Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Character Background Generator

This past week I have been working extensively and hard on completing my Character Background Generation spreadsheet.  This thing has been in progress for more than a year and I am within about twelve hours of completing it.  Discounting height and weight, with two features generated per character stat, features for appearance based upon both human and non-human races, and secondary skills included, I conservatively estimate 294 quintillion possible combinations.  No, that is not a mathematical error.  We are talking 2.94 x 10 to the 20th power.  No joke.

Obviously, duplicate results will come up.  If your dexterity is generally at the same level as my dexterity, there's a 1 in 100 to 400 chance that we will each get one feature that lines up for both of us.  The chance that we will get three features, or four, that gets more than a little unlikely.

A lot of people are farmers.  There's a pretty good chance both of us will be descended from farmers.  There is a very unlikely chance we will both be descended from blacksmiths.  There's about a 1 in 60,000 chance we will both have had fathers who were explorers.  And there's something like a 1 in 6,000,000 chance that we will both have fathers who were in authority over very small region, like Luxembourg or Malta.

But your chance of having a father like that is only about 1 in 6,000.  If you did, the chances are that you'd have an older brother, or that your father would still be inconveniently alive.  The chance that your father would be in authority over a fairly big region, like Sardinia or Saxony, that's a little more unlikely - like about 1 in 2,000,000.  But it's possible.

The spreadsheet as it stands reflects previous tables that I've used for years, only now it generates everything automatically, so it can be printed as soon as its created.  The generation is virtually zero time.  It can be done again and again, and it can be done for NPCs as quickly and easily as for characters.  You need description, profession, the NPC's relationship to others, family, wealth, special abilities, etcetera etcetera?  It's all here.

Bingo.  You just press a button.

Mind you, this isn't a simple slap-dash group of tables.  Granted, the excel file isn't in my gargantuan category - its only 160 KB - but there are 12 tabs covering everything from possible diseases to a men-at-arms generator.

More importantly, I intend to work on this thing probably forever.  There's really no end to the additions I could add to it, particularly if I separate the Player Character generator from a newly created NPC generator, which would A) emphasize the sorts of information you need for NPCs and B) include additional modifiers for NPCs who were above first level.  At the moment, the emphasis is on getting a player started with their new character.  But this idea could go so much farther.

As it is now, if you have any ability to operate in excel, you could make changes yourself, and easily.  And you could use me as a resource for updates (and back-ups, if you inadvertantly changed something and wrecked some programming, and didn't have a back up, I could send you the original).  Not to mention that if you had an idea, and it was a good one, you could pitch it to me and I'd incorporate it myself - I always want more ideas.

Finally, for programmers, its all excel ... so you know, and I know, that lends itself to the simplest of programming, if you wanted to take it out of the friendly program.  Just one thing - try to sell it without giving me a percentage, and I'll sue.  Other than that, maybe we could work out an arrangement and both get rich with this thing.  You may be a programmer, but believe me, I am the idea man.

And though this may be almost finished, I haven't had my last one.

This program alone, given all the crap generators you have seen over the many years you have been playing, is worth the $100 of a subscription.  And you get (drum roll) so much more.

So buy.  As the man said, I'm letting you know what you're getting.


  1. This is one of the big reasons I would like to play in one of your games. Just to receive and be able to run one of these characters.

  2. OK, now you've entered the realm of hard sell; not that there's anything wrong with that.

  3. Yes. I promise not to morph into James Raggi and stop putting content on my blog.

  4. Dear god. I've been putting off purchasing for a while, but this is probobly gonna tip the scales.

    I mean, Quintillions?!

    Awesome stuff, Alexis.

  5. I really really hope my wife finds work soon. This sounds delicious.


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