So here's an idea. It's notes, it's rough. I don't care. The basic idea is to reduce pre-roleplay character creation to as little time as possible and transplant 90% of the pre-roleplay character creation into the act of roleplaying. It's totally on-the-fly and quite possibly impossible to play.


First, a starting set of stats which serve as a common basis for all potential characters. The system only allows opposed rolls: no shooting for target numbers. Everything comes down to your guy versus some other guy.

Wits describes your ability to act decisively and correctly in an immediate situation.
Vigor governs all physical... stuff. Running and jumping and fighting and all that. You know what I mean.
Care covers how generally careful and precise you are in the things you do.
Savvy stands in for your general social prowess and standing.

I want to impress the duchess. My Savvy, her Savvy. Nice and straightforward.

Or maybe I wanna bash you in the head. My Vigor versus your Wits, if you're trying to not be bashed. My Vigor and your Vigor if you're going to just take it cause you're that badass.

Some dude tries to poison you. His Care versus your Vigor. You're not doing a thing; you're just sitting there, hoping that your body can shrug off the effects. Cause you're all hard core and shit. Or maybe a weakling. Either way, you still roll Vigor cause that's what's in the way of Mr Poison-Pants offing you.

You want to break into an inventor's lab. Your Wits versus his Care. It's a contest between your cleverness and his preparations. He doesn't even have to physically be there for this to be true, and so the "dice" work out. Hell, he doesn't even have to be alive.

Those are the big-boy stuff, the common-to-all traits that form the backbone of the system. Or, you know, something like them. Different games would require different macro-stats; these are just convenient generic examples. In any case, they are both capability and resistence, and they can presumably handle any kind of conflict that would come up in play. That's the thinking, anyway.


On top of this chassis are added idiosyncratic, player-defined stats. So like, "PhD in Chemistry" or "Sword Ninja" or "l33t haqsor" or whatever. They can be abilities, training, relationships, character details, histories, whatever. They get brought in when they apply -- the poisoner could use the PhD; when I'm bashing you, I could use Sword Ninja; when you're breaking in, your l33t skizillz come into play.

Edit: Apparently the rough-notes thing reared its ugly head. The three examples I gave here are all in terms of skill/ability/training, which sort of implies that all micro-stats would be skill-ish things. On the contrary, "Raging Bitch," "I am God's Representative," and "Scared of Girls" could all be worthwhile micro-stats, too.

Maybe these micro-stats add to the original dice, or add dice, or let you reroll dice, or maybe I'm not using dice at all. Maybe these micro-stats have ratings, maybe they don't. Important point being they modify the macro-stat results.

Character Creation

You create a character by picking a name, concept, splitting some currency between the four initial macro-stats, pick one player-defined micro-stat, and then you start playing. Actually, your concept probably defines the one micro-stat you start with, or even is the micro-stat you start with, so it's even fewer steps. Five minutes if you put hard thought into it; sixty seconds if you're just jumping in with both feet.

Amusing Variation

Players don't buy macro-stats. They roll a set number of d4s and split them into 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s. The number of dice are the ratings of their four macro-stats. Pick a name and concept/micro-stat and go. Yes, I re-invent randomized stats.

Important point here: most players are not invested in the character at this stage, and that's fine. You're not supposed to be.

Anyway, you start playing, and you gain new micro-stats through play, either via conflict fallout a la Dogs, or by spending some currency in scenes, or by elaborating out from your initial stats, or picking them up as stakes, or whatever. The gist of it: do stuff, get micro-stats.

If at the end of any scene you're not digging on your current character, you cash him out into pure currency and make a new one, spending the currency on the four macro-stats and starting in with one starter micro-stat again. Maybe there's a little compensating rule that affords more screen presence to folks with fewer traits so they can catch up or something, I dunno.

The Point

The idea here is that character-creation-prep is lightning-fast, especially if you use the rolling-dice variation. It means you can bring in another character in the space of time it takes the GM to stand up and get a refill of soda. Players aren't invested in these characters at this point; players only become invested with the characters by playing them. How much more will I care about that "Trained by Ninja Monks" trait if I earned it, rather than just bought it? Additionally, all of those microstats on your character sheet are there for a reason, have a backstory, and probably suggest plot developments in the future. They're all attached to the situation in play (or a situation that was in play). And if you don't like the character that develops after a scene or two? Ditch 'em, turns out they were a secondary character, anyway.

Notably, however, this is missing flags and situation-creation. When characters are created so quickly and are so simple, they do not (at first) have the capacity for expressing player interests. And situation should always, in my book, be based off of player interests. So. Still work to be done. And, you know, I need a game to attach the mechanics to...

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How do you distinguish

How do you distinguish between micro-stats that have been there all along, and were only just now discovered by the PC, and those that he learned or acquired as a result of the events in play?

Oh, I wasn't being clear.

Oh, I wasn't being clear. That's one of those problems with rough notes. There is no distinction.

My character might be a ninja-chef PhD space alien, and I can run around doing ninja-chef PhD space alien things all day long, but I don't get a bonus on those things until I have a micro-stat for ninja, chef, PhD, or space alien.

Starbuck didn't have the "best shot in the Fleet" microstat until the episode in which she said, "I'm the best shot in the Fleet" and Adama grudingly agreed. She may have been the best shot in the Fleet before that episode, but she wasn't getting the extra dice/modifier/reroll/whatever until then.

Make sense?

Actually, there's an

Actually, there's an important point to that -- this sort of system will only work in games where characters are not finely differentiated by nature. You could not do, say, superheroes with this shit (well, maybe, if your first microstat was your central superpower). You could do Exalted, sorta, but you'd have to start out as pre-Exalted characters and Exalt through play to get essence-related microstats. But the important point that I'm trying to bury with examples here is that under this system, anybody can do/attempt what anybody else can. The stats only ever rate ability, never capability.

I like it. Focus on defining

I like it. Focus on defining situation- then everyone knows the kinds of character-types to aim for. "The king is dead, the 2 sons vie for control? Who are you, why do you matter to this situation?"

Also, I generally like the earned stuff through conflict more than buying with currency- since it a) encourages conflict, and b) tends to tie closer in people's heads to play. I would argue that it would be useful to have some kind of flags from other players as to how much they buy-in on your character.

For example, Ron's Doctor Chaos had people making heroes who were, effectively throwaway characters, UNLESS another player in the next scene chooses to use the hero you made- in other words- buying in on the character you introduced. I think it would be useful to figure out some way for other players to flag how much they dig your character- perhaps it results in more currency? A type of Gift Dice? Whatever.

Buy-in as a sort of

Buy-in as a sort of non-fictive currency, maybe? I'd want to stray away from the other players dictating that you can't continue to play that character any longer -- the scheme is to create player investment in the character they're playing and building, after all -- but some sort of reinforcement would be good.

I'm actually thinking it'd be neat to have a half-sheet (5.5" x 8.5") character sheet and then a half-sheet player sheet that go side-by-side in front of each player. Flags, situation, and non-fictive currency could reside on the player sheet. Also, I'm pretty sure the characters need to be recyclable, or recoverable in some way, and I haven't figured that out.

Important point here: most

Important point here: most players are not invested in the character at this stage, and that’s fine. You’re not supposed to be.

Is this true? I've always felt (I always cringe when I'm about to say things like this these days because I feel like someone is going to slap me for it) that character creation is a part of the investment process. It's a way for people to find the place that they can form emotional connections to the game, to each other, to the fiction. Soda-interval chargen would leave me feeling kind of hollow, like I were sitting down to play a boardgame. This is not to say that it couldn't be fun, or that the idea suxxors or anything, just that it may well not fill the slot on my "fun shelf" that RPG's normally fill.

Maybe it's just me, but I suspect it isn't.

Character creation is

Character creation is definitely a big piece of player investment. The point at which I put that note, though, isn't the end of character creation; it's just the beginning. The idea here is that most of character creation happens in and through roleplay, rather than before them. It's like improvisational theater games -- you walk onto stage with a profession or an emotion or something, not really that much, but you elaborate the rest of the character as you go. Make sense / sound intriguing?

It's like improvisational

It's like improvisational theater games

Yeah it is, absolutely, but to me, that proves my point, not yours.

I've done a *lot* of improv theatre games. I used to do serial soaps on stage in front of a live audience, did live improv comedy in the style of Who's Line (but long before Who's Line) weekly for several years. They were fun to do, and I was really good at it. They still felt more like a boardgame on steroids than an a good RPG to me. I got cool rewards out of both but they wern't the same reward. The difference between those two lies in emotional engagement and payoff. Live improv theatre is like... log dancing - it takes a specific kind of concentration and engagement - I've got to think about the log all the time, about how to stay upright, about how not to die. I'm really very mentally engaged, but emotionally, who has time to do that when the log is rolling? By the time I get clear of white water, I may be really exhilarated, all adrenaline excitement and have had fun, but it's not the same kind of fun that I look for when I come to an RPG. Strange analogy I know, but it's after 2 am on a weeknight, cut me some slack.

In the words of the post Brand and I put up on Yud's dice ages back... This might give me good "T" fun, but it does little for my "F", which is all the crack that RPG's give me.

I’ve got to think about the

I’ve got to think about the log all the time, about how to stay upright, about how not to die.

You might be surprised at some games people play... :P

But that aside, it's one thing to get investment with a concept in your head, but it's in play where everyone else gets invested as well. You can describe a cool idea, but it's only when you see it in action that everyone else will start to see why they, too, should care about the character.

Trollbabe does an excellent job of this same thing- chargen is easy and you get some details, but it is really focused on you truly defining your character and creating connection around the table from play itself. The key here is that you have to make play itself develop the character- so what started as a "mysterious figure emerges fromt the shadows" quickly becomes a character you have some kind of connection to in just a few short scenes.

Consider Pirates of the Carribean- Jack Sparrow walks off his sinking ship a mysterious figure, and not much later he's an interesting character of his own. The goal in this sort of character generation is, like movies, show don't tell- get it to happen and build investment as you go.

As a viewer, Jack Sparrow is

As a viewer, Jack Sparrow is interesting the moment his ship pulls up to port. We invest in Jack Sparrow by watching him perform in the action. As an actor, Johnny Depp has been through makeup, costume, rehersal and dozens of takes to make that first scene that interesting to the audience. He's that cool a character because Johnny Depp really owns him and projects through him. Was Jack Sparrow that cool when Johnny Depp took only the five minutes before the audition to ramp up to playing him? Not by a long shot. Of course, there's a lot of reasons why, and many of them don't apply to RPGs, but the ones I'm looking at are context, confidence and grounding: Jack Sparrow rocks the Black Pearl because Johnny Depp is invested in him and has enough grounding in him to feel confident and safe pushing the world in him. Most importantly to my point above, when I am Johnny Depp, I get my greatest reward from RPG when I have that confidence and grounding - when I feel "in context" *before* I hit the dock.

I think there's an art to finding a happy medium: the chargen process that gives me just enough to bravely move forward in engaged context and not enough to delay the play. Dogs does this for me. I've never experienced a fully satisfying chargen process that was shorter than Dogs. At first I thought it was a fluke, but the second game I was in it played out the same way. A lot of this has to do with the extraction process of Dogs' chargen, but an equal amount has to do with cliche - a key ingrediant in quick and dirty but effective characters. But still, making a Dog takes about 15-20 minutes for me. When I hit play, I'm neither under-invested (no fun for me) nor over-invested (took too long - no fun for other people, belabored process).

I'd agree that everyone needs

I'd agree that everyone needs enough focus to get drive going. Though, enough "focus" is completely dependant on the game and the situation. For example, longtime WW players could see that if I say, "I want to play a Ventrue who suddenly has gained a conscience..." that within that sentence alone, there's a situation and conflict and that's enough to engage most people. I can point to Trollbabe and Stranger Things as both being really short creation times that orient people rather well. The former works like a rorschach test for you to project investment into, and the latter has a stronger emphasis on the conflict issue of being between two peoples- like the Vampire example, it's easier to orient and invest when presented with a situation as a compass.

All said though- all those ideas can easily encapsulate in Josh's game idea- so the real focus is going to sit in situation creation to get the fire stoked for everyone. My previous example of "King is dead, 2 sons fight" means character creation & investment can be as simple as, "I'm the daughter, AND I've got plans of my own"- and everyone at the table gets interested...

Mo, you may be very right

Mo, you may be very right that this is all Thinking and no Feeling fun -- I mean, what a surprise that I'd design along those lines, huh? On the other hand, I think there's a lot to be said for the missing parts, as Chris has mentioned. Flags and situation might go a long way to contextualizing the entire process. I also think that putting this in the context of an actual game, instead of isolated mechanics, would address some of that, as well. As you say, genre tropes and cliches go a long way to making character creation fast and easy, since you know what you're creating. What if this was, say, a noir detective game -- would you be more able to jump in with a one micro-stat character if you knew the milleu that you were jumping into? Or to get really familiar, what if we were running a game set in the world of Tribe 8 -- would the familiarity with the setting allow you to ground yourself and provide confidence to stride onto stage?

On the other hand, since you've mentioned Dogs, lemme ask this -- the Accomplishment that your character does at the Dogs Temple: do you consider that the last part of character creation, or the first part of roleplay?

In the end, this may be a 'what people want out of the game' sort of deal -- if you want a character creation process that's like that full battery of costume-and-makeup that gets you into character, and I want to do all that getting into character while roleplaying, it may just be a difference in taste. I would, however, like to hear your responses to the above -- this is interesting.

Chris, Everything in your


Everything in your post is true: for you and people that play like you. For Mo and people that play like Mo pretty much everything you said is not true. I gaurantee you money.


I think you have it at last. For the record, no Mo doesn't jump in faster when she knows the world really well. It doesn't matter if she's playing a Dhalian in Tribe 8 (note for those not 'us' Mo wrote the book on Dhalians in Tribe 8), she will still want more prep with her character. For her a tag, a note, or a karmic direction are not the point. That might let her play, but it will not emotionally invest her in play. And without that, she'll be playing a boardgame. She needs the fine detail dharma-kama-artha of the character, and that does mean more than "enough to start" as something to engage with in her character.

It is a thinking/feeling thing, I suspect, but its also more than that. You plug into game through narrative structure, Chris and I through story (from what I know of Chris), Mo through character. So your nifty idea gives you, me, and Chris enough to plug into what we're doing -- as we're there for the story and structure and can define the character as we go. Mo though, Mo's there for character as the prima facia case, and so must have character before she can become interested in story.

This, I think, is a marvelous thing. We're getting to the point where we're really starting to pull shit apart and see where the faultlines are. Plus, I think this would be a great thing for a lot of games. Less prep time, damnit!

In Tribe Awesome!

In Tribe Awesome! Wachow!

Now I want to know what constitutes the dharma-kama-artha of a character. I know the terms, but I don't know how they apply here, outside of a "holistic accounting of who/what the character is." Can you write it out in a paragraph? One sentence? A phrase?

I do see characters as tools to be used in manipulating the "real meat" of the game, that being the story/situation-in-action. I understand that you may approach character in a different way, Mo. We can see faultlines, sure. Can we find the overlap? Cause the proposed mechanic is mostly Dogs minus four Traits and two Relationships. Are those four traits and two relationships the difference between a boardgame pawn and a roleplaying character? Or is it a emergent property of those added traits that lend themselves to creating something bigger? Mo, could you get your game on with half that (starting with four macro-stats and four micro-stats)? Or is it not something that goes on the character sheet at all?

(It occurs to me that Mo may not play Dogs like I do at all. I really dig on adding new stats and tweaking their die-sizes and stuff in play. Mo, do you use Fallout to create your character like that, or do you use Fallout more for growing the character from the foundation you create in cgen?)

Josh, You say, "I do see


You say, "I do see characters as tools to be used in manipulating the “real meat” of the game, that being the story/situation-in-action" and I say, "Yes."

You say, "Can you write it out in a paragraph? One sentence? A phrase?" and I say, "Um... welll.... ugh.... "

The difference I was pointing at has something to do with momentum vs. weight. If your character has very little substance, but has momentum (karma) then you have an ability to start with that and build the rest through play. That's what your system does, and why I like it. Mo, otoh, needs a character that has a life already -- she'll also want to have the momentum with her characters -- but she needs more than just that to get her joy on. Her characters need to start out with a certain weight, a sense of existance and flesh, rather than just movement.

You can start a character with a direction and a prayer. She starts her characters with a full costume and a mask. (And a direction.)

(BTW, Its funny to watch her make a character these days and then go "oh, I need a kicker.. um kickers are hard" and me look at the character and go "dude, you already have a kicker, what do you think this last part here is?" In making her costume she's gotten very adept at also making situation and conflict -- the two things do work well together in her hands.)

Okay, is the character's

Okay, is the character's weight, existence, and flesh something that is encoded in the character sheet at all, or is it instead something that exists outside/beyond/above the character sheet?

Okay, is the character’s

Okay, is the character’s weight, existence, and flesh something that is encoded in the character sheet at all, or is it instead something that exists outside/beyond/above the character sheet?

Um... yes.

I guess the bigger answer is it depends on how well the game in question supports my play style. In most nar games? Yes, it's on the sheet because the weight/existance/flesh is (because my characters usually are) about conflict: the character's conflict with self or with the world. Most nar games I've played allow/mandate the creation of your own kinds of traits which allow for customization that works well for me.

In my favorite Dogs character: Jeremiah Wainright

I can pare it down to:

a.) (this is important) the background: Strong Community (This provides a certain "clichishness" that contributes vitally to the psychology of the character and so provides a framework to work from without having to put down many specifics. This is my artha, my value in the world)

b.) the macros: Acuity: 3d6 Body: 3d6 Heart: 5d6 Will: 2d6 (also artha)

c.) the traits/relationships:

I ain't killed anything my whole life: 1d8
I'll risk bodily harm to help people: 1d6
I've got me a weakness for girls: 2d4.
I'm the first Dog out of Sunset (home town): 2d8
My whole community depends on me to be a dog: 2d8
(Most of this is dharma. Having a sense of dharma is extremely important to me in a game. If I don't have it, I'll flail.)

d.) And the initiatory conflict: When push comes to shove, do I got the will to be a Dog? (This is the Karma, momentum)

I think that would have been enough to get me started.

The other things really helped too, because they gave me things to play with, and made me comfortable in exploring my colour, but those ones are the ones that were critical. Fallout is evolution. I really dig on adding new traits and (less so) tweaking stats too, but I see it as tangible ways my characters have evolved, rather than part of the character creation process. I think of initiatory conflict as play with training wheels.

In "standard-trait-all-number stat" sheets like say... Storyteller, no, not really, because what I need has less to do with what my character can do and more to do with who my character is.

(I fixed your italics

(I fixed your italics tag.)

Okay, I'm getting a better idea of what you're talking about, then. So for you, Mo, you need a relatively elaborated sense of self, contextualized to the world, before you feel comfortable roleplaying. In terms of sheer information, that is a lot more than my proposed model above offers. I'm going to think on this for a bit.

That's it absolutely, Mister

That's it absolutely, Mister Man.

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