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[Meta] Let’s talk about CharGen

Derrick Kapchinsky

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I'll add another vote for PbtA style playbooks as the best, with a different reason (although I agree with the other stated reasons as well). It's a single, double-sided piece of paper that and between that and a 2nd double-sided piece of paper, you'll have 90% or more of everything you'll ever need to play a character.

If I can include an honourable mention, I'd give that to Burning Wheel life paths. It's long and involved and kind of the opposite of everything I love about playbooks, but it's one of the best ways to generate a backstory while only actually dealing with mechanics that I've ever seen.

As for worst, I can't think of anything I enjoy less than random chargen. I can mostly handle it if it's just ability scores, as long as the game gives you a way to mitigate poor rolling (as Godbound does), but anything like Traveler or TNMT or Marvel Faserip is pretty much an auto-decline for me.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
I don't have to have full-blown build-everything-from-one-pool-of-points, but random gen is right out, and I'm not a fan of heavily constrained archetype systems either. I'm fine with something like the WOIN step-through-careers approach.
 

Fedifensor

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Any system that uses different rules for character creation and character advancement is inherently unbalanced, because those wanting an optimized character will build the character to take advantage of those differences. That rules out Shadowrun, the various Storyteller games, and many others.

Probably my favorite character creation system is HERO. Note that this is not the easiest character creation system, and might not even be the most balanced. However, since the games I play tend to last a long time instead of just a few sessions, HERO gets me more invested in the character, and gives the control to make exactly the character I want.
 

tobygrandjean

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Validated User
For me it's Hero (5e), M&M (2e), with an honorable mention to Mekton Zeta's build system.
I actually don't mind random generation. I'm much more bothered by imbalanced point-buy. The worst I can think of was Anime D20. The best I can say about it is that it's half baked; and even so still recognized some of the problems of D&D 3.x.
 

Spatula

More Ideas Than Time
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I like them all, though as someone who started with 1st edition AD&D, I’m fond of random tables. I would probably never play a purely random character, but I love seeing what the dice produce, using that as inspiration, and then tweaking the results to suit.

I suppose I’m least fond of any sort of point-buy (another point in favor of random chargen is that it tends to be used in non-points systems). And these days I’m more interested in games where I can make the character I want out of the gate, instead of having to make a neophyte and hope the game lasts long enough for the character to develop.

Probably my favorite automated chargen I’ve seen is for The One Ring, even though I’ve never played the game (so I have no idea how useful the characters are, but damn, even the process evokes Tolkien’s world so well): http://azrapse.es/tor/sheet.html
 

emeraldstreak

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Validated User
While not 'the best', Amber Diceless does take an interesting approach.

Probably not the very worst, the Exalted series chargens magnify the inherent flaws in WoD chargen.
 

Crothian

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Validated User
The new version of Paranoia has a group way of creating characters that is great for that game. It builds in a reason to distrust (in fun ways) the other players and to hold grudges. It has always been a great way to start off the game at conventions.
 

Deflare

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Validated User
Thinking a bit more about it, I think I have two different 'needs' for a character creation system to fulfill that are diametrically opposed.

One is the playing-at-a-table needs. For that, I prefer something quick and easy, where one doesn't have to worry about optimization, and that encourage members of the group to have strong ties to each other and the world out of the gate. Powered by the Apocalypse/Forged in the Dark are great for this.

The other is minigame-at-home needs. This is where lifepaths and the like become appealing for me. It can be fun to just sit down with a little minigame and roll some dice and come out with a neat character that I may never play, but where I have a good feel for their life story and their trials and travails.

I've been reading a lot of 7th Sea 2e recently, and that might hit a sweet spot between the two? Chargen using a pair of backgrounds that evoke a lot of feeling about who the character was/is, plenty of freedom around those constraints, and a simple enough sheet/system that optimization isn't a huge concern. I haven't actually played the thing, though, so I don't know how well that holds up.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
Random char-gen is a no go. I want to make a character I want to play. I don't want to end up with whatever some dice spit in my direction.

In general, I'm a fan of having a couple of slots to fill and then choosing what goes there. Things like skill arrays work for me. Or things like FU descriptors or Fate aspects. Those are both good.

I'm fine with relatively small numbers of points, but a system where someone could say, "Make a 200 point character," get a resounding, "Fuck, no," from me.
 

Allandaros

Validated Parking
Validated User
I'll be the outlier -- I'm a fan of random chargen because it helps push me to new character concepts that I wouldn't have gone for originally. (Otherwise I will either be an elven fighter, or I will get stuck in analysis paralysis for a points-driven framework.)

Random chargen gives me a feeling of discovery - I'm meeting my new PC along with everyone else.

I'm a fan of both Classic and Mongoose Traveller's lifepaths, which give a good amount of randomness while also allowing for organic connections between PCs.
 
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