Some revisions as I hammer it into shape.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
Grey Ranks is designed for four players. You can play with three or five, but it works best with four. More than five isn’t recommended – if you have six, split into two groups and run parallel games, switching a character or two between them before each Act.
1. Choose an age for your character, either 15, 16, or 17, as well as gender.
2. Choose a name for your character, and a code name.
3. Choose a Thing You Hold Dear for each character, working as a group. There can be no overlap. Once the Things Held Dear have been decided, each player should outline why this is important to their character, and what the tangible symbol of that Thing is for them.
4. Choose two Reputations for each character, working as a group. A player is not allowed to name Reputations for their own character. No overlap or duplication is allowed.
5. Place your characters on the Grid, where they best fit. Again, there can be no overlap.
YOUR AGE AND GENDER
Choose your starting age – fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen. Playing a slightly younger or older character offers an interesting bonus/penalty combination, while playing a sixteen-year-old is the standard.
Young and eager to prove themselves, these characters have little time (and little hope) for romantic entanglement. If your character is fifteen, always increment your Vignette die result down by one and your Mission die result up by one.
Sixteen year olds have the same problems, advantages, and motivations as their younger and older comrades, but are at an age of transition in which the extremes are not so harsh. Sixteen year olds have no die peculiarities.
Older, wiser, and topped off with raging hormones, Seventeen year old characters urgently want love, even if it leaves them distracted or unenthusiastic on missions. If your character is seventeen, always increment your Mission Moment die result down by one and your Vignette die result up by one.
Any fifteen or sixteen year old player character can use a Vignette to celebrate their birthday, incrementing their age and changing the die bonus/penalty rules they must follow. This can be combined with other narration as a side-note, or it can be a central theme of the Vignette. Obviously, this can occur, at most, once per game per character. The birthday of a seventeen year old could be an appropriate end for a character, as they are inducted into the Home Army.
GIRL OR BOY?
Your sex makes no difference – both Boy Scouts and Girl Guides were active members of the Grey Ranks.
Choose a given name from the lists provided, or make your own. Choose a code name as well if you are feeling especially covert. Most, but not all, Scouts and Guides had one.
THE THING YOU HOLD DEAR
There are six things your character might hold dear. You and your friends will each choose one for your own characdter, and they must be unique – they cannot overlap between characters. Faith, patriotism, love and duty are all tightly bound in the choice. It is literally the soul of who your character is.
In play you will be forced to destroy these things you collectively hold dear when your characters fail under pressure. The destruction, if it comes, will be complete. The thing that you hold dear must have a concrete symbol – St. John’s cathedral in Old Town or your little sister, for example. When you lose it, this symbol will be lost, metaphor to the greater calamity. Choose something concrete that can be invested with great meaning, but that can also conceivably be lost.
The things your character can hold dear are:
(six things go here)
Unlike the Thing You Hold Dear, your Reputation reflects the opinion of others. Each character has two Reputation aspects, and they are chosen by other players. Like the Thing You Hold Dear, there can be no duplication – each choice must be unique to a single character.
As an awkward teen, your character will begin the game with negative Reputation aspects, but they will transform into positives over time. Before the Uprising is finished, every character should have the chance to come into their own. Everyone will grow up fast.
With your input, your friends will choose the two aspects of your character’s Reputation – perhaps she is Weak and Talkative, but will grow into a Strong, Articulate young woman.
Reputation aspects have dice associated with them. Both begin at d4.
One of the two Reputation aspects must be chosen to add to the die pool for each Scene. The chosen Reputation should come into play, for good or ill, in both Vignette and Mission, ideally finding a way to include it in your descriptions and conflicts.
At the end of the Scene, if a player’s Vignette was successful, the Reputation used is incremented up one die size. If the Vignette failed, the Reputation used is decremented by one die size, down to a minimum of d4.
When a Reputation increases to d8, it switches from the negative to the positive. It cannot switch back to negative, even if the die size is later reduced. The maximum size for Reputation aspects (and anything else in Grey Ranks) is d12.
There are sixteen suggested Reputations, but feel free to invent your own as well.
(16 combinations go here)
There are four starting positions on the Grid. Each player should choose one for his character. There can be no overlap, so some discussion may be necessary to determine which character is the best fit for each starting space. The placement need not mesh perfectly – it is only a starting point. Place a token or pencil a note (player initials or character code name) in the appropriate spaces on the Grid.
B2 is the best starting position for a physical, patriotic, or outgoing character. It is the space closest to martyrdom.
B4 is the best starting position for an intellectual, religious, or shy character. It is the space closest to nervous breakdown.
D2 is the best starting position for an outspoken, family-oriented, or aggressive character. It is the space closest to derangement.
D4 is the best starting position for a pessimistic, loner, or apathetic character. It is the space closest to suicide.
THREE OR FIVE PLAYERS
If playing with three, one position will be empty. If playing with five, place the fifth in the center, in space C3. This starting position should go to the character most even-keeled, responsible, or charismatic.
Once everyone has a character with a name or two and age, a Thing They Hold Dear, a pair of Reputations, and a starting Grid position, you are ready to begin playing Grey Ranks.