New GM Month 2020 (week 4 – Grade 8 Social Studies Comes In Handy)

[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]

Last week on Survivor! Well, maybe more like surviving writer’s block, we delved into the schematics of the identities in Unknown Armies. Scoping out the strategic value in character percentages and gaging one ability against the next. “Of course I can write this article, *looks dramatically at the camera* I’m a writer.” Well, an amateur writer. Okay, I dabble in the occasional article. Alright, umm…I can string words together and it doesn’t always sound terrible? Maybe I should pick another identity… Lucky enough for me, and all of you, should you find yourself stuck on the precipice of a game with no idea for a character the creators of Unknown Armies has your back. It is dangerous to go alone into the unknown you know. Identities from A to Z are included in the players’ handbook. From Acrobat to Zookeeper and Freemason to Undertaker some interesting identities are there for you to explore and gain insight into how certain characters could be played and what skills may be useful. Something to keep in mind is that your identity doesn’t have to revolve around an occupation. “Nature Lover” is one example found in the player’s manual:

“This could cover anything from a day hiker with a life list of birds to watch, to a heavily trained wilderness guide. Either way, it represents someone who can live without Wi-Fi and whose mind can handle adapting to the environment instead of living in an environment that’s profoundly rebuilt around humankind. ‘I’m a Nature Lover, of course I can identify those animal tracks, start a campfire without matches, purify water…”

Now, since I am choosing to play this game as a player who is brand new to it (and let’s face the facts here people, I am) I’m going to go with the safe route and randomly chose one of the pre-created identity’s. 26 letters in the alphabet, 26 pre-created identities go into the random generator.  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the lucky number is 10! I feel nervous excitement as I flip through the pages and count…not a dog trainer or a gym rat, not an Irritable, although my children and students may say otherwise, searching down the page I see I have hit jackpot – Jujutsu Instructor! This sounds like an ideal person for the Unknown Armies universe. I guess I just can’t escape teaching. Although the old adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” does spring to mind. Yeah, I can teach martial arts to a teammate but how much real-life fighting experience does my character have? I contemplate who this person is for a moment. Since a character may have up to 4 identities at various levels of percentages (please refer to last week’s article for a refresher), I decide my Jujutsu instructor would likely attempt to lead a more reserved way of life. This would be a reflection of the traditional Japanese warriors from where the fighting style originated. (See? I told my students that grade 8 social studies would come in handy at some point!) That being said I think adding “Quiet” to my identity slot would be ideal. Quiet people are able to eavesdrop without much notice, they can sneak around without being caught and speak without being overheard.  Remembering the tidbit of advice never to have an identity below 30% and can have a combination of up to 120%, I’m thinking a 70/50 split would work out well. 

Returning to the “Features” section of the gamebook I review the possible features I’m allowed. Each character can pick two from a list provided.  Keeping in mind that my features need to make sense to the GM, and I’m able to haggle “of course I can do that, I’m a jujutsu instructor”, I choose Coercion and Initiative. Being able to intimidate as a martial artist seems plausible. As well someone trained to perform jujutsu would understand the right moment to act. We shall see Dear Readers if these were wise choices or not down the road….

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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.