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UI, Controls, QoL : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
Roleplay, Story, Immersion : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Mechanisms : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Longer term considerations : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.



PLAYING A FULLY CUSTOM CHARACTER




Equally good experience when playing a Fully Custom Character.

For clarity, I'll fix some terminology first.
- An Origin Character (OC) is a character made by you. They have fixed stats, identity, personality, backstory and personal quest. They can be chosen as PC at the start of the game, or be met later by our PC and become a companion.
- A Semi Custom Character (SCC) is a character where we can choose the stats, identity, ideally the personality to some extent, but they have a fixed backstory and personal quest (if any).
- A Fully Custom Character (FCC) is a character where we can choose the stats, identity, personality, make up the backstory ... everything.


It should remain possible to play with a Fully Custom Character.

I know that it will be possible play some form of Custom Character.

It sounds as if there will be the option to play a Semi Custom Character, with at least one available Backstory (maybe you will allow to select the Backstory from a list).

What I am requesting is the option to play a Fully Custom Character. You have said you want to give agency to the players and bring the spirit of tabletop, with you as GM of the campaign. So it would be sad if we were not allowed to fully create our character, and we were instead handed out a half-completed character sheet and told we can only fill in what is still blank. The Custom Character we can create for now is a Fully Custom Character, so it would be really sad if this option was removed.


The Fully Custom Character should receive as much care as the other options.

Making sure that we can play a FCC is super easy. Barely an inconvenience. Indeed, a Fully Custom Character is merely a Semi Custom Character with Backstory value equal to None.

However, it would be great if the FCC was handled properly, and allocated adequate development resources. Fortunately, it looks as if making a FCC requires much less resources than an OC or a SCC, so this should be quite feasible.

Quick note here : if you want to give players the options A, B, C and D, and you care about player agency, then you should craft all options equally well. If you neglect the development of option D and it ends up being really subpar compared to the other options, then you never really gave players an option D.


A good experience for Fully Custom Character is probably good for the Semi Custom and Origin Characters too.

I have difficulty imagining many roleplay opportunities that could be exclusive to the FCC. But that's good.

Delivering a good roleplay experience for a FCC can be achieved by providing interesting dialogue options, choices that matter and have consequences, various ways to solve quests, and decision points that allow to showcase the PC's personality and values, etc.

So if you make the roleplay experience good for a FCC, then you are also making the game good for the SCC and OC.


The Fully Custom Character should be free of writing assumptions.

Otherwise ... the character is not Fully Custom anymore.

Any assumption made automatically places limitations on the backstory we can make up. To take BG1 as an example, "you are 20 years old and grew up in Candlekeep, raised by the sage Gorion" immediately forces quite a number of restrictions.
- We cannot really pick the Background of a Criminal, Outlander, Sailor, or Urchin.
- We can hardly justify having a Class like Druid or Ranger.
- We cannot start the game as someone who is old and well-travelled, like a mercenary who spent 3 decades escorting caravans.
Gorion's Ward was a Semi Custom Character. A Fully Custom Character gives players more freedom than that.


The point of a Fully Custom Character is not their past, but probably more who they are and who they become.

These two things are essentially incompatible and require a trade-off :
- The Player Character has a significant backstory and personal journey, integrated with and possibly deeply connected to the Main Story (the adventure everyone is involved in).
- The writing assumes little about the Player Character, in particular in terms of personality and backstory, thus giving the players the freedom to fill in all the blanks.

An OC has a significant backstory that is fully set and integrated within the Main Story. Players have little say in who the PC was or is. Many games, which don't focus on player agency like BG3 does, give players an OC : Geralt, Cloud, Solid Snake, Lara Croft, etc.

A SCC does a bit of both. The backstory is mostly assumed, and possibly connected to the Main Story. Yet it leaves a bit of room for us choose the PC's identity and personality. This is what the original Baldur's Gate games did with Gorion's Ward.

For a FCC, almost nothing is assumed, especially in terms of backstory. No secret lineage to be revealed, no troubled history or buried past resurfacing. In particular, no special connection to the Main Story.

As a result, the "point of interest" in a Fully Custom Character cannot be their past. One obvious thing left, then, is who the Character is now, the choices they make and who they become during the adventure. (I don't pretend to exhaustivity, I merely want to show that even with no access to the past of a Fully Custom Character, there are still things to work with, as far as writing is concerned.)


Suggestion for making some assumptions : backstory questionnaire at character creation.

This is a suggestion allowing to make some assumption on a FCC, if some assumptions really have to be made. The point here is how to collect information for a FCC, not what to do with it.

There could be a backstory questionnaire at character creation, for a Custom Character that does not select one of the pre-defined Backstories.

Examples of questions :
a) Where are you from ? Baldur's Gate, Daggerford, Waterdeep, Yartar, etc (provide more options), or "other : please write" ?
b) Are you a younger or older person ? The exact age might be unimportant, it's more about whether the character has some maturity and life experience.
c) Is this your first time facing danger ? Did you have a safe life before the abduction, or have you already experienced some form of danger or adventure, voluntarily or not ?
d) Are you trying to get back to your old life, or is that abduction-induced adventure going to be a perfect opportunity to forge a new life ?


Suggestion for making some assumptions : dynamic selection of backstory elements during the adventure.

An alternative method to get the same kind of information, would be give the player prompts through dialogue options with [backstory tags], and record their choices.

For example, when meeting Astarion, the PC could select "[From : Baldur's Gate] Introduce yourself", "[From : Daggerford] Introduce yourself", etc. If the PC chooses Baldur's Gate, then it is now recorded that the PC is from Baldur's Gate (this may even go on the character sheet). Just the same as if this had been selected at character creation.

The whole point of prompts is to avoid making assumptions for the players. For instance, currently, the Custom PC is generally assumed to be from Baldur's Gate, which is sad. But I have seen no NPC reacting to our Baldurian origin, only a dialogue option to declare ourselves as Baldurian, which is good. Then, not selecting this dialogue option does not force us to be from Baldur's Gate.



Main Story, characters and Main Character.


Relative independence of the Main Story and the Characters.

In a DnD adventure, the GM (or the book) provides the Main Story, complete with its various possible paths and conclusions. Meanwhile the players provide the characters, complete with their backstories, their interactions and possible evolutions during the adventure. But the Main Story stands, exists in itself. And it can be played with other characters.

Since BG3 aims at providing a DnD experience, a lot of the writing should probably focus on making sure that the Main Story is good and can stand on its own. Making memorable characters, with personal stories, personalities, etc, is a welcome bonus of course. But it should not be what carries all of the game, or the heavier load of it. I have previously requested that all story paths are equally good. But, also, please make sure that your story is good.


Equal importance of the party members (PC and NPC companions).

If this is to be anything like a tabletop adventure, all the characters in the party should be equally important.

This importance includes :
- (a) Receiving special attention from the GM (often in the form of a quest that revolves around them), and thus having more screen-time/roleplay-time.
- (b) Being more connected to the Main Story.
- (c) Being More Hero in the end (discussed in the next item).

Given that it will be possible to play BG3 with friends, it would certainly be nicer if we didn't have to decide from the start who will get to play the Main Character and who will have to settle for a Supporting Character.

Between the OCs, that equal relative importance seems baked-in. Since a SCC will have a Backstory, and possibly a personal quest, they will probably receive as much screen-time as the OCs, in a natural-enough way. Given how much you seem invested in the OCs, I doubt you plan to make the SCC a More Special One who is more connected to the Main Story (like Gorion's Ward).

The FCC can't be given a backstory. Which makes it harder to receive a lot of special screen-time or connection to the Main Story. Players who want those should play with a SCC or an OC.


Making one character be the More-Main Character : becoming the Hero.

Some players, especially when playing solo, and even when playing with an OC, might want their character to still be the Truly Main Character and thus be more important than the other party members. It's probably not really the general DnD spirit, but still, here's at least one idea to accommodate it.

One member of the party could, at the end of the game, be hailed as More-Hero Of Baldur's Gate than the others (for the sake of example, assuming we are to save Baldur's Gate from a terrible fate, like in BG1).

The distinction between that character and the other party members should occur toward the end of the adventure.

Finally, this distinction should result from a choice or an action made by that character. Ideally, this would be optional, and anywhere between none and all the members of the party could do it. (In solo gaming, the single player could fully choose for each of the NPC companions, or this could be completely determined by previous events/quests/etc, or something in between.)

Said otherwise, being remembered in-world as Hero/Mainmost Character would effectively be a game ending. It would be achieved/unlocked through choices and action during the game, instead of being granted at character creation. And it would emphasise player agency.


Hoping we'll be able to create great assumptions-free Custom Characters and be given great roleplay options.
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Dez Offline
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These are some pretty solid points and I do hope that Larians vision regarding the entire experience of the game will be something similar to what you envisioned here.

Since BG3 seems to focus mostly on FCC and OCs (because I assume that we won't be forced to be from BG at release...), it is a difficult middleground when it comes to "special screen time" since there really is nothing in current BG3 that resembles the OC prototype, and, like many have said before on these forums, it is rather sad that the player would miss out on a lot of special interactions without anything in return to make up for it when choosing FCC.

Anyways, I love your idea of creating tags as we go in the game. Obviously, having everything in Character Select would be a more traditional approach - but that might make the process tiring for those who create a lot of characters. I do believe that your suggestion of specific questions asked through-out the game would be an interesting solution.

HOWEVER, I do see one problem. Imagine if the player is roleplaying as a secretive character, which would include options to lie about origins. The dialogue option list would be... Long, to say the least:
"Where are you from?
- Baldur's Gate."
- [Lie] Baldur's Gate."
- Daggerford.
- [Lie] Daggerford"

Why is it important that the lines that are lies are marked separately? Because if we were to actually create tags in this conversation, having the character select a regular response with the intentions to lie would still result in the character gaining said tag. So, from a role playing perspective; my character lied when they said they are from Daggerford - but the game would still incorrectly register my character as someone from Daggerford unless they are specific options for lying.

Since the Sword Coast is a rather big place, and the West Faerûn is even bigger. staying within the region alone would require a lot of available responses to not limit the character immersion / roleplaying experience. Perhaps anything outside the Sword Coast would have to be labeled as "From outside the Sword Coast" or similar, leaving the tag a little more open for interpretation instead of specifying even further. So, with the Forgotten Realm's map in mind, I would assume that the safest action for Larian would be to establish at least the geographical background in Character Creation. Perhaps with a click-able map so players can click on certain regions to receive more information about the available locations in said region?

Edit: Or perhaps a solution would be that the conversation is multi-layered. Ex:

NPC: "Where are you from?"
- "West Faerûn."
- "North Faerûn."
- "South Faerûn."
- "East Faerûn."
- "The Underdark."
Or perhaps even more accurate by including ex. northeast, southwest, northwest locations. So let's say the character selects "West Faerûn".
"Ah, so you're not very far from home then, are you?"
- "Quite a bit away - I am from Evermeet..."
- "Indeed, I am from Baldur's Gate"
- "Not quite, I am from Moonshae Isles"
Etc, etc.

The biggest issue with this option is that unless the player already has a fair bit of knowledge of the geographical map of Faerûn - these options would only be tiring and confusing. Even if the game were to show information when certain keywords are mouseover'ed (like, let's say BATTLETECH), unavoidably, there'd be A LOT of text to read - which probably would break immersion off entirely for most players if this occurred in the middle of the game.

Soooo... Well. I believe the easiest options for all parts involved would be to include this kind of stuff in Character Selection. It would be fun to have small details added through-out the game though, like more specifics about your chosen previous occupation and/or other fun details - while always leaving a option for the player do "decline" these tags if they don't feel like it matches their character. Example:

At character creation you chose the background "Sailor". While at the Baldur's Gate harbor a man comes up to you.

"Heyyy, I recognize you! Did we not meet in Waterdeep a few years ago?"
- "Sorry, you've mistaken me for somebody else." (Nothing special happens - the NPC apologizes for the mistake and perhaps is left a bit puzzled. If they have a quest, then they ask you about it anyways)
- [Lie] "Sorry, you've mistaken me for somebody else." (opens for a deceptive roll check whenever he'll recognize you or not)
- "Maybe - I have done a fair share of sailing." (The sailor ponders, insisting that he recognizes you. The player gets a second chance to specify "Oh now I remember...", definitely decline "No, I dont think so" or just shrug, saying they don't know. Neutral dialogues open up for the two last options - friendly or hostile depending on what dialogue options the player chose to follow with)
- "Indeed we did, David. Good to see you!" (Opens friendly dialogue and some dialogue options for the player surrounding the specifics - like if they met at a bar, worked together or perhaps saved some cargo from some thieves."
- "Oh right, you were the sailor of <insert random ship name> - are you still mad about that incident?" (Opens hostile dialogue - also with options surrounding the specifics - perhaps the PC did some pickpocketing on him, perhaps they cheated him while playing cards or perhaps PC just made it off with a girl he fancied - idk)
- "We did, and I swore I'd give you a good beating if I ever found you again." (Also opens up a hostile dialogue - with available specifics like a more serious incidents - like the PC attempting to rob him, murder him or something generally evil. Like feeding him to some goblins?).

Last edited by Dez; 30/04/21 11:54 AM.

Hoot hoot, stranger! Fairly new to CRPGs, but I tried my best to provide some feedback regardless! <3 Read it here: My Open Letter to Larian
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You've convinced me that the dynamic selection of backstory-related tags, as the game progresses and the player chooses dialogue options, wouldn't be such a good idea. Indeed, PCs that are lying or are amnesiac would pose difficulties. To which there are two main solutions. One is to just let the player know that secretive or amnesiac PCs simply aren't supported. Another one is to not use this method. Which means : mini-questionnaire at character creation is the way to go ... Possibly. I want to emphasise 2 things though.

Firstly, this questionnaire should really be minimalistic. The first 3 examples I gave are probably sufficient.
  • Place of origin. The list should include one entry for each place for which there exists content (i.e. at least one person, somewhere in the game, who has previously met your PC). If the player writes any "NameOfPlace" of their choice, then it means they won't meet anyone known to the Pc, they'll just be able to have this place written on the character sheet and have the PC say "I'm from NameOfPlace".
  • Previous experience with adventure or danger. This could perhaps allow for slightly different party dynamics. Maybe your companions would be more impressed if you prove surprisingly adequate in adventuring when your PC never did this before. And maybe they would be more ready to defer to you if you've let them know you have some experience (well, Astarion and perhaps Shadowheart).
  • Age. This could give access to various exclusive dialogue options. Or ... just not exists at all. Well, it would be nice on the character sheet, even if it has no impact.

It is completely clear that Larian cannot (and should not) acknowledge in some form, and provide reactivity for every backstory that players could possibly come up with.

Secondly, all this is really if some backstory elements have to be used at all. And I don't think that, for a Fully-Custom Character, the backstory should be a main point of focus. What should count about the PC is who they are and the choices they make. What they are made of, what they really value, and who they become.


Hoping we'll be able to create great assumptions-free Custom Characters and be given great roleplay options.
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Machinus
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Can you explain why you think FCC is not already in the game?

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Dez Offline
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Originally Posted by Drath Malorn
You've convinced me that the dynamic selection of backstory-related tags, as the game progresses and the player chooses dialogue options, wouldn't be such a good idea. Indeed, PCs that are lying or are amnesiac would pose difficulties. To which there are two main solutions. One is to just let the player know that secretive or amnesiac PCs simply aren't supported. Another one is to not use this method. Which means : mini-questionnaire at character creation is the way to go ... Possibly. I want to emphasise 2 things though.

Firstly, this questionnaire should really be minimalistic. The first 3 examples I gave are probably sufficient.
  • Place of origin. The list should include one entry for each place for which there exists content (i.e. at least one person, somewhere in the game, who has previously met your PC). If the player writes any "NameOfPlace" of their choice, then it means they won't meet anyone known to the Pc, they'll just be able to have this place written on the character sheet and have the PC say "I'm from NameOfPlace".
  • Previous experience with adventure or danger. This could perhaps allow for slightly different party dynamics. Maybe your companions would be more impressed if you prove surprisingly adequate in adventuring when your PC never did this before. And maybe they would be more ready to defer to you if you've let them know you have some experience (well, Astarion and perhaps Shadowheart).
  • Age. This could give access to various exclusive dialogue options. Or ... just not exists at all. Well, it would be nice on the character sheet, even if it has no impact.

It is completely clear that Larian cannot (and should not) acknowledge in some form, and provide reactivity for every backstory that players could possibly come up with.

Secondly, all this is really if some backstory elements have to be used at all. And I don't think that, for a Fully-Custom Character, the backstory should be a main point of focus. What should count about the PC is who they are and the choices they make. What they are made of, what they really value, and who they become.

Hmm, limiting character roleplaying possibilities by telling PC that they cannot lie or be amnesiac would be faulty, in my opinion. I'll agree.

I also agree that for the sake of avoiding potential clashes and player limitations that the questionnaire should be kept to a minimum, but the answers should still grant some flavor content, similar to that of the Origin characters (like discusses earlier). And I do like the 3 qualities that you brought up. :] Quick, clean and efficient. Does not require too much studying on the player part either.

And I agree (... yet again) about your second point. Trying to involve the past of a FCC too much is simply gonna put restrictions on the FCC in the end - and I am the kind of person that is willing to trade small flavor interactions for my blank sheet. I do so very much love to make my own story, as detailed as possible, even if I cannot "use" it ingame in any way. laugh

Originally Posted by Machinus
Can you explain why you think FCC is not already in the game?

Pretty sure Darth Malorn pointed on on multiple occasions that current Tav is pretty much a FCC. *BUUUT*, one could argue that this is false since Larian presumes that the character we play as is from Baldur's Gate (and, to my greatest sorrow, it seems like this is intentional and indeed made to stay :[ ).

Like Malorn said, the entire point of a FCC is that NOTHING is presumed about them. Everything is in the hands of the player, but at the cost of some special interactions and that NPCs might recognize us. In BG3, Larian DOES assume some things about our character - like Tav being from Baldur's Gate, and that makes them a SCC.

Last edited by Dez; 17/05/21 12:33 AM.

Hoot hoot, stranger! Fairly new to CRPGs, but I tried my best to provide some feedback regardless! <3 Read it here: My Open Letter to Larian

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