Staff scrutiny during CGen


  • Admin

    I've been meaning to start a thread like this for a while and now is as good a time as any.

    Games' approach to character generation pipelines vary a lot. Some MU* use a more open approach ("create characters as long as the +sheet numbers work out then we'll catch issues on the grid"), others take a more draconic view of their role ("I can't approve you until you flesh out at least two childhood friends in your background"). Most games fall somewhere in the middle.

    What do you want staff's role to be in that process? What kind of CGen are you in fond of or what do you dread seeing? What, if anything, does it tell you about how a MU* you're just starting on is being ran?

    How much staff oversight or scrutiny do you want to be there right as new PCs are being rolled and what should the limits to that be - if any?



  • I am, obviously, super-biased, but I feel like we've hit sort of a sweet spot on SGM.

    Both @Paradox and I review every app. It adds a bit more of a workload, but one thing it means is accountability. And this is something I'd like to see on other games. One issue I've had in the past on games is I (or a friend) will hit a wall of dealing with that Staffer who is just draconian in their standards. Everything has to be absolutely perfect. 'You can't have this stat at this level: your BG doesn't explain in intricate detail how they have Empathy 3...' - 'But I wrote 2 paragraphs about...' - 'It's not enough.' Whereas your buddy got through with max stats in all kinds of obscure stuff and a one-paragraph BG of fluff under another staffer who pretty much hand-waved.

    Paradox and I reviewing every app not only holds us accountable, but it means when we run scenes and develop plot, we can keep certain PCs in mind ('Hey, I see So&So signed up for your scene next week: try to include a hook for their Physics BG skill.'). Now, of course THAT part is easier since we're a small game, but it's part of our vision.

    I also hate long backgrounds. I hate writing them and I hate reviewing them. So I really, really fucking love @Paradox 's BG method. He came up with it. He gets all the credit for it. We don't MIND if people write longer BGs, but we ask for 3 Questions to be answered in a BG:

    1. What does your character love?
    2. What does your character hate?
    3. Why did your character join the Stargate program?

    That's it. If people answer those 3, that's all they need. They can write more, but they don't have to. A game that can encapsulate a 'concept' (I've seen WoD games use the 'concept' idea for example) like that make me happy. Give me a few questions to answer to sort of summarize my character. Let me provide a few bullet points.

    Don't make me give you some long-form background where I detail out every single skill, merit, power, etc. at length to 'justify' it for the love of god. I think so long as a sheet 'makes sense' for the concept it should be good enough (aka: a 20-year-old bakery employee with PhD-level skills in theoretical physics and multiple world-renowned martial arts disciplines probably doesn't make sense straight out of CG :P).



  • @Arkandel said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    What do you want staff's role to be in that process?

    I want staff to have a look at what I've presented, consider it against their current player base, and let me know if my PC fits their expectations or not.

    What kind of CGen are you in fond of or what do you dread seeing?

    I like Faraday's FS3 CGen, as well as Thenomain's "set it your damn self" WoD CGen. I dread vagueness in the directions on how to prepare a background, if one is necessary.

    What, if anything, does it tell you about how a MU* you're just starting on is being ran?

    On the issue of vagueness, it shows me that they have not put much thought into their game, or that they are unsure of what they would like to see. Both are not good signs.

    How much staff oversight or scrutiny do you want to be there right as new PCs are being rolled and what should the limits to that be - if any?

    Oversight is a better word, and review is even better. I think the point of staff in the process is to ensure the player has a good time.

    I have said this many times before, but when I review applications I use the background to figure out the "who" in the character before I check out the "what" in the proposed stats. If the "who" and the "what" don't match up, I'll provide guidance as to make the two things match. Finally, I like to converse with the player a little, if I don't already know them, to see how familiar they are with the system (not the setting); if they are new, I'll make some suggestions on how to optimize their character so that they are better able to accomplish the tasks that they see their character being good at.



  • @Ganymede said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    I think the point of staff in the process is to ensure the player has a good time.

    This.



  • @Lotherio That is incorrect. Staff's role is to ensure that not only does the player have a good time, but also to ensure that the player having their good time doesn't infringe on the good times of other players.



  • @Admiral said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    @Lotherio That is incorrect. Staff's role is to ensure that not only does the player have a good time, but also to ensure that the player having their good time doesn't infringe on the good times of other players.

    This is all in context as the staff roll in CG, per the OP.

    If a player makes some concept that infringes on others fun, and the others stop playing with them, and then they do not have fun ... then staff failed to ensure the player has a good time.


  • Tutorialist

    I tend to fall somewhere in the middle as well.

    I tend to not be super draconian in my views, but extraordinary stats will need some kind of justification that works them into the character's story and fleshes them out. The higher the stat, the more you'll need. Telling me that you have Strength 5 because you have a gym membership isn't gonna cut it. Telling me that you have Strength 5 because you spent years in a soviet prison where the only thing you could do was fight for your life and try to get as strong as you could? That probably would.

    But more importantly, I want to make sure that you're not making something that is gonna clash with the current game. I want to know where your character fits into it. You can make the most badass sheet in the universe but if you don't know what's on it or what it means then you and I have a problem.

    I'm open to a broad range of concepts and diverse backgrounds and playstyles, but if there's one thing I've learned lately, the more rope you give someone, the more they'll use that leeway and freedom to try and strangle scenes for everyone else if you find a clashing playstyle.

    So I may be a bit more toward the draconian side than others, but I'm cool with that. I'm also not just gonna turn you loose and watch you run amok.


  • Tutorialist

    @Lotherio said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    If a player makes some concept that infringes on others fun, and the others stop playing with them, and then they do not have fun ... then staff failed to ensure the player has a good time.

    Double post for ... what? There is only so much that staff can glean from a sheet and a background. I've seen brilliant sheets with players that turned out to be total morons who couldn't read a room and find the flow if their life depended on it, not that they actually tried. Brilliant sheets tend to come from people very focused on their own character, to the exclusion of all else.

    Staff can only take so much of a hand in things. If you get a character through CG that follows the rules but then you play them in a way that infringes on the fun of others, staff hasn't failed to ensure you have fun. You're just an asshole.



  • I believe that staff's role in CG is what I said. To ensure that the player creates a workable concept, and the player creates a concept that won't damage the fun of others.

    If you make a hyper-aggressive shit weasel PK concept, you're going to ruin others' fun.

    If staff lets you have SUPER MEGA FUCKLE TOY OMEGA and nobody else gets it? You're likely going to ruin other's fun.

    Staff's role should be a sanity check. Staff's role should be to ask 'Does this character's power level and focus match the game?'.



  • @Admiral said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    I believe that staff's role in CG is what I said. To ensure that the player creates a workable concept, and the player creates a concept that won't damage the fun of others.

    I concur, so I'll amend.

    I think the point of staff in the process is to ensure all players have a good time, and this sometimes means rejecting a concept that would foreseeably affect the rest of the players in a negative way.


  • Pitcrew

    I don't particularly care about stats, as long as the sheet is legal. But what I would like staff to look at and offer feedback on is the thematicness of the character, and if they see a) any positive plot hooks that can help the character engage with the game right from the start and b) any ways in which the character doesn't match with theme or might struggle to find RP in the current state of the game. I don't care how many schoolteachers who mysteriously have massive combat stats there are, as long as that's a concept that fits in the game theme and will find play.



  • A few unofficial truths about CGen most GMs need to keep in mind:

    1. You dont need to worry so much about the players who go by the book, do their own math, and try to paint within the lines, but you will always have players that look at Cgen systems and try to min-max to their advantage (and potentially to the disadvantage of the game as a whole)
    2. You will always want players who want to make weird or super rare shit. Always keep in mind what you're looking for so that you can identify what isnt good for the game more quickly
    3. Make sure everyone is playing the same game.
    4. CGen is the gatekeeping process to making sure the game will be cohesive and have the right characters. Always pay attention during CGen. Watch for exploits and previews of weird behavior. Players who want to be super rare/special over other players will show it here; the same goes for min-maxer dicelords.

    So, with this in mind, I'm fine with staff oversight on CGen. I'd rather my app take longer and end up in a cohesive game than to have all apps rushed through and find myself roleplaying with twinks.

    The problem is that usually the reasons apps take so long is because of the number of people who submit complex apps.


  • Pitcrew

    I think it depends on the structure of the game. If it is more open ended/make your own fun/low to minimal guidance from staff in it and RP, I think the cg should reflect that.

    If the desire is that pcs should fit in and have a place for their PC within a high staff involvement/plot driven place then probably the CG should reflect that. There might even be different levels of expectations for someone apping in a more powerful pc or old PC with ties to the surrounding area, ect, vs an 18 year old noob (unless it is WoD of course).

    I concur with others that the numbers and structure of the sheet tells you nothing about the player. Sometimes behavior in CG or in that process can though (and for the player, their treatment by staff in that process is also very important to note).

    It really just depends on the level of hands on the staff wants, ect. I think if you already are being made crazy by someone apping in/by staffer behavior and tone to you, then taking heed of that and parting ways is often the best thing to do. I know I have wished on both ends many times that I hadn't ignored warning signs of a bad fit. (Which does not mean bad person.)


  • Pitcrew

    I'm fine with some level of scrutiny, but I've played some games in the past where staff expects you to write pages and pages of text that they go over with a fine-tooth comb, usually rejecting you two or three times before accepting your concept (coughcoughNoReturncoughcough). I'm the kind of person who doesn't really get to know her characters until I get them on the grid, so that style of CG is paaaaaaainful.



  • @Ghost said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    Make sure everyone is playing the same game.

    Hold on a sec...

    Make sure everyone is playing the same game.

    Better.

    (edit: can't make it bigger, dammit)


  • Pitcrew

    I've never been a fan of super involved backgrounds.

    Like, I'll usually start out with maybe a couple paragraphs painting in broad strokes, with room to fill in details as I go. I've always been a very 'develop in play' sort of guy; I actually really like whichever FATE system encourages you to put your sheet together after start, once you've gotten a feel for them.

    And I really don't like being asked to explain every single number on my sheet. "Why does your law student have the stat profile of a Navy SEAL," okay, legit. "Where and how did your petty criminal pick up some basic larceny skill," man, I don't know, get off my back.

    When did we all decide backstory was the be-all of a new character, anyway?


  • Pitcrew

    @insomniac7809 said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    I've never been a fan of super involved backgrounds.

    Like, I'll usually start out with maybe a couple paragraphs painting in broad strokes, with room to fill in details as I go. I've always been a very 'develop in play' sort of guy; I actually really like whichever FATE system encourages you to put your sheet together after start, once you've gotten a feel for them.

    And I really don't like being asked to explain every single number on my sheet. "Why does your law student have the stat profile of a Navy SEAL," okay, legit. "Where and how did your petty criminal pick up some basic larceny skill," man, I don't know, get off my back.

    When did we all decide backstory was the be-all of a new character, anyway?

    I do a lot of this myself ('develop in play') and this was particularly true on Arx. Normally I'd have a 1-2 page background for any char I CG, but this time it was significantly less, simply because I was sure I would make a faux pas or five if I went for details. Usually it's a general outline (here are the major points that sounds like a narrative), and for my D&D chars in particular they were very much fill-in-the-blank BGs.


  • Pitcrew

    Oh, and for what staff should be doing:

    @Thenomain has a good bit of it, "mak(ing) sure everyone is playing the same game." 90%+ of actual interactions are going to be between PCs. If you're, say, running a game set in a small rural town, maybe... gently suggest that a PC who owns a hopping nightclub is a great PC for a different game.

    Restrictions aren't a bad thing.


  • Tutorialist

    @insomniac7809 said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    ently suggest that a PC who owns a hopping nightclub is a great PC for a different game.

    I've done this.

    They all switched it out to 'Irish Pub Dive Bar slash underground boxing ring'



  • @Derp said in Staff scrutiny during CGen:

    They all switched it out to 'Irish Pub Dive Bar slash underground boxing ring'

    While playing Haunted Memories, I and a few other people complained how many Irish Pubs there were on grid.

    Then we researched Vienna.

    There are a lot of Irish Pub-themed places in Vienna!


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