15 Jun 2018

Creating Characters for Conventions

During the Victoria Day long weekend, I was at CanGames.  I've talked about what I did at the con before.  I only played games there, I didn't run anything, not having been able to get a couple of ideas to congeal.  Despite that, I created thirty-two characters for the weekend; thirty-four if I include the ones I played in Headspace and 5 Across the Heart.  How?

I had two friends ask me to create characters for some of their games.  Creating characters for use at a gaming convention is different from creating a character for me to play.  What I look for in a character I'm going to play for a campaign doesn't hold up for a four hour slot.  Potential players need a character that they can get on first reading, can do something in any potential scene in the game, and be effective.  I don't have a problem being deficient somewhere while gaming with friends.  At a con, I want to participate.

The first step is to find out what the GMs want.  This includes finding out the game system, learning it if needed, and get a rough idea of the general plot.  A dungeon delve means getting a balance of character types while science fiction exploration requires a team of specialists.  Next, read the character creation rules and see how everything meshes.  The goal is to make sure every character can do something in a fight and while investigating.  A healer is always welcome in an adventuring party, but the healer`s player needs to do something more than just wait for another character to be injured.  Once that`s done, create the characters.  This could take several hours or days, so spread the work out.  If there are form-fillable character sheets, use those for the authentic feel; otherwise, create a blank sheet that can be reused and be easily read.  Finally, pass the characters to the GM and make sure things are good with them.  Fix up any problems found, then sit back and relax.

The core of the work is creating the characters.  Again, potential players need to be able to read the sheet and get a good idea of what the character can do.  This means including what special abilities do.  I want to avoid having players look up details in the middle of the action.  Spells get included here; the less flipping pages, the better.  Character sheets should be no more than one double-sided page.  Two pages are acceptable for more complex character builds, but any more than that depends on the game.

The characters should be distinct from each other.  Even if there are three warrior-types, each of them should have a unique flavour.  With warriors, that can be done just by the style of fighting used, whether a weilder of two-weapons, a two-handed barbarian, or a martial artist.  Same thing goes with spellcasters.  Science fiction tends to have a different mix of character types, but the same principle applies.  Characters need to be unique.

Time for examples.  I`ll use two games that I created characters for use during CanGames.  The first is for Green Ronin's Fantasy Age with the Titansgrave expansion, the other is for the out of print Last Unicorn's Star Trek Roleplaying Game.  I won't go through each character - that's a total of seventeen between the two games combined - but I'll show the process is working out what I did for each character.

With Fantasy Age, the GM wanted somewhat powerful characters, starting at eighth level, and a good selection.  I went with three of each class, warrior, rogue, and mage, and took a look ahead at what sort of specialities, like Assassin or Elementalist, were available so I could aim for that type of character.  With the warriors, I made sure that each one had a different fighting style; one was sword-and-shield, another was a two-handed weapon user, the third used blasters with the ability to fight with just a single weapon.  The rogues were differentiated by what they could do; one was a thief, another a scout, the third a two-weapon duellist.  The mages broke down as an elementalist, a healer, and a swashbucklet.  I also managed to use all the races available in the setting while also having a human in each class.  A player deciding between the Orc Assassin and the Gnome Mage Hunter can see the difference right away even without knowing how the mechanics work.

Creating characters for Star Trek started differently.  The GM needed the crew of a small scout ship, so I worked out what positions were needed based on the layout of the Enterprise's bridge.  I counted each position - Captain, First Officer, Helmsman, Navigator, Communications Officer, Science Officer, Engineer - then added Medical Officer and Security since they normally don't sit on the bridge.  I doubled up First Officer with another position; the ship is far too small to break have a second-in-command who only has that job.  Fortunately, Star Trek provides a precedent with Spock, who was both First Officer and Chief Science Officer on the /Enterprise/.  From there, I worked out what mix of species would be interesting.  While tempted to have a Tellarite Communications Officer, I went with Human there.  I did put in some of the classic species from the original series, including Vulcan, Centauran, and Tellarite.  The GM requested a Caitian as from the animated series, so I added one.  The results were a young command staff which is what the GM wanted.

Cons have their own requirements when creating characters.  The goal is to have characters players will have fun playing, not just me.  A different thought process goes into the creation.

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Batman, the 1943 serial.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, "Truly Outrageous!"

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