Tales from the Gazebo – Progressive Games Planning, Part 3

Progressive Games Planning, Part 3
By Cape Rust

Here we are at part three. Character creation planning for me is the culminating event for the entire planning process, and this is where all of those other planning factors come into play. By now you understand that players are the key to the Prog game, so it should be no surprise that spending time on their character’s development is the final step that must be taken carefully. Player Characters are the vehicles in which the players interact with the RPG world. If we use the logic that players are the one common feature of the Prog game, then their characters are the glue that holds all of it together.

By the time you have reached this point in planning for the Prog game, you may already have a good idea of how character creation will work, but if you still have no idea, never fear, the Gazebo is here. The first questions that have to be addressed are mechanical in nature. You have to decide if you will roll for character stats, use a point buy system or even have a computer spit out random stats. If you choose to roll, everyone should agree on what rolling method you are going to use. Every RPG game that I have ever played gives two or three options for rolling characters up and generally these are designed with balance in mind, depending on what type of game everyone has agreed on. See how that whole group planning thing comes into play?

Most games provide alternate point buy systems as well and much like the rolling system, the more powerful your game the more points/dice you get. I have actually seen a point buy system combined with a D6 roll. It was strange but it worked! There are several random number generators that can do the trick as well, but I tend to favor the more hands-on approach. I have seen playing cards used in addition to the aforementioned methods. No matter how you do it, everyone has to agree on the method, because everyone has to live with the results. My gaming group has implemented the addition of five chips that we can spend to up stat roles or to change some of the aspects of our characters. It is much easier to use chips like this than to have to adjudicate every little request the players have. But just like the statistic generation process, the use of these points must be agreed upon.

After the stat generation method has been agreed upon, the group must look at allowable classes, sources of information and races. In some settings some classes just don’t work. This doesn’t mean that the character class might not be viable in another DM’s setting, but for the present time it isn’t. Because we are looking at the long term, any player who wants to play a class that may not fit well into the current setting, as a group you should find a way to make that class work. If the player is dead set on playing that class then special concessions should try to be reached. These concessions could include an agreement on the changes that the class will need to fit into the current world, advantages and disadvantages that the class might cause and the player has to understand that their character might play less of a role than normal because of their choice of class. Most GMs are smart enough to figure out a way to make it work, but if this is a bridge too far then think about a few of the above factors. Remember the game is about the players, not the GM.

Races are very similar to classes as far as how they should be treated, but just like in the real world racial tension exists in most game worlds. Some races lend themselves to being bad guys and their overt differences are great plot drivers. If one of the PCs really wants to play one of the races that have been cast as “the bad guys” then the entire group has to go back into conference or the current GM needs to change the racial makeup of the bad guy cast. One of my favorite fantasy authors has sold millions of books using this premise alone (if you have to ask, you’re fired!). This can be a great plot hook, but if it becomes the focus of the game then the players who chose different races will suffer, the next GM might mix things up and it could end up being not such a big deal.

All of these issues can be as big or as small of a deal as the group wants to make them. Each and every character aspect could be up for discussion and in many cases should be discussed. Remember, this is the foundation that the entire Prog game will be built on and as a player and a future GM you owe it to yourself and the rest of the players to speak up. After all, you will be on both sides of the fence by the time it is all said and done. I have covered the fundamentals and next week I’ll discuss planning from the GMs stand point. Stay tuned as we progress down this path.

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