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.