Days of High Adventure: When Characters Were Born, Not Made

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Personally, I like the GURPS way of giving you plenty of incentives to actually roleplay than the old "diceplay" way of playing - both character creation and the actual gameplay.

Most od dnd based systems saldy suffer from what is called munchkinism, trying ot get a character as powerfull as possible using every bit of avalible game mechanics. I remember, back when in one of big media/gaming shops in Poland they hosted a little PnP corner, all you would hear some people talking about was how to multiclass their chars for maximum efficiency.

For me its not the way i like to play. I like when character starts weak in some/many points and is built through actual events that take place. When i wa splaying AD&D and Warhammer: Fantasy RPG we always rolled our characters, allowing just little re-fits of points when someone wanted ot pick up specific class. (Like paladins had some requirement of charisma if i remember correctly in one of DnD editions) .

These days, when i play its mostly story telling setup, majority is based of WoD mechanics so we just pick up traits of our characters that differ them from the rest, the limited point system and heavy focus on actual story telling and thinking through problems rather than rolling a dice for solutions works fine. Only actual randomness is based on rolls, rest its just more of a game of outsmarting the GM rather than relying heavily on +roll modifiers.

This is why I liked the approach my family takes to AD&D character generation. Here's 6 6-sided dice. Roll them. Take the highest three. Add together, that is now one of your stats. You can choose which after doing this another 5 times. You get 1 re-roll or an automatic 18 from a 17. In other words, our system gives you the best chance of getting an ownage character.

I'm the sort of guy that can go either way with the creation of characters - I created a Dwarven Ranger a few weeks back for Pathfinder and ended up with a Charisma score of 4, but that helped me with the back story. He lost his eye in a fight with an Ettercap, thus explaining his favoured enemies as aberrations as well.

I do get kind of peeved when no dice are rolled during the creation of a character, so even if there is no roll system in place, I usually leave some of the details of the character in the hands of the dice gods. I think the only system that I rarely use dice to generate characters for is World of Darkness, as you make the concept first, before making decisions. It only seems logical to me to roll dice first and then assign the classes and back story. You wouldn't catch Stephen Hawking's parents saying "Yes, this boy's going to grow up to be a professional footballer" before he was even born - you work with what you've got.

I've found that the older style of character creation and evolution tends to apply to me and my gaming group, despite the fact that most of us started out on D&D 3.5e. We use a pseudo-random stat rolling method - roll 4d6, drop the lowest die, repeat 6 times, then apply those 6 numbers to the stats however we choose. This lets us go in with a general character idea - such as "a silly Bard" or "a detached Wizard" - and create a viable character regardless of the exact stat rolls we happen to get. We generally start out the characters as a combination of that general character idea and their stats, and just as in the article, it's through surviving adventures that we develop them into rounded characters with intricate personalities (also through not surviving adventures - I have an ex-vampire Druid who's developed an overwhelming fear of mind-control). And to me, seeing my sheet of twinked-out combat abilities and stats somehow turn into an actual person is just as rewarding as making those twinks in the first place, and it creates this attachment to the character that lets me feel all their excitement, their fear, the joy and satisfaction of each victory - and that's half the fun of the game.

And then your DM decides to run Tomb of Horrors. ;_;

The_root_of_all_evil:

0over0:

frans909:

Denamic:
I get the character being 'made' into a character through a series of choices.
But I simply don't want a wizard with 12 intelligence.

Missed opportunity. What about a first level wizard who ACTS like he has 3 spells a day, instead of just one.

Or maybe a thief who really, really always wanted to be a wizard, but just wasn't smart enough. Is s/he bitter now? Envious? Still hoping? Depressed? Glad in the end? A million directions to go in--it's all about the spin.

I've had a character with 4 Dexterity before. (he was blind) Still great fun to play.

My 12 int wizard died after casting his magic missile which failed to kill the rat.
Did I mention he also had 5 constitution?

Randomly generated characters does not always = fun.
In fact, I've only had bad experiences with random characters.

I've had success and fun with both extremes of the random and choices and with using methods that mix the two. While it's sometimes nice to perfectly craft a character, I find that random creation gets me to play characters/classes I might not have normally gravitated to. I've never really been drawn to the magic-user/wizard classes, but in the campaign I am playing in currently I've been having a blast as one.

Denamic:

My 12 int wizard died after casting his magic missile which failed to kill the rat.
Did I mention he also had 5 constitution?

Randomly generated characters does not always = fun.
In fact, I've only had bad experiences with random characters.

That's the advantage of random rolled characters though. It only takes a few minutes to roll another as opposed to a whole session.

Denamic:

My 12 int wizard died after casting his magic missile which failed to kill the rat.
Did I mention he also had 5 constitution?

<nerd mode>

How? He missed? Magic missiles do not miss. And intelligence has no effect on the strength of the magic missile, only on the number of spells you can cast. So, even if he had intelligence 18, he still would have died. 5 Constitution is low, but not uncommon for wizards. Raistlin comes to mind.

</nerd mode>

One of the really strong suits of West Ends version of the Star Wars RPG was the use of simple, flavorful templates...there just wasn't a whole lot of difference between a character grabbed "off the shelf" and the min/maxed-to-the-max character.

The biggest problem I've had with systems since is the degree to which min/maxing at character creation impacted play balance, with all the ensuing headaches for game mastering.

frans909:

Denamic:

My 12 int wizard died after casting his magic missile which failed to kill the rat.
Did I mention he also had 5 constitution?

<nerd mode>

How? He missed? Magic missiles do not miss. And intelligence has no effect on the strength of the magic missile, only on the number of spells you can cast. So, even if he had intelligence 18, he still would have died. 5 Constitution is low, but not uncommon for wizards. Raistlin comes to mind.

</nerd mode>

I had only one of them, and it didn't kill the rat.
All my melee swings missed, while the rat hit me three times in a row and killed me.
With the rolls I got, I'm amazed I didn't manage to kill myself by stabbing myself in the head.
That was the least epic adventure I have ever had.

Keava:

These days, when i play its mostly story telling setup, majority is based of WoD mechanics so we just pick up traits of our characters that differ them from the rest, the limited point system and heavy focus on actual story telling and thinking through problems rather than rolling a dice for solutions works fine.

Son, WoD is over-ripe for hideous munchkinism.

Potence+Obtenebration, Dementation, Dark Fate... any points based system (especially GURPS - stack on DX and INT and all my skills go up?) can be made to sing for you. At least if you've "rolled" a 18/00 Str, 17 Dex, 16 Con Thief/Fighter then the GM can kick loose at you back with Kobold Kommandoes.

SL33TBL1ND:
This is why I liked the approach my family takes to AD&D character generation. Here's 6 6-sided dice. Roll them. Take the highest three. Add together, that is now one of your stats. You can choose which after doing this another 5 times. You get 1 re-roll or an automatic 18 from a 17. In other words, our system gives you the best chance of getting an ownage character.

that would create ridiculously overpowered characters.. but if it works, it works.

Ultimately it's all relative.

As a DM I like to give players the option of rolling powerful characters--however, their enemies will also all be powerful. Sure, on the surface the encounter looks the same: 5 goblins ambush you on the trail. If you're powerful, the five goblins are going to be much more clever as to how they stage the ambush, and they will have leveled abilities just like a player.

But if a campaign is going to be more down-to-earth, then obviously the stats have to follow suit.

The primary consideration is: does it work with the playstyle and campaign/story? If it does and everyone's having a good time, then no worries.

I started D&D in 1974. We always rolled our own dice, but it was 3d6 rolled in order. No re-rolls. We figured out what class we were going to be after generating the abilities. And, as you say, the characters grew into what they were going to be. Minimal backstory indeed. Now everybody wants to define their charcaters before starting. I think it goes with the power creep in low level characters and the decreasing mortality rate for them too. Players start out more vested and don't want to lose their already developed characters. It used to take several levels of play before you became attached. Death could come at any moment in a low level pc's life. Not to speak of how long it takes to generate a pc now... takes a while to roll up a replacent.

Of course it took time to generate a Traveller character too back in the day and they could die before the game even started. Some people whined about it, but most of us enjoyed it. That made character generation a game in itself. We used to sit around, generate characters and (after Mercenary, etc.) try to fit their life events into the game history. You came out with a well developed background... in a really deadly setting. God forbid you get into a firefight. We all had extra characters all ready to go just in case :)

*edit* Enjoy Grognardia by the way James, just have to get off my lazy rear and get an account with Google so I can post there.

For the first few months I played DnD, I hated it. Really, I truly despised it, and the only reason I kept playing was because all my friends were doing it. What I hated most about the game was all the wasted potential; here we had a game that could, potentially, really let us experience the world we were playing in. We had a chance to feel like our choices mattered, to really become engaged in our characters development; however, our DM in those days was a lot like the author of this article, in that he wanted us to use either pre-generated characters, or randomly create our characters, from race and stats to class and personality, by rolling the dice.

The game felt... silly to me. And my characters? soulless blobs of stats that felt more like video game characters then anything else; except that with a video game, I could see the game world. In short, the game had no meaning for me.

Until The day I gave my DM a choice: let me create my own character, with the race and class I wanted, and let me assign the randomly generated stats to where ever I wanted them. I would give this character his own personality, his own goals and alignment; or, I would quit. I had better ways to spend my Saturday night then trudging along some dungeon with my female gnome druid with garbage charisma but like maximum strength.

Although he did so grudgingly, my dm did something that changed the world of dungeons and dragons for me forever: he handed me the players handbook.

To cut a long story short, Dnd (and other table-top role playing games) is now one of my favorite pastimes; I get to explore in depth worlds with a character I am actually emotionally invested in. I get to take pride in every little success, and build relationships with the other player characters.

So yeah, I am the kind of player who thinks that characters are born, and not simply made, but I also believe that the best way to enjoy your character is to create him/her yourself. If you can be happy with a randomly generated character, then all the power to you. In the mean time, Fizzle, the Goblin Sorcerer, has to get back to his reading; He's nearly figured out how that fireball spell works.

I have always been an opponent to randomization in character generation. Hell, I don't even like randomization for hit points. Here are some of the reasons why.

If you go with the 3d6 keep them in the order they land rule, you end up with a lot wizards trapped in a fighters body characters. There are quite a few players out there with limited character role range. I myself was never really good at playing clerics. I had friend that would be hopeless as any type of spell caster. Give him a warrior type and he rocked. I even seen a player turn down playing a 2ed AD&D Paladin even though he meant incredibly strict prerequisites to play a not particularly bright bard because he was better with rogue types.

Everyone talks about the fun of low stat characters, and sure it was fun when I played an elven archer who was too dumb to know any more languages than elven and required a translator to speak with the humans of the party who didn't speak elven. Have you ever had the game where some person roles the superhero stats? Every encounter they find it a breeze and are held back by the rest of the party. It is frustrating for everyone.

Then there are the suicidal characters that the player wants to be rid off in favor something closer to what they want. Well, why don't they keep re-rolling until the player gets stats they want you say? Why? Because if you're dealing with power gamers, they have no compunction with wasting an hour or more on dice rolling. They know this game could last for years of real time and don't want to be saddled with a 'defective' character their not going infuse with anymore personality than, 'I'm dick because of (blank) rationalization.' If you impose penalties to dying then the player either falls behind chancing becoming a burden to the party, or in the case of power gamers giving you the, "screw you guys, I'm going home' line.

As for hit points, I had the chance to make fun of a Barbarian who had less hit points than my Wizard due to poor rolls on his part and good rolls with a high Constitution on mine. Even with the rule re-roll anything less that half the dice value not of great benefit to the high value hit dice classes.

In 3rd ed D&D I really liked the point buy system in the DMG. If you wanted an 18 stat in something you are probably going to need a dump stat of 8 in something or every other stat is going to be a 10. It gives all the players even footing on making the character they want to play. This yields the most consistent, fun gaming results. That is why pen and paper RPGs have evolved so.

I'm not as bitter as my post would lead you to think. I have played a lot of RPGs with players were full of themselves that has lead me watch the rules of games closely to insure the checks and balances were in place so one player doesn't ruin the game for everyone. I like how White Wolf does character creation. I will even admit my favorite PnP RPGs has random character generation. It is Deadlands where it the player draws playing cards that indicate the stat.

Altorin:

SL33TBL1ND:
This is why I liked the approach my family takes to AD&D character generation. Here's 6 6-sided dice. Roll them. Take the highest three. Add together, that is now one of your stats. You can choose which after doing this another 5 times. You get 1 re-roll or an automatic 18 from a 17. In other words, our system gives you the best chance of getting an ownage character.

that would create ridiculously overpowered characters.. but if it works, it works.

It's because my dad's and evil bastard and the meanest DM you'll ever meet.

Liquid Paradox:
For the first few months I played DnD, I hated it. Really, I truly despised it, and the only reason I kept playing was because all my friends were doing it. What I hated most about the game was all the wasted potential; here we had a game that could, potentially, really let us experience the world we were playing in. We had a chance to feel like our choices mattered, to really become engaged in our characters development; however, our DM in those days was a lot like the author of this article, in that he wanted us to use either pre-generated characters, or randomly create our characters, from race and stats to class and personality, by rolling the dice.

You don't really know much about the author if that's what you think (imo of course). Read the article and think about what he's saying. He's not saying that character development is unimportant; just that when it happens has changed. It used to come in game. Now people want the character developed before the game starts. It's a different style, but the player's attachment to the character is central to either method. I can remember the depth of a character being created by what he did in game. It was part player, part other players / DM input. Characters became famous / infamous for their in-game actions, not their back story.

Stone Cold Monkey:
If you go with the 3d6 keep them in the order they land rule, you end up with a lot wizards trapped in a fighters body characters.

again, missing the point. You don't get wizard with fighter's body, because you don't start the character saying "I'm going to make a wizard"

You roll the stats, see what you get, and then say "Ok, with stats like these, this character would be a wizard"

Hence, they're "born", not "made".

Altorin:

Stone Cold Monkey:
If you go with the 3d6 keep them in the order they land rule, you end up with a lot wizards trapped in a fighters body characters.

again, missing the point. You don't get wizard with fighter's body, because you don't start the character saying "I'm going to make a wizard"

You roll the stats, see what you get, and then say "Ok, with stats like these, this character would be a wizard"

Hence, they're "born", not "made".

Exactly. We used to generate the abilities and then decide what class we wanted to play. We were open to whatever seemed best (or at least doable) for the given character. Now they all seem to know going in what they want to play, period, and nothing else will do.

r_Chance:

Altorin:

Stone Cold Monkey:
If you go with the 3d6 keep them in the order they land rule, you end up with a lot wizards trapped in a fighters body characters.

again, missing the point. You don't get wizard with fighter's body, because you don't start the character saying "I'm going to make a wizard"

You roll the stats, see what you get, and then say "Ok, with stats like these, this character would be a wizard"

Hence, they're "born", not "made".

Exactly. We used to generate the abilities and then decide what class we wanted to play. We were open to whatever seemed best (or at least doable) for the given character. Now they all seem to know going in what they want to play, period, and nothing else will do.

I'm not making a judgment call on whether the old way was better or not.. I personally prefer being in a party with all of the roles covered with people playing the characters/roles that they want to play.

I'm just saying I completely understand the concept of rolling stats before choosing your role. That's why racial stats are so important. These days, they are just seen as a way to boost your highest stat to an absurd level, but back then, the racial modifiers were basically helpers.. to help you pick the role you want

Say you wanted to play a rogue.. If you rolled a character with 12 dexterity and 14 strength, you could choose to play a halfling, and switch those two stats. Then you can play the role you want to play without feeling silly.

Want to play a wizard and you rolled 13 intelligence? Well, play a gnome illusionist. You need to play an illusionist, but you get a hefty +2 intelligence bonus (at least you did back then, you don't now).

All of the rules in the old books were assuming that people were rolling their characters this way.. Look at the Paladin description in 2nd. It was clearly evident that paladins were meant to be a reward for having extraordinary luck when rolling stats, and to give another option if your character rolled a ridiculously high charisma stat.

The other ways of rolling stats were "variant" rules in 2nd. I think by 3rd or 3.5 the "keep what you roll where you roll" was delegated to variant rule, and I don't even think it's in the 4th edition book. Now point buy is standard, which, I completely understand - you have lots of people playing D&D together that don't know one another personally, and it's nice to know that everyone has equal footing in the stat department. Noone botched their rolls, or just got ridiculously lucky, or just kept rolling until they got the stats they wanted. Point buy is clean, and fair.

But there is a part of the nostalgia in a lot of us that just miss picking up the dice, rolling, and then playing all in one day.

Altorin:

I'm not making a judgment call on whether the old way was better or not.. I personally prefer being in a party with all of the roles covered with people playing the characters/roles that they want to play.

I'm just saying I completely understand the concept of rolling stats before choosing your role. That's why racial stats are so important. These days, they are just seen as a way to boost your highest stat to an absurd level, but back then, the racial modifiers were basically helpers.. to help you pick the role you want

Say you wanted to play a rogue.. If you rolled a character with 12 dexterity and 14 strength, you could choose to play a halfling, and switch those two stats. Then you can play the role you want to play without feeling silly.

Want to play a wizard and you rolled 13 intelligence? Well, play a gnome illusionist. You need to play an illusionist, but you get a hefty +2 intelligence bonus (at least you did back then, you don't now).

All of the rules in the old books were assuming that people were rolling their characters this way.. Look at the Paladin description in 2nd. It was clearly evident that paladins were meant to be a reward for having extraordinary luck when rolling stats, and to give another option if your character rolled a ridiculously high charisma stat.

The other ways of rolling stats were "variant" rules in 2nd. I think by 3rd or 3.5 the "keep what you roll where you roll" was delegated to variant rule, and I don't even think it's in the 4th edition book. Now point buy is standard, which, I completely understand - you have lots of people playing D&D together that don't know one another personally, and it's nice to know that everyone has equal footing in the stat department. Noone botched their rolls, or just got ridiculously lucky, or just kept rolling until they got the stats they wanted. Point buy is clean, and fair.

But there is a part of the nostalgia in a lot of us that just miss picking up the dice, rolling, and then playing all in one day.

I wouldn't say one way or the other was better, just coming at character creation from different, almost opposite, ways. In the end, the goal is the same -- creating a character the player identifies with and values. Making the whole role playing experience deeper.

I still have my players roll. 4d6, take the three highest. I allow them to place the rolls as desired. Nobody really complains about rolling -- it makes the creation of a new character more entertaining (imo), less of an exercise in statistical analysis. Players cheer good rolls and laugh at the bad ones. It's all pretty good natured.

It's been ages since I've done random character generation. I always use a point buy or something similiar. Now I kind of want to give random generation another try.

Altorin:
I always played the character I was rolled, but I didn't like having my role determined for me before I started playing. My favorite method of generation was roll 6 3d6s, and assign how you like. That way, I could play the role I wanted, but probably have some deficient stats.

What some people might not realize is deficient stats HELP you play a more interesting character. They aid in roleplaying. If your character has 6 charisma, what does that mean? Well, mechanically it means that people don't like talking to him, but why? Is he very ugly? does he constantly stink of rotting milk? is he rude and obnoxious? Any of those things (and probably a slight mixture of all 3) tell you why he has low charisma.

To facilitate generating characters faster, when my friends and I were making new games every week, we used a "house special" setup, where characters could choose the stats 6,8,10,12,14,16.. Requiring them to pick a big deficit, and just allowing them to do it quickly.

I agree that low stats can aid in roleplaying. Only a power gamer wants a character that can do everything...and what a dull game it makes if your character is just annoyingly good at all things, where's the challenge to be creative and innovative?

RPG characters should reflect reality somewhat, even in over the top fun games...everyone has strengths and weaknesses. And everyone approaches their strengths and weaknesses differently. Some try to compensate for being weak and others make sure their strengths are cultivated. That alone provides huge range for characters.

Altorin:

Stone Cold Monkey:
If you go with the 3d6 keep them in the order they land rule, you end up with a lot wizards trapped in a fighters body characters.

again, missing the point. You don't get wizard with fighter's body, because you don't start the character saying "I'm going to make a wizard"

You roll the stats, see what you get, and then say "Ok, with stats like these, this character would be a wizard"

Hence, they're "born", not "made".

Yes, I understand that, but my point was no matter what dice are rolled, it doesn't change how the player thinks. Personally, I tackle almost every situation in RPGs with stealth, guile, and misdirection. If I'm playing a fighter, they tend to be a swashbuckler or infiltrator/commando style, if I'm playing a wizard, they lean toward divination and transmutation (illusion if the DM gives me half chance of them working). If I roll dice that would give me a weak sneaky character and more of front line fighter/cavalier/paladin type most of the tactics I use don't work well (without of meta gaming the rogue player character in the party). My friend is the opposite. He can't really play a non-front line fighter type. I don't remember him ever playing anything but a dwarven fighter. I even seen players that have a hard playing uncharismatic characters because as person they were good with persuasion and managing people.

You can make the argument about being a well rounded player, but I only like playing rogues and wizards types. My friend is only happy if he is playing a tough-as-nail brick character. Sure we can play other classes, but we have no interest is doing so. It would be like forcing a gamer to play a FPS (or whatever genre) they have no interest in. Sure is might be the best FPS game ever, but if the player doesn't like those type of games they won't enjoy the game no matter how good it is. Why force some one to spend their entertainment time doing something they don't want to do?

My point is some players have limited 'acting' range (for what ever reason), and only play that class even if they aren't playing it. So you end up with the stats of a frail wizard with the mind of a muscle-bound barbarian.

Stone Cold Monkey:

Altorin:

Stone Cold Monkey:
If you go with the 3d6 keep them in the order they land rule, you end up with a lot wizards trapped in a fighters body characters.

again, missing the point. You don't get wizard with fighter's body, because you don't start the character saying "I'm going to make a wizard"

You roll the stats, see what you get, and then say "Ok, with stats like these, this character would be a wizard"

Hence, they're "born", not "made".

Yes, I understand that, but my point was no matter what dice are rolled, it doesn't change how the player thinks. Personally, I tackle almost every situation in RPGs with stealth, guile, and misdirection. If I'm playing a fighter, they tend to be a swashbuckler or infiltrator/commando style, if I'm playing a wizard, they lean toward divination and transmutation (illusion if the DM gives me half chance of them working). If I roll dice that would give me a weak sneaky character and more of front line fighter/cavalier/paladin type most of the tactics I use don't work well (without of meta gaming the rogue player character in the party). My friend is the opposite. He can't really play a non-front line fighter type. I don't remember him ever playing anything but a dwarven fighter. I even seen players that have a hard playing uncharismatic characters because as person they were good with persuasion and managing people.

You can make the argument about being a well rounded player, but I only like playing rogues and wizards types. My friend is only happy if he is playing a tough-as-nail brick character. Sure we can play other classes, but we have no interest is doing so. It would be like forcing a gamer to play a FPS (or whatever genre) they have no interest in. Sure is might be the best FPS game ever, but if the player doesn't like those type of games they won't enjoy the game no matter how good it is. Why force some one to spend their entertainment time doing something they don't want to do?

My point is some players have limited 'acting' range (for what ever reason), and only play that class even if they aren't playing it. So you end up with the stats of a frail wizard with the mind of a muscle-bound barbarian.

those players would be better off not playing this way :)

not saying it's for everyone. But if you play this way, you don't get fighters in wizard bodies or vice versa.

I don't think that you have played this way, it's not as difficult (from an "acting" standpoint), because you don't get invested in your character until after he's survived a couple of encounters.

My preferred method is to build a class then character, a sort of mix between both worlds. Maybe it's because my first D&D experience were the Baldur's Gate games, but I like creating a role I enjoy, with the things I want to do. The rest of him, everything that isn't numbers, is defined through my actions. I can make him out to who I want to be as a person... albeit with a defined back story in those games.

Incidentally, I agree that flaws make the games more interesting to play. Recently, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons Online, and I made a rogue. Awesome at stealth, DPS, and opening doors/disabling traps/finding secrets, he lets me get anywhere I need to. However, he is squishier than most spellcasters; in a direct fight, he goes down fast. It makes me play with caution, and more conscious of group roles. I just wish some people would remember that the scout goes in first to disable traps, not the tank who sets them off...

r_Chance:

Liquid Paradox:
For the first few months I played DnD, I hated it. Really, I truly despised it, and the only reason I kept playing was because all my friends were doing it. What I hated most about the game was all the wasted potential; here we had a game that could, potentially, really let us experience the world we were playing in. We had a chance to feel like our choices mattered, to really become engaged in our characters development; however, our DM in those days was a lot like the author of this article, in that he wanted us to use either pre-generated characters, or randomly create our characters, from race and stats to class and personality, by rolling the dice.

You don't really know much about the author if that's what you think (imo of course). Read the article and think about what he's saying. He's not saying that character development is unimportant; just that when it happens has changed. It used to come in game. Now people want the character developed before the game starts. It's a different style, but the player's attachment to the character is central to either method. I can remember the depth of a character being created by what he did in game. It was part player, part other players / DM input. Characters became famous / infamous for their in-game actions, not their back story.

I think you misunderstood; I wasn't trying to knock the author or anything, or even to say he was wrong. I was just describing my own experiences and opinions, relative to the main article.

I've been gaming since 1990, I've been wanting to game since 1987 but no one would game with me back then. I've also run a few different games. And I have to fall on the side of generating character histories. It makes my job a little easier. I guess because I've had to deal with too many munchkins when just making basic characters.
Say we're playing a superhero RPG. One guy will create a basic character - no name, no history, just stats and equipment. Then, when game starts, all of a sudden he's a multi-millionaire playboy CEO with his own headquarters and pentagon-level super-computer. So every challenge I throw at him (save maybe Lex Luther or The Joker) ends up being tantamount to a paper tiger. Yet, if I throw a villain befitting the hero's sudden wealth and power level at him, the other players are likely to get shredded like paper tigers.
So I prefer to have my characters make histories before hand so I can create campaigns fitting for the party as a whole. Also, I can create rivals, love interests, and skeletons from the past. You don't end up with level 1 fighters in D&D suddenly having connections because he is "the son of the Emperor".

I'd love to play a modern game that just says "ok, here's your character. Good luck!"
I think that would be great.

Creating your own character really pigdeon holes you into playin a certain way. And for those of us who play many RPGs, I think we can all agree we each have our own tendancy to play as similar characters all the time. I like diversity but if I have my choice... it's usually the same.

I guess i prefer to randomly generate my characters. That way i jump into this world as a complete different person. Someone who is started with a clean slate. That way i can build upon his character and his story. Also, it makes it so that my friends don't always keep making the super powered half god characters. But, i also like to do some re-rolls until it fits a class other then just the Barbarian.

It's been awhile since I have played anything besides computer or video game RPGs but the weak characters made with random dice roles usually offered the most fun RPG opportunities. A large part of playing a RPG game is imagination and almost any set of stats can be used to create an interesting character that can help out a party. Have a 12 int wizard with 1 spell a day, 5 con and almost no hp? Well he had to survive somehow up to this point so make him a coward who stays in the back of the fight but is a great cook and decent at spotting opportunities. A 12 int may not be great for casting spells but it's still decently above average. Use his brains to help the party, offer advice, distract enemies etc. Create a special skill that he uses....playing dead. It actually doesn't do anything in game (monsters will still attack him) but it does make him the last target usually since he's not a threat to the monsters and it fits his character (and can lead to funny situations or even a funny death). Play on his made up characteristics like his great cooking skill and have him search for ingrediants while a battle commences. He has one spell a day, have him use it to shoot a rabbit with his magic missile or light up a room so he can collect herbs for dinner etc.

Honestly making hulking mega characters that take insane challenges to even break a sweat can get dull fast. It's far better to have weaknesses that make even every day occurances a challenge and it makes it all that more rewarding when you somehow make it through a quest or save a town.

That being said almost everyone I know used an alternative method when creating characters. Something along the 4d6 method and take the top 3. A general DM rule we had was that you can take a LOWER score if you want on any stat...and we used that more then you would think heh.

You would be amazed at how many 18/00's were rolled over the years. For a number that should come up only 1 out of 100 times I sure seemed to come up way more often.

I miss those games back when I had a large group of similar age friends. Humor was a large part of our D&D and roleplaying sessions for years. I think that is a main difference between making characters to roleplay and enjoy and powergaming. It's rare to see much humor involved when people are powergaming (although not that rate) on the other hand most roleplaying groups involve humor almost constantly.

Wolfram01:
I'd love to play a modern game that just says "ok, here's your character. Good luck!"
I think that would be great.

Creating your own character really pigdeon holes you into playin a certain way. And for those of us who play many RPGs, I think we can all agree we each have our own tendancy to play as similar characters all the time. I like diversity but if I have my choice... it's usually the same.

I comepletely agree and think it's an excellent idea. Almost my entire group play exactly the same character in almost every game we do. For example one guy in a fantasy game is an expert marksman with the crossbow...his character in a sci-fi is a sniper.

I think any good roleplayer can make do with what they get given...random or mostly random character generation is much better for roleplayer and helps people grow with gaming too. We have a lot of D&D players and everytime a new game starts every one of them begins by going over which kind of multi-classing is going to give them the best abilities - the actual character, personality and story of the character is almost irrelevant. I call this turbo boosted wargaming rather than roleplaying.

I quite like the idea of the DM handing out shells to be used.

Stops powergaming and allows the story to be crafted more personally.

Minmaxers love point-buy, because it allows them to minmax. Being able to choose your weaknesses takes a lot of the impact out of having the weakness.

I liked the default method of 3e. Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest for each stat, so you'd have a character who was powerful enough to be competant in his role, and arrange as desired, so you could shape them into a class that fit your play style. It gave you the freedom to create a character you'd have fun playing, while still having the organic feel of a "born" character. Then you take the starting kit, make changes as needed, and kick in the door to the dungeon.

There are a number of trends that I think shifted characters from being "Born" to being "Created":
1. Emphasis on creating the very specific character YOU want
2. Starting at higher levels (forcing players to make a LOT of choices at chargen)
3. Constant urging to be attached to your character, no matter how low a level (This was likely the biggest offender)

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