This page contains rules for running a Buffy the Vampire Slayer campaign using the Theatrix system. It assumes you already know the basics of Theatrix, which are summarized here.
Specifically, these are the rules I will be using for BVS, the campaign I am running on Dreamlyrics. The first part of this page is specific to my campaign -- if you're only interested in my Buffy Theatrix rules, skip past the "Setting" section.
You will notice that as Theatrix is very open-ended and there are no fixed point values for Descriptors, Attributes, Skills, and Abilities, that there is no arbitrary mechanism to make sure characters are "balanced." This fits the show -- Xander and Buffy are both "Player Characters," but in any conceivable ranking scheme, Xander's character sheet is just not going to be nearly as impressive as Buffy's. So nothing stops you from submitting a munchkinized character with all superhuman attributes, stellar skill levels, and an assortment of supernatural powers.
The "balancing mechanism" is the GM saying No. So design a character that is interesting, fallible, and fits the spirit of the show. If your character really needs to be bulletproof, psychic, and have combat skills in the 8.0 range, go ahead and pitch it to me. But I'm a lot more likely to accept characters that are comparable in power level to those on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Angel than a cyborg ninja demon sorceror.
My campaign, BVS, will be set more-or-less in Joss Whedon's universe, but as with my Highlander campaign, I will probably not be using any of the characters from the show. When creating characters, you should assume that none of the "canon" characters exist -- so no saying that your character used to date Faith, or was sired by Angelus, etc.
Other than using all-new characters, however, I will be using most of the mythology established in BtVS and Angel. Hellmouths, Vengeance Demons, the Watcher's Council, and the rules for Slayers and Vampires will be as described in the show. (Jury's still out on Wolfram & Hart -- I may or may not utilize them. If you have a character concept that depends on our favorite villainous law firm, contact me first.)
San Damien, California
The game will be set in a fictional Southern California city called San Damien. It it located inland, in the stretch of desert between San Diego and Palm Springs. (Why this location? I'm grooving on a desert environment right now, and this location is near enough to the Pacific Coast that we can bring typical Californianisms into play, but also rural and desert, which will give it a slightly different flavor than Sunnydale.) I am not going to pinpoint it precisely on the map, but it is in this general area.
Right now I am not providing a lot of specifics about San Damien -- I intend to slowly fill in details as the game progresses (and I will let the players help in fleshing out the town). But here are some things known about San Damien:
A Buffy campaign requires a Slayer, of course. The Slayer must be female, and a teenager. (Younger and older Slayers are not impossible, but would break convention, and require a truly Twisted background, and I am not likely to approve of one for BVS. But try me if you think you have a really good idea.) There can only be one Slayer -- but this does not mean that the Slayer is the "main" character or that everyone else is merely a sidekick.
You can create any character you think will fit with the premise, keeping in mind that like BtVS (the first few seasons, anyway), the Slayer will be a high school student, and thus it will be easier to fit your character into the campaign if he or she has some reason to be hanging around the high school (i.e., a student or teacher, etc.).
Although I am expecting mostly teenager PCs, I am open to other concepts. Specifically, we will need a Watcher. (If no one wants to be the Slayer's Watcher, I'll make that character an NPC, but I'd prefer a PC.) Some other possible character types include demons (presumably of the non-evil variety), witches, psychics, government special agents (if you want to be an Initiative commando, talk to me -- I will probably have a similar group in BVS, but they may not be exactly like the group that appeared in BtVS), etc.
I will not completely rule out a vampire PC, but I'd rather not see another "vampire with a soul," and it will be awfully hard to justify a vampire protagonist who doesn't have a soul. As in the TV series, vampires are (almost) without exception, evil, and thus not normally fit for use as PCs. If you've got a brilliant idea for a vampire PC who can avoid getting staked by the Slayer, go ahead and float the idea, but I recommend concentrating on some other concept.
Characters with unusual powers are certainly acceptable (and expected) in a BtVS campaign, but so are "normals." But in a game where you can be a Slayer, or a Vampire, or a cyborg or a witch or a lycanthrope, etc., who wants to be Xander?
To encourage some less powerful characters, I will use the following variation on Theatrix's Complexity system, mixed with an idea taken from the official Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG: the more powerful you are, the fewer Plot Points you get to start with, and the harder it is for you to earn them during play. In other words, ordinary people will get more opportunities to pull off miraculous stunts and benefit from extraordinary good luck -- more powerful characters will need to rely on their powers.
The primary measure of your character's potency is his or her Primary Descriptor. These are rated in terms of plot Complexity level. The more complex your Descriptor, the more detailed a character writeup I will expect from you. (Yes, this means quantity of writing is also a factor -- if you want to be a Cyborg Sorceror Initiative Commando, don't expect to sell me on that character with a few sentences.)
Every PC must have a unique Primary Descriptor. Below are some
sample Primary Descriptors, and also the number of Plot Points you get to start
with, and how many you can expect to earn in an average episode. (Of
course, above average roleplaying and the like can raise this total.)
Sample Primary Descriptors
Secondary Descriptors are extra traits your character might have -- nothing as general or as broadly useful as a Primary Descriptor, but things that make the character more unique, and affect roleplaying and sometimes the plot. Not every little detail of your character needs to be listed as a Secondary Descriptor, but anything that sets him apart, but is secondary to his Primary Descriptor, can be included.
You can have as many secondary Descriptors as you like, but extremely powerful or useful ones may require extra justification (in the form of more character backstory) and may even increase your Primary Descriptor's "complexity" by one level. For example, if your Primary Descriptor is "Big Man on Campus" but you also have a Ring of Invisibility as a family heirloom, the GM may decide that makes you significantly more powerful than your typical popular high school stud. Likewise, if your Primary Descriptor is "Teenage Werewolf" but you also happen to be Psychic, that's going to cost you.
Each one needs to be described, not only in your character's background, but you should also provide an example or two of what you think a Plot Point should be good for when activating that Descriptor.
* These are the sort of Secondary Descriptors that might raise the value of
your Primary Descriptor, depending on how limited/useful they are
In BtVS, Strength, and Stamina, and Coordination are "semi-scaled", meaning that the lower half of the range (0.0 -- 5.0) is human, while anything above 5.0 is superhuman (and requires an appropriate Descriptor). Intellect, Intuition, and Presence are all human-scaled; while the upper end of the scale verges on superhuman, it is possible for a mortal without supernatural enhancements to attain these levels.
Half-values are possible; for example, a teenager would average 1.5 in the physical attributes.
|1.0||Adolescent, sickly adult (Dawn)|
|2.0||Average woman, typical sedentary male (Willow)|
|2.5||Average (fit) male (Xander)|
|3.0||Strong, lifts weights regularly, high school football player|
|4.0||Very strong, professional bodybuilder|
|5.0||Olympic weightlifter, Prizefighter, kickboxing champion, maximum human strength (new vampire)|
|6.0||Superhuman, shrugs off most blows (average vampire, Connor, Season One Buffy)|
|7.0||Strong enough to lift a car, can walk/limp away after being hit by one (really tough vampire, Angel, Spike, current Buffy)|
|8.0||Strong enough to throw a car, barely phased if hit by one (Adam)|
|9.0||Can throw cars with ease, takes massive force to hurt (Glory)|
|10.0||An almost unstoppable force (True Demons, the Mayor -- post-Ascension)|
|1.0||Adolescent, sickly adult, asthmatic|
|2.0||Average adult (Dawn)|
|3.0||Athletic (Willow, Xander)|
|4.0||Professional athlete, Special Forces training (new vampire)|
|5.0||Olympic athlete, maximum human health (average vampire, Connor, Season One Buffy)|
|6.0||Inhuman, can run a marathon easily, heals most injuries within a week (current Buffy)|
|7.0||Tireless, almost immune to pain, heals injuries within a day or two|
|8.0||Machinelike, does not feel pain, recovers from all but the most massive injuries within a day (Adam)|
|9.0||Almost unkillable, unphased by injuries, heals completely in hours, sometimes minutes (Glory)|
|10.0||Your body is eternal; almost nothing can hurt it, and any damage disappears within moments (the Mayor, during his 100 days pre-Ascension)|
(Note that vampires have accelerated healing powers, beyond their Stamina score.)
|2.0||Average adult (Dawn, Willow, Xander)|
|4.0||Professional athlete, martial arts expert (new vampire)|
|5.0||Olympic athlete, world champion martial artist, human maximum (average vampire, Season One Buffy)|
|6.0||Inhuman, animal-like speed, can catch crossbow bolts mid-flight (Spike, Connor)|
|7.0||Unnatural speed, faster than any (normal) living thing (Adam, Angel, current Buffy)|
|8.0||Can move almost faster than the eye can follow (Glory)|
|9.0||Superfast, Spiderman-speed, capable of dodging bullets|
|10.0||Lightning speed, move like the Flash|
|3.0||Average adult (Xander)|
|5.0||Very sharp (Willow, Oz, Giles)|
|6.0||Genius (Dr. Walsh, Warren)|
|7.0||Super Genius (The Master)|
|8.0||A true mastermind, can outthink almost anyone (Adam)|
|9.0||The most brilliant person who ever lived|
|10.0||Mind like a computer|
|2.0||Oblivious, socially inept (Dawn, Xander)|
|3.0||Average adult (Giles)|
|4.0||Perceptive, sensitive to others' moods (Buffy, Willow)|
|5.0||Deep understanding of the human psyche (The Master)|
|6.0||You have a captivating personality, and can read most people like a book (Dracula, Drusilla)|
|7.0||Almost preternatural in your ability to read and manipulate people (Adam)|
|8.0||A spiritual master, completely in tune with people and your surroundings|
|9.0||Nothing surprises you, ever|
|10.0||Virtually omniscient; you know what people are going to do before they do|
|2.0||Adolescent, wimpy adult (Dawn)|
|3.0||Average adult (Xander, Willow)|
|4.0||Cop or bouncer, a little bit intimidating (average vampire, Buffy)|
|5.0||Hardened criminal, charismatic politician (Spike, Angel, Giles)|
|6.0||Really scary or really charismatic, very strong-willed (Dracula)|
|7.0||Hitler; hypnotic and/or terrifying, with an indomitable will (The Master, Adam)|
|8.0||Legendary charisma; wherever you go, you become the center of attention (Glory)|
|9.0||A face that could launch a thousand ships, a voice that could command a million men to fall on their swords for you|
|10.0||You can make strong men tremble and weak men faint just by looking at them|
The skill list below are typical skills common in a BtVS campaign. It is not absolutely comprehensive -- if you want a skill not listed below, go ahead and add it to your character. Consult the Theatrix summary before assigning skills; it will take an appropriate Descriptor to justify any skills above 4.0 or 5.0, especially for teenagers. (Some examples from the show are provided by way of comparison.)
Remember the optional Specialization rule. You should also include a descriptive one-liner to "personalize" your skills, demonstrating how they apply to that character.
4.0 Unarmed Combat [Karate] -- "Hiiiiyah! Take that, you bloodsucking freak!"
Includes jumping, dodging, and doing other gymnastic-type things. Most of the cast has by now learned at least basic tumbling and getting-out-of-the-way, meriting ranks of 2.0 to 4.0. Angel is impressively acrobatic with a 5.0. Buffy could almost certainly win a gold medal in the Olympics, and scores a 7.5.
Possible Specializations: Falling, Dodging, Gymnastics, Looking Cool, Landing on Your Feet
Each one is a separate skill, but they're listed here as a category. Guitar-playing, cooking, painting, singing, poetry, basket-weaving, writing, etc.
Covers a general ability to use computers at a lower level, and programming and "hacking" at higher levels. (Willow: 5.0)
Possible Specializations: Programming, hacking, Unreal Tournament
The ability to drive a car. (Or a truck, or a motorcycle...) 1.0 means you passed Driver's Ed and have a learner's permit. 1.5 means you just got your driver's license, and God help the rest of us. Driving a vehicle type you're unfamiliar with is a Normal task, but becomes Difficult under stress (like when you're being chased by vampires).
Possible Specializations: Cars, trucks, motorcycles, military vehicles, running people over
The ability to build and repair things, more of a hands-on skill than Knowledge skills.
Possible Specializations: Mechanical, Electrical, Nuclear, Car repairs, Carpentry, Bomb-making, Rigging Death-Traps
This category covers any skill that is acquired primarily through study and/or experimentation. Each skill is a separate one. By way of general comparison, a Bachelor's degree is worth a skill rank of about 2.0. A Master's degree would be a rank of 3.0, and a Ph.D. a 4.0. Real-world experience, of course, is frequently more valuable than booklearning. (Warren didn't have a degree in Robotics, but his skill level was obviously very high.)
Knowledge skills should generally be fairly broad, but you can specialize within them (for example, taking the Chemistry skill with a Toxicology specialization).
Note that arcane knowledge and sorcery falls either under Occultism, or as an Ability.
Examples: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Herbalism, History, Mythology, Physics, Psychology, Robotics, Sociology, Zoology, etc.
Each language is a separate skill. 1.0 is a couple years of high school language classes (assuming you actually paid attention). 2.0 is basic conversational fluency, and 3.0 is complete fluency. A non-native with a language skill of 5.0 will speak the language better than many native speakers, but still retain a slight accident. 6.0 will eliminate any accent, and allows native or non-native speakers to convincingly imitate accents. A skill of 7.0 or better will allow you to actually mimic someone else's voice. (Imitating a voice somewhat similar to yours is a Difficult task, while imitating a very different voice -- such as a teenaged girl's if you are a deep-voiced male -- is an Extraordinary task.
Being able to patch people up or figure out what's wrong with them. Basic First Aid or CPR training is 1.0 or 2.0. A nurse would have medical 3.0, and a Doctor should have Medical 4.0 or higher.
Possible Specializations: Combat medic, Infectious Diseases, Brain Surgery
The ability to fight with weapons, an essential Slayer skill, and also an essential skill for anyone wanting to stake a vampire. This skill covers all hand-to-hand weapons, but one can specialize in something particular. Most of the Scooby gang now has a score of 3.0 with a specialization in "Pointy things" or the like. Angel and Buffy are both master combatants (Angel most likely specializes with a sword, while Buffy is more of a generalist), with skills in the 6.0 -- 7.0 range.
Stabbing someone through the heart with a stake is a Normal task if the target is stunned or surprised or otherwise has its guard down, and Difficult to Extraordinary if attempting to stake an opponent who's still fighting.
Sample Specializations: Swords, axes, clubs, broken bottles, knives & stakes
Technically just another knowledge skill, but this one is special because it concerns arcane knowledge, and more importantly, what's real in the Buffyverse. Anyone can read a book about witchcraft or demonology, but your Occultism score reflects how much you know about "the Truth." Someone who has spent a vast amount of time browsing New Age bookstores and playing with the local Wiccan coven might think she knows a lot about the occult, but her Occultism score would only be 1.0 or 2.0 at best -- whatever truths she knows are by coincidence, and mixed with a lot of nonsense.
Anyone who graduates from the Watcher's Academy will have an Occultism score of at least 3.0, and Watchers actually sent on overseas assignments (such as Slayer-watching) usually have a minimum rank of 4.0. Giles has an Occultism rank of 7.0. Vampires who've been around for a while usually have an Occultism score of at least 2.0 just from what they've seen and heard.
Sample Specializations: Demonology, Vampires, Other Dimensions, Magic Spells, Artifacts of Power
The ability to fly a plane (or a helicopter). Flying unfamiliar aircraft is more difficult than driving unfamiliar ground vehicles, and is a Difficult task even under normal circumstances.
Sample Specializations: Jet fighters, Passenger jets, single-engine turboprops, military helicopters
Hitting something at a distance. Covers both medieval weapons like crossbows and modern firearms, as well as thrown weapons. Most of the Scooby Gang, as well as Buffy, specializes in Crossbows. Shooting a vampire through the heart is Normal if the vampire is not dodging, and Difficult or Extraordinary if it is (depending on how good it is at dodging). This assumes short range; the difficulty level goes up if the range is more than about 20 feet. Buffy probably rates a 5.0 or 6.0 with her favorite crossbow.
Sample Specializations: Bows, crossbows, throwing knives (and stakes), rifles, pistols, rocket launchers
The ability to pick locks, deactivate burglar alarms, etc. Does not include hacking electronic systems -- that's the Computers skill.
Sample Specializations: Lockpicking, burglar alarms, opening doors and windows, Grand Theft Auto
Hiding and sneaking. Most vampires are naturally good at this (3.0 or 4.0). Buffy is pretty sneaky (5.0). Angel, with his talent for being right there whenever you turn around, rates a 6.0.
Sample Specializations: Hiding in shadows, hiding in small spaces, moving silently
The ability to hurt people without any weapons, an essential skill for Vampire Slayers and those who hang out with them. The average black belt (trained at a typical American martial arts school but with little or no real combat experience) rates a 3.0. Vampires, being natural predators, come out of the ground with a skill of at least 2.0 (assuming they had no combat skills before they died), and if they survive, quickly rise to a skill of 3.0, and more experienced vamps typically have an Unarmed Combat rank of 4.0. Gunn, a professional vampire hunter from the age of 12 and capable of holding his own against vampires in single combat, has a skill of 6.0. Angel and Spike are possibly the most formidable vampires ever, and rate scores of 7.0 or 7.5. Buffy, who nowadays never meets a foe who is her equal in pure skill, rates a 7.5 or 8.0.
Sample Specializations: Karate, kickboxing, jujutsu, wrestling, flying tackles, blocking, fighting dirty
Abilities are like Skills, ranked from 1 to 10, but Abilities are supernatural and thus require an appropriate Descriptor to justify. Beginning characters should generally not have very high ranks in any Ability.
Those listed below are the most typical in a BtVS campaign, but if a player thinks of an original supernatural power that fits the setting, he can take it with the GM's approval.
Many witches learn some level of telekinesis (which includes the ability to levitate oneself). This is usually a specialized form of sorcery, but might possibly be a "psionic" ability as well (it is not clear whether there is a distinction between magic and psychic powers in the Buffyverse. Just picking something up and moving it is a Normal task; throwing something with precision is Difficult at best.
The ability to read and send thoughts. Usually reading or sending thoughts is a Normal task. If someone is resisting you, it becomes Difficult, or Extraordinary if their Presence is greater than your skill. (There are spells and other powers that might make it even more difficult vampires and demons are one level more difficult to read.)