Tabletop games have some of the best character customizations, even when compared to video games. The freedom of the tabletop allows players to tailor the experience to their individual preferences and immerse themselves in a brand-new world. With these in-depth character creators, players can customize the appearance, abilities, and backstory of their characters, making them feel entirely unique to their play style.
It should be noted how Dungeons and Dragons has dominated the conversation for as long as it has existed. Still, recent events have made it clear that there are other options out there for tabletop enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. These tabletop RPGs allow players to form a deeper connection with their characters when every facet of their build and appearance is under their control. Additionally, character creation can also serve as a collaboration between players and the game master, finding out what combination will make for the most memorable experience for everybody.
In this “mud-and-lasers” TTRPG, players control mecha pilots who can customize their powerful, armored robots and embark on missions, battles, and other adventures. Lancer features a fast-paced, tactical combat system and emphasizes teamwork, strategy, and character development. It also has a strong narrative element, allowing players to interact with a rich, dynamic world filled with political intrigue, powerful factions, and mysteries to uncover.
For those looking to recreate Armored Core 6 within tabletop, Lancer offers some of the most diverse customizations for mecha fans. For every kind of mech the player can imagine, Lancer has a manufacturing corporation that can suit their needs. Whether they want to build a classic Mobile Suit Gundam or a Titan from Titanfall, Lancer gives the player freedom to do just that.
Paranoia is a post-apocalyptic RPG that takes place in Alpha Complex, an isolated underground dystopia. The city is controlled by a supercomputer known only as the “Friend Computer.” Unfortunately, the Friend Computer’s data was damaged, and it mistakenly believed that Communists caused the end of the world. As a result, the Friend Computer governs with extreme control, and the player characters are just meaty pawns in its hierarchical system.
Paranoia is a scarier tabletop system, but that same horror makes it so darkly hilarious. For example, every positive a player picks for their character adversely makes the rest of their party worse. It’s a game that encourages fast-paced character creation because death isn’t just inevitable, but encouraged. It’s an unorthodox character creation system that nevertheless guarantees hilarious chaos in its wake.
Legends Of The Five Rings
This historical fantasy RPG is set in a fictional, medieval-inspired empire with strong influences from Asian culture and mythology. Players take on the roles of warriors, courtiers, priests, and other fascinating characters in a rich and complex world filled with political intrigue and supernatural battles. Each player also serves a clan whose tenets and goals they must fulfill, all the while maneuvering through a world where a silver tongue is just as deadly as a steel sword.
Similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, the game respectfully adds fantasy elements to real-world Asian cultures. The most fascinating aspect of Legend of the Five Rings’ character creator is that it’s a game of 20 Questions. Based on the player’s answers, their character is slowly built. Both backstory and abilities are done at the same time, making for an organic character-creation process.
City Of Mist
City of Mist takes place in an urban noir setting where myths and legends come to life. Players take on the roles of everyday people who have discovered that they have mystical powers, which they now use to navigate the magical world that lay beneath their mundane existence. A huge emphasis is placed on storytelling and personal choice, making City of Mist a more narrative experience than most other games.
This TTRPG has the same vibes as a Shin Megami Tensei game, especially in terms of its social aspect. While there are supernatural battles, it’s just as important for the characters to maintain their relationships with the people around them. The theme books do a fantastic job of making any personality trait fit mechanically with the gameplay.
Short for Generic Universal RolePlaying System, GURPS is a tabletop system that is just pure mechanics. There is no existing backstory or lore and exists solely as a vehicle for Game Masters to create their own worlds, characters, and abilities. Its rules-light nature makes it one of the most versatile tabletop systems out there, with an emphasis on storytelling and character development.
GURPS is capable of adapting any original source, so whatever series, video game, or book a Game Master wants to adapt, it’s entirely possible to do just that. It may take a bit more elbow grease than simple flavoring, but GURPS is capable of pretty much any character under the sun. Every interaction matters and GURPS has dozens of optional mechanics for all of them.
Much like GURPS, Savage Worlds is a generic tabletop RPG system. Unlike GURPS, Savage Worlds places far more emphasis on fast-paced combat. It cuts through the fat and gets right to the crunchier aspects of tabletop battles. That’s why it’s the setting of choice for hectic tabletop games such as Deadlands and Achtung! Cthulhu.
Savage Worlds can be pulpy action or high fantasy, thanks to the hundreds of licensed (and fan-made) settings out there. The interesting thing about its character creation is the presence of Hindrances. These are negative traits that give more points to buy skills and feats. However, these Hindrances could spell doom should a situation arise where characters will suffer its effects. This level of nuance makes Savage Worlds a surprisingly complex experience.
Burning Wheel is a Tolkienesque tabletop RPG that places great emphasis on personal character growth. The unique belief system is where players create their characters’ beliefs, goals, and values, which drive the characters’ actions and decisions. The mechanics of the game are designed to reflect the characters’ growth and evolution over time. Combined with that is a brutal and gritty combat system, slowing combat to a more tactical pace.
Burning Wheel differs from Dungeons & Dragons in that it’s less about crunching numbers and more about creating a specific role within the party that must be followed to a tee. The dynamics are far more important than just hitting things. The character creation never really stops either, as each adventure provides players with deep backstories and mechanical nuance.
Mutants & Masterminds
While most tabletops tend towards fantasy, Mutants and Masterminds is embroiled in the spectacular world of superheroes. Based on a d20 system, this unique system blends the fast-paced action of a comic book setting with its fascinating moral conundrums. Saving people, monologuing, and high-octane fights are the bread and butter of this RPG.
For comic book fans looking to play a superhero in tabletop, few are better than Mutants and Masterminds. The most appealing aspect of Mutants and Masterminds’ character customization is the sheer flexibility of powers. Pretty much any power under the sun can be picked by the player, so long as it’s balanced. The “effects” system can be endlessly reflavored and the mechanics allow for a wide variety of superheroes (and villains) to exist.
As far as Dungeons and Dragons alternatives go, few quite surpass the influence that Pathfinder 2e has had on the industry. Designed by former Dungeons and Dragons talents, Pathfinder is a refinement of everything people loved about the 3rd edition of D&D. It’s the best tabletop RPG for D&D players looking to shift to another game without too much culture shock.
Pathfinder 2e offers many beginner’s guides in that regard as well. Character creation in Pathfinder 2e is similar enough to Dungeons and Dragons while adding a lot more freedom. It’s geared towards allowing players to find a build that best suits their specific wants, as opposed to conforming to any sort of “meta.” It’s also a lot more balanced, with almost none of the game-breaking subclasses present in the contemporary 5e.
The original version of Traveller is one of the oldest tabletop games, only four years apart from the original Dungeons and Dragons. Traveller is set in a distant future, where humanity has spread out among the stars and features a vast and detailed universe filled with alien races, star-faring cultures, and ancient cosmic mysteries. Players create characters by choosing a career path and even running their own ships, also with their own deep customization.
Traveller is the quintessential sci-fi RPG and the game starts as soon as character creation begins. In fact, the player can even die during said character creation, because they are expected to live out a life to build the established traits, skills, and abilities that will define them. In fact, most characters start much older (30 years old and up), because being established was a huge part of character creation. This makes it stand out among a sea of young up-and-comers.
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