Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Random Background Checks

Alexis is a grognard. An angry one. Ok, maybe just slightly cranky. He's also got some neat ideas at his blog, The Tao of D&D. Recently, Alexis has posted how he tackled the use of skills in 1e AD&D. Like me, he's used a variation on the life path. However, instead of letting his player's choose, he has it determined randomly. In addition, many of the possible backgrounds supply special bonuses and dictate how much money your character starts the game with.

He's got some other interesting posts as well, like this one about pro-active players.


noisms said...

Out of interest, have you thought about having a random option for lifepaths? I've always loved random lifepaths in the games I've seen it in (Cyberpunk 2020, WHFRP).

Alexis Smolensk said...

One thing about the medieval context; multiple skills are less likely to occur because opportunity was severely curtailed by the upper classes. Most lived and died within 7 miles of their home, never going farther than that.

I find that the system I landed on works because titles denote more than just the more obvious "skills." Yes, a farmer might be tougher against the weather, and sow crops. But a player could also argue a farmer would know the difference between edible plants and weeds, how to cook, the use of tools such as a flail or scythe (additional proficiencies?), as well as time spent in and around a manse (farmers were expected to spend three days a week working on the lord's land). This last could include familiarity with the inner workings of castles (good for casing the joint), how to talk to servants, patrols, lords and ladies...all from their experience growing up.

In other words, farming is more than digging in the dirt. But it takes a clever and intelligent player to admirably make use of a background they're given.

trollsmyth said...

This is one of those areas where I part ways with the grognards. I'm not a huge fan of randomness in character generation. Heck, in some groups, where I really trust the players and know what sort of game they want, I've even let them assign their stats however they wanted.

My typical rolling regimen is 4d6, drop the lowest and assign as you wish. Usually, my players have at least a vague idea of what they want to play even before they touch the dice. I usually try to facilitate them playing the sort of character they're interested in, with the recognition that it's best to play the character you can play now, rather than enduring something today in the hopes of playing what you really want later. By that I mean, if the campaign is starting with first level characters, it's best if you create a first level character and be open to how the character changes over time, rather than trying to set yourself on a railroad to achieve what you really want to play at 8th level.

Now, if someone wants to play an all-random character, I certainly won't stand in their way. I've done it a few times myself and had great fun with it. But these days, I rarely require it of my players.

- Brian

trollsmyth said...

I generally agree with that sentiment, and have usually been blessed with the sorts of players who can take proper advantage of a much more loosely structured system of personal history and skills.

I'm a little more open to complex pasts than you, I think, but I've rarely seen anyone go overboard with it. Some really appreciate having some guidelines to work from, or a random chart they can use as a seed, especially those who tend to freeze when confronted with a blank sheet of paper.

That's a fun blog you have, and I look forward to reading your further hacks for and thoughts on playing 1e AD&D.

- Brian