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character creation: random or point allocation

Started by N.R.Knutzen, August 02, 2005, 12:48:56 AM

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I would like to know everyones opion on character creation.  When you sit down with a game and start designing your characters do you prefer to use random (D&D) or point (Shadowrun) allocation?  Or as a player would you prefer to be offered both as an option?

Nathan P.

Hey there, Lycaon_wolf. What's your real name?

Seems that I'm the first one to see your post here, so I'm going to give you a pretty standard Forge response, which involves a lot of questions. First off, are you designing an actual game? If so, this is the right forum. If you want to talk about general character creation mechanics, however, you should probably post in the RPG Theory forum.

Second, opinion polls aren't really what we do here. We're a niche market of a niche market, and trying to get the "majority opinion" isn't going to help you very much.

Thirdly, there's a lot of different ways to design characters, beyond D&D and Shadowrun. The only way to help you figure out whats going to work for your game, if you're designing one, is for us to know what your games about. As in, what do the characters do (beyond "they adventure")? What do the players, actually sitting around the table, do? Is there a GM, and what does he or she do? What kind of experience do you want your game to produce?

If you can give us more details about your goals, we can help you out. It would also be helpful to know what your gaming experience to this point consisted of - have you only played D&D and Shadowrun, or do you have a broader experience?

Once we know more, we can give you focused advice about what you want to talk about.

Nathan P.
Find Annalise
My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters


yknow...ive had this debate many times in the past when me and my crew were deciding on the laws and rules of creating a character for our indi-rpg....

and i won this debate im glad to say, with this argument.

Random MUST be a part of making a characture. sure, it should be mixed with alot of choice (allowing points to be placed where you wish) but those points should be randomly produced one way or another. if not, you run a risk of players making the same characture every time, every game, a clone of a clone of a clone.

this should not be possible...ever...cus if i can re-make the same guy (or a close image of him) by simply choosing the same skills, the same numbers, the same gear, and same abilities...then i might as well give him the same name and physical appearance.

random rolls (or cards, if you dont use dice) give the player the fear and allure of chance. if you know what your going to play cus you built the sheet in your head way before you even started playing..then there is little to learn about your new already knew everything about him (and his clones) for the past week you planned him.

now yes, this problem usually wont hurt a player when mature enough to play a well rounded individual, an actor of real style...but saddly, alot of hack-slashers and meta-gamers exist....its only normal to have a matrix that defends agaisnt these types.

random stops people from meta-ressurection.
fully choosen scores (not random) allow players to play the same characture a million times over, never having to learn how to be versitile in role-play.

just my though on crew agreed...and stats have since been randomly rolled in our game.

Ben Lehman

Hi, Lycoan.  Welcome to the Forge!

I'm just going to echo Nathan's points -- how you do character generation and character improvement entirely depends of what you want out of the game.  But there are a lot more options than "roll randomly for everything" and "buy everything out of a big pool of points."

I'm going to just throw you in the deep end here and refer you over to an early draft of Breaking the Ice (the final, much refined and playtested version of this game is coming out at GenCon).  Do you see the character generation system?  With the colors?  And both players participating?

The main point here is that there is a lot of different ways to do character generation.  Way more than just two.

To really design a good character generation system, you need to figure out what you want the character generation system to do, in the context of your game.  I'd say the most important things about a character generation system are that:

1) It gives you a fit character to play with and fulfill your group's play goals (an effective character for achieving your mission, or a fit protagonist, or a character who is indicative of and challenges the world, or what ever.)

2) It creates emotional investment in your character, not just from you, but from every player at the table (in a traditional game, the most important thing is GM investment in your character, but really if everyone isn't invested in your character you'll have problems.)

I would say that it is probably possible to do both of these things with either random or non-random methods, but that the cold, hard truth of it is that most games fail to provide for either of these two basics.



     First off thanks everyone.  My "real" name is Newt and i live in illinois.  Ok on to the goods.  I am creating an rpg. Two actually.  I have been working on them for a couple of years now.  My experenice gose thru anything d20, fudge, paranoia, shadowrun, cyberpunk, seventh sea, and many other games.  I attend a sci-fi convention every year and take advantage of every possiable game there is.
     The idea on my creation system is to fast and simple.  I want to be able to sit at a table and whip out characters in a few minutes.  We want to be able to pull off the 5 minute game.  Sit down create, setup sceen, and play.  I have been leaning torward a ramdom creation system to kkep things moving quickly but wanted to offer a point system if players would like to see it included.  I have always liked having total control over my characters creation but keeping it random alows for variation that is not always seen in allocation systems

more latter


Jack Aidley

Hi Newt,

Have you seen Feng Shui? Feng has one of the quickest generation techniques of any mainstream game I've seen, and has no random element. It might present a possible model for you to follow. It seems to me that speed of character creation is related mostly to factors unrelated to randomness: system complexity; clarity and ease of reference of the rules; min-maxability (if the decisions involved in creating your character have a big effect on your characters effectiveness you are likely to spend more time on them). Another idea from Feng you may wish to consider is letting the players alter the decisions made in char gen at the end of the first or second session if they find its not quite working for them.

QuoteI have been leaning torward a random creation system to kkep things moving quickly but wanted to offer a point system if players would like to see it included.

Sod your imaginary players, create the game you want. It'll be better for it, trust me.
- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter

Nathan P.

Hey Newt,

Cool. There's a bunch of ways to do quick characters, but the best one for you is going to depend on what the game is about and what the characters do. In fact, for a ton of examples of quick character creation, I would take a look at the games entered into the 2005 Game Chef Competition. One of the rules restrictions that entrants could choose was "no character creation", and there were a bunch of different ways that people addressed this. For example, my entry, Carry which is about the psychological journey of soldiers in Vietnam, gives templates for all of the soldiers in a squad (16 chars) to choose from, and then play starts. Other games did other things, depending on how their game worked and what they wanted to accomplish.

Another example is Tony Lower-Baush's (I'm sure I spelled that wrong...) Capes. Check out the downloads of Capes Lite and the "Click'n'Lock" character creation, which basically gives you a wide array of possible characters, created in about 12 seconds.

With all of these examples, the character creation serves the larger goals of the game. So. What are the goals of your game? What do you want a session to look like? With Carry, it's designed to be a one-session game, so I don't need a lot of stats for the characters that change over time. In Capes, you're supposed to be able to involve a new character at any time at the drop of a hat, so its easy to do so. You can see how the overall design guides how the characters are created. As far as I know, in Sifolis's game, character death is frequent and expected, so he chose a method that gives great variability to the many characters you'll be playing over the course of the game.

Geh, sorry to throw out so many links and such, but I think (hope...)  it'll be helpful.

And definitely listen to Jack and Ben!
Nathan P.
Find Annalise
My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters