As a teenage RPG fan, I often wondered why tabletop roleplaying games weren’t more popular. I loved the personal creativity involved in creating and playing a character. I loved the freedom to do anything from creating a 5-story anvil out of thin air for crushing enemy fortifications to creating a fast-food empire staffed by tireless skeleton minions. Most of all, I loved the collaboration: creating a rich story with friends that was greater than any one of us.
Now that I’ve introduced many friends to RPGs and have had lots of experience at work user testing products, I’ve come to understand better why so few people play them. Roleplaying games, as a product, are extremely difficult to use. Each game requires a game master who has mastered at least one, large tome of rules and created an imaginary world. Even for non-game masters, the process of looking up charts and lists for hours to create a character is a huge barrier.
While video games don’t offer as much interpersonal interaction, freedom, or creative control of the game as tabletop RPGs do, video games are designed so that the average player can dive in without reading a manual. The game guides you through the steps of character creation, allowing players to fiddle with values and observe the results directly, getting in-game help and support when experimentation alone is not sufficient. Wouldn’t it be nice if tabletop RPGs learned a thing or two from video games?
Making Character Creation More Like a Video Game
Varza games has just released the prototype Legendary Character Generator to email list members. The Legendary Character Generator borrows a few simple ideas from video games to make the process of character creation easier and faster:
- Instead of looking up lists of stats, select a stat from a drop down menu and instantly see the relevant description.
- Each section has in-detail help text to give context on how stats are used.
- A “conditions” box that describes the impact of a character’s current damage or Tox level, helping you keep track of your character’s current status.
- Basic validation to prevent mistakes.
Interested in trying it out?
While I’ve seen the above features cut character creation time by as much as two thirds, we have several more features for ease of use planned:
- Saving across browsers and devices.
- Support for inventory and equipment.
- A step-by-step character creation wizard.
- Templates for common character types.
- In-app dice rolling: click a stat and roll!
- Streamlined print version—let’s try to keep it to one page, front and back.
- Character avatars + improved visual design.
For Techies: How I Built Legendary Character Generator
The Legendary Character Generator has been a fun, quick-and-dirty project. It takes advantage of two excellent frameworks: Angular and Twitter Bootstrap. In order to actually make the character persist, I added an Angular plugin for saving data to local storage. Using local storage removed the need for a server and cut development time in half, for the time being, but it does mean your characters may disappear if you clear your cache. Be careful!