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Normals

Normals can come from any conceivable human background, have any set of skills, and any sort of justification for how they became aware of the supernatural world.

When making a normal character's background, before they enter play, first decide how much the character knows about the supernatural and how they found out (ranging from "nothing" to "something specific" to "the main idea" to "comprehensive lore"). Dialing this in up front will do a lot of heavy lifting to help you fill in the character's backstory, integrate them with the setting, and select appropriate abilities.

In the abstract, the four most likely entry points for a normal character in regards to if they are aware of the supernatural, and if so how they gained that awareness, are:

  • Mundane: the vast majority of normal characters in the setting are entirely unaware of the supernatural. For a player character or significant NPC, a large focus of such a character's early game progress will presumably focus on how they transition from being a clueless mundane to being "in the know" about the true nature of the world; if so then it would be very appropriate for one of the character's Milestones to reflect this.
  • Legacy: some normal humans were raised by one or more supernaturally aware parents or an organization and were educated about the existence of the supernatural rather than finding out the hard way. For example, children of retired monster hunters, orphans raised by esoteric sects, even descendants of innati who did not inherit any unusual traits themselves (or perhaps are late bloomers and only appear to be normal).
  • Curious: some normals have brushes with things that they can't explain or stumble across some telltale of the supernatural world, and start pulling at threads looking for answers or a way to make sense of it all. For example, journalists, law enforcement, private detectives, cryptozooligists and other fringe scientists, hackers, and other very curious people with a habit of noticing things and the patience to dig deeper to figure things out or get answers.
  • Survivor: some normals become aware of the supernatural simply by surviving a supernatural incident of some kind. Folks from just about any walk of life, whose safe little world was shattered by some kind of contact...a monster outbreak, a rogue mystic's scheme, an extradimensional event, a newly manifesting psychic, etc. Some trends can be identified within this group; for instance former military, martial artists, game hunters, and others with some competence with self defense or weapons training tend to have better than average odds of surviving an attack. Similarly, particularly strong willed or psychologically stable individuals have better than average odds of surviving some kinds of sanity-shattering extradimensional threats, or psychic incidents.

One of the largest groups of supernaturally aware normals are monster hunters, who hunt down Sanctionable supernaturals and collect Accords enforcement bounties. For this type of character revenge is a common theme, but so is greed (monster bounties are quite lucrative...assuming you survive to collect), or thrillseeking (taking on a hostile and capable supernatural is an extreme adrenaline rush).

However some aware normals are more academic or investigatory in nature, pursuing knowledge about the supernatural in general or the activities and influence of supernaturals upon the world specifically. A few normals are friends or allies of one or more supernaturals, providing support or even advocacy and protection. Other supernaturally aware normals are more self-interested, and have worked out some angle that benefits them in some way; maybe they exploit something supernatural for profit, or have entered into some kind of collaboration or business arrangement involving the supernatural.

And of course, some supernaturally aware normals are fixated on becoming not normal. Perhaps they are trying to learn how to work magic and become a mystic, or maybe they want to become some kind of supernatural creature themselves...some foolish mortals even wish to become infected with lycanthropy or cursed with vampirism, or are obsessively pursuing some form of supernaturally enabled immortality.

Normal Human Ability Sets and Traits

Normal characters can justify any Innate, Attack, or Defensive Ability Trait as a personal capability. Technological or magical items, or some other external source of capability can be used to justify other types of Ability Traits. It is recommended that normal characters put their personal capabilities in an Ability Set, and item based capabilities in one or more other Ability Sets to avoid confusion; for instance Killroy's Rugged Individualist Ability Set contains his personal capabilities and his Kit Ability Set contains his gear based capabilities.

Normal Human Ability Trait Cap

An Ability Trait at d6 represents above average capability, and a d8 represents elite world-class unenhanced human capability. Thus as a general rule d8 is the maximum die step that normals can justify for Ability Traits that represent a personal capability. SFX can allow a normal human to peak above this cap in specific cases as described by the SFX. This cap does not apply to Ability Traits that represent external capabilities, such as those gained from an exceptional military-grade weapon or a magic item used by a normal.

For instance, a normal with Strength: d8 is among the strongest unenhanced humans in the world. They might have a SFX such as Unleashed that allows them to step that up to d10 (with potential consequences), and that's ok. That same character might also carry an "I ain't got time to bleed" style mini-gun defined as a Mini-gun Ability Set with Ranged: d12, some SFX, and a Gear Limit; as the Mini-gun Ability Set represents an external exceptional item rather than a personal ability the d8 cap on Ability Traits does not apply and all is well.

Note that this cap only applies to Ability Traits in Ability Sets, not Tier, Aptitudes, Vocations, or Assets.

Puny Humans?

Some players might be concerned that in a world where they could play a magic user or a supernatural creature or some other specially empowered type of character, a "mere mortal" normal human would be underpowered or lame. On the one hand players should play characters that they are invested in and will enjoy so ultimately a player who finds a normal human unexciting should play some other kind of character, but on the other hand the idea that normal humans are behind the power curve compared to other kinds of characters is incorrect.

For starters, the game mechanics themselves are very balanced and characters with the same number of Advances applied will tend to be approximately equivalent in effectiveness over the course of a campaign.

Beyond that, the foundations of every major character's dice pools are Tier, Distinctions, and Aptitudes, and supernaturals have no advantage here over normals. Additionally, increased starting Plot Points and Vocations offer powerful advantages to characters who invest in them.

Most supernatural characters require significant investment of Advances into their Ability Set(s) to properly define their supernatural abilities, and thus in practice normals will often have more Advances to apply to their Aptitudes, invest in Vocations, and possibly increase their starting Plot Points.

The main advantage supernaturals do have over normals is in the area of justification. For instance a mystic with the Spells trait can justify attempting things that a normal with more prosaic abilities simply cannot even attempt such as casting a spell to teleport or summoning an invisible servant, an Innati with extreme superhuman strength can justify attempting a feat of strength beyond the capability of even the strongest normals, a telekinetic Psychic can justify manipulating objects even when immobilized, and so on. However this type of advantage mainly falls into the areas of "utility" and "specialization" rather than "power".

Thus, to sum up, players who are worried that their normal character wont be as powerful (i.e. capable and impactful) as supernatural characters should find that to not be the case, but players who want a character with extreme flexibility or extreme specialization should explore playing some kind of supernatural character.

Humble Origins

When making characters at Competent Tier or higher, a useful design option for some supernatural characters who were not born superhuman is to start the character's design by making a Novice version of the character as a normal human, and then progress the character from Novice to Competent by spending Advances to add the character's supernatural abilities. This often results in a more well rounded and nuanced character.

For instance, Beretta Colt was a normal human who survived multiple supernatural incidents, and eventually became a monster hunter, but was nearly killed by a powerful spell. To save her life a couple of Beretta's allies worked a desperate ritual to infuse her with the supernaturally potent blood of the godling Joey Manegarm; the ritual worked but she was forever altered...becoming an intrinsically superhuman Innati.