Character Creation

I’m starting an open table next Sunday, and this is the first of a series of companion articles here on my blog. I plan to cover mainly how I’m going about planning for this campaign setting, especially as it regards my practice of “just-in-time planning”.

Today’s topic, however, is how I’m handling character generation for this campaign.

As I mentioned above, the campaign is an “open table” setup. As GM, I post the dates & times when I’m open to running a session. Players then sign up to play in that expedition. Expeditions begin & end in a “safe haven”, e.g. the starting town, so there’s no need to commit to joining each weekly expedition. Whoever is available ventures out that week.

The rules system is what I’m calling “OD&Dish”. It’s basically original edition D&D, just the three little brown books, & none of the supplements. I’m using Delving Deeper as my primary reference, but I’ll also refer to the three booklets themselves, and will introduce house rules as they occur to me.

These rules tend to create delicate characters, and to exacerbate this effect, I’m creating characters at 0-level (more on this in a moment).

The combination of open table (not knowing who might be playing very far ahead of time), and delicate characters, means that I want character generation to be very quick. I also want the game to be easy for new players or even first time players to jump into.

Therefore, I’ve chosen to make character creation completely random for beginning players.

How this works:

  1. a player signs up to join the game & requests a character
  2. I roll up the character:
    1. 3d6 down the line (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma)
    2. 1d6 hit points (i.e. a single hit die)
    3. random equipment using this table from Necropraxis
    4. a bit of background colour from James West, i.e. the relationship tables (1d6, 1d20) and the “raised by” table (1d20)
  3. I then ask the player to name the resulting character.

As I mentioned above, characters for all players start out at level 0. They have a single hit die, but no class.

The process takes about a minute, and can be used to quickly generate a new character for new players or for a player whose character has fallen.

I like it because it generates interesting, often paradoxical characters. E.g. great Srength, very little hp. Or little hp, but heavy armor. Etc.

Asking the players to provide the name often solidifies the character in interesting ways, suddenly providing, for example, an idea of gender, background, personality, and even vocation, all of which might be completely different from what I might have assumed the character would be about given their ability scores.

James’ background tables are excellent: they are evocative but leave plenty of room for interpretation. I chose the relationship & raised-by tables because they create a concrete bond to somebody in the world (though who knows when we shall meet them), and they tell us just a bit about where this character is coming from.

Any other detail I leave to the players, though at this point most seem quite content to see what happens to these oddballs in their first expedition, without adding further detail.

Once a character survives their first expedition (i.e. makes it back to a haven) the players gets to choose a class (Fighter, Thief, Magic-User) for the character, and the character comes just a little bit more alive.

I am considering a rule for later play:

Once a player has raised a character to level 3, they can (at their option) create new 1st level characters (i.e. characters that begin with class), and they need not be determined entirely at random.

We’ll see how we feel about the above rule when we get to that point in the campaign.

The next article is going to cover how I create extremely minimal setting for this campaign (a practice I’ve been following with pleasant results for a few years now).


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This page last updated: 2019.02.04