Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Character generation and GMing

One thing I find really unusual is players who don't enjoy character generation. Whats not to like? You get to develop a new idea, try out new mechanical options you have never tried before and emulate maybe a favorite book/movie hero or a mash up of the same.

Tell me this guys story...
However it appears - and admittedly I have only a small slice of the community to draw this opinion from but character generation is a bit of a chore for most players. I don't get to play as often as I'd like. I'm normally the one running the game so its something I do when familiarizing myself with a new game or making a fully realized NPC.

Here is a little secret about doing char-gen from my point of view as a GM. It is really actually a part of the game. You see as the players sit around coming up with character ideas, I'm riffing on that and telling the players elements of the background. I'm finding out what direction the players want to take the game based on what they find interesting and what they  want to do.

This is also why I prefer the entire group does this around the table together. Done well there is even scene framing and character role playing elements, being played out and established. Yes the format of this role playing is more of a "short hand" form, in most cases and it is often not as nuanced as normal role play but it is "gaming" all the same.

I find it interesting to see players - at least those I'm playing with, need a session or likely a handful of sessions, to establish a persona for the character. I think this is unfortunate. During those sessions, elements of strong narrative will just not be present. Don't get me wrong on this count, you don't need to take a fiction writers approach, but it cant hurt.

Just take a really established archetype and start with that. Its very likely that as a result of other people trying to "pidgeon-hole" your PC, you will evolve it into something more than this initial idea. That's GREAT! In deed, its what you want.

Once upon a time there was a Punk ...
I liken this to games you have played with really strong themes. Pirate game, Cowboy game, Fantasy game... each of these probably made you think of a very specific image and that's what we are after here. Just that initial image translated into something you can share at the game table. (Do try to stay "on topic". The infamous Fonzor, the Fonzie-as-a-mage-in-dragon-age-character was really funny and great, but it lost a lot of points for being wildly off the subject, for that game. "Rock-Armour!!!" rofl.).
A great place to start is to go to art on the web and find a picture you like and imagine the story for that pictures subject.Again i stress, make sure you stay "on topic" for the game.

As a GM I let my players know that we will do regular character revisions. These are opportunities to tweak the character so that the mechanics help the player represent the idea they/we have at the table so some times this can even mean a class change or other type of mechanical underpinning to make the system support the players view of the character. NOTE-> this is prompted by the player, not me as the GM however I still have rights to veto any change I dont think there is good story support for. This is not a way to "cheat" and get a more optimized version of the character but a way to hone in on the core idea of the characters role in the stories as they have been played.

So next time your thinking character session "ohh-no", dont. Just kick back, participate and try and come up with a character, which provides you with lots of fun at the table and one that also gives your fellow game players fun too. Someone that has some "cool" to it Heyyyy.

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