Shifting Sands

Player Guide

Now for the Crunchy Bits

The following describes how we are adapting what is primarily a character-driven game to the needs of a large campaign that will benefit from some level of mechanics to run smoothly and fairly. We have attempted to make this as high-level and painless as possible, and in keeping with the idea that we want players to think more in terms of what they are trying to accomplish and why their character should be able to accomplish it than crunching numbers.

So, if numbers and stats in a LARP context give you cold sweats and heebie-jeebies, please STOP READING HERE and go back to the previous page. Just talk to us about who you want your character to be and what kinds of things you want them to be able to do and we'll figure out the rest. Seriously.

Still with us? Ok, here goes...


In game terms, traits and skills will be defined broadly. The attributes and their levels are intended to provide color and flesh out the character without bogging down the action in numbers. We don't care that your character has a Medicine skill at 16 with 2 levels of mastery, we care that they are a competent doctor and are therefore capable of doing whatever a good doctor should be able to do. So what numbers we do use will be small and we'll try and focus on what they mean.

Interactions with Mechanics

Aside from informing the roleplaying, attributes will come into play in those (hopefully infrequent) instances where mechanics will be used to resolve questions or conflicts. When these situations arise, players will bid an attribute and provide the rationale for why they think the attribute is applicable in that particular situation. Unless it's really a stretch, everyone will probably agree. The character will then be considered to be at that attribute's level of proficiency for the action. For example, a Member of Parliament could be a brilliant statesman (level 4) or a lazy back-bencher (level 1), and this attribute might be used when the character tries to persuade an NPC of something, because part of being an effective politician is the ability to be persuasive. Need to sneak past a guard? If your character was a Street Urchin, bid it. Getting into a drinking contest? Well you were a Soldier after all...

Character Points

Characters start out with 15 character points to spend at character generation (plus a few more if joining the campaign in later years). These points are used to buy Attributes. You will receive a few more points here and there as time goes on, but the initial batch will be the vast majority of the points you will ever have. Not all points need to be spent right away. Any unused points may be retained for later, either because you want to see which way the character leans as you find your way and fit in the matrix of the campaign, or simply because you want to play a character that grows and develops over time. Please note that after the first year of the campaign, character points are limited in the rate at which they may be spent. See the section on Assigning Values to Attributes below for details.

Attribute Types

There are three types of Attributes: Occupations, Traits, and a Wealth rating. Characters must have at least one, and may have up to two, Occupations (i.e. current and previous professions, positions or hobbies). They may also have as many specialized Traits as they have points for (which could be physical traits, specialized skills, or areas of expertise). Finally, they will have a Wealth rating, which we'll go into later. Each Occupation or Trait will have a rating from 1 to 5. Not having an Attribute (i.e. having a value of zero) represents the capabilities of the average person, so taking even one point in something makes the character better than an unskilled or average person. For attributes usually thought of as skills, the levels 1-5 correspond to Amateur, Skilled, Expert, Brilliant and Genius respectively. In the case of physical traits they might be described as Improved, Superior, Incredible, Unbelievable and Inconceivable.

Types of Attributes


Occupations are very broadly defined, and are usually professions, positions or hobbies. Occupations have a maximum level of 4 (Expert). They are used to indicate a broad range of skills or proficiencies, as you should be good at whatever someone in this occupation can normally be expected to be good at. Choose one to two:

  • Primary position/profession: How is the character currently employed or what position do they currently hold in society? Are they any good at it? Examples are Member of Parliament, Eccentric Inventor, Chemist, Apothecary, Family Doctor, Army Surgeon, French Foreign Legionnaire, History Professor, Archaeologist, Dilettante Socialite, Railway Industrialist, Bank President, Painter.
  • Optional secondary position/profession/hobby: Did they have an previous career or position? Do they have an important hobby or sideline? How has the character been affected by from having held this position?


Traits are very specific skills, physical traits, or areas of expertise. What is the character good at? Examples are Painting, Piano, Physics, Chemistry, Fencing, Surgery, Boxing, Marksman, and Martian Archaeology. You may choose up to three specific traits.

  • Specialities: Some Traits are even more narrowly focused than others, or have limited application. Players may choose to spend 2 of their character points to raise a Level 4 (Brilliant) Trait to Level 5 (Genius) with GM approval.


Occupations vs. Traits

The difference between Archaeologist as an Occupation and Archaeology as a Trait (an area of knowledge) is that the person who dabbles in the more narrow Trait Archaeology may know quite a lot about the subject from an academic standpoint, even enough to be an Expert, and may have been on a few digs, but it is limited to just that specific knowledge about the core topic itself, while the Expert Archaeologist is more broadly accomplished as an expedition leader, excavator and curator, as well as having the academic chops required for the position if they are a professor. Think of the difference between Indiana Jones (Occupation), who can handle himself in any situation, and Marcus Brody (Trait), who knows the topic academically very well but would get lost in his own museum.


Assigning Values to Attributes

Each attribute requires 1 point to acquire or raise per level, up to level 4. So if a player chooses the Occupation Army Chaplain and wishes to be expert at it, they would need to spend 3 points on it, one to acquire it at a value of Amateur, a second to raise it to Skilled and a third to raise it to Expert. Level 4 (Brilliant) is the highest that Occupations may be raised. Some Traits may be raised to level 5 (Genius) at a cost of 2 additional points with GM approval. No trait may be raised past Genius.

Not all Attributes need to be chosen or all points assigned at character creation. The initial 15 points is the large majority of the points you will ever get, so use them wisely. Traits or points may be left open for a while to give the player a chance to better understand where their interests lie. Points may be assigned at any time during the first year without restriction. After the first year, points may be assigned (including spending a point to take a new trait at Level 1) with the restriction that only one point may assigned to a given Attribute per session. You can spend points on more than one Attribute in a single session, but only one point at a time may be spent on each Attribute. The intent is to not require all points to be assigned up front, but allow characters to develop their skills over time if that the arc the player wants to play out, while avoiding characters suddenly making huge, unbalancing leaps halfway through the campaign. And the between time during which the development occurs must include a story element explaining how it happened.

In addition, once assigned, points may be reassigned between Attributes at a rate of one point per Attribute per session as well. So you can take a point off of your Army Chaplain Occupation and apply it to your Engineering Trait, but you can't take two points off your Army Chaplain Occupation in a single session, regardless of the destination(s), and you can't increase your Engineering Trait by two in a single session either, regardless of the source(s). You could however move one point from Army Chaplain to Engineering and a second point from your Streetwise Trait to your Chemist Trait in one session. Clearly, that between times must have been spent entirely in your lab. If you want to raise a Trait from Brilliant to Genius after the first year, it takes two sessions to do it, banking the first point and achieving it when the second point is spent the next between time.



Wealth is a special attribute that follows slightly different rules than those for General or Specific attributes. Every character has a Wealth rating, which will be 0 (Well-to-do) if nothing is done to change it. Please see Wealth and Class for descriptions and details, especially if you are considering taking the Dependent rating. Wealth ratings are paid for at character generation and some provide Monetary influence each session. The values are –1, 0, 1 and 2. They represent the following:

Wealth = -1: Dependent. Buy down: Receive one character point for taking this. Provides no Monetary influence, and has other negative effects on character liberty.

Wealth = 0: Well-to-do. This is the default value. Costs no character points, and provides no ongoing Monetary influence.

Wealth = 1: Wealthy. Costs 1 character point at character generation, or 2 later on. Provides one Monetary Influence each session.

Wealth = 2: Filthy Rich. Costs 2 additional character points (3 total) at character generation, or 3 additional later on. Provides two Monetary Influence each session.


Gaining Influences

Influences are how the characters affect the world around them outside of the salons. See Influence for a more complete discussion of the various types of Influences, how they are earned and how they can be used.

One of the ways that characters can earn Influences is by spending Character Points to raise Attributes:

  1. When an Attribute is raised to level 3, the character earns 1 Influence per session. The type of Influence earned must be decided on when the Attribute is raised to level 3, and the player must have a rationale for why that Attribute gives them that particular type of influence.
  2. When an Attribute is raised to level 4, an additional Influence is awarded. It may or may not be the same type of influence that raising that Attribute to level 3 earned them.
  3. When an Attribute is raised to level 5 a third influence point per session is earned. Again, it can be of any type that the player can rationalize could be earned by having that Attribute.
  4. Character Attributes may not be raised beyond level five, so no more influence points may be earned in this way. (I.e. a character can only generate up to three levels of influence through the advancement of a particular Attribute.)
  5. Characters may not earn more than three levels of any particular type of influence through Attribute advancement, even by using a combination of different Attributes.



Additional character points will be given as "experience" at a rate of 1 or 2 points per year, always at the beginning of the year regardless of when the player joined the campaign. These points may be spent immediately or held as the player desires.


There. Was that so bad? Remember that while this may look complicated, it is all designed to help players focus on doing what they want to do, to keep the action on stage, and to provide rewards without making things unbalanced for the rest of the game. And if you have questions or anything is unclear, PLEASE ASK. Really, we're here to help.


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