Thursday, August 11, 2011

Individual versus Group Character Creation

In Monday's post about making a character creation questionaire, someone mentioned the differences between making a character on your own, and making it with a group. Now, most of my games (both as a player and GM) have tended to treat character creation as a more individual nature, with maybe some discussion as to what people wanted to play. That said, I have seen people cooperate on making characters, and it has had some interesting results. So, today, I want to talk about the differences in these methods of making characters.

My Character, My Build
Despite all the talk in most of the RPG books on my wall about "discuss with your group" before making a character, the rules are generally presented with the assumption that character creation will primarily be a solitary affair - with perhaps some input from your GM. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and is in fact the way that many people like to make their characters. After all, you're the one who has to play this character, and you're the one who is "stuck" with them for the entirety of their active lifespan. Why should someone else get a say in who they are?

True solitary building can lead to the character that the player really wants to play, and can also tell the GM a lot about how the player works for their game. Someone who has a very efficient build either knows the rules very well, or specifically looked for everywhere to scrape more points for most power. On the other hand, someone with an inefficient build either cares more about the narrative, or may need more watching over as the game begins.

On the downside, true solitary building can lead to over-focused parties. Now, for some games this doesn't matter, but in others it can be a real drag. One of my fondest D&D experiences was the game where all six of us ended up making rogues. One of the worst is when all six players made fighters. Nothing in particular about those two classes changed it, it was just how things ended up playing out. Also, if character balance is an issue for you, you can have problems with the most experienced player ending up with the most powerful build. This can lead to problems if they then also work to steal the spotlight constantly, or lord over the other players just how powerful their character is. Inherently, these may not be real issues for a GM willing to work with them, but they do need to be mentioned.

Build By Committee
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have group building. In this method, a group works together to make a character. Now, key decisions are made by the player of the character themselves, but input is farmed from the group and advice is shared. This is a good way to make sure that a new player gets a fully functional character, because the more experienced players can help with pointing out the shortcuts to power and other tricks that are there.

Generally, group builds will also get you a more balanced group. After all, everyone knows what is being brought to the group, and so they'll work to make sure they have their basics covered. This can be particularly good for pre-built adventures that want these specific parties, and also for more "classic" gaming where the game will reach out and strangle you if you don't have one of the essential areas covered. Everyone will likely have more competent characters as well, as they all get to share in each other's knowledge of tricks and tips for building their characters.

On the down side, community building can hide what players get the system and which players don't. You may think that Tom really knows the system, especially after looking at his rogue build, but he may have had very little to do with making that character aside from some key concept questions. Aside from this though, you will generally get less surprises and more indepth made characters. Which can be good for anyone.

The Hybrid
The Hybrid seems to be the model that most people are familiar with. Basically, while the group will discuss some aspects of their character (i.e. "I'm a rogue, you be a fighter...we need some healing!") actual character creation is handled by the individual. So yeah, everyone knows that Sally is playing the mage, but she makes her own mage in her own way. In many ways, this works as the best of both worlds. Advice is there if someone needs it, but you can still get a general feel for everyone's level. Even better, if needed, the group will likely be more balanced and able to function as a team.

Your Method
So, I'm willing to bet that most people fall somewhere between these three methods, but I'm curious as to how Character Creation works at your table. The groups here tend to do more Hybrid, some discussion but everyone makes their own character. I've seen the other two on a few occasions also though, and some of those games were also darn fun.

1 comment:

  1. In my groups, I think the group build is usually encouraged mechanically but probably could get some help collaborating on story. I'm not so worried about the players having stories that tie together, just having a strong story player helping out build interesting things into the character's story.