One of the things that I truly do like more about single-player CRPGs is that they usually offer a lot more in the character building department. I’m not just talking about measly stats, but backgrounds, vocals, and a myriad of ways to fashion your character. The best systems are the ones where you start out with a concept in your head and are able to make (or at least approximate) it in the game.
For a new Pillars of Eternity run (one day I’ll finish this game…), I decided to buck my usual build and see if I could create Falcio from the Greatcoats novels (I might be reading the third one right now). Instead of picking which ever trait I thought was best, I tried to hew as close as possible to the character in the book. So video game Falcio ended up being a Paladin (because he’s noble, part of an order, and is a melee fighter) who uses twin rapiers, has a cocky voice, and hails from a sect that’s all about benevolence and honor. I’m trying to make him a master swordsman with some degree of intelligence (particularly about lore). So far… it’s working out far better than I would have thought.
I’d imagine that many of us, from time to time, create RPG characters that are based on someone, real or imaginary, rather than being a wholly new creation. You see this a lot in MMOs with that trope where there are a ton of Gandalfs and Sephiroths and the like running around. It’s the fantasy of always wanting to play those characters, just in whatever game you happen to be enjoying at the time.
Clone armies aside, I’m all for doing this. For one thing, it can be a blast to see how closely you can create an avatar that’s similar in look and function to a TV, movie, book, comic, or video game character. And since you already have an attachment to that fictional character and know of its backstory, then it’s a different experience playing it than it would be to start tabula rasa. Maybe it’s a bit of an imagination crutch, but that’s how play goes. It’s the “continued adventures” of our beloved characters.
I see this often with my kids. They’ll watch a show in the morning and then immediately want to enact that show in their play. Imitation, iteration, evolution, roleplay… it’s all a big bundle of fun that leaps off of a pop culture launchpad.
We were like that too as kids, I know. And maybe video games, especially CRPGs and MMORPGs, bring that out in us. We have the option to make a character any way we like, and what we sometimes desire is to bring our favorite imaginary friend along for the journey.