Of the duration of chargen

A moment ago I was reading a follow up (in Finnish) to a short review of Warhammer 3rd edition, and it sprung one tiny fragment of discussion back to my mind.

In that particular discussion, one participant compared the time consumption of the chargens of 2nd and 3rd edition, in favor of 2nd, as he said “it took only around 10 minutes compared to the over two hours of 3rd edition.” The only flaw in that argument was the fact that those 10 minutes were the result of experience with the system. Chargen took his group over two hours in 3rd ed because, well, it was their first time. So, a flawed comparison.

But that’s not my main point, which actually goes like this: Is swiftness really an intrinsic value of chargen? And if it is, then why?

I think not. It’s just a matter of whether the process of chargen is entertaining or not. Besides, can you really put any depth into a character you throw together in fifteen or so minutes? But I do understand why it can be an advantage to some people. It lets you get into actual play ASAP, as chargen is part of pre-play, the preparation phase, that naturally happens before actual play. This I see as a feature of certain styles of roleplaying.

Still, this leaves me wondering if it’d be possible to develop some sorts of techniques or procedures to make a longer chargen process more entertaining.

I’ve had very good moments with the chargen of my friend’s game* which lets the player choose between lifepath- and point buy -chargens, although I have to take into account a possible major factor, the chemistry between myself (as a player) and my friend (as the gamemaster). For that reason I really can’t tell if the form/method of chargen in these cases has had any significant influence at all. I’d need to try the same game with other GMs to get any meaningful insight about this particular case.

So, as an outcome of this short contemplation… I really don’t have an outcome. I’ll just throw the ball to you, my readers. What are your thoughts and views? What kind of experiences you’ve had?


*He’s working on a game of his own, and I’ve been participating in the playtesting and mechanical refinement for over a year now.

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Currently playing: Queens of the Stone Age – Go With the Flow

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One Response to “Of the duration of chargen”

  1. Personally, character generation can take as long as it wants, as long as it’s entertaining. The best way to make character generation entertaining, in my experience, is a lifepath system. I think it also somewhat justifies the concept of a separate character generation session, like I’ve had for Cyberpunk 2020.

    I ran Pendragon today, a one-shot. The character generation in the game is admirably handled, I feel. If you want to do it the long way, you roll the lifepaths of your grandfather and father and see how your family history has affected you and all that rot, but if you just have to hit the table and play, there are different premade knights you can just copy out of the book.

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