Saturday, December 18, 2010

Classic Traveller vs. 4e Character Gen

I have been giving the whole concept of the Character Generator a lot of thought lately. I have come to a few personal conclusions that I think I want to share with the world. If you find this post boring, blame Classic Traveller.

This last week, I started generating characters for Classic Traveller. Almost an entire notebook later, my hands were worn out from recording survival results and my dice were chipping. I made a lot of characters. Not all of them lived. Actually, most of them died.

I came to the conclusion that I enjoy the Classic Traveller character generation process more than I have enjoyed character generation in almost any game I have ever played. This includes virtually every edition of D&D as well as Vampire and Shadowrun. Why is this?

The fact that character gen is a game in itself is wonderful and amazing. For someone like me who lives in an isolated region of the mountains in a country that doesn't speak English, having a game that I can play on my own is really important. Character gen in this game is perfect for me. I can make a character in about 10 minutes and spend the next half an hour thinking up a backstory that fits all the rolls. How cool is that?!

I must say, I enjoy this process a whole lot more than typical character gen. When I end up playing D&D or Shadowrun, I put a lot of thought into my character. I guess you could even call me a bit of a power gamer. I may not try to pick the best class out there, but I sure as hell will optimize my already sub-par PC. I like playing odd multi-classes or strange Race/Class combos; but once I have that odd-ball rolled up, I want to turn him into a lean mean fighting machine. Doing something like this takes hours. I have spent days upon days designing 4e characters from L1-L30.

But Classic Traveller isn't like that. I spend minutes making a character that dies have way through generation. But hey! That is ok. I can just start from the beginning again.

But... all of this is really getting away from the point of this post. The point of this post was originally supposed to be a discussion about the Character Generator. In my opinion, using a character generator for Classic Traveller would completely suck the entire fun out of the process.

When I do all of my 4e Character design work, I spend hours in front of my netbook, clicking away on the character builder looking for the right combination of feats that will turn my oddball into a meatgrinder. But, with Traveller, If you took all the random out of the die rolls and built it into a program, all the fun would go away. The utility that the 4e character builder gives me far outweighs the fun that I have flipping through real books, but you can't get much easier than the character gen process in Traveller. Having a character builder for that would just make everything go away.

So, where am I going with this? Well, in all honesty, I would love to see somebody put together a 4th Edition Character generation rules system that is essentially a mimic of the Classic Traveller rules setup. It may take a couple of tables, but I think it would be freaking worth it and it would be a hell of a lot of fun. I could definitely see a few of my D&D characters dying as they try to hit level 1.

Who wouldn't want to make characters like that in other games? If nobody else is going to do this, I might just have to make those charts myself.


  1. I actually tried out a couple of classic traveller character generators online... And you're right, it did completely suck the fun out it.

    On the other hand, I do sometimes make use of an online dice roller, but I haven't noticed that lessening the fun any.

  2. I use online dice rollers a lot. There are just some times when you can't get your dice out to roll them. I have found that it doesn't lessen enjoyment too much, but having dice in my hand is just really, really nice.

  3. Glad you're enjoying Traveller character generation so much. I agree entirely - it's best by far when played through by hand with pencil and paper. It is one of the most fun chargen systems out there (TMNT character generation comes a close second, with Classic Marvel RPG third)and a complete mini-game unto itself.

    The great thing is that all of Traveller is made up of mini-games like this. Creating Subsectors and Worlds is every bit at fun :)

  4. I know what you mean about 4e creation - so much of the effort I put into 4e writing comes from my realization that I don't NEED to powergame the system to have a fun, effective, and interesting character. It's a lot less work, picking what sounds cool over "The Most Plusses."

    That said, I'd love a random character-building minigame for 4e in the style of Classic Traveller... It'd be fun as all he'll, even if it just gave you a framework and said, "pick traits that fit THIS." interesting notion, hmm. I wonder if something could be done based on Classic Traveller's system? Heck, you could even do random stats if you wanted. 4d6 minus the Low Die, I believe? Bring it together with background traits as inspiration, and you're off to a start - a table or two later, random skill selection...

    I'm half tempted to try doing it myself, now. I wonder... :D

  5. @Greywulf - I am going to need to pick us those other two games. If they are as fun as you say they are to do character gen than they are going to need to go on my shelf.

  6. @Jonathan - Those rules need to happen. I say we put together something on RPG Table Talk Forums. The wheels in my head having been turning since I mentioned it. Off to the boards!