DM tips with Justin: Character Creation
Welcome back. Last week we discussed the importance of deciding with your group the type of game that everyone wants to play. This week we are taking a look at character creation and the impact that a DM has on the process. First, we will examine the game mechanics angle and why it is important. Secondly, we will look at how the story will impact some of the characters from the very beginning. Finally, we will dive into back story and it’s importance as a tool for the DM as well as the players.
The character creation process can be one of the most exciting parts of any pen and paper RPG. The possibilities are endless! As DM, you must decide the mechanics of generating statistics, starting level, starting equipment. Some of these could tie into your previous discussion of game type, for example, if you all wanted to play a high power game where all of the players begin at level 10.
The thing that is very important to your players is how you generate ability scores. Adventurer’s League uses the array or point buy system found in the Players Handbook. I tend to use this as well as I find it very clear and easy. Also, it allows my players to create their characters with minimal oversight from me during this step. Alternatively you can randomly roll stats. As a DM, I always want to watch my players roll stats just to avoid any shenanigans. Random ability scores can lead to some very impressive stats. It can also generate some very poor ones. There are many different ways to generate random ability scores, so many in fact, that I might have to revisit this in greater detail. Use whichever systems you like, but I strongly recommend that you watch all random rolls.
The story will impact the character creation process. If you are playing in a post-apocalyptic setting, it might make sense to limit what classes and races are available. If the aristocracy is the key antagonist, then it might not make sense for a player to have the Noble background. In our current stream, we are set in a version of 1890’s Earth. Magic and the supernatural do exist, however, I felt that it would be out of flavor to allow Dragonborne, full blooded Elves, or Half-Orcs to this world. If the narrative gets to the point where the inclusion of any of these races makes sense, then I will change my mind. The Internet is full of DM’s that do not allow Monks, feeling that the Eastern Earth flavor does not coincide with a high fantasy game which tends to take its roots from a more European slant. Try not to limit the players options without a very good reason. Too much limitation can make the players feel frustrated. A lot of this should be discussed during the planning session.
One of my favorite parts of character creation is the back story. Our heroes are undertaking a very perilous existence. Why would any sane person trade a life of relative safety for adventuring? The characters are heroes, far beyond the normal person. They are unique and special. A well developed back story can offer you as a DM plenty of inspiration to make the player feel more in sync with the world. Bringing up events and people from the character’s past reinforces the feeling of a living world. Also, by allowing some flexibility and freedom to your players in character background you are tapping an extra resource for world building. I like to have my players email me a short back story before we sit down for our first session. Many times I will elaborate on this to cooperatively create a memorable story before the story, thus creating investment from both myself and the players.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Next week: World Building 101. As always, if you have a topic that you wish me to go over leave a comment. Tune into the Military Gamer Supply Twitch channel to watch our stream every Monday at 7PM. Happy Gaming!