Anatomy of a Character

Here are the things that make up a character in Harmony Drive. Characters in your game may use all of these mechanics, or only some of them. I’ve tried to explain their functions as best I can to help you choose what works for your game.


Facets are the stats of Harmony Drive. A character has:

Daring – The tendency to do, to choose an action and commit.

Understanding – The tendency to study, to use information to solve problems.

Sensitivity – The tendency to take in information about your surroundings, to use your senses.

Subtlety – The tendency to hide your actions or your motives.

Adaptability – The tendency to wait and see, to change course based on the situation.

These Facets were chosen to express how a person chooses to solve problems, not any innate or immutable characteristics they may have. A person in a Harmony Drive game can be as physically strong as they like, or as wise or charming as they like.

The other reason for these Facets is that the concept of Intelligence as a concrete and immutable quality of a person is ableist. It has been used to excuse eugenics and countless other atrocities, including racial and class injustice. We chose “Understanding” as a measure of a person’s willingness to solve problems by thinking about them and gathering information, not as a measure of their “intelligence” or, heaven forbid, “IQ”.

In the base game, a character starts with 1 in each Facet, and then adds 5 more split among the Facets as they choose. You might want to change this by giving the players more or fewer points to divide up. You might also want to set maximums to prevent players from placing all their points in a single Facet.

If you decide to rename or re-imagine the five Facets, please bear in mind that this is a game about the choices people make. I would implore you not to regress to a traditional stat line that depicts absolute qualities! But if other tendencies and choices would fit your game better, by all means substitute them.


The base game has 19 different skills in it. You may want to have more or fewer in your own game.

  • Art
  • Athletics
  • Engineering
  • Fashion
  • Finances
  • Focus
  • Humanity
  • Language
  • Medicine
  • Navigation
  • Performance
  • Politics
  • Riding
  • Spirits
  • Survival
  • Tactics
  • Tinkering
  • Tracking
  • Weapons (Long-Range, Mid-Range, Melee)

Modify this list all you like! Try and come up with a list of things your characters will need to know how to do to get by in the world you’ve created.

When writing up your Skills section, try and give examples of ways different approaches could change how the skill is used, and suggestions for Edge Success bargains. A skill entry should look something like these:

*Spirits: The knowledge of the world’s many spirits, demons, and monsters. Roll Understanding/Spirits to remember the name of a noble demon, or Daring/Spirits to command a ghost to leave a home. (Edge Success: The invocation you use to subdue a spirit attracts another one, the spirits in the area are all alerted to your presence, the spirit obeys your command but will not leave your side after)*

*Warp: Experience with the warp tunnels that take ships from one end of the galaxy to the other, and the creatures that dwell there. Roll Daring/Warp to charge the ship headlong into a tunnel, or Subtlety/Warp to emerge without creating a Warp Flare. (Edge Success: A Warp Demon notices your ship, you come out further from your destination than you intended, a pursuing ship manages to take the same tunnel)*

A character starts with nine skills. They get five from their Class (more on that coming up) and four more of their own choosing. That means that a starting character has roughly half the game’s skills.

If you want a wider difference between characters’ skill sets, feel free to have characters start with fewer skills, or write a longer list.


Specialties are optional abilities that change the way a character interacts with the encounter system. They’re not necessary, but they help add variety between characters of the same class on a tactical level. A character chooses one at creation.

If you decide to include Specialties in the game, I would suggest making at least ten. Enough that players can make characters repeatedly without doubling up.

A Specialty looks like one of these:

*Emissary – Against a Noble Demon or its Lesser Daemons, the difficulty for you to Redirect is reduced by 2.*

*Trick Shooter – When rolling Ranged Weapons to add to the Advantage Pool, add an additional success.*

*Stalker – No matter what abilities an Encounter uses, you can always roll Subtlety. When rolling Subtlety to advance a Goal, add an additional die.*

*Hunter Hunter – Against a Vampire Hunter, the difficulty for you to Destroy is reduced by 2.*

*Cavalry – When mounted on your dragon, the GM cannot offer “you are injured” as an Edge Success condition.*

When writing Specialties, be careful to try and keep them at about the same power level. If one of the Specialties is numerically just better than the others, then it becomes the “correct” choice, and then your hard work on the other Specialties will be ignored!

Personal Spell Pieces

When a player casts a spell, they have two lists of words to choose from: their own Personal Spell Pieces and the GMs Terrain Spell Pieces.

Whether or not your game includes classes, you will need some way for the players to build their Personal Spell Piece list. In the base game, each class comes with 12 Spell Pieces, of which the players get to choose six.

You might want to have the players choose freely from a large list, or obtain Spell Pieces based on equipment or other items, or choose from a class list. How you divide up the Spell Pieces is up to you and will tell the players a lot about where they get their magic from.

As I mentioned before, a character in Heroic Chord has six Personal Spell Pieces. This number isn’t set in stone – a smaller number will leave the players with fewer options, and a much larger number may make it difficult for them to decide on a spell to cast.

Spell Pieces may look like these, though you can choose any words you like:

  • Watching
  • Waiting
  • Cruel
  • Leaf
  • Blood
  • Fang
  • Piercing
  • Devastation
  • Meteor
  • Starlight
  • Connected
  • Passage


Key is a list of five motivations that drive a character. Your players are free to choose any five motivations (things like “heroism”, “competition”, or “greed”) they like, so there’s no need for you to make a list for them. You might want to rename it (“Key” is part of Heroic Chord’s music theme) but aside from that, or maybe changing the way Key works, you can leave this part alone.

When a character invokes their Key, they mark off that word from their list. Then, they roll an additional two dice on their next skill roll.

When all five words from their Key are marked off, the character gets their Magic refreshed, and they can cast their Signature Spell until the arc ends.

When a new arc begins, all the marked off Keys are restored and it’s time to start again.

Does it have to be five? Well, no. I chose five because it’s an easy number for players to get their heads around while still being enough that they may not get around to featuring all five in every arc. If you choose to have a smaller Key, then players will hit their Signature Spell more often. If you choose to have a larger one, then players will take a longer time at character creation, but they’ll have more descriptors and a better idea of their character as a person.

A person’s key might look like one of these:

  • Courage
  • Selflessness
  • Hunger
  • Attention
  • Violence
  • Gentleness
  • Equality
  • Love
  • Self-Sacrifice
  • Impulsiveness

Signature Spell

Like Key, your players can choose any two words they like for their Signature Spell Pieces.

When they complete their Key, they have access to those two spell pieces, which they can use as either a Terrain Spell Piece or a Personal Spell Piece, until the arc is over.

This is a mechanic meant to give players freedom to describe their character’s special, unique magic. If you decide to omit this mechanic, or change it to something else, consider doing something else that lets players express themselves freely.

A Signature Spell can be anything, but it might look like this:

  • Soaring Dragon
  • Endless Suffering
  • Brutal Fang
  • Healing Gaze


When a player first builds a character, they choose a Lesson that this character needs to learn.

This plays into the advancement mechanic, which we’ll talk about more later on. But it serves a second important purpose: it signals to the GM what kind of story arc the player wants to tell about their character. Like Key and Signature Spell, this is a place for freeform player input, but this is a direct line of communication to the GM.

In other words, if you decide to change the advancement system, consider adding another way for the players to tell the GM what stories they envision.

A lesson might be something simple like

Look Before You Leap

Or it might be something more tailored like

The Emperor’s Will Is Not Always Absolute

Health and Magic

In Harmony Drive, a character has 10 HP and 10 Magic

When they reach 0 HP or 0 Magic, they lose consciousness.

This system has no mechanism for character death. That’s not to say characters can never die in this game. Rather, it means that character death is a decision the player and GM make together, rather than one made by the game system.

If you choose to change these numbers, feel free to! Remember the changes you made when you are making encounters or helping characters cost their spells.

In Heroic Chord, “Scatter” is a measure of how much the character has pushed themselves out into their surroundings, so unconsciousness is the result. That doesn’t have to be the case. You might choose to think of magic differently, and change the consequence for overdoing it.

Scatter is recovered by a good night’s rest. You might choose to have magic come back in a different way, but be careful not to make it so precious that players never cast spells!

*Scatter – When players cast spells, they blend with the environment, provoking a dissociative state. Recovered by resting.*

*Debt – When players cast spells, they call on a divinity, who will remember this, provoking a curse. Recovered by carrying out elaborate rituals.*

*Hunger – When players cast spells, they burn up the blood they have consumed, provoking a weakened state. Recovered by feeding.*

To Do – Anatomy of a Character

Are you renaming any of the core stats?

What kinds of Skills will your players need?

Will you be using Combat Specialties?

What kind of Combat Specialties will they need?

Where do players get Personal Spell Pieces?

Are you changing Key and Signature Spell at all?

Are you changing Lesson? If so, how do players communicate what they want their story to be about?

What are the Magic and Health resources in your game?

How much Health and Magic do the players have to start?

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