Sunday, July 3, 2011

Character Creation: Too Much Time?

Our first Rifts session went really well on Saturday. We had two new players, and both of them jumped right in and did a fine job. The group was of wildly varying power levels, but everyone found a niche or behavior and did well with it. A robot, three suits of power armor, a hovercycle, and a half-squad of bandits all met their demise.

One note of concern had to be character creation. Now, I am all about character creation. I love group chargen, and feel everything goes better when you make characters as a group. I print out handouts, easy-to-follow instructions, and try to make it as painless as possible. Now, some of it was of course due to have a mixed group of people and some staggered arrivals, but I think the character creation process still took too long, and one of the new players commented afterwards on the same issue. I think it had the potential to turn them off gaming before we even started.

I've done everything I can to speed up character creation and still do it by at least the ghost of the Palladium rules; I'm thinking that the next step would be to do templates, letting characters just add in stats and related and secondary skills. I suppose I could do that, but front-loading more work on the GM.

It's going to be something for me to chew on, but more and more, I appreciate being able to jump right in and game, ala Castles & Crusades. On the other hand, Rolemaster and Rifts/Palladium Fantasy are much more involved character creation, but have also given us some of our greatest games. I'm probably going to revisit this several times, but I think spending a couple of hours creating characters vs. jumping right in is getting less and less desirable. At the same time, you want to ensure that especially veteran gamers still feel like they have plenty of "tweak" options available. The nice thing is I think most of the group's on the same page with this one, so depending on what our next campaign is, we'll see what we come up with.


OlmanFeelyus said...

Interesting. I think a lot of this decision-making has to do with the group. Our regular group has basically settled on having a "session 0" where the GM introduces us to the concept and then we spend the rest of the time making characters. But we are all committed to gaming and the group, so there is no concern about anyone becoming too bored by chargen.

With people new to gaming, I think your idea of making templates may be a good one. Even giving the players the options of filling stuff in as needed through the first two sessions or so, so they can also learn how to be effective and not feel screwed if they picked something not fun or useful early in.

JoeGKushner said...

It's a problem with rule heavy games. Palladium isn't necessarily rule heavy, but it does have a lot of fiddy bits, which are mostly just copying down the damn skill list and figuring out your %.

Zachary Houghton said...

Yep. I think the problem is exacerbated by introducing new folks to the game. They're WOW players, so sitting for a couple of hours to make a character instead of clicking a button seems excessive to them, I'm sure.

Zzarchov said...

For Piecemeal the RPG I use "Schrodinger's Character" rules. One of the nice parts of char creation.

It takes under 3 minutes of work to start a new character, but by the end of the session you have a rules heavy character customized just how you'd like it.

Hungry said...

I agree that Rifts can take a ton of time to do characters. I think this is because my regular Rifts GM has pretty much every Palladium book known to man and several that were limited print edtions. He generally drops the quadruple stack of books on the table and lets us have at it. This may sound like a horrible thing, but we're all experienced role players and Rifters. It works well for us. When we bring in a new Rifter or new role player, the GM will pick a book or two for the new person and limit them to that selection.

For other games where our source material is more limited, character creation goes fairly well. Like with OlmanFeelyus, we always have a "session zero" in which we do nothing but make characters and maybe do introductions and get all PCs together in a common area.

Tim Razler said...

I've played Palladium games for... jesus, almost 20 years now (2/3 of my life!!!) and character creation is always the bit that new players hate. Once the game actually starts, it's always great, but getting through the creation process is always a pain.

What has always irked me about Palladium is that the OCC has the OCC skills listed with a bonus percentage... why not just list the starting percentage completely? It has always seemed incredibly lazy to me on Big Kev's part.
I always just tell my players to write down their skills and percentages, and then we'll look up the actual skill percentage if it comes up in game. this cuts out about 50% of creation time (and lets face it, half the skills will not get used for the life of a character in Rifts)

Victor said...

I have had a lot of new players in my days of Palladium (Over 20) and I have always been happy with the reaction to character creation. People, in general, have enjoyed the task... mostly because I push the fact that this character will be theirs for a long time... Most of my games last years. Perhaps that helps. Just did an hour long session with a new player this week.

Shawn Merrow said...

I have found with new players to the Palladium system a little guidance will solve a lot of the problems. Give them an idea about what the game will cover and what type of characters you think they would like. When you find a class they like then walk them through the creation from suggesting skills and such when it comes up. Don't make the character for them but be a help when they need it.

I have gotten people who have never played an RPG through character creation in about forty to sixty minutes and they had fun.

Zachary Houghton said...

Thanks for all the comments, guys!