Now that I've been kicking around as a player, I've started to realise that the normal way I made characters (inspired by NPC needs and World of Darkness styles) aren't the only way. It isn't even the best way. What am I talking about?
I'm talking about detail-oriented character design. You know the type. You grab up a questionnaire, figure out your character's life story and how that has sculpted them, and then decide what sort of skills, merits and attributes would suit that kind of person. It's very fitting for games that revolve around character because in anything that remotely resembles a sandbox you very much need to find your character's core and their motivation.
It can, however, cause trouble in a plot heavy game where the PCs must connect and work together, no matter what, and where there's little time given over to personal decision making or even connections to character history. In action-oriented games where your stat-lines are all important in keeping you relevant, you really don't want to paint yourself into a poorer stat-line or feat-mix just because it makes sense for your character.
So in the latter case, and generally for one shots as well, you're often better building up an image of your character. Think of it like a 2D representation with room for 3D growth as the campaign progresses, as the odd choice is decided upon and the odd quip is made. In the meanwhile, prior to the campaign, you just need to decide on the *feel* and *look* of your character.
And by *look*, I most assuredly don't mean hair colour, height, weight and skin tone. I mean whether they run around in plate mail with a pair of six-shooters or whether they're a gangly wild-eyed figure with a gnarled Rod of Extend. Basically, decide on a colourful and interesting image which you can focus your stats around (i.e. what's the best build for armour + six-shooters) or, perhaps, if there's a particular mechanic you've got your heart set on you can instead build an image based off that instead (Cleave!).
Such a character often lacks the drive and motivation to persistently move a long-lasting sandbox campaign but can be absolutely brilliant in any other style.
There's probably other ways of creating a character, but these are the two main ones I've encountered. Which one do you generally prefer? And do you know any other main character creation styles?