Player-Created Characters

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Characters whose creation players' have had some influence over.

Many games provide gameplay by letting players control characters of some form. When the players have the chance of either creating these before gameplay begins or over time develop them to be as the players want, these are Player-Created Characters. Games with these allow players to customize not only the characters but through them the overall gameplay experience they will have. The downside to this is that it can take time and require knowledge to do this well, and can make it more difficult for game designers to provide narratives that have roles optimized for such characters.


Most Tabletop Roleplaying Games (see Universalis for an exception) support explicit rules for Player-Created Characters, although many scenarios include pre-made characters to allow gameplay to begin more quickly. Ars Magica and GURPS are examples of such games where players spend points to determine attributes and other important characteristics, while Dungeons & Dragons and Mutant use dice. Fallen Reich and Traveller make use of dice as well, but here to create background stories and through these the attributes, skills, etc.

Computer-based Roleplaying Games have take over several of these solutions, e.g. the Fallout series allowing players to spend points on attributes and NetHack letting players roll what attributes their characters should have. The Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Witcher series allow some customization in the beginning, e.g. which gender one will play in the two first examples, and through gradual choices through out the gameplay allow the character to be perceived to be at least partly created by players.

Using the pattern

Designing so that games have Player-Created Characters consists of creating rules for how players can affect Characters. Although the most obvious way to do this is through Initial Personalization such as Avatar Personalization, Construction, or Naming before gameplay begins, Player-Created Characters can emerge over time through the use of Character Development combined with Creative Control or Freedom of Choice, e.g. through Character Defining Actions. These process can be affected more or less through the use of Randomness, e.g. rolling initial statistics in Dungeons & Dragons or using the Life Board in Fallen Reich.

Typical aspects of Player-Created Characters that are possible to change include Attributes, Equipment, Powers, and Skills. For games with Roleplaying, the use of Character Alignments (e.g. in Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) can help players shape how their Characters should behave in the Game World.

Although it may be most natural that the pattern Player-Created Characters is used to create Player Characters, some games make use of the pattern to let player create Non-Player Characters, e.g. Companions in roleplaying games such as GURPS.

Workshopping is the generic term for various specific techniques used to create or modify Player-Created Characters. They differ from other ways of instantiating Player-Created Characters in that they are intended to be explicit gameplay activity and typically are done in groups.

Interface Aspects

In computer-based games, Player-Created Characters are constructed in Secondary Interface Screens.


Games supporting Player-Created Characters gives players Freedom of Choice and Creative Control in constructing Characters, although the level of control and freedom may depend on the level of Randomness involved in the process. These Characters, which may not only be Player Characters but can also be Non-Player Characters such as Companions, are all examples of Player Created Game Elements. That players have created them increases the possibilities for Identification and Emotional Engrossment and is likely to affect Roleplaying if this is present in a game design. The personalization possible also allows players to construct Player Defined Goals for their Characters as they are created, and can give them the Exaggerated Perception of Influence over how the Narration Structures will develop as well as letting them have influence on what type of Role Fulfillment they can get to experience trying to make their Characters reach their goals (this is due to players' having Freedom of Choice while creating the Characters through Initial Personalization). Given that player can consider and choose the way they want Player-Created Characters to behave while they are creating them, these Characters are more likely to have Enforced Agent Behavior even if the behavior is decided by players rather than by game designers.

Although the creation of Player-Created Characters typically takes place before gameplay properly begins, they are not Predetermined Story Structures since they were not created by the game designers. However, game designers provide the rules for creating them so they can have heavy influence on what types of Player-Created Characters are allowed. The time spent on Player-Created Characters is an example of Player Time Investments and is likely to lead to Asymmetric Starting Conditions. For Late Arriving Players, the use of Player-Created Characters can be used to let them better fit the already existing Characters in Multiplayer Games.


Can Instantiate

Asymmetric Starting Conditions, Emotional Engrossment, Enforced Agent Behavior, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Player Created Game Elements, Player Time Investments, Player Defined Goals, Role Fulfillment

with Player Characters


Can Modulate

Attributes, Characters, Companions, Equipment, Late Arriving Players, Narration Structures, Non-Player Characters, Player Characters, Powers, Roleplaying, Skills

Can Be Instantiated By

Characters together with Avatar Personalization, Construction, Initial Personalization, or Naming

Character Development in games with Characters and either Creative Control or Freedom of Choice

Can Be Modulated By

Character Alignments, Predetermined Story Structures, Randomness, Secondary Interface Screens, Workshopping

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Predetermined Story Structures


New pattern created in this wiki.




Karl Bergström