Dungeons & Dragons Next Shows Off Personality Generation

Dungeons & Dragons Next Shows Off Personality Generation

Iron Dragon

Dungeons & Dragons Next lets you roll for personality traits and character flaws with your opening stats.

It may be the game that defined the roleplaying genre, but sometimes Dungeons & Dragons seems a little light on actual roleplaying. Outside of the standard character alignments like Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil, the core books really don't offer much in the way of developing a character's personality, forcing players to fill in the blanks as along the way. This is something Wizards of the Coast is looking to change with Dungeons of Dragons Next, particularly for new players who don't have much roleplaying experience. According to Wizards, the solution is to produce procedurally-generated personalities, letting you roll up a backstory much in the same way as attributes or starting gold.

The upcoming edition of D&D will provide various background tables to define your character's personality and backstory. While the system is still subject to change, Wizards has revealed tables for Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws. Traits are easy-to-remember background details that act as hooks for players, like believing in one god, or preferring the company of high society. Ideals define how a character might behave across a campaign, while Bonds tie them to specific objects or NPCs. Finally, flaws serve as a character's dark side or something they struggle with. An example of one such table is included below.

d8Personality Trait
1I idolize a particular hero of my faith, and constantly refer to that person's deeds and example.
2I can find common ground between the fiercest enemies, empathizing with them and always working toward peace.
3I see omens in every event and action. The gods try to speak to us; we just need to listen.
4I have a relentlessly optimistic attitude.
5I quote (or misquote) sacred texts and proverbs in almost every situation.
6I've enjoyed fine food, drink, and high society among my temple's elite. Rough living grates on me.
7I believe my god is the only one that any rational person would want to worship, and I slowly work to convert those around me.
8I've spent so long in the temple that I have little practical experience dealing with people in the outside world.

For players who are already familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, I expect personality tables like these won't be used too often. After a few campaigns, the options are going to feel limited compared to what you can come up with in your imagination. It also could get incredibly frustrating to be stuck with personalities that clash with your playing style.

That being said, the system has some definite benefits. By treating personality like other generated statistics, new players can jump right into the gameplay of D&D without missing the narrative benefits. Dungeon Masters could also create custom tables reflecting cultural perspectives for their campaigns, allowing character variety that doesn't clash with in-game worldviews. On the subversive side of things, a crafty DM could design spells and potions that force personality re-rolls, creating several fascinating mid-game twists.

We'll have to see how the system looks when Dungeons & Dragons Next finally launches, but at the moment I'll say say it has potential. What do you think?

Source: Wizards of the Coast

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Basically how the Warhammer 40k Roleplay and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire systems have already been doing it for quite some time now.

And frankly it does work for people who are new to roleplaying and still struggle with the actual roleplaying bit. Luckily, when you're an advanced player you can just do as you please as usual so it's not like this limits other players. Which, of course, is good.

Yeah, let's not rush to call this a dumbing down of Dungeons and Dragons. I've been rolling characters for a decade and a half--I don't need help coming up with hooks to make a character memorable. Which is why these tables are options, not mandatory.

But for someone who's never done this before? From experience, I'd say that a fun, simple system for giving them ideas for what makes an interesting first character goes a LONG way towards ensuring there's a second character.

These personality tables can be a good jumping off point if you're stumped on a new character and want a new angle, otherwise I probably won't use this

Wizards of the Coast standard response to any situation: "Lets build a dice roll for it". Somewhere between 2 and 3, DnD became a tool for testing statistical optimization methods. Granted, people have always and will always find ways to abuse the rules to make ridiculous characters, but Wizards has long since lost me on this game. Now everyone remain quiet while I completely unironically go reading old Shadowrun books.

This seems like a fun move - I can see a lot of people looking at it, laughing it off as something they wouldn't do, rolling just for the hell of it, and deciding to run with it from time to time to get a laugh out of it, and maybe take to it over time. And just like that, you've got a good chunk of people roleplaying who wouldn't have bothered otherwise - not too many, but more than there would have been, and without forcing things down anyone's throats.

I like it, perfect for random npcs. I know there are parts of characters I create that might be a bit generic, so rolling them out might be fun!

this sounds like an interesting idea. similar to the advantages/disadvantages in GURPS. the disadvantages were the most fun, you got extra points to spend building your character but if you didn't role play it the dm was supposed to punish you in interesting ways. one person in our group took kleptomania, everytime we entered a room no matter the situation he had to roll against his health score and if he failed he HAD to try and steal something, only problem was he stocked up on acrobatics skills not stealth skills. so he would try to hid his thievery by doing tumbling routines. didn't help, but was damned amusing. pyromania worked like that also, there were levels to each disorder and the worse you had it the more points you got. the more points you got the harder the skill check to NOT burn down the building whenever you leave a place.

I myself took two disadvantages that worked incredibly amusingly together. bully, which required me to be an ass to anyone I thought I could take in a fight, and overconfidence which meant I thought I could win almost every fight. and I do mean anyone I was required to treat the rest of the party with total disrespect I mocked and made fun of them the whole time. some of them really hated it. but it forced some of us to roleplay a helluva lot more than we would have otherwise. cut down on metagaming too since in order to go against a lot them you had to roll for it. there was more than a few times someone sat and just got pissed at having to do something monumentally stupid but they failed the roll and had no choice.

Well it can easily just be used as ideas, whether you roll for them or not. Though that seems like a very limited table.

Saint Ganondorf:
Well it can easily just be used as ideas, whether you roll for them or not. Though that seems like a very limited table.

Yes, this seems to be unnecessarily specific. They should rather have used concepts of certain quirks or character traits and given some examples, to provide enough info to create your own character concepts. This is... too little and too unuseful, only 8 specific examples.
The old tables of the third edition NPC manners, although not perfect, were more useful and had more entries...

nightmare_gorilla:
this sounds like an interesting idea. similar to the advantages/disadvantages in GURPS.

Something like this would have been really interesting. Maybe you could allow a player to "trade" disadvantages for feats or something? On the other hand the D&D System might not be flexible enough for such thing, this is more fitting for class-less, skillbased systems.

All in all what I expected from D&D Next. I wished they would have used professional designers. They could just have the designers of 4th Edition create such character personality systems, then we would have something useful... instead we have a "roll d8 on table".

fractal_butterfly:

Saint Ganondorf:
Well it can easily just be used as ideas, whether you roll for them or not. Though that seems like a very limited table.

Yes, this seems to be unnecessarily specific. They should rather have used concepts of certain quirks or character traits and given some examples, to provide enough info to create your own character concepts. This is... too little and too unuseful, only 8 specific examples.
The old tables of the third edition NPC manners, although not perfect, were more useful and had more entries...

For a seasoned player, yes, but for someone who's never RP'd before and needs a bit of hand-holding then its great. Over the years when I've seen someone new pick up the roleplaying, they've often looked a bit lost during character creation and not been 100% sure on what they can actually do outside of all the numbers on the sheet in front of them.
A table like this gives them a good launch point, a way to flesh out their character beyond the numbers but also an idea as to what range of things you can do.

The article also does say its an example of one of the tables, so I imagine theres quite a few to step through to help build a character instead of a sheet of numbers.

Saint Ganondorf:
Well it can easily just be used as ideas, whether you roll for them or not. Though that seems like a very limited table.

fractal_butterfly:
Yes, this seems to be unnecessarily specific. They should rather have used concepts of certain quirks or character traits and given some examples, to provide enough info to create your own character concepts. This is... too little and too unuseful, only 8 specific examples.
The old tables of the third edition NPC manners, although not perfect, were more useful and had more entries...

Fasckira:
For a seasoned player, yes, but for someone who's never RP'd before and needs a bit of hand-holding then its great. Over the years when I've seen someone new pick up the roleplaying, they've often looked a bit lost during character creation and not been 100% sure on what they can actually do outside of all the numbers on the sheet in front of them.
A table like this gives them a good launch point, a way to flesh out their character beyond the numbers but also an idea as to what range of things you can do.

The article also does say its an example of one of the tables, so I imagine theres quite a few to step through to help build a character instead of a sheet of numbers.

Yes, this table is only one example. The source link gives tables for Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.

funksobeefy:
I like it, perfect for random npcs. I know there are parts of characters I create that might be a bit generic, so rolling them out might be fun!

Yeah, seems like a neat tool to kickstart the personality-creation process.

It certainly would help with people new to roleplaying or anyone trying to create a personality besides "me, but with more luck than a penny factory and literally limitless potential".

I remember when 4E came out and people complained that these tables didn't exist. Wizards said they intentionally left out rules for role playing because they wanted to leave it up to the players. In fact they used an April Fools joke to tease those that wanted exactly this. They said they wanted to make Next modular to include every aspect that any player could want. Guess they followed through.

But this isn't new. 4e's DM's guide (maybe DM 2) had lists of quirks and traits. It was listed for npcs and not in the Player's Handbook but that doesn't mean that you can't use it for a PC. Kinda fun if you want a jumping off point.

2 I can find common ground between the fiercest enemies, empathizing with them and always working toward peace.

Oh God. I hate that one player that always picks a cleric or some sort of healer and tries to play a pacifist. You can't piss them off because they're critical for healing and keeping you alive but it's pretty annoying to have to waste rounds trying to talk the giant alligator out of eating the party. Did a 2e game with a guy who did that. Sucked the fun right out (there was some other negative things happening in that game as well.)

I have yet to find a group that plays D&D for the roleplaying aspect for it. There are way better systems for character/drama/narrative based campaigns... D&D is essentially more of a boardgame than a narrative RPG. Which is fine - gamistic RPGs need to exist as well, but rolling on ten billion tables a compelling character does not make.

Then again, this may just be my Eurosnob mentality acting up.

I've been doing something similar to this for text games that I make for years now. Not quite sure how it'd work with a non-computerised character though. Do the dialogue options you're given reflect your character's specific personality?

TheMadDoctorsCat:
I've been doing something similar to this for text games that I make for years now. Not quite sure how it'd work with a non-computerised character though. Do the dialogue options you're given reflect your character's specific personality?

In tabletop RPGs you can make your character say whatever you want; these tables are more about shaping their personality than their dialogue, and you can build from there.

This feels like filler padding out page count without overinflating word count. I'd hate to think that a player would have to pay money for charts like this (especially if there's one for every class... and race... and then random ones later that are culture specific...). Considering these things give you no game system advantage, they should have been offered for free on the website. Or at least in a book of their own devoted to character-creation minutia.

I get how such tables might be helpful for making memorable NPCs quickly, though. Just not helpful enough to justify their existence.

--Morology!

 

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