Character Creation, Poker Style

So I have been thinking about this wild west RPG based around a pack of playing cards.


I like the idea of five basic stats. Strength, Speed, Endurance, Empathy and Logic. I am not a big fan of Charisma or Appearance type stats or characteristics. Charisma and leadership qualities we can roleplay, we don’t really need a stat for that in a light weight game. Appearance I think should be player choice. Why force someone to play a character that is butt ugly or drop dead gorgeous if that is not the character they had in mind?

So how about this? The GM deals you a hand of 5 cards. You take up your cards and you either keep them or discard any or all of them. The GM then deals replacement cards. You can then assign the face value of the card to the five stats. All picture cards count as a 10.

I think Jokers need to be something a bit special. If you are dealt a Joker then you should keep a note of it and then it goes to the bottom of the pack and you get a replacement.

Jokers can then be used as a sort of currency within the game. I am thinking that you can spend a joker to avoid death or get a second chance?

Getting back to the stats that is a pretty quick method of getting the character stats. It is also reminiscent of Cowboys playing poker.


Next up we need some skills.

A few game systems these days allow you to spontaneously generate skills. We could use that here. So a skill is any clearly defined task or role that the character may have experience of. What I mean by this is ‘Prospector’ implies a bundle of skills relating to being able to pan for gold, dig shafts and brace them, work with pulleys and ropes and so on. Tracker is another role and implies a certain self sufficiency along with being able to identify and follow tracks.

Most characters will want some kind of combat skills and these will fall into a few broad families ranged combat such as guns and bows, melee combat that will also include thrown weapons and unarmed combat including martial arts and brawling. The sort of roles a character can use to describe these may be gunslinger, street fighter, cavalry officer.

Some GMs and players like a really granular game with hundreds of skills while others like broad ‘meta skills’ that encompass many individual specific skills under a single heading. I personally prefer this few broad skills approach.

One of the core skills in just about every game is that of Observation or Perception. The ability to spot clues, identify hidden doors, switches and so on and spot a hidden enemy or ambush. I cannot see any point in forcing players to spend a ‘skill slot’ or option to buy a skill that everyone is going to take anyway. So Observation will be a default skill that everyone gets.

So right now we have five stats and a Joker tally, one default skill and I think 3 meta skills that describe the characters back story.


If we then give the character a one paragraph backstory, that is in sync with the skills chosen, gives the motivation for adventuring and brings the character to the starting point of the game; I think we are ready to play. (I do like a character sheet that fits on a large post-it note!)

Next time I think we will look at skill resolution unless I have any more thoughts on character creation.