Friday, January 19, 2007

Making the Character

The improbable love of an elf and human ranger

I haven't blogged about gaming in awhile, and the last post I did is probably buried in the archives of this blog somewhere so that you may never find it (thank God) but this guide on how to make a "sweet" D&D character over at Something Awful got me thinking about the whole process of character creation again. I don't have a whole lot of stories about it, but I do remember the extremely tedious process of building a character from the ground up in every game. Now as a gamemaster and player I was never a stickler for a system that required some kind of random character creation. I suppose those who do believe it to be valuable for it's randomness, as if you're "born" into the game and your skills and talents should be random as well. I think that's a load of crap. I'm not sure how much fun gaming can be when you can "come into" the fantasy world a stunted dwarf with no hand-eye coordination but incredible skills at math...just as you might have done in real life. Every now and then one of my friends would "experiment" with random character creation, and I think one time the end result was that I played a one-armed female paladin.

Of course, letting the players have a large amount of their say can end up in some wacky results also. The reason why is because many games give you the option to burden your character with the equivalent of handicaps, so that you can obtain bonus points to use on your character in some other respect (like their intelligence, agility, dexterity, etc., etc.) Although I did not prefer to abuse the system greatly, my friends frequently ended up playing characters that were virtually gibbering lunatics with all sorts of bizarre least on paper. The problem is that whoever played GM would rarely enforce the consequences of these negative traits, so that in effect our characters would end up being practically super-human, without having to stop to regularly take their lithium in the middle of combat or whatever as they should have. I do recall one time my friend, GM'ing in a heated session and highly frustrated with uncooperative players, decided to begin enforcing negative character traits. The result was us gaming fairly regular and unpleasant bathroom breaks and stops for highly unusual foods.

Anyway, if you want to read about the absurdities of naming your character, equipping your character, giving your character some sort of back story, check out the link above which is humorous only in how it only slightly exaggerates what most gamers do when creating a character. And if you have any great character creation stories, please feel free to share in comments.


adam said...

I'm glad I was never apart of the game with the strange allergies, at least I don't think I was. I do agree that random generation of skills makes no sense most of the time, but people are never smart about allocating their own skills either. Inevitably, everyone has high strenght or intelligence but no dexterity, thinking - as you say - that whoever is running the game will simply ignore the fact that they likely wouldn't have the constitution for the sort of travel normally expected in said games.

Nat-Wu said...

Good point. As far as character creation, no one ever put as much effort into it as James (not D), who would be the only person to have a dossier for his character before rolling up his character profile. Talk about min-maxer too; if only you'd had stopped him from creating Pac-Man! The rules clearly stated that Orcs were an average of 2 cm. taller than humans, but no, his had to be 7 feet tall!

As for myself, I've created random characters, and the stunted dwarf you described is literally a character I had for a game of Warhammer that was GM'd by Fanboy. It was one of the least pleasant games I've ever been part of. Fie on random characters! You'd expect that with random character building, for every cannon-fodder character someone rolls up, you're also going to get a real hero. No. Four of us get stuck with characters we hate while the other one is flying around destroying dragons with his fists. Random character generation my ass.