Do You Like Lifepaths? - Myth-Weavers

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Do You Like Lifepaths?

   
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Do you like or dislike lifepath character generation and why?
Yes, because it's the ultimate anti-murderhobo tool. 2 25.00%
Yes, because it produces characters that are grounded in the setting. 5 62.50%
Yes, because it produces believable characters. 4 50.00%
Yes, because it's got the right amount of randomness and guided. 3 37.50%
Yes, because even if I don't get to play, it doesn't feel like I didn't have any fun. 3 37.50%
Yes, because it prevents munchkinism! 2 25.00%
Yes, but my reasons shall remain a secret! Mwahahaha! 1 12.50%
Yes (other, will specify below). 3 37.50%
No. Too slow for me. Give me 3d6 in order or other purely random! 1 12.50%
No. Not enough control. Point-buy for the win, baby! 2 25.00%
No, because I want RPGs to be about escapist fun, not being part of a setting. 0 0%
No, because reasons (other reasons). Will specify in the thread. 1 12.50%


Do You Like Lifepaths?

On another thread, we've been discussing the relative merits and flaws () of point-buy and random chargen. But that leaves at least one way of character generation...
So: do you like Lifepaths?
For the yet uninitiated: A lifepath system is a style of character creation in tabletop RPGs where instead of just rolling attributes and selecting skills or(and?) classes, you simulate the life of the character up to the point where the game begins.

Different RPGs use it, as diverse as Traveller (most editions that I'm familiar with, including Cepheus, but not GURPS), Maelstrom Domesday/Gothic/Rome, Cyberpunk 2020, The Witcher Pen and Paper RPG, Sengoku (the Gold Rush Games version), Artesia: Adventures in the Known World...and I've heard people referring to the career-based system in Warhammer 2e and 4e as "lifepath that continues past character generation" (I agree with that).
Pendragon doesn't bill itself as a lifepath system, but I do count it as such, because yes, you do generate the life story of your knight, in a way.

All the examples aside: do you like or dislike it? But most importantly, tell us why!


I think my opinion is clear to anyone who looks at my sig!

Yes, Life pathing can be fun, and gives some idea of what the game designers think are significant events in the setting.

I adore lifepaths. I especially like ones, like Star Trek Adventures, which build in random selection and choices as alternative options at every stage of the process.

Why? Loads of reasons. One is that they make character generation a minigame in itself, that’s fun for me even if I will never play the character. Two, if well-designed, they give your character a sense of real integration with the setting - one has a much better idea of who he or she is if one can say what he or she was doing at every stage of their life. Plus they usually generate at least one or two key NPCs, helping out the GM.

They are very easy to houserule, because they break things down into discrete simple steps. This allows one to tweak them to suit how you’re tweaking the setting. For instance, Traveller has an assumption built in that promotion is tied to competency: every time you’re promoted, you get an extra skill, so that the most senior people in an organization are always the most capable. Which doesn’t have the right feel if what you want to do is The Wire in space. But this is easy to houserule - just separate promotion from “extra skill acquisition” as a different roll. You can, for instance, make skill acquisition the inverse of survival, so that the people who learn the most are the ones who have taken the greatest risks.

The pitfalls are minor to me, but one wants to be aware of them. One, they’re adding an element of complexity (minor as compared to full point-buy as in Champions or GURPS, but still real - in many ways, lifepaths are like guided and sometimes randomized point-buy). If you’re unfamiliar with the system, and there is any element of choice, there is, well, path dependency: choices that you make early one can constrain the character in ways that may need you to go back and redo a lot of stuff if there’s a need for a specific thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voord 99 View Post
For instance, Traveller has an assumption built in that promotion is tied to competency: every time you’re promoted, you get an extra skill, so that the most senior people in an organization are always the most capable. Which doesn’t have the right feel if what you want to do is The Wire in space. But this is easy to houserule - just separate promotion from “extra skill acquisition” as a different roll. You can, for instance, make skill acquisition the inverse of survival, so that the people who learn the most are the ones who have taken the greatest risks.
Traveller also had the lovely flaw where a character could actually die during character generation. But to Voord's point, I think with a little adjusting they can fit a campaign nicely if a player doesn't have a lot of druthers as to the background...or wants to sim a little bit of it to help. If, however, a player knows what they want their character to be then lifepaths can be a little too much for character build.

I like 'em. In addition to the reasons you stated, they tend to streamline chargen. I don't have to come up with the backstory from scratch all by my lonesome; I can get some hooks and ideas from the lifepaths and build on that. It helps to avoid decision paralysis and speeds things up a bit. As someone who can be a tad obsessive-compulsive about backstories, but has less free time as of late, lifepaths are a lifesaver!

Yes & No.

It depends upon how it was implemented in the game. I always liked the Traveler approach. You go through the background process. It adds and changes things on character. Then you can do whatever you afterwards. Oh, I did I mention that my geeky scientist is a buff former marine that can still hold his own in bar brawl or gun fight.

I hate the ones that seriously restrict options after character creation, or the background . You roll great stats for a class type, and the system doesn't allow you to play it because of your lifepath rolls. I would rather skip a lifepath rules than use poorly designed ones.

I adore Lifepath systems for Pendragon and Runequest, because half the fun of a Greg Stafford book is rolling on the random tables and seeing where it took you. And for games like Eclipse Phase where you're trying to figure out where these last three skill points should go or if your agent should be shooting a heavy pistol vs a light pistol, well Lifepath systems simplify a lot of those decisions and let you make a cohesive, competent character that won't miss the big, important skills or gear.

I find Lifepath systems fun for a lot of systems. I don't know if I'd consider them essential for any system.

Well, obviously, @Michael Silverbane @Voord 99 and @Vladim are people with distinguished taste in mechanics which just so happens to coincide with mine...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dj2145 View Post
Traveller also had the lovely flaw where a character could actually die during character generation.
1) It's not a flaw. It's how you get rid of CT characters you don't want to play.
2) ....and it hasn't been working like that since Classic Traveller, I think (and even then, it wasn't working like that unless the Referee wanted...letting the PC off with just a wound was explicitly an option). True, many Referees were applying it like the option didn't exist - but it's not the default rule in Mongoose Traveller (both editions) and Cepheus.

Quote:
But to Voord's point, I think with a little adjusting they can fit a campaign nicely if a player doesn't have a lot of druthers as to the background...or wants to sim a little bit of it to help. If, however, a player knows what they want their character to be then lifepaths can be a little too much for character build.
If you want to play a specific character, you're probably approaching lifepaths wrong...they're about discovering the character you're going to play, not designing it. YMMV, of course.
And of course, it depends on the specifics of the system. Nothing prevents you from doing exactly the character you want in CP2020/Artesia/Sengoku/The Witcher...but then the lifepath in those is basically direction for the point-buy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakle View Post
Yes & No.

It depends upon how it was implemented in the game.
True, but isn't that applicable to basically all mechanics?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raveled View Post
I adore Lifepath systems for Pendragon and Runequest, because half the fun of a Greg Stafford book is rolling on the random tables and seeing where it took you. And for games like Eclipse Phase where you're trying to figure out where these last three skill points should go or if your agent should be shooting a heavy pistol vs a light pistol, well Lifepath systems simplify a lot of those decisions and let you make a cohesive, competent character that won't miss the big, important skills or gear.

I find Lifepath systems fun for a lot of systems. I don't know if I'd consider them essential for any system.
Well, sure, nothing is ever essential. I just find them a very nice addition!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AsenRG View Post
Well, obviously, @Michael Silverbane @Voord 99 and @Vladim are people with distinguished taste in mechanics which just so happens to coincide with mine...


1) It's not a flaw. It's how you get rid of CT characters you don't want to play.
2) ....and it hasn't been working like that since Classic Traveller, I think (and even then, it wasn't working like that unless the Referee wanted...letting the PC off with just a wound was explicitly an option). True, many Referees were applying it like the option didn't exist - but it's not the default rule in Mongoose Traveller (both editions) and Cepheus.
Also, the possibility of death had a rationale was by current standards odd but not insane at the time. It was about balance. Generally speaking, the more terms your character starts with, the more skilled s/he is. So the possibility of death was about taking the risk of losing a character by giving him/her that extra term in the hope of making him/her more capable. The idea was that if you had rolled very good stats, you might be less likely to take that risk. Conversely, with poor stats you’d risk it - why the hell not? - and either get to start again or end up with a highly skilled character with poor stats. (And since that low-stat character might well be a scout, possibly a ship.)

It makes sense from the perspective of character creation as part of the game, not preparation for the game — just as you have your character take risks for the sake of rewards in play, you do it in creation, and like so many gambling games, deciding whether to take your winnings or go for double or nothing is part of the thrill.

Speaking from the perspective of writing books, I actually would rather create the character first, THEN ask questions about how they got there. Letting your brain expand the grid and providing it with rules or the template to do so can create a deeply rooted character - past, present, AND future - and it's at THAT point that the stats start to matter.

My table and my friends use a rule set in 5e as so: "roll 4d6, drop lowest, reroll 1s and 2s. Arrange the values you get accordingly."
You can have anything from a 9 to an 18, depending on your luck. Your rolls then become your array. You can choose to let racial bonuses try and cover weaknesses or exacerbate strengths.

If you combine the two methods, the creation of a character first, THEN the simulation of their life to that point to determine their goal in the world, THEN you apply your stats... Well, I can at least say it led to the single best session of DnD I've ever played, wherein each player was fully invested in their character, stayed in character almost the entire session, and had genuine emotional reactions to the goings-on of the world around them.

If you want a murder-hobo* smasher, just tell people leveling is milestone and do away with EXP entirely. If you want a debate, I think THAT's where you start one. Regardless of how you decide stats (rolls, PB, SA) or how you create characters (randomize, lifepath, or just straight from your own head), those kinds of players will exist. Some people only see a game, not a set of tools for creating worlds and telling stories. The only way to reign those people in that I've ever seen is milestone levels - so they can't get stronger unless they help advance the story. It makes for interesting RP, too, watching such a player try to stay in character while fighting against using player-knowledge to push things along. And those people help offset the other one at the table who might want 45 minutes of RP with every NPC they meet, right?







 

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