This could be considered related to - but definitely not the same as - What are the advantages and disadvantages of develop in play (DIP) compared to develop at the start (DAS) character generation?. For this question, I'm interested in focussing on the method and results of "Prior Career"-style generation, where you end up with a character that has a "partial backstory" and skills, vs. what I call, in my biased fashion, "Throw the kid in at the deep end"-style character generation, where you start with a character that may have certain aptitudes, but no actual skills to speak of.

I get that "deep end" character generation is likely to be faster, and that the idea is to play the game, not spend a session rolling up characters. I also get that you'll develop the skills in play. Why would this be considered advantageous, aside from the metareasons given? As near as I can tell, "Prior Career"-style generation is pretty much limited to the various incarnations of Traveller; why has this sort of chargen not been taken up by other systems/genres?

1st edit: I'm not looking at development of the personality of the character, as the DIP vs DAS dichotomy seems to emphasize; I'm looking at the contrast between mechanics.

2nd edit: After seeing the discussion that the unclearness seems to have prompted, I'd have to say that the question is ultimately less about advantages/disadvantages of a specific mechanic, and more about advantages/disadvantages of chargen that starts you with a skilled/experienced character vs. chargen that throws you into the game with no experience.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a distinction between "DAS" and "Prior Career", definition-wise? \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Jul 5, 2017 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @godskook the difference is between fluff and crunch. DAS/DIP dichotomy is about how you develop your character's personality and how you roleplay them, but prior-career means a type of chargen system with rules that are used to define your character's background and modify your character's mechanical attributes and qualities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jul 5, 2017 at 21:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ You seem to be conflating two different issues, which is experienced vs inexperienced characters and strict vs freeform chargen. A prior-career chargen system is a specific way of doing strict character generation to create experienced characters and I would in fact argue that it is designed to speed up that process significantly. Freeform character generation of experienced characters is typically horrendously complicated and takes ages. I was writing a lengthy answer arguing against your premise but I figure maybe this is a misunderstanding that can be clarified before going to such lengths. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jul 5, 2017 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JeffZeitlin despite best efforts I've yet to master posting while sleeping. A strict chargen system restricts the mechanical choice available to the player whereas a freeform one is open-ended. Your question is still bad because it still conflates experienced vs. inexperienced with this prior-career vs. not-so divide. A freeform chargen system which does not require you to specifically choose past career options can still be used to represent an experienced character; most RPG systems do not assume chars are total newbs with no skills to speak of, but your question implies that's the case. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jul 7, 2017 at 7:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this is still all confused. There's systems that use lifepath vs freeform generation. There's systems that start you as an inexperienced character and there's ones that start you (or allow you to start as) a more experienced character. There's systems that give you unfettered choice (e.g. Point buy) and ones that constrain you (e.g. Class based). All of these are unrelated axes. What specifically are you asking about and why? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 7, 2017 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


It is really a style choice.

However, there are some advantages to either DAS or DIP in certain situations.

DIP: If you have new players and a complex system, DIP allows the players to add more complexity as the characters grow but starts them with a simplified rules set. Also, it gives more of a sense of growing the character. This style of play is good for those who like book series and wuxia novels.

DAS: If you have a one off or short duration campaign, it is better to have characters that are already competent to pull it off. Also, if the players have trouble coming up with a character's background, this can give them something to work with.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an answer to the linked theoretically non-duplicate. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 5, 2017 at 23:50

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