Friday, 18 May 2012

The Department: Character Creation

Last week I discovered I had a few pounds left in my PayPal account and that this amount was freakishly similar to the cost of the PDF of The Department, a recently released 15mm future-noir, investigative skirmish game. I had been on the fence about this for a while, but fate was clearly pushing me in a certain direction. It also helped that I could use a lot of my growing 15mm zombie game collection (or at least the human part of it) and just consider it to be 'near future' while I tried out the rules.

In this post I want to cover a bit about my first attempt at creating a character. Characters in The Department are investigators in the employ of the Department of Fabricant Management (think Blade Runner style noir) and a campaign involves them undertaking a series of missions with the ultimate aim of defeating the Prime Suspect behind the illegal goings on.

Character creation is a straightforward step-by-step process, but it has plenty of choices and it is possible to create a wide range of detectives to suit your play style and particular feel for the genre. In fact one thing this game has surprised me with, even before playing, is the amount of goodness crammed into less than 80 pages. But before I get distracted, let's move onto the first step of character creation as I introduce you to Detective Phil Gibson:

Step 1: Purchase Attributes
Characters in The Department have 3 primary attributes and 3 derived attributes. You need to pay to receive dice in the primary ones and then these are added in various combinations to determine the derived ones. Each die costs incrementally more than the last, so it is easy to go overboard with sepnding points! Detective Gibson was given 3 in Prowess, 2 in Intuition and 2 in Logic. This yielded derived attributes of 5 in Reaction, 4 in Deduction and 5 in Resolve.

Step2: Purchase Background
Every person has a reason behind why they do what they do, and characters in The Department are no different. The game provides various backgrounds to choose from, each of which has a different effect. Detective Gibson has the Tragic background. His family were killed by renegade Farbricants and this influences how he behaves towards them by giving modifiers to certain interactions.

Step 3: Select Your Training
Time at the academy equips your character with certain skills and in this stage you pick what they specialised in. Phil Gibson took his anger and channeled it into aggression towards criminals. He has the Pacification Training, giving him bonuses in Melee but penalties in questioning suspects. He'd rather let his fists do the questioning.

Step 4: Select Your Division
The division a character currently works for also provides specific effects. Det Gibson used to be a primal force on the streets, stopping at nothing to take down fabricants, but in doing so he put one too many innocent lives in danger and he is currently on administrative duty. It is the worst form of punishment for him. The Administrative selection gives a bonus to the Bureaucracy skill.

Step 5: Purchase Skills
Selections up to this point have provided bonuses and penalties to specific skills. In this stage players can choose to add dice to any of their character's skills, as long as they pay the points cost. To reflect his policing preferences, Phil Gibson was given additional dice in Ranged Attack and Melee Attack.

Step 6: Purchase Special Traits
Characters can be personalised further by selecting special traits. Det Gibson has Famous, to reflect that he is well known by the media and public, especially those who support anti-fabricant legislation. He has become a bit of a poster boy for the cause. Unfortunately for the Department, it means it is not always possible to hide him away behind a desk, the media starts to ask too many questions. Being so well known means Gibson cannot start missions 'hidden'. Someone always spots him. He also has the trait Ladies' Man, as with fame comes certain... oportunities, and Gibson is not afraid to make the most of them. Anything to forget the pain of his dead family, even for a moment. Finally he has Questionable Associates. He quite openly targets criminals who are suspected fabricants and cuts confirmed humans slack. He willingly risks the attentions of Internal Affairs if making a bargain or deal can get him the evidence he needs to make his case.

And that, in a rather large nutshell, is character creation in The Department. The opportunities are huge for a miniatures game, which is why I wanted to dedicate a whole post to them. It certainly has a RPG feel to it and it is good fun looking at the different options. I hope this provides a bit of information to those who are wondering what these rules are like.


  1. is this a solo affair? It sounds quite good. Do you have a link for it?

    1. It is solo/co-op. Each player controls one or more detectives and the game looks after the suspects. They roll a d6 on a chart depending on if they are just hanging out, fleeing, or acting with hostile intent, and also wether one side outnbumbers the other. It looks simple yet effective and I look forward to reporting on a game soon.

      Go to where you can read more! A search on TMP for "The Department" yields a few threads too.