Compelling opening while creating a character


So, We’ve all been there. The first page and You need to do two important things: set up a story and set up a character.

With this narrative style, I am having difficulty trying to find a balance between these two goals. Many RPG’s have you set up your character in a ‘character selection’ screen, but is that ok with a text base game like this? I feel like I would be putting off a lot of people without a compelling story opening. LIkewise, if i start out with a heavy story opening I leave myself narrow to branching out. I feel like any changes after I’ve established character would be shoveled in.

Anyone got a good solution?


I believe that a ‘character selection’ screen would do just fine in your game if the rest of your game somewhat followed the same kind of RPG, less story-heavy style, or at least began that way and slowly became more story-heavy to gradually include immersion.


Start the story and bread-crumb your way into character creation, bits and pieces. Gender here, look there, ect… just pepper it around.


I"You and your two companions have found the dragon’s lair of gold!"

Stab your companions in the back, take all the gold (because you can!) and also take your dead companions’ shoes. And their underwear.
*set political “libertarian”

Turn your two companions against each other, take most of the gold, and let them fight over the scraps.
*set political “republican”

Lecture your companions about fairness and agree to share the gold equally, regardless of which team members contributed the most to the quest.
*set political “democrat”

Steal all of your companions’ existing gold, count it all up. Then determine who has the most “need” based on your own subjective assessments. Divide it up accordingly.
*set political “socialist”


You could do something similar to fatehaven, starting with action:(and comedy)

You jump from pillar to pillar as you try to escape the phoenix. The roar of fire deafens you, but you eventually manage to hide in a small mountain crevice. However, as the adreniline wears off, you feel like you’ve just been


Kicked in the testicles
Set gender “Male”

Smacked in your womanly teats
Set gender “Female”


Don’t worry about the opening. Clear your mind of any necessities of having anything in the beginning of the game. Do you, and do what feels right in the story. Don’t force selections in or it’ll end up feeling janky or shovelled in, as you said. Honestly, your imagination is the limit with how you should define any main character in your story.

If you wanted to make a character selection screen, you can do that and make it an interactive looping set of choices that people have the freedom to go change all the way up until they make the selection to continue into the story. Make it clear that this is where they set up a character, don’t try to half-hide it behind story elements if you go down this route.

If you want to gradually shape a character, then you can. Absolutely. Selecting the main character’s gender doesn’t need to matter until you make it matter. It can be in Chapter 1, it can be in Chapter 7. The timing is entirely up to you.
Likewise the amount of character definition is up to you. If you feel like gender or sexual orientation don’t come into play, don’t give them an option to select one. Make the story vague enough that whoever reads it can fill in that blanks, play around with expectations. When done well, the reader will never even notice they didn’t pick it, they just filled it in without being confronted about it.

If you want to flesh out the world and other characters in the story, without fleshing out the main character yet, you can jump into the perspective of another person for a little bit. Show what is happening, then find a way to shift the perspective to the main character.


I’d avoid the character selection/generation screen. This is a throwback to the heydey of Dungeons & Dragons, when the first thing you did was get a pencil and a sheet of paper, and roll dice to determine what your stats were. After quite a lot of rolling dice and writing, you had a character, and only then did the Dungeon Master start the story.

That’s the system the first computer RPGs emulated, and it’s only a good idea if you want to evoke that old-school D&D feel (which some games do).

If you want this to feel more like an interactive story, then you probably don’t need to “set up” the character. Just write the narrative. Don’t worry about the character’s gender until the point in the story when it actually becomes important (if it does at all)—then establish the character’s gender.

If you only establish what needs to be established, it won’t feel shoveled in, and you won’t actually be changing anything about the character. The player’s imagination fills in the gaps.


In my game I had the protagonist filling out a form which had them fill out their first name, last name, and sex while explaining why they were filling out this form and some of their motivations. You could do it like that if you wanted. I didn’t put everything on there like which sex the character was interested in banging and if they were skilled in strength or speed because that would be a stupid thing for my form to include. So I’d just put that somewhere else in the game like the examples the people above me have given.


So the current solution i am toying with is having a dream sequence. My current idea for the game is
Dream Sequence -> Prologue -> Main story

In the Dream sequence i basically have a large battle and have them “Choose” Their gender, weapon, and ability. These will determine their “Attributes” later on. The attributes will start when the Prologue starts. The reason why I am doing a dream sequence is to make it open ended to connect to my three different prologues. Yeah, three different backgrounds :expressionless: I wanted a complex story. But, I also didn’t want to limit my character’s backstory. But, back to focusing on a the compelling story. I wanted to Make the Dream related to the “Goal” of the player. Being a Badass Warrior (of some type). And then, at the end of the dream sequence, the player is now “young” and has to work their way up to the goal.

I think this sets up motivation/goal very early on and allows my player to set up their characater all at once. Do you think the dream sequence is ok?


Yep, that would work.


In all honesty, unless character creation takes up too much time or has a large amount of unnecessary choices then I barely think about it again once I’m into the story. Although, I do think back to it (not so fondly) if I spent a lot of time making choices that seemed relevant but turn out to be fluff never mentioned again at all. Have as many stats as you want, but only so many as they are relevant to the narrative. Otherwise, I, as a player, feel like I wasted a whole bunch of time. I’ve sat in character generation sections of cogs before only to have maybe 1/4 of the selections matter in any way, which is frustrating. By explicitly forcing a choice, it creates the expectation that the time spent on making that choice will pay off or matter.


I agree that I hate when all the character creation is mashed at the beginning. I thought Lynnea Glasser’s Creatures Such as We did a good job essentially determining gender, and then a little later on easing in the questions that formed up the character.

Of course if you can do it in a diegetic way, that’s even better - an example would be the beginning of Leather Goddesses of Phobos which determines your gender at the start by which bathroom you enter first.

If possible, avoid just asking a specific question in narration: “Are you a Belgian Nun or a Werewolf?” It works better if the reader has a reason to make a decision. Having a character offer a choice of weapon “The town is being attacked! Here take one of my weapons;, are you better with the Sword, the Bow, or the Magic Wand?” is much smoother than “Are you a Fighter, Archer or Magic User?”