not actually hit them even though it clearly did!

If you are unsure what skills would be appropriate for your character or whether a skill would be required to operate any equipment your character may intend to use then please feel free to discuss this with the referee before the game. Equally the referee may wish to discuss your skills choices with you if they feel any are inappropriate.

 

Example: John decides to play a Hunter. He considers that he would be a very experienced at tracking animals, be able to set traps, and have good survival skills. He may also have picked up some first aid skills. He also decides he understands a bit of Latin from his lessons when he was at school. John has 10 Skill Tokens to spend. He spends 3 Skill Tokens on his Track Animal and Set Trap skills, making him an "Expert" at each of these; he spends 2 skill tokens on Survival making him an "Skilled" at this activity, and 1 Skill Tokens on First Aid giving him a Skill Level of “Basic", he also spends 1 Skill Token on Latin, giving him a "Basic" knowledge of this language.

Suggested Skills

The Dark Door does not have any pre-set skill types from which to pick. However to assist you we have provided below an alphabetical list of some suggested skills;

 Accounting  Geography  Pick Lock
 Anatomy  Geology  Psychoanalysis
 Anthropology  History  Psychology
 Archaeology  Hypnotism  Restore Artefact
 Astronomy  Language (state which)  Survival
 Biology  Law  Surgery
 Botany  Medicine  Treat Poison
 Chemistry  Mechanical Repair  Theology
 Diagnose Disease  Navigation  Topography
 Electrical Repair  Occult Knowledge  Track
 Pharmacy  Treat Disease  First Aid
 Photography  Zoology  Forensics

Weapon Use

Should your character wish to have the use of a weapon during a game you must “purchase” the use of that weapon, and any applicable ammunition, by expending some of the 10 Skill Tokens you are allocated. Spending 1 Skill Token in this way buys the use of one weapon. A rifle, pistol, or shotgun, etc. are treated as separate weapon types and cannot simply be grouped together under “Gun”, so a character wishing to use a rifle must state “Rifle” under Weapons Use and may then only bring and use a rifle on the game. When selecting the use of a gun, a character automatically gets 10 rounds of ammunition in addition to the use of the specified gun. Additional ammunition can be “purchased” by expending further Skill Tokens. Each extra Skill Token spent buys an additional batch of 10 rounds. Where more than one type of gun is used the extra ammunition must be specified, i.e. “pistol rounds”, “rifle rounds”, etc. Ammunition is not interchangeable, and so if you use up all your rifle ammunition, you cannot re-load it with your pistol ammunition.

Your weapon of choice should be listed on the character sheet on the left hand column of the section marked Weapons Use. Each new weapon, or additional 10 rounds of ammunition, must be listed separately on each row. In the right hand column is a “count down” of the Skill Tokens to be deducted from your total of 10, so if two weapons were listed this would indicate “–2” Skill Tokens. For game balance the maximum number of weapons and/or additional batches of ammunition a player can have is limited to 5. Once a character has been generated with a Weapon Use, along with any applicable additional ammunition, they will then start all subsequent games with those same weapons and ammunition available to them, should they survive.

You need only purchase the use of purpose built weapons whose main design or use is as a means of fighting and inflicting (imaginary!) bodily harm, such as guns, knives, swords, etc. Impromptu “weapons”, such as shovels, cricket bat’s, etc. that are not designed as weapons and ordinarily have an innocent non-violent use can be brought to the game by a character and then subsequently used as a “weapon” without restrictions applying.

 

Example: John decides his Hunter would own and use a hunting rifle and knife. To be allowed to bring these to the game he will need to spend 2 Skill Tokens under Weapons Use. John therefore decides to reduce his Set Trap and Survival skills by one Skill Level each, to “Skilled” and “Good” respectively, so he may then spend the Skill Tokens he has saved on his Weapon Use. He spends one of the Skill Tokens to allow him the rifle along with the standard 10 rounds of rifle ammunition, and the second Skill Token is spent to allow the Hunting Knife.

Sanity

As your character progresses through the game they will encounter many horrors, bear witness to unspeakable deeds, read macabre books and parchments and perhaps even take part in arcane rituals, all of which will take a toll on their mind. To represent this in game terms your character will have a Sanity Score that reduces during the course of the game, signalling their descent into madness. We use a Player lead approach to Sanity whereby players will choose their starting Sanity Score, the nature of their insanity and keep track of their own Sanity Score in game. Setting your starting Sanity Score – Your Characters starting Sanity Score represents the resilience of their mind and so the higher the score your character has at the start of a game the better as they will be less likely to go insane!

The default starting Sanity for all player characters is 100 points. You are welcome to leave it at this level should you wish, alternatively you can opt to exchange Sanity Points for extra Skill Tokens which you can then use to increase your skills or purchase the use of additional weapons or ammunition. Under this rule 15 Sanity Points can be exchanged in return for 1 extra Skill Token (minus 15 Sanity Points = 1 Skill Token). However, no new characters starting Sanity Score is allowed to be below a 40 points and as such no more than a maximum of 60 Sanity Points in total can be exchanged for Skill Tokens in this manner (4 X 15 Sanity Points = 4 Skill Tokens).

 

Example: After selecting the skills for his Hunter character, John remembers that in the last game he played he ran out of ammunition at a crucial point, which left him to be mauled and killed by an attacking zombie. He therefore decides that this time around he wants to increase his rifle ammunition. While this will leave him more vulnerable to going insane, he considers that being alive and mad are preferable to being the sanest corpse in the cemetery! He therefore exchanges 15 Sanity points for an additional Skill Token, reducing his starting Sanity Score down to 85. John then uses the extra Skill Token to purchase 10 further rounds of ammunition, entering this in the Weapons Use section of his character sheet.

Choosing your characters Insanity

As part of our player lead approach to insanity, you are asked to choose your own insanity as part of your character’s background. The intention is that, this way, you can select an insanity that you feel is appropriate to your character and which you will enjoy role-playing and as a result be encouraged to engage with the insanity aspect of our events. When deciding on your insanity you should think of 3 progressive stages consisting of a “low”, “moderate” and “severe” level of insanity to represent a staged deterioration of your characters mind as their Sanity Score drops. As with all things, your chosen insanity is acceptable only at the referee’s discretion.

 

Example: John decides that during the Great War his Hunter character was an engineer involved in mine tunnelling under German trenches. As a result of these war time experiences his character will suffer claustrophobia as an insanity which he breaks down into the following stages:

Mild - feels panicky and short of breath in confined spaces.

Moderate - can’t remain in confined spaces at all and feels crowded, panicky and short of breath in any closed space, even larger rooms, especially where there are lots of people and closed door and windows.

Severe - the whole world in crushing in on him, buildings will collapse and bury him if he stays inside, even outside the trees and the hills appear to rise up and lean over him threatening to come crashing down. There is no escape!

Tracking your Sanity Score

Once again this is player led, albeit under referee guidance. Having chosen your staring Sanity Score and created your Insanity, you then need to apply deductions in-game. For this purpose your starting Sanity Score is broken down into four stages; i.e. a starting Sanity Score of 100 will be broken down into 100, 75, 50 and 25 point stages, for a starting Sanity Score of 40 this will be broken down into 40, 30, 20, and 10 point stages. Any Sanity Loss that stays within the first ¼ of your Sanity Score has no effect on your mind, but when you reach the 2/4 stage of your score you suffer the first “mild” stage of insanity, at the ¾ stage you will suffer the second “moderate” stage and then at the final 4/4 stage you will reach the “severe” stage of insanity. Reach “0” sanity points and you are permanently and severally insane.

Clothing & Equipment

As Dark Door games are set in alternative time periods, nominally the 1920’s but other periods are also used, you will need to wear appropriate period clothes so as not to detract from the atmosphere. It is not necessary to do any detailed research to ensure your clothing is perfectly accurate; rather you need only wear a costume that is suggestive of the fashions worn in the relevant time period. You should also remember to include any equipment and props that will help enhance your character. Any weapons must be LARP safe foam/latex weapons. The referee will check equipment before a game to ensure it is safe to use and appropriate for the game and your character.

Where you plan to bring a piece of equipment that would have required some kind of special training or experience to use, your character must have the appropriate "Skill" selected to do so. If you are unsure if this would apply to any equipment your character may use, please feel free to discuss this with the referee before the game.

Guns

You may wish to equip your character with a firearm for some games. Blank firing replica guns are generally allowed so long as they are .22 calibre and in keeping with the period, (i.e. no AK47's!). However, you should also keep in mind the character you are playing and the setting for the game; would you really bring a gun to a society garden party? Guns rarely have any effect on the various nameless horrors you will encounter anyway! If you do intend to equip your character with a gun then you must list the weapon and the applicable ammunition under Weapon Use and utilise the correct number of Skill Tokens (see Weapons Use above).

Any guns must be physically represented during the game. They must also work adequately and make a recognisable gunshot sound and require loading (preferable by firing blanks) in order that it will be clear to all concerned that the weapon is being used and so that the rules regarding ammunition limits can be applied. Please refer to the Game System guidelines for guidance on safe weapons and the safe use of blank firing guns.

As with your other equipment the referee will wish to inspect any firearms before the game begins to ensure they comply with regulations and are safe to use.

Surviving Characters

Should your character be fortunate and survive a game, Skill and Sanity bonuses will apply so that your character can develop over time. Two Skill Tokens are awarded to survivors and the player can then spend these on increasing their characters Skill Levels. A player can only increase a skill one level at a time (i.e. only 1 bonus Skill Token can be spent on any one skill). Alternatively, should you wish you may use one or both of the Skill Bonus to purchase the use of new weapons or additional ammunition, even where your character did not previously own a weapon – perhaps their character may now feel the need for such protection following the events of the previous game! Post game Sanity bonuses will be awarded separately at the referee's discretion.

 

Example: Against all the odds, John's Hunter character manages to survive the game, though his Sanity Score takes a battering, leaving him with only 25 points. After the game he receives his 2 bonus Skill Tokens.

John feels that a higher First Aid Skill and an extra batch of ammunition would come in handy on his next game. He therefore decides he will spend one bonus Skill Token on his First Aid skill, increasing this from "Basic" to "Good". He then spends the second bonus Skill Token on a further10 rounds of ammunition for his rifle.

After consideration the referee awards John a Sanity Bonus of 20 points: 10 for surviving and 5 each for defeating the evil cultists and returning the nameless horror they had summoned back to the dimension it came from. His characters Sanity Score will therefore be raised to 45.

These are now the Sanity Score, Skills, Weapons and ammunition with which John’s character will start the next game.

While it may seem that it would not take the example character shown above long before he is an "Expert" at all his skills, it should be borne in mind that few player characters survive one game and even less can hope to survive two games, so this does not prove a problem. At the end of the day The Dark Door is not about having the most powerful character in the game, but just the fun of taking part. Many regular Dark Door players often drop surviving characters preferring to create a new one from fresh for the next game.