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Sunday, December 14, 2014

So, What Comes First? The Character Concept or the Characteristics

I had some idle thoughts last night as our weekly game was canceled, and I thought about how I decide upon the type of character I want to play. Depending on the campaign, I can go can go either way - character concept first or characteristics / stats / abilities.

In our current campaign (AD&D 1e) I decided to go with a Bard (Dragon issue #56 version) before rolling the stats. As a party we had most of the niches covered and I really do have a weekness for bards.

At NTRPGCon, in +Matt Finch 's S&W game, I rolled my 3d6 in order before deciding to be a fighter. The fact that I had rolled a natural 18 for strength had (almost) nothing to do with it ;)

In general, I'm the type of player that tries to fill a roll need by the party before worrying about that I want to play, as I enjoy playing most character types and classes.

Do you roll you abilities first and than decide upon a class or do you have a class in mind and arrange the rolls to fit the character?


  1. Usually I have something that I'd "like" to do, but if the rolls don't go that way, I fiddle something out with the dice I get. So, "Boy, it'd be great to play a monk," but if I get all 12's and one 16, I scramble to find a plan b.

    What I don't do, is pout and mope because I didn't get to play what originally had been my whim. As I have seen people do, repeatedly.

  2. Definitely depends on the campaign and my mood. For a one-shot, I like to let the dice do the deciding, especially if they can lead me to something I don't normally play. For a longer term campaign, I typically have some thought of what I want to play (whether tried and true or something new), but am still happy to be swayed by the dice. Adjusting to the random is part of what I enjoy with RPGs - especially some of the swingier ones.

  3. Hmmm... good question. If it's a "3d6, then assign to a stat" situation, I'll choose a class, then fit the stats where they'll do most good. If it's a "3d6 in order" situation, I'll choose after I see what pops up. (Cleric is usually a good fall-back class choice.)

  4. First word...depends...depends if I'm one of the first dudes, if so I roll in order and make up my guy from that. If I come in later, I check to see what the party might need, as in our b-team campaign, I made Minister to fill in the major gap of having no spellcasters by going with a cleric/mage. Either way I enjoy it. Even if I rolled nothing but 1s, and there are some nights it feels like it.

  5. I always have a character in mind, and desperately hope I can roll to match it. This is why I love point-buy so much. The only question with the B-Team was, how good was my human fighter going to be? I was going to run a human fighter, no matter what I rolled. It's been a long time since I rolled and then decided. Maybe if I had to play rolled-in-order, but even so, I know what I want out of the game session.

  6. First I decide on the race & class, then the character, i.e. halfing barbarian is the race and class, enforcer for the Hobbit Thieves Guild is the character. The die rolls are just the interface between the character and the rules, they constrain the options available to the character, but not the actions the character takes.

  7. May the chips, er, dice fall where they may.

  8. I'm not a fan of pre-mades...so I would say the character concept comes first.
    ...but wait...we aren't talking about pre-mades.

    To me there is little difference between the DM telling me what to play and the dice telling me what to play. Of course, I could play a fighter with a 6 STR but then my group is telling me what to play when they say my character is "dead weight" and a weakness (sure it's fun for me but not fun for everyone else when we get the TPK).

    To me, dice are another form of forcing a player to play a certain character over their own personal preferences.

    All that being said, I believe in random stat generation, but prefer systems that still allow for player choice of class/race.

  9. I prefer to roll and then decide, especially when playing S&W or Traveller. With Pathfinder, I tend to pick a character concept, then assign my randomly generated stats in a way that I like for that concept. I'm also completely willing to take a pre-gen character and breathe some life into it.

    Then again, I like just generating Traveller characters for the fun of it, so maybe I'm odd. :)

    However, almost everyone I play with prefers concept THEN stats.

  10. It depends, sometimes I have a strong idea for a character, in which case it is all about using the rolled stats to reach a descent version thereof.

    If I do not have a strong idea, I let the rolls shape the character, which usually ends up being something entirely unexpected by the end.

  11. How can you choose to be a bard before rolling? Aren't there a bunch of onerous stat requirements?

    For random generation games like AD&D, V&V, or Traveller, I think it's best to roll and see what you get and then come up with a concept to explain it. Plus one can always have a low-DEX fighter who just fancies himself a nimble swashbuckler.

  12. @Matt Celis - He said he is using the Dragon magazine variant which is designed to ignore all the hoops and let you start as a bard from first level... I never did understand why Bards were designed to jump through all those hoops -- just seemed like a way to punish a player for wanting to do something different.

    As for character generation -- for me, character concept is always a big part of making my characters... I have done it both ways, with letting the dice guide my choice of character, but just as often, I have come up with a concept that I will go for even if the stats suggest I go a different route. After all, not every fighter is built like a body builder, nor does every cleric look like a monk... my favorite is the wizard who dresses in leather armor and trains with martial weapons so that he passes as a thief in a magic fearful society. He may not be able to cast in combat effectively, but he can still be useful during camp rests.

  13. I have no Dragon magazines. Might be a good idea to explain what "Dragon #56 Bard" even means then.

  14. Random rolls spur me creatively and I loathe point-buy, because every character ends up identical. So I say let the dice decide.