Sunday, August 2, 2020

Comedy in Tabloid! (et al.)

A public domain photograph of the King which TSR could have used for Tabloid!

Tabloid! has a four-page chapter on death called 'The Final Byline,' beginning with the phrase, “Dying Is Easy...”  The following chapter, 'Anything for a Laugh,' begins with the conclusion of the aphorism, “Comedy is Hard.”  In this two-and-a half-page chapter, designer Zeb Cook attempts to explain how to instill comedy into playing Tabloid!

Cook writes:
This is not a game where the mighty, brave, or even the cynically mani-pulative profit.  In this universe, success goes to those who are willing to risk their characters on the stupidest, most lame-brained, and ill-thought-out plans possible.  It's kind of like real life in that way.
Thereafter, Cook supplies “a few rules of comedy.”

1. Get Physical.  This rule has two parts.  First, “Comedy is action – it's called slapstick.”  (Evidently, Cook did not want to address cerebral humor.)  For inspiration, Cook recommends that the prospective Editor “watch some cartoons... and some Three Stooges.”  (The TSR lawyers may have missed this.  Given that they censored B*g B**d, I would have expected them to give the same treatment to the T***e S*****s as well as R**d R****r and W**e E. C****e.)  The other part of this rule encourages the Editor to be active during the game.  (e.g. “Pretend you're the airplane spinning into a dive.”)

2. Maintain a Manic Pace.  Essentially, this means keep the action going and don't let up on the humor.  Cook says not to give the players a break.  “If they players have time to think,” he comments, “then they won't get themselves into stupid messes.”

3. Steal Shamelessly.  These first five rules actually come Mike Pondsmith's Teenagers from Outer Space.  We know this because Cook tells us he stole them from said game.  Cook also explains that he “stole” the rules with Pondsmith's permission.  Of course, having permission defies the notion of stealing, but I suppose Cook wanted to provide an example of incorporating – “stealing” – outside material.  Anyway, Editors should take jokes “and give them a whole new spin” to keep players from anticipating the punch line.

4. Use Running Gags.  According to Cook, “every adventure should have at least one or two set-ups that always seem to reoccur.”  However, “An important part of a running gag is that it can't always be the same.”  Again, this keeps the players on their toes.

5. Dare to be Stupid.  “Your players aren't going to be stupid if you aren't.”  I beg to differ.

6. The Innocent Must Suffer.  “It's undeserved stuff happening to any character,” Cook tells us.  “If they deserve it,” he continues, “it's a comeuppance” and therefore not funny.

7. More is Better.  “There's no such thing as too much,” Cook says.  He advises adding complications to any situation.  This echos Rule 4 from Cook's Bullwinkle and Rocky Role Playing Party Game ; namely, “The Good, The Bad, and The Funny” or “Bad is Good, the Worse the Better.”

8. Plot?  Cook tells us that plots “give the characters some motivation to do things,” but this should be secondary to fun.  “Just throw out the encounter that's not working,” Cook writes, “laugh, and get the characters toward the goal by whatever means.”  Cook uses the word “Improvise,” which ought to have been the name of this rule.  Contrary to what is said at the beginning of the chapter, Cook reveals the “real secret” is that “Comedy is simple.”

After these rules, Cook provides a concluding section to the chapter, part of which reads:
Because this is a silly game, you've got a freedom referees don't get in other games.  You don't even have to be consistent.  You don't even have to make much sense.  By their very nature, silly universes are illogical! That's part of their fun... Just don't worry.
Cook presents four words in large, bold font and in capital letters, presumably to emphasize their importance:
This should have been a coda to the last rule rather than a separate section called, “Some Other Extremely Useful Advice.”

I might be inclined to add another rule, Embrace Absurdity.  Regardless, humor is subjective and what might be funny to someone might be tasteless to someone else.  Back in the nineties, one could still get some comedy mileage from disturbed people going on shooting sprees.  Result #10 on the Work table for character generation begins, “Co-worker comes in and plays disgruntled postal worker.”  Yet even twenty-five years ago, there were some things that just weren't funny.  Result #16 on the Journalism School table for character generation reads in part:
Killing the neighbor sure livened up a slow news day.  With good behavior, character gets out after five years.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Character Creation in Tabloid!

Cartography by Dennis Kauth

Included in the back of the Tabloid! rule book fold-out poster map of “The Real Weird World,” a portion of which is shown above.  It's incorrect to call the map a selling point since there's no mention of it in the cover copy.  I suppose it was meant to be a source of inspiration, but it just seems like a mistake.  If anything, it exemplifies some of the things I find off-putting about the game.

Apparently Tom Wham was unavailable to draw the map, not that there's anything wrong with Tom Wham.  However, having Dennis Kauth draw the map in the style of Tom Wham seems such a waste.  Speaking of waste, the map for one of the included scenarios is attributed to Dave Sutherland.  If you have Dave Sutherland on tap, why limit his contribution to drawing a house plan?

Attention to accuracy is somewhat lacking.  Roswell is, of course, in New Mexico and Hangar 18 (not 'Hanger') is in Ohio.  In the rules, author Dave Cook refers to the Trilateral Commission as Trilateralist Commission and Nostradamus as Nostrodamus.

The map refers to Lake Geneva as the location of a “secret mind control base.”  This is interesting given the degree of caution with which TSR's lawyers approach other portions of the game.  Elvis is a beloved staple of tabloid journalism (or was in the twentieth century, at least) and any game regarding the tabloids cannot ignore the King.  However, Tabloid! scrupulously avoids direct mention of his name.  Instead, we get a sequence of asterisks – E***s P*****y.  One image of Elvis in the game as a 'censored' block over his eyes and another image is a bust, but with everything above the mouth is cut off.  Other entities that get the asterisk treatment include Burt Reynolds, Big Bird, Geraldo Rivera, Michael Jackson, and Satan.

Tabloid! has no pre-generated characters.  In other games, this may be cause for me to complain, but this doesn't pose a problem in Tabloid!  There are sufficient examples in the System Guide and the components specific to Tabloid! comprise a clearly described career path mechanic.  To begin with, there are “Résumé Steps.”  The first step is to select a post-high school option:  College, Journalism School (to be “an idealistic reporter – like G*****o R****a”), Work, or the Beach.  Each choice is represented by one the remaining steps; however, after the first step, the steps are not followed in order, nor will every step necessarily apply to a given character, and a character may repeat the same step multiple times.  Each time a character engages in a step, a year passes.

A player character in Tabloid! is entitled to a number of skills equal to Intuition / 15 (rounded up) plus Learning / 10 (also rounded up).  Skills are divided into seventeen pools called schools.  Some examples include the Institute of the Secret Truth, Lawson's Absolute Center of the Universe School, and the G*******d Tour Guide Training Program.  Most skills are only available from a given school; however, there are some skills that are available from more than one school.  For instance, Photography is available from both the CIA University of the Air as well as the Forbert School of Celebrity Nude Photography.  Unlike the CIA, however, the Forbert School offers the specializations and enhancements of Video Camera, Paparazzi, Darkroom, and Photo Retouching.

For the College step, the player chooses one of the schools.  If a Learning roll is successful, the character enrolls.  If the roll fails, the character can try to enroll in another school.  If the second attempt fails, the character must go to the Work step.  Assuming the character successfully enrolls in a school, the player selects one of the skills from that school's pool.  Each time the character engages in the College step, the player rolls 1d10 and adds the number of times the character has taken that step.  A roll of ten or more means the character develops a quirk; specifically, the player rolls 1d20 on the quirk table.  Possible results include tinfoil user, alcoholic, and paranoid.

The Journalism School step is similar to the College step, except the character automatically enrolls in the Columbia School of Journalism (and the player selects a skill form that pool).  Instead of developing a quirk, a character can acquire “one of those wonderful traits that so endears journalists to the rest of the world.”  The 'trait' table requires 1d12 and possible results include irritating whiner, caffeine addict, and one set of clothes.

With the Work step, the player rolls 1d20 to determine the character's job.  If the character engages the Work step more than once, he or she can keep the job or roll for a new job.  Most jobs are listed with a school from which the player can select a skill.  Each job also has a Savings Account modifier.  (In Tabloid!, finances are abstracted into a Resource Rating derived from a character's Savings Account.  Characters start with a Savings Account determined by 1d4.)  We are informed that, “All of the jobs described below (save one) are real and were held by people the designer knows...”  Examples include, Chicken Defroster - Night Shift (School of Hard Knocks), Convention Organizer (Kult College), and Fishmarket Gopher (San Diego Cryptozoological Society).  Additionally, in the Work step, at the cost of one point from his or her Savings Account, a character can attend night school and chose a skill from any school.

For the Beach step, the player selects one skill from either the School of Hard Knocks or Louie di Chang's Dojo and Shooting Range.  The character's Savings Account is also reduced by one point.

The College, Journalism School, Work, and Beach steps each have a 'life event' table.  Each time a character engages in a given step, the player rolls 1d20 and the result is checked on the table.  Any given result offers a bit of color commentary and describes an effect which may grant an additional skill, require the character to switch to a different step, or cause something else to happen.

Result number 9 from the Journalism School table reads:
Playing the D&D® game at work does not count as “reviewing.”  Character learns RPG Mind Control skill but takes a pay cut.  Lose 1 point of Savings Account and roll again on this table.
RPG Mind Control is distinct from Army Mind Control.  The description of the RPG Mind Control skill occupies half of a page; Army Mind Control is described in four sentences.

Result number 5 from the Work table reads:
The one-armed man did it – really!  The cops aren't buying it.  Your character barely gets away in time and is now Hunted by the law for a crime someone else committed.  Lose 2 from the character's Saving Account but immediately gain Disguise and Survival Instinct.  Go to Step 5: The Beach.
The process of engaging in the various steps continues until the character fills all of his or her skill slots.  However, the last step must be followed to the end; this may mean the character acquires skills in excess of the nominal maximum.

Some skills are more useful than others, but if they lack utility, at least they are interesting.  Tabloid! is likely the only game where Smug Liberalism is a skill (with Secular Humanism as an enhancement).  Having the Predictions skill means a character “has studied famous predictions – biblical, astrological, oriental, alchemical, mystical, and whatnot” and can relate them to current events.  Additionally, the character “can fashion predictions for every occasion.”  Cook provides the following advice for cruel Editors:
If you really want to have fun with your players, secretly make a skill check for every prediction made.  If a success margin of 1 is rolled, secretly make note that the prediction is real.  Then use it later to build an adventure for the player characters.  Have fun – make them sorry.

Sunday, July 5, 2020


After an unintended hiatus due to computer issues, your humble host is back.  Before we were so rudely interrupted, we were discussing the two 'tabloid journalism' role-playing games from the early 90s.  TSR's contribution to the genre – the aptly named Tabloid! – was the last Universe Book for the AMAZING ENGINE® system.  Therefore, we must understand the AMAZING ENGINE in order to understand Tabloid!  According to the System Guide :
          ...the AMAZING ENGINE system consists of two parts.  The first part is this book, the System Guide.  Here one finds the basic rules for creating player characters and having those characters use skills, fight, and move.  These rules and procedures are found in all AMAZING ENGINE settings...
          The second part of the AMAZING ENGINE system are the different settings to play in.  Each setting is called a universe and is described in its own book, naturally called Universe Books.  Each Universe Book is a complete role-playing game and only requires the System Guide to play.  It is not necessary to buy every Universe Book in order to play in the AMAZING ENGINE system...
Obviously, a Universe Book cannot be a “complete” role-playing game if it requires something else in order to play.  The System Guide – credited to David “Zeb” Cook – provided the essential mechanics of a role-playing system but required a Universe Book to flesh out the rules for any given setting.  Eventually, such as in the case of Tabloid!, the System Guide material was included in the Universe Books.  While the System Guide as a distinct product was 32 pages, in Tabloid! the material takes up 16 pages.  This is can be attributed to a small font and a lack of illustrations.

In the AMAZING ENGINE system, player characters are primarily defined by four ability pools of two attributes each.
  • Physique:  Fitness (“bodily strength”) and Reflexes (“reaction speed and hand-eye coordination”)
  • Intellect:  Learning (“knowledge in areas requiring long training and study”) and Intuition (“ability to remember random trivia, innate wit, street smarts, comprehension, and worldliness”)
  • Spirit:  Psyche (“potential to perceive and manipulate the spiritual and metaphysical world”) and Willpower (“mental fortitude”)
  • Influence:  Charm (“rates the characters' personalities and the way others are disposed toward them”) and Position (“a rough rank for characters on the ladder of social advancement”)
When a player first generates a character he or she assigns a rank to each ability pool; Rank 1 being the most favored pool and Rank 4 being the least favored.  The player then selects four attributes to receive 4d10 each; the remaining four attributes receive 3d10 each.  For each attribute, the player rolls the set number of dice and records the total.  The player the allocates fifteen points between the two Rank 1 attributes, ten between the Rank 2 attributes, and five between the Rank 3 attributes.  The result is the basis of not only the player character, but also the “player core” (infrequently referred to as “character core”).

The concept of the player core is the AMAZING ENGINE's claim to fame (such as it is).  A player can use the player core as the basis of subsequent player characters in other AMAZING ENGINE campaigns, or even the same campaign universe with the Gamemaster's approval and “only if the previous character is dead or permanently retired.”  Experience earned by one character can be transferred to a new character based on the same player core.  Specifically, when a character earns experience, the player “must immediately assign the xps to either [the] current player character (the one who earned the xps) or to the player core from which that character was created.”

Aside from experience, a player core consists of the original Rank scheme and, for each ability pool, a dice rating.  To determine the dice rating for an ability pool, add the values of the constituent attributes, divide by ten, and round up.  This is the number of dice that the player can allocate among the two attributes when generating a new character.  For example, a first – or “prime” – character with a Learning of 23 and an Intuition of 28, would mean the player core would have an Intellect dice pool of six.  ( [23 + 28] / 10 = 5.1)  New characters based on a player core receive seven “free” dice to allocate among the eight attributes.

The maximum ability value for a beginning character is 50, even after allocation points from the ability pool's Rank.  As such, no more than five dice can be assigned to a given attribute and an ability's dice pool cannot exceed ten.  Different settings may allow for a base adjustment for ability pools or specific attribute.  Such adjustments can cause an attribute's starting value to increase beyond 50.  In Tabloid!, “All player characters...add +30 to their attribute scores.”

To determine if an action (such as skill use) is successful, percentile dice are rolled.  A result equal to or less than the applicable attribute value indicates success.  Depending upon circumstances, an attribute's value may be modified, making success more or less likely.  “A skill check always fails on a roll of 95–00,” we read, “but there is no corresponding chance for automatic success.”

The AMAZING ENGINE system also incorporates the notion of margin ratings.  There are success margin ratings (“noted as S#: S2, S5, etc.”) and failure margin ratings (“noted as F #: F8, F7, etc.”).  If a skill roll is successful and the one's digit of the percentile result is less than of equal to the success margin rating, the result is a critical success.  Similarly, if a roll is failed, and the one's digit equals or exceeds the failure margin, the result is a critical failure.

For player characters (as opposed to player cores), experience can be used to permanently increase a player character's attribute value.  The experience points necessary to increase an attribute value by one point varies from setting to setting.  Regardless, no attribute can be increased beyond a value of 90.  Experience points can be used to purchase new skills for a character, also at a rate depending upon setting.  Finally, experience can be used to 'tax' an attribute, a temporary increase for the purpose of a single roll in a dire situation.  In multiples of five, a player may increase the value of an attribute to a maximum of half of the attribute's normal value.  The decision to tax, and the number of experience points to expend, must be determined before the roll is made.

Karen S. Boomgarden, credited with AMAZING ENGINE “Project Management, System Guide development and editing,” contributed an article to Dragon #195 (July 1993), “The little engine that could: the AMAZING ENGINE™ story.”  Most of the article is about For Faerie, Queen, & Country, the first AMAZING ENGINE Universe Book; however, it begins thus:
          When the members of my product group first suggested the concept of the AMAZING ENGINE™ system, I was skeptical.  A stand-alone rules set, usable with any kind of fantasy or science-fiction setting we could dream up?  Complete basic rules in only 32 pages?  Whole game settings (with attendant rules modifications and specifics) in only 128 pages?  Sure.  Right.  Oh, and one more thing:  The players earn the experience points, not the characters, and they can take those experience points along to other game settings within the system.
          It'll never work, I thought.
It turns out that her initial assumption was correct.  TSR supported the AMAZING ENGINE product line for about a year before giving up on it.  The world wasn't ready for such a concept and I guess it still isn't.  Nonetheless, the System Guide and the various Universe Book are available at Drive Thru RPG.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Strictly for the Enjoyment of Our Readers

August 31, 1993, edition of the self-proclaimed "World's Only Reliable Newspaper"

Once upon a time, if a person wanted timely and accurate information, he or she would procure something called a newspaper.  Today, people have various, more convenient means of obtaining news but advances in technology aren't the only problems that afflict newspapers.  The public's 'confidence in newspapers' has waned over time.  If we look at 1994 (with the lowest 'Great deal/Quite a lot' confidence percentage of the 90s) and compare it to 2019, we see some telling figures.  In 1994, the combined 'Very little/None' confidence was 28%; the combined 'Great deal/Quite a lot' confidence was 29%.  In 2019, the combined 'Very little/None' confidence was 39% and the combined 'Great deal/Quite a lot' confidence was 23%.  If we interpret the 1994 difference as +1 (i.e., 29 – 28) and the 2019 difference as –16 (i.e., 23 – 39); we see a 17 'point' decline in confidence.

There are two conflicting components in the news media:  purpose and product.  Purpose is the journalistic goal of responsibly providing news for the benefit of society.  On the other hand, product is a combination of profit motive and intentional bias.  Previously, purpose outweighed product – at least in the public perception.  In our jaded era, where truth has become subjective, it seems that product has encroached upon purpose...

What?  What's that?  You don't read Thoul's Paradise for tedious social commentary?  You read it for tedious commentary on old school role-playing games?  Well, excuse me for attempting an erudite introduction to the next games we are to examine.

Anyway, the nineties represented the golden age of tabloid journalism, when UFO space aliens, Bigfoot, and Elvis commanded the headlines and people had enough common sense not to take such things seriously.  A disclaimer contemporaneous with the issue shown above indicates that the Weekly World News is “a journal of information, opinion, and entertainment... strictly for the enjoyment of our readers.”  Eventually, in the twenty-first century, their disclaimer would emphasize that most articles are fictitious and the “reader should suspend belief for the sake of enjoyment.”  I don't know how, but the Millennials must be responsible for the decline of the tabloids – Today's tabloids focus on celebrity gossip and weight loss programs.  (I'm not concerned with 'online' tabloids; if I don't see it in the check-out lane at the supermarket, it doesn't count.)

What?  Get to the games?  Fine...

1993's Pandemonium! has as its setting the Tabloid World where “everything you've ever read in the tabloids has either happened or is likely to happen...”  Of course, many people are “Mundanes” who discount tabloid phenomena.  Similarly, the setting of 1994's Tabloid! is “a neat world, just like ours, except – EVERYTHING YOU READ IS TRUE! ”  Yet “normal” people don't believe the truth of the tabloids.  Not surprisingly, there are many similarities between the two games.  In both games, player characters are reporters working for a tabloid.  Also in both games, the official title of the game master is Editor.  In Pandemonium! (or PANDEMONIUM as it refers to itself) the player characters are Enlightened (“any sentient entity that is able to perceive, believe in, and have some understanding of paranormal phenomena”) and are called Paranormal Investigators.

PANDEMONIUM uses the “E-Z Rules System,” but “optional Very Complicated Rules for anal retentive role-players” are provided.  The E-Z Rules do not allow for character creation; players must choose among the eleven provided “pre-generated, pre-destined, and ready-to-play Character Cards.”  For the reader's edification, these Paranormal Investigators are described below.

Each character has a Mundane Profession (“the occupation that the character practiced prior to becoming Enlightened and finding work as a Paranormal Investigator”), one or more Hobbies (“talents or avocations that can be practiced and developed in a person's spare time”), one or more Paranormal Talents (“'extra-mundane' (or just plain weird) abilities”), and a Phobia.  Also, each Paranormal Investigator has a Past Life.  The character can use the abilities of the Past Life by rolling on the Fate Table.  “If successful,” we learn, “the Past Life recollection lasts for just ten minutes, then fades from memory until the next time it is used...”  For example, a character with Houdini as a Past Life could “escape from any type of restraint, prison cell, or practically any dicey situation...”

Without further ado...

Rick Dante
Male, Italian-American, Age 22, 6', 175 lbs, brown hair, green eyes; acts cool, smokes too much, hangs out with strange people (mostly musicians), nocturnal by preference
Mundane Profession: R & B Musician (sax player, speaks musician's lingo; familiarity with most types of street drugs, seedy bars, and the dark underside of city night life)
Hobbies: Amateur Detective
Paranormal Talents: High Chemical Tolerance; Magic
Phobia: Hydrophobia
Past Lives: Bogey

Celia Brown
Female, African-American, Age 20, 5' 8", 130 lbs, brown hair & eyes; excellent physical condition, outgoing, friendly -- flexible and athletic, perceptive
Mundane Profession: Aerobics Instructor (teaches exercise techniques, knows how to treat sprains and bruises, terrific endurance, looks great in tights)
Hobbies: Judo
Paranormal Talents: Mind Reading; Psychic Assault
Phobia: Phasmophobia
Past Lives: Joan of Arc

Henry Yakamoto
Male, Japanese-American, Age 25, 5' 7", 150 lbs, black hair & brown eyes – thoughtful, studious, introspective -- as a result is sometimes thought of as a nerd
Mundane Profession: High School Physics Teacher (understands laws of physics as they apply to both the mundane and tabloid world universe -- ability to teach high school kids while retaining sanity)
Hobbies: Computers
Paranormal Talents: Psychokinesis; Cryptozoology
Phobia: Altophobia
Past Lives: Albert Einstein

Joseph Cloudwalker
Male, Native American, Age 21, 6' 3", 200 lbs, black hair, brown eyes, good physical condition, lean but strong, good balance -- quiet and softspoken, sometimes moody
Mundane Profession: Construction Worker (experienced welder and riveter, can operate heavy machinery (trucks, crane), has no fear of heights)
Hobbies: Bow Hunting
Paranormal Talents: Dowsing; Magic (Shamanism) [perhaps not the best descriptor]
Phobia: Belonophobia
Past Lives: Geronimo

Mike Washington
Male, African-American, Age 24, 6' 3", 240 lbs, well built, good athlete (former college football player until knee injury), self-assured but never cocky
Mundane Profession: Nightclub DJ & Rapper (streetwise, knows the rap club scene, speaks the language of the inner-city, knowledge of recording studios and sound gear)
Hobbies: Football (Linebacker)
Paranormal Talents: Sixth Sense; Clairaudience
Phobia: Claustrophobia
Past Lives: Joe Louis

Tracey Novak
Female, Polish-American, Age 23, 5' 10", 132 lbs, blonde hair, blue eyes, very attractive, great body, acts a bit dizzy but is quite intelligent, likes to party
Mundane Profession: Professional Model (knows how to use make-up and clothing to enhance looks, good at self-promotion, can hold same pose for hours, knowledge of fashion industry)
Hobbies: Acting
Paranormal Talents: Speak In Tongues; Faith Healing
Phobia: Triskadeccaphobia [sic]
Past Lives: Marilyn Monroe

Crawford White
Male, WASP, Age 28, 6', 180 lbs, blonde hair, blue eyes -- family was rich until stock market crash; very outgoing, well-mannered, a real socialite
Mundane Profession: Ski Instructor (seasonal job with the side benefit of meeting wealthy women; good skier, knowledge of ski resorts and posh nightclubs; speaks the language of the upper class)
Hobbies: Boating
Paranormal Talents: Retrocognition; Object Reading
Phobia: Ergophobia
Past Lives: JFK

Che LaVie
Female, French-American, Age 21, 5' 5", 110 lbs, black hair & brown eyes; alternative fashion sense (combination of Seattle grunge and N.Y. punk); emotional termperament [sic], strong-willed
Mundane Profession: Freelance Photographer (knowledge of most photographic techniques, film developing, shooting under less than ideal conditions; can candle temperamental models and subjects)
Hobbies: Ancient Egyptian Mythology
Paranormal Talents: Astral Assault; Spirit Photography
Phobia: Ophiophobia [sic]
Past Lives: Cleopatra

Ernesto Villa
Male, Mexican-American, Age 27, 5' 11", 195 lbs, brown hair & eyes, muscular build; macho temperament when angered, otherwise easy-going, speaks fluent Spanich [sic]
Mundane Profession: Cab Driver (able to drive fast and recklessly, specific knowledge of home town or city streets, able to work long hours without getting drowsy)
Hobbies: Boxing; Automatic Art
Paranormal Talents: Precognition
Phobia: Ballistophobia
Past Lives: Marco Polo

Judith Rosenberg
Female, German-American, Age 30, 5' 6", 125 lbs, wavy brown hair, brown eyes, 1960’s fashion sense; radical feminist, vegetarian, has Masters [sic] Degree in Women’s Studies
Mundane Profession: Health Food Store Nutrition Advisor (knowledge of harmful and/or weird food additives, vitamins, natural foods; can diagnose nutrition-related maladies and suggest remedies)
Hobbies: Kung Fu
Paranormal Talents: Read Auras; Palm Reading
Phobia: Pharmacophobia
Past Lives: Madame Blavatsky

Johnny King
Male, Serbian-American, Age 32, 5' 10", 195 lbs, black hair, brown eyes, about 20 lbs overweight, loves junk food & sci-fi movies, somewhat shy when not on stage
Mundane Profession: Elvis Impersonator (able to sing, speak, and act like Elvis; knowledge of the Elvis repertoire, shobiz lingo, and most of the least attractive nightclubs in Las Vegas and Atlantic City)
Hobbies: UFO Watcher
Paranormal Talents: Alien Empathy; Astral Assault
Phobia: Teratophobia
Past Lives: Nicola Tesla