View Full Version : Do you build characters for new players?

2013-02-22, 08:28 PM
I'm just starting up my first campaign from the other side of the DM screen. Fortunately, I have another co-DM to help me out, and he'll be handling most of the roleplay and story elements because I like to be more focused on mechanics and combat. For the record, the system is Pathfinder. This is my party makeup, as it stands:
An unarmed variant ranger. This player has the SRD memorized and is pretty good at optimization, so I'm worried even with a suboptimal class he'll still show up the other players, particularly the last two.
Someone who's not really interested in optimization at all. I don't know what character she'll play.
Someone who's completely new to tabletop RPGs, who wants to play, quote "sneaky class or bow and arrow class!".
And someone who's wanted to play D&D for a while, but has never had the chance. He knows a little bit of the basics (like the alignment system) but no formal system knowledge. I don't know what he wants to play.

So, do you think I should build characters for the last three players? Or should I go through the creation process step-by-step with them? Or just leave them to do it on their own?

2013-02-22, 08:34 PM
I'd generally talk them through creation, and give them a "how to..." approach.


"I want to play a sneaky character".

"Well, sneaky characters means you probably want to be a race like a ____. And a class like ____. Being that Class and Race combo you would have (Traits and Stats) which means (Extrapolated bonuses/penalties/playstyle). Does this sound like what you were thinking?"

And kinda going on like that. It's generally how I handle people new to a system or RPing in general.

2013-02-22, 08:44 PM
Well, in my current game, I went through the character creation process basically step-by-step/in extreme depth with one new-to-DnD player; two others, with some minor input from me, essentially gave me the class, race, background, and some other details, and then asked me to draw up the mechanics however I thought would be fitting (they seemed satisfied with the results); and another made her character with just semi-regular input from me as needed. (Two others, being experienced with the system, made their own characters with only setting-specific input from me, plus one Feat suggestion.)

So, aside from giving them the basics and suggestions based on what they want to play (and if you don't yet know "what", find that out for sure), I would also suggest straight-up asking how much "help" or input from you they would like to have. Players' preferences seem to vary in this regard like they do almost everywhere else.

2013-02-22, 11:45 PM
Ask them if they'd like help, because 3.5 can be intimidating to new players. If they accept, great, ask what sort of character they would like to play. If they decline, let them know they can come to you for character help any time. After that, leave them be. If they start mentioning that they feel useless or that their character isn't strong enough, offer help again.

To help people think about what they want to do (as this much choice can be really overwhelming), you can point them to some of the base classes' fluff for inspiration.

Generally speaking, don't force it. That can mean the difference between "that snobby jerk with a Wizard fetish" and "the guy who just made my Monk super awesome". Additionally, there are some people who simply will not accept help, and some of your players may fit into this category -leave them be if that's the case.

2013-02-22, 11:48 PM
I'm with the people saying "ask." And possibly also ask the experienced guy to keep his optimization level under control, given the new players. (Although I doubt that an unarmed ranger is going to get too high)

2013-02-23, 01:17 AM
New players don't know the rules. They need to be taught the rules. This includes character creation. It's perfectly possible to learn a RPG by yourself, but that's the hard away, and not a good introduction. You should help the new players figure out the system - Pathfinder in particular is based on one of the top-5 most complicated RPGs in existence (3e D&D), and adds even more options for everything in character creation.

So, make their characters with them. Preferrably not in one session, but separately (after having first talked with them to figure out that they're not all making sneaky archer rangers; although I'm not convinced such a party couldn't work...).

In general, I build my players characters if 1. they explicitly request it for reasons of laziness, or 2. I want to run a quick one-shot try-out for a system, and don't feel like investing a few hours of the session to creating characters.

Jay R
2013-02-23, 10:49 AM
I just ran my 12-year-old nephew and 9-year-old niece through character creation for their first game. I found that most of the rules they need to know could be explained in that process, and they listened, since they had decisions to make. For instance, basic combat was explained when they chose classes, and filled out when they chose weapons. (Fortunately, I was able to show them examples of a longsword and a broad sword, to help them see the difference.)

2013-02-23, 10:57 AM
For instance, basic combat was explained when they chose classes, and filled out when they chose weapons.

That's a good idea. How did you go about explaining it?

2013-02-23, 11:16 AM
I think a noob cave with all sorts of different basic mechanics explained would be a good idea.

2013-02-23, 01:07 PM
What I generally do is ask the player what sort of character they want to play. I ask them what kind of character from film they think their character will most resemble and sort of explain from there.

"If you want your character to be like (Insert Character Name), he might have these traits, which can be replicated by taking these skills, buying these items and having this ability score set up."

I like to sort of guide the player along rather that just say "Do this or that" and give the player options. "Well you only have two feats to spend as a first level human rogue. So my suggestion is that you consider two of these (four or five) feat, which will do this for your character).

In my experience some of my players have had a love-hate relationship with character creation. It usually take me about 1 to two hours to flesh out a character sheet and make sure all the right stuff is on it. Depending on the experience of the player involved, this can take considerably longer, especially if the player in question is less concerned with mechanical rules that with roleplay or if that player is new and inexperienced. It's not a problem per se, but it's accounting for different types of players.

Angel Bob
2013-02-24, 05:54 PM
When my D&D 4E group gets a new player, then unless they have a specific character concept in mind, we first ask them to fill a role that's underdeveloped in the party. Then we narrow it down, et cetera, et cetera... Depending on how invested the player is, they may or may not pick their own powers; however, we almost always let a more experienced player pick their feats, because otherwise the new player is overwhelmed with options.

2013-02-24, 07:34 PM
Funny thing, when I was played 4E D&D my DM had his nephew start playing and helped him build his character. During our first fight with him in the party he took a few hits and made a comment about how low he now was on health. I did some quick math in my head and responded "Wait, what?" since he hadn't taken all that much damage.

I checked his maximum HP and realised our DM had added his CON modifier instead of CON score to his starting HP.

The moral of the story - if you are going to build a character for someone, make sure you are up to speed with the rules.

To be fair it wasn't that long after 4th ED came out so he was still learning as well.

2013-02-24, 08:27 PM
How you handle their characters really needs to depend on how they feel about the game, the third "sneaky class or shooty class" reminds me of my sister-in-law, who just wanted to play a ranger and wanted me to make the whole character for her. She didn't care about mechanics in the game. All she really wanted to do is be at the table with us while we played. In combat her turn consisted of "I shoot the weakest one. Any player with that little concern for mechanics probably won't mind being shown up in combat either.

New players can be different though. They want to care about mechanics but don't know them yet. Those are the ones you want to walk through what you're considering in character creation. However, if they aren't willing to read up on their own, they might not care much either.

Just talk to each one and feel out what they expect from the game.