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Has anyone tried Character Creation as you play?

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I'm running a drop-in game tonight and was wondering how other GM's handle new players to an existing game. Not in terms of story or introducing the PCs to one another, but in terms of building those PCs. I can think of a few options here;

1) Spend time with each new player creating a new PC,

2) Prefab some PCs for new players to pick from,

3) Remove ownership of PCs so new players can play existing PCs that have no current player (i.e.: the player is away),

4) Have new players create their PCs "on the go".

I'm mostly leaning toward trying out option 4 and having the new players build their PCs as we play. Has anyone tried this yet? Does anyone have any advice? The session will run for no more than 4 hours, so I'm reluctant to use up the first hour or so guiding new-to-RPGs players through character creation while other players sit around. Last week it took almost 2 hours to talk 4 new RPGers through character creation - 3 of them had near to zero experience with TTRPGs, and none of the 4 had seen Genesys before.

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2 hours ago, GM Hooly said:

Option 5: Have the PCs create characters in a group.

@GM Hooly - I do appreciate your experience and advice, and I could have phrased option 1 better to reflect the idea of creating PCs in a group. This is exactly what we did for the first session. Going forward, this is not going to be a traditional "campaign" experience as I won't have the same players week-to-week (although there will likely be some overlap). Also, our session length is limited to 4 hours as we're playing at a restaurant that closes at 10pm.

1 hour ago, saethone said:

If its a true "one-shot" as in you'll never play with this group again, i'd prebuild characters. spend your time playing, don't spend 3 of your 4 hours making chars

That's just it, this is not intended to be a traditional "one-shot" experience either. Some of the players intend to show up to 80% or more of the sessions. I am considering having pre-built PCs for new players, but if I want to encourage them to return, it's usually better to have them take more ownership of the PC from the ground up. That being said, I'd like to find a way around taking an hour out of a 4 hour session to help someone build a new PC.

I will be running the game almost every week in a continuing-campaign-style, with the intent to allow new and curious players to drop-in (or drop-out) and get some experience with RPGs. I am hoping to build interest in Genesys in my community and at the same time build interest in RPGs in general. One-shots are great tools in a convention or learn-to-play setting, but there's nothing like ending on a cliffhanger to encourage interested parties to return for more. :)

So, I'm thinking I need a GM's log-sheet to keep track of how much XP each new player has spent while we play, with character creation decided by leading questions when a player describes their character's actions;

GM: "The river is murky and slow-moving, approximately twenty yards across. You can see your quarry scramble up the far bank and into the low brush beyond. What do you do?"

NewPlayer: "I take careful aim with my bow and try to shoot him in the leg before he gets out of sight."

GM: "Okay. How's your character's Agility? Is it below average? Average? Above average?"

NewPlayer: "I don't think she's all that agile, maybe average."

GM: "Great! Write a 2 in the Agility box on your charactersheet." Gm records XP spent. "Now, has she been formally trained to use a bow, or did she train herself?"

NewPlayer: "Well, she grew up hunting in her father's woods. I think she's had a lot of practice at least."

GM: "Okay. Put a check mark beside the combat skill Ranged, under the career column." GM also makes a note of this. "Now, how good is she with a bow? Unskilled? Some skill? Average skill?"

NewPlayer: "I think she's better than that! Definitely better than most people!"

GM: "Absolutely! Most people wouldn't be able to hit the broad side of a barn at any distance, but you've also got to leave some room for future character growth. So, for now, how about just marking off two of the boxes beside Ranged? That'll make her really quite good with a bow." GM takes another note of XP spent.

Something along those lines, maybe. It's still character creation, but at least it would be spread out throughout the session.

I've seen similar ideas in other RPGs over the years, but I wondered if anyone here had tried something similar with Genesys yet?

 

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A guest in one of the podcasts I listen to (and I cannot remember who or which one) talked about playing in a dnd game that Scott Kurtz ran where he did this for all the players. Instead of a traditional session 0, they completely roleplayed building their characters.

The example I remember was the player was walking down the street when a horse hitched to a wagon was spooked and started running toward him. He could have done anything at ti avoid or stop the horse. "I slowly reach out and make soothing noises to the animal to calm him down." Boom, sounds like you're trained in Animal Handling. I think he had chosen to dodge out of the way. They were using standard array, and with the nimble dodge they decided he would have a 16 in Dex. And they assigned every Ability and Skill this way, through the way the player's reacted to the world.

I thought it sounded neat, but it did turn session 0 into a 3 session level 0 adventure.

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If you are planning to keep a recurring group, I'd strongly suggest running a "session 0" where campaign is outlined and decided upon, characters are made as a group, expectations are set, etc. Don't even plan to play that day - just worldbuild and character build. If anybody can't make it, give them the info from what was decided in session 0 and let them create their own character in their spare time or you can make one for them if they prefer

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It sounds like no normal game, so no normal solution will suffice. Your idea of building the character on the go sounds likely to be the best.

If the new player has experience Roleplaying, especially with this dice system, then you can probably spend 5 minuets at the start of the session getting the species and career nailed down. Then during the session when they have ideas on what they think their character should be good at they can invest starting experience before rolling the dice. 

If it’s an inexperienced player then you probably need ten to fifteen minuets at the start to get characteristics and free skill ranks sorted. I would suggest having some cheat sheets of species/archetype and a list of common tier 1 talents at hand for them.

Always encourage spending most xp on characteristics. Particularly for characters who are not played that often it’s really important to have a 4 in something. Often a 3 will be overshadowed and without good gming the player will feel their character is not needed. A 4 is a powerful characteristic and enables more daring and cinematic actions, even if it’s in a narrower focus. Characters in your game should mostly have 4/3/2/2/2/1 spreads.

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Make some pre-built if you want to hit the ground running. Then, give them the option to customize or start fresh if they wish. Just give them xp they earned on the pre-fab to spend after the creation XP is spent.

My campaign we started as D&D zero-level characters that were working towards a career. We switched to genesys and I transcribed the characters and withheld their starting xp until they had earned it and the story was at the right point. They Actually ended up with extra based on the zero-level things they learned (mainly survival :) )

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I really can't recommend a create on the go system unless your system is insanely basic. I've tried it a few times and it only really worked out once with an extremely simple system.

Basically we used the SPECIAL attributes form the Fallout games. Everyone started with a 5 in all of them and they had an additional 5 points they could spend on them as they played. There were no skills but instead we just used the attribute that made the most sense. Use a d10 and anything equal or below the attribute was a success. 

This ended up being pretty random if they would succeed or not. Probably would have been better to have them all start at 6 or 7 and give them 1 or 2 points to spend. That way they could still fail but odds would be in their favor.

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I think 4th Edition Red Box intro adventure did something like this. I want to say you picked a mostly finished character sheet, and the decisions you made informed the missing pieces. Mostly skill proficiencies and such.

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If it's an unusual game format, maybe make the characters unusual to explain them being role-played by different players. Maybe there is some kind of flux that causes different spirits/personalities to control the body at different times. It could also be used to explain the lack of knowledge the characters have of the previous actions, imagine the disorientation of suddenly being in a body and just what is going on right now and why is the ogre swinging a bloody great big club at me!?

The concept might need some work but if your creative enough you might be able to pull it off and come up with a unique roleplaying experience.

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I have run a create-as-you-go game that turned out great. The players started as 8th grade students in a sleepy Florida beach town circa 1992. I created six Archetypes, like Jock, Trendy, Surfer, and had them select one to start. Then, throughout the session they made selections that further cemented the build of their characters (skills, talents) as they interacted with each other and the NPCs (also largely created on-the-fly through improv between the players).

After the stakes escalated, there came a moment when the characters were exposed to an event that transformed them, giving them superpowers (again, they picked from a list of powers I put together). This was the last step of character creation, leaving us with a team of prepubescent heroes with solid backstories.

I ran the one-shot (ended up being 2 sessions) to try out the Supers theme, and to kick the tires of the Genesys tool set in a way we hadn't with FFG's SW (which we love). 

So, I would say yes it is totally possible. I'd use caution with a large party, though, particularly as you introduce new players. You run the risk of a lot of downtime for the players that already have characters built. I think the key is to integrate the character creation into the existing story and plot.

Edited by O the Owl

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I think build as you go is not a bad option.  However if you're starting with a core group and adding/removing new players during the process, I would allow for a little pre-building of characters.  (This is after your initial set up with the players)

Consider this: If your setting is medium to high magic, medieval fantasy (i.e. forgotten realms) I'd create three templates - warrior, mage, rogue.  These are easily photocopied and you leave room for other skills and talents, although you pick the main ones.  Maybe they have 25 points left to play with later. 

Allow them to choose one character at the beginning, let them see how the game is played, get them involved (They don't have to make decisions about skills or talents or race yet, but let them roll dice using attributes and an average skill level and allow for some early successes)  If they like what they selected or if they see they would rather play a mage than a rogue allow them to switch, but then they have to commit at some point - you dictate this. 

Maybe after the first break or after a scene or two they now have control of their character.  Then they have to start to build and customize that character.  At this point everyone is vested in the game, they can start to look up stuff and some of it will be familiar rather than starting cold.  

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