The Joys of Character Generation

When you start playing a new role-playing character, you and the genius running the game get together to sort out your character. This is elementary role-playing, which to be honest, shouldn’t need explaining. This process has changed a lot over the development of different RPGs. When we all started out, all you needed was a pencil, a character sheet and a few assorted dice. You rolled your statistics, picked a name and a type, and you were off. There are still quite a lot of games where that’s all you do.

But us, oh no. We’re going to play Werewolf. I don’t especially like this game, but that’s because I’ve not played it much, and you’ve got to give Parker a chance. Because someone had forgotten character sheets, we spent a session designing characters without them. Impossible in the old ways, but fun here. It’s 1980, and you’re a teenager/young adult. And you’re in the UK, but otherwise a blank canvas. Me, I was a bit late first time round to be a punk (it’s tough rebelling against the system when you’re 10, and parents were still allowed to knock you about in those days). So, I’m a punk. I hate practically everyone and everything. We put some flesh on the bones, minor criminal record, dropped out of school, mum can’t cope with me, and stepdad doesn’t want to. Hangs around mates’ houses, occasional squats.

Can’t wait to meet the other players, a privileged eco-protestor, a hippie drop out and a fat kid working at a record station. Parker’s problem is to stop me beating them up, especially as I’m the only physical one, and I already despise them. I’m looking forward to it, and am confident that our GM has not created a situation he can’t control. That can be a pitfall of this more open style of gaming.

Games these days encourage a detailed character. It’s not enough to know how tall you are and what your name is. What’s your motivation? Another system, Hunter, is really clever. The characters are humans who can see and fight undead and monsters in a dark future. They have abilities related to the type of character they are. But the GM, he doesn’t let them pick the type. He starts them out as normal dudes, and they see something, like they’re in the supermarket car park, and there’s a zombie about to pounce on an unsuspecting girl. What do they do? They may attack the zombie, one type. They may defend the girl by putting their body in the way, another type. They may watch and plan, a third type. You get the idea. I was lucky, about 5 players, all reacted differently.

I’m apologising in advance, Matthew…

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