roleplaying games

Interesting Characters

I’ve been listening through the backlog of the System Mastery podcast, and recently listened to an episode of Afterthought where the hosts were asked which character written by the other host was their favorite. The characters they listed were great, with memorable personalities and quirks. Seeing that in someone else’s group always makes me consider how best to encourage that within my own games.

Don’t get me wrong, my group is actually quite creative. There’s been a good history of interesting characters among our ranks, though some of the players are certainly a bit typecast with regard to their concepts. I am worried, however, about how much world detail is needed to draw out interesting characters and give enough leeway for a variety of concepts. In planning for a potential future post-apocalyptic fantasy game, I’m trying to figure out how best to provide character hooks…building the world bottom-up makes it somewhat difficult.

This may also be just inherent anxiety from operating without a template…the three systems I’d likely use for this future game are Mythras, GURPS, or Fate, none of which have strong class/concept gating. We as a group have played so many games filled with Force powers and cybernetics and psionics that the relatively staid starting abilities in this proposed game make me worry about character differentiation. With six players and only mundane skills, will everyone be satisfied with how unique their own characters are?

I’ve started looking at different hex-crawl ideas that may inject that level of weird which would make the game more interesting. I also have returned to looking at The Burning Wheel as a possible system to run for such a fantasy game, as it provides a huge amount of character creation detail through its lifepath system. Even if I don’t actually run Burning Wheel (I’d really like to, but both its complexity and lack of PDFs make it a very difficult proposition), the lifepaths can help me figure out how much breadth I need to consider with character options.

Ultimately, it’s just a matter of how many options I’m giving players for character design. This is one of my first times going out into running fantasy without the character class backstop of D&D to lean upon. Though I definitely liked Mythras when I read it, sticking with a system with some latitude, like GURPS or Fate, may make me more comfortable. I’m not fully decided yet, and that’s just as well…this is still not my next campaign, so I have plenty of time to decide and investigate.

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