So, having recently worked up a number of characters for one shots at Gen Con, I needed to figure out a way to make a lot of characters quickly. If we ever print a revision to Becoming Heroes, one thing I want to change about the book is to write a lot more advice about choosing traits. Until then, however, I want to share a “quick generation” pattern that I think works really well.

Choose your arc first. This will help you with the next bit. Also, some arcs have special trait requirements, and you’ll want to keep that in mind.

Next, choose traits to fit specific aspects of your character, as listed below:

  • Power: A thing your character can do that others cannot. You might be Attuned to the Forest. Or you could be a Demon Summoner.
  • Feature: A mundane aspect that is really useful. Are you a Shrewd Merchant? Maybe you have The Luck of a Fool.
  • History: The background you come from. Were you trained as a Forest Guardian? Perhaps you’re a Former Assassin.
  • Weakness: A character flaw. Perhaps you have an Uncompromising Devotion to the Faith. Maybe it’s an Endless Hatred for Monsters.
  • Quirk: Some tick or habit that others will notice. Are you a Zen Gardener? Are you a Wicked Gossip?
  • Disposition: How you come across to others. Are you an Eternal Optimist? Perhaps you Brook No Offense.
  • Description: How people describe you. Do you have a Gallant Bearing? Or are you a Master of Deception?
  • Physicality: How you physically interact with the world. Maybe you have Tattoos of Arcane Power. Maybe you’re Born of Giants?

After that, choose ties:

  • Someone you love
  • Someone you hate
  • Someone you need

Then choose circumstances and a virtue—I find these go pretty smoothly after the rest. With this mould, I was able to create six characters in a few hours by myself. If you’re doing this as a group, I’d recommend going down the list with each player creating one trait at a time.

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When we came up with the Circumstances system in Becoming Heroes, I’d thought we’d hit upon a really awesome mechanic that allows for fantastic moments of awesome. And I still do. But that observation has been tempered in a number of ways in the last year, and it deserves reconsideration.

Let me fill in some blank areas. I’m male, I’m white, I’m reasonably well educated, I have a good job. I am, sort of, the canonical example of privilege. I may have mentioned elsewhere that it occupies a lot of my mind. I bring this up because during last year’s Gen Con, and recently via Twitter, I have seen people in positions of less privilege identify loss of character authority as a sore spot.

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More and more these days, I am fascinated by the power and role of decisions. Decisions create buy-in, generate unexpected outcomes, and provide drama. As I’ve come to see it, most of all, decisions provide meaning.

But not all decisions create meaning—to do that, a decision needs to be personal, needs to have weight, and has to be visible. Each of these things is challenging to engineer reliably. I’ve been trying to take stock of what works for me. This is what I’ve come up with so far.

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