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LEADS, FEATURES, AND EXTRASYour Smallville stories will be populated by all sorts of characters: heroes and villains, damsels in distress, plucky sidekicks, untrustworthy scoundrels, and everyone else who lives in Metropolis or wherever you set your story. Characters come in three flavors in the Smallville Roleplaying Game: Leads, Features, and Extras. Leads are the characters that your stories are about; a different player controls each Lead. Its the players job to tell an interesting and compelling story with their characters. Each Lead has a sheet of information and game stats that describes him: whats important to him, how he gets things done, and a few other details. Features are the characters that fill significant roles in the rest of the story. Features push the Leads to act, whether by hatching some fiendish plot or by falling prey to one. Each Feature also has a sheet, which looks a lot like a Leads sheet. Extras are the characters that mostly live in the background. Sometimes they have names, sometimes theyre just sort of there. While they may get the Leads to react, theyre almost always acting under someone elses orders. Extras dont have a sheet like Leads or Features; you can record any necessary details on an index card, sticky note, or whatever.
categories of Traits are Drives, Assets, and Resources. Every character also has five Stress Traits that track how hes been hurt. Lastly, theres a space to keep your Plot Points, which are a game currency that you can spend to grease the wheels in your favor. Well take a closer look at each category in a little bit. This book calls out most specific Traits by using small caps, like this. Each Trait has a die rating. When that Trait comes into play, youll roll that die. Bigger dice tend to roll higher, but no die is safe from rolling a 1 (rolling a 1 is significantwell get to this later). Most Traits also have a couple other notes listed underneath the die rating. These give you tricks to keep up your sleeve and to push the story in interesting directions. Well discuss how these bits work later, too.
The first half of your Lead sheet lists your characters Drives: his Relationships with the people important to him and the Values that he holds dear. Each one has a statement (in italics) and a die rating. The statement describes his impression of each person or value. The rating scores how much he cares about that Drive.You roll in dice for Drives when your characters actions advance or assume the truth of the statement. So lets say you have Tess is playing with fire d8. You can roll that d8 when youre telling her that she doesnt appreciate the consequences of her actions. Or when youre working to bring down her firewalls and shut down that project thats about to go nuclear. Or when youre getting Clark to go confront her about the whatever-it-is that she decided to unleash on the planet this week.
One player controls all the Features and Extras around the Leads. This player is called Watchtower. Watchtower knows all and sees all; she plays characters off of each other while remaining in the background; her influence is pervasive and subtle, inescapable in its scope. Watchtower makes everyone elses stories possible. Sound familiar? Watchtowers job is to give the Leads context for their stories, to present them with interesting situations, to see what gets them to react, and to press them to make big, important choices and reveal the depths of their characters. Watchtower controls the bad guys, sure; but she uses those characters as tools to provide the Leads with opportunities to tell a good story.
Players choose what their Leads do, they choose how the Leads react to Watchtowers poking and prodding, and they make big decisions of great importeven when its just deciding who to go out with on Friday. Players also decide when what their Leads are doing is important enough to roll dice, not to mention when and how the Leads grow, change, and develop as characters and as people.
The character sheets that describe Leads and Features are mostly lists of Traits. The three big
Occasionallyand by occasionally I pretty much mean all the timeyoull find that your characters understanding of a person or a value is not quite accurate. Maybe Tess is acting rationally and responsibly; when you defend Tess sensible action to Oliver, you can challenge your Relationship with her. Alternately, your Value of Truth I decide who knows it d10 might come up dry when you realize that Clark isnt going to save you from the monster stalking around the Watchtower because you didnt tell him about it until too late. When you call Clark frantic for help, you can challenge that Value. When you challenge a Drive, you get to triple its die instead of rolling one d8, you throw three. You also note the die size in your Growth pool on your Lead sheet, which is really important. Unfortunately, because youre questioning your Drive and arent so sure about it anymore, you also have to step it down one die size for the rest of the episode. After all, if you stand up for Tess plan, you cant really turn around and say shes
acting reckless in the next sceneor at least, you cant do that and expect it to work quite as well.Whose Story Is It? When you play Smallville, youre telling each other stories. Those stories are about the Leads, and it is the Leads players who do most of the heavy lifting for those stories. Watchtower doesnt prepare a story for the Leads to play
their way through, nor does she tell the story of her Features. What she does is create opportunities for the players to make their stories more interesting. She sets out challenges and obstacles, provoking the players into making choices both big and smallbut always significant. Watchtower is more gardener than conductor: shes there to encourage the Leads to bloom, not to direct them from the start of the story to its end.
The second half of your Lead sheet lists your characters Assets: a little bit of how he gets things done and a little bit of who he is. Each Asset has a die rating and one or more notes underneath it. The die rating shows how powerful that Asset can be. The notes beneath give you access to nice little bonuses. There are three kinds of Assets: Distinctions, Abilities, and Gear. Distinctions are the things that make your character unique as a person; no, not super-strength or hypersonic screams, but things like Clarks BigHearted or Olivers Smartass. If you stripped away all the super stuff, what would be left? Those are your Distinctions. Each Distinction has three triggersspecial things you can do in the gamethat unlock as your rating in the Distinction increases. You get the first trigger at d4, the second at d8, and the third at d12. Each trigger gives you a benefit and exacts a cost, and most of them allow you to add to the story in interesting and often unexpected ways. Abilities are things that you can do beyond normal human effort. Not everybody has Abilities. Abilities let you do all sorts of showy stuff, either as you roll dice or as a special effect you activate by spending a Plot Point. Super-strength, for instance, gives you a die to roll in when your massive muscles play to your advantage. You can also spend a Plot Point to pull off fantastic super-strength feats like catching a flying locomotive. Abilities also come with a Descriptor and a Limit. The Descriptor is a keyword that describes how the Ability manifests: heat, magic, psychic power, and so on. The Limit tells you what can stop your Ability cold. X-ray vision, I hear, aint got nothin on lead. If somebody uses your Limit against you, he triples the die representing his clever tactic. Gear Traits are similar to Abilities in a lot of ways. Their die ratings, Spend abilities, and Descriptors function identically. Where they diverge is their Limit. All Gear has the same Limit: it can get lost, stolen, or broken. Other characters dont triple their dice against you, but they can deprive you of your Gear and when you dont have your Gear, you dont get your die and cant use the Spend ability.
situations. Normally, anybody can call on the help of an Extra or a Location; it just costs a Plot Point. When its on your sheet, its free for you to use; when other characters use that Resource, they pay the Plot Point to you. Extras are characters that dont have a whole character sheet of their own. They usually only do a couple of things, called specialties, and those things are rated in dice. So you might have Dr. Emil Hamilton (Science, Medicine) 2d10 or LuthorCorp Security Team (Security, Retrievals) 2d8. You dont roll Extras dice into your dice pool; instead, they can Aid you. The full rules for Aiding can be found in Chapter Four: Scenes on page 49, but the short form is this: their dice add a little to your dice. Of course, you can only use Extras when theyre in the scene with you. Youre welcome to spend a Plot Point to bring them into any sceneeven over the phone, if thats what works. Just beware: once theyre in a scene, theyre valid targets for Watchtowers attention! Locations are special places that provide a bonus to the people who control them. Like Extras, they are rated in dice. Chloes secret lair gives her Watchtower (Surveillance, Hacking) 2d10, whereas Lois would have Daily Planet Bullpen (Research, Publicity) 2d6. Also like Extras, the dice for Locations arent rolled into your pool; theyre rolled separately and their high die is added directly to your result. Now, you can obviously use Locations when youre in them, but you can also set yourself up to use their specialties in a later scene. Chloes hacking often reveals information that comes in handy later. The trick is that you need to play a scene in the Location getting ready. Then, later in the episode, you can let fly with those extra dice.