If you want it to be. You can make it random. Which is heaps fun.
There are two basic objections to random chargen. The first is it removes total, absolute control over the character creation process. And that’s fair enough. If your fun arc depends on you having a perfect pre-conceived idea of who your character is in your head to begin with, and then creating a system to fit the image, birthing it Athena-like from your brain, then I get how leaving anything to chance would get in the way. The second object is that it produces characters that are unplayable and unfun. Generally, this objection comes from the fact that when people hear “random chargen” they think of D&D’s random chargen where the randomness causes the power level to be random, so some players end up a bit ahead of others. That can be unfun, but of course random chargen doesn’t have to do that. Random chargen can be perfectly balanced, and indeed, you can use point-buy systems to make sure your random chargen is balanced.
The last part is the bit we only realised recently because we are Slow Of Mind. G and I adore random chargen, we love sitting down and rolling on tables and seeing whole new universes appear out of nowhere, but only so many games have random chargen – or so we thought. Last night we came to our senses. We got out Savage Worlds and made Novice level characters using a totally random system. Every time it came to spending a point, we would roll randomly to find out where to spend it. Suddenly, point-buy became random, and as usual, it was glorious.
For example, you have five attributes, and five points to spend. Roll 1d5 five times, once for each point, to see where it goes. Granted, it becomes fairly ridiculous when you do it for equipment buying but otherwise it worked surprisingly well for something as simple and rules-light as SW. Without any cheating at all, they are highly playable and mostly make sense!
Below are the characters we created but I’m really blogging this so others can use the idea. I wouldn’t want this awesomeness not to be used around the world just because other people think point-buy games can’t be random, like we did.
Agility: d6 Smarts: d6 Spirit: d4 Strength: d8 Vigor: d8 (Parry 4 Toughness 8)
Fighting d4, Area Knowledge (The Swamplands) d4, Shooting d6, Healing d4, Investigation d6, Persuasion d4, Swimming d6, Boating d6, Driving d4, Tracking d4, Streetwise d4
Edges: Carapace (2 points Natural Armour), Mantis Leaping (x4 normal distance), Arcane Background (Miracles)
Hindrances: Outsider, Curious, Pacifist (Minor), Doubting Thomas
Miracles: Detect/Conceal Arcana, Boost/Lower Trait. 10 Powers points.
He’s basically a scout/indian agent type – lots of outdoors skills plus low-level faith magic. I pointed out that it was weird that I had no Faith skill, necessary to use the Miracles power, so maybe I could use a substitute. Mr G brilliantly suggested I use Boating or Swimming, and together we decided that I was less a mantis and more a Jesus Bug, and that my religion was based around the philosophy of spiritual surface tension. Just like the lake, the universe is full of fluid, and we must walk softly on it. Those who are heavy with evil or sin, or drive their weight harshly against the surface, soon plunge beneath and find nothing but death. Alas, their descent causes waves which can cause even good, softwalkers to stumble, so those of the faith must help others stand, and keep the surface smooth and taut. Such an incredible idea! We wondered why I was also a Doubting Thomas (no belief in the supernatural) but we had two options there – either he just sees supernatural things as some lies of the devil, or he is so into his beliefs and his natural environment he doubts civilisation exists.
If I was going to actually play him, I’d get rid of maybe Persuasion and Streetwise to get a few more dots in other skills and maybe swap Spirit and Smarts, but otherwise, he is ready to go! I want to play him and am sad I can’t….
G’s char was:
Agility: d6 Smarts d4 Spirit d6 Strength d6 Vigor d6 (Parry 2, Toughness 5)
Climbing d4 Knowledge (Journalism) d4, Taunt d6, Persuasion d8, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Guts d4, Boating d4, Gambling d4, Investigation d4
Edges: Low-Light Vision, Tough
Hindrances: Slow, Young, Quirk, Vow (Minor)
With the ability to climb, taunt and persuade added to Journalism, we knew instantly that this character was a paparazzo, who would get the shots of the celebrities no matter what. (We hadn’t specified any setting, SW doesn’t do that) So we made his Quirk “Never Without A Camera” and his Vow “Never To Give Up On A Story/Photo”. The Lowlight vision would come in handy in the darkroom (or could, in fact, just his night-scope fitted camera!). We discussed briefly which fantasy settings would have paparazzi or similar, and how they might be translated to worlds without press or photography. A gossip paparazzo is not unlike a bard, after all….
Two awesome characters, a bundle of great ideas, all from a system that – on the surface – doesn’t appear to be random. Today’s lesson is: DON’T LET THAT STOP YOU.