Character creation in Phoenix proceeds through a few steps:
- power theme
- ability score generation
The best place to start is with an idea of what kind of character you’d like to play, and remember, it’s a superhero game, so feel free to get creative. You probably won’t be able to replicate the idea exactly, but it’s a useful place to start because it gives you a way to focus on the options that most interest you. If you begin the game with the idea of creating an Amazon warrior, for example, you know that the Sneak is probably not for you; the Warrior or Champion might be better. Starting with a concept also prevents you from just trying to build the most powerful character that you can and instead encourages you to build the character that you’ll have the most fun playing.
A character concept for a superhero game tends to start with a power theme (even if that theme is that the character has no powers). Your theme could be biographical; something happened to this character that made her seek out a life of superheroism. It can be organized around an animal motif (e.g., tigers), a season of the year (e.g., winter/ice), or an energy type (e.g., electricity). It can be a reflection of a historical figure, like a knight or a ninja. It can be something even more abstract, like patriotism, friendship, or fair-play. The point is to have one idea—something consistent and identifiable—that links all the character’s powers together.
Now that you have a concept and a theme, it’s time to buy ability scores. These should reflect your concept and theme.
With a concept and ability scores, you can focus in on a class. There are eleven standard classes and three optional classes, so you have a lot to choose from. Each class favours certain kinds of powers or ability combinations. The important part is to find a class that grants the kinds of class features that will allow you to live out the concept. Sometimes, the class concept might fit the character you have in mind, but the class features won’t be right, or the concept is all wrong but the features are perfect. Remember that you’re ultimately not bound to the write-up of a class; those write-ups are there to give you a place to start. You’re entirely allowed, encouraged even, to take the same class features and run in another direction.
Depending on your concept, your “powers” could be actual powers, but they could also come in the form of feats or even just a whole lot of skills, and all three—skills, feats, and powers—can support each other to a great degree. Picking feats and powers is where you get to really define a character, and skills can give her those extra areas of expertise that make her truly heroic.
Ads and Comps
Although ultimately optional, ads and comps are very common parts of a Phoenix character. You want them to reflect your concept, much like your powers, but many of them are elements of your character’s personal life, so you can also think about them as role-playing aids.
Putting It All Together
In the end, you’ll probably go back and forth, tweaking this and that until it all feels right. Don’t feel the need to proceed from one step to the next and lock down the previous aspect of the character. Let it float until you’re done with all of it. One of the fun things about RPGs is that the character is never really “done.” You’ll keep building them as you go through levels.
Example: Amazon Warrior
Let’s suppose that you’ve decided to build an Amazon warrior from classical myth. Right away, we know a lot about this character. She’ll be a mêlée fighter for the most part, which means she’ll favour Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, and the best classes are probably Champion, Soldier, or Warrior, depending on her exact focus, although Martial Artist might also fit. If she’s a Champion, you’ll also want a high Charisma score.
This character could be non-powered, simply a highly-trained warrior-woman, in which case you could build her out of feats: all the mêlée feats you can afford, and probably some as archery feats (the Amazons were famed for their skill with a bow). Alternatively, you could pick powers that augment her mêlée abilities but aren’t flashy. Super ability scores, perhaps a modest DR score, or Amazing Fighting would do the trick. You could even give her a blessed weapon of the ancient gods in the form of a Classically-themed item power (Esoteric Item, Gadget, Iconic Item, or even Power Armour). This theme leads you to certain specific kinds of abilities and powers right away, but notice that you still have a lot of flexibility within the concept.
Let us now suppose, instead, that you want to create an energy projector, a hero who takes part in fights by sitting on a rooftop a block away and blasting the bad guys. Your primary ability will probably be Dexterity for both ranged attacks and dodging. The classes that are most useful are either the ones that have the maximum base attack (Soldier, Warrior), or possibly those with sneak attacks (Sidekick, Sneak, Soldier), which can be useful for a blaster who can stay near a fight but not get dragged into mêlée. Notice that the Soldier has both qualities, so it might be the best choice, but a Sidekick who teams up with a high-Charisma hero or two can be very effective.
The best feats to take would be the ranged feats, obviously, starting with Point-Blank Shot. Pumping up your attack and damage bonus with your blast is your primary concern, so a powerful Energy Attack is a pretty good idea, although you could also build a sniper who has nigh-uncanny precision. Your secondary concern is not getting hit, though, so feats like Dodge or Spring Attack could be helpful as well as powers like Invisibility, Flight, or Amazing Dodge. The flying, invisible blaster is exactly the kind of pain in the ass you want to be to your opponents. Again, the concept leads to certain choices, but there’s still a lot of room within that concept.