I recently sat down with my home group to create some characters for 4th Edition D&D. I’ve got a wide range of players, from those who are really interested in rules and systems and even number-crunching once in a while, to players like my lovely wife who couldn’t care less about system and has fun playing off the top of her head and improvising. She’ll take notes on the setting, draw maps and little pictures of what is going on, write down NPC names, but mostly ignore her character sheet.
Considering this, I thought that just sitting down with the very detailed D&D character sheets for number-crunching wouldn’t work so well, so I came up with a worksheet for character creation. It basically lists all of the big decisions you have to make as a player creating a character, and using it I can do the number-crunching for my two players who just won’t have fun doing it themselves. (In case you couldn’t tell, I’m on the end of the spectrum that is excited about systems and I don’t mind having an excuse to create more characters.
The worksheet had a very simple layout (I suck at layout something fierce) and had the following prompts on it with lines after them (italics mark house rule elements):
Character workseet for
Who will be playing
Alignment: As mentioned before, I’m looking at ways to rework alignment so that it…doesn’t completely suck, or at least cease to actively hinder good roleplaying
Character keywords: I wanted players to choose keywords from their racial description or class description, or just come up with them. I had three blanks for these, and got things like Determined, Terse, Pragmatic – good stuff
At-will abilities chosen
Encounter abilities chosen
Daily ability chosen
Monthly upkeep: I don’t love dealing with detailed equipment, so I lumped food, ammunition, shelter or tents, camping gear and an adventurer’s kit into a lump monthly sum that represents how well you’ve living. The levers were Squalor 20gp, Poor 30gp, Relative Comfort 50gp (the most popular choice), Easy Life 100gp, and High Roller 500gp (pun intended). If these totals seem high, I came up with them using the PhB equipment section to estimate what you’d go through in a month of semi-active adventuring, and added in the fact that adventurers sleep in inns a lot and don’t cook much for themselves, which is a really expensive way to live.
Armor and shields
Informational Contacts: I had the players come up with one informational contact, an NPC who would be in the game, for every point of Intelligence bonus they had. I just used this as a way to help me produce NPCs for what was a custom setting
Family/Mentor Contacts: for each point of Wisdom modifier, I had the player choose one family or mentor contact. Not sure why I keyed this to Wisdom – it just seemed to make sense. Wise people are probably on good terms with family and keep up helpful relationships with teachers…I guess
Social Contacts: obviously, this was one for every point of Charisma bonus they player-character had. I also encouraged them players to choose the same contacts so that they would have connections starting off. For each extra PC who had the same contact, the contact basically become twice as useful.
Starting Situation: We brainstormed the situation together. Thank God the players were motivated to do this. It could’ve been a disaster, but I wanted them to feel like they were participating, like they had ownership of the game overall, and weren’t just being fed it.
Starting Setting: the setting brainstorming session was awesome. I think our setting is cool. It is basically a large and once-powerful island colony 99 years after a huge tsunami wiped out most of the main city. The survivors are now cut off from the empire that founded them. The island is a huge volcanic caldera millions of years old – the interior of the caldera is entirely uncharted, and much of it lies in the Feywild. The main city, Good Hope (going for a South African theme of sorts) has a large Tiefling population and a large Halfling population – Halflings were brought in by the drove as indentured servants to work in the colony, and have since liberated themselves and now control most of the agriculture on the island.
Color: this didn’t happen, but I wanted some key words or terms from teh players about what kind of setting they wanted this to be. I got some color during the other brainstorming sessions, though, so I think it’ll be something they’re interested in. We’ll see.