Anyway, one to the real point of this post.
In Space Opera, one your character's 14 randomly generated personal characteristics is Empathy, which is described thusly:
Empathy represents the unconscious and largely uncontrolled broadcast of a character's personality aura and its interaction on the auras of those around him. In this context, Empathy has little to do with one's intentions toward a particular being. Rather, it is a quantification of the character's 'openness' to contact and will be sensed by those he meets. Generally, the more a character is empathic, the more others will be prepared to reserve final judgment and 'hear him out.' The ability is especially valuable to Contacts personnel charged with opening new relations with new races, but virtually every type of character will find the ability useful, whatever their calling.Note the part I italicized above, because it'll be important shortly.
There's a chart accompanying this description that divided Empathy scores into seven categories by its numerical value, with 1-6 being one category, 7-8 another, and 9-13, 14-16, 17, 18, and 19 rounding out the chart. Only the lowest and highest category say much of any value and, even then, what they say is mostly "fluff" with few game mechanics attached to it. The lowest category (1-6) is interesting, though, because it notes that such a character
is a 'loner' who keeps very much to himself. Players should regard such a character as ranging from 'anti-social' to outright psychopathic. The lower the score, the 'colder' and more 'withdrawn' the character should be in his impact upon others -- which influences the general role-play of such a personality by the player. An Empathy score of 01 to 02 means a character with psychopathic and anti-social tendencies, the man with the true 'killer instinct.' Such a character will never check morale and may prove to be a berserker in combat. He simply does not relate to anyone not 'useful' to him (comrades tend to be 'useful' and so come under his area of concern; his loyalties are based upon personal survival and a code of conduct uniquely his own.) In summation, he chooses his 'friends' very carefully, stands by them to the death because he takes threat to them as a personal affront, and could care less about everybody else. He is a man without a conscience in search of a personal, living 'god' to give his troubled life security and purpose, a sword looking for a strong hand to wield it.That's actually a very evocative description, if one a bit rough around the edges. You'd think, given what it says here and in the previously quoted section, that it'd be a very bad thing to have a low Empathy score.
But you'd be wrong. As it turns out, a character who works for the Bureau of State Security (or BOSS), which is "a paramilitary organization which combines the duties of such services as MI5, the FBI, the KGB, and similar security institutions," doesn't need a low Empathy to join this service, but it sure helps with advancing within it. There are 15 ranks within BOSS, beginning with Agent/5 (Rank Grade 0) and going all the way up to Minister of Security (Rank Grade 14).
Ranks below grade/3 require a maximum Empathy of 13 to qualify. Ranks above grade/3 require -1 per Empathy per rank above grade/3, and also minimum Leadership/12. PCs with Empathy/1-6 obtain a +1 DM on promotion rolls.Consider what this means. Each rank above grade/3 has a maximum Empathy associated with it, which is -1 per rank above grade/3. Therefore, to become Minister of Security, a character must have, at most, an Empathy of 2! This makes me wonder what the authors of Space Opera had against intelligence agencies.
I like quirkiness like this, even if there are lots of problems with it from both a game mechanical and meta-game standpoint. Still, there's something rather charming about a game where having a low score in a particular characteristic is actually a benefit rather than a drawback.