We represent each character's basic nature with eight numbers, called stats. These are mostly permanent; they may change over time, but rarely drastically. The eight stats, and what they represent, are:
Strength (S): The character's musculature in proportion to his size.
Endurance (E): Tells how much of a physical beating the character can take, how well she resists hostile forces, and how much she can do before tiring.
Dexterity (D): Describes the character's fine motor control in delicate maneuvers, including hand-eye coordination.
Quickness (Q): The character's speed of motion and reflexes.
Intelligence (I): The character's ability to solve problems, understand relationships, draw conclusions, and bring together data. It is not how much knowledge he has, but rather what he can do with the knowledge he does have. Note that a character who is very good at learning from books, but not necessarily very clever about using the information he has learned, probably has a good aptitude in SCIENCE but need not have a high Intelligence.
Perceptivity (P): Tells how likely the character is to notice things; includes both the acuity of his senses and how well he pays attention. Characters with poor sight, but not poor enough to merit a weakness, will have a low Perceptivity.
Will (W): The mental parallel of Strength, describing how effective the character is at influencing people. In worlds where magic, psionics, or both exist, Will describes the character's innate power level (though skill at learning the associated disciplines is reflected in the MIND aptitude. Note that this is not the same as willpower; Resistance is more like self-discipline than Will is. You use Will to affect others, not yourself.
Resistance (R): The mental parallel of Endurance, which shows how well the character can control her own body and mind. Characters with high amounts of self-discipline usually also have a high Resistance. In worlds where magic, psionics, or both exist, this also describes how well the character can resist these forces.
For each of the eight stats, you may either assign a value from -25 to +25, based on your conception of your character, or roll the dice.
If you assign the stat value, you pay a cost in character points equal to the value you assigned. (Thus, choosing a negative stat actually gives you more character points rather than costing you points.) The GM will usually require assigned stats to be between -25 and +25, and can overrule or deny any assignment you want to make. Most of the time, you will assign five or more of your stats.
Remember that +25 is probably as high as mortals tend to get, and anything above +20 will be the kind of person that, in our modern world, is famous for it. Allow your players to take +20 and higher -- after all, they are supposed to be heroes -- but require some explanation if it doesn't make much sense. Only allow stats above +25 with a good explanation.
Alternately, you may choose to roll the stat; this costs nothing, no matter what you roll, but, of course, you must accept the roll of the dice for that stat. You cannot "rearrange" your rolled stats in any way. If you find you need to gain or lose a few character points later, you cannot change the value in a rolled stat, only an assigned stat. Roll 5d10 and subtract 27, and record the result as the value of that stat. You should also write the letter "r" next to the number so you'll be sure not to try to alter it later during character creation.
Characters in some games may be non-human, whether aliens, elves, computer programs, mutants, or whatever. For these races, some of the stats may have a different average. For example, elves are, on the average, more magically apt but less physically strong than humans.
When you are assigning stats, it is up to you to take this into account. Since you will probably be assigning at least half of your stats anyway, your assignments will reflect your image of dwarves or Vesuvians.
However, for those stats you roll, to keep these averages in line, your GM may want you to apply a small modifier for some of the stats. Some GMs may even want to use the same system for the differences between males and females, though for most races these will be smaller in magnitude.
When the player is assigning his own stat, make sure he is aware of your world's version of the race whenever there might be confusion (e.g., are your elves short nymph-like forest spirits or tall Celtic elves?). However, after he or she is aware of this, allow any assignment you wouldn't rule out for other races. Even if Tasarin are weaker than humans, there can still be a Tasarin who would be as strong as any human: he would simply be unusual, like most player characters. You should make up your stat modifiers for each race as part of the preparation for the world, but you need not give the details to your players until they've decided what race their characters will be.
Some people object to race or gender modifiers, feeling that they place an unfair absolute limit on, for instance, how strong a female can be. It is important to realize that these modifiers do not place limits, but simply maintain averages. Thus, a female elf will, on the average, be weaker than a male human. If we are using dice to roll a stat, a small modifier maintains that average. It is perfectly in the spirit of gaming to create a super-strong female elf, substantially stronger than the average male human. Usually, you would do this intentionally, by assigning the stat, not randomly by rolling; in this case, you can assign as high a stat as you like, provided the GM doesn't mind and you are willing to pay the character point cost. However, if you happened to choose to roll the dice, you should use the modifier: after all, even a super-strong female elf is weaker than a super-strong male human.
If you find that these modifiers bother you, the simple solution is to assign more of your stats.