[After a quick break for vacation and minor surgery, let’s get back at it, shall we?]
Character creation comes in three flavors: detailed, where people crunch the numbers all by themselves; quick-and-dirty, where they pick Attributes and skill values from pre-defined arrays; and, easiest of all, pre-generated characters where everything except certain skills are chosen already (including equipment and other mundanities).
Pre-gens ensure that character creation is basically effortless, a big plus for new players. They also illustrate the range of character types available in the setting. A quick flip through the pre-gens lets you know what character types are possible and well-suited for the campaign.
All characters, no matter how they’re created, are built around a template: a title that illustrates the core concept of the character. Renegade Magus. Vengeful Hunter. Doubting Cleric.
This title, usually in the form of , tells you what the character is: warrior, noble, scientist, werewolf, alien, pulp super, etc. That’s the part.
The part tells you something of their situation, personality, motivation, and so on. It tells you what is unique about this character, how this wizard is different from every other wizard.
A character’s template is the simplest, clearest expression of their core concept. It is the seed crystal around which everything else about the character — Attributes, skills, and so forth — forms.
Even characters built from the ground up need one of these handy titles, before anything else is chosen. The player should choose what kind of character he wants (Magician, Secret Agent, Duelist) and a word or phrase that describes their situation, background, or personality (Driven, Disavowed, Cautious). They can mix and match these two as they see fit (within the limits of the campaign world). Choosing a template is the very first step in the character creation process.
Pre-gens have a template chosen for them (in fact, pre-gens are typically called templates). Players can modify the half of these, if they wish. Obsessed Parapsychologist, Disturbed Parapsychologist, and Discredited Parapsychologist all imply different truths about the character, different circumstances and different personalities. But all three are Parapsychologists, with the skills and gear that title implies.
Hunted Wildfang Werewolf, Reluctant Wushu Warrior, or Greedy Cyberlegger, the template lets you know exactly who they are. And that’s important for both players and GM’s.
The template is so critical that two other character elements are directly tied to it: Talents and Trouble. I’ll talk more about both next post.
[Note: For all the Torg players, you know the templates. The names are iconic: Dark Avenger, Curious Mage, Renegade Hospitaller. This template system will work more or less the same, except that the template name is, while not quite a mechanic in and of itself, the hook on which all the other character-oriented mechanics are hung.]