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Page history last edited by Nuadha 1 year, 8 months ago Saved with comment

These are the old rules and are being maintained here for historical record.  The new rules will be emailed to you if you are playing in one of the current games.



Characters in the KEY system are built on a certain number of points depending on the game.    For the Dreaming City, characters are built on 200 points.    


There are four parts to a character: The Attributes, the Keys, Flaws and Powers/Perks.  Characters also have a constantly changing resource pool called Drama Points. New characters start with 3 Drama Points.


In the KEY RPG, there are Five attributes. Character points can be spent on the following 5 attributes.  The cost of the attribute point is 1 pt per point, so a Body of 10 would cost 10 points

Body: This represents the physical strength, toughness, agility and endurance of a character.
Fighting: This is a character’s skill in fighting, both in hand-to-hand and at range. A high fighting attribute can come from many sources from natural strength or agility to years of training. 
Wits: This represents a characters awareness of the world around him, his ability to react quickly to changing situations, and his ability in social situations.
Willpower: This represents the mental tenacity of the character. This is the most important attribute in contest of psychic powers or sorcery.
Knowledge: This represents the training and knowledge a character has. 

Attribute scores from 1-9 represent someone who is below the human average.
Attribute scores from 10-14 represent an average human.
Attribute scores from 15- 19 represent a moderately trained or competent human
Attribute scores from 20-29 represent a character who very skilled or strong in an ability.
Attribute scores from 30-39 represent peak human abilities
Attribute scores 40 or above represent levels of ability beyond real-world human abilities, though it may be possible for humans in highly cinematic settings or with something augmenting the attribute like magical abilities. 


Each character can also have a selection of key words that describe the characters key abilities.  These keywords or phrases (called keys), can be as broad or as defined as you wish.   Keys do not represent abilities that can not be found in a natural human being, but represent the skills and specialties in the abilities the character has. Each Key should be related to an attribute or perk.     These should better describe why the character has the attributes they have or how they use the perks they have.    For example, a character with a high fighting score might have the key “Kung-Fu Master.”    A character with a high knowledge score may have a key named “Science,” showing that he is very well studied in the field of science or they could have a key named “Quantum Physics” to show a more specialized area of expertise.


Keys cost 5 points each.


Use of attributes and keys

When a character takes an action, most of the time the GM will just use the points in the attribute to determine if the action is something the character can successfully make. If the character has a key that fits the situation, he is VERY likely to succeed, particularly if the key is more narrowly defined and still affects the situation.    For example, the character with Science and a decent score of Knowledge is less likely to succeed at finding out something related to Quantum Physics than someone who has the key of Quantum Physics but a low knowledge.     


In contested actions between two characters, the winner is usually determined by the number in the attribute.  However, if one character has a key that fits the contest or has a more narrowly defined key that is applicable to the situation, that character wins despite the difference in points.  


Heroic Actions!


 If a character tries to do something that he would normally fail at, the GM may inform the player that the character will fail.   The player may then decide to have the character try it anyway by taking a “Heroic Action.” Heroic Actions are always optional, so a player will never have to chance the randomness of fate unless he or she decides to. If the player makes a Heroic Action, the player draws a card from a deck of cards.     He will need to pull a card with a number above a certain number.     (Aces are high.)    Normally, a card of 8 or above will be a success, but if the action is extremely unlikely, the GM may declare that it requires an even higher value card.        

The number of card pulled in a Heroic Actions can be modified by the following:

1- Keys- If a character has a key that fits the situation but the GM still declared that the attempt would fail, the player may draw an additional card.
2- Drama points- The player may spend a DP to gain an additional card.   There is no limit to the number of additional cards that can be bought this way but you must spend the points before drawing any cards.
3- Flaws – If a character attempts an action that would be hampered by a flaw they have on their character sheet, they draw one less card. 

The GM may say that you can not attempt a Heroic Action for something at all, but this should be a rarity.    Normally, if it is still extremely unlikely fail, the GM will just increase the number needed on the card pulled. 

Heroic Actions – Hearts


If you draw a card in the suit of hearts, you may describe how the success or failure happens.     Also, other players may request cards as well when a player attempts a heroic action (normally receiving one but they can pay for additional cards with drama points as well).    If they are not attempting the action, the only purpose of the card is to try and get a heart.    If multiple players get a heart, the player with the highest ranked heart is the player who can describe the action.


Heroic Actions – Jokers are wild!


If a Joker is drawn in a heroic action by the acting player, the success or failure of the action is amplified.  The player will draw another card to replace the Joker.      The success or failure is determined by the other cards but if the character succeeds, they succeed in a very big and dramatic way.  If they fail, they fail in an equally dramatic way.   In the very unlikely chance that the player draws two Jokers in a pull, the player will draw replacement cards for both and the effect is even more dramatic than with one Joker.

Powers and Perks

Powers represent abilities that a standard human, no matter how naturally skilled or trained, can never attain. Powers tend to cost between 5 and 30 points depending on what it does. The more points spent on the power, the more useful it can be. Powers may sometimes use certain attributes to determine if you are successful using them. 

A few examples of powers:

Trump Magic- Roger wants to play a "Trump Mage." The character can draw images that have magical affects. It takes time to draw a proper trump image and there are a limited amount of things one can do with the trump image once it is drawn (defined by the player), although the abilities that can be done are fairly poweful. Using the trump abilities uses the attributes Wits (for drawing a proper trump image) and Willpower (for using the affects against others) so it has another limitation. So, 15 points seems like a reasonable amount of points to spend.

Invisibility- A character who can turn invisible to the eye could find many uses for such talents, but since a high enough Wits attributes and magical wards may detect the character, there are some limits to the ability. Again, 15 points would be fair.

Tarot Reading- The character is attuned to the magic of the tarot and can read very successfully the fortunes of both people and the city in the cards. The Awareness attribute would be important to this power but since it takes time to read cards, requires the cards and a place to read them and has a limited use, only 5 points are needed for this power.

Teleportation- A character who could teleport around at will is very powerful. If that character can teleport only within a short distance (a city block or two), then 20 points should cover it. If that character could teleport anywhere in the city that is not specifically warded against such a power, the points would be raised to 30.

Sorcery- Again, the more limits on the power, the less it would cost. For example, if you are only able to cast spells dealing with a certain element or type of magic, 20 points is fair. If you want a "Sorceror-Supreme" type, you'll need 30 points, as well as a high Knowledge (to represent all the time spent researching the different kinds of magic). Magic uses Wits, Knowledge and Willpower.



Perks represent things not covered by Powers or attributes but that can have a positive effect for the character.      The classic example of a perk would be having a contact or a special type of equipment.


Here are some example of Perks:


Contacts- An individual contact costs 1-5 points, depending on the level of power of the contact.    The cost is doubled if the contact is a group of people and is also doubled if the contacts are very loyal to the character and willing to take risks to help the character.   So, “Willy the Snitch” may only cost 2 points because he has some knowledge but since he is an individual and not putting his neck out for the character, the point stays at the base.    If you can call the FBI and get them to act as back-up for you in dangerous missions, the cost would be 20 points, 5 for power, doubled twice because they are a group and they will take risks.


Goody- Your character has an item of some sort that is special.    A magic sword may cost 5 points.   THE magic sword of light that can banish evil creatures, cut through anything, etc. would cost 20 points.    Like powers, the cost of goody is determined by its usefulness.




Characters may have any number of flaws.    Flaws provide no extra points at character creation, but allow a player to gain extra drama points during play.  Some flaw examples:


Code of Honor, Pacifism, Vow, etc.:   Some would argue that these should not be considered flaws.  They certainly are not character flaws, however it does limit a players options during play. 


Weakness: Get sick or weak around a certain kind of glowing green rock?     Cold Iron do particularly nasty wounds to you?    This is the flaw for you.

Drama Points

Drama Points are the currency of the KEY system. The number of Drama Points you have will change throughout the game and in campaign play, you will keep your number of drama points from game to game. Drama Points can be used for the following abilities:

Dramatic editing (costs 1 DP): Player describes a minor change to a scene. For example, the Martial Artist, Jackie, spends a DP to describe a mop sitting nearby him that he can snatch up and use to fight off a zombie horde or Errol Flynn may describe a chandelier conveniently located for him to swing dramatically across a room. Generally, dramatic editing should not affect other characters or have major affects on the plot, but allows the character to have the tools she needs to do something really cool. Playing a swashbuckler? You may want to save your DPs for this and there will always be a rope when you need it. Playing a character who knows a lot of people, you may want to dramatically edit yourself a contact from time to time.

Pushing a Heroic Action (costs 1 DP): Add I card to the draw of a Heroic Action.

Helping a friend (costs 1 DP): A character that is present with a character about to try a Heroic Action may declare they are going to try to assist in some way and describe how they assist. The character will gain 1 card to the draw for each character who assists him.

Pushing an attribute (costs 2 DPs): Player declares an attribute when the points are spent. Either the characters attribute is considered ten higher for one action or 5 higher for an entire scene. The player declares which effect they want. 

Let me re-try that…. (costs 2 DPs): Player can re-draw a failed Heroic Action, drawing the same number of cards, previously drawn.

I have to succeed! (costs 4 Drama points): Character succeeds at whatever action they were attempting with no Heroic Action necessary. GM may declare that it is not possible to spend this way on certain actions, but if allowed, the player may also describe their success as if they drew a heart (if they wish). For example, a player wants to look for clues at a murder scene and really wants to find something. Spending 4 points, she may say "I look for clues and I find something." She may then say "I find a small dusty book with drawings in it off a purple death-ray machine.....it looks like the Gremlins are building a really big gun this time!" These descriptions may affect an NPC's history (with GM approval) such as finding out that one of the city elders used to practice Necromancy but may only affect other PCs with the player's permission.

I want to GM! (costs 5 DPs!): The ultimate use of Drama Points, spending 6 DPs, a player may take over as GM for one scene. Of course, this use is with GM approval and you can not wrap up the plot or do anything like that or it may be retconned into a "dream sequence" but as long as this ability is not abused to the ruin of the story or characters, your GMed scene becomes part of the plot.

How you get back Drama Points:

Damn, that was cool- If a description of an action is considered so cool or so amusing that all of the other players stop in awe of the character’s coolness, the character gains a DP.

Flaws-  During the game, the GM may exploit your character’s flaws, or you may decide that your character’s flaw  would hinder your character and roleplay in an appropriate manner.   The first time a flaw hinders you, you gain 1 drama point.    If it affects you again, it may or may not award you another drama point depending on how great it hindered you.   This is determined by the GM.   The general rule is that if it hindered you worse than it has in the past, you will receive an additional drama point.

Bad things happen to you- The GM may decide that something particularly bad happens to your character to move a plot along or even to jump-start a plot. For example, your character may be knocked unconscious from behind by unknown assailants. When this happen you gain at least 1 DP.

I can’t believe you pulled that off- If you attempt and succeed a particularly dangerous Heroic Action without the use of Drama Points, you gain 1 DP.   For the action to be considered dangerous, there has to be a tangible drawback to failure.

PC Support: If your character goes to another PC for assistance or in some other way pulls them in to your plot, they gain a DP. You can only gain a DP for going to a particular PC once per game, but can gain a DP for each other PC in the game




Example Characters


Big Crunch – 200 pts

Concept: Troll Internet Hacker (Dreaming City)


Body: 40                    Keys: Strong, Tough (10 pts)

Fighting: 20               Keys: Grappling, Headbutting (10)

Wits: 15                      Keys: Computers (5)

Will: 20                       Keys: Intimidation (5)

Knowledge: 25         Keys: Local Gossip, Computers, Pop Culture (15)



Contacts: Local Geeks (4 pts), Demon-hunters, loyal (16 pts)

Base: “The Crunch-Cave” – Apartment filled with computer equipment and a reliable internet connection (5 pts)

Goody: Laptop – Has a mystic connection to a “wireless router” in the Crunch-Cave that is not affected by the problems usually affecting cell-phones and such in Murias.  (10 pts)


Flaws: Temper, Over-sized, Clumsy


The Doctor – 200 pts 

Concept: Timelord


Body: 18                    Keys: Running away from bad guys, monsters, etc. (5)

Fighting: 16

Wits: 33                      Keys: Fast-talker (5)

Will: 33

Knowledge: 30         Keys: Quantum Physics, his universe, Technology (15)


Power: Timelord – Package power that included all Timelord abilities including regeneration.    (25 pts)


Goody: TARDIS -  A vehicle that can travel through time, relative dimensions and space.    Currently has a broken Chameleon Circuit, leaving it stuck in the appearance of a police box from the sixties.  Normally, it requires six people to pilot effectively, though The Doctor has gotten fairly skilled over the last 900 years at piloting it solo.   (15 pts)


Goodies: Sonic Screwdriver and Psychic Paper (10 pts)


Flaws: Curious, Pacifism (Does not kill and fights to prevent killing)

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