I actually tend to assume the reverse: That players will be reluctant to take the time to figure out an exotic cultural background in a one-shot, but in a full-length campaign the overhead gets amortized over a lot of games and doesn’t look so intimidating.
That’s what I had expected, so I was surprised when it turned out to be the other way round. (And that’s character weirdness more than background weirdness, insofar as they’re distinguishable.)
Might it be because in a campaign their expectation is that they should be doing chargen and feel short-changed by being handed a pre-gen?
I’d certainly want to pick and choose my own bits of weirdness (from the weird options on offer) for a campaign character.
I didn’t assume we were talking about pre-gens for long campaigns; just about characters with weird cultural backgrounds. What I did for Tapestry was present the players with quick sketches of what the seven humanoid races were like, let them each choose one to play, and then hand them writeups of the various races they had chosen. Each writeup listed several different cultures for the race in question. But the only thing that was pre-generated was the racial template.
I was thinking that, when I’ve been starting a campaign of e.g. Transhuman Space, the players have tended to choose something pretty much baseline human; while for a one-shot they’re quite happy to play weird subtypes of human, digital intelligences, and so on.
That’s been true in my two THS campaigns also. On the other hand, in my first GURPS campaign, the PCs were four humans, four chims, two fins, and two Tymbrimi; and in my current GURPS campaign, I have two nixies, one ghoul, one selkie, and one troll. That’s about two-thirds mildly to extremely strange options in each. I’m not sure why THS was different. . . .
THS has a lot of weirdness intrinsic to the setting. A character who doesn’t take a lot of effort in themselves gives me more ability to think about the setting and learn how to work within it.
I’m not sure about that. Yes, THS is a weird setting. But my current fantasy campaign is a weird setting, too, particularly the animistic magic; a couple of the players were quite freaked out when they investigated whether their ship had a spirit, and learned that she thought of them as her “bipeds” and was surprised to learn that they were self-aware. And the players who are most interested in that dimension are the ones who are playing the most exotic races, a ghoul and a troll. So what you describe might not work for everyone.