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10-31

Creating Characters in Space Aces: VOY

2023-11-03

Obligatory Preamble

Nothing in this article is revolutionary, nor is any of it original. I’m sure it’s been done in other systems, and probably done better. Additionally, it can be assumed that every single sentence below can, and should, be prefaced with “In my humble opinion,”. Ok… with that preamble out of the way, let’s go:

Hot Take: Creating Characters Is The Pits

Creating characters can be an arduous task in many RPGs. Scrolling through long lists of options and skills and stats and building out your optimal character, buying points, spending meta currencies, etc… can be fun for some, but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Personally, I hate it.

In practice I’ve found that this tends to really intimidate new players too. Just creating a character is a huge barrier to entry, as well as requiring almost the entirety of a play session. This really tends to take the wind out of the sails of a group that is new to RPGs and has set aside a few valuable hours to play a game that they probably won’t have time to play again for at least a month.

One solution to speed this up is to provide premade characters to everybody at the outset. This works well enough… but it stifles creativity and freedom of playing your own character in a world of imagination, which is, dare I say it, the biggest draw of RPGs.

Additionally, getting handed a character sheet blank or pre-filled with numbers and symbols and jam packed with complex indecipherable game-specific jargon does not exactly inspire joy.

How To Lower The Barrier To Entry?

An awesome idea, presented here by Wizard Thief Fighter, is the concept of Quantum Characters. I hadn’t read Wizard Thief Fighter’s post when I made the character creation for VOY, but it certainly resonated when I did read it.

Quantum Characters are characters that you create as you play. At the outset, they have no specific established facts, stats, or skills. Players establish their character’s facts and details as it is needed and as it comes up in play. Can your character climb well? We won’t know till it becomes relevant. Are they good at piloting starships? Maybe, play to find out!

I love this idea. But it also was just a bit too… quantum for me. Yes, I’m picky, and so are my players. I’ve found that when a new player has a character that is an entirely blank page, it can be overwhelming and frustrating. Blank page syndrome is very real here. We all want guidance, but not too much guidance… So, there’s gotta be a middle ground somewhere… right?

My Middle Ground

In every aspect of Space Aces I tried to lower the barrier to entry for an RPG without going down the “rules-ultralight” path which, counterintuitively, can sometimes be even more intimidating to new referees and new players than rules-heavy games.

One of my favorite features of Space Aces: VOY is the 5-minute character creation. In just 4 casts of the dice you get your character’s Profession, Knack, personal Quest, and Space Towel (because every cosmic adventurer needs to know where their towel is). Boom, done, that’s it, that’s your character. No large list of classes to go through, no skills to select, there aren’t even stats to put points into since there are no dice modifiers in Space Aces: VOY.

Oh yeah, there’s also a spot to put your character’s catchphrase. This has no bearing at all in play, but it gets players thinking about their character’s personality from the get-go and sets those creative wheels a-turning.

However, a character’s Profession, Knack, Quest, and Space Towel are often just one line on a sheet without any particular description. And therein lies the quantum nature of Space Aces characters. Each individual aspect acts as a seed to inspire players to grow their character through play.

What’s A Wildstar Wrangler?

A character might be a “Wildstar Wrangler” with a Knack of “Blowing Stuff Up”. What’s a Wildstar Wrangler? I don’t know, you tell me. And if you aren’t sure yet, no worries, we will find out when it matters. How does this character make stuff blow up? Again… I have no idea. When it becomes relevant, let’s figure it out.

In doing so, your game’s Wildstar Wrangler will almost definitely be different from my game’s Wildstar Wrangler. And that’s just awesome.

If you can figure out how your character’s Profession or Knack or Space Towel applies to a task you are attempting, then often the Referee will make that task easier to accomplish. Space Aces: VOY characters even have quantum inventories. They are assumed to have items consistent with their Profession. So a player might easily make a case that their Wildstar Wrangler probably has a laser lasso, and it would probably make catching that runaway Bugalope easier. And, in doing so, now we all know a little more about their character. The quantum nature is slightly more defined.

If there is ever any doubt, Referees are encouraged to “Ask Starry” which is the game’s very easy to use yes/no and/but oracle tool.

But Does It Work?

Oh yeah. Like a charm.

I play with a lot of kids as well as a good amount of adults that are brand new to RPGs. They’ve “always wanted to play an RPG,” and I’m happy to oblige. And in practice, I can confidently say that this Quantum Character creation middle ground concept has worked out very very well.

In just a few minutes a new Space Aces Referee can get a fresh batch of brand-new-to-RPG players from zero to roleplaying a freshly-minted quantum character in the Space Aces galaxy and using the seeds given to come up with creative solutions to problems. As they play, they are fleshing out their characters, establishing their facts and boundaries, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, and the best part is- they don’t even realize it.

Character creation barrier to entry: Conquered.