Sunday, 5 February 2017

Childhood to Adult: Character Creation

Most Recent Update - Character Creation process

For a very long time, I've had one big missing element: Character creation. Now you might think this quite insane. How can you have a roleplay game without character creation... well ok, so I mean that it was not so much missing, as, my definition of character creation is a bit more 'plot' based, and that chapter wasn't properly written... at all...hence missing.
This isn't "CHARACTER" creation, beards and hair colour, even rolling stats isn't character creation..
Character Creation is creating "the Character", where was he born, what kinds of family did he grow up with and what skills did they teach him, How did that affect his choices to become a hero. 
    The Version that existed, and still does (as of this blog) is the template system. This is what most people think of when they think "character creation". Players would roll the dice and consult a chart to see what was a good character to make with the numbers they rolled. Pick a race, add race template, pick a Lifestyle, add Lifestyle template, pick a hero career, add Career template. It is/was fast, quick, efficient, and got you a character.. without any character. I had a few players who complained, wanted a more in depth creation system. claiming they felt their character was just a bunch of number and had no life (like most systems).
    So I developed a more in-depth, more story and plot based character creation, and I added a decent amount of crunch to go with it:

How Far do you want to go back?

Technically, if you want to start with your grandparents, you can. Roll up their stats, find out what they did for a living, and how that affected you. Then roll up your Parent Modifiers, adjust your stat sets and finally arrive at a set of characteristics that represents YOU.

Well, maybe not that far

So, Most players will simply roll up their own stats. I've never really been a fan of the point buy system, so while I have created a balanced system for players to use, I've also spent a bit of time creating a structured system for rolling that gives players the ability to balance things themselves (more on that later). 

My system encourages character creation to take place over 1-4 roleplay sessions. You roll up your stats, take a childhood skill list based on where you were born (and where your group will roleplay) then an apprenticeship, which gives you an approx 12yr old.. then you and your 'group of friends' can go out and discover things (Session #1)
Next, your progress your characters to teenagers, take a Journeyman skill set, based on whats available, and roleplay your 'friend circle' as teenagers.. get in trouble, have a local fight with the rival gang, or get lost discovering some ancient crypt & tunnels, that everyone has gone through before, but maybe 1-2 coins were left behind (a treasure to a teen, worth 10 years of pocketmoney) (session #2)
Lastly, why did you become an Adventurer.. take on the Adventurer path that suits you, grab the skills from it, but it also lists skills that you can choose to take, Now the player gets more choices, where to become more skilled, things that don't match the mundane life you left behind..your gang finds some clue, maybe something you already had in your attic, a map in a painting frame, with a stashed coin with holes in it.. now you take your team of adventurers and go find one eyed willies treasure (session #3-4)

Why this works better than the old man at the fire

The old man begins to tell you a story of a dungeon...
The players, realise its a plot hook and leave the campsite..
The DM cries, as all his work for 3 weeks is useless
When players come together, create characters and start roleplaying, there is a missing element of 'how did we get here' its assumed that this will be filled in afterwards. It often never happens. When it doesn't, and a conflict within the group arises, there is no logical reason for the group to stay together, they 'just do' and deal with the conflict 'offline'.. what I mean by that is they don't deal with it in game, so these characters have some unknown reason why they suddenly hate each other, draw weapons, start to fight, but calm down and are best of friends, without ever resolving the reason why they fought.

By including a whole 1-3 roleplay sessions prior to the main plot, all those 'unknowns' become more obvious. Turns out that all this time stevenson and harold were at odds because stevenson got the extra treasure when they were kids and it just ate into harold, and made him resentful to stevenson. (in real life, their players just don't get along, but now we have more backstory)

Also, maybe its just my groups, but I only ever really had 1 player write detailed backstory for their character, sometimes this backstory would be 3 pages and often included some very dubious connections, in that the player was now noble blooded, friends of three other noble families and received a monthly stipend of a few thousand dollars.. game & plot breaking backstory.. 

So now, all players have a backstory, all players have something to refer to in game & in plot.. Also they have a little more than 5 minutes of 'love' for their character.. in this method, I've yet to have throw-away suicides, so they could get a 'better character', though I have had plot reasons for players to 'need' to wade into a suicide missions, which again, made more sense because we had backstory.

This is not for everyone.. or is it?

If your group is only playing 1-4 sessions for an adventure, then having a break and playing a different system, then obviously this isn't for you. But if your going to play for anything longer than two months, I'd suggest this as a viable option, and remember, you can always do this in stages.. flashbacks are a wonderful 'break' from the regular..

The Flashback

I've attempted this quite a few times, and with one exception (I'll get into next) its a great way for players to develop a better background.

The biggest factor is the introduction of your characters in a more unique way that average. You start the game, lets say at 5th level, progress for several adventures and you're around 7th and about to take down the end boss.. all seems hopeless, then the GM points out that you've all forgotten something...

The GM passes the characters blank charactersheets and has them copy the basic stats over, and they're all level one or two, the characters are mid adventure, they're entering a simple tomb, and begin play...

The adventure is a fairly straight forward one, nothing too extreme and guarenteed the players are going to win, but just 'how' they win is important.. push to make some lasting effects on characters, wounds that can become scars, rare, exotic burns or items mundane but interesting, powerful artifacts that do nothing.. once they have acquired the end goal, return them from the 'flashback' to the main story.. that artifact, the one they acquired all those years ago? its the object required to take down the end boss.. they've been carrying it all these years and didn't realise it.. 

Mechanically.. the Flashback is the same as RPing the backstory, just later in the game.. Some GMs might award the XP gained from that adventure to the group, based on their choices and results, some might chalk it up to 'backstory', but the point is, you've added more 'character'.

Dungeon Delvers Changes

Since Dungeon Delvers emulates Dungeonworlds System but as a quick "we made most of the choices for you" kind of way, We needed to made backgrounds and races a kind of "sub-profession" system, This has some interesting nuances that many game systems should probably consider.. I'll blog about these in more detail, but in essence.. you can level up your race and background, to represent your backstory & flashbacks, without breaking the flow of the game. 

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