Character creation the OSR way

This Saturday our regular scheduled game of Titansgrave could not happen because 3 of our regulars couldn’t make it. We still where 4 players, and my GM +Michael Wolf wanted to run a White Box one shot, a system he is very enamored with atm. I am usually not too big a fan of white box type games, but I learned something about myself I had not expected: I actually like the fully random character method.

Games like White Box force you to think when rolling up stats straight to decide on what to play. And it actually formed the character in my mind while doing so. Attributes are not that important in White Box, so it did not matter much that my cleric just had WIS of 9. But it still made a difference of how I played him with Cha 15 and Int 17. (There was another magic user already, hence I went with cleric FYI).

Usually I am firmly in the camp of “Let people build their character how they want”. Hence I have often been dismissive about full random gen. But it works, and games like DCC for example took the straight up “3d6 in order” and made it such a core of the experience with their funnels, it is a sight to behold.

Both character creation methods, straight up roll and full control with something like point buy have merit. I feel it is freeing to not worry about anything but just straight up roll whatever comes your way. It is very liberating and may result in you playing a character you usually would never consider. It also “Backloads” character decisions into the game as you do not spend too much time thinking upon the character you want to play and meticulously building them. 

The White Box rules overall work of course, but even after the one shot I am sure this is not a system for me. It is a bit too simplistic in the character customization department, I prefer some more “Crunch”.  Beyond The Wall is still my favorite OSR game. You can have two fighters which are still mechanically different enough to be interesting, and the addition of a simple skill system makes all characters more diverse. And the addition of Traits in Further afield brought another level to it. Character creation with playbooks makes you decide ahead of time on what general type of character you may want to play and ensures your character will be accomplished enough to do so, but there are enough surprises in it to keep it fresh. You do not need to use them even, just by multiclassing the three core classes Warrior/Rogue/Mage you can get a wide variety of different types. And the magic system makes spellcasters actually viable even in low levels without them becoming super murder machines later on (no fireballs…). I guess I have gushed about BtW enough now.

In the end it is a question of personal preference. I believe a good mix of random generation with some guiding decisions by the player are the best for initial investment and long term enjoyment. BtW is the closest system have seen so far in that regard, Traveller life path comes close. If there are any others out there I would love to hear about them.

What is your favorite method for character creation?



  1. I am a firm supporter of “point-buy-systems” of any kind when it comes to character creation. That has something to do with me ending up with low-stats characters due to bad luck while rolling up my PC while others had Lady Fortuna (that b****!) smiling on them. In the end, my character was usually no good no matter what, which was a big let down during the game.

    As a GM, I will rather not have any player of mine suffer from the same fate I had suffered. If a system has no point-buy-option, I “generate” a set of results that every player will use for their individual character creation.


    • Fair enough, as I wrote that has been my stance for quiet a while. But I find “Balance” less and less important as years go on, especially as I am drifting to lighter games.


  2. I’m switching my campaign over to WB from B/X. I’m thinking ability score 3 = -2 modifier, 18 = +2 modifier. They roll in order but the 3d6 roll for starting gold can be swapped with a score if they like. Look forward to seeing more posts, link to G+ if you can!


Comments are closed.