Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Making Characters

I spent a part of my afternoon today tracking down character sheets for some of my games for a project I'm starting to work on, and it reminded me of how much I love character generation.

One of my greatest joys was always taking a pencil, some scratch paper, a character sheet, and the necessary books and creating something out of nothing.

Did I say something? I'm sorry. I meant someone.

It was always fascinating to me how many different ways there were to create characters, too. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition was strict die-rolling. FASA's Star Trek was a free-choice lifepath. Cyberpunk had a lifepath, too, but you had to roll on it - and it was more of an add-on to provide post-generation flavor to your character.

Over time, I grew to appreciate systems that gave me more control over my character. At the same time, it's easy to see why those systems were the most frustrating to GMs (I was young enough that the concept of a GM limiting our character generation in some way was an alien concept).

The first time I saw GURPS, my head about exploded. It was the first point-buy system I'd seen where everything came out of the same pool of points. And there were so many options! I spent close to 60 points on skills for my first character. I could have achieved the same results by spending more points on my attributes and fewer of those points on my attributes - and long-term, it would have been a more powerful character.

In fact, looking back, I see a lot of "mistakes" on my older characters. Optimizations that experienced players would have taken that a beginner to the game could easily miss. Character options that are more important than they appear to be - or that are worth more points than you spend on them.

And I'm curious in some cases: How will a total beginner to a given system handle character generation? Can I catch some of these "mistakes" on my own? How about my readers?

Thankfully, I live with someone who is a fairly inexperienced roleplayer. My beautiful wife, Stephanie. While she is a boardgamer, her roleplaying experience is limited (another reason I keep doing the one-shots). When I asked her if she'd be willing to participate, she was excited. And I'm excited to have her involved.

Don't look for this to be a regular series - we have a lot of games we're going to work through, but we need to schedule character generation into our (severely limited) free time, and then I need to write about the results (and scan the sheet, and so on and so forth).

I hope you enjoy reading about our experiences.


  1. Geoff6:54 AM

    My favorite character generation system was Classic Traveller. Actually going through a career to obtain skills and make up a back story. It was a fascinating way to spend time when you weren't adventuring. I've never seen anything else like it.

    Of course, the downside was the sometimes advanced age of your character... :)