"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Changing Process of Character Creation

In very broad terms the process of character creation can be broken down into three aspects:

1. Generation - rolling stats, rolling lifepaths, etc.

2. Concept - "I want to play an angsty drow elf that is trying to right the wrongs of his past..."

3. Mechanics - builds, min/max-ing, "controller", etc.

Moving from "old school" D&D to the latest edition, character creation has focused on different aspects.

The oldest versions of D&D focused more on the Generation aspect - roll 3d6, six times in order and see what you get. The Concept and Mechanics resulted out of the Generation. I pick a Fighter (mechanics) because my strength is the highest and his charisma is so low because he was caught in a fire when marauding orcs burnt down his village (concept).

The newest versions of D&D focus more on the Mechanics - 4th edition's "roles", the need for a healer in 3.5E, etc. The balance and structure of the rules requires that the Mechanical aspects of a character be at the forefront. The Generation aspect has been minimized by first using point-buy systems to generate attribute scores and then by codifying a fixed number of hit points instead of rolling.

I would suggest that 2E is the version that most focuses on the Concept aspect of character creation. In yet another way, 2E is the red-headed step child. To me, it is the most "story"-focused of the versions of D&D and how your character fits into that story, the Concept, is a central part of the character generation.


  1. I have never really investigated it, but in my mental picture of a typical rpg rule book, it starts with the "What is a role playing game" and then character generation. That chapter is for some reason always headed by the Conceptualize stage in my mental picture. Now I'm wondering how common it really is?

  2. I find something attractive (and repellent) in each of these methods. Do you have any thoughts as to the consequences of each of these, in terms of the role-playing aspect of the game?

  3. I believe you are onto something there, 2e was my first RPG and it no doubt shaded my views of character generation.

    As such the generation system I use (Schrodinger's Character) means you focus entirely on the concept, and the generation and mechanics spring from that as needed.


    I wonder in how many other ways did 2e shade my views.

  4. Do you have any thoughts as to the consequences of each of these, in terms of the role-playing aspect of the game?

    I think that each of these reflect how the "story" is related to the game.

    In the original versions of the game the story was emergent as was the character generation.

    Towards 2nd edition the story became the focus so how the characters related and interacted with the story was of primary importance.

    In the latest editions (with which I have the least exposure), I can see the story taking a back seat to making my character a serious ass-kicker.