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Warhammer Wednesday #5: randomness = realism

Written by MythicParty - Published on April 3, 2013

robot babyThis week we’re suggesting a simple technique inspired by the flavor of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that can have a major impact on your game because it will make starting a D&D campaign much more realistic.  How?  Well it changes the way character creation happens by using a 4-step process designed to mimic the complete randomness of being born. After all we didn’t choose our own ‘stats’ they came to us via DNA.

But even before we get to that, you & your players will be creating everyone’s character on the same night.  Darkwarren has already talked about some of the benefits to this, but in this instance having the group together is essential because each player will in affect be creating another player’s character.  Yup, the dice they’re praying on won’t be for their own PC- but don’t tell them this at the start.  Now onto the 4 steps:

  1. Make a table listing all the allowable races for your campaign.  Weight the numbers for each so that more common races have a higher chance of being rolled while rarer ones are harder to roll.  For example, if in your world the Elves are heading into the West you might say they are only a 19 or 20 on a d20 while Humans being everywhere are a 1 through 10, Halflings being pretty common are 11 through 14 while Dwarves going into decline come in at 15 through 18.  Then have each player roll to see what the race for that particular character is.  Again, notice we didn’t say ‘for their particular character’ because it isn’t.  If you allow a lot of races or have some exotic (translation: wacky) ones like  Garuda-blooded Aasimar, then you might want to consider percentile dice.  Incidentally, WFRP’s character creation uses d100 extensively as the various character generation tables have dozens of options.
  2. Next, have everyone roll stats: in order.  Absolutely no point buys!  (Your players want those, tell them to go play an RPG on Xbox.)  If you’re doing a generous method such as 4d6 & dropping the lowest, that’s fine, but the key is to leave the ending number for the stats in the order that they were rolled in.  No switching up after the fact- that is crucial to this concept.
  3. Now randomly roll for as much of the other aspects as possible.  Everything from the name, to family composition to social class.  Then based on both the ability scores (after any racial modifications) plus the other randomly generated info, the players should then pick the most sensible class for that individual they’re working on.  This should be done without any tableside discussion.  Based upon all this material, have each player write a very short synopsis of what they imagine the background for that character to be.  Approve or request any edits/changes to this background as necessary: fitting both game balance as well as realism.
  4. Finally, have each player write their name somewhere at the top.  Then collect all the sheets, shuffle them up, & let everyone pull from the pile, sight unseen.  Whatever one they pull is their starting character.  The other player’s name at the top means that they have a relationship of some sort to that person’s starting character.  If they picked their own, then they are coming into the setting not knowing any of the others.

  Voila!  Instant realism that reflects the randomness of who we are when we come into the world.  So basically, much like WFRP, the characters have to make the most of who they start out as.  Rather than beginning exactly the way they want by selecting their own stats or composing an ideal background, they must learn to work with what the hand Fate has dealt them.  But ultimately, the journey from that starting point will be more rewarding because it was more realistic.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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Warhammer Wednesday #5: randomness = realism, 2.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings » Leave a comment



4 Responses to “Warhammer Wednesday #5: randomness = realism”
  1. Liack says:

    Interesting enough…the only potential pitfall is having all or a few of the characters overlapping in certain area (especially the “without tableside discussion” in part 3). It could bring an interesting party of 4 paladins with slightly different builds, or 3 rangers and a wizard…which in itself isn’t a bad thing…but it might be harder on the DM to spin something challenging without being overtly so.

  2. Darkwarren says:

    This really intrigues me. Seems to place more emphasis on roleplaying than roll-playing.

  3. Suspense says:

    First I’ll say I really like the concept of creating a character at random and then deciding on a class/build that fits. As a player I would be down with that, but I can see a lot of players not going for it at all.

    “After all we didn’t choose our own ‘stats’ they came to us via DNA.” Not true! Who in the world is born with bulging muscles or a charismatic personality? I think all the traditional RPG stats are greatly influenced by a person’s choices. Choosing to play basketball everyday will make you a very different person than joining the debate team. Even intelligence, I feel, is largely the result of a person’s choices to pay attention in class, study their homework, read lots of books, etc. All these things have a profound effect on how a person thinks and learns.

  4. MythicParty says:

    Wow, someone only gave this idea 2 stars? Feel free to tell us why!

    @Liack: I think having multiple classes is not only interesting but realistic- how likely is it that a party will be perfectly balanced right off the bat? In a situation with 4 paladins or 3 rangers/1 wizard, its up to the players to decide from this point on what to do with their characters advance-wise.

    Besides, giving a PC a career-change is believable. How many people do you know have had the same job/role/’class’ from start to retirement?

    @Darkwarren, hey let’s do it for the next campaign!

    @Suspense, like any House Rule having player ‘buy in’ is key for a new variant or option to have a fair chance of being tried out. However not matter what the change is, some players will always seem to drag their feet. At the end of the day, its up to DMs to setup the structure that they feel best works for their games. Then hopefully through a combination of diplomacy, leadership, & fiat have setup the structure as needed.

    We definitely disagree about nature vs nurture- you can play basketball every day but without the right genes you’re not going into the NBA.

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