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How To Make Your Own Pen And Paper RPG: Part 2 (Character Sheets)

Updated on January 5, 2012
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Now that you’ve decided (or at least have some ideas about) the genre, complexity, role and medium of your RPG (after reading part 1) You’re ready to start working on your Character Sheets. Here are some basic ideas to consider while you’re working:


Creativity:


Remember: Your RPG’s character sheets are the means through which the players interact with the game you have created. They’re the controllers, the interfaces, the in-game menus, and the most-used props which allow your players to immerse themselves into a world wholly different from their own. The best character sheets are those that present character information and statistics in a format which is attractive, unique, and relevant to the game. Think about it: If you’re playing a Battlestar Galactica game, you want an in-game menu (or character sheet) that looks futuristic, has clipped corners, and probably features (at least) the BSG logo. A basic typewriter sheet or a high-fantasy, flowing script and scrollwork sheet are probably going to give the players mixed signals that are likely to knock them out of the suspension of disbelief so vital to playing any game. Another example: If you’re playing a game like DAGON, a sheet like the one to the right is going to go a long way with your players, even if only because of how darn cool it looks while still being relevant to a Lovecraftian setting.

Example of a simple sheet
Example of a simple sheet
Example of a complex sheet
Example of a complex sheet

Complexity:

Complexity is something you have to constantly keep in the back of your mind at as you create each element of your RPG. It sets the tone for your game, strengthens it (through consistency) and ultimately informs the players as to just how much of a commitment they’re going to have to give to the game, (especially if they’re going to run a campaign in it.)

When it comes to complexity of character sheets, there’s a fine line that one must ride. Just like the back cover of a book will make or break a sale, some RPGs have been sold on the presentation of the character sheet alone. Too simple, and you’ll lose some players who want a more in-depth, more meaningful and more immersive game. Too complex, and you’ll lose the players who are just looking for a few hours of fun. Like writing a good novel, ask yourself what is absolutely essential to your RPG’s gameplay, then ask yourself what you can cut and leave out altogether.




Universal v. Individual:

Another aspect you have to consider is how universal or individual your character sheets are going to be. Will all of your characters run off the same record sheet (with different individual stats plugged in) or will different character classes each require different sheets to house their different game mechanics? Will physical classes be recorded on one type of sheet while magic-using classes are recorded on another? How will you approach vehicles, monsters, hirelings, NPCs, etc. Will they have their own individual kinds of sheets, or will they all use the same sheet in different ways? (Consider Strength (STR) as a stat referring to lifting, pulling, etc. on a person, but horsepower/thrust on a car, plane etc.) Start considering how game mechanics will affect the look of a sheet. If your characters have hit points (HP), and you use a single sheet for humans and vehicles, how much HP will cars (or horses, or spacecraft) have? Will they use the same system? (Human = 10 HP, car = 250 HP) or will they use a sliding scale? (Human = 10 HP, Car = 2.5 Car HP or 250 Human HP)

Research:

Probably the best way to come up with new ideas (and to make sure that no one else has come up with the same thing before you!) is to look around and see what’s already been done. Doing a search on Google for RPG record sheets will yield up a whole host of examples you can look at, draw from, and be inspired by! See how others have handled the issues of creativity, complexity and universality, learn from their mistakes (and successes!), and create the sheet that seems best for you!


Revise:


Don’t expect to get your sheet totally done at this point. Keep it open, make notes, reconsider ideas as you progress through designing your game, and make the character sheet the very last thing you finish. Remember, there’s always room for improvement!

Source

Side Note: Pre-made Characters

Some games offer pre-made characters instead of blank character sheets and exhaustive character creation rules. The advantage of pre-made characters is simple– they allow you (as the creator) the maximum amount of freedom to create exactly the perfect avatars for interacting with the world you have created while giving the players the ability to just jump right into the middle of the action without requiring any real time be spent on setting things up. In today’s fast-paced world of spontaneous judgements and the need for instant gratification, including pre-made characters with ready-to-play rules in addition to any other materials you provide would probably be a good idea. Remember: if your game takes four hours to set up, weekend gamer groups who only have a handful of hours per week to play probably aren’t going to be interested in playing it.


Next up: Basic Game Mechanics!

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    • profile image

      rpger 6 years ago

      pretty good if I use it it must be good cause i have made 15 paper rpgs

    • profile image

      rpger 6 years ago

      pretty good if I use it it must be good cause i have made 15 paper rpgs

    • profile image

      rpger 6 years ago

      pretty good if I use it it must be good cause i have made 15 paper rpgs that are good (i am making 3 more right now)

    • profile image

      Nathan 6 years ago

      This is really helpful. This makes my task of figuring all this stuff out on my Own easier. I'm just making my first own RPG and I've done a lot of research. Thanks a bunch!

    • profile image

      Nathan C 6 years ago

      This is great stuff, and gets my creativity going. I look forward to the next installment.

    • profile image

      Mike E. 6 years ago

      Looks good so far. Waiting for the next installment.

    • profile image

      Dr Thunderballs 6 years ago

      nice job, cant wait for next bit

    • profile image

      The bored guy 6 years ago

      Thanks for this great tutorial :). I've read two other "pen and paper rpg" tutorials but this one was the best. One of them tould you point by point how to make it ... didn't like that one. The other just said: "Think of a world and now make some mechanics" ... liked that one even less.

      Well ... keep'em coming, take your time, and make some good tutorials :-)

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      thanks a lot, this is great information

    • profile image

      Just asking 6 years ago

      are you working on this ? ... its taking a long time :/ ...

      well it still gets my creativity going :)

    • profile image

      Master pasta 6 years ago

      It awesome iv red it like 5 times i cant wait until part 3 comes out

    • profile image

      master pasta 6 years ago

      Awesome love it loveit loveit

    • profile image

      A Sexy Rhino 5 years ago

      This is an awesome guide!!!!I have easily made my first rpg thanks to this guide.

    • profile image

      Sam 5 years ago

      nice.

    • profile image

      Kate 5 years ago

      Great hub. A good sheet is a balancing act between getting the information that the players need and keeping it simple enough to be useable. This is my first one: http://www.scribd.com/doc/63732741/Disparity-Chara... but I would say you get the best feedback by making players try to use the sheet in a test game. It really helped me refine mine.

    • Aeglewaygate profile image

      Aeglewaygate 5 years ago

      Very good pre-made angle. As for me, I prefer scratch. :>

    • profile image

      Max Tran 5 years ago

      Hey can you make the next part, because either my internet is faulty or you haven't posted the next part BTW Great work!

    • profile image

      RandomMan 5 years ago

      Really good job. You are a really helping me out with my new project.

    • profile image

      Shrpyy 5 years ago

      Thanks man, this was helpful :)

    • profile image

      the BRO 5 years ago

      NICE.

    • profile image

      A Person Who Notices 5 years ago

      The link to Part 3 is not there. This fails. Please correct that. Other than that, your tutorial looks brilliant. Hope you can fix this problem, then I can make one.

    • profile image

      Barden 5 years ago

      This is helping a lot. thank you

    • profile image

      13geekqueen 5 years ago

      hunger games rpg is on its way!

    • profile image

      chris 4 years ago

      Plz make the next part i find this a delightfully intristing hum would love to read more

    • profile image

      GirWillGame 4 years ago

      Thanks to this I can create a VERY epic rpg, the first RPG's I had created were based on the Elder Scrolls video games and those RPG's were 1st person and weren't as fun because I always had no dice so I made weak attacks so I wasn't cheating by throwing down strong attacks, the attacks were weak and I always died restarting again...

    • profile image

      Twilight 4 years ago

      Sweet this is baus I made 8 rps and making another now

    • profile image

      the BRO 4 years ago

      Are you still working on part 3?

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      RPG maker 4 years ago

      Thank you for the tips im making my own private rpg set in midevil times its getting better because of you and i might make some videos of it

    • Porshadoxus profile image

      Porshadoxus 4 years ago from the straight and narrow way

      Looking forward to part 3.

      In process of filling out a simple RPG system for my kids and I to play. Getting some good ideas here.

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