View Full Version : Character Guidelines: Friend or Foe

2007-01-27, 01:06 AM
Character guidlines have been used by some DM's in order to get the story off to a rolling start. e.g. Your character can be whatever class you want but he has to be human and is within the Lawful good alignment for my campaign. Does this restriction cause the game to become less imginative or a way to get things rolling?

2007-01-27, 01:11 AM
Less imaginative? Not really. At least not by a reasonable interpretation.

After all, it is a game first and foremost. The goal of D+D has never been 'play whatever you want'. You have a set list of races and classes to choose from, you can't play a dragon who can summon meteors at first level, and numerous other restrictions that are designed to make the Game work well.

The character guidelines are just the same thing: restrictions on characters in order to improve the actual working of the game. They may limit your options, but they don't restrict your creativity: a party of all LG, human brothers who are fighters can be just as imaginative as a party of 5 different races, 10 different classes, and 4 different nationalities.

2007-01-27, 01:17 AM
I foremost agree with you but I try to get a general idea of everybody's opinion before I decide.

Miles Invictus
2007-01-27, 01:36 AM
A few guildlines can be a helpful way to make sure that the characters mesh properly, though I think there is definitely such a thing as being too restrictive.

Lord Iames Osari
2007-01-27, 01:38 AM
This poll is poorly thought out. For example, I could click "yes" and mean either "yes, it hurts a campaign", or "yes, it helps a campaign". And the same with "no".

That said, I don't have a problem with character guidelines. Of course, I'm usually the DM, so...

2007-01-27, 01:42 AM
The whole point of the poll was to mess you up lol. not the thread though.

2007-01-27, 08:24 AM
Question: Do character guidelines help or hurt a campaign?
Answer: No. That is, no, they do not necessarily help or hurt a campaign.

I'd say if a DM is wanting to impose character guidelines, however, then it's for the best interests of the game. For example, a DM who doesn't want to play an Evil campaign is best suited to telling his players, up-front, "No, you can't be evil," rather than at mid-campaign, trying desperately to punish his PCs into turning from their evil ways because the campaign is going in a direction he doesn't wish to delve into.

Character restrictions aren't really a huge problem. The inability to be a non-human doesn't automatically mean you can't have creative and different characters. And besides, the desires of the DM are important, too, not just the desires of the players... if the DM says "the world is like this," then in my opinion there's nothing wrong with him enforcing that the world is, indeed, as he says it is. If he's made a game that's best started if no one is a monster race, then you go ahead and play the game he's made. He doesn't HAVE to make a game that includes all options, and players shouldn't necessarily expect it of him.

....Though, admittedly, I would be far less likely to play in a game where I couldn't be non-human, or at least not-quite-human. So if you're in the process of making a game or a world; be sure you know your players, and what will grab their interest. Everyone who's played with me, for example, knows I want to play something odd, so they might be sure to leave an option for me -- or they might not, but they know I might not be interested.

2007-01-27, 10:19 AM
Yeah, I guess I agree with Shazzbaa that the answer to the poll is "no." They don't automatically hurt or help.

If I'm running a character-centered game (pretty much anything except D&D), I give guidelines. In our latest campaign (RuneQuest), every PC has to take up one of the "empty slots" in the extended family tree of three related families of Sartarite farmers belonging to the Red Cow clan of the Cinsina tribe - all three families living on the same stead. Because that's the game I run.

The players are free to develop their characters any which way. One player is going to become a Kolating shaman (as usual), and one wants to learn Sorcery (which is regarded as soul-destroying witchcraft by most Orlanthi).

The campaign I'm running can't accommodate other kinds of characters. Trolls, elves, dwarves - they're all alien monsters who have no place in the insular, clannish, family-centered society. (And whose thought processes can barely be understood by a player or GM, anyway.) They could never, ever play a part in the politics of Sartar (of Dragon Pass, sure; Sartar, no way). Even ducks are out of the question, because they aren't given any place in human clans, despite having some small position in the kingdom itself. Characters from other countries are just as unacceptable, because they are foreigners, and just as unlikely to reach any sort of acceptance. (Anyway, all the players will get to play "foreigners" eventually, when they have to integrate into other societies during their journeys.)

Similarly, if I run a Cyberpunk campaign, it's going to be pretty tightly defined. For instance, all the PCs may have to be qualified and long-time members of the Los Angeles metroplex police department, assigned to the Maximum Tactical Force section.

Green Bean
2007-01-27, 10:26 AM
I see absolutely no problems with DM charter guidelines. The DM know what sort of things are going to be happening during the campaign, so he/she will have good reason to ban certain things. If you'll be spending two thirds of a campaign in a kingdom that shoots orcs on sight, playing a half-orc won't be fun for the player or his/her teammates

2007-01-27, 10:29 AM
Well put, Shazzbaa. If a DM is putting restrictions like that on character creation, it's probably in the interest of the game he's trying to run. If the dwarves of the world are going to launch a full-scale assault on the surface races, he'll probably ask his players not to play a dwarf - it would interfere with the campaign he wants to run.

I don't think it hurts players' creativity too much - the real creativity is in developing a personality, not choosing an odd race and class to play. It takes at least as much creativity to play your 100th human fighter and make him interesting as it does to say "I'm a half-dragon drow CN duskblade/dervish/whatever." I'm not saying that odd race/class combinations can't be part of good roleplaying, but they aren't required.

On the other hand, the goal is to make the game fun for everybody. If the DM has an idea for a great campaign that none of his players are actually going to enjoy, or if the players really like to play "different" races/classes, then the restrictions are getting in the way of people having fun.

By the same token, the DM shouldn't be forced to run a game he has no interest in just to placate his players. If there's a conflict, some sort of compromise needs to be reached, or somebody else needs to DM for a while, or the group needs to break up.

2007-01-27, 10:32 AM
In my campaigns, character guidelines are essential.

Before we begin a new campaign, our group - players and GM alike - usually discuss the campaign's setting, theme, and tone. We agree on some fundamental character guidelines - "You're all children of the noble Lord Highandmighty." or "You're all childhood friends now coming of age." or something like that.

Our group's dynamics just don't get going unless the PCs have some relationship to each other. We need to know why we're working together, and "You're random strangers in a tavern when a mysterious figure approaches you with a job offer" doesn't cut it.

2007-01-27, 08:41 PM
Yup, I'm on board with Shazzbaa, though I don't really care if I can't play a Non Human.

shaka gl
2007-01-27, 11:05 PM
In the campaign im running, i gave them this guidelines:
- No evil characters
- No strange races (you know, the ones that make the entire town try tu burn you)
- Any official class.
- At least one of all of you (5 people) has to be a Cleric, Knight or Paladin working for the Tyr, Torm or Ilmater church.

Thats that.

Two of them chose the last one (a Cleric of Tyr and a Knight of Torm).

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-01-28, 12:20 AM
I figure it hurts when the DM decides this without talking to his players first. Nearly every campaign I see where the DM sets the rules before the players even know the game suffers a bit for this. The players ought to have at least a passing say in the game they're playing. If it's set up ahead of time with the other players, though, I can't see any problems with it.

2007-01-28, 12:35 AM
Character guidelines can help, though I myself prefer a small amount. In my experience they dont kill creativity, but they do make it harder cause you're dealing with a smaller subset of the adventurer type. Diversity helps to define.

The last D&D camp I ran was: level/ecl 2 max, non-evil, only WotC sources. Then, last year I did a Farscape-inspired D20 Future game where I worked with the players to create their own alien races, ECL 4 for they only limiter. One player was a two headed, three legged Charismatic herd beast, another was sapient sound.

2007-01-28, 06:13 AM
I figure it hurts when the DM decides this without talking to his players first.
Hmm, I prefer it the other way around. The DM creates a campaign, which may include rules for character creation, and then collects players that would like to play in it. If you do it the other way around, you get the movie-choosing effect. It's much easier to say "I'm going to see this movie, who wants to come along?" than it is to collect a diverse group of people and then try to agree on a movie.

The best DM I know once started with "everyone has to play an elf". The player who would then instinctively want to play an orc would probably not have been happy in that campaign :)

2007-01-28, 06:21 AM
The only way when you're allowed to answer no to this poll is when you think it neither helps, nor hurts a campaign.

Now, I'm all for restrictions to characters, in 2nd edition it was standard for classes to have restrictions, both on race and abilities. And practically there still are ability score requisites, yes you can play an int 3 wizard, but it's not going to be a lot of fun, isn't it?

2007-01-28, 12:32 PM
I always have character guidelines, mostly because I always use homebrew settings. I haven't noticed them harming the campaign in any way, and, indeed, have noticed that they help keep the flavour and mood of the setting right.

I'd guess that they could harm things if they were overly restrictive - e.g. "everyone must be a LG human wizard", but even that one could work out well if done correctly.

El Jaspero, the Pirate King
2007-01-28, 02:19 PM
Do poorly worded questions make for a confusing poll?


Seriously, read the question and the options.

Anyway, I agree that campaign guidelines are a good thing. It helps people know what to expect, and sets the tone for the campaign before you get too far.

2007-01-29, 08:14 PM
OK i get it that character guidelines help but what about set characters. Like the whole character is already created for the person including a nice background. The DM would let them know they had a set campaign and they all have already made characters. Does this have an affect on the game. I beleive it doesn't because it just challenges the players roleplaying ability by having him try to act like the character.

2007-01-29, 09:54 PM
OK i get it that character guidelines help but what about set characters. Like the whole character is already created for the person including a nice background. The DM would let them know they had a set campaign and they all have already made characters. Does this have an affect on the game. I beleive it doesn't because it just challenges the players roleplaying ability by having him try to act like the character.

As before, I don't think this necessarily helps or hurts; it depends on the players. Some people would appreciate the nicely tied-in-to-the-plot pre-made background... others would feel their creativity being hampered or find themselves unable to get into the character.

I actually don't mind this approach, to an extent. My much-beloved werewolf barbarian was basically me telling my DM "I want to play a werewolf barbarian, and I think he's kind of like [short personality description]," and then my DM wrote me up a background to put me in his story. Some of the people I play with even imagine the character they're playing based on the description and backstory they're given.

However, I've also had some experience with making my own character practically from the ground up, and so far, I enjoy that as well. So I'd say that whichever approach you pick could be good, bad, or no different, depending on your players and what they're looking for.

2007-01-29, 10:59 PM
So I'd say that whichever approach you pick could be good, bad, or no different, depending on your players and what they're looking for.

Of course, there are a million options in between having a background handed to you and making it up from scratch with no restrictions at all. In our group, we don't have a background handed to us by anyone - but we do generate them cooperatively, making sure it will make sense for the characters to work together.