Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Session Zero: Character Creation

I've always wanted to do a really in-depth, bang-up character creation session to really get the players thinking about their characters right off the bat. In the past, I've had a few players whose characters never really got interesting, and in my humble, sweet opinion, you can run your character sheet through a shredder if your character isn't going to entertain anyone.

I seriously don't need boring characters taking up valuable time and plot material.

I believe that every player is capable of creating and playing entertaining characters, but some players don't know that they're supposed to, or they don't have time, or they don't know how.

So I did a character creation session.

I started out by getting all my players on the same page, and having them confer with one another and make sure they weren't all playing the same class. Obvious, I know, but I've never done it before, and I've had problems in the past.

I went over a few guidelines for character creation. I usually get a larger turnout for my game sessions than I'm comfortable with, and I don't like to send people away, which means that if there's ever any party infighting, it takes ages to resolve. I'm also trying to run a heroic campaign here, where I can write quests based on the characters wanting to help people in need without having to worry about some of the characters not liking to help people in need.

With that in mind, I passed around a brief questionnaire. I have yet to find out if the players liked it, and it didn't help me as much as I'd hoped, but I think it helped a bit.

The questionnaire asked for basic information like the character's name race and background. It also asked questions that I hoped would be more revealing. For instance: "In what way is your character different from most members of his class?"

I also wrote down a basic list of drives that might motivate a character, with everything from "Patriotism" and "Curiosity" all the way down to "Greed" and "Power."

The result was that I ended up with a whole bunch of characters united mostly by "bloodlust." It will be a while before I can be sure that this batch of characters actually came out as good people, as I intended.

Another thing that irked me was that I had absolutely no success in getting mechanics-minded players to look past the rulebook in defining their characters. For a lot of players, a question like, "What traits does your character share with most members of his race?" could be answered with, "High INT," or "Dark vision."

However! The character creation session did produce a memorable and interesting party, and while I'd love to be able to take credit for it, I think it happened despite my questionnaires and pleas for morality.

Here's the lineup:

Romeo Scrabs -- He's back! And back to level one. I really enjoy seeing characters recycled for new campaigns. I don't know why people always feel like they need to start over with a new character concept every time they start a new campaign.

Constantin -- He has a last name and some middle names too, but I don't have them here in front of me. Constantin is an Anglican Beast-Folk with a funny, lispy voice. He has sort of a history of violence, and gets a little crazy when he's around blood. Before being made into a beast-man, Constantin was a narwhal. He still retains the giant pointed tooth.

Jill Montgomery -- Jill is twelve years old, and is the daughter of one of the characters from my last campaign. She's a Dragoon/Grenadier multiclass. She's also half-Morlock, and thus has albino features. I like seeing my players play gimmicky characters like "little girl," because when they play characters so different from themselves, they almost need to get into the mindset of the character in order to do anything at all. The guy who's playing Jill has spoken and acted extremely in character at every opportunity so far. In the last campaign, he just sort of played a regular young adult guy, and he didn't get into character half as often.

Patches -- Patches is a Morlock Gunpowder Wizard. Some players like to play the same kind of character every time they play. Patches's player likes to play oddball races, and he likes to play destructive, curious characters who "always press the big red button," as he puts it. I pretty much know exactly what to expect from Patches, and if he's reined in enough that he's not a disruption, I'm sure he'll be fun.

Huang Chen -- Another Morlock Gunpowder Wizard, and an associate of Patches. Huang Chen comes from the Himalayas, where he blasts tunnels and stuff. He also serves as a mountain guide. I am excited to see two non-human characters of the same race in the same party. We'll see how things play out.

Emilio Fernandez -- Son of Alfonzo from my last campaign. Emilio was the result of a radiation-enhanced pregnancy between two Nukeromancers. He was so badly mutated in the womb that he was born a fish. Sometime between then and now, his appearance shirted to look more half-fish-half-horse. So that should give you an idea of what to expect. I think he'll be a lot like Alfonzo, but perhaps with fewer anarchist tendencies, as demanded by the campaign style.

Talon -- A Scoundrel. Scoundrels get to cherry-pick from a vast pool of abilities, and he picked one that gives him an animal companion. A wolf. I hate animal companions, but I'll go with it. Talon is a native American, and is the last of his clan. Thus far, he's shown a bit of anti-white angst in his jokes. Could get interesting.

Colonel Henry Jefferson -- In the campaign world, there's still slavery down South. Jefferson is a banana plantation owner, and a Persuasionary. His bastard son/slave Moses serves as his companion, and is usually the target of extreme insensitivity on Jefferson's part. This kind of character probably wouldn't fly with a lot of groups, or in a lot of campaigns. Especially campaigns where the characters were supposed to be heroic. Historical humor is a staple of this game, though, and part of the fun comes from characters with gratingly old-fashioned attitudes.

Perth Avani -- Perth is an art thief, and another Scoundrel. The main thing I know about her so far is that she dresses in modern clothing which would be considered immodest in the time of the campaign's setting. That's not me being snarky, it's actually in the character description.

Yes, this is a huge party, but not all of these players can make it to every session. It tends to be a bit more manageable than that.