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So how high should a character's characteristics be? Everyone has different ideas about this. I do not propose to give a number, at this point, maybe later. But I'll lay out some guidelines that I use, and encourage people to chime in with their own observations.

We are discussing characters created by point-distribution here: Randomly rolled characters can be astonishingly good, or pathetically bad, and people who want to insist on randomly rolling characters, all I can say is "more power to you".

My guidelines:

  1. You should have enough to points to create a favorite fictional character. There are few things more annoying to me than to be told that "you can't duplicate Captain Blood. He's a hero." Excuse me? Because I'm a player-character I'm supposed to settle for less native ability than some named book or movie character? 
  2. No NPC ever has more power than a player-character can have. It may take a lot of game time, but when I'm GM, your character has the potential to be just as powerful as Jar-Eel, or King Arthur, or Conan, or whomever are the game world's top heroes. That's an iron-clad rule of mine by the way: PC's are the game's heroes. Period.
  3. Characterics bought with points have variable cost based on the comparative game mechanics value. BRP does this: Some characteristics are 3 points for +1 for some, 1 point for +1 for others.

On a related note, Pathfinder offers several point distribution settings, so a GM can tailor his or her game to the power level they want. I like that idea, and hope RQ does something similar.

Thoughts and discussion anyone?

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I'm not generally too fond of point-buy as a chargen system. I feel it encourages min-maxing - all the stats will be just at the thresholds. But that's besides the point.

While I know, that players think they want to start with as powerful characters as possible, I have found, that everybody enjoys the game more, if the characters aren't allpowerful, and when there's room for improvement. In other words, I like to start out with pretty average characters, but ensure, that they get enough experience, so that they can reach the heroic measures they crave for.

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I kind of like the approach in the CoC 7 Quickstart: instead of point buy, everyone has (for example) the numbers 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 to allocate to his/her character's characteristics.  That way everyone has a specialty, and everyone has some average/weak points.  Since DEX and INT are more valuable, there's a temptation to put the 16 and 15 to one and the other, but maybe there's a further rule that if one of DEX and INT is higher than 13, the other has to be equal to or lower than 13.

There are also weighted point-buy systems that make buying the highest values non-linearly expensive, but allocating 7 numbers is fast, simple, and prevents someone from "cornering the market" on a few stats or making characters that are blandly awesome.

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Personally, I have never bothered balancing out characteristics - Trolls are bigger and stronger than Halflings, tough! That's life!

RuneQuest and all other similar systems have a Previous Experience system that is, by and large, independent of characteristics. Sure, some skills start higher or lower depending on characteristics, but the amount you add to the skills is the same, assuming all PCs are generated at the same level.

RQ/BRP/Similar Systems are more skill-based than stat-based anyway, especially as Mythras/Legend/RQ6 use skills rather than Characteristic x5% rolls. 

For a point-buy system it might be more problematic, but if you accept that different races get a different number of points to spend then it's OK. If you insist that all races have the same points to spend then you are creating massive problems, in my opinion.

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Honestly, you lost me at point one.

Imo, heroes are defined by what they do, not their stats.  Moreover, some might say that journey - from nothing to hero - is why they play; starting "heroic" feels like shortcut.

It used to be in rpgs that you rolled up characters (maybe using a bias system that gave you slightly-better-than-average numbers) and then just played the best character you could out of what you got.  After all, you have no choice IRL, right?

Now, gamers have gotten used to systems where their wish is catered to from moment one and while it's not my personal choice, it seems to be popular.

Frankly, I think you could have a campaign where all players start with absolutely average stats and still have a great time.

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10 hours ago, pachristian said:

So how high should a character's characteristics be?

High enough to fit the power level of your campaign? If the emphasis of your campaign is on larger-than-life heroes then find the characteristic generation system that's going to meet your needs.

Personally, I don't run those style of campaigns so I don't feel the need to emphasize high characteristics. Varying skill levels, yes, but not necessarily larger-than-life characteristics.

Quote

You should have enough to points to create a favorite fictional character. There are few things more annoying to me than to be told that "you can't duplicate Captain Blood. He's a hero." Excuse me? Because I'm a player-character I'm supposed to settle for less native ability than some named book or movie character? 

In this case, you need to look beyond mere characteristics and consider how many skill points you're going to provide - or how previous experience shapes the character's skills. Characteristics, alone, aren't going to paint the picture of how capable your hero is going to be. They're likely to have far less impact than they do in Pathfinder (a guess from me - I've never played Pathfinder).

If you want to duplicate Captain Blood your hero better have the skill levels to back that up. That's where I'd suggest you really focus rather than just on characteristics. Otherwise I doubt you'll get the results you're really looking for.

Edited by K Peterson
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On 05/05/2016 at 8:51 AM, fmitchell said:

I kind of like the approach in the CoC 7 Quickstart: instead of point buy, everyone has (for example) the numbers 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 to allocate to his/her character's characteristics.  That way everyone has a specialty, and everyone has some average/weak points.  Since DEX and INT are more valuable, there's a temptation to put the 16 and 15 to one and the other, but maybe there's a further rule that if one of DEX and INT is higher than 13, the other has to be equal to or lower than 13.

There are also weighted point-buy systems that make buying the highest values non-linearly expensive, but allocating 7 numbers is fast, simple, and prevents someone from "cornering the market" on a few stats or making characters that are blandly awesome.

That's similar to what I do in my homebrew BRP variant :

Players allocate 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 to the characteristics, then add a number depending on their species (6 for humans) to each.

Another method was to roll in order 1d6 +species minimum -1, then allocate X points (max 5 points/stat).

Edited by Mugen

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On 5/5/2016 at 4:54 AM, pachristian said:

So how high should a character's characteristics be? Everyone has different ideas about this. I do not propose to give a number, at this point, maybe later. But I'll lay out some guidelines that I use, and encourage people to chime in with their own observations.

We are discussing characters created by point-distribution here: Randomly rolled characters can be astonishingly good, or pathetically bad, and people who want to insist on randomly rolling characters, all I can say is "more power to you".

Fortunately this kind of thing is really not a problem for RQ owing to characteristic increasing mechanics and previous experience.

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I don't necessarily agree with your three guidelines. Reasons why:

1) Just because a player wants to recreate Superman, doesn't mean the GM has to allow Superman into his campaign. Especially if the GM is not running a superhero campaign. 

2) Heroes in fiction (and real life) often have to go up against a villain who is more powerful than they are. It's very good for the story and also good for an RPG. If the PCs always have more power than the NPCs they will not feel challenged, get cocky and start doing (more) stupid things (than usual).  Just look at D20 will it's "balanced" encounters. PCs typical throw their weight around based on the belief that they are heroes and thus the most powerful beings in the game. 

This gets especially silly when running inexperienced characters, as it makes the rest of the world inhabitants appear entirely incompetent, as if they belong in a nursing home somewhere. For instance, a world where the highest skilled archer has a bow skill of 15%. So none of the the profession archers, hunters and other bowmen can shoot straight? 

 

3) Depends on what the relativevalue for characteristics are. Just because STR is more important than INT in one game system doesn't mean that is is so in another RPG. Sometimes a characteristic that is a "dump stat" in one RPG can be very important in another. If characteristics have equal value in a given RPG then they should have a equal cost. 

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17 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I don't necessarily agree with your three guidelines. Reasons why:

1) Just because a player wants to recreate Superman, doesn't mean the GM has to allow Superman into his campaign. Especially if the GM is not running a superhero campaign. 

A very valid point. It can also be applied to Batman, Doc Savage, and John Carter. The players and the GM have to respect two elements: One that this is a group game, and players cannot play "one-man-against-an-army" characters. My point is more directed at the players and GM's of the "I-played-a-character-who's-highest-attribute-was-ten-and-I-liked-him-school". 

So the first rule is, and remains, Use, don't Abuse. If you want to create a mighty-thawed barbarian in my game, I am not going to try to tell you to be happy with a STR of 14 (and I've had that happen to me in a game), because "14 is better than average" (actual GM quote, before he threw us up against a group of warriors who all had d6 damage bonuses because they all had STR's of 19 and SIZ's of 16). But if, for example, we are rolling up characters, I will make sure there is a STR-training option in the game, so that you can build up your STR; so over time Atgxor the Barbarian can be the strongest man in the world if that's your goal and how you choose to improve him. I will not give you "free strength upgrades", nor will I give you an exclusive advantage over the other players. 

17 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

2) Heroes in fiction (and real life) often have to go up against a villain who is more powerful than they are. It's very good for the story and also good for an RPG. If the PCs always have more power than the NPCs they will not feel challenged, get cocky and start doing (more) stupid things (than usual).  Just look at D20 will it's "balanced" encounters. PCs typical throw their weight around based on the belief that they are heroes and thus the most powerful beings in the game. 

This gets especially silly when running inexperienced characters, as it makes the rest of the world inhabitants appear entirely incompetent, as if they belong in a nursing home somewhere. For instance, a world where the highest skilled archer has a bow skill of 15%. So none of the the profession archers, hunters and other bowmen can shoot straight? 

I think you misunderstood me here. I said no NPC is more powerful than a player-character can be, not more powerful than the players are at the start of the game.

Assume, for a moment, that we are gaming in Glorantha. Jar-Eel the Razoress is one of the most powerful mortals in the world. My view is that it is only fair, as a GM, to develop an estimate of how she would have developed, from 'beginning character' to her current super-human abilities. It should be possible for you, as a player-character to develop to that level of power: Admittedly that should (in my opinion) take years of gaming, and hundreds of game sessions, but in the hero wars it should be entirely possible that your character can go one-on-one with Jar-Eel, or Harrack, if you play the character that long and work to improve your character along those lines. 

17 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

3) Depends on what the relativevalue for characteristics are. Just because STR is more important than INT in one game system doesn't mean that is is so in another RPG. Sometimes a characteristic that is a "dump stat" in one RPG can be very important in another. If characteristics have equal value in a given RPG then they should have a equal cost. 

I agree that different characteristics have different comparative values in different campaigns. The GM should set up his character creation system to reflect this. Strictly from a mechanical point of view, in RQ6, and in BRP, and for that matter every other version of the D100 system, there are some characteristics that give you more bang per point than others. A point-buy system should reflect this, otherwise all of the characters will very similar characteristics. There's an old joke about Chaosium RQ2 as the game where every barbarian starts with an INT of 21, because INT cannot be trained and the advantages of high INT are so dramatic as to outweigh the loss of other characteristics. points.

So, Atgxtg; How do YOU set up characteristics for an upcoming campaign?

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So, I am an olllddd grognard so perhaps my experience is irrelevant, but I'll share it anyway.

When I had my introduction to FRP in the fall of 1974, we all sat around a table, rolled a bunch of dice (they were just dice back then, not D6) and wrote a bunch of numbers on index cards without having any idea what they represented and how they would effect us during gameplay.  Then we spent hours buying equipment and filling up the cards with lists of spells and eventually watched Saturday Night Live and went to bed and started to actually play the game the next morning.  It's a miracle any of us came back for a second session.  Now, decades later my teenage son and his friends found my library of ancient RPG materials and expressed interest.  My experience was largely AD&D and Dragonquest, but I had dabbled with RQ3 and thought it was far and away the best introductory rules set for novice players new to roleplaying.  After all, if you understood percentages in middle school math you can comprehend the RQ system.  How I handled the start was that I created characters for them.  There were 6 players so I created 9 characters, all of which were compatible with the character generation rules in RQ3.  Now the characteristics were probably slightly above the expected average, but none were way out of line power-wise.  I made typical archtype characters - a big strong dumb farmboy with his father's sword, a snarky educated city girl with lots of magic ability but barely able to lift her silver spoon, typical dwarf and elf, and that aspiring druidess did have a 16 POW but also had a 7 APP (think of the role playing possibilities).  I described the characters in general terms, let the players pick the ones they wanted and, oh by the way, instant balanced party, which the novices would not have known to do at the beginning. Only then when they had character record sheets in hand did we discuss characteristics or any other numbers.  Half an hour of explaining the basics ("the red die is always the tens digit") and they were actually playing.  Later, after they gained some experience at playing and had incurred some casualties it was time for two players to generate new characters.  I had them roll up 3D6 seven times, but just record the numbers.  If the sum of all the numbers was less then 75 they could reroll the lowest number until the sum reached 75.  Then the players got to assign the numbers to characteristics as they saw fit.  This let the players tailor the characters to their wishes, but avoided any fine tuning or supermen.  Worked well for me.  Anyone else ever try it?

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2 hours ago, daddybear said:

I had them roll up 3D6 seven times, but just record the numbers.  If the sum of all the numbers was less then 75 they could reroll the lowest number until the sum reached 75.  Then the players got to assign the numbers to characteristics as they saw fit.  This let the players tailor the characters to their wishes, but avoided any fine tuning or supermen.  Worked well for me.  Anyone else ever try it?

Observation the first: If your players rolled their characterizes, and rolled a 13 SIZ, and a 13 INT, and 10 in every other characteristic, that would be over 75. 

Question the first: Is this how you generate NPC's? If you create the bad Guy's chief lieutenant, does he also have a characteristic average around 75? (Okay, you can roll well, but being fair, the total is very unlikely to be greater than 85). Allowing for RQ3's characteristics training rules, you can add a few points.

Question the second: Given a 3d6 roll, a characteristic value of 16 or greater is unlikely on any character: Are NPC's in the same boat?

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I usually don't actually randomly roll up NPC's.  I tend to create NPCs to taste, giving them the characteristics that are needed for them to play the role they are intended to play in the evolving narrative.  Usually skill percentages are more important than characteristics anyway.  If I need a powerful shamen, I give him a really high POW, but picking his spells and bound spirits seems more important to me.  I try to always balance the opposition so that the players are challenged without being overmatched, but it is an art, not a science.  I don't aim for a particular number; I use the numbers that seem appropriate for the character I need to push the story forward.  As for new PC's, I don't know that a character with slightly above median characteristics would be uninteresting, let alone unplayable.  Actually, the few characters that my players have rolled do have some extraordinary numbers, two with 16s.  With so many numbers to be generated there always seems to be one or two that are outliers, both good and bad.  I suppose if the random die rolls created a very bland character and the player really didn't have a clue as to how to roleplay that I would give them a mulligan and start over.  I am not a big one for rules lawyering.  The point is for everyone to have fun.  My concern is that my players feel that the rules are applied fairly and in a way they can understand, not that the rules are totally rigid.  I actually have discouraged my young adult players from reading the full rules set - none of them even own the RQ3 rules.  I want them to role-play.  

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I've never seen a character created 'bland' but I've seen a lot of them played bland! 

And you are correct, of course, it is the skills that really matter (especially in Nash-Whittaker RQ: i.e. Mongoose RQ, Legend, and RQ6). 

But this does not alter my core question: What are the parameters people use to create characters? I guess I have to add to that "And are they the same as used to create NPC's?"

My challenge to you, daddy bear, is to find an NPC you created as a 'heroic NPC', someone whom you intended the players to look up to and admire, and check to see if that NPC could, within reasonable bounds of probability, have been created as a player-character. 

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So, I rejected the whole Nash-Whittaker version some time ago for my own reasons, so can not speak to how things happen in RQ6. This is not a criticism of those who love RQ6 - different strokes for different strokes.  I just can't address issues through that part of the geneology.   As to your challenge, my PC's are what I would consider mid-level, so they are not in conflict with "heroic NPCs", although I wonder exactly how this is defined by different gamemasters/referees/storytellers.  My PC's have met a couple of "heroic NPC's"  as I would define it and all of them were carefully crafted to be possible within the (heavily modified) RQ3 rules I use.  Are they likely?  NO!!  Their heroic, by definition they are truly extraordinary and far beyond what is expected.  I suppose it depends on what you mean by "reasonable bounds of probability".  I don't create NPCs that have 18s in every characteristics and 140% in all the relevant skills.  Why not just say to the players "so the sun just went nova and all your characters are dead".  Every NPC I create, even the truly "heroic", have great strengths, but also weaknesses that can be exploited.  My standard when creating the NPC's that the players should be impressed with and possibly look up to is to imagine that the character were a PC and a good player took them through 15 years gametime of adventuring and was fortunate (not a 6 on every D6 roll for five years of playing, but better than average luck) what would that character look like?  All the (few) "heroic" characters I have created have met that standard.  One of them is actually an old character of mine that really did go through five years of playing basically every week during that time.  That is my standard.  The NPC must be possible, but definitionally is not very likely.

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I thought Strangers in Prax actually did a fantastic job of creating credible heroic characters in the RQ3 rules.  The coders and Arlaten both are well done.

I did think that they were geared a little too light, magically, but considering their roles they could be easily justified to have nearly any magic item needed.

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For me, not all PCs are heroes. Actually, sometimes they are not even protagonists in a strict definition of the word (that is they act in response to actions made by another, rather than force the narrative themselves). It really just depends on the story I'm trying tell with the players. 

I'm not sure that the stats are directly linked to these things anyway.

 

Edited by TrippyHippy

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As the RQ3 rules assumed you started at age 16 and gave them experience per year of age, I let players pick their age, up to 10 years older than 16.

For each year they didn't use, they got a one-use luck point.  Typically they'd start around 22-23, so they had a few luck points to absorb that unfortunate roll.  (Using luck points was one point for themselves, or if they wanted to save someone else in the party, it cost a cumulative donation of 2 from other members.) 

I think there was one who started a character at age 17, but his or her luck points ended up getting burned pretty quickly anyway.  

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