Browsing articles tagged with " Character Generation"

Characterization: Ignore the System and the Group

Mar 14, 2011

Defining who a character is has absolutely nothing do do with system mechanics or other members of a group. If you believe it does, stop reading now. Agree to disagree and move on.

The top two characterization killers are trying to fit a concept to a system and trying to balance a new character to help a group. Forget both and formulate the idea as a personality, a history, and as an actual living, breathing person with a desire for a future. If your game master completely ignores character history, extract yourself and find a different game.

A character is complex by nature. Individuals have goals, desires, and historic events that influence who she is. Before you even begin to roll dice, apply point pools or consider skills, you should have a good basis or creating the persona. Step back look at the concept in your mind. What happened in the past? What drives the character today? Where does she want to be? Who in her past were influential? Were those people role models or adversaries? How about her family or upbringing? How did family influence what the person is today?

No game system can comprehensively cover those questions. Few even try. The few that do consolidate it into a random table to determine a couple of aspects. All far short of allowing a player to actually create the individual they want to play. Players must want to make an effort to create unique, complete characters. If they do not, by all means, whip out the scissors, apply some stats, and cut out the stick figure. Afterwards, hope a personality evolves. Chances are it will not.

Start a character by writing down elements that define him. Family. Education. Historic events. Goals. If you get stuck, resources like the The Ten-Minute Background can help. Or if you want to peruse options of personalities, Ash’s Guide to RPG Personality & Background is useful. Both are useful just to look at it and balance against the idea lingering in your head. Fiction writers hit the same block when creating characters. It’s not abnormal. Searching for fiction characterization will result in thousands of other sites to get you over the hump.

Thinking in a vacuum doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need inspiration from others in the room. Gamers have great imaginations and are very useful for defining people. Keep it completely system neutral when you ask for help. “I want to play X but am stuck on why he’s motivated to do so.” Tweak the game master as well. Ask how your concept can fit into the campaign he has in mind. Explaining your history and thoughts will inspire her to tweak his campaign to fit. Creatively, they want people to enjoy what they present so tweaking just happens unconsciously. If he’s stuck on defining the stats, keep the concept for another game. Keep plugging at the concept until you are happy with the persona you have defined.

At that point, give the game master the complete characterization. Lay it out verbally, defining exactly what you want to play. Then ask, “Can you help me stat this character within the system so it matches my concept? ” Doing so forces them to buy in to the decisions you have made. If the system doesn’t fit, push to get a house rule to allow you the benefits (and repercussions) you have presented. Most game masters will be ecstatic you took the time to define someone they can engage and entertain.

While the rest of the group is deciding if they are a mage, fighter, solo, netrunner or some other blank archetype, you will be prepared to be what you created. And then let the fun begin.

Tinkering with Software & RPG Utilities

Jul 15, 2010

I’m a big fan of online RPG aids — the free and open ones. A decade or ago I wrote a Lifepath and Fast & Dirty Expendable Generator for Cyberpunk 2020. CP2020 has since been updated to Version 3. My original utilities still get a used on occasion but CP2020 was a niche system in its day and today its dead rarely used. My original utilities used C/C++ code via the antiquated cgibin capabilities of the web server. I’ve been looking for an excuse to learn PHP for a while but couldn’t come up with a project.

As I was cleaning up my web detritus, it dawned on me I could add Fast Fortress Construction. Having it would pretty much complete the “random table” features of CP2020 other than perhaps a full up character generator. There really isn’t any point of adding it other than to actually have a semi-useful reason for learning PHP. As a language, the syntax is pretty close to C++ with minor deviations. As most programmers know, once you know one language picking up another one isn’t all that difficult. Automatically generating the graphics is going to be tricky mostly due to layout restrictions of code gates, CPUs and memory units. The rest of the process is pretty trivial.

My one gripe about PHP is debugging. Using text based error messages as a debugging process makes me feel like I’m back in the late ’80’s. There has to be a better mechanism. Perhaps I’ve just not found it yet but if its as limited as I’ve experienced, I’ll withdraw my judgemental attitude about PHP based online games being chuck full of bugs. I’m not willing to toss down major dollars for a integrated suite of development tools since its a hobby exercise. Anyone have suggestions?

On the plus side, there are dozens and dozens of open source add-ons for the core language. So many I’ve pretty much been able to either re-use or adapt open sourced items for everything I’ve written thus far. I haven’t successfully found a rock solid random number generator yet but haven’t looked deeply. TRNG isn’t a requirement, I just prefer them over the mock solutions in most languages. For now, I just encapsulated the rand() method in a class that I can replace without impacting the other code.

Developers all over the world have released so much great PHP code, it would be pretty trivial to toss together a MMO with minimal features in a few days. Most of the work would be setup, site layout and a bit of customization. Perhaps not pretty to start. feature rich but do-able. Once I get the general FFC utility complete, I may delay updating the other utilities in favor of a simplistic MMO based on CP2020’s rules so I can fulfill my netrunner desire.

If I’m not that motivated, perhaps just a few utilities for another RPG. I’m sure there are plenty of candidates for automation among those still in print.

Slow-Paced Character Generation

Apr 7, 2010
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Several months past, I tossed out some setting ideas for our Spring Convergence. Around the same time, I gave the players the same information posted here and told them to start considering character ideas. In typical fashion, a few people responded with ideas and we’ve exchanged a few emails regarding them.

I admit the details they were given were sparse — a general background, a likely location of play and a few insights into what I have in mind. In fact, up until a couple of weeks back, I had not even chosen a rule system to use. The players were left to consider the character, the crumbs of a setting, and little else. The sandbox was completely open for potential characters.

The wide-open, slow approach is not useful in most groups but it can lead to surprising results. One of my players, Randall, discovered a spark in the idea of the game that lead him to produce a pretty great background. He’s still not transformed it from a detailed history into a rules-generated character. Randomness will not be a factor when that occurs. Translation will occur, not randomness.

I present his concept evolution through time in his own words beyond the break.

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