Introducing a New Player: Provide Limited Character Options

Previously we’ve discussed Conversing Before the Game Starts and Being Well Prepared. Now as our series rolls on we discuss the next step.

Alright, so you’ve discussed the basics of the setting, and it’s time to create a character for the newcomer. Whatever you do, do not just open the book to the character creation rules and say, “What do you wan to play.” He doesn’t know, and he’ll feel very stupid for not knowing.

Instead, come up with a few simple character ideas, without rules or anything written down, and present them to the newcomer. This gives him some choice, without overwhelming him. When he’s made his choice, go through the character creation rules, a step at a time, but instead of having him go through the book, ask questions about what he wants his character to be good at, and make the rules decisions for him.

For things that the player has to choose, such as hindrances, edges, feats, or special qualities, don’t give him a the full list, but pick a limited selection of easy to use options to choose from. It’s okay to say that you’re doing this. He will probably understand and approve.

Let him change his character later. This may rub some gamemasters the wrong way, but it’s the only fair way to treat a new player. The last thing you want is for the newcomer to not enjoy his character after a few sessions, especially if it’s because you didn’t give him all the options.

Pre-built Characters

This is the simplest way to give a newcomer a character. Some players, if they’re familiar with RPGs, will scoff at this idea, but it can work well if you’re new player is completely new. Instead of going through character creation with the new player, give him the choice of a set of pre-built characters. Don’t include a name or gender, but you might want to give the pre-built character a one or two line description of their background and personality. Many games come with a standard set of pre-builts specificially for this purpose.

Even if you do go this way, give the player the option to change his character, or create a new one, at a later date.

Join us next Tuesday while we continue Apathy University’s series on Introducing a New Player.

  • http://thesedicelookfunny.blogspot.com/ Theron

    Here here.

    Nothing much to add here, other than I have used the guidelines with success. Nothing is more overwhelming than thrusting a 248 page book into someone’s hands and saying, “go to.”

    The only other important thing to remember is, if they get into it, say “yes” to as many options as possible.

    • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

      I completely agree on saying yes to as much as possible. It’s especially why I love Savage Worlds for that. You can say yes to pretty much everything and easily handle the situations as they come up.

      I enjoyed your running commentary on random character generation, what game were you developing it for? And what rules were you using?

  • http://thesedicelookfunny.blogspot.com Theron

    Here here.

    Nothing much to add here, other than I have used the guidelines with success. Nothing is more overwhelming than thrusting a 248 page book into someone’s hands and saying, “go to.”

    The only other important thing to remember is, if they get into it, say “yes” to as many options as possible.

    • http://www.apathygames.com Tyson J. Hayes

      I completely agree on saying yes to as much as possible. It’s especially why I love Savage Worlds for that. You can say yes to pretty much everything and easily handle the situations as they come up.

      I enjoyed your running commentary on random character generation, what game were you developing it for? And what rules were you using?

  • http://thesedicelookfunny.blogspot.com/ Theron

    Oh, thank you! I was actually inspired by a friend of mine who is a self-proclaimed sucker for charts and tables. I wasn’t developing the character for a specific game, but illustrating the fun and occasional heartbreak of totally random character generation.

    I was using the rules from the 2005 Fantasy Character Generator Toolkit, written by Wiggy.

  • http://thesedicelookfunny.blogspot.com Theron

    Oh, thank you! I was actually inspired by a friend of mine who is a self-proclaimed sucker for charts and tables. I wasn’t developing the character for a specific game, but illustrating the fun and occasional heartbreak of totally random character generation.

    I was using the rules from the 2005 Fantasy Character Generator Toolkit, written by Wiggy.

  • http://spyderzt.blogspot.com/ Spyder Z

    I’m not as keen on the “Limited Options” camp as I could be. Generally if I’m introducing a new player, I plan some time specifically for character creation. That way I can work directly with them (Or once I had a couple more bodies who knew what they were about, they could work with them) to create whatever kind of character they like. Typically by asking questions about what kind of characters they liked in movies/games/etc, and then working off that. That way once they had their characters created, they’d be playing someone that was already “Cool” to them.

  • http://spyderzt.blogspot.com/ Spyder Z

    I’m not as keen on the “Limited Options” camp as I could be. Generally if I’m introducing a new player, I plan some time specifically for character creation. That way I can work directly with them (Or once I had a couple more bodies who knew what they were about, they could work with them) to create whatever kind of character they like. Typically by asking questions about what kind of characters they liked in movies/games/etc, and then working off that. That way once they had their characters created, they’d be playing someone that was already “Cool” to them.

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