|Illustration by the awesomeness incarnate that is Guy Davis
My favourite White Wolf setting. Here's the introductory info I'll be giving to my players:
Each player is part of a secret quasi-military team of newly recruited agents, working to defend Japan's interest from... well, you don't quite know what, but it seems SFØ deals with the worst of the worst criminal cases. You'd never heard of the organization until they recruited you; in fact no one but the uppermost echelons of the government is even aware of SFØ, but the organization is apparently government-funded, and serve the interests of the people — preferably without them ever knowing about it.
At some stage in the last two years you we approached by representitives of SFØ, eager to add your "talents" to their pool of resources, and for reasons only you know, the offer was too damn good to refuse. To join SFØ you've had to turn your back on your old life, but that's ok, you were keen to leave it behind, the pay is better than excellent and the job is exciting — well it will be once you get started.
SFØ doesn't just recruit from the ranks of the police or defense force; there's a fair share of ex-crims, geeks, wackos, yakuza and oddballs who just seem to have what SFØ's looking for. Some of your co-workers display what could even be described as "psychic powers". You might even have some yourself. They have also equipped you with some of the most amazing technology around. Cybernetics are real, very real, and virtually all the agents have at least a couple of implants.
The price for all this? Turning your back on your old life. To ensure that cannot be compromised executing your orders, you've had to leave behind all the friends and family you had — an easier task for those with no families or close ties, no so for those with loving kin. SFØ faked your death, spectacularly and convincingly. They gave you entirely new identities, reshaping your face and body with cosmetic surgery, fixing ruined limbs, healing scars and giving you a new life, all of which you gave back to SFØ.
During your year of field training the cases you've covered have included bizarre cults, ritualistic slayings, and truly mad psychopaths; you've dealt with fanatical terrorists, the vast narcotics trade, human slavery and all manner of petty crimes, from the outrageous to the downright disturbing. You've also been learning to use your new implants to the best of your ability, as well as honing your skills.
SFØ Headquarters has been your home for most of this time. They train you in the Tokyo based HQ or at military proving grounds around Japan, but keep you separated from the main operations until you fully graduate. You've come to know few faces around the base, especially your trainers, but none more so than Geichin Okamoto, SFØ's intimidating and driven founder. Everyone answers to him, and in return he makes sure everyone is looked after. Private rooms with all the mod cons, the best gym facilities and pool, sparring room, hypernet facilities, the biggest manga collection and film library, massages, nearly all your needs are catered for. And as for the kitchen? You probably won't be able to eat food from the outside world without comparing it to the exquisite delicacies that are provided for you.
As for life outside SFØ? Well there really isn't much of one. Each agent gets their own plush apartment in the heart of Tokyo, but the job is so demanding that you rarely get to enjoy that six figure salary you're getting. But on the occasional downtime you do get, you tend to go out with a bang. You've had to leave your old life behind, so your friends tend to be the people you work with.
During the last three months SFØ assembled the five of you into a team — one of a six that are in operation — and together you have been doing training runs and conducting minor investigations. They're happy with the way you function — every team has the odd personality clash, even yours — but on the whole SFØ is pleased with your performance, and word is that soon, very soon, they'll be giving your your first major investigation. Bring it on.
Yeah it's a long list of questions, but by the end of it you should have a really good idea of your character. It also helps me, some of the questions have a direct influence on the game.
Your family, who were they? What status did they have, have they risen over the last few generations, or gone down the social ladder? Any history? What did they do in WWII? Anyone (in)famous? Is anyone in your family still alive? if so do you miss them, or have you completely turned your back on them? Are they purely Japanese or is there barbarian blood in your veins? Did you even grow up in Japan?
Who were you before you joined?What did you do for a living? Notable events?
Why did you accept the offer? Money? Important work? Running from something?
What do you believe? Shintoist? Buddhist? Christian? Agnostic? Humanist? Something else? Don't care? Are all those ghost stories just that - stories? Or do you "believe"?
Do you have a Criminal record? Have you done time?
What's the worst thing you've ever done?
What's the best thing you've ever done?
What's the most important thing to you?
Loves? What are you really into? Guns? Anime? Nature? Music? Coffee? Porn? Drinking? All of the above? Anything really weird?
Favourite items? Any family heirlooms, or just funny old trinkets or mementos or photos?
Hates? Who or what really gets up your nose?
Gambling plays a huge part of Asian culture. Are you addicted? What's your favourite thing to bet on? Sport? Games of skill or chance? Who gets their meal served first? Are you crap and lose all the time, or do the stars favour you - more than they should?
Friends? If you chose Allies as a background, who are they? The guy who serves the best noodles in town? Your best friend from childhood who you still secretly stay in touch with despite SFØ's ban on contact?
Foes? Anyone you wanna get square with? Anyone wanna get square with you? Do you even know what you did to piss them off? How powerful are they?
Scars? How'd you get'em?
Greatest strengths? Anything really unique? Are you a giant? For those who chose paranormal abilities, how'd you find out you had them? Were they always there, or did they manifest at a certain age? Did you tell anyone? Did anyone find out? Are you proud or ashamed?
Greatest weaknesses? What's your achilles heel? Wine? Women? An old wound? Are you heartless or do you have a cruel streak? Are you a runt? Do you think you're cursed? Haunted? Luckless?
How would you decorate your apartment?
Japanese culture - are you a traditionalist, seeking to maintain touch with your heritage, or have you rejected the old ways and embraced flashy plastic techno modern life? Or something else?
World War II - was Japan right to do what it did in the war? Or are you an apologist? Do you even care?
After Japan surrendered, the Japanese Emperor publicly denounced his divine descendence from the gods and became a mere figurehead - do you think that was the right thing to do? Or do you look forward to the day he assumes his rightful place?
Japan has a defense force - is that enough, or should they be allowed to have a standing army? How do you feel about having to rely on America defending your country? Should the US bases stay or go?
Japan cops a lot of heat for its whaling "research" - do you think Japan should do what it wants? Or do you think that whaling is wrong?
The yakuza - did you have any dealings with them before you joined SFØ? Good or bad? Do you think the Yakuza has a place in society, dealing with local issues, or are they all scum who should be wiped off the streets?
What do people think of you? What do YOU think of you? Are you happy with who you are, the choices you've made? Or are you haunted?
What's your exterior personality like? How do you interact with most people? Is it close to who you really are, or does it take a while for the "real you" to come out? What is the "real you"?
Lastly, when you die, what do you want have happen to your body? Your belongings? And what do you believe will happen to your soul - if you have one?