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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Hey What's a Blog Entry Doing Here?

Your likely wondering why there was a Blog post on this site earlier today. Well to put it simply, I've decided that instead of doing the podcast and blogging, I wanted to do it all in one place. That way podcast can support the blog and the blog can support the podcast. It also means that we can write blog entries to supplement something we said on a podcast. In general, I think it is going to be a win for everyone.

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The Rule Of Law

You know the drill, the players' characters stumble into town and procedure to interact with people in any sort of manner they see fit. They destroy property. They vanquish evil doers (and not so evil doers) without too much issue. They let lose all manner of mighty magics without even a second thought. While such actions can be accomplished out in the wild without any real issue, shouldn't a place of civilization be different? Are your towns nothing more than wild lands with more people in them, where the players can get a hot meal, get healed, and sell their treasure? Does your town even have laws?

In all my years of Role-Playing, few in game place seem to have any laws or restrictions that have any real meaning. Do not get me wrong, I think most players operate under the assumption that there are some basic laws in place. Although, most players seem to operate above them or without regard for them in any case.

Right now, some of you may be asking so what and that's OK. The truth is that generally speaking, it's not a big deal in most games. Still, I think we lose but not having some sort of reminder that there are laws in the land. In many ways, the games that many of us play in is sort of like the Hollywood version of the Wild West. A place were there are laws, but very little enforcement. Now there are some games where that makes a lot of sense. Even with just a few select laws that affect the players' characters in some way, creates a more dynamic environment for play. Let's take an example.

In a fantasy game, the players enter a fortified town. They encounter an evil assassin and defeat him. In most games, the players would just loot the body and move on to the next thing. I'm sorry but that's a bit boring. What if rather the fight was seen and the town guard is arriving to take over. What do the players do? Do they run and hide? Do they hide the body? Hell, do they wait for the town guard to arrive and try to explain things? Do they need to bribe the town guard to prevent the town guard from taking them to the local magistrate? Do they fight the town guard? By even making the killing something that the town guard would have to investigate, you have just made the players' lives more interesting. I not say that they players are in any real trouble, but they will have to deal with the law and that may influence their actions.

Of course one could also use laws to influence a certain setting feel as well. Maybe you want to have a setting where the common people are fearful of magic. Have laws that ban magic or require that arcane magic users to have licenses to practice could help reinforce that to the players. Actually this concept was quite common in some of the earlier settings. I know of at least two old settings that have mention the idea of requiring a permit to use magic within a cities walls. I can just see a player talking to the town guard saying, “Yes, I killed blood beetle with my Magic Missile and no, I don't have a permit”. “What do you mean, I'm going to have to go with you? You should be thanking me!”

So, does your game have any Legal laws that affect the players? Are they used to help enforce a setting concept or they just there for your own local amusement? Please let me know. I'm always interested in finding out what other people are doing.

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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 19 - Three Topics, Three Tangents

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 19 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Good vs Evil Magic
  • Making your Undead Unique
  • Killing Your Player Characters

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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 18 - Hey That's Not Where You Said You Were

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 18 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • The Need For Miniatures In Games
  • Violence in RPGs is it needed?
  • Can A Game Have Too Many Skills?

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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 17 - Calling the Strange

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 17 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Dealing with the Strange and Unusual in your game.
  • Review Thousand Suns

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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 16 - Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Screen

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 16 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Interview with Jess Hartley
  • Review of Shadow, Sword, & Spell
  • The Pros,Cons, and Myths about Game Master Screens

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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 15 - The Last Word About GenCon 2010

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 15 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Our Final Report About GenCon 2010
  • Our Interview with Michael Wolf of Stargazer's World (Taken at GenCon 2010)

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Random VIdeo Clips from GenCon 2010

Sadly, we didn't record much at GenCon 2010 as we would have liked. Honestly, we just got busy doing other things. Here, we have a collection of the video we did get.

You can also go to the Youtube Page Directly.

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GenCon 2010 GMs Jam

After a long hard fight. Here is the video from the GenCon 2010, GMs Jam.

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