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"Lifepath" systems

JRoss

Registered User
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I really enjoy them but I can see why others dislike them.

For me, it’s the revelatory nature of lifepaths I enjoy. I get a lot of happy accidents that would never have occurred to me if I focused on making the character thoroughly consistent from the beginning.

Some of the thing that occur during lifepaths rolls give me and the GM food for thought later on. It’s a challenge sometimes to make past events work with the character during play. If I’m a devote and chaste paladin, but my lifepath tell me I had several ex-lovers in the past I have a few things I can hang story on. It doesn’t mean I’m not a devote paladin now, just that my past is a bit sorted.
S Straife Milton , Jerry D. Grayson, who was the first person to respond to this thread, wrote one of the all-time best lifepath systems. HELLAS: Worlds of Sun and Stone, is like Flash Gordon, BSG and actual Greek Mythology rolled up. Lifepath system. Not clunky or overly recursive.
 

eskatonic

Still the Prettiest.
RPGnet Member
Validated User
So, what are some good RPGs with a lifepath system where the player can choose options?
Fading Suns 2nd edition/Revised has a non-random Life Path system, in addition to a point-buy system. The Life Path works exceptionally well, especially for players new to Fading Suns. It gives you an idea of your character's background and place in the (often complicated) Fading Suns feudal universe.
 

DocShoveller

Godwin's Lawman
Validated User
As I said, it can be screwed by design but that doesn't make it good. A series of bad rolls in Traveller can leave you weak, injured, unequipped, and locked out of any further character generation (and thus a posibilty to fix it). To say nothing of editions where your character can die.

The importance of balance in games can be over stated. I can have fun playing a monk in Pathfinder even though it is not a great class. And like playing a non-mage in Ars Magicka, a player can make that choice because it interests them. But choosing to play weaker options is a lot different to having them forced on you.

But when a system leaves one player as an aging peasant grandmother in a party of knights and barbarians as happened to a friend of mine in a game, your system actively creates situation where somebody is constantly left behind not having fun through no fault of their own. Stats barely enter into that problem. One player simply has nothing to contribute to the adventures knights and barbarians are having, while everyone is also having to contrive reasons for them to even be there. It isn't merely imbalanced, it railroads players into not-fun situations before the game even begins.
The FASA Star Trek RPG addressed this problem by having player/GM define what level the character should arrive at and then rolling on the tables until they reached it.
 

Marius B

Euro-Trash
Validated User
I love random lifepath systems. If a player shows up to the table with a “character concept“, that concept tends to be “guy who’s amazingly good at (thing - usually murders) but mysteriously incapable in all other areas”.
 

Gentleman Highwayman

Registered User
Validated User
So, what are some good RPGs with a lifepath system where the player can choose options?
All the Modiphius 2d20 systems are completely random, completely choose or a little bit of both. In Infinity I built an AI character that can body swap with his sentient personal assistant. It never would have occurred to me if I had not fooled around with random character generation and then tried to build an idealized version choosing the right path.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
I love random lifepath systems. If a player shows up to the table with a “character concept“, that concept tends to be “guy who’s amazingly good at (thing - usually murders) but mysteriously incapable in all other areas”.
This is either super-reductionist or you've had incredibly bad luck.
 

angille

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So, what are some good RPGs with a lifepath system where the player can choose options?
I'm a big fan of Smallville (along with any of its Cortex Plus/Prime descendants that use the same setup) and its Pathways.

at each stage of the process, what you choose and how you apply it to your character affects how you fit into the game world, and in turn affects the game world itself (which changes the various plot elements other players can latch into on subsequent stages). that sounds complicated, but it means that you might say "ok, I'm grabbing the Reporter distinction, and adding the Daily Planet Bullpen resource to the game world," and the next player says "sweet, I'm increasing my Wealthy distinction, while also attaching to and improving the Daily Planet Bullpen – stockowners have some special privileges."

the end result is very collaborative, with a ton of buy-in from the players because they were the ones putting it all together, and a ton of hooks and wedges for the GM to dig into.
 

jacobkosh

Registered User
Validated User
I really enjoy the system used by Star Trek Adventures where there at every stage of the lifepath you can roll or pick; your character comes out fine either way.

What I really like about this is that if you've got a fully-fleshed out sixteen-point character concept, it can accommodate you, and if you have literally no idea what you want, it can handle that too, and it can do any point in between. I've found myself often using the random tables to fill in one or two critical details that weren't core to the concept, and those randomly-rolled elements spurred me to draw new connections that made the entire character richer overall.

EDIT: lol, thoroughly beaten to this particular punch. But yeah, Star Trek really scratches this itch for me.
 
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effkat

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All the Modiphius 2d20 systems are completely random, completely choose or a little bit of both.
I really enjoy the system used by Star Trek Adventures where there at every stage of the lifepath you can roll or pick; your character comes out fine either way.
Do both these systems generate characters that are equal, point-wise? So you could build them with point buy (if the game has it) or use the lifepaths, and you’d get the exact same numbers in the end? Or could you get one that’s much better than another, like in Traveller?
 

Putraack

Registered User
Validated User
For me random lifepath doesn't work because I've never approached a game where I didn't have a character idea in mind. It's just not how I work. A lifepath that lets me choose things to make the character I want are definitely things I am interested in.
See, I'm rather the opposite, I almost never know who I'm about to play, so random lifepaths are a lot of fun for me.

I can see that it irks some people, so when I ran a chargen session for a Traveller game last month, I let everyone choose off the skill tables, that cut out half of the die-rolling.
 
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