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Gumshoe Toll Tests for Char Gen

Playing Ashen Stars as a solo game is pretty easy. The hard bit is entirely self-inflicted. Ashen Stars is a 1d6 game, therefore I see it as a challenge to play the game entirely solo using 1d6. As an oracle that is pretty easy. Ashen has a 4+ as a target number, so 4+ is a Yes. With that as your breakpoint, the rest falls into place.

The open question or improvisation prompt aspect was the rod for my own back, but this is about Character Creation.

There are two aspects to Character Creation. The first part is the more interesting bit, it covers how the universe sees your character, from their species and physical form, but also their drives, back story, and personal story arcs.

All of this gives you plenty to play with when your solo game is ready to roll.

The second aspect is the nuts and bolts of the game. You get a pool of investigative and general skill points and you spend them buying skills and abilities. Each skill or ability is a pool, and the more points you put in the pool the more capable you are. Each point is a +1 on the d6 when it comes to chances of success.

You can spend all or some of your points before you start play. Unspent points can be allotted later. More about this below.

Toll Tests

Gumshoe has a mechanic called a Toll Test. In a normal skill test, the GM decides the difficulty or target number, you roll d6 and add any points to your roll, one point from your pool gives a +1 on the roll. Once a point is used it is gone until you get some R&R and recuperate.

A Toll Test works differently. You decide on the difficulty, roll the die and then if you ‘failed’ you ask yourself, do you want to spend the points to buy the success. Do you want to pay the toll?

As long as you have enough points remaining in your pool, you can buy the success and move on. If you don’t have enough points in the pool, then the test fails.

Skill Checklist

One of the key GM tools is the skill checklist. When you are planning an adventure you mark of the skills that are needed to complete the adventure. You can also strike out skills that are not going to be in play.

I use this skill checklist differently. What I do is strike out skills that will not be used, as normal. I then take a highlighter to it and mark the skills that I want my character to have. At this point, I spend 1 point on each of these skills jus to meet the minimum requirement to make a test. These skills naturally mesh with my backstory, drives and story arcs from the first phase of char gen.

So I know who I am and what I can do, I just don’t know how good I am at anything. I have my character, a list of skills I am trained but I also have a pool of points.

I can not start playing. Using the Toll Test method, I can spend points from my unused pool on buying the successes that I think my character would take until such time as I have spent all my points. Now my character is all skilled up, he can do what I wanted him to do.

The first time you make a character there is a lot of reading to do. What the skills are for, all the possible options that you could choose. Each species has strengths and weaknesses, there are a lot of possible motivations and then there are your personal story arcs to consider.

Reading all the possible skills and what they are for is also time consuming. Most of them are obvious. The first time I played Ashen I read the skills as and when I first used them.

Growing your character organically saves a lot of time in agonising over where to put your points.

Over the rest of this week I will explain a bit more about how I am soloing Ashen Stars.

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