Gangbusters uses a level-based system, where characters improve on hitting certain levels of experience points. The game isn't quite class-based, as with Dungeons & Dragons, but does use the idea of careers. Careers provide for specific rules for a job, from law enforcement to reporting to crime. The key aspect of careers is that each one has a different way to earn experience. Law enforcement, including police, FBI, and prohibition agent, get experience for making arrests, with a bonus if the character stays clean. Private investigators get experience for solving cases, sending criminals to jail if they were part of a case, and earning money from investigating. Reporters get experience for reporting news that leads to the arrest of a criminal or politician and for scooping the competition. Criminals get experience for earning money through crime*. For the test drive, I'll create a private investigator, depending on how the initial rolls go.
The system uses the same percentile system used in TSR's earlier games, Boot Hill and Top Secret, where a player would roll percentile dice, the infamous d100**, then apply a modifer depending on the result. A lower roll gets a much larger modifier than a higher. The idea is to avoid having a stat as low as 1 while others have 50. Each stat, Muscle, Agility, and Observation, are rolled in order. The initial rolls are 51, 65 and 49, mostly average, and are modified to 61, 75, and 64. The next stat is Presence, a measure of personality strength; it uses a ten-sided die, aka the d10, again with modifiers. I roll a 7, which is then modified to 8. Luck is next, and is a straight up d100 roll divided by 2, rounded up. I roll 04, meaning a Luck score of 2. The last three stats are derived. Hit points are calculated using (Muscle + Agility)/10 + 5, rounded up. My character has 19 hit points; the average person has 16. Driving is the average of Agility and Observation, again rounded up. My character's Driving is 70. The Punching score is based on the Muscle score and is how much damage a character does when fighting hand-to-hand. Looking up on the table, I have a score of 4, but just barely.
Time to get the personal details worked out. I need a name for the character and his ethnic background. In the 1920s, ethnicity played a role in how well people got along. The bulk of the non-player characters (NPCs) have their background listed as Assimilated, but other possibilities include Irish, Italian, Black, Russian, Polish, German, and Jewish. I'll go with Irish. Patrick Barry is now ready to check out the careers.
Character Name: Patrick BarryEach career has a set of qualifications. Some are easy; prohibition agents, at least before 1927, just need to be appointed by a politician, something a GM can handwave. Others are more exacting; FBI agents need, as a minimum, Muscle 50, Agility 65, Observation 75, and Presence 6, leaving Patrick out. Since I wanted to create a private investigator, I need to check how to qualify there; the answer, Patrick needs a license that costs $50. He pays the fee and becomes a PI. As a PI, Patrick can carry a concealed weapon, arrest anyone wanted by the police, and arrest anyone committing a crime. Patrick can lose his license if he interferes with a police investigation, engages in gross misconduct, or gets convicted of a felony. He needs to keep his nose clean, at least in public.
Ethnic Background: Irish
Career Total XP:
XP to Spend:
Hit Points: 19
As a starting character, Patrick gets two suits of clothes plus related toiletries and accessories, $50 in cash, and any equipment provided by his job. If Patrick was a cop, he'd get a police uniform and revolver. However, Patrick is self-employed***, so he has to pay for everything. As a GM, I'd rule that the license is part of the career and the first one doesn't need to be paid for; otherwise, all the PI characters would be homeless at the start of the campaign. That means Patrick has $50 to get what he needs. He can't afford a Tommy-gun, but he can get a .22 revolver and a box of ammunition. He keeps the rest to help pay for living expenses, $20 per week, office expenses, $50-$75 per week. Working for an agency is starting to look good, but the agency may not get the cases an independent would.
In the course of a campaign, as characters go up in level, they get access to more skills. Each skill costs experience points, though the character's XP total won't go down. Skills cost more or fewer XP depending on the utility and ease they can be used. Photography is an easier skill to pick up than Counterfeit Detection. At first level, like Patrick, characters can get a skill that costs 5000XP, though other skills can be used with a success chance of 20% if the skill is not exclusive. Patrick takes Shadowing, which should serve him well as a PI. His success chance is generated the same way as his stats, a percentile roll. I roll 97, which does not get modified. Patrick is one with the shadows.
Gangbusters's character generation is quick. Roll five stats, choose a career, and determine equipment; nice and simple. Patrick is a lithe private investigator, stronger than he appears, capable of packing a punch but far better when lurking in the shadows. He prefers to work independently, though a partner isn't out of the question. His only problem is his Irish luck, which is all bad. Patrick doesn't believe in luck, though.
Patrick's character sheet follows. As always, go ahead and use him, but please let me know.
Character Name: Patrick Barry
Profession: Private Investigator
Rank (if applicable): --
Ethnic Background: Irish
Career Total XP: 0
XP to Spend:
XP Spent: 5000
Hit Points: 19
.22 revolver (Range 150, Damage 4)
Box of .22 pistol ammunition
* Bootleggers can earn $2300 per week serving just one speakeasy; and most gangs had several. Experience can add up quickly, even with the changes in amount of money needed to earn an XP going up every few levels. Note also that prohibition agents earn $2300 per year starting out. The rookie police officer earns even less.
** The d100 is wanted for acts of debauchery in several southern U.S. states.
*** Unless he got into a partnership with another PI or joined an agency.