6d6 RPG: Experiments in Character Generation Part 3 – Group Character Generation

I’m very lucking in having two very different play test sessions a week. The Wednesday night group is great at testing the mechanics but the Monday night want to play a game. They are not interested in the relative merits of this mechanic over another, they just want to play and that is a real challenge for a game still very much a work-in-progress.

Monday’s is hosted by Mondo Comico, a great RPG shop in the heart of Nottingham that is owned by Dave. I have five great players with a diverse range of ages and RPG experience. Recently we finished a Roman / Lovecraftian horror game using the 6d6 RPG and are about to embark on a fantasy adventure: Return to Savage Island.

This gave me a great opportunity to try out the character generation process as a group activity. The aim was to make the narrative of the character generation process lead straight into the opening of the adventure’s narrative.

When In Doubt, Steal

A few weeks ago, someone mentioned a character creation process that involved the group working together to create their characters background. Each telling a bit of the story and intertwining their lives until the characters were complete. Giving the characters a reason why they know each other and having fun creating a narrative together.

This fitted perfectly with a core 6d6 RPG idea that it is the process of working together as a group, of deciding things (whether it is game mechanics or the imagined world) that is at the heart of RPGs.

It also fitted with the idea of Path Cards so I decided to steal the concept and give it a go with the Monday night group. [For more about Path Cards, see Part 2].

Five Lives, One Group

To get the players started, I gave a basic overview of the world, which in this case is Twitterville. I also outline a hook I need to work in for the start of the adventure – An badly injured adventurer, the Uncle of one of the characters, returns to the city to die.

The first step was to pick character races and names:

  1. Jesus (prononced Hay-Soos) – Human, born in the desert regions of Mendashan far to the East, a nomadic people.
  2. Razir – A Rakshasa also from the east.
  3. Boban – A Gnome, native to the city of Twitterville, abandoned on the streets at a very young age.
  4. Mazvet – A Wood Elf from near Twitterville but his people live a hard life in the snowline of the mountains.
  5. Gwylem – A human born in the city to a middle class family, the youngest child and ignored in favour of his older siblings.

At this stage, each character picked their Race Card and the free cards that gave them. Plus they picked two Body / Mind / Soul cards as the basics of the characters abilities:

  1. Jesus – [Toughness] & [Will Power] reflecting the tough desert environment.
  2. Razir – [Arcana], [Speed] and [Quick Wits], for his cat like nature and spell casting aptitude.
  3. Doban – [Manual Dex] & [Quick Wits], the basic survival skills of a street urchin.
  4. Mazvet – [Sixth Sense], [Toughness] & [Will Power], another product of a tough environment.
  5. Gwylem – [Spite], [Quick Wits], the bitterness caused by his parent’s lack of attention and the brains he developed thinking for himself.

Next the players picked one path and picked another card or two from it.

  1. Jesus – Grows to be a warrior in his tribe. [Militia] – [Weapon Expertise (Scimitar)] & [Dodge]
  2. Razir – Even though from a poor background, the Rakshasa culture ensure all get good education. [Education] – [Natural Philosophy]
  3. Boban – A waif on the streets has to find places of safety for sleep. [Street Urchin] – [Climb],[Hide], [Streetwise]
  4. Mazvet – Growing up in the tribe means he has to help find food along with everyone else. [Hunter Gather] – [Survival],[Track], [Climb]
  5. Gwylem – Often left to his own devices, he spends more and more time on the streets. [City Life] – [Streetwise], [Persuade]

The players now start to angle their lives towards meeting up and becoming a band of like minded adventures.

  1. Jesus – Tiring of the constraints of tribal life, he sets out on the long journey towards the Empire. [Traveller] – [Survival]. On his travels he encounters …
  2. Razir – His poor family cannot support him so he leaves and starts to drift towards the Empire. During which he meets a human and despite a rocky start (involving a dog which became a dead dog and then a reanimated dog) they became fast friends. Razir’s player decided that no Path was suitable for this part so he took no cards.
  3. Boban – Life on the streets inevitably leads into a live of crime where her small size and climbing expertise lead to [Crime (Burglary)] – [Traps & Devices], [Silent Move], [Sprint].
  4. Mazvet – Up in the snow line, life carries on predictably. [Country Life] – [Ride].
  5. Gwylem – Pushed into the church as uncaring parents, in its training, he finally finds a niche for himself and the ability to stand up for himself. [Education] – [Language (High Church)], [Brawn] (taken from his Blood card).

The next round, some players wanted something special in their character’s passed.

  1. Boban – Tumbles into a long forgotten ruin, buried under the city and finds a tiny, ornate, golden key. Picking it up she finds herself in contact with a long forgotten and talkative god of thieves though which she starts to learn new abilities. [Touch By The Gods] – [Divine Obscurement]
  2. Mazvet – His life changes forever when he helps investigate a strange dying back of the trees and wildlife near his tribal home. A strange gem was found but then something happen. Next morning he discovered himself wandering through the woods with the gem embedded in his chest. His flesh was slowly changing, dying and turning into a hard, stone like substance. [Cursed] – [Death], [Diseased].
  3. Jesus and Razir arrive in the city where Razir finds a teacher for his magical gifts. [Glyph Mage] – [Glyph of Air],[Reanimate].
  4. Gwylem – His career is progressing and he is awarded a small parish in one of the poorer areas of Twitterville. The work is dull but offers him a few chances at earning extra money from the worshippers in exchange for healing. [Karmic Magic] – [Healing].

Finally, they all meet up.

  1. Mazvet – Exiled by his tribe, ended up in Twitterville, desperate for help to remove the cursed gem in his chest. As he got off the boot he was spotted by …
  2. Boban – Looking for an easy mark among the new arrivals, she spots Mazvet and something tells her that this Elf is different. Maybe it was her god talking to her or just the recognition of someone else who had been abandoned. Rather than stealing what little he had, she made friends with him and took him to a small church where she knew a priest sold healing…
  3. Gwylem – His hitherto boring life took a strange turn when a Gnome and a Wood Elf came into his church. When the Wood Elf shown off the strange gem in his chest, Gwylem realised that these people offered him a way out of his boring existence. Not long after, at a dull church social event …
  4. Jesus – City life was so different from his nomadic upbringing. In the camp, if one person celebrates they all celebrate. This plus his total self confidence and maybe just a little bit of fate led him to crash a party. He was about to be thrown out by a bored looking priest when in a desperate attempt to remain he claimed that he was a performer booked for the event. The priest looking at this barbarian warrior from the east, must of been doubtful but the priest clearly had a mischievous sense of humor and told him to get started. Thinking quickly, Jesus created the art of Mendashan Sword Dancing and by luck, pulled off a convincing performance. Afterwards the priest and barbarian started talking and soon struck up a friendship. [Performer] – [Quick Wits], [Perform (Sword Dance)].

Finally the group all knew each other and are ready to start adventuring. Any spare points the players had were spent rounding off the character. Starting equipment was awarded, including a [Zombie Familiar (Dog)] for Razir.

Lessons Learnt

Over a fun couple of hours the group worked well together, sharing ideas and building a background for the party. From a GM point of view the process could not be too structured, players must be allowed to skip rounds or have extra cards to suit their story. You also need to be think on your feet to come up with new cards, such as [Zombie Familiar (Dog)], on the fly.

This is a system I will definitely use again but won’t be part of the official 6d6 RPG. It will one of many different approaches players and GMs can use to give their characters background.

6d6 RPG: Experiments in Character Generation Part 1 and Part 2. PDFs of the Path Cards used are here & here. Note these are very rough versions and some were modified during the character generation process as we noticed problems (e.g. Crime has been spilt into different types of crime).

2 comments

  1. Razir, owner of a zombie dog familiar here…

    It did go fairly well on Monday, I felt. We are definitely a ‘playing’ group, but I suspect our feedback will start to be more useful when we are actually using the mechanics in game. It’s clear there is still a lot of tweaking going on with character generation… I like the freeform version you currently have, though I suspect that it’s open to meta-gaming. You maybe need to think about discounting some card purchases against what has gone before, or everyone will be tending to play an ‘everyman’ fighter/wizard/rogue…

  2. Hi Paul,

    Having a playing group is a huge advantage. It forces the game design process to address the real world of gaming, not the very limited world of people interested in mechanics.

    The character gen process is open to meta-gaming, as is the whole design of the RPG. Rather than mathematically balanced probabilities and tightly defined rules to constrain players I’ve gone for common sense and putting the power in the hands of the GM.

    The secret to character generation system is spreading the highly desirable, more powerful ability cards over a wide range of path cards. Thus forcing the players going for power-build to spend a reasonable amount of points on Path cards, leaving fewer points buy the ability cards.

    The other balancing factor in the character gen process is the opportunity cost.

    It might be possible to create a beginning character with a very powerful attack or magic ability but that is all they can do. Any situations where there ‘big hit’ is useless they will be at a major disadvantage. The ability to create such a specialist character is the balancing factor against people playing the ‘everyman’.
    .-= Chris Tregenza´s last blog ..6d6 RPG: Experiments in Character Generation Part 3 – Group Character Generation =-.

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