Saturday, August 12, 2023

Captain Vista

This post is a nerdy dive into some ZSF rules about character creation. Proceed at your own risk.

I've been drawing a lot of ZSF art lately. I don't know how much of it will end up in the game book, and I'm not even thinking about it. I'm just having a great old time drawing.

As I was doodling last night, I drew this sketch of a character who I named Captain Vista. So I thought I'd go ahead and give him game stats. I wanted to write a little bit about it because I can discuss the character creation system a bit.

Here's the Captain:

 He's a beefy lad! A real space hero. But he is not an example of a starting character. His stats are more beefy than a new PC would be. Of course, like any game, you could tweak the chargen rules to allow for more beefy starting PCs. That's fine. But let me break down how this guy is put together and how it differs from the chargen rules.

Basic Skills

Every PC has six Basic Skills: Explore, Drive, Fight, Operate, Shoot, and Talk.

A new PC has a rank of 1 in each skill and you can distribute 9 additional points between them for a total of 15 ranks. The Captain has a total of 19, not 15.

As you play the game, the GM will hand out Space Points, which are like XP. You spend them on your character to make changes. One of the changes you can make is bumping up your skills. It costs 3 SP to increase a skill by 1 rank. So the Captain has spent 12 SP on skills.

Life Points

Every PC starts with LP equal to their Explore + Fight ranks + 20. Cap's E+F+20 equals 29, but he has 35 LPs.

You can add 1 LP by spending 1 Space Point, so the Cap has spent 6 SP.


Every PC starts with 2 special Traits. A Trait is really just anything at all about your character that isn't covered by other chargen rules. Rapid healing, a rich uncle, and a magic gun are all examples of Traits you could add to your PC.

Captain Vista has 6 things listed on his sheet that could be counted as Traits, though 2 of them are probably just gear.

• Animated Hair (definitely a Trait)

• Hyper Strong (definitely a Trait)

• .50 Cal gun (probably gear, not special)

• Katana (probably gear, not special)

• Captain of the Heroic Tortoise (definitely a Trait)

• Space Eyes (definitely a Trait)

The difference between what is a Trait and what isn't is that a Trait is something extra. All PCs can buy a laser pistol. If your character buys a pistol for $100 and it deals 5 DMG (damage), then that's just a standard thing. If you want it to be something special, you can spend 2 Space Point and turn it into a Trait. You might then say the laser pistol actually has modular parts and you had a super zapper module lying around. Now your laser pistol, a Trait, deals 9 DMG instead of 5. Or it can be set to scan mode or something.

The Captain started with 2 Traits at chargen. Assuming his weapons are not special, he currently has 4 Traits, so he has spent a minimum of 4 Space Points to add 2 new Traits. It is possible that he spent more, because you can improve your Traits by spending 2 SP on them. We don't really know the details of his abilities from what we're shown here. Let's just assume he spent 4 SP.


Captain has $625. All PCs begin with $100, so he has probably spent and earned some money over time. He's not rich at all. He can't even buy a laser pistol with that kind of cash. So I don't think he has spent any Space Points to make himself richer (you can get a quick $500 for 1 SP).


In total, we know that Captain Vista has spent 12+6+4 = 22 Space Points. If the GM follows the guidelines given in the rules, they will award 1 SP per 1 hour of play. Adjusting for snack runs and Monty Python jokes, Captain Vista has been involved in at least 22 hours of game play, or about 5 or 6 typical game sessions. He's not a new character.

Of course it's possible the GM awards more points than normal or starts with more bennies for PCs. Every table is different, you know.

Last Thought: The Heroic Tortoise

Nobody starts with a ship in this game. At least not a ship worth a bent penny. Part of the game's theme is that you are poor outsiders working within or against a system that is inherently unfair and kind of ruthless (sound familiar?). Captain Vista would not have a ship like this one as a new PC.

The Heroic Tortoise

How did he come by it? Does he own it or just work for the owner? These are details that grew out of playing the game. He might have rescued the ship from a bad owner and now claims it himself. In that case, the player would add "Heroic Tortoise" as a Trait. They didn't spend points to get it because it was just a result of organic play, as most things will be.

Later, the player might want to improve the ship in some way or add details to it. They can do so by spending money on upgrades or spending Space Points to bump up the Trait's details. It isn't terribly precise or crunchy... this is more of a narrative element. But some game benefits should be imbued, which can be negotiated between player and GM.

Also, this ship might not belong only to the Captain. This is a RPG, after all. It is probably the case that the ship belongs to the team, so every player has ownership. In that case, players could spend money or SPs to improve the ship as well. They just won't have sole ownership of it.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, love the ship! What would be awesome is if a lot of ships look like animals, like what if that is a thing? Outside space stations look like Zoo's. Common nickname for a famous space station could be The Farm! lol too funny. Also it got me to thinking about Guardians of the Galaxy and Groot. but instead we have a Cactus type living creature called Prik! Man this game is gonna be awesome! Can't wait!