Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Make Games Better: Character Sheet Walk Through

Call of Cthulhu: Horror Roleplaying in the Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft, 6th EditionOne of the toughest parts of teaching role playing games to other people is the character creation process. It's an alien thing to present a newcomer to the RPG hobby with a sheet of paper that essentially looks like an IRS form and ask them to fill it out as part of the process of "creating their character."

So, as I was reading through the rules of the sixth edition of the Call of Cthulhu role playing game, I was happy to find the two page spread on page 36 and 37 under the Creating Your Investigator section header. All the basic steps for filling out a basic Call of Cthulhu character sheet are arranged around a scaled down graphic of an actual character sheet. These two pages clearly lay out the mechanical steps needed to create an investigator in the Call of Cthulhu game. Sure, there are no frills and some of the details aren't explained in their entirety until later sections of the book, but there is at least enough information presented to get a new player up and running quickly.

More games should do this. I could sit anyone down with these two pages and a blank character sheet and they'll have a lot easier time of it than had I started them without this handy guide. It is a shame that more games don't take this approach to character creation in their rules.

Mouse Guard Roleplaying GameChaosium makes an excellent quick start guide to Call of Cthulhu available through their website. With little more than this free 20 page PDF, a group of potential investigators can dip their toes in Cthulhu Mythos role playing. I think Chaosium can only help itself by incorporating page 36 and 37 from the sixth edition of the core rules into this guide. Furthermore, I would love to see other game publishers and designers take a look at these pages and add something similar to their games. As table top RPGs have to compete for attention with more and more forms of entertainment, anything that lowers the barrier of entry into playing the games is a good idea. When I read over this two page spread, it immediately struck me that they were exactly the types of design ideas that would help in that pursuit.

Spirit of the Century RPGIf you have a copy of the book, take a look and see what I mean. I've seen examples of filled in character sheets in some other games. The Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game has a character sheet that is filled in with the examples that were used as illustrations of the character creation process earlier in the text. Spirit of the Century takes a more section by section approach, but is similar, in the end, to Mouse GuardI think this approach also works pretty well, but I the Cthulhu rules feel like a more complete expression of this concept to me.

What games have the the best character creation rule/process that you've found?

** Storied Adventures is a board and table top gaming blog that's currently flirting with nameless entities and sanity sapping horrors while reaquainting itself with Call of Cthulhu. I am attached to my wife's Amazon affiliate account, so purchases made through any Amazon links support the ongoing blogging efforts of Storied Adventures (many thanks!)

1 comment:

  1. I have played a ton of role-playing games and I can honestly say that you picked some great examples. For a very "dated" system, CoC has one of those character sheets that a person new to RPG's can just pick up and play with very little explanation. MouseGuard and SotC are examples that are more modern and deliberate in their approach. You might also look at Fred Hick's earlier creation, Don't Rest Your Head, as a good example, and I love the way the Unknown Armies character sheet provides you with lots of queues in how to play your character (though I find the system itself a bit awkward).