Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters

For the first of the Let’s Create series, I will be looking at a system I kickstarted a few years back; Urban Jungle.

Urban Jungle is described as an Anthropomorphic Noir Role-Play system. It is, as it basically says, a system in which you play a humanoid animal in the 1920s and 30s, between the wars, the period of prohibition and speak-easies, of gangsters and corrupt politicians, of hard-boiled detectives and femme fatales and all that jazz.

There are also two expansions for it – Occult Horror (think Lovecraft or Carnivale) and Astounding Science (think B-grade 1950s pulp sci-fi). I don’t have either yet but do plan to, though I was meant to get the Occult Horror one asa part of the kickstarter. For some reason it didn’t happen.

Before we get around to making characters, I am going to do a basic run through of the system and character creation.

To succeed at a task you generally need to roll a 4 or higher on a dice. The more times you succeed, the better. For more difficult tasks you might need more than 1 success. On the flip side, rolling all 1s means something bad happens to you. So the more dice you are able to roll, the better it is for you on both accounts.

With that in mind, how do you get dice? That is part of the character building process.

Everyone starts with seven traits. There are four basic traits that everyone has – body, speed, mind and will. These are common to all characters, and are pretty much what they sound like. Body represents your physical side, speed your quickness and co-ordination, mind your intelligence and perception and will your personality and willpower.

Then there are three unique traits – species, type and career. These differ for each character but serve the same purpose. Each of these unique traits gives you some three skills and two gifts. Skills are what allow you do accomplish stuff and yes, some unique traits can give you bonuses to the same skills. Gifts are unique talents that your character has, some of which are always active while others give you bonuses in specific situations.

Species represents what type of animal you are – are you a horse, an elephant, a weasel or a porcupine.

Type is what kind of noir person you are – you could be hard-boiled type, a rebel, have a heart-of-gold, be crooked or just be plain old.

Career is obviously what you do for a job – you could be a prize-fighter, a bootlegger, a detective, actor and more.

Once you have picked your species, type and career (say a Sparrow Drifter Biker), you assign your dice to your seven traits. Two are your good traits which get D8s, one is a bad trait which gets a D4 and the rest get D6s. Which traits you assign them are up to you – at D8 in species you maybe the foxiest fox that ever foxed, but a D4 in it might mean you don’t conform to the expected standards and tropes of a fox.

For your three unique traits (species, type and career) find your three corresponding skills and assign the dice value you gave to the trait to it. For example, a coyote gets the athletics, fighting and observation skills. If you assigned D6 to coyote, each of those skills gains a +D6 to skill roles.

List your gifts and gear you get from your unique traits and make note of what bonuses you get from the various gifts.

Lastly, work out your personality. Are you bold, lazy, sad, sneaky or something else? If you undertake an action where your personality is at play, you get a bonus +D12.

And that is pretty much it for how you make a character.

When you come to make a skill check, you get the dice value from your appropriate basic trait plus any dice from skills you may know and any bonuses from other sources, like gifts. Basic traits are not necessarily set for a given skill – they can vary depending on how you are undertaking the action. For example, the deceit skill. If you are just trying to out and out bluff someone, the Will trait would be used. Trying to be light-fingered and nick something without anyone noticing would use the Speed trait. Undertaking a clever deception would use the Mind trait. I really like this approach, where skills aren’t set in stone as to what trait they use. Often it can lead to the ‘one stat to rule them all‘ problem. (Warning, TVTropes link.) I especially like this when it is applied to combat.

With a brief look at the system done, next time we will show off a few character builds and what they can do.

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