Tuesday 29 May 2012

Random Character Generation = Double Plus Good

This is why I have so much love for random character generation. The players don't need to know the rules, they just pick up the dice, make a handful of narrow choices, and 20 minutes later they have a character ready to play. No skill points to allocate, no building a character with high level play in mind, no min-maxing. WFRP1e is brilliant in this regard. Despite being a skill-based game, these skills are all determined by random rolls and a randomly determined profession. The player doesn't need to know how skills work mechanically, they just roll up a character. And what WFRP1e has over the vast majority of D&D[-alikes] is that these randomly determined professions also determine a character's starting equipment; his trappings. Even classic D&D character generation slows down, with new players, at least, when the starting money is rolled and the equipment lists are brought onto the table.

Random character generation can combine the oracular power of the dice with a rapid entry into adventure.

When I write my fantasy heartbreaker - and I am writing it; a version of OpenQuest/Renaissance with the flavours of WFRP1e and Titan, current working title Hammerstein! - it will have a random character generation system that can get a player into adventure in 20 minutes. Don't hold your breath for Hammerstein! But when I do finish writing it, you might be (just) able to hold your breath while a new player generates a starting character.


  1. I went to a 4e session, was thrown a book and spent 2.5 hours making a character before they said 'Oh, we have pregens.'

    I almost cried. F that. Vive l'ancienne ecole!!

  2. I give noobs a pre-gen to get them into the game PDQ. It's surprising how quickly they come to identify with it as if they'd rolled it themselves. When said character dies, out come the 3d6. By then, they'll have bought into the game sufficiently that they won't mind taking the time to stat their new character up.

  3. Definitely horses for courses. I've had just as much fun doing it both ways. As it happens, I'm GMing a Rogue Trader campaign starting up in a couple of weeks, and we're planning on kicking off with a character generation session. The reason we're doing this is to develop the characters' pasts and work out, in a fairly player-led way, how they'll affect the ongoing narrative, as I'll be developing a cast of nemesis NPCs tailored to each PC's background. If I was running a D&D campaign though I'd absolutely jump right in with nothing but basic stats, names and a few GPs worth of kit :-)

  4. @Andy, its great when chargen becomes a game, just an extension of the RPG experience. The 'building' of a character is some RPGs doesn't feel like a game, to me, just a lot of preparatory effort to play characters who might, if the GM is old school, die in the first session. And, for me, it's important that PCs die, or at least that the players know that their characters will die if the dice fall that way, in order to generate the proper sense of peril.

    One RPG that does handle session-length chargen well is Traveller, because chargen becomes a game. Sure, the player has to make choices, but the dice determine what happens once that choice has been made.