I cannot decide if character, and campaign, creation is part of Kenny Norris’s game play or not.
I think it probably is. I also kind of expect that he creates far more campaign outlines and characters than he ever played.
This is prep-love. A great many GMs get a huge amount of enjoyment from prepping games and creating campaigns, regardless of whether they were ever played or not.
There are players who enjoy creating characters, they may have hundreds of characters ready to go, every build of every class, for the pure enjoyment of making characters. If you cannot get to play, you are still getting enjoyment from your RPG books. This is another version of solo playing.
If they then build a back story for those characters, they are just an oracle roll away from full on solo play!
I lean towards little or no preparation.
Dungeon World was very influential on me. The single most important maxim I took away from that game is “Play to find out”. That is how I approach most things in solo play. I don’t prep it, I let things come out during play.
When I was doing my Arabian Nights cut up campaign I went two or three sessions before I actually rolled up my character. In those first sessions I knew what circumstances had made my character, but very little about who or what they were. Only when those questions were answered did I start to pin down the game mechanics.
If I had run into a combat situation, that would have precipitated character creation and dice rolling sooner, but it didn’t happen.
Evolving a character over time does require some kind of structure. You need to be able to record what you have learned about your character and record it in a format that is easily accessible and easy to update. For me, that format is the mindmap. Everything Kenny is creating in advance are the kinds of things that I would add to the character’s mindmap as I learned them.
Another useful trick is to put a little tick or x in each bubble of the mindmap when it comes up in play. This lets you see how significant each element is becoming, and is useful to deciding your characters gut reactions when a question throws up something you cannot immediately answer.
If you add something to the mindmap because you think that is what your character things, but then after months of play you have ever revisited it, is it really relevant?