Life path method is seldom used character creation method. It is based on player making choices on a list of available careers or backgrounds that reflect possibilities available to character in particular moment in her fictive history.
For instance Traveller (by GDW) is table top RPG that allows player to select a life path which character follows gaining skills, organizational ranks and various advantages.
Another method is to give player a group of choices which describe what character can do in particular phase in her life. For instance Only War (by Fantasy Flight Games) employs these packages to make player answer series of questions of character’s background. Similar method is also employed in Blue Planet (by Biohazard Games).
Life path systems are supposed to depict possible life of a character in a given setting. Thus they must be ”realistic” for society that is depicted as game’s background. This effectively means that life path system for every different society must be created separately. This makes life path based games very labor intensive for game designers.
Life path’s main idea is that it creates a life history for character. If randomness is used the end result my have twists player did not even thought possible when she started doing character. However, it is equally possible that end result is not what player wanted in the first place. Well designed amount of randomness is thus critically important part of a good life path system. At least results that finish character as too crippled to adventure should be avoided.
Major questions for game designer when thinking use of a life path system should be:
–Is society so well thought out the system can be built? At least social class and wealth should be factors in modern game. Race, Religion and Ideology could be as important as well.
–Do you want to do the same work for all different societies if you have different factions?
–Do you have time/resources to do play testing?
For player the life path gives perhaps the best introduction to game’s background and society to player. Characters are also far more varied than characters created by other systems. Some players put special emphasis to role-play from the start and exciting life path can serve as a springboard for that.
It’s major weakness is that life path systems take longer time to go through than other character generation methods. This can be insurmountable barrier to some players.