Friday, September 3, 2010

Heroes and Zeroes

You all know the two schools of thought on RPG characters.

One says random character generation is more realistic. You never know what you're gonna get--Superman, or Pee Wee Herman. Usually something in between. And those random die rolls can get your creative wheels turning, as you ponder just who such a character is, and why they'd be adventuring.

The other says semi-random (skewed high) or non-random character generation is more realistic. People with mental retardation or cerebral palsy don't get to join the Navy SEALs, so why would any sane group of adventurers take them along? It's unheroic to have low stats because people with low stats wouldn't go dungeon delving where it's near certain death for them.

But what if we turn that thinking around? What if, for whatever reason, Society at Large has rejected these poor slobs, and the ONLY way they've got a chance to be more than just a burden on their families and community is to go seek adventure or death? And the fit, strong, intelligent people know they can easily rise to the top without risking getting turned to stone or dissolved in a pit of green slime, so why would they even consider setting foot into a dungeon?

Probably not what most people would want to play long term, but might make for a fun one-shot. Gamma World is good at producing some random hopeless characters. Go into it with the right attitude (like competing to see who has the most interesting character death, or to see who can actually overcome their limitations and actually thrive), and that could be a real fun game.


  1. It's a good point. Has anyone done historical research into what kind of people volunteered to become mercenaries, crusaders or explorers? I would think it would take a similar mindset to a person in a fantasy world - heck, given that folks once thought dragons lurked on the corner of the map, I guess medieval explorers did have the mindset of fantasy characters.

  2. That is the theme of Drawings and Dragon's Feudal Run campaign.

  3. I think the only way to play adventurers in detailed settings with well-defined social hierarchies - e.g., Tekumel or Harn - is to play them as either outsiders or dregs. As you said, no respectable man with prospects in either of those settings is going to flout convention and invite social ruin by engaging in daft activities like delving and freebooting.