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The Hidden Importance Of An RPG With Character Creation

The Hidden Importance Of An RPG With Character Creation

Increasingly, many users are looking for an RPG with character creation.  But sometimes RPG tools are used for tasks they weren't designed for.  Sometimes they can help heal.

The Hidden Importance Of An RPG With Character Creation

The player's character is pretty much the basic element of every RPG.

Players use characters to interact with the RPG world.

From classic fantasy RPG games to modern superhero RPG games, players love a good RPG with character creation.

People like to change the looks of their characters until they come up with something just right.

Detailed character creators like the one used for Champions Online gives players literally thousands of character body customization options to choose from to make a unique character. 

Not only are there thousands of combinations of different body parts, clothes, skin, and equipment that comes standard with the game, but there are costume expansion packs as well.

Another game with cool character creation is EVE Online.  In fact, this particular character creator holds a special significance for me.  Let me give you some background on why.

Your Life Can Change In An Instant

This is a personal story of trauma but I'm going to share it with you so you can understand why this particular image means so much to me.

frank black and white headshot

I'm about to turn 52 tomorrow, but I almost didn't make it past 20 years old.

On February 17th, 1989 I was nearly killed in a car accident.  The car I was a passenger in was run off the road by a driver that was asleep at the wheel in another vehicle.

The Ford Bronco I was in was destroyed, and although the driver and the other 2 passengers were all injured with scrapes, bruises, and strains, I didn't fare as well. 

I was by far the worst off.

In addition to a broken neck, pelvis, leg, and shoulder I also received serious road rash, burning off most of the skin on my back and requiring a special hospital bed for recovery.

I was eventually able to recover to the point where I could walk again, but the wreck left me with a severe facial laceration.  I almost lost about 25% of my face, but the skilled plastic surgeon's stitching skills saved my face.  I had nearly 200 stitches in my face.

I was left with a lacerated facial nerve, and a large, noticeable gash scar running across half my forehead and about 1/4 the way down my cheek.  The laceration went all the way to the corner of my mouth, but the surgeon did a great job of fixing that part - you can only really see it if I smile a certain way.

Still, it's very noticeable.  I know people are going to stare - I would.

Honestly, it's an interesting scar, but it has caused me heartache over the years.

"Wow!  What happened to your head?"

"Wow!  Did a bomb blow up in your face or what?"

These are things perfect strangers have told me.

After the car wreck, it took a year to be able to walk on my own again.

I could no longer run, or climb, or fight in the SCA medievalist societylike I used to.  I couldn't even ride my bike anymore.  I put on a hundred pounds over the next few years.

"Hey, you could be the 'before' image on a weight-loss ad." - Another Perfect Stranger

Character Creation As Inspiration

One day I heard a news report about a guy who used his EVE Online avatar to make his "ideal self" and use that portrait as something to strive for.

That kind of resonated with me. 

I wanted to try to make an "aspirational/inspirational avatar" - a picture of my "ideal self" that I could use as a mental image of my self.

I managed to go through the process of using their character creation tool to make something that looked pretty damn close to what I thought I should look like.  I was surprised I could approximate my image so well.  

But the thing that made this image hit home, the thing that made this image mean so much to me is that under "scars and tattoos" they had the EXACT facial scar that matched mine!  EXACTLY!

Being able to put that image on my avatar helped me come to grips with how I look and went a long way to rehabilitate my self-image.

Even though perfect strangers have said amazingly hurtful things to me, and I have basically been avoiding mirrors for 25 years, being able to make an image of my "ideal self" with a scar went a long way to heal the psychological damage of having your image identity change in an instant.

eve avatar - character creation - my ideal self with flaws

The point to that story is that people come to RPG character creation with an idea in mind for their character, but sometimes people just want to tinker with character creation to make an image pleasing to their mind's eye.

Keep in mind that manipulating your character avatar image isn't really contributing to character creation; that is normally determined by dice rolls or point allocation during the character creation phase.

Being able to customize your avatar in a computer game is very important, so try to allow for as many avatar options as you can. 

Don't forget that people often want to find inspiration in their character image, or represent themselves (or their ideal selves) within your game. 

Creating a character for your RPG can even be a game in itself.  For instance, in the Traveller sic-fi RPG, there is a character generation mini-game that creates a playable character complete with a backstory and related skills.

In Summary:
RPG Character Creation May Be More Important Than You Realize

Creating a character for your favorite RPG can be a very personal thing.

Maybe the player wants to represent themselves in your game, or somebody they know.

Maybe they want to use a character from folklore or literature as inspiration for their RPG character.

Whatever the reason, players are looking for a rich character creation system, so give them as many character customization options as possible.

Being able to see me from the outside in a way that didn't make me flinch, was amazingly important.  I felt so attached to this portrait that I use it as my avatar almost everywhere and when I started publishing games, I used it as my logo.

So when you create a character creation system for your game, remember to include flaws as well as beauty enhancements- you never know what somebody is going to get from using your character creator in ways you never intended.

The more the player can tune the character towards what they see in their imagination (for whatever reason), the better their experience will be with your game.

The character with "flaws" can be more interesting. 

The fascinating scar, the odd limp, the speech pattern... these all add up to make unique multi-faceted characters.

Try to avoid flat or perfect characters.  Allow for as much character customization as possible.  People enjoy the character creation process as a sort of minigame.

Your Turn

Do you have an RPG character or even just a character portrait that you identify with? What's your favorite RPG character creator?

I'd love to hear about it.

Tell me about it in the Comments section below.

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