New GM Month 2020 (week 3 – Who Will You Become?)

[Editor’s Note: January 7, 2020 was the launch date of the New Gamemaster Month for 2020, which is intended to provide guidance to give a new/inexperienced GM the skills to run their own game. Participants can choose from four games by four different publishers and Trish Koning has agreed to come on board to take on Unknown Armies, by Atlas Games for us. You can read Trish’s entire series to date HERE. -dc]

“We are what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

7.5 billion people live on this earth. Each one unique and special in their own right. But what is it that makes us, us? Identity often seems fluid, changing depending on circumstance or situation. What is at our core though? I’m a daughter, a sister, a mother, an ex-wife, a girlfriend, a Christian, a teacher, a nerd, a historian…I am all of these things and more and each part makes up who and what I am. My skills grow and shrink depending on who I need to be in the moment. When one of my daughters is scared of the monster in the dark, I’m the brave mama bear protecting her from the things that go bump in the night. When a student is struggling with a concept, I am the guide lighting the way toward a solution. When I’m sick and tired of being the strong one, I get to call my mum and be the little girl who requires comfort. 

Just like in real life, the creators of Unknown Armies have taken this very real concept and applied to character development. Each player is allowed a minimum of two identities and a maximum of four. These identities will allow certain skills to be used within game development. “Of course I can stitch up that cut, I’m a doctor.” “Of course I can fix the door, I’m a carpenter. “Of course I can search up that license plate, I’m a police officer.” Your identities can add up to 120% in an ordinary game, however, if the GM is feeling frisky the can suspend the rules and allow up to 160%. Each identity must start at 15% and not exceed 90% (The creators give a fair warning though, dislike failing? Don’t take an identity at less than 30% ) Banker who dabbles with professional poker? 75% Banker with 45% Poker Player. The identities you pick are only limited by your imagination: zen monk, disgraced FBI agent, cowgirl, sommelier?  But beware that you must play the game from that perspective to be successful, utilizing their skills and weaknesses to your advantage. When in doubt you can roll according to the abilities stored the shock gauges rather than utilizing your identity to assist you. Most of the time, the game creators tell us that we will want to roll an identity, only falling back on ability when necessary. As in real life, you are given a choice to pick. If an ability is greater than the identity it can sub for, you can roll using whichever you think will best succeed at the task at hand. Even if you fail you gain an experience notch. Ding, ding, ding, bonus prize! If you roll with the ability you are more likely to succeed but if you fail, that’s it. Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. How dire is your situation? Hmm, now would be the time I wish I had the skills of a real poker player!

Once an identity is chosen, features are provided and two may be chosen. Medical? Firearm Tactics? Therapeutic? Gutter Magick?

Oh, right, remember within this world magick exists and can be utilized… always the fun little twist to think about. (And don’t worry about that one player who thinks they are a smart ass and will try and play a supreme supernatural character – yeah we’re about you there champ – there are rules in place to limit that aspect of their identity to keep the playing field fair for the entire party, GM included.)

So then gang, the question remains, who and what do I become? Drop a comment on our Facebook Page.

You can sign up for Free Gamemaster Month at any time at and join the conversation on Facebook at

Unknown Armies is published Atlas Games, who can be found online at or on Facebook at

Born in Nova Scotia, this transplanted Blue Noser has called Alberta home since 2007. Trish Koning is a mother of two and when she isn’t wrangling her own kids, she works full time as a middle school humanities teacher. An avid nerd Trish enjoys all aspects of geek culture from Cosplay to Dungeons and Dragons. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at AtakCosplay.

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