Monday, February 24, 2014

Supercharging Chargen with History, Personality

One of the cool things about Traveller is that it has a sweet character creation gauntlet. By the time you've created your character, you've already got a history. It's the product of a random process with a little bit of player input thrown in.

Can we add something like this to D&D without tacking a whole 'nother system on? I believe we can, and we can do it my modifying the system that we use to roll stats. Basically, this would replaced the sacred “3d6 in order” with a generator that describes the character's history and allows you to pin down some of your character before the game starts.


How to Use This Thing

We'll use two sections to get the familiar 3d6 to each stat. The Childhood section will add 1d6, and the Adulthood section will add 2d6.

The first section is Childhood. Kids don't have a lot of power over their own lives. For each stat, roll a 1d6, and then look at the appropriate table to see what it implies.

The Adulthood section has 3 subsections (Approach, Outlook, and Personality). Pick two of those and go through them. Each of those will ask you three questions, asking you to choose between two personality elements or ideals. For example, choosing between Emotive (WIS) or Stoic (CHA).

There are two ways to go through the Adulthood section. The statistically equivalent way is to roll 1d6 for each side, and then find out what sort of character you are getting (Roll First). The more fun method that gives you slightly more control over your character than “3d6 in order” normally does, is to pick which one of the two stats you value more, then roll 2d6, and assign the higher of the two rolls to the ability score you picked (Decide First).


Childhood

STR
1 You were picked on.
2 You preferred to stay indoors.
3 You moved from place to place.
4 You were fat.
5 You loved to climb.
6 You were a bully.

DEX
1 You always overslept.
2 You accidentally broke something precious.
3 You were trapped somewhere.
4 You stole something.
5 You ran for your life.
6 You killed an animal.

CON
1 You once caught a horrible illness when you were a kid.
2 You are an orphan.
3 You lost a parent.
4 You have a single sibling.
5 Your siblings all looked up to you. You were the leader of the gang.
6 You come from a huge family. Countless cousins.

INT
1 You never got much of an education.
2 You learned a lot, but it was from doing, not from being taught.
3 You had a secret place that no one else knew about.
4 You caught a parent doing something horrible.
5 You drew a map.
6 You kept a diary.

WIS
1 Your friends made fun of you behind your back.
2 You once embarrassed yourself in front of everyone.
3 You once got very, very lost.
4 You had a beloved pet.
5 You loved to explore. You never got lost.
6 You had many imaginary friends.

CHA
1 Your parents didn't love you. No one really did.
2 You were hurt by the one you trusted most.
3 You once received a very precious gift.
4 You thought you were going to get married. (Betrothal?)
5 You were your parents' favorite.
6 You have a trusted friend. The friendship persists, though your paths have diverged.


Adulthood

Approach

1. Loyal or No Tolerance for Bullshit
Would you stand up for a friend (CHA) even when they're wrong (DEX)?

2. Blunt or Tactful
Do you tell it how it is (INT) or smooth the ruffled feathers (CON)?

3. Impulsive or Deliberate
Do it without hesitation (STR) or wait a moment to observe and consider (WIS)?


Outlook

1. Fair or Kind
Divide the food equally (INT) or give the hungrier one a little more (WIS)?

2. Courageous or Cautious
When things look grim, do you grit your teeth and continue (STR) or get out of there, and maybe come back when you are better prepared (DEX)?

3. Loves Food or Loves Sex
Delicious food (CON) or delicious sex (CHA)?


Personality

1. Pugnacious or Relaxed
Do you do something about the annoyance (DEX) or just let it fade into the background (CON)?

2. Emotive or Stoic
Do you give hugs? Yes (CHA) or no (WIS).

3. Curious or Content
When deciding what to eat, do you try something new (STR) or order your old favorite (INT)?


Example

After childhood, I have these stats.

Str 3 I moved from place to place.
Dex 2 I accidentally broke something precious.
Con 5 My siblings all looked up to me.
Int 2 I learned a lot, but it was from doing, not being taught.
Wis 6 I had a lot of imaginary friends.
Cha 4 I thought I was going to get married.

I decide to do Approach and Outlook for adulthood. The first question for Approach asks me if I would stand up for a friend even when they're wrong. I decide "Yes, this character totally would".  So I choose "Loyal", and roll 2d6, getting a 3 and a 2. I add the 3 to Charisma and the 2 to Dexterity. This is using the “Decide First” method.

The next question asks me if I am Blunt or Tactful. I decide that I don't know. I just roll one die for Blunt (INT) and another die for Tactful (CON). I get a 4 for Blunt and a 2 for Tactful. Cool. I guess I'm Blunt then.  This is using the "Roll First" method.

I do this for four more questions. In the end, I get:

Alice the Dinosaur Hunter
Str 10
Dex 5
Con 11
Int 7
Wis 14
Cha 13

Childhood
I moved from place to place. Dad was an explorer.
I accidentally broke something precious. Sorry for sinking our ship and marooning us, Dad.
My siblings all looked up to me. Only after Dad left for help and Mom died.
I learned a lot, but it was from doing, not being taught. Books all rot in the jungle anyways.
I had a lot of imaginary friends. Most of them were dinosaurs. I killed all of them, many times.
I thought I was going to get married. But then he got eaten by a dinosaur and I swore revenge.

Adulthood
Loyal
Blunt
Deliberate
Kind
Courageous
Loves Sex

And after I decide that she's a dinosaur hunter, then I flesh out the Childhood with some carefully crafted history, and I'm done.


That wasn't as annoying to do as I thought it would be. 

8 comments:

  1. Very clever, although I prefer to let background and personality emerge through actual play ...

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  2. This is awesome, reminds me a little of Chargen in the Torchbearer/Burning Wheel games. Totally dig it.

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  3. This is so cool. Players could, instead of rolling, pick the lines from childhood, so they do not know what number they are picking.
    Much potential and cool idea!

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  4. I can understand, admire and appreciate what you are trying to do here... I think the general concept might be good, but your implementation needs work.
    When your example landed you with a "hunter" with a dexterity of 5, I think that it is a fairly big sign that maybe the system needs some refinement.

    I think maybe the issue is that the questions in the second part aren't really as evocative of particular attributes as they are alignments. Questions that were more properly evocative of the attribute would probably help.

    Of course, I think... no one uses totally random character creation any longer, certainly they don't pick a class and then roll totally randomly. The standard method used by most gamer is a 4d6, drop the lowest and assign where you like. I think this method can get rid of the "assign where you like" part, in which case maybe the final step of this process would be to mark down what your three previous rolls were and then roll one additional die per a stat, replacing the lowest previous roll if you roll higher.

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    Replies
    1. My players and I roll 3d6 in order.

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    2. We also roll 3d6 in order. :)

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  5. This is reminiscent of simplified Beyond the Wall character creation - except without the "hometown village" assumptions. I do agree halfway with Roger that I prefer personality (but not background) to emerge during play but it'd probably be pretty trivial to make the adulthood questions into background questions. Like, instead of "impulsive vs deliberate" it could be, "You saw a friend getting beat up. Did you rush in to defend him or heal his injuries after it finished?"

    I also like the implied separation of childhood (traits completely out of your control) with adulthood (now you have the ability to make choices).

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