Going through Theo Dudek's Ultimate Game Master, I stumbled upon his take on why some players seem to object to randomness in character generation. I found his post interesting as it takes a contrary view to my wholehearted acceptance of the application of such randomness. Examples of this dynamic in action include Traveller (wherein Theo cited James M.'s earlier post) and perhaps even more extremely- Mutant Future. In both Classic Traveller and Mutant Future, I admit I enjoy the game-within-a-game random aspect of character generation. In fact I even enjoy character generation as an end in itself using these systems.
Amongst the things said by Theo on this are:
"But perhaps the real reason people object to random stats and random character backgrounds is not “fairness” but that it is too similar to what we have to deal with in real life. Determinism based on biology or upbringing is not most people’s chosen form of escapism (unless it is ‘good’ determinism and they are “destined to be awesome because they are the chosen heir of the throne of blah blah blah” etc.) In real life, we don’t get to choose who we’re born to or where we grow up or whether we have Asperger’s or diabetes. But in RPGs, we at least look forward to having an idealized and personally chosen backstory, even if we may get eaten by a dragon or something shortly after actual gameplay begins. In the gray area before actual gameplay begins, in our epic memories, we can all be heroes. It’s when the dice start rolling that the drama and tragedy and mayhem starts."
While I may not share Theo's side on this matter, I nonetheless thank him for sharing this as it gave me some additional insight on how some of my players may be feeling about random character generation (and the every-present risk of turning up what they may consider a 'loser' character). Reading the above-quoted post brought back at least two separate conversations I had with a couple of my players wherein they just about told me the same thing. At that time, I really could not understand where he was coming from but now, I think I do.
Storm King’s Googlies
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