Friday, October 3, 2014

Discussion: Your First Step When Making A Character

While every system has its own system and rules for making a character, players tend to have their own system once they get comfortable. Today I want people to share how they make characters, and in particular where they start.

Are you the kind of person who makes the person - name, basic backstory, desired job, etc - first and then seeks the mechanics to make it work or do you handle the mechanics and then craft the person around what you have on the sheet? Perhaps somewhere in the middle?

Over the past few years I've found myself coming at this from multiple directions. For some characters I've had a complete mechanical build in mind already that I was making the character to work for. For others I've had character stuff in mind an then had to find. Normally I tend to start with a more mechanical mindset at the fore, because a big part of what I like in character creation is the gamist part of it, and effectively I want to bring something to the group and cover a base that may not be covered.

For example, it's not uncommon for me to find out what others are playing and do the system equivalent of "ok, then I'll bring the Rogue" or "I'll make the cleric." It is less mechanics here as it is a role. I am going to make someone who can cover the sneaky aspects for the team, or the healer role. From there I tend to peruse my options for character creation and see if anything grabs for story potential and go from there.

Of late in systems like L5R I've had fun starting with Advantages/Disadvantages I want and seeing what I can take to craft a story, then deciding what School/Clan combo goes best with that. For example, my current L5R character has Black Sheep, Dark Secret, Brash, and Sworn Enemy (Sibling.) Doesn't that just tell a very intriguing story? From there you just build the character (and yes, that is more points in disadvantages than most GMs will allow, and yes I live in fear of meeting a Bayushi Courtier.)

So how do you build your characters? Sound off in the comments.


  1. It would seem to depend a fair amount on the game. My most recent character was created for Traveller, and the specific campaign in question limited career choices too. Given hos random normal Traveller character generation is, I don't think it would have been possible to design the character before rolling them up. By contrast, the one before that was for Heroquest revised (the Robin Laws version) and there you almost have to have the concept in mind before you start making the character - in fact in the default character generation system you write the concept and then write the character sheet based on that. So two fairly extreme examples of different approaches taken by different games, and I assume most people don't play games where they can't make characters in a way they insist on.

  2. When I'm a player it's usually in one-shots, so chargen is at least abbreviated & probably pregens.

    The one campaign I'm a player in, Star Wars:EoE, I started with race (Trandoshan), which drove the background story in a general martial direction. Next, to connect him to the party & which became his Obligation, he became the bodyguard of a diplomat PC.

    It was my very first foray in the system, so my approach the second time around could be a little different.

    I like your story-first thrust. It can be easy to just default to starting with a more mechanical chargen approach.

    Strikes me that the significant amount of L5R you've played lent itself to getting away from the more typical mechanical step-by-step approach. You've long been-there-done-that in L5R, driving you in more interesting directions.

  3. For the most part I only play 1-2 different types of character, mechanically.

    So I spend most of my time trying to figuring out the personality. I work backwards from there to come up with a background. Sort of building a personality profile and then creating a background that would explain the different aspects of the characters persona.