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Careers & Hobbies

Careers and hobbies represent the character's experience, education and training within the normal range of ability. They are not on par with powers, which indicate the extreme edges of human ability and beyond. They handle almost anything that is not already covered by powers or combat mechanics: can my character program a computer? Pick a lock? Climb a wall? If you don't have powers that give you these things (electrical interfaces, subtle telekinesis, clinging), then Careers and Hobbies are where they're handled.
     Careers indicate that the character is operating at the professional level. They provide broad areas of skill, access to related skills, and contacts within the profession. Hobbies indicate interest only, and have no associated skills or connections.
     To make things more complicated, both Careers and Hobbies are divided into Broad and Focused. Broad Careers indicate that the character has a huge realm of experience and training, whereas a Focused Career indicates a much narrower realm of experience, albeit one that is much wider than that provided by hobbies. Broad Hobbies indicate that while the character lacks the experience and connections to act at a professional level, their interest is enough to have gained experiences in several related areas. Focused Hobbies are the most narrow of the options, and indicate only a very specific knowledge.
     For example, you want your character to have training in the sciences. Taking the Broad Career of Scientist would mean that she has some familiarity with all sciences, in that Reed Richards/Batman way&$151;she has contacts in all fields of the scientific community, is up to date on the latest theories from quantum physics to biological chemistry to psychology, and can perform adequately in all of them. Taking the focused career of chemist isn't as all-encompassing, but it is impressive—she has training and experience in chemistry, and passing knowledge of related fields (biochemistry, medicine, etc.), and has contacts with several people across the scientific community, with a focus in other chemists and related scientists. Taking the Broad Hobby of Chemistry (note the shift in term—it has gone from something she is to something she does) means she is trained with basic inorganic or organic chemistry and acquits herself well in a lab, but has no contacts or resources to draw from. Finally, she could take a focused hobby like Recreational Chemistry, in which case she knows how to make and use drugs (you naughty girl!), or Explosive Chemistry to make and detonate explosives (but without any particular skill at setting them for maximum effect).

Purchasing Careers and Hobbies
Purchasing? Aaaaah! Point systems! Well, not really. Careers and Hobbies are "purchased" with the character's age. I'm using age as a guideline for the character's life experiences—the older the character, the more time they will have had to learn these things. If you want to play a young genius, then use some of your power facets to get Heightened Expertise bonuses on your Careers ∧ Hobbies, or get Heightened Experience (usually works out to +15 years effective age per power facet). The years don't have to correspond to what you did at that age (it's possible for a 24 year old to have 20 years in a focused career—it doesn't mean she started training at age 4, it just means that most of her life experiences are focused in that direction).
     The first time you "buy" a career or hobby, you get it at an 8. Each re-purchase gives you a +4 bonus. All characters are assumed to have basic physical ability and everyman skills (athletics, driving, etc.) at 4, if none of their careers or hobbies supersedes that. Buying a Broad Career takes 15 years. Buying a Focused Career takes 10 years. Buying a Broad Hobby takes 6 years. Buying a Focused hobby takes 3 years. Obviously, the broader the career or hobby, the longer it takes to master.
     It is possible to layer more focused careers and hobbies on top of broader ones. A character could have Scientist (B. Career, 15 y.): 8 * Chemist (F. Career, 10 y.): 12 * Explosive Chemistry (F. Hobby, 3 y.): 16 Indicating that they have a significant and impressive grounding in all sciences, a more detailed experience in chemistry, and an even more focused skill with explosives. All told, this would take 28 "years" of the character's "life" to attain.

Using Careers & Hobbies
What can one do with Careers and Hobbies? Variants operates under the rule of logical association—if it seems logical that the Career or Hobby should cover that, then it probably does. This open-ended on the fly extrapolation lets the simple mechanism of Careers and Hobbies take the place of more complicated point-specific skill structures of other super-hero games. Can you pick a lock? What are your careers and hobbies? Spy? Sure! Cop? Yes. Surgeon (really nimble fingers...) really pushing it, but situational. Writer? No! Experienced writer of technical crime thrillers? Well, maybe... It all depends on the career/hobby, the character, and the situation. Careers and hobbies are a freeform guide, not a rigid structure.
     Whenever the GM decides that what the character is doing is difficult enough to warrant a chance of failure, he can call for save vs. the character career/hobby. Difficulty is usually 1d20, but it can go up as high as the GM decides (inventing a new major device or theory usually calls for the d80-d120 range, inventing a one shot gizmo is usually d40, for example). The check is made against the characters Career/Hobby score, plus the bonus from the most applicable attribute. For a Cop, picking a lock would use the Agility bonus, sprinting after a felon would use Endurance, analyzing evidence would use Intelligence, questioning a witness would use Presence, etc. If the character rolls under the required save, the attempt succeeds, move on.
     Granted, this is a really simple, black and white success system. Feel free to play up near misses and amazingly good rolls, but keeping things simple keeps play moving. Having a career of 8 is considered basic professional, 12 is advanced professional, 16 is highly renowned, 20 is legendary. The characters income can be estimated off of their Careers and Hobbies as well, as the Gm wishes.

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Copyright © 1998 Brian Rogers