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Pen and Paper: Character Creation

Updated on June 20, 2014
Picking a character sheet is important. This is my favorite for Savage World games.
Picking a character sheet is important. This is my favorite for Savage World games. | Source

Character creation can either be seen as a necessary evil or one of the best parts of roleplaying. An empty character sheet is a world of possibilities. Will you be a strong warrior who thinks with his fist or will you be a stealthy thief who keeps to the shadows? Building a character in a system you know is even more rewarding and allows you to work deeper into the system and try new things out. I love making characters in Dungeons and Dragons, especially in the Icewind Dale games. Savage Worlds, my favorite system, has an easy and fun character building process that I love. Sometimes, it’s a bit too quick, but when few other systems I’ve played allow for such detail control and character development.

Now, since I’m running a new game for new players, character creation is going to take a while. This isn’t a situation where I can just give the players the book and let them go to town. I have to walk each player through the steps of character creation, explaining what each part means. The day of the game, only two players were able to make it, but this was perfect as it allowed for quicker building and fewer explanations. This is a bit more “through the process” then some of my "other" "articles", but the need for GMs to help players through this gaming step is an important one.

I was very close to using this for my new players.
I was very close to using this for my new players. | Source

The first step in building a character in Savage Worlds is choosing a race. Now, the players had the choice of Humans, Atlanteans, Fallen Angels, Androids, and Werewolves. I had spent a good amount of time working on making Angels usable and I was excited for them to be an option. I had spent even more time making sure Werewolves would be balanced and, if I were playing, I would be hard-pressed not to pick them. Because I, the GM, was so excited for these races, it should have been obvious the players would pick Human and Atlantean. Players of all groups are wonderfully consistent at keeping a GM in his place.

At this point, all that’s known about the player’s characters is that one is a Human and the other is Atlantean. Next they pick their attributes. In Savage World, there are five attributes; Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor. Each effect different elements of the character; Agility helps raise the characters parry, Strength is applied to damage rolls, and Vigor sets a characters Toughness. When you first make a character, each of these attributes is at a d4. The player than has five points to spend raising these traits up a die type. Now, I usually set all of these at d6 and then raise them up later with Hindrances, but I’m not playing. It was fun watching new people try to decide where the points would go. I was surprised they let some stay at a d4 in order to get some to a d8 right away, but I would have done the same thing when I had first started out. In summary, the Human had high Smarts and the Atlantean had a high Vigor.

Okay. So, this is really my favorite character sheet.
Okay. So, this is really my favorite character sheet.

Next comes the purchasing of skills. The players have fifteen points to spend on skills; one point for raising a skill lower or equal to the linked attribute, two points to raising it above the linked attribute. I helped them through this phase, as it took some time. It always depends on the time of game that’s being played. Since I’m running a monster hunting game in World War II, skills like shooting and stealth are important, but so are tracking and driving. One of the players, the Atlantean, chose to have special knowledge in archeology, which will be very helpful on many of the missions. The Human had a very high stealth skill and was the healer of the group.

Now comes one of my favorite parts of Savage World character creation; choosing Hindrances and Edges. Now, my players didn’t understand the need to pick Hindrances, since they hurt the character. I explained that some are roleplaying hindrances that define the character more as a person. The other benefit is that they gain more character points to work with, two for a major hindrance and one for a minor. Soon, they came around and starting picking their choices. The Human chose Heroic and Enemy, while the Atlantean chose Curious and Pacifist. Then they picked Edges and raised an attribute or two. The Human has the Edge called Arcane Background: Psionics, giving her some great powers. Overall, with only two characters, they were fairly well balanced together.

Now lets get ready to roll!
Now lets get ready to roll!

I then gave them some standard gear, allowing them to choose on signature melee weapon. The Human chose a lance and the Atlantean picked a staff, since he didn’t want to actually kill if he didn’t have to. They then named their characters and we were done.

All in all, it took about an hour and a half to make these two characters. The slowest parts were choosing skills and Hindrances. This was to be expected, though, as there are tons of choices and it can be a bit overwhelming for a new player. I think both players were happy with the turnout and it’s always rewarding as a GM to help someone make a character their proud of. Since I don’t get to make a character to play like them, I take a lot of joy in working with them and seeing their characters grow. Players will always make choices that make me a GM scratch their head and this step is no different. Why didn’t they want to be Fallen Angel? Why not balance out their attribute more? Really, it’s not my worry anymore. They’ve got their characters and are ready to play.

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    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 5 years ago from New England

      Cool! Thanks for the heads-up! I'll have to look into that!

    • Jazzy Quicksilver profile image

      Jazzy Quicksilver 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      It's very similar to Dungeons and Dragons, 3.5 edition. I actually believe some of the guys that worked on that helped with Pathfinder, to the point where they're nearly compatible. It's made by Paizo, if you've heard of them. If you like D&D 3rd or 3.5 editions, you should check it out.

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 5 years ago from New England

      I've never heard of Pathfinder? What time of game is it?

    • Jazzy Quicksilver profile image

      Jazzy Quicksilver 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      You make me want to check out Savage Worlds (more than I already did). Character creation has always been one of my favorite things about games. Personally, I'm particular to Pathfinder.

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 5 years ago from New England

      Thanks. I didn't mind. An hour and a half is long, probably as long as it's ever taken for me, but it worked out in the end. I've done your tactic before, meeting with players individually, and I prefer that, it just wasn't an option with these two.

      Thanks for the link, I'll definitely be using the adventure!

    • William157 profile image

      William157 5 years ago from Southern California

      Two and a half hours is a little long for my tastes. Our group typically has four or five people, so I can't keep everyone waiting on one person. My solution was to meet with each player individually for a week or two beforehand. That lets them create their character in a private setting without the pressure of people waiting on them. It also allowed me to explain everything in a less-rushed manner.

      For people who've never played an RPG before, I typically start them off with some pre-generated characters. This helps them get a feel for what skills they like or dislike, and it allows us to simply sit down and play. One of the first pre-made adventures I ran was The Hunt, which you can find here: http://www.peginc.com/shop/the-hunt/ . Since the setting is already Predator, I made the lion characters into Predator aliens. Fun fun.

      All in all, great article. It covers all of the bases of character creation in SW. Hopefully it will convert some holdouts of other RPGs, or at the very least get some new blood into the hobby. Voted up!