Nov 122012

I almost didn’t write about this topic because of some slightly flawed logic. I reasoned that if this was a good idea, someone else must have had it already. So either the work had already been done by someone else, or it just wasn’t a good idea. In the end though I figured that even if it had been touched on in the past, other writers could have gotten to this point by following a different path. Also, if there are people who don’t like the idea, then at the least, I should explain to them why I like it based on my own experience.

This comes on the back of the first couple of sessions of my current campaign. The characters were all created in a vacuum because of the way the game was going to start. Details are through the previous link, but short story is that the characters don’t have a clue about the world they exist in. This meant that it was totally possible for someone to lovingly craft a character, and after two sessions realise that it is almost totally untenable based on the world they now find themselves in. I knew this could be an issue so I have offered everyone the option for a bit of a rebuild after the next game, just in case they’re unhappy.

I know from reading other blogs and opinions that there are people out there who might think I’m being a bit soft on my players. I’ve created “3d6 in order” characters in the past and had to struggle through with crappy stats. I know that sometimes these can be the most fun characters, but they can also be a total pain if you really don’t want to play a certain type of character. It’s why I always prefer the point build to the dice rolled character. My reasons for offering this concession are simple; running this game the way I am doing is a bit of an experiment for me, and if bits of it don’t go the way I want them to, then there’s no reason that the players should suffer. I want them to have fun, and if shunting a skill point or two round is going to help that happen, and as long as it does nothing to mess with the game for anyone else, then I say go for it.

The other way I could have done it, and this idea sadly came to me a week and a half too late, was to let them play the first game with just a character idea, and a few notes about what they would like to be. Any dice rolls would be random ways of determining things where a cut and dried yes or no wouldn’t make much sense, or I just didn’t want to assume automatic success on something plot related. Everything else would be up to the story each person wanted to tell about who their character was. The next week they turn up and we start putting points down for stats and skills, but would almost certainly carry on some light role playing as we did this to give everyone more chance to decide what direction they wanted their character build to go in. I would like to think that my players wouldn’t push their luck on this, and would see it as a fun way to end up with a character they were happy with.

Now, a few weeks back I said that this blog wouldn’t become just a vehicle to talk about my Cyberpunk campaign, so I thought I would try and apply this to a game I’m thinking about running in the future. Deadlands. If that word means nothing to you, click this link and read all about it. The time will not be wasted, trust me.

The plan is to run a military style campaign, with the player characters on one side of the civil war, fighting against the other. I’m not going to decide which side they’re on, as I think they should be able to pick that for themselves as a group. The game would start a little in the thick of it. The players’ unit already in trouble, in the middle of a fight, either trying to break through to an objective, or fleeing as their own lines have been shattered. Everyone would have a rough idea of the type of character they would like to play, but have no character sheets in front of them. Taking it a little for granted that they all survive – and since dice rolling will be to a minimum and the action more story based, it shouldn’t be too much a problem – then the week after, we start character creation. This has several positives; for the players it means they won’t be screwed by a character build that they loved before the campaign started but has no where to go in-game. There is even a bonus for me; in a military game, the chain of command will be important, and if I choose to let someone have an NCO rank, I will be able to pick that character after watching them in action. It’s much easier to asses who has any leadership ability after you’ve seen them under fire.

So, that’s the basic idea. Have any of my readers tried this? Did it work? Am I taking a huge risk? Do you think I’m an idiot? All comments welcomed, but keep the name calling to a minimum.

  9 Responses to “Character creation after the first session.”

  1. Oooh, Deadlands – I’m looking forward to reading what you come up with for this game. It’s one of my favourite systems.

    I’ve never created a character that way, but I think it’s a great idea. I often need to change some skills and maybe part of the backstory when I’ve played a character a couple of sessions because they turn out different that I’d thought.
    And starting with the characters already in a tricky situation does generate a lot of story hooks and insight into who they really are. I did this once at the start of a campaign for my players and let them explain to me how they got into that situation, What they came up with said a lot about how they see their character.

    • First off, it’s going to original system. I have tried Reloaded, and while I do love Savage Worlds, it always felt like Diet Deadlands to me, and I much preferred the full fat version.

  2. [...] [shortymonster] Character creation after the first session. ( [...]

  3. Sounds like an interesting setup. I’ve never done what you descibe.

    The closest I’ve come was in my recent supers campign Reverie, I determined that the characters would be powerful galactic heroes, overthrown and imprisoned for thousands of years. Despite their physcial imprisonment they were able to create a shared dream reality where they hatched their pan for escape. Then, they enacted their plan and escaped into our world. To avoid detection they had agreed that they would all wipe their memories and assume new identities on earth. Their power was such that the characters were able to ‘force’ other people to accept them as friends, family, lovers, complete with extensive false memories.

    The game began a few days late, as the characters began to manifest traces of their former powers in an uncontrolled fashion – as though they had mysteriously developed superpowers over night. The rest of the first season of this game was the characters gradually coming to realise their origins as I’ve outlined above, while inadvertently drawing the attention of their former reigeme who were desperate to locate and imprison them once more.

    This mean that the players were free to create their own indiependent characters, backgrounds and stories from session one. I took careful note of these, and developed them through play and strange shared dreams (a remanant of their prison pnaning days) to draw the characters together and gradually destroy their (false) lives.

    More here if you’re interested: and

    Best of luck with the new game – looking forward to hearing how it develops!

  4. I think it’s a solid plan as long as…
    A: You make sure that your first session is actually indicative of what the feel of most of the game will be like. You don’t want to mislead your players in the name of a great opening scene.
    B: You trust your players not to stray too far into the “meta-game” as they create their characters.
    C: Your players have some wiggle room with regard to personalization during character creation, even though survival of the first session is a foregone conclusion. I wouldn’t hold them to tightly to situations that determine character personalities, abilities, etc, that stem from the opening scene.

    I might offer another suggestion: having the players create their characters together, rather than in a vacuum, would probably be beneficial.

    That being said, choosing the NCO after first session is a stroke of genius that I’m stealing.

    Another thing that occurred to me when reading this, was the idea that the first session could be a flashback, which could explain the use of some secondary, more simple system for conflict resolution, ie: a coin flip, highest roll, playing cards, etc, since there will be no stats to base conflict difficulties off of. Also, in a flashback scenario, since the story of the opening scene is being “told” from the point of view of the characters, it’s easier to stray from the canon established in the first session, with discrepancies being justified as “perceptional anomalies” brought on by the stress of the situation and/or the effects of the fog of war on someone’s perspective…….Just a thought.

    It sounds like it’s going to be a neat experiment and a fun game. I’m anxious to see how it all plays out.

    Game on!

    • Unless it can’t be done, scheduling and the like, I always try to get the players to create their characters as a group; it really helps to get everyone on the same page and understanding that they’re part of a group, not just another lone wolf.

      The flashback idea has legs, and I might use that for the Deadlands game.

      The NCO thing comes from actual play experience, when a player took the ‘rank’ advantage, but them never displayed any leadership or aggression in carrying out his orders. The GM really struggled as a result, and I’d hate to see that happen again.

  5. There’s an old Call of Cthulhu scenario where everybody wakes up with no idea of who they are or what they can do, so all the players start off with blank character sheets (also, one of the characters has a human tongue in their mouth).

    One thing I’ve considered, based on that scenario, is creating characters in response to the situations. You walk into a room and want to look around, so you decide your character has Notice d6 and write it down on your character sheet. You still have 13 skill points left and when a big ol’ monster jumps out, you write down that you have Shooting d8 and a Colt 1911. I’d probably also let people change their already determined stats (e.g. lowering that Shooting to a d6), but only three times in the first session. This really only works if you have organized players and are willing to have the game slow down as people are adding stuff to their characters.

  6. […] and being able to complete our missions with the aggression we were expected to deliver. The next campaign game I will be running also has a military feel to it, and I will be dropping the players into combat […]

  7. […] few others out there, I have a couple of favourite settings that I keep going back to. One of which I am revisiting for the first time in many years the next time I GM, and the other is a lovely little Neo-Victorian […]

Leave a Reply to Dale Cancel reply