Thoughts on preset protagonists in character creation?

If there’s already a thread for this, please remove it, but i felt like it would be ok.

I wanted to get everyone’s opinions on preset protagonists. And when I say that, i dont mean forcing the player to play a specific predefined character.

I mean, having the option to play a prest protagonist while still having an option to create your own MC. Like in Balance of Superpower 2.

The reason im asking is because in my WIP, i’m toying around with having the option to choose a customisable MC or a preset protagonist. There would be 3 options, a custom MC, a male preset, and a female preset. You would still be able to choose a custom MC if you wish.

The presets would have their own character development, and so certain choices would be locked depending on the chosen preset. If you choose a custom MC, you would get more freedom in choice. But there would be exclusive scenes for the presets to tie into their characters.

Would you guys like a feature like this in a game? Because the poll on my WIP seems pretty divided.


We always have to make assumptions about an MC for them to end up where they are in character driven narratives or stories. The differing factor is how much we decide to assume.

  1. No nonbinary? :sob:
  2. I am very biased, so take everything I say with a grain of salt because you already know where I stand if you have seen me around.
  3. I think that predefined MCs usually make me more invested as a reader because I feel I get to learn about the MC as I am reading in addition to learning about the characters and world.

I enjoy preset protagonists - there’s so much potential there to tell a kind of story that isn’t possible when everything’s customizable. Of course, I enjoy customization too, and I think your idea of having the option to create your own character or to play one of the presets with exclusive content is an excellent one.


For clarities sake, there is a non binary option if you choose a custom MC.

@Leinco – I fixed the thread title to reflect the topic of discussion a bit better.

This approach has pluses and minuses.

The preset character sheet can guide your reader towards having the experience you think they should be having … which can be a plus, a negative, or both.

The biggest negative will occur if people believe a preset is “cannon” in your story.

The key to success will be your execution.

Some authors are excellent at doing this, and others need a lot of review and revamping to pull it off.

I would encourage you in doing this, but I would urge you to have focused testing.

Make sure you get feedback on each specific premade. Make sure you get feedback on the creation process, and make sure your execution of this creation system is balanced and feels fair to those who use one method over the other.


My first thought is that it’s setting yourself up for a lot of work, but if it’s something you feel really good about exploring, then go for it.

Definitions vary a lot from different people about what “preset” means so it would be good to think about what that means to you for this game.

This post has a great set of links to lots of discussions around the subject:

More recently this thread may be of interest:

And more broadly, this discussion about play styles and how people feel about their play experience is worth looking at:


I have been working on making a character creator, that randomizes all the options, when the reader gets to it. (and has an option to randomize as many times as you want, or change every detail manually)
I’m making it exactly to avoid having any options seem like the ‘canon’ ones, because both myself an others can be rather sensitive to that, if we’ve had to much experience of what we want to play as never being the available standard option.

Personally, I think if one decides to make pre-made options, it’s best to make a few, preferably two or more each for male/female/non-binary, and make them rather different from each other, to avoid evoking a feeling of the pre-made characters being what the PC is ‘supposed’ to be like.


I was considering making preset options but it’s so ill-fitting for my own that I’m just caving and removing that as an option.

I don’t want to have to make an entire separate version of the prologue through Chapter 2 for preset characters, only for it to also make many people to feel like the presets are the ‘canon’ characters.

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I feel I should add more context for the purpose of clarification.

In the WIP, there are various personality stats that are affected by your choices. Stoic, Outgoing, Apathetic, etc. Well my idea was for the personality stats to be restiricted slightly if you choose the presets.

The male one is more apathetic/closed off

The female one is more outgoing and emotional.

Essentially, various choices would be locked depending on whether you chose a preset. If you chose a custom MC, there would be more freedom in personality choices.

For example, in chapter one, there is a scene where some characters are trying to befriend you. You can currently choose whether to befriend them or ignore them. If I went ahead with this idea, the Custom MC would still get the choice, but the presets would be locked into a choice for narrative consistency.

Oh and they both have names; Aiden and Aella.

I’m of the opinion that if its the traits then you should just have a flag system for the traits and not make it based off whether its the presets or not. A custom character need not be plopped into the world from the start.

It makes it feel less authentic for a custom MC then people will feel even more like it is the ‘canon’ MCs.

My opinion is that the custom MC needs to be able to choose to be like the Presets, or it paints the image that the Custom is less of a person. If I can’t ‘make the presets’ in the character creator then it creates a distinctive impression that you might not want from readers, unless your intent is for there to be ‘canonical’ MCs.

Especially as a NB person, if I didn’t even have the option to play a preset like me and I get locked out of that experience it doesn’t feel very fair. Though some games don’t even have my gender at all so I guess I shouldn’t be ‘greedy’ :thinking:

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I get the feeling I was slightly misunderstood, so I’ll elaborate further.

The presets would be fully creatable in character creation, but you would obviously lose out on the exclusive scenes. But that isn’t really what’s important here.

The player would be presented with the same choices regardless of whether you chose a preset or not. For example:

#Choice 1 - only for Male preset or custom MC
#Choice 2 - only for Female preset or custom MC
#Choice 3 - chooseable regardless of chosen MC

So the player would be presented with the same story, but would be slightly more restricted if choosing a preset, for the sake of keeping their personalities consistent. If you choose a custom MC, you get to choose between all the choices.

So you would be completely able to play as a NB MC for example, and make the same choices as the male protagonist for example, the only thing you’d lose out on is the exclusive scenes.

And who knows I may add a preset NB protag, idk I literally only thought of this last night.

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Okay, sure. However, if you are restricting choices for the presets you are saying they already have a personality where the chosen one doesn’t. That is painting an impression whether or not you feel the same, at least to me.

I think if you are going the route of making presets with personalities, then the custom MC should be able to select a primary trait or something, so if they wanted to they could replicate the restriction of the presets.

If you are giving presets custom scenes and backstories that is going to ostracize readers who want to make their own characters. I don’t know if what I am saying makes any sense, but all you would have to do is change it from “Male protagonist or custom character” to “Character with >= 55 emotional” where in character creator you can choose to have low or high emotional nature.

It lets you replicate the presets perfectly, and will prevent custom players from feeling like they are being treated different.

Response to @Loopylazy72 :
:wink: You know it


You’re a genius, thank you. Best of both worlds byeeeeeeeeimmaagoocodee

Okokokokokokok hows this?

Before we continue, there is something I wish to inform you about.

If you may wish, you can decide to lock in a personality now. This is completely optional, but choosing to lock in a personality now will lock in certain choices for the sake of narrative consistency. However, you will gain access to exclusive scenes that you wouldn't otherwise see if you weren't to lock in a personality. But please remember, this is completely optional, and the story is the same regardless.
    #Lock in Apathy
        *set p_lock 1
        Apathy has been locked.
    #Lock in [i]Outgoing[/i]
        *set p_lock 2
        [i]Outgoing?[/i] has been locked.
    #Do not lock in a personality
        No personality trait has been locked

Would this be okay at the start of a game?

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In my (completely unbiased) opinion, I think it is a great idea! :sunglasses::+1:

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I would definitely say it is good to offer!

I still feel mixed on the idea in and of itself, particularly if there is only 2 personality options, but I think that it is better for the player to get to choose so that if you wanted to play an emotional man or a stoic woman than there is now the option!

Plus it’s important to contain the scope depending on how long the project is intended to be!

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I think it’s a little clunky. Maybe …


Lock in a personality trait? This will occasionally limit your choices, but it will also unlock exclusive scenes.

    #Lock in Apathy
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Hm. Now I think I should maybe give preset option for the MC in the game I’m currently working on. (It could work. The characters exist already; MC replaces one of them, but of course they all need to have defaults for when MC is not them.)

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I often like preset characters. I find they can help make a game more story driven because you know where your character has come from and approximately where they’re at to start with. My experience given I’ve written a preset character game YMMV.

Preset character games are generally very unpopular as CSG’s. You may be better off in a different system of choice games if you want to make something popular. If it’s for your own happiness though, go for your life.

Having a blank slate MC would help matters, but then I wonder if you actually need the preset ones if what you’re writing is open enough to accomodate a blank slate? I mean you could do it, but it’s more work for probably little gain (or negative gain). You’d want to do it because it’s something you want to see happen. Given you’re asking here, I’m guessing you want to write something popular, in which case my advice would generally be don’t waste your time adding presets in. (However much I would like to see more variety in game types in HG).

Just saw this. If it’s restricted content on gender, unless you have a really good reason I personally wouldn’t (unless as I said it’s something you want to do for yourself rather than to make a popular game.)


I feel like that in this case it might be better to tie those exclusive scenes and personality locks to a background in character creator. I’m not sure if it has to be gender locked or not but if it has to be it might be better to have an option in CC after picking a gender: "you can pick background A, it has some exclusive scenes but it is restricted to xyz personality traits or you can go with background B that is not locked but it does not have exclusive scenes/has different ones " or something along those lines and give this preset background a set surname.

I’m not sure how important having set first names would be but personally I would avoid having to restrict players to set first name and gender if possible as it might create the “canon mc” problem.