I Hate Starting New Games In RPGs

I Hate Starting New Games In RPGs

Is there anything more paralysing than a blank slate? I’ve had Fallout 2 open for three hours. I have played it for zero. I’m bleary eyed. Exhaustion is clinging to my eyelids like some mad brigand swinging from a chandelier. How did things end up like this, I wonder. Why can’t I just make a few simple decisions and, you know, play a video game?

It’s just… there are all these numbers. And skills. And traits. What if I make the wrong choice and, hours later, have to start over to play the way I want? This always seems to happen to me when I start a new RPG (or a classic I haven’t played before), and most recently I’ve been stuck at the starting line in both Fallout 2 and Wasteland 2. Thus, I’ve decided to lay out every step of this vicious cycle in hopes that others can break it before they fall into the pit of weary indecision I only just climbed out of.

Phase 1: Existential Dread

This one sets in before I even start playing an RPG. It’s the reason I’ve put off playing some legitimately great games for ages. I look at the game icon on Steam. It’s a tiny world of possibility, a portal to a vast land my eager eyes and hungry hands have never touched.

And decisions that will STICK WITH ME FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

My virtual life. But still, that means I’ve got some serious thinking to do. I need to go to my Consideration Corner, put on my Consideration Cap, and beat the stuffing out of my brain with my Consideration Bat. And that’s kinda stressful! Just the idea of it. Creating a new character from scratch is fun, sure, but it’s also work.

And in many RPGs, it’s not just work-work, it’s guesswork. You pick a bunch of skills and stats without fully knowing what you’re getting into. Even with all the preparation in the world, you could still end up getting a raw deal.

Phase 2: Grim Determination

OK, OK, it’s time to dive in. I can do this. I will grit my teeth, open a stat sheet, break out my calculator, and put on one of those hats you see people wear when they’re doing finances in old TV shows. I can do this. I will do this. How bad can it be? I mean it’s just some sliders and a few sta —


I’m gonna need some help.

Phase 3: Google

“Best [Insert Game Name Here] character builds”, I type into Google. That should give me some quick guidance, right? I don’t want to copy them necessarily, but I want an idea of what stats and skills work best for various play styles — not to mention which ones might be entirely useless despite how cool they seem. In more complex RPGs I consider this a necessary step (except when I’m reviewing them, for obvious reasons). Case in point: I never would have known that luck is basically worthless in Wasteland 2, or that intelligence is — in some ways — more important than charisma for conversations in Fallout 2.

Good, good. Basic advice. I’m feeling better now. Thanks, guides and walkthroughs. Now I guess it’s nearly time to get start — wait, one-hand specialisation makes better snipers than sniping in the long run, you say, Fallout 2 forum person? But someone else disagrees entirely? Oh jeez, this just got complicated.

Phase 4: Obsession

It has been hours. Actual human hours. This forum thread goes on for 83 pages, and god damn it I will read all of them. I NEED TO KNOW if one-hander is a more optimal pick for my build than small frame. I mean, one of my traits obviously has to be gifted. Obviously. But I need every last drop of anecdotal evidence to help me decide on the other. I must drink it all in, hold it in the deepest bowels of my knowledge, and keep it there even though the information overload burns like I’ve eaten ashes.

This one guy, he argues that one-hander gives a bonus to most of the more useful weapons in the game, and with some careful stat balancing you can get better range and accuracy than any sniper. And he’s got maths to back it up. But this other guy, he says it’s all poppycock, horsefeathers and other fantastic dismissal words that never should have gone out of common usage, and he’s got maths too! If I go with small frame, he says, I won’t be able to carry quite as much, but I’ll be orders of magnitude better in combat. Magnitude! And I’ll be able to try out so many more weapons, whereas one-hander is kinda limiting.

It all seems to suggest that this stuff matters so much. It matters MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. I will not leave until I’ve seen the end of this argument two dudes had four years ago. I need resolution. I need something definitive. I crave it, from the top of my messy tangle of hair to my rot-stench armpits to my overgrown toenails. I beg, all alone in my dark room, a series of quiet rasps: “Please, please, please. Someone make up my mind for me.”

Phase 5: F**k It

OK yeah, that forum argument was pretty much worthless. I pick small frame because I’m bored and tired and I never want to hear about per cent margins on crit chances ever again. Did I make the right choice? Who knows. All my other stats are allocated pretty well, so even if I didn’t it’s not the end of the world, right?


Phase 6: Appearance

Oh god, I still haven’t done anything with my character(s)’ appearance yet. No biggie, though, it’s not like I get really obsessed over this stuff too hahaha.

[Two more hours pass]

Phase 7: Doubt

I’m a few hours into the game now and things are going fine — better than fine, actually — but what if I was wrong before and maybe I should just roll another character or six to make sure yeah yep that sounds like a good and reasonable thing to do ok I will do that.


In all seriousness, there are some things I think game makers can take away from all this, stuff I’d like to see in more RPGs to make this process a little less of a hassle. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for real consequence in games — not just the illusion of consequence — but I think there are better ways to create it than by tossing players into a deep end of nebulous decisions and telling them to swim.

Foremost, I think RPGs should at least include a mode — if not a default option — to re-spec stats and skills conveniently. The nature of an RPG, whether old-school or modern, is that your character evolves over time, so it’s impossible to really understand what you’re working with until you’ve invested a fair amount of time in a character. If people want to play without an option to re-spec early and often, cool. But for people who’d rather try out a bunch of stuff — mix and match — I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to.

More clarity in terms of what skills and stats actually mean would also be good. I don’t think written or video descriptions cut it either. The process needs to be more hands-on. Maybe some kind of test room where you can try different basic configurations against various enemy types would be good. Admittedly that’s only feeding into the obsessive tendencies of folks like me, but it’s still better than having to scour the Internet for information that might still prove unreliable.

Also for the record I don’t actually hate making new characters — just elements of it. Starting a new game can be daunting, but it’s also the moment of greatest possibility. Who knows what you’re going to encounter? Who knows what your character will evolve into? It’s exciting, even if, like me, you can’t keep your mind off all the nitty gritty details. So here’s to fresh starts and trying new things. Just know that doing so might take me a little longer than most people.


  • I think most of these issues can be averted by just making decisions that aren’t completely stupid and not worrying about reading character builds online. 99% of RPG’s you don’t have to be perfect to beat and almost all of them will offer a chance of respec later on.
    Tbh the only rpg that comes to mind that can be punishing if you don’t play it in a certain way is Last Remnant. There might be a few other examples but I don’t think it’s that widespread.

    • Divinity: Original Sin is a more recent example. You can technically ‘respec’ later, but all of your skills get wiped which is really painful.

      These days with my limited time, I just do a quick search at what builds others have experimented with and get a general feel for what’s good and what’s useless to have, and then just do it all myself from there.

  • spends 2hrs playing with the toons appearance only to wear a helmet never to see the face again

  • I absolutely love starting new rpgs. I don’t look too much into character creation, usually creating jack-of-all-trade characters. Asides from a few cases like low intelligence in Fallout games meaning you can’t talk, you can pretty much adapt any character into your style of playing (broadly speaking).

    What I love about starting new games though is the exploration that you get of a brand new world. When it comes to mid-late game I find that the worlds aren’t as filled with stuff to find as those in the ‘tutorial’ areas or the first few levels because that’s where you’re being shown everything in the game. Also by the time I get towards the end of a game I find myself rushing through it to get to the end. The sense of ‘wow, look at this world full of possibilities’ is largely gone when you’re a high level character one-shotting a lot of enemies on your way to the final boss

  • Only thing I dread is the physical character creation. So many options! I spend a bare minimum half an hour just staring at the character creation screen going through the different physical options lol. Record for me I think was an hour with Skyrim haha

  • There is nothing (NOTHING!) I enjoy more in gaming than discovering the “best” starting builds in RPGs. How much of my life was spent feeling out Skyrim’s opening hours? Too much…. too much? More than enough.

  • I find it difficult to create a character for the very first play through, so many options and questions to be asked. How should I approach the game? Am I missing out or Limiting myself by playing a particular way? I spend hours trying to figure out what I want my first play through experience to be, as nothing beats the first play though.

    But I wouldn’t want it any other way, nothing beats diving into a new world you know nothing about… its like peeling the plastic film of a new screen.

  • I like character creation. So much so that in most games I end up with 10 different characters all specced differently who’ve had more time spent creating and playing the starting missions than actually playing the game properly lol.

  • Don’t get this much, I do fuck around tweeking stuff but if it takes too long I go for broke, jump in& see how it goes.

    Can always start again.

  • I have a friend who is almost incapable of getting past this point in basically any game that gives him a choice. It is always “maybe I should be this, maybe I should do this, but if I get this and that” and this process will go on for hours before he finally settles on some lets face it, oft times unimportant array of stats only to shelve the character not 5 minutes after starting the game in earnest and creating another character, going through the whole process again.

    Also, I kinda glossed over the article a little, was there any mention of baldurs gate 2 and rolling for stats? because I know I have spent a good couple of hours there pounding on that roll button in my time.

    • THIS!

      Only I played BG1, but gah I remember the times I would sit there for agggess pressing re-roll trying to get 18 STR, and a couple of other stats nice and high. Then I would grab my calculator out and check that the sum of the stats was a reasonably high number so that was getting a good deal.

      And the amount of times I would be sitting there going click-click-click on the re-roll looking for that 18, to get it, but habitually press the re-roll again, and lose it!

      Fond memories!

  • Should play more JRPG’s. A lot of these kinds of things like character creation aren’t present in JRPG’s because they tend to be more story driven and be more specific to the characters that were created for the game.

    Honestly, these reasons are partly why I don’t enjoy western RPG’s and why I tend to gravitate more towards JRPG’s.

  • I think a lot would agree that as we grow older we find less and less time to play games, so a game where you could theoretically mess everything up because of your choices seem daunting. This is the reason I’m still stuck at the Cargo Bay on System Shock 2 wrenching every moving thing, keeping all my points unspent because I don’t want to wreck my game.

    • Do you also save every couple of mins before a confrontation, and reload if you don’t get through it taking 0 damage? I swear I would have finished that game by now if I wasn’t so determined to get through every fight unscathed.

  • I sometimes like to buck the system and make a purposefully colourful yet obviously sub-optimally built character. In Pathfinder I made a character who is a cleric but carries no weapons. She does carry an electric guitar and plays it in combat to encourage people, yet this has no game effect. She is almost useless in combat apart from healing and casting the odd spell. Awesome character!

  • The most time I spend is deliberating over what to name the character, trying to make it unique, witty and one that I won’t get sick of too quickly.

  • My recommendation is very simple: Always always always create a gimmicky character first.

    I like to go with something that has limited capacity to do anything but survive. Max hitpoints/constitution/defenses is the first step, followed by the heaviest type of armor.

    This allows for an extremely forgiving playstyle in most games, such that you can learn about the game, take risks and still pull through on the back of your ludicrous meatiness.

    This works great in fallout, just grab whatever weapon seems most entertaining and wade into combat absorbing the hits with your flab.

    The Souls series was great for this, allowing you to learn the boss attack patterns or get smacked by a trap and then get up and continue to explore.

    It creates a forgiving style of play, which in turn gives you a chance to see what sort of character you actually want. In games like Shadowrun Returns it’s really helpful in that it gives you a chance to experience a little of Berlin such that your concept can be more appropriate to the world.

    So get over the paralysis, create a dumb, muscle bound hunk of meat shield to crash through the first hour or so of the game while you look for inspiration.

  • In Fallout 3, I spent hours trying to make my Lone Wanderer look as much like me as possible. I thought I’d done a really crap job, but James ended up looking exactly like my dad IRL!

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