Established Character Destiny

Friday, 18. February 2011

(Flickr / AZAdam) - Pere Lachaise Grave

I like having somewhat detailed characters within my games.    At least, starting with a little bit of details.  Background, family, connections, training and schooling, so on and so forth.  It doesn’t have to be incredibly long, but a couple of paragraphs works wonders in establishing some connection between the character and the player as well as making the involved.

Modern characters though, can take some serious time to put together, particular if you are thinking of doing anything over the equivalent of a level 1 character.  There is perks, feats, disadvantages and flaws and an entire other number of considerations that go into a character that can make them take some serious time in getting together.  As opposed to say, a an old school basic D&D character which you can put together in 5 or 10 minutes and get rolling.

Now of course, the downsides to being long and my thoughts…  Are we establishing a destiny for the character in the process?  Is it simply assumed that this character is going to be great or at least worth something simply because the time spent in the character creation?

The older characters you could simply crush without too much remorse and it would be a fast re roll to the them up to speed as the character concept is finished.  The characters had no real expectations of surviving (particularly at level 1) just as it might be in say actual combat for us standard mortals.

Newer characters of course, you have some pause.  Simply because of all the time invested, that you don’t pick them off on a casual basis.  Of course, maybe that’s just myself.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

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5 Responses to “Established Character Destiny”

  1. The Red DM Says:

    While I can’t remember ever thinking that I didn’t want to inflict character creation on a player as an excuse to keep a character alive, certainly my attitude towards new characters has largely changed in the manner you describe.

    When playing older editions I always carry the attitude that the first levels are meant to be a slaughter, and we will learn who the real heroes are by who emerges from that. (even if they only survive by dumb luck)

    Meanwhile in newer editions not only are we investing a whole lot more time in character creation, but right from the moment the character is done I am encouraging players to write up background – something I don’t tend to do with older editions.

  2. Don Says:

    I’ve always given some framework to character creation, which essentially revolves around why they might be a group. Such as “you’re from the same home town” or “You are all mercenaries, guarding caravans out of the Kingdom of Wherever”.

    Beyond that, I’ve always required back story. It gives me a chance to create adventure hooks based on them. For me, the transition from a 0-level nobody to an adventurer of Level 1 involves some accomplishment. What was it?

    Of course, I try to limit the expectations of a back story that incorporates an epic destiny of some type. If Torg the Half Orc is the last member of his clan, and must raise an army to defeat the evil Hobgoblin Lord Grunt and rebuild his clan… Guess what, Torg wasn’t the last member, there was a patrol out who came back to find the clan’s settlement in ruins. That can keep the plot going, and once understood ensures the character’s “sense of destiny” in check with staying alive in the here and now.

  3. Grey Says:

    Yeah, but a 1 level character is still basically nobody, they just have the potential at that point to “be” something persay. Torg the Orc may be forgotten history :D

  4. runjikol Says:

    This ties in with the expectations of the game-group. And more importantly; are they explicit? ie. Is the GM up front that, “While you’re level one I’ll be trying to slaughter you.” For my time and efforts I’d want to know before I sat down at the table. Character-creation is only the first measure of time invested. All play time has to be considered a well.

    Sense of Destiny works very well with the Fate Point idea from WHFRP, IMO. I feel epic games should make use of these in any system that lacks something like it. However, if the game is intended to be a shallow OSR type romp for nostalgia’s sake, or some othe reason, then it is simply not required.

    When playing Dark Heresy (WH40K rpg) I found that the characters were nobody. They weren’t even competent enough to survive their randomly rolled backgrounds. Statistically speaking they should be dead, or have much higher skills. If the group has fun playing nobodys romping about trying not to get slaughtered by the GM then it’s not a hard task to figure out how much character creation time should be invested.

    Gaming goals and expectations: what are they? How can they be achieved? How can the rules support them? These discussions need to take place on more tables, IME. :-)

  5. Grey Says:

    The thing is with OSR is that the GM dosen’t have to try.. it’s just something that happens if you let the dice fall even remotely close to where they may. I suspect thats the same with WH, if you have someone who survives long enough to have some real skills… then they are something to brag about indeed. Eventually the other players get to roll something surviveable if they hang in there~. I think this is something random backgrounds can be real helpful with, as well as character hooks. They give you something good to work with off the bat, especially if you know you might not be around long enough to invest a background.

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