The Living One is the appellation given to the protagonist of Arcanum, particularly by Panarii adherents such as Virgil. According to Panarii religion, it is said that the spirit of Nasrudin would be reborn on "wings of fire" in "hills shrouded in fog," and would fight a final battle with the "evil one" – Arronax. It is also said that there would be something unusual about Nasrudin's reincarnation, though what that unusual thing would be is never stated.
On Jan 1st 1885, the airship IFS Zephyr was shot down and crashed near the town of Shrouded Hills, leading Virgil and his mentor, Brother Joachim, to believe that the disaster's lone survivor was the fulfillment of the prophecy.
There are two ways to begin playing – choose a pre-made character or create a new one. There are 12 pre-made characters to choose from, 8 male and 4 female. Whichever pre-made characters aren't chosen will be found as corpses amongst the wreckage of the IFS Zephyr.
There are 12 pre-made characters to choose from:
- Merwin Tumblebrook, a male halfling.
- Godfrey Castleburger, a male gnome.
- Horace McGinley, a male half-elf.
- Muck Evil Eye, a male half-ogre.
- D'ren Le'lor, a male elf.
- Solomon Doone, a male human.
- Merik Luggerton, a male half-orc.
- Lugard Bloodstone, a male dwarf.
- Victoria Warrington, a female human.
- Bel'an T'Seraa, a female elf.
- Clarisse Vorak, a female half-orc.
- Ke'ree Melange, a female half-elf.
If the Living One is a custom creation, the player has control over his or her race, gender, and stats. The Living One's character background can also be chosen, but this affects nothing beyond the character's stats and how the player chooses to roleplay.
If creating a character, there are eight races to choose from. A few races are restricted by gender:
- Dwarf (can only be male)
- Gnome (can only be male)
- Halfling (can only be male)
- Half-ogre (can only be male)
Whatever differences there may be between various iterations of the main character, one thing is always certain: the Living One boarded the IFS Zephyr in Caladon and was the only survivor of the crash, aside from a supposed gnome that lived long enough to warn of an impending danger and pass on his signet ring with instructions to "find the boy."
Beyond that, the Living One's character is largely defined by how he or she is played. There are various skills that can be mastered, and the Living One may have magickal or technical prowess. Alignment is also determined by the actions taken throughout the game.
At one point, Virgil accidentally refers to the Living One as the "Chosen One" (a possible reference to the protagonist of Fallout 2).