How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

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Konrad
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How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Konrad » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:50 am

One of my RPG groups is hopefully soon starting its first Traveller campaign but some of the players are complaining about the character generation rules. The 2 main issues are “Depending on how well each person rolls we’ll have a party where some characters are much better than others” and “I have an idea to play ie an ex-navy officer but if I can’t pass the roll to enter the career I’ll be stuck with a character I don’t want to play”.

The GM has asked me for advice (I’m the only one in the group that’s played Traveller before) so I’m looking for a way of letting players has more control over their careers without letting them break things. My first thought was to allow each player to automatically pass any 3 dice rolls in character generation as that should at least get them a couple of terms in their career of choice before leaving them at the mercy of the dice.

Is there any big issues with that rule? Or does anyone have a better way of dealing with this?
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Garran » Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:36 am

The package-based character generation in the Traveller Companion is a good answer to this. Otherwise, there are various house rules used to make the system more malleable, some of which were recently talked about in another thread: viewtopic.php?f=89&t=122239

Also, there's no saying that you're stuck with the character you've started building. If it goes in a direction you don't like, toss it out and start over.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Reynard » Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:05 pm

Page 2 of the rule book has Rule Zero stating have fun, you are not strictly bound by the rules. I've lived by that rule long before it was written down.

If a player wants a certain career then start them there. If a certain set of skills are desired then agree to allow the player to choose skills rather than rolling randomly on the tables. Same for benefits at the end. There's also the point buy system in the Companion.

Trust me, there will be no arrest warrants if you don't follow the book exactly.
Konrad
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Konrad » Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:21 pm

Thanks.

Don't have the Companion yet, sounds like we really need to pick that up.

Some of the ideas in that thread look good, I'll be recomending we use 1, 3 and maybe 2.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Condottiere » Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:28 pm

Character generation in Traveller is more akin to random non player character generation, and might be more suited to players who like to make lemonade.

You could GURPS it and make it entirely a points system, and then you can regulate the relative power of each character; it should be noted that some players don't mind handicapping themselves.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby arcador » Fri Jan 17, 2020 3:39 pm

I've stated that in other topics, but might be good to add it here as well.

Two things - from experience:

1. Don't mix random and point-by characters together. The latter are usually over-specialized in a particular thing.
2. Point-by characters tend to be very, very, very strong in one area. This might make some skill checks trivial - like hitting an enemy. You can still balance things out with various obstacles, but it requires more Referee preparation.

In my last campaign, we had a guy with battledress and Vulcan minigun. He can obliterate almost all enemy personnel without breaking a sweat. But can't do anything else much - he relies on his party to do everything else. Basically, to create a combat threat for him, I have to make something which will squash everyone else in one attack.

Mine is an edge case, but to my understanding - even the random generation tables are created in such a way to avoid stacking some skills, compared to other skills.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:23 pm

If I'm allowing point-buy, I just let players pick their skills and then add points to them. See YouTube vid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXOiRfPKgYI for skill level distributions.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Condottiere » Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:20 pm

Dungeon Masters have the final say in the campaigns they run: if a character is inappropriate in that milieu or prevailing power level, it either has to be adjusted or discarded.

The exception is if the player makes a great case justifying the character's inclusion, and the rest of the group acquiesces.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby golem64 » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:37 am

With my recent group, I had them roll for progression and events, but allowed them to choose skills from the tables instead of rolling. They did develop more heroic characters for sure, but the random background events led to excellent plot-hooks that melded well into the adventure and NPCs I had roughly sketched out.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Saladman » Mon Jan 20, 2020 2:14 am

Konrad wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:50 am
“Depending on how well each person rolls we’ll have a party where some characters are much better than others”
I'm a big fan of term limits by campaign. I normally like a 4 term limit, but I've considered getting fiddly with a 3 term + 1 per every two failed survival + promotion rolls. Rolling until failure/kicked into play is exactly how you get characters with wide discrepancies in power, and I'm surprised how often it still rears it's head, but somehow I keep hearing about it.
Konrad wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:50 am
“I have an idea to play ie an ex-navy officer but if I can’t pass the roll to enter the career I’ll be stuck with a character I don’t want to play”.
I'm really liking the background + career package generation in the new Traveller Companion book. And I hadn't expected to, I'm normally a fan of random generation.
Konrad wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:50 am
My first thought was to allow each player to automatically pass any 3 dice rolls in character generation as that should at least get them a couple of terms in their career of choice before leaving them at the mercy of the dice.

Is there any big issues with that rule? Or does anyone have a better way of dealing with this?
It does one thing you're after, allows players to stay in the career they want. Without a limit on number of terms it conflicts with the other thing you want, no wide discrepancy between characters. What'll happen is players with luckier roll to begin with will stretch those three auto-passes into generating the infamous geriatric admiral with all the skills. I don't hate it, but I'm not impressed either. I would definitely combine it with a limit on terms.

What I have done in the past to give players more choice, but short of point buy, is do your d6 roll first, then decide what eligible table to put it on.
arcador wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 3:39 pm
1. Don't mix random and point-by characters together. The latter are usually over-specialized in a particular thing.
2. Point-by characters tend to be very, very, very strong in one area. This might make some skill checks trivial - like hitting an enemy. You can still balance things out with various obstacles, but it requires more Referee preparation.
Quoted for truth. What I see happen with new players "just getting the character I want" is they mix together getting all the skills they think they should have with a lack of a sense of scale of what a rolled character looks like. So their pilot character will have, say, Pilot 4, Astro 3, Sensors and Comms at 2 or 3, J-Drive Engineering at a "modest" 1 or 2 "just in case" - and typically a lack of anything to do outside of flying the ship. And they got the character they wanted, but that's hard to run for or play alongside.

One thing I like about the Trav Companion packages is they're scaled well against random generation. Highest skill runs 3 if it's boring or 2 if it's "sexy." That's a good baseline if you want to make up some custom packages or, in the worst case, go point-buy.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Ursus Maior » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:13 am

Garran wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:36 am
The package-based character generation in the Traveller Companion is a good answer to this. Otherwise, there are various house rules used to make the system more malleable, some of which were recently talked about in another thread: viewtopic.php?f=89&t=122239

Also, there's no saying that you're stuck with the character you've started building. If it goes in a direction you don't like, toss it out and start over.
We've had that discussion for years, decades even in my group and I've been strongly opposed to rolling attributes and creating "unequal" or "imbalanced" characters for as long as that.

However, I've begun to change my mind about that, following a very successful Call of Cthulhu campaign, I've now been GMing for two years. While everybody in that group received the same starting resources, CoC has an experience system, which allows you to only raise skills that you used during the last sessions. Also raising stats is easier if you're less trained in a skill and grows more difficult the more experienced you are, since raising skills is basically an inversed skill check. So, in a combat rich campaign characters who cannot fight either learn how to pretty quickly or they become a burden for the group, leading to character deaths. And charaters with skills that have no use for several sessions will not be able to gain experience in their fields of expertise.

What I'm trying to get at is that every character is different and I now strongly voice in favor for recognizing that and even making room for it. In my opinion, it's part of my job as GM to give everyone an opportunity to shine. But it's the player's job to play characters that fit the story. It's a social contract how to have fun together, at least for me.

I rolled up a couple of MgT2 characters in the past weeks and I could come up with interesting background stories for all of them. That doesn't mean that they'd fit my next campaign very well. I like to give my players specific guidelines what kind of characters would be useful and what would be absolutely necessary. Also, I can see that not every player is okay with starting levely of characters be widely different.

Therefore I think the Traveller companion can be of great value. Not only does it give additional pre-career options, but it also offers ideas how to create characters differently. I think package based systems to be dull. There is not much you can individualize taking this route and that means there are few ideas gained for the biography of a character out of creation. The same goes for point based creation: While individualisation is possible here, there won't be any mishaps, you get what you want and that can be quite dull and it doesn't spar imagination.

But e. g. allowing two boon dice for your ability rolls will give you likely give everyone chances for above average attributes. Alternatively, roll 14d6 and drop any two, then combine the remaining 12 dice in pairs of two for your final attributes. That gives total control over "dump stats" while allowing for peaks as well. Also, with 14d6 per player, statistics will provide comparable stats for everyone.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby locarno24 » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:42 am

It does one thing you're after, allows players to stay in the career they want. Without a limit on number of terms it conflicts with the other thing you want, no wide discrepancy between characters. What'll happen is players with luckier roll to begin with will stretch those three auto-passes into generating the infamous geriatric admiral with all the skills. I don't hate it, but I'm not impressed either. I would definitely combine it with a limit on terms.
Indeed. If you're after a 'themed' campaign, making sure people don't get ejected by mishaps is a good house-rule.

that's a fair question, in fact - given that the Element Cruiser Naval campaign presumably requires all characters to be serving naval officers of non-flag-rank, how does it do character creation?
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Mon Jan 20, 2020 11:23 am

The naval campaign handbook has its own method to generate characters through a special form of points-buy system.

No random skill-gains, since if your character is gonna be a cruiser pilot they’d better have the necessary skills for it :) unlike regular games where your role might be decided by what skills you manage to pickup during creation.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Condottiere » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:17 pm

Jumanji skill packages that distribute requisite skills to the party, so that whatever else the players generate, they'd still have the basic ones needed for a particular campaign.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby locarno24 » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:31 pm

Indeed. I do like the skill packages bit of character generation - as you say, it means there's always someone minimally competent at the stuff that everyone agreed the campaign is focused on....
....Even if it does usually provoke a slight argument when you have a number of players by which the number of skills in the package is not equally divisible. :roll:
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Konrad » Mon Jan 20, 2020 2:10 pm

We rolled some characters up with the 3 automatic passes and roll then choose the table. Ended up with 4 character all of who had rank 6 in their career of choice, an ex-admiral, an ex-general (me), a top level diplomat and an entertainer (with scc 15 and 4 ranks in pursuade). The GM was not happy, characters like than are fine for a game where we are already important people with plenty of pull but he was planning something more like Firefly.
Saladman wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 2:14 am
I'm a big fan of term limits by campaign. I normally like a 4 term limit, but I've considered getting fiddly with a 3 term + 1 per every two failed survival + promotion rolls. Rolling until failure/kicked into play is exactly how you get characters with wide discrepancies in power, and I'm surprised how often it still rears it's head, but somehow I keep hearing about it.
I can see why. I really like the idea of "3 term + 1 per every two failed survival + promotion rolls", we might re-roll and use that rule.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Garran » Tue Jan 21, 2020 6:11 am

locarno24 wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:42 am
that's a fair question, in fact - given that the Element Cruiser Naval campaign presumably requires all characters to be serving naval officers of non-flag-rank, how does it do character creation?
Skills are outright chosen based on rank/terms/position. You do still roll survival/events for each term, but mishaps (or anything else) that would normally force you out of the career don't do so. Instead, you add d3+3 years to Age to represent time spent getting your career back on track after an incident. (Those extra years don't count as another term - they're essentially 'between terms' time.)
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby locarno24 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 8:58 am

Do they still count for ageing?
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:10 pm

Naval campaign sourcebook, p.6 wrote: Events are rolled as normal, one per completed term, but the Traveller obviously cannot have suffered a Mishap that would result in being forced out of the service. Instead, a Survival roll is made each term as normal, and Mishaps are applied if necessary. If the result requires the Traveller to leave the service, he is instead aged D3+3 years, representing a stalled career whilst recovering from injury or a late promotion due to controversy.
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Re: How to let players generate the characters they want without letting them min/max?

Postby Repairman_Jack » Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:25 pm

Roll them up straight... without fudging.

Encourage players to discard characters that are going off the rails... at any point in the generation process (failed survival roll, etc.). To speed things up, create a spreadsheet of pre-rolled characteristics (6 sets of 2d6 numbers), then when they discard a character and start a new one, they just pick another set of numbers off the spreadsheet (marking off that set so it can't be used again in the future).

This gives the player a good chance to get the toon they want, stays within the rules, and keeps things moving along at a reasonable pace. Dedicate a full gaming session to rolling up toons... just let them keep trying, failing, discarding, until they get what they want. Doing it this way, especially with the new background material, you will both have a satisfying experience.

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