swordchucks
 member, 1380 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 19:24
Premade characters
In the PBP arena, premade characters are not necessarily a good idea.  The biggest issue is that players are invariably going to be less invested in a character handed to them than they are to one they made themselves.

How I've mostly seen this done is that if someone disappears from playing a character, you get someone to take over that character.  They may get some ability to remake the character in order to make it their own, or not.  It's slightly-premade and maintains the continuity, but still gives investment.
engine
 member, 301 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 19:25
Premade characters
In reply to katrionea (msg # 1):

I don't have anything inherently against premade characters, and I can certainly see the advantages of them. If none of the characters appealed to me, though, and there was no way for me to customize them I'd probably take a pass on the game.

What's an example of the kind of situation you see this helping?
katrionea
 member, 3 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 19:31
Premade characters
Hmm, that's a good question. I'm sort of unsure on the pros and cons myself (hence the thread) but for a specific example, I think I could see a premade cast being a boon in a story-focused game with a cast of characters that were friends, or otherwise closely knit. It'd keep you from having to shuffle off a character whose arc is unfinished (since not only would it affect that character, but the other characters and their players, too) because Person A suddenly got super busy.
LonePaladin
 member, 576 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 19:34
Premade characters
I'm currently running a Pathfinder game, a mega-dungeon. While setting it up, I decided that I didn't want to spend a week laying down the foundations, and then spend another month waiting for everyone to make characters. So I took an extra day or two to make about a dozen pregens -- specifically, the iconic characters that game has made already -- and let the players pick from them.

It's been working very well so far. As soon as everyone settled on which characters they wanted, all I had to do was switch them over, hide the unused characters, and start the game. It immediately kicked things into gear, and the game basically hit the ground running. I've been trying to keep up the momentum with a fair amount of success so far.

I'm strongly considering taking the pregen route in any games I run in the future.
engine
 member, 302 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 19:38
Premade characters
In reply to katrionea (msg # 4):

I recommend looking into how TV shows handle the loss or departure of an actor. It's done in a variety of ways. Sometimes there's no real resolution, sometimes the resolution is handled "off screen," sometimes the replacement enables the resolution. It depends on the kind of story. But the point is that dealing with actor/player loss is a known issue, so look into how it's done.
katrionea
 member, 4 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 19:52
Premade characters
Right, and I agree - but it's definitely a real immersion-killer for me when it's done poorly or too often on a TV show, and I can't imagine it's any better in a game. That's partly why I was thinking a core cast of premades might be a good way to counter that.

I can definitely see how it'd work in a game focused around mechanics, like in LonePaladin's example, and I'm curious to see if anyone has experience with premades in a more story-centric game as well.

This message was last edited by the user at 19:53, Fri 21 Apr.

engine
 member, 304 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 20:57
Re: Premade characters
katrionea:
Right, and I agree - but it's definitely a real immersion-killer for me when it's done poorly or too often on a TV show, and I can't imagine it's any better in a game.
It is better in a game, for the basic reason that you and the remaining players get to decide for yourselves what makes sense and how to make it work for your immersion. You don't have an anonymous audience of millions that you're trying to keep immersed.
swordchucks
 member, 1382 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 21:14
Re: Premade characters
Again, I think the real weakness is going to be investment.  I've played a lot of characters, and when playing pregens I never feel quite as "in" to the character as when I've made my own.

I make pregens for my RL group a lot when we're playing a game they're not familiar with.  I usually bring the idea to them and let them give me the broad sketch of their character and I then make a character based on that.  I think you could do it in reverse, giving "Character A is the party leader, and he is brave, trustworthy, and strong" and then letting them build a character around that and it'd work, too.  In both cases, involving the players in the process strengthens investment.
nauthiz
 member, 517 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 21:27
Re: Premade characters
I think there's a bit of a difference between a pre-gen that someone will be taking up for the first time in a new game, and a character somebody else has generated, played a bit, and then abandoned.

Most pre-gens I've seen have been fairly skeletal in their frameworks.  Some mechanics, maybe a motivation or goal, perhaps a few notes on personality.  Otherwise they're essentially designed to get the mechanics of character generation out of the way so playing can begin and much of the non-mechanics of the character can be fleshed out however the player chooses.

I don't think that's a bad thing in PBP as long as the GM is up front about their intentions and the players are good with it.  In that case I think it's better to have more characters than players, so nobody feels like they're getting "stuck" with whatever other players didn't want.

Now, once the character has been played by someone, and then abandoned, the origins don't matter as much.  It's less a "pre-generated" character and more an "existing" character.  I've taken over a few existing characters before with mixed results.  As far as player comfort, some people don't mind, others do.  I don't think there's much you can do about that particular preference.

There are a few issues with bringing in a new player to take over an existing character of course.  From a purely logistical standpoint, if the GM doesn't do the transfer correctly the new player won't gain access to all of the information that might have been generated about the character already.  Being able to see the PM's between the previous player and the GM and other players is helpful in getting to know the character and making the transition between players more seamless.

However the probability of such a transition being completely smooth and unnoticeable is low enough to just about approach zero in my experience.  That can have a detrimental effect on the other players, and the game as a whole depending on how jarring it is.

Most of the games I've been in where it's possible for characters to be handed off to other players has either had that information stated up front by the GM so everybody knows it might happen, or it has been discussed and that course of action decided on by the group after a player goes MIA.  Having such policies stated before the game begins can help because potential players know there may be these transitions, as well as knowing that the GM is willing to try and push forward rather than having the game potentially sputter and die because of player attrition.

I have also seen some GMs take a more hybrid approach.  A player steps in to take over a character, but only long enough to reach a point where they can then be written out of the story.  A new character, originated by that new player, is then organically introduced.  It's not a perfect solution but it does help patch over the continuity issues of characters being in the middle of something when their players disappear, and allows new players to get a feel for the group and the game as well as have the investment that a lot of players feel for characters they've developed and designed themselves.
Brianna
 member, 2118 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2017
at 23:03
Re: Premade characters
Since I played in a lot of tournament games, I'm accustomed to having a pregen character.  When you have four hours to play, including at least half an hour for scoring and wrap up, there's no time to be generating characters, nor time for those characters, who may not have all the skills and resources required to complete the mission, find their feet in the situation.  But you only have that character for those four hours, not a big deal.  I think very basic pregen can also work for PbP, especially if the system is unfamiliar to some/all of the players and/or the GM is very specific about the right mix of skills.  But this allows for the players to make the character their own by customizing with skills, appearance, and most equipment.  I remember my first Eberron character was taken pretty much whole from the 'net.  I didn't know the system well, though I had a general idea what I wanted to play, the GM was in a hurry to start and my RL was very busy, and when I looked online for help I found one who only needed a little tweaking and a rewrite of history to be just what I had in mind (the GM knew and was fine with that).

I have also taken over characters created by other players.  In one case I recall the character was very sketchy and what was there needed a lot of fixing.  For instance the original player had given her a sword that weighed almost as much as she did, and a low Strength stat.  IIRC I had to keep the class (cleric) and was free to change pretty much anything else.

In another case the player had left .. ahem.. by mutual agreement, and it was a *requirement* that the character should have a personality change.  The basic character was well made, but even though she walked around, when she wasn't in armour, wearing the transparent clothing that was the custom for ladies where she came from, she got angry when males turned to stare (what did she expect??).  Mind you there was one of the PCs, whose player also left, who tried to do more than look.  Maybe he had to retire because he lost (at least) his hands, I don't remember now.

So it all depends.  In general I can't imagine taking over a character where I had no room to change anything; I'd want something to make it mine.  But I've certainly inherited characters that were pretty well established, and needed little change to fit me well enough.
Grimmond
 member, 452 posts
 Antler-care by LIV THATCH
 "RALPH" The Wonder Llama
Sat 22 Apr 2017
at 04:52
Re: Premade characters
The last few games I started I have found that players have a hard time following specific directions in the CharGen threads. They do not seem to read the part about players being newbs, or green troops. They build characters that are super human and wiz right on past the part in my directions that say DO NOT USE THE BOOK ... USE THE CHARGEN THREAD. I HAVE CHANGED THINGS.

So the next game I run will start with PreGens ... or at least a simple point buy in. I really do like the PreGens though ... that way the character sheets are already filled out and I do not have to nag players about gear and such ... it's already done !
willvr
 member, 1044 posts
Sat 22 Apr 2017
at 05:37
Re: Premade characters
I usually use a compromise, once a game has started. People can use an abandoned character until they can get around to making their own - or if they decide they like them, they can keep them; though I usually prefer not. Basically it allows new players to start playing right away without having them get bored of waiting till the 'ideal time' to bring a new character in. This is particularly true of more dungeoncrawly games.
facemaker329
 member, 6920 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Sat 22 Apr 2017
at 08:02
Re: Premade characters
Like Brianna, most of my experience with pre-generated characters has been tournament/convention gaming.  In a PbP setting, aside from facilitating the game start-up, I don't see any advantage, at all.  Someone mentioned how TV shows deal with actors leaving the series...it's rare that they cast another actor to play the same character, because even with writers putting the same kinds of words on the page, the character no longer feels the same.  Personally, I would accept an existing character under very specific circumstances...the character had only recently been introduced (so there's not a lot of already established traits that I have to force myself to play);  something traumatic happened to the character (which would make some personality shifts plausible; or the GM asked me to do so because the character is integral to the storyline (in which case, almost always, I do it with great reluctance.)  Aside from that, I prefer a character that I built because I know I can play it without having to deliberaterate with myself.
Grimmond
 member, 453 posts
 Antler-care by LIV THATCH
 "RALPH" The Wonder Llama
Sat 22 Apr 2017
at 10:23
Re: Premade characters
I may do pregenerated characters and allow modification in the future just to avoid all the weeks it takes to get everyone up and running and then having to comb through the sheets to get them all updated.
LonePaladin
 member, 577 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Sat 22 Apr 2017
at 12:35
Re: Premade characters
Grimmond:
have to nag players about gear and such

I have lost count of the number of times someone has given me a bare-bones character, after two weeks of deliberation, and they haven't bothered buying any gear. I can make a character of any level, fully equipped, within half an hour regardless of game system. (Well, except for Rolemaster.)
willvr
 member, 1045 posts
Sat 22 Apr 2017
at 12:39
Re: Premade characters
I disagree. Gear is hard in 3.5/PF at higher levels. Once you go beyond '+1 armor, +1 main weapon'.

Having said that, it does still need to be done; and shouldn't need much nagging for it.
Utsukushi
 member, 1413 posts
 I should really stay out
 of this, I know...but...
Tue 25 Apr 2017
at 15:42
Re: Premade characters
I'm generally with the camp that pregens are awesome for Convention games where there's not enough time to make characters and then play the game - but time is usually one of PbPs strengths.  Not saying it's not a mixed blessing, but the fact that people can sit down and work on it when they have time is generally the thing PbP does best.

BUT, there are certain games I can see pregens working well for.  A few systems come to mind, but honestly it's more a type of game.  I always liked them in Paranoia, because it meant they were not only kind of tied to the scenario, but all the little subplots and secret society missions and whatnot were... well, deliberately matched against each other.  And that can work really well.  I find it's important for most LARPs, too, even apart from time issues, unless it's a full campaign.

Now, Paranoia probably has an advantage in that you're not really supposed to get too attached to your character, but I could see that working well in any system.  If you have a game where those kinds of connections are important, both between the players and from the players to the... not just the world, but the game, specifically?  There's a lot of advantage in being able to make sure the group has specific abilities they might need, or to plan ahead for certain traits to come up and be interesting, that does not then require railroading the game to make sure these things happen.

So, yeah, I might be tempted to run a pregen there.  But if you're going that way, they have to be really interesting and have a good variety.  I really, really hate looking through a stack of 12 pregens for a game and finding out there's one woman, and she's the healer.

Which so happens.

It used to happen a lot.  I do think people are getting better about that, though.


...I'm not sure it really helps much with players cycling, though.  I mean, yes, if you have kind of an ensemble on-hand, then when you bring in someone new you don't have to go through the whole creation process with them before they can join.  But you do still have to deal with either them taking over a character someone else has played, or sorting out the abandoned character and then getting to a good spot in the game for someone new to come in and adjusting everyone to working with someone new and... and... well, again.  This is a place where time works in your favor already in PbP: You can be working with someone in PMs building their character for the two or three weeks real-time it takes to get to where they can join anyway.

So... yeah.  Pregens in PbP?  Not necessarily always a bad idea.  But I don't think they solve what you're trying to solve.
bigbadron
 moderator, 15347 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Tue 25 Apr 2017
at 15:56
Re: Premade characters
I used pregens in a Traveller game.  I wanted a ship's crew, with six characters who could fill six specific positions on the ship, so I created eighteen characters, three for each slot.

As each player applied, I asked them for their preferred role.  Then presented them with the three characters for that role and told them to pick the one they liked.  The characters were purely a list of stats, skills and equipment, with no names, gender, or back story (beyond a career, and number of terms served, plus a note on whether they left the career voluntarily or not).

So pregens, with a bit of player input.

I'd probably use that approach again.

This message was last edited by the user at 03:03, Wed 26 Apr.

byzantinex
 member, 96 posts
Tue 25 Apr 2017
at 17:00
Premade characters
In reply to katrionea (msg # 1):

I just took over a character for someone else at 11th level by request of the DM.

I didn't mind her being pre-made at all, and I probably would not have joined the game if I had to create a 10th level character. It was nice to read the past posts with her in the game, kind of like reading a book with dice rolls. Then I just took over and started playing her.

I think the idea of letting them customize (even recursively) is a good idea to give someone buy in.

At the moment I'm REALLY frustrated with the attrition on RPOL so I understand where you're coming from.

I think it's a good idea overall. Post in your "looking for players" thread I have x, y, z PC's that need players and I think that would either get you the ones you want, or turn the others away.
Alex Vriairu
 member, 408 posts
Tue 25 Apr 2017
at 17:15
Premade characters
Eh for those that would use them, great, but I don't think I ever could.  When I see something looking for premades or character take over, no matter how good the rest of the game looks I just walk away.
Mrrshann618
 member, 114 posts
Tue 25 Apr 2017
at 17:23
Premade characters
In a setting like this everyone wants their own vision. In the context of "I need a pilot, an engineer, ect" I think that pre - defined roles would/should be acceptable. Basic stats would be my margin.

There are many games and settings that require certain specifications. Call of Cthulhu for example might require that one player IS an actor or booze baron to tell the basic backdrop of the story.
LonePaladin
 member, 579 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Wed 26 Apr 2017
at 02:51
Re: Premade characters
Utsukushi:
I really, really hate looking through a stack of 12 pregens for a game and finding out there's one woman, and she's the healer.

Which so happens.

It used to happen a lot.

Remember that Pathfinder game I mentioned? I made eleven pregens, using the iconic character straight from the Core Rulebook. Out of those eleven, six are female.

I recruited five players. When everyone had made their selections, it turned out that they had all picked female characters. So I have an all-woman party.
drewalt
 member, 70 posts
Wed 26 Apr 2017
at 03:49
Re: Premade characters
Whenever I've done pre-gens, I often just give a list like:

Body:  Thin, tall
Hair:  Long, blonde, tips dyed red

Etc. and a short "motivation"/bio block and never actually mention a gender.  "You're a private detective hired to find the missing gems.  You are cynical and drink too much gin, your shoes are always highly polished, and you collect orange things."

That way whoever picks them up can assign it which gender the player thinks the character is based on that, and it creates a little "buy in" because it forces the player to create some missing part of the persona.

In some games that will not work of course, but the more murder hobo the game is the better this seems to pan out.
tsukoyomi
 member, 88 posts
Wed 26 Apr 2017
at 03:52
Re: Premade characters
why specify the body? what do you gain from it?

I can get motivation/bio if you want the characters pre-woven into the story instead of figuring that out after chargen, or reduce what's necessary for this connection to one/two aspects of those; I can get sheet if you want to start playing immediately instead of waiting, but why the hell define appearance?
Isida KepTukari
 member, 130 posts
 Elegant! Arrogant! Smart!
Wed 26 Apr 2017
at 04:48
Re: Premade characters
I haven't done pre-made characters yet in a PbP game, though I would seriously consider it.

I've been running a D&D 3.5 game on here for about three years, and after a certain amount of shuffling of characters in the first six months or so as people disappeared, I just decided that no new characters were going to come in.  Anyone who wanted to come in could take over a discarded character.  This is partially due to the slow in-game pace of PbP, because having someone disappear halfway through a journey, or in the middle of a forest, or partway through a dungeon is very, very awkward to explain.

"I promise I shall be with you to the end!"

*disappears after 4 hours of in-game time*

DM: sigh

I've had two or three generations of players on a single character (giving them the freedom to retool the character if necessary), and the game is still going strong.

I would definitely consider pre-made characters, particularly if I was using an adventure made for a convention or game day.  Those adventures usually assume a particular balance in the party, and pre-made adventures like that usually require a lot of re-tooling if your players end up making characters that don't suit the adventure.  Yes, yes, you could hand out roles, or say, "I'm only looking for someone to fill a social role at this time" but since most convention adventures come with pre-made PCs, that would be a hell of a lot simpler and make the game go more smoothly.