Josh, who comments here as longcoat000, emailed me with a great question: “how many different kinds of character creation are there?

Not kinds in the sense of rolling 3d6 vs. assigning points, but in the sense of meta-approaches — individual vs. group character creation, background first vs. numbers first, etc.

I didn’t have a ready answer, so I decided to think it through by creating a list. Here’s what I came up with.

Methods of Character Creation

To keep this list from getting bogged down in details, I used “background elements” to mean a combination character concept, personality, flags and character background (history, etc.).

1. Individual creation; numbers first, background elements second. The “traditional” way, enshrined by old-school D&D.
2. Individual creation; background elements first and numbers second. Reversing the traditional approach, this works better for some players.
3. Individual creation, no background elements at all. Suitable only for hack-and-slash games.
4. Group creation; numbers followed by background elements. The traditional approach combined with a discussion about party roles, skill overlaps and tying together backgrounds.
5. Group creation; background elements before numbers. As in #4, but with the focus shifted to matching up backgrounds and connecting the PCs to each other.
6. Pregenerated characters, little or no player involvement. Mainly used for cons and published scenarios.
7. Players create PCs for each other. Technically an option (using methods 1, 2 or 3), but does anyone actually do this?

Reader Contributions

8. Weird exception: Amber Diceless Roleplaying. Character creation in Amber involves players bidding against each other for stats. It’s kind of like a combination of #1 or 2 with #4 or 5. (Crazy Jerome and Alan de Smet)
9. Individual creation, very little background — but with room to grow. A variation on #3, this approach involves developing the PC in the first few sessions of play. (Scott M)
10. Individual creation; pick a miniature, then develop a character around it. “The Gospog” is sort of a variation on #2, with the key difference being that everything starts with the mini. (Gospog)
11. Freeform and mutable. No one makes a character per se. Instead, everything about the PCs can be changed on the fly. I see the theory, but does this approach actually get used? (Walt C)
12. Characters determined by first actions. The party starts in media res, and whatever each PC does first determines the basic elements of their character. (Mr. Shawn H. Corey)
13. Development by consensus. A variant on #1 or 2, but at every stage each player needs approval from the group to make their decisions final. (Ben)

Over in the forums, Scott M has started an excellent thread about character creation models — same idea, different approach. It’s good stuff.

As always, I’m sure I missed something! Let’s complete this list together — if you know of a method that isn’t here, tell us about it in the comments.

In his email, Josh suggested that I write a series of posts about the various types of character creation. That’s an excellent idea, but I’d like to have an overview of the various approaches — with contributions from the TT community — before deciding whether or not to write that series.