The Lost Art of Dealing the Hand You Were Dealt.

The other day, I came across the Critical Hit's Post on playing the new Gamma World. What struck me was how much fun was had with a somewhat random character. This got me to thinking about how many of my personal favorite characters have been from games where character generation is a lot more random than we normally get today and sometimes with constraints we don't normally have either.

It seems typical in many Role-playing Games today that there is very little randomization in character generation. In many systems the only thing that may be random is stat generation. It's also a common trend to not even have that amount of randomization in character creation.

Now most games are not completely random. One that is pretty close is the old versions of Traveller. I've heard Traveller Character creation as a game within a game. Which I suppose is a very good description since characters could actually die during character creation because of a failed survival roll.

At this point I'm sure that you are thinking, well what good is having a random character anyway. After all, I'm sure you just have fifty or sixty good character concepts (and no doubt original concepts) in mind when you generate your characters. What I think we miss out on with more random characters is the chance to flex our mental and creative muscles. No, that is not a misprint. With a random collection attributes, skills, powers, and whatever else was generated at random, we have to ask who is this character? Where did they come from? Why do they have these skills or powers? Even if a game system only has certain elements that random, we need to think about this.

Let me give an example. In an AD&D game, I had the following stats; Str 9, Int 17, Wis 12, Dex 12, Con 14, Chr 10. This was doing to having to roll them in order of appearance on the character sheet and no moving attributes around. Now, what class would you make this character. Likely, you said Magic-User (which is what we called Wizards in AD&D). Which normally is the choice for a character with high intelligence. However, the party was already magic heavy. What was needed was a fighter. So, yes with a mere 9 strength, a fighter was born. The choice of fighter was not random. The fact that the attributes were and other factors forced me into a fighter role did however make me start asking questions. Why is this character a fighter? Why didn't he become a magic user? I decided that the character thought all Magic-Users were stupid and didn't know how to operate in the real world and he didn't want to be one those types of people. in the short amount of time that character was played, it seems the group proved that character right as he always seemed to save the magic using characters from their own stupidity.

I guess my real point is that sometimes I think we over think character creation. We get stuck into getting the best character we can. We forget that some of the best characters are those with flaws and are less than optimal choices. I guess I like the thought that sometimes those without natural aptitude in something excel and thrive in that area of endeavor. So what has been your experiences in this area? Have you ever found that more random and constrained characters can be more fun than something that spent hours trying to get just right?

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