A blast from the bygone era of 1995, heres the oldest game to make my list.
#4 - Vision Cards from Everway
How do you make a character in Everway? Easy. Look at a bunch of beautiful fantasy art, pick a few images that inspire you, and tell a story about them. There's a handful of numbers on the character sheet and a tarot-like fortune deck, but the vision cards are where the magic lies in Everway. I've heard more attention-grabbing, vivid characters made in the first few minutes of Everway games than I have anywhere else. Why?
- They're simple. Nearly anyone who's imaginative enough to play RPGs can look at a group of pictures and make up a story about them.
- They engage different parts of the brain than words do. Pictures are perceived information. Words are received information--they need to be decoded to be understood. Pictures can set off players' imaginations instantly.
- They're fast. There's no fighting over access to books, or waiting for the GM to explain character options one at a time. Everyone grabs a bunch of cards and looks through them simultaneously. Plus, the selection of cards conveys a wealth of information about setting, color, and tone instantly.
- They encourage good communication. After you've chosen your cards, you explain what they say about your character to the rest of the players. This sets an immediate precedent for vividly imagining the game world, describing it to the group, and the other players paying attention to your contributions.
- They short-circuit shyness and "writer's block." For shy players, the "show and tell" aspect of physically handling the cards allows them to be imaginative, while talking about something other than themselves. They can use the cards as a focus for the conversation. Plus, the rich imagery of the cards provide input to the imagination, priming the pump to get people started on making stuff up. I don't think I've ever seen anyone draw a blank when making Everway characters.
- They encourage group involvement. Other players will ask clarifying questions about the details of the pictures. "Does your sword look like this one, or are you just saying your character is a warrior?" Even better is when more than one player chooses the same card. We know instantly that their characters are connected. Explaining how sets off another burst of creativity!