Character Creation vs. Selection in Single Player Role-Playing Games

(Role-Playing) Games have different approaches to how the player character (PC) gets created or selected. They can be broken down into:

  1. None
  2. Selection only
  3. Creation only
  4. Flexible Creation/Selection
  5. In-Game Creation

No to little configuration allow easy access to a game, while complex creation systems allow the player to shape his player character, which might lead to stronger identification/binding. The following examples are supposed to help you visualize the differences between the systems and how they have been implemented in existing games.


Pre-defined character in (Role-playing) Games
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No configuration that affects gameplay is offered.

Rhapsody (1998)

Character Creation in Rhapsody (spoiler: there is none)
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No character creation.

Dungeon Siege (2002)

Character Creation in Dungeon Siege (spoiler: there is none)
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Character visuals, which don’t affect the game can be changed before start.

Jeanne d’Arc (2006)

Character Creation in Jeanne D Arc (spoiler: there is none)
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No character creation.

The Witcher (2007)

Character Creation in The Witcher (spoiler: there is none)
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No character creation.

Persona 4 (2008)

Character Creation in Persona 4 (spoiler: there is none)
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No character creation.

Selection only

Enforced Character Selection in (Role-playing) Games
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A character can be picked from a given selection. The available characters are either balanced or there are custom paths for the characters through the game.

Diablo (1997)

Character Selection in Diablo
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Diablo player characters each have one unique skill and some limitations.

Diablo 2 (2000)

Character Selection in Diablo 2
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Each character has their own skill trees.

Nox (2000)

Character Selection in Nox
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Each of the characters has their own linear game path, which allows the description “Nox is three games without character selection/configuration”.

Dungeon Siege II (2005)

Character Creation in Dungeon Siege 2
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In DS II, race is the only stat-changing player character variable that can be picked.

Sacred II (2008)

Character Creation in Sacred 2
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Sacred 2 allows to pick character and god, which doesn’t count as creation in my book.

Creation only

Enforced Character Creation in (Role-playing) Games
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Mandatory character creation requires the player to see the stats before the game.

Planescape: Torment (1999)

Character Creation in Planescape Torment
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Stats need to be distributed, while class (warrior) is pre-selected (and can be changed in-game through dialog).

Baldur’s Gate II (2000)

Character Creation in Baldurs Gate 2
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Multi-step character creation is a requirement in BG2.

Eschalon: Book I (2007)

Character Creation in Eschalon
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The one-screen character creation is mandatory in Eschalon.

Winter Voices (2010)

Character Creation in Winter Voices
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Character background and a few non-common stats need to be picked.

Flexible Creation/Selection

Flexible Character Selection/Creation in (Role-playing) Games
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Characters can be picked from selections and configured or created, which allows restless beginners and perfectionist pros to start at the pace they desire.

Fallout (1997) & Fallout 2 (1998)

Character Creation in Fallout
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Character Creation in Fallout 2
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Three character defaults or one loaded creation screen.

Fallout Tactics (2001)

Character Creation in Fallout Tactics
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Pre-made characters or Fallout 1/2-style creation plus portrait/look.

Arcanum (2001)

Character Creation in Arcanum
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Selection and Creation are separate title menu entries and are not connected. Arcanum’s creation/selection system could be called “Creation or Selection” (full size).

Drakensang (2006)

Character Creation in Drakensang
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Pre-made characters can optionally be configured in multi-tab character sheets.

Avernum 5 (2007)

Character Creation in Avernum 5
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There’s a handful of characters to select from, which can be configured.

In-Game Creation

In-Game Character Creation in (Role-playing) Games
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Allowing the player to take first steps and get accustomed to the controls/UI before introducing character statistics is a trend popular among 3D RPGs.

Ultima IX (1999)

Character Creation in Ultima 9
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After a player controls tutorial, a card-reading character creation is preformed.

Fallout 3 (2008)

Character Creation in Fallout 3
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A multi-stage, in-plot tutorial level lets the player 1. move around, 2. set primary stat points, 3. talk, shoot, sneak, 4. set secondary stat points by dialog (which can be hand-edited at the end of the dialog) and 5. change all character configuration at level end (in that order).

Mass Effect 2 (2010)

Character Creation in Mass Effect 2
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After some player character movement, a multiple-choice dialog is used for creating the PC.

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6 Responses to Character Creation vs. Selection in Single Player Role-Playing Games

  1. wilbefast says:

    This post is epic in all senses of the word! I’ve only skimmed it so far, but I’m definitely coming back for a closer look when I’m more at liberty. Till then, you might find this interesting:


    • qubodup says:

      I didn’t pre-order (yet?…) :)

      “The requested topic does not exist.”

      • wilbefast says:

        Link works for me, and isn’t on the restricted board either :-/

        Never mind – I finished reading the post. I like your analytical mind: truth be told I prefer not to spend an hour making a character. The sooner you get into the game the better. I think Fallout 3 did a fairly good job making character creation interesting.

        Also reminds me how many classic RPGs I need to play. Planetscape for instance…

    • qubodup says:

      Ok the link works for me now :) (dunno why it didn’t…) And the post looks interesting!

      I hate the idea of a linear “wannabe-story but actually tutorial” level before starting to play in an open world. I hated it in Oblivion and Fallout 2. Didn’t play F3/NV yet.

      And yes, you need to try to play Plane(no ‘t’)scape :)

  2. wilbefast says:

    Apparently Arcanum is interesting too, from the point of view of multi-linear… ness. All good “research” :-P

    • qubodup says:

      I didn’t like Arcanum – I wasn’t able to develop any interest for the story/characters and my eyes hurt from its looks. I didn’t play much of it.

      I don’t think my post is much of research. “Pretty graphs and screenshots” more like. :D

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