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Thinker
2019-03-13, 08:19 AM
I find character sheets to be the most important player aid in any RPG. In my experience, most players won't fully read the game's rules before sitting down at the table, nor will most players read very much setting information. Given that, the character sheet (or an accompanying handout) can tell the player basic rules, specific character abilities/options, and setting details. What sort of information do you like to include in character sheets for your games?

For myself, I include:

If playing a game with archetypes/classes:

Class/archetype mechanics
Class/archetype game world information (priests would have info about gods, hierarchy, etc. while a soldier would have rank info, tactics, etc.)


More generally, I like to do the following:

Develop handouts with basic setting information - and the game mechanics that support them
Add cross references that refer to page numbers where appropriate on character sheets (e.g., for skills, combat mechanics, etc.)
Add setting details where possible (if the player is a member of the Rogue's guild, include the leader of the guild)
Include sections for what the players want and how they know each other

Estrillian
2019-03-14, 06:33 AM
I've tried to do handouts with rules summaries, and setting summaries, but they rarely get used. Single sheets get lost at the table, even if you give everyone a copy. I've found that even when I've done one-shots, where people should want them even more!

On the other hand larger documents get use. One very long-running campaign had an encyclopaedia in a ring-binder (and on a website) and people definitely used that at the table.

So most of my handouts are in character ó letters, maps, posters, pictures of enemies. I love doing IC maps, with all their beauty and innacuracies

Faily
2019-03-14, 09:14 PM
Sheets are a point I frequently complain about with one group, as two people out of our five man-group (1 GM, 4 players) are *notoriously* bad at maintaining their sheets. And three of those four players are usually very bad at keeping everything updated after a level up.

As this group operates on a "if person is not there for the weekly game, someone else will run the character for them", this has frequently led to me being frustrated as I am usually the one saddled with the task of running the absent-player PC.

One of them is very bad in general at actually writing down his stuff on his sheet, be it class abilities, feats, inventory, or prepared spells. In our long-running Pathfinder campaign (started in 2012) he started to write stuff down in a separate book (yes, book)... but didn't finish the job nor has kept it updated. Another uses a separate sheet to track his spells and other daily abilities. This is in itself totally fine, as it can quickly wear out the character sheet to erase and cross out all the time. However, he has a stack of these separate sheets as he frequently makes a new list of his spells and daily abilities, making it difficult to know which one is the "current" one.

*sigh*

/vent

A character sheet should:

Be up to date.
Abilities, skills, talents, etc, should all be noted down where they are supposed to be on the sheet.
Gear should be tracked.


I am more than happy to tinker in Photoshop to make better sheets as some game systems have character sheets that are rather lackluster, and in some instances that has worked really well. For Pathfinder, I use the Dyslexic Studeos sheets because they are oh so good.

Handouts are always popular with the people I play with, and with some other groups we've been able to keep such things online for everyone to look at and use (and also knowing that it won't be lost). We have a hand-drawn version of the goblin-map from Red Hand of Doom that is now being used for the third time, and it's been a hit each time.

Cliff Sedge
2019-03-27, 01:59 AM
I have rules summaries for things like basic game mechanics, race abilities, class abilities, etc. printed on 4 by 6 index cards that I give to players.

When they first start playing, I hand out the Core Rules card then explain the game-world setting, game expectations, and so on.

When the players have decided what race to play, I give them the appropriate Race Card - then after they pick a class, the Class Card.

This makes filling out character sheets easy (or better yet, unnecessary for things like race and class features that don't change).

I also give each new player a folder (different color for each player) with pockets, spare character sheets, some graph paper, lined notebook paper, and blank unlined paper. I also include a table of skills (the 36 base skills from D&D 3.5) with their associated abilities. These are on most versions of the character sheet, but often too hard for my old eyes to read. A full, double-sided, letter-sized sheet with large font is nice. They also get a full, double-sided sheet gridded out for items/money/magic items/other treasure. Again, lots of space to write big, so it's easy to read.

As players accumulate more handouts during the game, they are easily filed in the character folder; it's all nicely organized. No cramming folded sheets between pages of your PHBs, please.

(You can probably guess by now that I'm a school teacher . . .)

Glorthindel
2019-03-27, 04:46 AM
When running a new system, I usually distribute a combat handout that lists all the possible actions or action types for quick reference. These usually get binned after 4-5 sessions once everyone knows what they can do.

Also, depending on the game, I am very fond of magic item cards - they tend to prevent items getting lost in inventory sheets (people tend to be more willing to use potions and scrolls when they can see in front of them how many they are actually carrying), and mean we don't have the constant "what does this ring do again" questions. Also, it encourages lending items out and sharing them around, since people can straight away see when they are holding things they don't immediately need, and they are less likely to be scared to lend an item out as the chance of forgetting they lent an item out and losing it is much less.

In one particular campaign, where the characters were part of a special forces unit, I created a set of quick-reference cards about the other members of the unit (both members of other squads, and the support staff) so the party could get familiar with these people being around them, and bring them a little more to life. And it worked, since they corrected me on one occasion when I used the name of the wrong dropship pilot and they asked if it was correct since they knew she was still in the infirmary following an accident a couple of adventures previous.

Cliff Sedge
2019-03-29, 07:34 PM
On the other hand larger documents get use. One very long-running campaign had an encyclopaedia in a ring-binder (and on a website) and people definitely used that at the table.


I don't quite have a cyclopedia, but I do have a binder with tabbed dividers with summaries of all the basic rules from the PHB: ability scores, races, classes, skills, feats, items, spells, etc.

It's a great way to look things up quickly, and if a couple players don't have PHBs, then they can easily look up racial traits, class features, item prices, and so on by flipping to the tabbed section.



When running a new system, I usually distribute a combat handout that lists all the possible actions or action types for quick reference.


I made a "players' screen" that is a three-sided convex cardboard prism that has lists of actions according to time scale and action type. One side has all the full, standard, movement, and bonus actions for tactical/combat rounds, the second side has all the available actions for the indoor/local scale, and the third has all the actions for the outdoor/overland/full-day time scale.

If a player is ever not sure of what possible actions he may do in a round, he can turn it to display the appropriate time scale and choose from movement actions, standard actions, etc.




Also, depending on the game, I am very fond of magic item cards - they tend to prevent items getting lost in inventory sheets...


I highly recommend this practice! I actually wish I had the time and patience to put everything on cards: spells, weapons...
I used to make my player spellcasters write their own spellbooks by putting each new spell they learn on a 3x5 index card. I would hold on to the cards and give each spell to the player when it is memorized/prepared/prayed-for by the character. When they cast the spell, they hand the card back to me. It made it very clear which spells were known and which were available for casting.

Pauly
2019-03-29, 08:42 PM
I am a big fan of using cards that outline any special skills or actions a character can take, along with equipment cards. This applies especially for combat, and I have found non-combat abilities and equipment can be handled from the player sheet.

This has the advantage of cleaning up the player sheet making it easier to use, and having physical reminders of what choices players have in combat.

If the characters have up to about 10 or 12 cards it works very well. However for D&D players can easily end up with dozens of cards, rendering the system impractical. Add it to my laundry list of why I donít care for D&D once you get above level 5 or 6.

Cliff Sedge
2019-03-29, 09:22 PM
I am a big fan of using cards that outline any special skills or actions a character can take, along with equipment cards. This applies especially for combat, ...
D&D players can easily end up with dozens of cards, rendering the system impractical. Add it to my laundry list of why I donít care for D&D once you get above level 5 or 6.


Yeah, I much prefer low-level campaigns for that and other reasons.

I don't do those spells-on-cards thing anymore, but I do still prefer if my players have an actual spell book. I designed and printed out my own, which is basically just a folded sheet booklet, but it has all the lines to fill in for spell name, type, components, and description. It's very easy for player spellcasters to reference whenever they need it. And it has spaces in the margins where they can put dots or check marks or whatever they need to let them know whether or not it is prepared or has already been cast.

I'm actually working on a new set of reference cards that are color-coded by category: yellow for core rules, pink for races, blue for classes, etc. So even if a player has a big stack of cards or they all get mixed up, at least the appropriate type can be found quickly.

legomaster00156
2019-03-29, 10:17 PM
It's funny, a popular Youtube series just brought up the topic of character sheets the other day, and their role in RPG's.


https://youtu.be/vcvK1oUszsA

Lunali
2019-03-29, 10:35 PM
Sheets are a point I frequently complain about with one group, as two people out of our five man-group (1 GM, 4 players) are *notoriously* bad at maintaining their sheets. And three of those four players are usually very bad at keeping everything updated after a level up.

As this group operates on a "if person is not there for the weekly game, someone else will run the character for them", this has frequently led to me being frustrated as I am usually the one saddled with the task of running the absent-player PC.

I found myself in a similar situation recently, ended up recreating the character from scratch in less time than it took the party to encounter the first enemy.

Maelynn
2019-03-30, 04:00 AM
When it comes to player sheets, I ask my players to e-mail me a form-filled version at the start of the campaign and with each level up. I made it clear that it was for practical reasons mostly: I'd have a printed copy in my folder should they forget to bring their sheet, I can easily check some things like Passive Perception or what feats they have without raising suspicion by asking them during a session, and I can use the info during my prep to make sure at least one of them has an ability or spell to handle what I throw at them. They are all perfectly fine with it.

As for extra information, I like to take a leaf out of a friend's book who used to DM for me:

1 the party has to have a reason for being together (especially since we didn't start at level 1), so think of at least 1 bond with 1 of the other characters. How did you come to know each other and how did you end up in the same party?

2 every character has to come up with 1 positive and 1 negative aspect of the other party members. It's just their personal opinion, it might not be entirely true - but the party member involved does have the right to veto if it goes against their character. Examples: my character said she liked the Rogue's cooking. He agreed with it and decided to take up cook's utensils and now tries to make hearty and tasty meals out of every non-humanoid we slay. Another one said their character lost sleep over the Bard's nocturnal jamming, but he said he wouldn't do such a thing so he could veto.

Extra stuff not on a character sheet:

- general setting info. I have mailed the players files regarding my setting, for them to read at their leisure. I don't expect them to know it all by heart, but it's there if they want to know about the city-state, its ruling council, some notable buildings and establishments, the laws on magic use, and the map I've drawn of the area.

- magic item cards. I ordered a box of gift cards (5 x 9 cm) on AliExpress for pittance, which I use for every non-consumable item the party finds. It holds the item's name and a summary of its properties for easy reference, and the players line them up next to their sheet

- story related stuff. I mailed one of the players a letter that her character received in-game from an NPC, 2 days before the relevant session. This way it was up to her if she wanted to share its contents without the rest of the players knowing she even received one. I also gave a player access to the Augury spell, which I had modified to fit his class/character and had printed for him on a Homebrewery page.

Particle_Man
2019-03-30, 11:06 AM
Recently I made an action sheet for what my monk can do as offence, defence, movement and healing, broken down by type of action. This is in addition to the standard character sheet and to a sheet of scrap used to track wounds, expended ki, and temporary effects.