Alternate Character Creation
Date: December, 1992 By: Ed Heil
Instead of creating characters before starting the game, create them as the game progresses.
The GM assigns a number of skill levels available to a PC during a session. This should be based on how finely the GM defines skills: about 10 to 15 for broad skill-group games, and maybe twice that for fine skill-group games.
These may be traded at the regular rate of 3 skill levels = 1 attribute level, or 6 skill levels = 1 gift. Faults may also be taken, subject to GM approval.
The players start with most of the character sheets blank simply write out a brief sentence or two describing the character in a general way. (“Jeb is a surly dwarf, a good fighter, who is out to make a name for himself as a mean customer and pick up some loot on the way. He likes to talk tough, and doesn’t care much for halflings.”) As the character is confronted with challenging situations, the player must decide the level of the trait in question. For example, the PCs are confronted with a ruined castle to explore, and all the players state their characters are looking for hidden passageways. At this point, each player must set his PC’s skill in finding hidden passageways (however the GM defines such a trait:
Perception attribute, or Find Hidden skill, or Architecture skill, etc.). Those who are not yet willing to set such a trait must stop searching: if you use a trait, you must define it.
Since setting an initial skill at Fair level uses up two skill levels, and setting it at Superb uses up five levels, one must carefully weigh spending levels on skills as they are used versus saving them for emergency situations.
As usual, attributes are considered Fair unless altered, and most skills default to Poor. Taking a trait at a level below the default adds to your available skill level pool, of course. However, you may only define a trait as it is used in a game situation.
Experience points are given out as usual, but EP awarded are reduced by any unused skill levels after each session. That is, if you have two levels left after the first session, and the GM awards you three EP, you only get one more level for the next session, since you already have two levels unused. EP, in this case, can be used either to raise existing skills, as discussed in Objective Character Development, or they can be used to add new skills, as discussed in this section, above.
Note that it costs more EPs to raise an existing skill than it does to define a previously undefined skill in this on-the-fly system. EP should be slightly higher under this system than a regular character creation system, perhaps a range of up to ten per session.