So, I’m sitting around looking at comments on piracy about the Witcher 3 and seeing a reference to the Kickstarter Bard’s Tale game, and something struck me about pretty much all of the RPGs that I’ve played or seen for the past long while:
You create the main character, but not your party members.
For me, though, the ability to create a full party to adventure with has always been something that I’ve greatly enjoyed. It’s pretty much why I like the Icewind Dale series of games and didn’t care much for Baldur’s Gate (yes, you can create a full party if you hack through the multiplayer system, but in the original that leaves the party greatly underpowered). For the most part, the old-style games that I played — Gold Box AD&D, Wizardry, etc — got you to create your own parties instead of picking up characters along the way. It wasn’t really until Knights of the Old Republic that I even really liked RPGs that only let you create the main character, which didn’t really take off for me until I started playing JRPGs … which to my mind is different because you don’t really create your character either, so you end up playing a role, which made it easier than imagining a role myself. Heck, for me I even played TBSes with 8 players, all created by me, all interacting the way I wanted them to interact.
To me, the difference between an RPG where you create the entire party and an RPG where you create one party member and then have others join you is the difference between getting all of your friends together to go out adventuring and going out solo adventuring and meeting up with people. I far prefer going out with a group that I know than with a group of strangers, or going out to look for and meet people, and that carries over to games for me. Now, given the depth of character interactions you can get in the more modern Western RPGs — like most of Bioware’s stuff — and in JRPGs, it’s easy to see the benefits of having the developers create characters that you can meet and interact with. That sort of thing is hard to do if you also have to give the player the ability to create any character that they want.
Still, that’s really what I want, to be able to go out with a group of characters of my own creation, of my own devising and who have the relationships I want them to have from the start, and where their development is completely under my control from start to finish. I don’t think I’ll ever get anything even close to that again.