Character:Ethel Carlyle

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A character for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Shisumo.

Character Stats[edit]

Ethel Carlyle
Character Type: White Hat
Description: Wannabe Armored Superhero

Strength 1, Dexterity 2, Constitution 2, Intelligence 6, Perception 2, Willpower 3

Computers 4, Drive 1, Gun Fu 1, Knowledge 3, Mr. Fix-it 4, Notice 2, Science 6

Hard to Kill 3 (3 pts), Nerd (3pts), Superscientist 2 (10 pts)

Adversary (3 pts), Emotional Problems: Insecurity (1 pt), Honorable: Serious (2 pts), Misfit (2 pts), Teenager (2 pts)

Life Points 31, Drama Points 20

Character Description[edit]

Ethel spends a lot of time reading comic books. They give her some of her best ideas.

As a kid, Ethel was extremely smart and almost painfully shy. At various points picked on, ignored, beaten up and mocked, she found solace in her older brother's comic book collection; she learned to read partly by looking over his shoulder while he read the latest issue of Iron Man or Fantastic Four. Though he died in a car accident when she was seven, Ethel still remembers how it felt to sit beside him and read those stories about heroes who used their minds to fight evil.

She still sees that as her job now, and she's recently started working on projects that she can use to make that happen. She knows she's not strong; she's had pneumonia almost every year since kindergarten, and her 8-year-old next-door neighbor can arm wrestle her and win. But she has the solution to that: she has science! And when she finishes working on her next big project, then evildoers everywhere: beware!


Buffy, like its companion game Angel, runs on the Cinematic Unisystem game engine. I have pretty mixed feelings about CU, despite the fact that I'm running a Buffy game currently; there are some things about it that really make me grind my teeth, and some things I absolutely 100% love, especially in terms of the Buffy TV show.

The single biggest thing about the system that bugs me is the core mechanic. It's simple, which many people see as a virtue: you just roll a d10 and add your Attribute and Skill. There's a basic chart to determine the level of success you got; it's brief enough to fit right onto the character sheet, which saves it from being a massive irritant in my opinion. Even so, however, there are two things that irk me here. First, a single die produces a perfectly straight probability curve. Take someone whose Attribute and Skill total 8. When making a roll, they roll a d10 and get anywhere from a 9 to an 18, which is anywhere from 1 to 5 successes - "adequate" to "excellent," according to the descriptions. However, that individual has exactly the same chance of getting 1 success - "adequate" - as 5 successes - "excellent" - and, in fact, the same chance to get 2, 3, or 4 successes as well. That bugs me. Now, there are some pretty basic fixes for the situation - "roll 3d10, take the middle one," is a pretty decent option - but as written, it irks me. I haven't decided whether to muck about with it or not. The second problem is combat, which feels rather dry and even overly mathematical in places for a game with as much fisticuffs as Buffy has.

The flipside, of course, is the atmosphere evoked by the book (and even the character sheet itself) for playing a game set in the Buffyverse. Skills like "Getting Medieval" and "Gun Fu," Qualities and Drawbacks like "Tragic Love," "Robot" and (over in Angel, anyway) "Screwed-up Adolescent" really help to immerse the players and GM in the Buffy mindset. The Drama Point mechanics - an expendible, but not easily replenished, resource for having an effect on the metagame elements like unnaturally high die rolls, taking on GM duties long enough to shape scene elements, or even avoiding death - are handled wonderfully, in both their use and how they are regained. Who couldn't get behind a game mechanic called "The Tragedy That is Life?"

I must admit that, by and large, the game mechanics do what I want them to for a character-driven milieu like the Buffyverse: they get out of my way. Action resolution is fast, so scenes move smoothly, and the focus stays on the characters rather than the character sheets. I suspect I will keep playing it for at least a bit longer...

(creation time: 20 minutes)