Chargen Part 2 Questions

I used to have a GM that would start the first game session with dishing out about 5 pages of questions about your  character. The format was sort of question followed by about 10 lines of space then next question and so on. I cannot remember the actual questions except the very last one which was “What would your character sell his soul for?

I used to detest these questions. For a start I rarely know my characters personality when I sit down to play. I tend to have an idea of what I want to play but I am heavily influenced by the other players characters and the first adventure.

It is not the actual questioning I objected to but the timing of it. During that first session there is so much to take in, you could be getting to grasp with an entirely new setting, your new character, new party members, a new mission and possibly new rules or variations on the rules you thought you knew.

What brings this all to mind are twofold.

  1. Spectre771 mentioned in a comment to my last post about the differentiation between experienced players and newer less experienced players.
  2. My reading of the 7th Sea rules.

One of the things that my Rolemaster house rules always share is that character generation is always diceless. In RMC I use fixed #hits and point buy stats. In RMU hits are skill based, not rolled, and there is a core rule for point buying stats. Spell acquisition is skill based in both games although using different methods but the net effect is the same. If you know my house rules then you can create your character well in advance. For me it means that I can then devote my time and effort to any new players who cannot be left to create a character without some support.

7th Sea is also a diceless character generation system, you just pick options at each stage to create your hero. It is exceptionally quick and easy but lacks much of the detail and granularity of RM.

The stand out difference is that 7th Sea starts with 20 questions. These start with objective things like What Nation is your Hero from? and progress through things like What are your Hero’s highest ambitions? and What is your Hero’s opinion of his country? to eventually end up with What does your Hero think of Sorcery?

The fundamental difference between these questions and my old GM’s questions is that of timing. I can give out the 7th Sea questions along with a primer on my setting, nations and game world long before the game starts. That way you get to think about the sort of character you want to play in your own time. You can answer the questions then go back and change your mind. The answers you come up with then turn into a blue print to use in creating your character.

Adopting the same technique for Rolemaster, particularly with new players, has massive advantages. For really new players coming to RPGs for the first time the difference between Roll play and Role play are not always clear in their minds, particularly if they are coming from a wargaming background where the use of dice for combat resolution is an idea they are comfortable with.

I don’t see this just as a structure for new players either. It doesn’t hurt to give it to experienced players. My group have a tendency to slip into the same old personalities again and again. I get my players to create a post-it sized personality description which is stuck on the front of their character sheets. At the start of every session I ask them to read it to themselves as a reminder. If they tell me they do something that I think would be seriously out of character then I will ask them to read their post-it and then reconsider. Sometimes they read it and then insist that they are happy with their original choice, others they retract the action and do things differently because the character simply would not rip the innocent bartenders fingernails out just to get the address of an informant.

The 20 7th Sea questions do not take up any game time as they happen before the first game session but they make creating that personality prompt post-it much easier. It also makes creating a character with a new player easier too. As a guiding GM with a new player if you know what the player wants to play it is easier to help them achieve that. This is doubly true with a fully expanded RM2 I would say.

If you want I will list the 20 questions but I would also suggest that you create your own and make them setting specific. For modern espionage settings (I’m looking at you Intothatdarkness) you could style it like a psych evaluation. For shadow world if you have already decided on your characters starting location then you can add in cultural influences or drop in questions to hint at the Unlife or if everyone is going to be Gryphon College trained then twist things to reflect their world view.

Any thoughts? Do you want to see the questions?

10 Replies to “Chargen Part 2 Questions”

  1. Hi!

    I would rather be interested in your old gms questions. Even if there are only a few more. I think asking the right questons may give players the chance to develop.

    best wishes,
    Christian

  2. Sweet! I’m a topic of discussion and it’s not for something embarrassing!

    Peter, your post touched on a broad topic that I’ve been observing, dealing with, trying to encourage and to avoid… that of “playing your character.” The post-it note is a good idea. I always remind players that their character probably would or wouldn’t do this or that. If they play to character, in particular – do not metagame! – I reward them with more XP because they stayed true to character.

    You are very right about players falling into the same personality and character quirks over and over. Every once in a while I find a player jump into a completely different profession and he tends to have fun with it, but I can tell you which profession each player will take because I’ve known them for so long. Archie will take a bow type, Benny will take a sword and board, Charlie will take a spell caster, so on.

    What’s fun is the new players who try to stick to character and actually do very well at it because they are learning the system and they are excited to “be” that archetype and persona for a while.

    Sadly, there are GM’s who don’t reward staying in character and who actually punish the players. One GM went as far as to have an after-session roundtable where he told us how he didn’t like our playing style and how we aren’t paying attention to the details and so on. I let him say his peace and when it was my turn to give my feedback, I simply said “I’m a barbarian, a nomad who sleeps under the stars. I don’t care about the quality of the bed linens and the elegant bureau. What is a bureau anyway? My character has probably never seen one.” I said my peace and the GM moved on to the next player without so much as batting an eyelash.

    I don’t penalize players if they don’t stay in character but I remind them that “John knows there is a trap there but Imelron the Great and Fierce as no idea there is a trap there so he couldn’t possibly say “I know there’s a trap there so I go around it.””

    If the player holds true to his character and grits his teeth and says “Darn it! I know it’s trapped….. I open the door and go in because I know there’s gold in there…” I give extra XP.

    I have one player who is really challenging me in a very good way. A very refreshing and good way. He’s new to gaming (one of the players who doesn’t have his own dice yet), and he’s just started D&D and Rolemaster at the same time. He’s has a level 1 Trader with no skill in Trading, Basic Math, Appraisal, but he has 2 ranks in Trading Lore. He gets the idea if not the implementation. He’s constantly buying high, selling low and paying more than what is asked for a given item and really ticking off the party. Half of my brain says “OMG, what are you doing?” wanting to help him understand the game system. That at the end of the session the other half of my brain says “OMG, he did exactly what his PC should have been doing. He got me.”

    I think the 20 questions would be good to see. I’m sure I can adopt something to work with my group. As all of the players are level 1 now, it’s still early in their gaming careers and they can slowly start to share their backgrounds the group as they share blood, sweat, and tears together. Post-it notes are a good idea too.

    1. The beauty of the post-it note is that it is a small bite sized piece of information that happens to be brightly coloured so doesn’t get lost in the multiple volumes that comprise a typical RM character sheet.

  3. I participate in two “old school” games, as a player in a D&D 1e game and as GM of MERP/RM2. We don’t think overmuch of “character.” Our characters sort of emerge during gameplay. We also tend to embrace metagamy aspects with narrative rationalizations, because having a character walk into a trap when the PLAYER knows a trap is there is hard on a gamist.

    A last interesting observation, though, is how the players behave in the 1e game vs. the MERP game. In 1e, the characters are fine with being unrestrained murder-hobos. In MERP there are things they won’t do simply because they are in Middle-earth.

    1. ‘unrestrained murder-hobos’: LOL, that is the perfect term for what my players became when I ran some total newbies through a DnD campaign. Love it.

      I am fine with both point-buy stats or rolled. I would tend towards point-buy, but RMU enables me to use a house rule to balance out the rolled stats. What I do is, I roll the stat bonuses directly (3d10 -15), then I have characters assign those bonuses, and finally they add up all the bonuses and subtract the minuses. The character with the highest total is done. The characters that got less get that number of extra development points to start the game. So for example, if the highest roller had a total of +22, the next highest roller, who had a total of +10, would get 12 extra development points at level 1. This means that high rolling is still beneficial — you get to have the highest stats of any character — but the other characters get a perk in that they get a few more development points, so no one feels gimped.

  4. Hi,

    Your post is cleverly about two things at once: Dice rolling and questions. Ok, three things: Prepping a game.

    I completely concur with your thoughts about dice rolling during character creation and game prep. If I or a player has to roll dice while prepping a setting or character, then it might be a kind of cheating to rescind the decision that led to the roll. Oh, maybe I don’t want the Epic Vampire Villain to have rolled all 1s for hit points. Oh, maybe I don’t want that spell list after all; besides, I’m a Rogue now, so I don’t have enough points for that. There are many excellent reasons to make changes too! Free of dice, a player can detach utterly from the GM until he has something worth sharing.

    The same reasoning holds for all game prep: If a GM can provide all the information a player needs up front, a player can theoretically hand the GM a character sheet and immediately be ready to play! Every bit of unneeded back and forth is an unnecessary obstacle. So, don’t have them.

    As for questions… I find one question of highest importance: What do you want? If a character doesn’t want anything that will help drive the campaign, something is awry. But if a character does want something, the other questions almost don’t matter, and can even be backfilled. They can even be contradicted: A player can reasonably say, “yeah, I thought my character is a pacifist, but I see now that I was wrong.” Or, “He changed his mind.” Maybe even, “I wrote that he went to Harvard, but he lied to me about that,” especially if actual play hasn’t already depended on the character’s having attended Harvard…

    Anyway,

    Ken

    1. I think you give me more credit than I am due. The post was simply about one element of a fairly new and modern game that I thought could be interesting. It prompted memories of my previous GM and so on.

      You cannot easily transplant ideas or mechanics from one game to another without unintended consequences elsewhere. 7c2e is a totally different beast to RM2 but at a conceptual level RMU and 7c2e character creation are very similar. They are both made up of going through stages from cultural background to training making choices. RMU has far more choices but the principle is the same.

      When you use a point buy system or totally diceless system like RMU, as you say, the characters can be created in isolation, sort of. This means RMU has partially addressed the problem of char gen being so inordinately time consuming. Now it can all be done away from the game table. Players could even have a stable of characters they would like to play and if one dies just whip out another and the game carries on.

      When I write these blog posts I do not have an essay plan. I know what I want to write about and just start writing and see where it goes and what ideas spin off of it. That is what happened this time and the more I think about RMU I can see how diceless char gen is the way to go.

      The missing element is the setting material. There is no point in building a Roman centurion if the game world has no matching culture.

      I touched on this when I said that any preliminary questions must be informed by the setting. That sets the tone that the character will exist within.

      1. I think I got lost in this thread. I had a day off and no sleep. When creating a PC in RMU, one rolls d100 three times, discards the lowest and is left with Temp and Potential stats. Then the stat gain rolls. I’m reading back through the posts and I think I went off track somewhere. RMU is not diceless.

        I am not a fan of stat-buying at PC creation for RM. In Vampire:tM and other White Wolf products, it works great. I think GURPS was the same way. It works great for that system too. However, if I continue with this train of thought, I’ll have enough for another entirely different topic posting.

        1. There are two big pluses to point buy, the first is that the player gets to play the character they want. I know people say that it can be a fun challenge to have to play a fighter when you normally always choose mages but there is just as much or more fun in playing the character you wanted to play. Secondly, point buy is a guaranteed level playing field. You cannot get someone roll super high and end up head and shoulders above the rest of the party.

          The only stat I don’t use point buy for is Appearance. My players just pick their appearance. If you want to be handsome then be handsome. I thank Game of Thrones to some degree for making less than Hollywood perfect central characters cool again.

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