The Full Character
This is the level of detail normally used for PC’s and other important characters. The Full Character is followed by some simplified systems, which will be more useful for characters that need less fleshing out. The simplified systems could also be used as the default for PC’s is the game is to be run in a looser, less stat-based style.
There are twelve attributes which fall onto the following chart. The rows detail the sphere of action while the columns detail the nature of the action.
|Full Character||Active Attributes||Reactive Attributes|
|Sphere of Action||Physical||Strength (STR)||Dexterity (DEX)||Stamina (STA)||Quickness (QWK)|
|Mental||Intelligence (INT)||Perception (PER)||Willpower (WIL)||Acuteness (ACU)|
|Social||Presence (PRE)||Manipulation (MAN)||Resolve (RES)||Wit (WIT)|
As is often the case, this might look more complex than it really is. Most of these attributes should be familiar from other RPGs. All that SAMSARA does to complicate this is to categorize the attributes within such concepts as sphere and nature of action. This helps determine what attributes might be used for various actions taken within a contest. If you want to hit someone, then you are probably looking at some thing Active in the Physical Sphere.
 Variation: Descriptors
To add a little more color to these numbers, one could decide that every +/- 2 points in an attribute calls for a descriptor of how this attribute manifests. STR +2 could be “wiry”, or “lives in the gym”, or “freakishly strong”; “built like a Sumo wrestler” might be more appropriate for STR +4.
 The Basic Modifier
When using the full list of attributes, the modifiers for most actions should be determined by adding together the two most relevant attributes. This allows for some variation in strengths to be utilized by characters. For example, hitting someone defaults to adding together STR and DEX. Strength relates to the force of the blow, so stronger folks have an advantage (remember, please, that the roll is not to hit; it is to further your goal, which in this case encompasses both landing the blow and inflicting physical punishment). Dexterity relates to how well you can place the blow, so more dexterous folks have an advantage. By adding these together, you have the default attack modifier. Someone strong and clumsy might have the same modifier as someone who is weak, but a dead-shot. This is intentional.
If both of those fellows deliver checks, the results should be narrated differently however. The strong guy might have just hammered his opponent on top of the head, while the dexterous guy might have deftly jabbed his foe three or four times, each time throwing him off a bit. The interpretation of the contest roll should be influenced by what attributes are used and in what proportion.
 Playing the Numbers
But which attributes are the most relevant? Well, this is where it gets interesting (or maddening). There might be some pre-established default attributes, as in the boxing example above, but the options might be more wide-open. Here we encounter two major variations of play: the Classical and the Romantic modes.
Playing in the Classical mode means pre-set, formalized use of attributes. Physical combat always uses STR + DEX, while trying to resist that punch always takes STA + QWK. This mode of play relies upon the Active and Reactive distinction made with the attributes. Indeed, the Classical mode just goes ahead and always considers STR + DEX as the Active Physical Modifier (APM) and STA + QWK as the Reactive Physical Modifier (RPM). Yes, the acronyms are a trifle much, but it saves time typing. In general, any offensive action taken uses the two active attributes in the sphere of action, while the attributes used as modifiers against an offensive action use the two reactive modifiers. So there are six basic modifiers in the Classical mode, two for each sphere of action. Nice and neat. Very Roman.
Playing in the Romantic mode means no formalized use of attributes: the players can choose to use any attributes that they wish. But they must describe how they intend to use those attributes to accomplish their goal. For example, a character wants to intimidate someone. If he wants to use PRE + STR, he could say that he storms into the room and breaks something big and heavy, them tells the guy to do what he wants. No real insight and cleverness involved: just physical and psychological intimidation.
Example: Using Attributes Captain Smashing is dueling with Baron Vile (remember?). In the Classical mode, his modifier would be: STR + DEX + Dueling (let’s assume no checks, situational modifiers, or motives engaged). He subtracts Baron Vile’s STA + QWK + dueling and adds the final result to the die roll.
But in the Romantic mode, he could come up with some other way to go. Maybe he, like Cyrano de Bergerac, is keeping up a running stream of invective against his foe, intended to distract and disturb (in verse or not). Maybe the Captain’s player suggests that STR has nothing to do with this fight, nor even targeting, but wants to make his attack based on MAN + QWK: he runs around the room waving his sword and making barbed comments. The GM will have to determine if he finds this acceptable. He will also determine what modifiers the Baron uses to defend.
Playing in the Romantic mode offers a lot more scope for player’s to come up with interesting ways of accomplishing their goals. It also offers a lot more room for arguments between players and GM. A couple of rules of thumb if you play in this mode:
1.The GM has final say on acceptable attributes. The player can suggest, but must regard the GM as the final arbiter here. Because someone has to be.
2.The GM can disallow repetitive use of attributes. If a character has two high attributes, it could become very tiresome if he uses them for every single contest. There is a fine line between playing to one’s strengths and being a munchkin. Who determines that line? See the preceding paragraph. The GM could set a hard limit per game (“you can use each combination only three times per game”) or give out rewards only for the first use of each combination. The point of the Romantic mode is to encourage interesting twists, not to allow every character to use his highest attributes.
3.Even in the Romantic mode, it is suggested that there be some default combinations of attributes. This gives everyone a base understanding of what they are doing and what they are changing.
 Testing Attributes
Most of the time, one can come up with a relevant second attribute, but sometimes there is only one attribute that is relevant. This will ultimately come down to playing style. Some might say that trying to beat the strength machine at the Carnival uses STR + STA (or WIL), but other folks will find that weird and say that only strength is being applied. If a situation such as this comes up just double the attribute score and use that as the modifier. Thus if you consider that strength machine and the character has a STR + 1, then the modifier is +2. Easy.
 Simplified Characters
It is frequently a drag trying to come up with stats for innumerable NPCs. Sometimes players and GM’s don’t even want all those attributes for the main characters. One way to make this easier is to reduce the number of stats. Particularly in the Classical mode, it makes sense to reduce the attributes to Active and Reactive stats, making only six attributes per character. The Active Physical attribute then incorporates both strength and dexterity; use it whenever either is being tested. The character would look like this:
|Simplified Character||Active Modifier||Reactive Modifier|
|Sphere of Action||Physical||Attack||Defend|
I need better, more descriptive names for Stubborn and Wily
If you use this system, then you will not add together the two most relevant attributes to get the basic modifier, but use only the single most relevant. Using this system mostly precludes playing the Romantic mode as well. So a swordfight always uses the Active Physical Modifier to attack and the Reactive Physical Modifier to defend.
 More Simplified Characters
An even more simplified system is to reduce a character’s attributes down to the spheres of action. A character would have only three attributes: Physical, Mental, and Social. In this case, definitely do not add two attributes together to determine modifiers. Just pick the attribute appropriate to the sphere of action and run with it.
This means that you might have to increase the attribute to make an even match with the full characters. So perhaps the goblin has a Physical score of +5. This doesn’t mean that he is the strongest man in the world. A full character with a STR +3 is actually stronger, since an attribute test would give the full guy a +6 modifier. Right?
This system is incompatible with running in the Romantic mode since there is nothing to choose from.
 Contest Rating
This is the most simplified system of modifiers. There is only one modifier, called the Contest rating. Use this number for any contest that occurs with this character. Is this realistic? Not entirely.
But it is simple and really, how much do you need to know about Guard #3? He has a Contest rating of +2. He can probably defeat most average folk (though not overwhelmingly) and will be easily handled by anybody competent. Done and done.
This is even more useful for non-entity opponents. The masterwork which the artist from Chapter 1 was trying to create has a Contest rating. It only needs to represent one thing: how hard it is to compose. You don’t need any other information about it. Ditto the sudden storm which the character must use his survival skills to outlast. The contest rating is the modifier subtracted from the character’s PER + STA + Outdoorsman roll (or whatever attributes you want to use for survival skills).
 Goon Squads
One Contest Rating can also be used to describe multiple antagonists. Heroic types frequently contest with groups of essentially unimportant foes. Such enemies are sometimes called “mooks” or “goons”. Goons are individually quite weak, more-or-less average folks whose only strength lies in numbers. Evil geniuses tend to collect such fellows; think of the old Batman show.
Since goons act as a group, for contest purposes consider them one actor. They have a default Contest rating of +1 for each individual goon in the mob. So if our old friend Captain Smashing is lured into a dark alleyway by six henchman of his arch-nemesis, Baron Vile, when they come to blows, the good Captain will contest with an opponent with a +6 Contest rating. This would be enough to overwhelm an average fellow, but fortunately, Smashing is an expert swashbuckler and can easily handle these villains.
Since goons act as a group, they make one contest roll which represents all of their actions. Vile’s goons thus roll d12 + 6 – Smashing’s relevant abilities as the sole mechanical representation of their combined actions. Each check delivered to a goon squad means that one of the goons has been removed from the contest. If Smashing delivers two checks, then two of Vile’s cronies have been rendered corps de combat in some fashion.
As always, bear in mind that combat examples are the easiest to visualize, but contests are not limited to fights. A gang of teenagers ridiculing someone and attempting to destroy their confidence is an example of a social contest involving goons. A Senate confirmation hearing might be a mental contest in which the Senators act as a group to try and confuse the nominee.
The default of +1 Contest rating for each individual goon is only a baseline. If your goons are tougher than average (a goon squad composed of zombies, perhaps), then make it +2/individual. If the goons are weaker (a horde of teddy bears attack the character), then make it +1/3 individuals. If you change the baseline, that changes the effect of checks delivered. In the Great Teddy Bear Massacre, every check delivered to the stuffed beasts means that three bears are removed from the contest.