Sunday, 28 April 2013

Making Character Creation a Mini-Game

I want to preface this by saying that I have updated my Bucket List with a few items, and it is ever growing! If any of you remember me mentioning some game I want to make/run at some point which isn't on the list, can you please comment this so I can add it? Thank you!

Making Character Creation a Tutorial Mini-Game

As many of you may know, I have a massive gaming group, peaking at 9 players currently, so when a new game is started it can (literally) take days to create characters. The process is slow and often boring as players have to wait around whilst I run the process for each one, helping them out with their individual abilities and nuances.
Rarely does it go so smoothly.
Furthermore, I always feel that at the end of character generation, most players don't really know the ins-and-outs of their character. They are a mass of numbers and words which sort of make sense to them, but don't really add up to what they have in mind. This leaves them feeling stifled and often overwhelmed with the old RPG question of "But what can I actually do?".

This is a problem. And I'm not the only one who has it.

So what we need is a way of getting players to learn the rules of the setting whilst they make their character, which they can essentially all do simultaneously without having to have the GM look over their shoulder constantly.

It sounds like we need a Tutorial.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Tutorials

Tutorial design is one of the most difficult aspects of games development. You need to teach your players something, and have that information stick in their minds. The process has to be fun enough, but still packed with information. You need to teach them snippets, then test them on it by forcing them to use what they learnt, then teach them something new, and so on until they know everything they need to.

However, it is often said that the best games are one long tutorial. Obviously, this is not a good idea for a long-running roleplaying game, but perhaps it is for the first session...

Walls of text and long expositions kill player involvement, so they must be avoided at all costs. As does bombarding with extra information, like long names and important story details. So we need something that will be short, to the point, and obvious. This is not the realm for grey morality. We need something with an obvious (and easy) combat scene, a quick social scene, and basically a short scene detailing all facets of a character's rules.
This is the Crusader Kings 2 tutorial. It is the worst tutorial. Ever.
But this only covers the rules portion.

Let's Take a Look at Morrowind

Morrowind contained within is a mini-game at start up which presented you with a string of moral choice questions. You lead through those questions and your answers spat out a character type. Now, whilst tabletop roleplaying characters are generally more in-depth and intimate than that, a similar approach can be taken.
No! You can't take me to that quiestiony guy, Juib! NO!
If we can pose a series of questions to the player which are fed through with little glimpses of the setting, we can guide them into the path of what kind of character they will be, and give them traits accordingly.

Always Back to You, Fighting Fantasy

From all of this, I am getting the message that a game book is in order. Not a very long one, but a Choose Your Own Adventure style story along the lines of the old Fighting Fantasy book series. It would need to be short enough that it could be gotten through in less than an hour, and needs to be detailed enough that most of the brunt work is done for the players and GM.
Literally the best thing.
The player could be given a character sheet at the beginning and as they progress, are told to add in different features along the way.

Now, I'm just coming to this as I am writing it, so I don't yet have an example to show. I will, however, work on one and post it as soon as I am done.

Hopefully this works!