The Character

You are what you know
You are what you do
Help yourself
No more secrets
No more excuses
No more limits
They've done it again! They've rolled out Mandela, this time quite literally. The point of this pre-election debate in the school's aula was to hear the Social Democrats' views before the election. Since many students are going to vote for the first time they are interested in what they have to say, but the Social Democrats aren't interested in having an open debate with the students. Instead the apparatchnik that they sent has brought a guest, the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

The aged man starts to talk about his memories from his days in a prison and keeps on praising the Swedish Social Democratic government's help. Attempts from the audience to change the subject to the more pressing matters of the election are struck down by fearsome attacks of political correctness from the apparatchnik. The message is clear, shut up and listen to how glorious we made Sweden in the past, the future is our worst enemy.

I estimate that about 95% of the students have already learned to shut up and take the crap with their pants down. It is for the remaining 5% I am here. Those that feel disgusted and distressed by seeing the government party treat them like idiots, even on the brink of an election. Unfortunately there are others here too that see the possibility to recruit. I hope that the Concordat and me get to them first.

The Dialogue

Everything starts with the character, with man, because it is man's actions and his ideas that gives every drama a meaning. In many role-playing games this is often overlooked in favor of character statistics. InfoWar starts in the other end, first you create your character and then you give him statistics. Start with describing your character to the Coordinator; tell him about his background, attributes, abilities, contacts, economic resources, appearance and other details in a story. From that story you start the process of creating the character's statistics in tandem with the Coordinator, conversing with him about who the character is.
Example: Robert is going to play InfoWar for the first time, after having read the game and asked his Coordinator a few questions about the setting, he starts to think about his character and comes up with this story:

Robert: "O.K., I would like to play a street smart interfacer, with quite a few connections to the underworld."

Coordinator: "Sounds reasonable. What's his story?"

Robert: "His name is Claude Ginzman; he's 29 years old when the Info War starts. He was born in Paris, Saint-Denis, on the fourth of May in 1986. His father is from a French-Jewish family on the skid and his mother is Spanish. He has deep brown hair and dark blue eyes. About 170 cm and weighs about 50 kg, quite skinny. He detested school and in a tough quarter like Saint-Denis that meant that he was shoved into petty crime. At home his father and mother didn't go well along at all, so they broke up and divorced in 1996. He hasn't seen his father since and doesn't care about him at all, since he didn't care about him. The cops luckily never arrested Claude but many of his friends were arrested, and Claude saw many of them go down the drains."

Coordinator: "So what happened?"

Robert: "It was back in 2001 that he started to think about why his life was taking all the wrong turns, like he wasn't controlling his destiny and understood it was because he didn't take control over it. So he started to go back to school to learn a trade, but he was shocked when school didn't want to teach him anything. The life on the skid was his to lead, said the authorities. Claude refused that, he had always been good at hustling - now he made it his trade, and he started to do deals and acting as a broker in the underworld."

Coordinator: "Hold it right there, this is starting to sound like a cyberpunk fixer! Why does Claude want to fight the FOG? Why does he want to improve his life and how?"

Robert: "Coming to that! OK, after a while he starts to understand that life in the underworld is set by the same rules like in the "straight" world. Claude doesn't like that. He's a trader, not a gangster! He wants to trade with goods, not hustle people, not forcing them to do things they don't want to do. Claude hates the fact that the law stops him from doing legit business just because some politicians in the parliament do not like his goods. What he sells is a thing between him and his customer, not anyone else. He came to these conclusions after having read some philosophy files by chance when surfing on the Internet. Claude thinks that a businessman, if someone in society, must be schooled in philosophy. So he started to choose his customers better, not doing business with people he was revolted by, and taking care with what goods he sold."

Coordinator: "Right. And how did he join the Concordat?"

Robert: "Claude started up his own cell without even knowing about the Concordat. Jeez, this must have been around 2010. He talked with some other fixers and interfacers all across Europe that shared his views and it was safer and more profitable to do business with them..."

After finishing the individual Dialogues, the Coordinator can have a Dialogue for the whole cell, to make the characters fit together and find out more about it (see the section about the cell).

The basic questions to answer in The Dialogue are:

Hit the high points. Don't dwell on mundane details. Focus on interesting details and specifics. Think ahead on your Gifts and Faults, as well as any special equipment needed. Provide reasons for your character's Attribute and Skill levels. You don't have to explain every skill or attribute but you should generally give reasons for all Very Hard skills you possess and also for all your Great Traits or higher, because these are very special Traits. You should also explain why you have lowered a Trait.

This is how it's done, now lets get to the boring and unimportant part, the system.

Character Creation Terms

anything that describes a character. A trait can be an attribute, skill, gift or fault.
most traits are described by one of seven adjectives (sometimes even more). These seven descriptive words represent levels a trait may be at.
any trait that everyone in InfoWar has, in some degree or other. The average level in InfoWar is Fair.
any trait that is not an attribute, but can be improved through practice and study. The default level varies if the skill is Easy, Normal, Hard or Very Hard.
any trait that isn't an attribute or a skill, but still is something positive for the character.
any trait that limits a character's actions, or earns him a bad reaction from other people.

Trait Levels

Traits are rated as:

The ratings in parenthesis are generally impossible to achieve for a "normal" human without help from advanced technologies. There are potential trait levels beyond Posthuman, but aren't included here.


Agility (AGL)
Agility is the character's balance, gross motor coordination, and limberness.
Dexterity (DEX)
The character's fine motor coordination, especially for manual manipulation.
Strength (STR)
The character's physical power and capacity for lifting, carrying and using strength techniques.
Endurance (END)
How hardy and healthy the character is. Used for instance when resisting damage and diseases.
Intellect (INT)
The character's puzzle solving ability. It is in some ways equivalent of a mental agility. It also describes in character's ability to react to his perceptions.
Mind (MIND)
Mind is the character's mental strength, memory, and learning ability.
Charisma (CHA)
How attractive and interesting to others the character is.
Confidence (CON)
The character's hardiness, and self-confidence. How interesting the character is to himself. This also means the character's ability to keep his wits and cool in stressful situations.

Allocating Attributes

Having completed The Dialogue it should be fairly obvious where a character is strong and where he is weak. All Attributes start as Fair, but that level can be changed if the player wants to. Players have four (4) free attribute levels to raise the character's attributes with. When these levels are spent he can increase them further by lowering other Attributes. The cost of raising or lowering an attribute is:
+3 Superb
+2 Great
+1 Good
+0 Fair
-1 Mediocre
-2 Poor
-3 Terrible

No character can start with an attribute of Enhanced or higher. The Coordinator should have a guideline of allowing only 1 Superb, 1 Great and 2 Good Attributes. Humans are generally not that unbalanced, but of course the results of The Dialogue take precedence on this rule.

Sometimes you are required to roll an attribute, mostly when there isn't a specific skill for an action you want to attempt.


The Dialogue should have also given a good indication of which areas of skills the character is familiar with. Remember that most people are quite concentrated in one area of skills, a jack-of-all- trade is quite rare indeed. Skills start at different default levels; some skills are well known to all, some only to those that have completed long studies in them. The character starts with 30 free skill levels to add to those he already has. Mind you; 30 free skill levels are quite a lot, we assume that most characters have received a rather good education in an industrialized country. If one of your players wants to play a Pakistani farmer he shouldn't receive 30 skill levels, but much less. This isn't because we, the authors, are racists but it's the sad truth of an inferior education. Less education means fewer skills.

Skills are divided into four categories based on their difficulty to learn:

Easy (E)
Everyone at a decent level of education possesses these skills. They don't require much effort to learn and are considered a part of InfoWar's general cultural atmosphere. WARNING! Some of these skills are inferior skills, i.e. give inaccurate or biased information. They are generally acquired in public schools with low-quality education. Easy skills start at Mediocre.
Normal (N)
Normal, a skill that everyone has and that could be improved with a bit of practice. Normal skills start at Poor.
Hard (H)
Hard skills require a lot of practice and/or quite serious studies. These skills often form the basis for most people's careers, they use them for their line of living. Hard skills start at Terrible.
Very Hard (VH)
A very small group in society possesses Very Hard skills; your character has most certainly attended college, university or an equivalent. They require specialized training and a lot of effort to learn. Very Hard skills start at Non-Existent, i.e. the character doesn't have it.

When you've spent all your 30 free skill levels you might want to raise a skill even further. You can do so by lowering another skill. See the following table, which shows how many skill levels you must pay in order to raise a skill or how many you receive for lowering one. Mind the results of The Dialogue! You cannot just lower skill that you find unimportant and you can only lower a skill to Terrible at the most.

Terrible -2 -1 0 1
Poor -1 0 1 2
Mediocre 0 1 2 3
Fair 1 2 3 4
Good 2 3 4 5
Great 3 4 5 6
Superb 4 5 6 7

The Coordinator should have as a guideline that beginning characters start with 1 Superb, 2 Great and 6 Good skills, not more. It's difficult to become a master of all trades. He should also watch out for characters that take too many skills at Terrible level. The maximum level of a skill for a beginning character is Superb.

Often The Dialogue suggests that characters have specializations of their skills. This is best handled informally, The Coordinator should remember the Dialogue and assign a modifier (positive or negative) to a skill roll where the specialization is relevant or a problem. For example, an aerospace engineer would get a bonus to her Engineering when working on a jet engine, while having trouble when trying to figure out a nuclear reactor. As always, common sense should be used.

For a list of the available skills (and how to make new ones), see the skill list.


Gifts are positive traits that do not fit in levels. Either a character has it or he doesn't. Gifts give your character an "edge" he might not have otherwise. They include such things as special equipment, very valuable information, web of informers and so on. Every Gift that your character has must be balanced with a Fault, or if the Coordinator thinks it's a particularly powerful one, with two Faults. Of course, if your Dialogue says otherwise, you are not required to take any Gifts. Below are some examples of how Gifts may look in game mechanics, do not take these examples as gospel. Every Gift should be customized to be appropriate to the character. Every Gift in InfoWar is unique, because every character is unique. Never ever let the player say; "I have the Web of Informers Gift", let him say "I know some guys that could know something about it". Remember that every Gift will deeply influence how the character will be played.


The character "knows somebody" or a group that will generally help the character. They will probably require payment from the character for their services.


The character somehow (explain why) has acquired a special piece of equipment, perhaps a matter compiler or an experimental gun. Perhaps he is just very well equipped, with the latest software upgrades.


The character is well known for something and might get helped, trusted and liked by Non Player Characters because of his fame. Explain why and how famous the character is.


Faults are anything that make life more difficult for a character. Faults do not come in levels, either a character has it or he hasn't. They restrict a character's actions or earn him a bad reputation from Non Player Characters. Faults can also be exchanged for extra free Attribute or Skill levels (see Trading Traits below) instead of a Gift. If a Fault is particularly debilitating in the Coordinator's opinion he might allow the character to compensate two Gifts with that Fault. Remember that you are going to have to live with your Faults, they shouldn't be easy to get rid of.

Try to make the Fault stick to the theme of your character's Dialogue, and be aware that some Faults might not be appropriate to the stories that you're trying to tell. For instance, if you choose that your character is being hunted by the mob, you will probably have hogged the potential of your whole cell; such a powerful enemy will certainly interfere with the other characters' lives too (they know you, and might get kidnapped or questioned too). Choose Faults that make your character more interesting to play, not just something that is written on your character sheet.

Below are some examples of how Faults may look in game mechanics, do not take these examples as gospel. Every Fault should be customized to be appropriate to the character. Every Fault in InfoWar is unique, because every character is unique. Never ever let the player say; "I have the Powerful Enemy Fault", let him say "Tung Chehwa? Yeah, he's been after my skin since '99"! Remember that every Fault will deeply influence how your character will be played.



The character owns someone money, IOUs, equipment or a favor. It is not necessarily so that the person that owns the debt will take it out of the character's hide, but he will collect it.


Yes, this could be a Fault, especially when your employer monitors your character's activities closely. Perhaps you don't want your employer to know that you're part of a "strange" group like the Concordat, or perhaps your employer is an enemy of your cell.


You are broke, so you don't own anything! You lack an income, no place to live, and no possessions. Well, at least you can work to reverse this situation!

Trading Traits

A player may gain extra trait levels by taking faults (mind The Dialogue) at the following rate:
1 fault = 1 gift
1 fault = 2 attribute levels
1 fault = 6 skill levels
You may also trade your free attribute levels to free skill levels (or vice versa) at the following rate:
1 attribute level = 3 skill levels

Character Creation Example

One again we turn our attention to Robert and his character Claude Ginzman. The Dialogue has given Robert a good idea of Claude's Traits. Working together with his Coordinator he starts assigning levels to the traits. We start with his Attributes.

Claude starts with a Fair level in all his traits and with 4 free levels to assign. But Robert doesn't see Claude as a physically powerful character (he's quite skinny and frail, remember?), so he trades one free attribute level for three extra free skill levels. The three remaining free attribute levels go to DEX (raising it to Good), INT (raising it to Good), MIND (raising it to Good). He would like to raise Claude's CON since it was Claude's confidence in himself that didn't allow him to get crushed. Robert lowers Claude's END by two levels (lowering it to Poor) and raises CON by the same amount (raising it to Great). Still Claude is a bit more physically powerful than Robert had envisioned him and he lowers STR by one level (lowering it to Mediocre) and raises CHA with that point (raising it to Good). This makes sense, an interfacer must be good at interacting with other people to be successful, and Claude is successful.

Final results:

AGL: Fair
DEX: Good
STR: Mediocre
END: Poor
INT: Good
MIND: Good
CHA: Good
CON: Great

Robert the proceeds with the skills. Claude has 30 free skill levels plus 3 extra skill levels, for a total of 33 free skill levels. This is how Robert spends his levels:

Underworld Terrible Good 4
Evaluation Poor Good 3
Law Terrible Poor 1
Use Technology Mediocre Fair 1
Drive Poor Fair 2
Paris Area Knowledge Mediocre Good 2
Repair Poor Fair 2
Manipulation Poor Fair 2
English Terrible Poor 1
Information Gathering Terrible Good 4
Melee Terrible Fair 3
Firearms Terrible Poor 1
Urban Survival Poor Mediocre 1
Brawling Poor Fair 2
Athletics Poor Mediocre 1
Threaten Poor Good 3

This makes for 33 free skill levels. Robert has carefully considered each skill, thinking about what skills it would have been possible for Claude to learn in his "criminal" profession and what skills he did pick up at school (he tried to become a mechanic). He is not extremely good at any trait but quite specialized in one direction, that of the street smart interfacer. But Robert thinks that Claude's poor education should show somehow, so he lowers Basic Education from Mediocre to Poor, and the gained level is spent on Combat Experience raising it from Non-Existent to Terrible. Claude has been in some tough spots in his line of trade, so he's not completely lost in a fight. In all other skills Claude has just his basic levels.

Claude's Gifts and Faults are self-evident from The Dialogue. He has one Gift: Web of Contacts, Claude has a web of Contacts that can sell him goods and information. Most of his Contacts are in Paris, but a few are in London, Bordeaux and Marseilles. His Fault is Convicted Economic Criminal. Claude was arrested and sentenced to a short prison punishment for one of his deals because the government wanted to steal some of Claude's profit and Claude didn't let them. He's in the files and "legitimate" businessmen are afraid to do business with him. This could severely hamper some of Claude business interests.

Character Development

Do not be surprised, miss Taggart, said Hugh Akston smilingly, and do not commit the mistake to believe that my students are some sort of superhumans. They are something much greater and much more astonishing: they are normal humans - something the world has never seen - and their feat is that they have succeeded to survive as such. It requires an unusual intellect and an even more unusual integrity to remain untouched by the mind-numbing influence of centuries of collected evil - to remain human, since the human is the rational.
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

A trait can only be raised one level at a time, but they may be raised even in the progression of a session. The important part is that characters motivate these raises well, that they make sense, either that a character has used the trait extensively or in new ways. The Coordinator should carefully monitor the development of traits. After all, an adventure is just a particularly detailed part of The Dialogue that was used to create the character.

Cost of raising a skill
Non-Existent Terrible 2 EP
Terrible Poor 1 EP
Poor Mediocre 1 EP
Mediocre Fair 1 EP
Fair Good 2 EP
Good Great 4 EP
Great Superb 8 EP
Superb Enhanced 16 EP
Enhanced Advanced 32 EP
Advanced Transhuman 64 EP
Transhuman Posthuman 128 EP
But when a character has reached a Posthuman level in a trait the cumulative and accelerating learning processes enable him raise it further at a lower cost - at this point the abilities have become so much more technology that it is more a question about upgrades, computing resources and self-training than traditional learning. It takes less effort to raise a trait when it's already so superior (so the level after Posthuman costs 64 EP and the level after that only costs 32 EP and so on). The minimum cost to raise a trait is 1 EP though. Of course, all this is completely theoretical since no human has ever reached this level. Yet.

The character should receive one EP for every game session in which he participates, another EP if he learns something about his abilities, the world or about the InfoWar, another EP could be awarded if he succeeds in his endeavors and perhaps another if he role-plays well. The maximum number a character should receive for a single game session is 4 EP. At the end of the adventure the Coordinator can give a bonus of one EP if the cell succeeded with their endeavors and another EP if the character was instrumental to that success. The maximum bonus for a completed adventure should be 2 EP.


The character can also gain EP from training a trait. For some skills (especially Academic skills) it will even be a condition for raising the trait in the first place. The character will receive one EP per month of training, but that EP is specific to the trait being trained, he cannot spend it on another trait. The character can train a trait without a teacher. Of course he must have the necessary materials to train (literature, tools and so on), but it is quite difficult. To gain that EP he must roll MIND versus a Difficulty Level of Great. If he succeeds he will gain an EP, if he fails he has wasted a month. A teacher is of great help, but he will most certainly want to get paid for his troubles. The teacher of course has to have a higher level than the character in the trait in question and he also needs the Teaching skill.

The teacher can only teach as many students as his Teaching skill allows him at the same time (see the table below). The teacher must succeed with a Teaching roll against a Difficulty Level of Fair to impart his knowledge to the pupils and the pupil must succeed with a MIND roll against a Difficulty Level of Mediocre to gain the EP.

Maximum number of pupils per month
Level No. Pupils
Terrible 1
Poor 3
Mediocre 6
Fair 9
Good 12
Great 15
Superb 18
And so on... Note that most state managed schools around the world have classes that are much bigger than it is humanly possible to teach, and of course this results in that pupils don't get a good education.

Role-playing the Increase of Attributes

You and I - we're dedicated to being better than the "average Joe." We're dedicated to constant improvement. The Japanese call this "Kaizen." In more ways than one, this is what bodybuilding is all about: always moving forward.
Bill Phillips, Muscle Media
Raising attributes is a matter of training and/or experiences in the adventures of a character (a great triumph obviously could increase CON). Usually it is a directed effort over an extended period of time. On higher levels increasing attributes require more and more external help like special equipment, training and augmentations. Levels beyond superb always require special augmentations, the character cannot achieve them in an unmodified state.

Some examples of how attributes can be increased, of varying levels:

Gymnastics, aerobics, retroviral ligament smoothing, increased reactions
Piano lessons, magic tricks, increased innervation of the hands, artificial joints
Exercise, hard work, bodybuilding, anaboloids, gene therapy, high-powered prosthesises
Exercise, anaboloids, gene therapy, diamond blood
Puzzles, computer games, wearables with well integrated agents, AI, nootropics, neural growth factors, cultured neurons
Computer games, education, mental training, self-hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, nootropics
Public speaking, social training, rhetoric lessons, plastic surgery, pheromones, personality modeling and analysis software
Empowering experiences, assertiveness training, self-hypnosis, virtual training, prefrontal lobotomy

Role-playing the Increase of Skills

A matter of continual training and practice, applying the learned results in reality.They always require directed efforts over an extended period of time. On higher levels they require more and more external help like special equipment, training, tutors and augmentations. Levels beyond Superb always require special augmentations like expert systems or simulators, the character cannot achieve them in an unmodified state.

Of course, in some skills extreme levels might reflect that the character is partially defining the skill; someone with Advanced Official View isn't just very good at sprouting it, but is one of the defining voices of it. They can (almost) literally make it up as they go along.

Gaining Gifts and Getting Faults

Gifts and Faults can only be acquired through actual role-playing. They develop strictly over the course of an adventure. You may try to actively gain a Gift but you have to spend 6 EP (or more if the Coordinator think it is a particularly powerful one) to make it an intrinsic part of your character, a key element of his future stories. Faults are added when the Coordinator thinks that something negative has become an intrinsic part of you character. The Coordinator should be careful about adding or removing Gift and Faults. They are as much a part of the character as his attributes and skills, and if you do so you will certainly change the character in a significant way.