There's little that's truly wrong with the character creation process on Darke, but I'd very much like to spearhead a revamping of it. This is a matter of preference in gaming I think, but I feel that we could more easily support and encourage roleplay (while staying far away from a requirement) and help newbies to be introduced to the game by adding a few more layers to character creation. Please, keep in mind this is only an idea looking for comments, more ideas, suggestions, and flames. It's in no way implying that these changes will happen ever.

The ideas starts with making sure we don't alienate die-hard Darke players by making each step of the new process on an opt-in basis. This means that if you don't want to go through character creation as outlined below, you'll still have the option to log in, choose your race and stats, and begin playing once your password hits the email address you supply. That being said, I'll move on to the mechanics.

First off, if anyone's ever used a tabletop RPG suppliment called "Central Casting: Heroes of Legend" you'll have a leg up on this idea. What happens is this: You log in to the game, and are given the options for "quick character generation" or "roleplay character generation". As stated above, quick characters will be the Darke we know and love. If you choose roleplay character generation, things will be very different.

Archtype Race Selection

So you've chosen roleplay character generation, and move forward in character generation. Your first choice is race, and you're helped through this process by being able to read help files as usual, or opting in to a race-selection helper. If you opt in, you get a list to help choose your race's body size: My character's size should be
  • Huge
  • Large
  • Average-sized
  • Small
  • Tiny
  • Random
Next you'll be taken to another list of choices that will help reflect a race's average disposition: My character's way of being in the world is most like:
  • Angry
  • Brooding
  • Brutish
  • Gruff
  • Average
  • Mild
  • Quiet
  • Sappy
  • Exhuberant
  • Random
Continuing, you're given three or so more disposition-like lists, until you're finally given your potential race(s).

The intent of this system is not to narrow down the choices to one race, but to give a range of 3-8 choices (or 25% of the available races to choose) at the end of questioning. More than 5 questions would probably be ill-advised, and the questions will be geared toward roleplay aspects of characters (such as stature and demeanor, rather than strength and intelligence). I expect most people will opt out of this helper, as it doesn't really add anything to most players who want a particular gaming experience. In the case where someone is really looking for a new roleplay avenue, it will be fun to explore an archtype though. Also, it should be noted you still have to choose a specific race, so can ignore all the results you're given and take any of the races available to everyone.

Statistic Assignment

Once a race is chosen, we move on to stat generation. Again, the system of points Darke has used since time immemorable (or sometime in the 1990's, anyway) will be the default, but an option would exist to allow folks to roll random stats. Once all four-hundred and eighty-five million (or however many stats we currently have) rolls are made, you will be allowed to toss some back, or reroll entirely - my working number here is two (two complete rerolls, or two new rolls to replace two you choose). Then another option will allow you to place the rolls you've kept as you see fit, or randomly assign them. If you've gone through the archtype generation process above in choosing your race, and opt for the random assignment the stat rolls you have will be best fit to your archtype. These are the base stats a character will work with throughout the rest of character generation, and yes, this means they might change during the rest of generation.

Background Generation

The next step of character generation is split into one or more sections, each of which will be opted in to. These are where random lifetime events that have occured before the character began their life as an adventurer in the Shadowlands, and are split as follows:
  • Infanthood
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Early Adulthood
  • Adulthood
No character will be allowed to start adventuring any later than Adulthood, though Late Adulthood and Old Age will likely have tables written just to enable that option for NPCs or Roleplay-enabling characters.

This is where we'll really need to shine if this sort of system is to be adopted well, in my opinion. Every player who has opted in to the background generation section will have at least one event in childhood and one in adolescence, and be given the chance for more. I have not included ranges for chance because that's a matter of balance, but the ideas that follow are just some that can help a person flesh out their player.
  • Infanthood
    • Orphaned - The character was orphaned at birth because <random event generated, or player enters their own>. Modifiers to stats, starting equipment, and languages are applied
    • Loss of Parent - The character's <mother/father> was killed by <random event generated, or player enters their own event> before the character ever really knew them. Modifiers to stats and languages are applied
    • Astrological Event - The character was born during an <random astrological event generated, or player enters their own>. Modifiers to stats are applied.
    • Sold! - The character is sold into <random household/business generated or by player entry> because <random reason/player entry>. Modifiers applied. Etc
  • Childhood
    • Tragedy - Character experiences the loss of <random noun/player entry> that results in <random injury/player entry>. Modifiers
    • Blessing - Character is blessed by <random entity/player entry>. Modifiers.
    • Found - Character finds a secret <random thing/player entry>. Modifiers.
    • Lost - Character gets lost for <random time/player entry> and is raised by <random race/player entry> until <random time/player entry>. Modifiers.
    • Emerging Talent - Character is discovered to be a prodigy at <random skill/player entry>. Modifiers.
    • Witness - Character is witness to a <random crime/player entry> and is forced to flee <previous starting city> for <random starting city> <with/without> family. Modifiers. Etc...
  • Adolescence
    • Ran away - The character ran away from home and spent <random time/player entry> as a child <random profession/player entry>. Modifiers.
    • Conscripted into the Military - Etc...
  • Etc...

These events and random tables are the heart of the character generation system I'd like to see employed on Darke. It's worth noting that though a character can opt out of these events being generated, they MUST accept whatever events occur if they opt in. This might result in characters that are less than perfect, but that's the idea - quirks make for enjoyable roleplay. I think the more <random/player input> we have, the better the range of characters we can support and the more likely players are to enjoy it. The events record would then sit in a self-read only background file, though there could be effects that would allow another player to discover the hidden attributes of a player's early life. By giving players this leg up on their character's motivations and life before adventuring we'd hopefully be able to encourage roleplay even in folks who wouldn't normally do so.

To give you an idea of why I like this system, I played a character on a table top AD&D game using the "Central Casting: Heroes of Legend" that started out as a human who was orphaned at birth and adopted by elves. He was witness to the theft of a good god's idol in childhood and abducted from his adoptive parents by an evil wizard. In Adolescense he exhibited tell-tale signs of evil, his guardian was mysteriously killed, and he was cursed by an evil god. In Early Adulthood he joined the military and was blessed by the good god whose idol he had seen stolen. This was one of the most meatily enjoyable characters I ever roleplayed with, even though his curse was fairly crippling in our game world. Nearly every event all four players in our game had recorded as we built our characters was eventually used as a game thread that we pursued to some end. One of the other characters in the game had a nemesis in early adulthood which made for a recurring theme for us, another guy had inherited a small cottage on a windy mountain where we often retreated to(which later turned out to be an illusory entrance to a crazed witch's hut).

I've since played only about a dozen characters made with that system, and none had as event-filled a life as the first (I rolled very awkwardly - 01-10 and 95-100 a lot - for that first character) but they were all easy to find the right personality for, and had driving goals well before we ever got into a gaming session. Every single one of them was fun for some reason or another, and none were so crippled that they were untenable as a character. In short, I think it added a great deal to the roleplay gaming experience and would like to impart some of that fun unto Darke.

Obviously there are a number of balance issues with modifiers, but I believe they could be easily overcome with some work. I'm not looking for new suggestions for events at this point - those were only provided as examples to allow you to get the feel for the system I'm envisioning - though I will solicit those eventually. What I really want to know is what you guys think about the system as a whole in terms of accomplishing the goal of giving roleplay a boost. The events would reference places and things in the Shadowlands proper, and would serve to pull the mud together as a living breathing place in my mind, but I've been known to have foolish hopes before.
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