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Is it ever Ok to have a Diceroll made during character gen kill or cripple a character before they are played?

I know in certain Systems, this is almost true if you are really unlucky at rolling. (Eg anything with rolled attributes). Personally I really dislike rolls during character generation, in any system, but I have an idea for a system where random chance "feels right".

Can such a system ever work, in serious game?
From some perspectives dying during character creation makes so much sense, but from others it is very silly.

GM: "You wanna play a solider? Well being a solider is dangerous, better roll to find out if you died in your first battle."
GM: "Well good news you survived, bad news a landmine took of both your legs."
Player: "I want to play a different soldier. I will roll up a new character. The other guy in his battalion. I keep doing this until I get a guy who is fine."

Obviously the GM would we well with in his right to deny the playing any character he don't like (so could prevent duplicates). And depending on you exact group, that might go down ok or not.
For purposes of this question, assume that the players have a big list of cool concepts they want to try out, and are not going to fight the GM if there first choice dies during character creation.

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closed as too broad by doppelgreener, Phil, Oblivious Sage, BESW, Sardathrion Mar 11 '14 at 12:35

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Hi, I'm afraid this question is almost certainly going to get closed due to it being far too broad and/or primarily opinion based. –  Phil Mar 11 '14 at 12:01
That depends on the system, whether this kind of stuff is the point of the system, and whether character creation is quick and simple enough to not make this a tremendous waste of peoples' time. Try playtesting this and see how people respond. (They probably will not respond well.) –  doppelgreener Mar 11 '14 at 12:03
I find your new, italicized stipulation an extremely unreasonable thing to assume when designing. It may happen at some tables some of the time, but most tables most of the time do not have the luxury of infinite time or infinite ideas, so it's bizarre to assume that as a baseline. The fact that you must, itself, indicates that this is a bad idea. –  KRyan Mar 11 '14 at 14:41
"Ever OK" and "can work in a serious game" is trivially answered by prior art. Is that all you're looking for? Or are you looking for how to do such a system well so that it fits into a serious game? –  SevenSidedDie Mar 11 '14 at 16:50
"Traveler" did this, and it did not work well IMHO. I fully agree with your reservations about dice rolls during character generation; it needs to be done very carefully, it is very easy to end up with very unbalanced groups. Imagine one of the players is a good friend of the GM and basically gets unlimited re-rolls, while another player is shy and has only a couple of minutes to get his rolls done -- he'll probably opt out of any "risky" backgrounds. You end up with an elite mercenary and a farmer... not fun. –  DevSolar Aug 25 '14 at 11:58

3 Answers 3

Time Wasting

This is a really, really poor idea. The entire point of character creation is to create a character to play. Having someone to do that, and then saying "oh I rolled a 1 on this roll, so start over" has just wasted their time.

At best, someone is going to roll with it and start again. Most likely they'll just make the same character (the first character has a twin brother, go figure!) until they get to play what they want. Oh, and the new version gets a free knowledge skill specialty because the first version died? Given that outcome, they got what they wanted the first time now with a bonus, only they had to do it twice. What's the point of that extra effort? Nothing has been accomplished.

I get that some people like more randomness in their character creation, as it can force them to play something they wouldn't normally try to play... but killing a character before it's even finished being created is just wasting everyone's time. There is no game benefit to doing that.

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Well, it means that the player wouldn’t, ya know, play that character, since they’re already dead. For the purposes of not wasting people’s time, just make sure the rolls are the first thing you do, and “dead” and “unplayably crippled” rolls are treated as rerolls.

But a ⅙ chance of this (times how many rolls?) seems much, much too high. Assuming there are four stats to roll, it’s a 52% chance of being dead or crippled from at least one of them. If we go to six stats, that’s a 66% chance. At ten stats, 84%.

I get that in Lovecraftian survival horror, it makes sense to be playing real, flawed people, and random bad luck is a common part of the genre, but ultimately I just don’t see much point in a character creation process that is so likely to simply not work.

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1/6 is one in six. This isn't done for each stat, it is a optional choice (you do it zero times, or once). You could choose to play a guy who is a willing to take the risk cos he really wants X (where X might be an ability it is otherwise impossible to get). You you could pay a guy who plays it safe, and doesn't roll on the table –  Oxinabox Mar 11 '14 at 12:11
@Oxinabox That’s a really poor choice then because you can’t make the judgment about whether or not (or how much) risk to take until the character is fairly fleshed out, and then a 1 should (in theory) kill the character and waste that work. In practice, people will just treat it as a reroll, or replace Jim the Detective with Vim the Detective, the twin brother Jim hadn’t known he had. Which quickly makes the game quite silly. –  KRyan Mar 11 '14 at 12:15
The problem is, that one in six chance ends up saying "Throw away and start again." which actually makes it a better result than the other failures as they get to reset the character. I can understand the other penalties, but that one just seems like it wastes the player's time. I'd remove that option and stick with just the "playable penalties" if it were my call. As for the other penalties, you're into subjective player opinion and game setting territory on those. –  Matt Thomason Mar 11 '14 at 12:15
@Oxinabox And unless the GM is handing the player a character and saying "play this", it's the players prerogative to keep making characters that are as close to what they originally wanted as they can until the GM either relents or a fight breaks out. Trying to block what they want is just setting up a fight. –  Tridus Mar 11 '14 at 12:23
@Oxinabox Yep, but presumably you wanted that player originally for a reason. Why create such a ridiculous situation for no reason? –  Tridus Mar 11 '14 at 12:42

The problem with the rule you've described is that it's not really an option.

If players can make as many characters as they want, what stops them from simply making similar characters over and over until they get the result they want? Eventually everyone will be playing a character who got an ability apparently for free or who got a free knowledge skill.

If players can't make as many characters as they want... Well, even if you can figure out how to stop them, get ready for some very unhappy players.

The only chance I see for this is something along the lines of Kobolds Ate My Baby, where the death rate for PCs is so high that players are expected to show up with half a dozen character sheets per session.

If you want this sort if bargaining in your character creation and your system assumes long-running characters, it needs to be a point buy mechanic. Players get, say, 3 points to spend on knowledge skills, or they can take a penalty from one of various categories to get more points (categories sort penalties by how many points they're worth) which can then be spent however they choose buying special abilities (which have varying costs based on how good they are).

Then if you want to maintain the illusion that the bargains are "random" you can allow players to say "give me a penalty from category Z and then buy me abilities, but don't tell me what you chose for either; I'll learn during play."

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