Welcome to Candycreeps Development Diaries! This series of posts is like our transparency policy — it’s designed to paint a picture of the ideas and motivations that went into putting the game together. Keep an eye on this space for future updates.
Candycreeps chargen relies on the super-secret, high-tech technique of “doodling” to create compelling characters. Basically, with a little inspiration from the setting material, you picture a character that catches your fancy and sketch him or her out on the character sheet. The game system then guides you in picking out elements of your sketch and turning them into stats and special abilities that will help your character navigate the labyrinthine halls of the Pembrigan Academy with style. (For more on that process, see the next post in this series, on Features.)
The idea for a visual chargen system came early on. As soon as we’d decided on the Cute-Creepy style dichotomy that the game was to capture, we knew we wanted some kind of interactive chargen mechanic to encourage players to picture their characters in detail before worrying about stats. At one point, I had a crackpot idea about getting people to produce three-dimensional models of their characters out of folded paper or something. Fortunately, my genius crowd of collaborators and playtesters managed to talk me out of that craziness, and we settled on the much more practical doodling method.
People tend to have extreme reactions to the sketch-based chargen. Some folks take to it instinctively and get all excited about adding more and more stuff to their characters. Others resist the idea of bringing a different kind of activity, one that might invite comparisons of skill, into the gaming process. I can totally sympathize with that — I’m no great shakes at drawing myself, as the sample character pictured here makes all too clear. We’ve found, though, that the craziest, weirdest-looking, and sketchiest sketches are usually the most fun. (Take a look at the “Resources” page for some of our favorite examples.) Just like Karaoke Night, it’s less about skill and more about enthusiasm and a sense of fun.
To encourage players to relax and go with it, we put in some structure to help with the drawing-chargen process. The default Candycreeps character sheet comes equipped with a blank maquette to build sketches on, so you can simply add on the key elements for your character if you don’t want to draw the whole thing out. If you’re having trouble picturing your character, you can flip through the extensive list of sample Features for some inspiration.
We’ve had a lot of good responses to the doodle-based chargen model. It conveys the style of the game quickly, and the character sketches are fun conversation pieces that help the other players see your character the way you do — this was a particularly nice icebreaker for con games. In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at the Features mechanic that converts your character from an image on a page to a larger-than-life personality ready to take on teachers, bullies, and other creatures of nightmare and legend.
the Candyman (Nick)