Once you've got your fill of single event shoot-em-up scenarios and a feel for just how dangerous Aces & Eights gunfights can be, you might be prepared to move up to the campaign game. The campaign game takes shape around on-going characters that evolve over time. Beyond the few moments of a gunfight, what's your character like? Does he have a job? A profession? A partner? Family Life?
The Aces & Eights game uses a combination of randomly determined abilities and point buying (using Building Points or "BPs") to generate the character. Each character has nine core abilities: ranging from how others perceive the character (reputation, charisma and fame) to physical (strength, looks, dexterity, constitution) and mental (intelligence, wisdom). These abilities are the basic building blocks of the character. After that, players determine their characters' priors and particulars, such as place of birth/origin, age, handedness, height, weight, reasons for heading west and so on.
Players can even choose or randomly determine quirks and flaws for their character (there are over 100 unique quirks and flaws in the game). Quirks and flaws represent those aspects of your character that make him a true individual — those little imperfections that make us all human. They range from cheapskate to spendthrift, to selfish, messy, glass jaw, superstitious or even consumptive. While quirks and flaws are optional, characters possessing them become more real and learning to deal with challenges along the path to adventure is roleplaying at its best.
Aces and Eights: Shattered Frontier packs over a hundred skills from your character may choose. Some are critical for various professions (e.g., Gambling for a gambler or Dentistry for a dentist), while others are simply good to know (such as swimming or fire building). About half of the skills in the game are universal (usable by anyone), while the remainder can't be used without purchasing the skill at character creation or learning it later during the game.
Finally, some characters start with talents — natural gifts with which your cowpoke was born. These range from various marksmanship talents to courage, quickness, endurance, astuteness and fast healing. All talents are purchased with BPs.
Characters will also choose a profession and a personal goal to start the game. Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier offers 85 different professions ranging from assassin to entertainer to preacher to whore and everything in-between. Personal goals can be as simple as getting a job to as complex as starting a ranch or becoming a national official. Professions and personal goals may (and often do) change from session to session.
Like most role-playing games, characters in the Aces & Eights game improve themselves through experience, failure, achievements and so on. Characters improve in five categories: monetary, reputation, fame, experience and building points. They improve reputations and fame through their deeds and news of the same, experience through surviving gunfights, receive monetary awards in many ways from rewards to steady jobs to gambling successes and building points for learning while using skills to further their profession(s) or experiencing life. Building points gained during play can be used to purchase new skills or improve existing ones, but a character can only improve/learn skills that were actually used during play!