Frontiers Player Manual

Domains

Domains describe characters' natural proficiency in applying certain areas of their body and mind.

Most RPG systems provide players with a short list of attributes – often 6 or fewer – to serve as a highly-abstract representation of the character's ability. In contrast, Frontiers provides a deeper representation of your character as a living, breathing being, by providing you with 25 domains.

Each domain represents a narrow and distinct set of capacities for the character. Together, they allow for a greater degree of freedom in defining what your character is capable of. You can make your character as much of a specialist or generalist as you would prefer; there is no definitive answer here.

Domains are vaguely grouped into five categories:

While these categories provide a simple framework to clarify the general areas of included domains, it's worth keeping in mind that challenges are rarely as simple as applying one aspect of one's character to the problem. This is reflected in the way Frontiers handles threats and difficulties: what appears to be a straightforward, simple action on the surface may require exercising more than one domain at a time, particularly for actions that necessitate a high level of skill to perform effectively.

For this reason, creating well-rounded characters is encouraged: in the Skills section you'll be able to understand how seemingly-disparate domains interact. However, this is not only for mechanical benefit: a well-rounded character – not one lacking in specialty but one developed in multiple areas, skill- or personality-wise – is more interesting and more satisfying to play.

To this end, the descriptions of each domain will provide you with suggestions to aspects associated with a character proficient in each of the domains. Take these as suggestions, not as guidelines; they're meant to help you focus on what sort of a character you could play, guide you to a more voluminous persona by providing you with a segmented template.

Domain Values

Each domain is scored on the scale of −10 — +10.

Values between −10 and −6 (abysmal) are usually reserved for animals and other creatures, because they reflect exceptionally low levels of aptitude, from non-existent (−10) or rudimentary (−9) to significantly below human level (−6). Circumstances that would render a human to have a score this low are more likely permanent and debilitating, in ways that only major trauma or developmental disorder would effect.

Values between −5 and −1 (low) reflect some level of incapacity compared to an average human. Each domain handles incapacity differently. In broad strokes, if your character is supposed to possess a "mechanical" flaw – one reflected in aptitudes rather than aspects of personality – it's going to be somewhere between those two values, depending on severity. Parallel to infralevels, −5 reflect complete inability to do something, but only because of a developmental flaw, rather than lacking the physiological capacity to (for example, having lost sight due to trauma as opposed to having never had sight because the required organs were never developed).

0 (average) is reflective of domain aptitude for an average human. If you expect most people to be able to do something – not below that and not above – without significant effort, this is where their domain aptitude lies.

Values between +1 and +5 (high) reflect some level of exceptional aptitude, within limits of what humans are capable of. Someone with +1 is only just better than the average person. Someone with +3 is noticably exceptional in the domain, to the point where it's obvious the person is naturally gifted. Someone with +5 is exceptional and is able to compete in a narrow competition within their domain on the world level, or carry out an equivalent result, performance-wise.

Values between +6 and +10 (exceptional) is where things get interesting. This is beyond human excellence: someone with +6 is more capable than even the best human beings out there, while someone with +10 operates on a level beyond what most people can possibly relate to. These values are only ever enabled by advanced technology or outright altering of reality by supernatural effects.

There may be exceptional entities in the world that find themselves with domain aptitudes higher than +10. Domain aptitude can never be lower than −10.

Domain values are exponential in nature: +1 is slightly better than 0, while +5 is orders of magnitude better, to the point where it's impossible for someone with domain value 0 to relate to how someone sees their domain at +5. Likewise, −1 is slightly worse than 0, while −5 is abysmal by comparison, to the same effect regarding perception.

Physicality

Locomotor

Locomotor is your muscles, bones, and skin. It defines muscle and bone density, explosive force generation, and subsequently the amount of force one can resist physically. This is where martial artists and athletes shine.

Locomotor also defines how much feedback one gets from their locomotor system and their skin. While one's sensitivity to stimuli may remain the same, characters adept in Locomotor understand their working body better: the more adept they are, the more clear it is to them what their body can and can't do and what sorts of signals they're getting.

Depeding on the nature of one's strength and speed, the character may or may not display a bulk of mass.

Distribution

Infralevel Locomotor entails having a rudimentary moving body. −10 means having no locomotor system at all, which is reserved for entities incapable of moving on their own entirely. Anything between −10 and −5 means a locomotor system that's either significantly less powerful than that of a human, or powerful but only effective in a particular environment, such as water (most water creatures) or air (most birds). In humans, infralevels reflect serious damage or defect of development: something that would significantly hinder moving oneself, let alone more strenious physical actions.

Sublevel Locomotor portrays either an animal that's capable of overpowering a human in a struggle, or a human being that's noticably or significantly weaker than average, due to lifestyle, disease, or both.

Superlevel Locomotor determine either a particularly powerful animal (usually one larger and heavier than a human), or a strong human. +1 and +2 are achievable with lifestyle alone, assuming rigorous physical requirements on a daily basis. Values beyond that require dedicated training, the more varied and more intense the higher the character is aiming.

Ultralevel Locomotor usually means an augmented person or a dedicatedly-developed entity whose purpose is to wield heavy weight, such as industrial robot arms. Lower ultralevel values mean overpowering an accomplished athlete or fighter with brute force becomes almost easy. It also means being able to carry significantly more weight without strain or slowing down, and being able to withstand higher volumes of punishment at higher intensity. Higher levels make stuff of fiction a possibility: breaking through brick walls (without sustaining damage to self in the process), bending dense metal objects as if plastic, lifting heavy vehicles...

Coordination

Coordination is how your body makes sense of its position. This is your balance, the grace of your movements, the finesse of your fine motorics, and the "hand" part of hand-eye coordination. Coordination is an important component to acrobatics, dancing, hand-to-hand combat, and manufacturing of fine items.

Coordination also defines muscle memory: learning by motoric repetition. Characters with high Coordination will find it easier to learn a physical skill, and will outperform characters with low Coordination quicker, given training of the same intensity.

Note on Muscle Coordination In the real world, it's very unlikely that someone would develop muscles without also developing a comparable level of agility and dexterity. Strength of the muscle arises partially from how it's able to coordinate engaging all of its tissue in a powerful yet safe manner, i.e. without tearing itself apart. This naturally leads to the person having better control of their locomotor system. In other words, someone with a great mass of muscle is also going to be better-coordinated than someone without it. While Frontiers acknowledges the connection, it also portrays these qualities as separate to enable different kinds of play using said parameters.

Conditioning

Conditioning is your cardiovascular system, and links to the mechanisms in your central nervous system responsible for fatigue management. It determines how much energy can the character extract from their system and how long they can perform adequately to the task's requirements. This is where marathon runners and high-intensity athletes both shine.

Conditioning also corresponds with the capacity to withstand and recover from physical wounds. Characters with higher Conditioning are more likely to survive and recover from heavy or even grave wounds.

Conditioning only covers wounds themselves. Any residual damage from a trauma – bacterial, toxicological, viral – would be handled separately by Stress Response.

Stress Response

Stress Response is mainly your body's response to threats, in the form of coordinated action from a multitude of your physiological systems. It is responsible for keeping you ready for a fight – or ready to get away from danger, for keeping you safe from disease and poisons, and for keeping the internal organs intact and functioning properly so that the rest of your body could do its job well.

It also covers a wide range of regular bodily functions: growth, reproduction, digestion, urination, haematopoiesis (blood production), and others not already covered by other domains.

Reflex

Reflex is your unconditional reaction. It is your reaction time and your ability to produce the movement required to protect yourself or others from danger or discomfort, including recovering from a slip or a fall, catching a projectile, or catching someone before they hit a hard surface.

Unlike Coordination, this sort of movement is not thought-through or aimed: it is, instead, involuntary, guided by your subconscious entirely. It is, thus, possible to be somewhat clumsy on a regular basis and still maintain a level of unconscious coordination when reacting to something.

Cognition

Executive Function

Executive Function is your capacity for improvisation, planning, and critical thinking. It is through their Executive Function that one becomes proficient in solving new problems for which they lack the experience or prior art.

Not creativity in itself, it may appear as such to those less familiar with the craft Executive Function is applied to. Given its capacity for problem-solving, Executive Function is an invaluable tool for all endeavors, but it truly shines in management and administration: resources, systems, logistics, personnel... Given other prequisite qualities, dealing with things becomes easier with Executive Function.

Characters low in this domain often find themselves clueless unless they know the solution from prior experience. Rather than lacking in intelligence, they find it difficult to get to the nature of the problem and, therefore, the idea for which tools may be applied to solve it. Such characters could still be taught, provided clear material or a capable teacher is in place, and be able to perform well in the field through experience.

Characters high in Executive Function, however, tend to have a sharp mind in response to most things intellectual. They seek – and often find – efficient ways of resolving whatever issues they're facing, as long as they can extract an appropriate mental model to work within.

Volition

Volition is your reserves of mental energy, and the degree to which you can wield it effectively.

Insight

Insight is your memory, your ability to recall details, and the capacity to utilize your crystallized intelligence: all the experience and the knowledge you have stored in your brain. Insight describes not just the capacity of your memory: it also defines how clear that memory is, and how much detail you can recall. Insight's value lies most intensely in areas where breadth and depth of knowledge is required for mastery, though as the focal point of memory, high values benefit anyone.

High Insight means the character remembers more things, more clearly, and for longer. Established connections stand out clearer to them: something the character has already seen, heard, thought, or felt otherwise will be made explicit upon inspection; they will find it easier to recall the connection, as well as the reason it was made. The higher the Insight, the more likely it is the character will remember information from secondary senses, as well as from casual observation.

Low Insight is the contrary. Such character's memory is sometimes foggy, if they remember the subject matter at all. Particularly strong memories may still persist, but with lower values of Insight, the threshold grows higher: eventually only very personal memories, either of happiness, dread, or loss, remain. As such, some learning experiences may never be strong enough a stimulus to cross over from working to persistent memory.

Conceptualization

Conceptualization is your capacity for understanding and working with models and systems. It is your pattern recognition, connecting the dots in the chaos of living. It is also, by extension, your capacity for learning: creating an operative model of the subject matter in order to navigate it easier in the future, and modifying it in the future in accord with new information.

Few things are independent of all surrounding it. Conceptualization ensures that you recognize the connection as either true, false, or nonexistent. How correct it is in relation to reality depends on how well it is developed in the character. Conceptualization is involved anywhere where understanding the working of the subject is required: scenes of crime, new fields of science, languages, tactical manuevers, reverse-engineering of unfamiliar devices, and so on.

High Conceptualization allows one to sieve away what doesn't fit and categorize what remains. It sheds light on deeper patterns and schemes hidden in the heaps of data through extensive comparison and rigorous testing of assumptions. Characters with high Conceptualization pursue understanding with vigor, and seek out knowledge related to what they already know. How much they retain depends on the strength of their Insight.

Low Conceptualization doesn't offer the character such depth. Their learning requires more intensity and frequency, and their pattern recognition fails to penetrate layers of complexity. <...>

Mentalization

Mentalization is your interpretative engine of others' behavior, in a way that helps you understand their mental state, goals, aims, beliefs, and reasons.

Emotion

Inner World

Inner World is your imagination, your capacity for lateral thinking, your intuition, and your ability for self-expression. The main source of material for artists, designers, and comedians, it also helps scientists, analysts, and engineers come up with unorthodox, original designs for their work.

Characters with high Inner World are both witty and creative, in life as well as in work. They seek to express the spark produced by their strong, passionate creative engine, often casting unusual decisions which may or may not prove effective. The higher the aptitude gets, the more able the character is to discern which patterns are viable in any particular instance, leading to a steadier output of imaginative work.

Characters with low Inner World, on the other hand, don't see quite as much metaphorical color in the world around them. Their work is rooted in familiar patterns they've observed so far, rarely venturing beyond these invisible boundries in ways that reflect a personality or style. They may still produce work of the same quality – even masterworks – if they know the pattern, but it wouldn't be as full of flair.

Empathy

Empathy is your capacity to relate to others by sharing their understanding of the world. It is your ability to discern emotions – your own and others' – and view the world through another's lens for a moment, to gain understanding of their feelings and state of mind.

Empathy's domain is separate from that of Mentalization: the latter focuses on recognizing and manipulating others' train of thought – how the other person has arrived to this particular state of mind – while the former focuses on the state of mind as it is in the present. It's the difference between knowing what is and how it came to be that way.

Characters with high Empathy find it easier to discern what others – and themselves – are feeling, what their intentions are, and whether they could be trusted. They won't be able to tell why without high Mentalization, but their insight into the state of emotions will be true all the same. Such characters can walk into the room and immediately tell what the mood is, or whether the people there may pose any danger.

Negative Empathy, however, means lacking this understanding, and whatever this might entail. Signals would come unclear, and the idea about any given person would be muddy at best. <...>

Social Structure

Social Structure is your understanding of hierarchies people build between each other, and how each person fits into those they're a part of. This is your understanding of who's in command and who's serving; who's dominating the company and who keeps mostly to themselves; who's upholding social order and who's undermining it. Thus, this is also your way of managing different kinds of relationships, working and personal.

Social Structure plays an important role in all kinds of collectives and societies. Very few people are outside of all groups: thus, Social Structure is important when navigating the layers of group dynamics and personal relationships. It's particularly important among those who seek to maintain a chain of command and a sense of cohesion: military, emergency response teams, classes in school, and so on.

Characters with negative Social Structure often find that they don't fit in because they don't understand "the rules". In contrast, character with high Social Structure understand very well what they can say and to whom, when it may be best to remain quiet or keep a secret from the rest of the group, and why it's important to listen to the person in charge. Whether they follow orders or expectations is up to their judgement still: they simply possess the toolkit to make a better call.

Presence

Presence is the projection of your power across. It's the aura by which others estimate your appeal. It is the effect you have on people, whether intimidating, exciting, soothening, inspiring, demeaning, or reassuring. Having Presence is important for teachers, leaders, enforcers, bodyguards, and torture technicians.

Presence comes through even before anything has been said or done. As soon as the character with high Presence walks into the room, everyone turns their heads. Sometimes, one's Presence is all that's necessary to produce the desired effect; sometimes it can even make others gloss over obvious incompetence or shaky reasoning.

Presence comes through in situations both public and private; in mologuing to the crowd and in speaking to a friend. Characters with high Presence gain trust easily, even with opponents and enemies. In contrast, characters with negative Presence appear unassuming and meek to those who don't know them.

Performance

Performance is your ability to convey an impression consciously. It is your understanding of the effect your actions will have on others, and the ability to direct your actions for your benefit. Deceit, manipulation, pep talk, and public artistry all fall under Performance.

Performance takes effect once the character begins to put conscious effort into

Interface

Engineering

Engineering is your tinkering instinct: understanding the workings of a device, taking it apart, building it back together, and retrofitting it for a new purpose. The device in question could be anything technological, from a sharp stick to a high-age Old Tech weapon.

The ability to produce something does not automatically confer enhanced understanding of ways to use it.

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Instrumentation

Instrumentation is your intuitive, improvisory grasp onto the nature of items around you. It enables applying the item to the situation, in both the concrete and the abstract sense, the more abstract the higher Instrumentation's value. It is what helps you leverage your surroundings to your advantage.

In a more grounded sense, Instrumentation allows you to use the thing both to its intended purpose and in ways unconventional and even original. If an item has a use – like a bandage has the use of being applied to a wound – Instrumentation allows you to conceive it, even if you've never encountered the item before. It is the embodiment of practicality.

This practicality is what describes characters with high Instrumentation: such characters can come up with ways to use items around them to their benefit on the spot, with no previous consideration or planning necessary. It also means the character is more handy with more straightforward applications, whether they're using workshop tools, weapons, medical implements, utensils, electronic equipment etc.. In other words, characters with high Instrumentation are both more-than-adequate at common tasks and more likely to come up with an outstanding use for an object.

...

Enterprise

Enterprise is your understanding of the Value: how much something is worth, what can you get for it in return, and how to maximize the trade-off without upsetting the other party.

Language

Language is your grasp on verbal communication, intricacies of speech, and the underlying grammar.

Processing

Visual Space

Visual Space is your understanding of, and you ability to visualize, distances, dimensions, lines, and angles in three-dimensional space.

Audiality

Audiality is the rhythms, the tones, and the volumes, and how they create a mental image of the sound in your head.

Attention

Attention is your grasp on the situation. It is both your focal mechanism and the passive surveillance apparatus that points you to something else requiring your interest.