Weaknesses are essentially the negative counterparts of abilities. They can be physical disabilities or mental or social disadvantages. They can also be "virtues," which it may seem strange to call weaknesses. However, as desirable and respect-worthy as they may be, these virtues still "weaken" your character, by limiting his freedom of action. For example, honesty means you can't or won't lie even when telling the truth could get you in a whole lot of trouble.
At first, you might think, "Why would I want my character to have a weakness?" Well, there are two good reasons. First, and simplest, you get character points back when you take weaknesses, because weaknesses have negative costs. But more importantly, weaknesses are often more significant than abilities in defining your character's personality. That's why virtually all adventure heroes from movies and books have weaknesses. (For example, Indiana Jones has a phobia of snakes; B'elanna Torres (from Star Trek: Voyager) has a violent Klingon temper; Sherlock Holmes has an incredible pride and an addiction to cocaine; Ellen Ripley is obsessed with destroying the Aliens and beholden to The Company; and the list could go on forever.)
Often, especially at climactic moments, a character with a mental weakness tries to "overcome" it; this is a powerful device in adventure fiction and is often used to great effect. The potential lies in the fact that it happens rarely and succeeds even more rarely. Do not overuse it! When you want your character to try to overcome his phobia or compulsive behavior, make it dramatic; squeeze every last drop of pathos out of that weakness before you let it go. You'll have to; if you don't, the GM probably won't agree that your character is really getting over it.
Often, these "overcomings" won't last. A tragic hero is likely to slide back into his weakness. Perhaps he only got over it for that stressful moment, and once the stress is gone, so is his willpower. Perhaps she really did break the habit, but later circumstances make her fall back into it. This will be up to you and the GM. However, in those cases where the weakness is really beaten, you will have to pay back the points you gained for taking the weakness. This is explained in full in section 13.2.3.
Of course, your character may always think he's going to overcome his weaknesses, but you know he's not actually trying, he's just full of hot air.
It is very important, when buying and playing weaknesses, to remember that these are strong weaknesses, unusual, not day-to-day ones. Many people have a bad temper, and they may have trouble getting along with people. If you want your character to be like that, feel free! Some people have such a bad temper that they end up in jail and have to go to counseling and therapy. This is a weakness, and is worth the -10 points it costs.
What if you want to have a bad temper, but not the towering rage that the weakness describes? In this case you would use a sort of "mini-weakness" called a quirk. You can take any weakness or just about any strange element of personality or character and call it a quirk (with your GM's permission); these are typically worth -1 to -2 points. In fact, you can even take a few points for quirks you haven't yet figured out, and let them develop during the first few sessions of play. Quirks are a great way to add a little flavor. Just be sure your weaknesses are played as weaknesses, your quirks are played as quirks, and there is no confusion between them.
Unfortunately, many players will go to great lengths to try to avoid the ill effects of their weaknesses, primarily by not playing them out. You must enforce weaknesses, by reducing development points, intervening and deciding what a character does, or in particularly bad cases, requiring the player to buy off the weakness and charging them for it in full (see section 13.2.3). Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While they are buying their weaknesses, pay some attention to whether you think they could play the ones they have chosen. The only upper limit to the number of weaknesses they can buy is the number you think they can play. Beware the player who buys weaknesses just to get a few more character points! The weakness ought to fit into the character's overall background and personality, and if it seems appropriate, feel free to demand an explanation for a weakness that doesn't seem to fit (but be willing to accept such an explanation if it is plausible).
You will probably want to choose your weaknesses along with your abilities. The discussion in section 3.2 applies equally well to both processes, and you should reread it before beginning your weaknesses. Sample weaknesses follow. (If you are playing a non-human character, don't forget to ask the GM if there are any required weaknesses for your race.)
Again, choosing weaknesses for NPCs can be skimped on a bit, as long as you make sure that any weaknesses you "spontaneously" buy later are consistent with all that has happened. Since weaknesses tend to have a more profound effect on character personality, however, you will usually want to skimp a little less on weaknesses than you did on abilities.
Absent-Mindedness (-15): You have great difficulty paying attention to anything not of immediate interest, and will often forget entirely about mundane things while concentrating on an idea or activity. The absent-minded person usually must make a roll to remember the most commonplace or urgent things, like dinnertime or the fact that he's bleeding. You will have a +10 to activities involving your current focus, but up to a -50 (usually -30) to activities off topic; both the bonus and the penalty include perception rolls.
Addiction (Variable): Your character is addicted to something. Besides the obvious things like alcohol and cocaine, you can have an addiction to more exotic things, depending on the campaign: pleasure center electrostimulation, soap operas, exotic herbs, etc. Addiction to cigarettes is more likely to be a quirk in "modern" societies. The GM should consider these factors in assigning a cost: the effect of the substance, how strong the addiction is, how hard it is to acquire the substance, and how dangerous the substance itself is.
Allergy (Variable): You are allergic to something. This is usually only a quirk worth a point or two, but can be more significant if the allergy is more severe, the substance common, etc. Some interesting things to be allergic to include magic, canned oxygen (such as in space suit tanks), animal hair (if the allergy is incapacitating, it could be difficult fighting most beasts), plasteel, your own blood (only when it's leaking out, of course), certain forms of food, horses, or some state of mind (a psychosomatic allergy, of course).
Amnesia (-15): You do not know your background. You will present your GM with that part of your background you do remember -- probably just the most recent part -- and she will work out the real background without telling you. Be warned: while this saves you the effort of inventing your background, it also means your GM can do just about anything he wants to you, and few GMs can resist the opportunity to use you in some grand and devious plan.
Code of Honor (-10): There are many different types of codes of honor, but they all mean that you are required, due to some sense of honor, duty, manners, propriety, or whatever, to act in a certain way. Some possibilities include honesty, lawfulness, chivalry, the pirate's code (defend your shipmates, duel fairly when challenged fairly, always avenge insults, and otherwise anything goes; this is only worth -3 points), gentlemanliness, the strictures of Jewish culture (e.g. no work on the Sabbath), etc. Alternately, rather than a code, this may reflect an actual duty, such as defense of your liege, a vow to accomplish some quest, or dedication to some organization. For this type, the cost is variable.
Compulsive Behavior (Variable): You are psychologically (perhaps neurotically) compelled to act in a certain way. Some examples include lying for the sake of it, gambling, constantly washing yourself, arguing with anyone who says anything you can possibly disagree with, telling stories of things you've done in the past, etc.
Debt (Variable): Though you are not (necessarily) presently out of money (see Poverty), you owe a large amount of money to someone who is able to collect. In a manner of speaking, this weakness allows you to borrow character points, intending to (literally) buy back the points later. Not only the amount owed, but also the ability of the collecting person or agency to enforce their collection rights, will be considered in assigning a cost. When your character pays back the debt, you must buy back the weakness.
Deep Sleeper (-5): You sleep deeply enough to be hard to wake up; people sometimes resort to trumpets or buckets of cold water. You have been known to sleep through combats. When you do wake up, you are groggy for some time afterwards. In modern campaigns, you may want to require a few cups of coffee before you can see.
Diminished Senses (Variable): There are endless varieties to this weakness. Poor sight (possibly corrected by eyeglasses), color-blindness, blindness in one or both eyes, anosmia (no sense of smell or taste), hardness of hearing, deafness in one or both ears, or even such things as dyslexia (not actually a diminished sense, but similar in effect), are possibilities.
Disease (Variable): You have some disease, which is hopefully not too contagious (at least under controlled circumstances) and not immediately fatal, though perhaps will be in a certain amount of time if not cured. Usually, you will choose something for which there is no known cure, or the cure is hard to acquire, or perhaps the cure is known only to some hard-to-get-to people. If you cure the disease somehow, you must buy back the weakness.
Epilepsy (-30): You have extreme seizures during which you lose control of your limbs during stressful situations. (This is the extreme form; more mundane epilepsy will be less severe, but worth fewer points.) At these times you can do nothing, and will emerge greatly fatigued; there is also a chance, depending on circumstances, that you may hurt yourself in the process.
Fanaticism (-10): You have a particular creed, belief, or patriotic dedication about which you are fanatic. Of course, it will probably influence the way you act, and you should buy other weaknesses to reflect that. Buying this weakness implies your insistence on proclaiming your creed before others in spite of the possible inconvenience or danger, and in many cases your desire to attempt to convert others to your creed.
Greed/Gluttony (-10): You have an incredible greed or gluttony for something: money, food, fine wine, sex, etc. You may be especially possessive of something, or your source of one of these things. This is an extreme case, the kind that borders on (or goes beyond the border of) needing psychiatric counseling.
Gullibility (-15): You will believe just about anything told with a straight face, even if it is absurd, and possibly even if it contradicts facts you know quite well.
Hemophilia (-30): All bleeding effects of criticals will increase by one, and will not seal up of their own accord. Most critical results that do not list bleeding as an effect will cause you to bleed at one hit per round due to internal hemorrhaging. For purposes of rolling First Aid skill rolls, treat the wound as if it were of the original severity (not one point higher).
Irritating Habit (Variable): This is often a quirk, but some irritating habits may be worth 5, 10, or more points, such as drooling, loud burping in Victorian England high society, spitting, constant bad puns, etc. Certain things that aren't quite "habits," such as body odor or wearing excessively bright colors, fit here as well.
Kleptomania (-15): You have an uncontrollable urge to steal, even if the things are not at all useful to you, even if you are going to get in a lot of trouble if you get caught. It could be an attempt to prove yourself, but in most cases it is a neurosis.
Laziness (-5): You would much rather be relaxing, and it will be hard to get you motivated to do anything.
Lecherousness (-5): You are strongly attracted to potential sexual partners, and find it hard to focus on other things while in their presence. You will find it difficult to pass up opportunities to make passes at interesting specimens thereof. This is a specific case of Greed/Gluttony.
Limitation (Variable): One of your abilities doesn't work exactly as specified; instead, there is some limitation to its efficacy. Perhaps it only works on certain subjects; it may only work under certain circumstances, or only when certain conditions are met. The cost will be smaller, of course, than the cost of the ability it is a limitation to; in effect, this cancels part of the cost of the ability.
Megalomania (-10): You think you are the greatest thing since they invented "great", and that naturally everyone else should be able to sense this. This is more than obnoxiousness; you do not take hints, and you are so certain of your own magnificence you do not for a moment doubt it, blaming any adverse evidence on the jealousy of others, etc.
Meticulousness (-5): You will take all the time necessary to make sure things you do are perfect in every detail.
Mute (-15): You cannot or will not speak. (If it is "will not," you must decide why, and if you should ever speak, you will probably have to buy back this weakness in addition to any other ill effects, even if you go on being mute afterwards.) Though you can, of course, use notes, sign language, telepathy, digital speech synthesizers, etc., these all have their inconveniences. (Note that the big problem with sign language is simply that most people do not know it.)
Neurosis (Variable): You suffer some neurosis not listed elsewhere as a weakness. Some possibilities include cowardice, bullying, danger paralysis, delusions (an especially interesting one to play), shyness, impulsiveness, stubbornness, pacifism, excessive suspiciousness, miserliness, pyromania, sadism, etc. It is important to watch that these do not become quirks or less, especially if you have many weaknesses.
Old Age (Variable): Your character is much older than the average age for your type of character, at least the adventuresome types. In modern times, the cutoff would be about 50; this will vary greatly. For instance, campaigns set earlier in history will have lower life expectancies, while in future campaigns, old age may set in much later; different races will also have different aging patterns. Those with the Longevity ability should take that into account as well.
Overconfidence (-5): You believe you will succeed at things, and hardly ever think about whether you may fail.
Pain Sensitivity (-20): Stun-like effects of criticals will be more severe on you due to your sensitivity to pain; forced parries become stuns, stuns become stun/no-parries, and stun/no-parries count double. Furthermore, any percentage penalty incurred by a critical counts for five more points, if worse than -20.
Paranoia (-20): You believe everyone is out to get you. You may trust your friends, but you will be ever-so-quick to begin worrying if they, too, are part of the conspiracy... Lesser forms of this weakness have you paranoid of specific organizations, dilemmas, etc.
Phobia (Variable): You are extremely, uncontrollably, irrationally afraid of something such as insects, the dark, flying, heights, magic, uncleanness, machinery, space travel, sharp things, the unknown, etc. Feel free to come up with your own interesting things to be afraid of, complete with interesting stories of how you acquired the fear (that horrible childhood experience with the enchilada dinner and the earthquake that left you phobic about Mexican food, for instance).
Physical Disability (Variable): There are an almost endless number of possible physical disabilities, ranging through the loss, or loss of use of, any of the various limbs and other body parts. Some interesting varieties include asthma, weak stomach, being a eunuch, vulnerability to fainting, nervous tics, hunchback, awkward limp, extreme tennis elbow, etc.
Possession Vulnerability (-5 to -25): You are especially vulnerable to possession by demons. Demons that encounter you will probably attempt to possess you; they have a +25 to this attempt. There is also a chance of about 2% per month that a demon will be attracted by your vulnerability and seek you out. The varying cost depends on the type of campaign. In a high-tech game, demons may be so unlikely that even -5 may be too high (though the GM may want to rule that some other race capable of possession will replace demons instead); in a supernatural horror campaign, possessions may be so much a part of life that -25 may be too low.
Poverty (Variable): You are poorer than average. For every character point you gain for this weakness, you lose 10% of the normal starting money. (Thus, you cannot have better than a -10 cost; any further would use the Debt weakness.)
Primitive (-10): You come from a more "backward" society than the one you will be adventuring in, by a significant amount. Alternately, you may come from a culture too advanced, enough so that the basic skills of the more backward culture are lost in yours (e.g. typical people in 20th century America do not know how to speak archaic languages, behave in a king's court, or use a crossbow; note that they also do not know how to mix gunpowder).
Psychotic Temper (-10): You get very mad very easily. Perhaps you get mad in the same situations everyone else would, but when you get mad you froth at the mouth and can't be calmed until someone has paid dearly. Or perhaps anger is your natural state and you enter it at any provocation. Taken far enough (and probably worth a few more points), you could go entirely berserk under certain circumstances, losing control over yourself and attacking wildly with whatever mode of attack is nearest at hand.
Secrets (Variable): You have some dark and hidden secret which, if it came out, would get you in some kind of trouble. Usually, this trouble would be effectively another weakness, such as enemies, bad Reputation, loss of Status, etc.; thus, you can think of a secret as a "latent weakness." (Examples include a sheriff who is wanted for assorted crimes in another identity from his past, or a homosexual member of the KKK.) The cost should be a few points more than the latent weakness. If the secret is exposed, you will have to pay back those few points when you exchange the new weakness for the secret.
Speech Impediment (-5): You have a stutter, lisp, slur, or tic in your voice, extreme enough to give you a problem communicating. It may be brought on by nervousness, or constantly present.
Spell/Psion Misdirection (-20): Your magic or psionics is more likely to do unpredictable things than normal. Whenever you roll a spell fumble, there is a 35% chance that the spell or psion will still work, but on entirely the wrong target. (Changing this percentage can change the cost of this weakness.)
Split Personality (-15 or -25): You have multiple personalities. They may be facets of the same individual (at -15) or completely different individuals with different memories (at -25). The various personalities may have different abilities and weaknesses (though this is unlikely). If so, for those abilities or weaknesses specific to different personalities, add up their character point costs separately for each personality, average these totals, and then pay that amount plus the split personality cost. The changes between personalities should be completely outside your control. If you ever overcome this weakness, you will have to determine which of these abilities and weaknesses remain, and use this to figure out what the cost to buy back this weakness is. This is a very challenging weakness to roleplay.
Status (Variable): See the Status ability. Examples of low status include the Untouchable caste in India, blacks in the South, or perhaps humans in an elven kingdom or in an advanced Galactic society.
Superstitiousness (-5): You may be knowledgeable in things like omens, spilt salt, astrology, four-leaf clovers, etc. Alternately, you may simply associate bad things with unrelated events irrationally. (For instance, the reappearance of a lost item just before one of your companions dies in battle makes you want nothing to do with the item.)
Ugliness (Variable): See the Attractiveness ability. This represents more than just homeliness; it refers to ugliness that affects how people respond to you in social situations. (Homeliness might be a quirk.) Humans would have trouble exceeding -5 (without the use of special effects devices).
Unluckiness (-10): You should decide in advance if you have "dumb" bad luck or "Murphy's Law" bad luck. Dumb bad luck happens arbitrarily (e.g. whenever you roll any roll ending in 3); Murphy's Law bad luck happens less frequently, but when it counts most (i.e. once per two hours the GM will maliciously pick a moment to have bad luck strike you). When bad luck strikes, you must make three rolls and count the worst. (For dumb bad luck, the roll that ended in 3 counts as one of the three rolls.)
Vulnerability (Variable): You are especially vulnerable to something dangerous, such as poison, disease, radiation, broken bones, heat, cold, etc. For each character point you received, you will suffer -2 to resist these effects (or +2 to be hit by them), or the effect they have will increase by 2%.
Weak Will (-10): You have a hard time resisting temptation of any sort, including things like hypnosis and fast-talk, but not including magic or psionics. You have -25 to resist these effects.