Mostly, I’m a GM; so when friends of mine said that he was setting up a group of campaigns and needed manpower, I thought he meant he needed extra GMs. But lo and behold, he needed a player! I was excited and awaited the details for the setting, which turned out to be little more than ‘basically D&D’, so I didn’t have too much setting to ground my character in. For many people, this is a boon! They have character ideas galore and settings only restrict them. After all, they want to play a character who does magic based on rituals, or based on some anime, or whatever, and the campaign just doesn’t fit that.
But for me, it’s the opposite. Given a lack of prompting, I feel unjustified with any details. I don’t have a character idea that I then fit into a campaign; I build an idea FROM the setting. Without a setting, I feel like I have no non-generic ideas.
And so when I started character creation, I was scared. And then I realized something. My fear made no sense. I was applying a standard from my old-school GMing (what if my characters don’t fit the setting) that didn’t even fit my new-school GMing style. I wanted to let players drive games, and yet here I was, a player, afraid to drive a game! I’d like to say that I overcame this fear right away and dove into character creation. But really, I didn’t until that fateful moment when the GM turned to me and said ‘so tell me about your character’. Until that moment, my character had just been a series of numbers, and character creation had been IMPOSSIBLE. But let’s back up a moment…
As promised I am now going go through the Stats-to-Who process of character creation. The Stats I will be working with is from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 because I think most people will be at least passingly familiar with that system (as it is the face of roleplaying). Below is a quick summary of the Stats:
Feats: Exotic Weapon Proficiency(spiked chain), Combat Expertise, Improved Trip, Combat Reflexes
This may not seem like much, and you’re right. A DnD character also has skills, equipment, attributes, and languages. But attributes are determined randomly, and the other bits aren’t really required at this point. For those unfamiliar with the spiked chain Fighter twink, this is the beginning core to a build that has many variations. The basic idea is that in DnD 3.5 you can trip your opponents from range with the chain, and if they try to get back up you get free attacks on them and can keep them lying prone. Over time you can add more area control maneuvers, damage, or whatever, but for now I am only going to care about the core. Now to the steps of character discovery!
Has anyone ever told you a story that you really not not care less about? It was probably about something inane and uncontrollable (they had very little or no influence on the outcome), like winning a game of Chutes and Ladders or War. It might have even gone like this:
As a person who is primarily a player in roleplaying games instead of a storyteller (game master, dungeon master, etc.) I figure the best place to start is where we all start: character creation. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to character creation, so in no way will this to be taken as a “how-to” guide. This article is merely a sort of stepping-stone and perspective-setter. The three approaches I take to creation I will call Who, Stats, and Hybrid. In this article I will do a quick overview of what each of those approaches looks like, but I will save delving into each for later articles.