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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Hey guys. Bam, title is is my question, do we sacrifice the first session to have greater ties in the party, or do you just throw our characters in the pot and wing it?
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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    There are advantages to both ways. If it's going to take a long time, though, I'd advise dragging it out and doing all that discussion by group email or w/e beforehand, so that that's done before and you aren't spending meeting time on it.

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    Mark Hall's Avatar

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I prefer to have character creation be the first session. Not only does it tend to create a more integrated party, I find that it can be a lot of fun, in and of itself, to riff off the other players and do the combination of "getting to know you" and "reacquainting yourself with your friends."
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Also depends heavily on if your players are experienced with the system, or more or less / complete newbies.

    If the later - take a seassion adn sit together and explain everything, help people roll up and choose stuff. I allways did this as only 1 of my players actually knows the rules and is solid with them

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    It depends. If the players and GM know eachother well and everyone knows the system and is on the same page regarding what sort of power level and type of character, you can do it on your own.
    If people aren't too familiar with the system, if the setting is unfamiliar, if you need to make sure people are roughly the same power level, if you need to make sure the characters and their background will work with the story and eachother, then you need a creation session.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I always require that the players create their characters as a group. The characters are supposed to be friends and allies who rely on each other, not random strangers who work together because plot. It doesn't have to be fancy, but every time I have players make new characters together, they are always picking up something that the others said about their own ones.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    I prefer to have character creation be the first session. Not only does it tend to create a more integrated party, I find that it can be a lot of fun, in and of itself, to riff off the other players and do the combination of "getting to know you" and "reacquainting yourself with your friends."
    My thoughts exactly, and I feel the DM should be involved in the creation, if only to know what he's dealing with and offer advice to the player so they can easily integrate the character's backstory into the game world.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I can't even make a character in one evening. At least no character I'd be comfortable with over a longer campaign. I prefer to know the game system, setting, starting level etc. at least a week in advance so I can cook up a character concept or three, let them rest for a few days to see if I still like them, then I try to stat them so every aspect that can be represented by stats is included, then I let the character build rest for a few days to scrap or modify it until it is perfect.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I prefer to have the characters built before the first session. But usually we keep a Facebook chat log of what everyones playing so everyone can see. Sometimes its hard to get together for a session so I'd prefer to not waste one on character building. If the characters need fine tuning at session 1 thats fine, but I like to have it all together so we can jump into the story.

    I don't think I've ever played in a game where all the characters knew each other before the game started.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I vote neither. First a session to discuss the game, ideas, characters and so on followed by people doing all the work actually creating full characters from it at home. People just showing up with a finished character seems weird, arbitrary and a quick way to lose any kind of real coherence in either the party or the feel and theme of the game, while making characters in just one session results in flat, rushed and boring characters if there isn't done work filling it out when you have more time and less noise around you.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    A combination maybe, running conversations towards the end of the previous campaign and out of game coupled with some fine tuning at first session if need be. Depending on the game and familiarity with the system we might spend a fair chunk of the first session tweaking then a short start generally finding the first hook so the next session jumps into the action quickly.
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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    We live in the age of technology: discuss characters and ideas with each other online, over a longer period of time before the game. Using valuable session time for this seems like a waste, while everyone showing up with ready, unconnected characters made in vacuum is bad for the game.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I think it depends upon a lot of factors.
    • System Mastery: Do the players know enough about the system that they can safely make characters on their own? Heck, are they so green that you might have to make characters for them, at first?
    • Resources: Do the players have the tools (e.g. books, guides, etc.) to make characters? Or are all of the books centrally located?
    • Purpose: Is the purpose of game night "We're here, now shut up and play?" Or is it more hanging out with some incidental gaming going on?

    These are just a few factors, but they're major ones. If the players lack the skill or resources to make characters on their own, they kind of have to do it at the first session. Similarly, if the goal is to be social, why not run chargen first? Everyone will be there, and they'll be able to talk, what harm does it do? By contrast, if the goal is to get to the game ASAP, you'd certainly rather everyone shows up prepared.

    That said, and other people have mentioned this, I feel that part of a good party composition happens before the first session, and it's comprised of two pieces.
    • Personal investment in the character: This, I feel, is best able to arise when the player has had time to devote to carefully sculpting a concept. The more out-of-game time you put into the character, the more likely you are to be invested in it. As such, preparing the character before the session is ideal.
    • Personal investment in the party: This, I feel, is best able to arise when players collaborate on concepts. But, as others have mentioned, we live in a truly marvelous age, when phones or e-mail allow us to collaborate without needing to be physically present. So this can be done in detail during or prior to the first session.

    Even so, as a logistical matter, I also find it very effective to have a sit-down with each player, individually, to discuss concepts and wants and how to work everything into my campaign. Each player should feel that his character is able to contribute, and that his character's goals are being addressed by the plot. Being able to have a face-to-face on this is a huge boon.

    My solution, then, is to schedule pre-campaign mini-sessions, one-on-one or one-on-two, to discuss concepts and ideas and hash out details. That way, everyone is mostly ready prior to the first session, but they've had the chance to discuss their concepts with each other and the GM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Set aside a session for it. For all the magic of technology, every time I try to coordinate a bunch of people to do chargen via Email, I inevitably end up with tenuously connected characters at best. There is no substitute for face to face idea ping-pong. And anyway, you can use all that tech to make sure you get maximum value from the chargen session.

    If your system is so convoluted that you can't make a starting character in one evening, get a different system. :P If it really takes you a week to come up with a concept you are comfortable with, you should perform that week of meditation before the chargen session.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I do a combination. We play on roll20 and I will use our campaign's message board and email to have everybody get an idea (elf ranger, orc fighter) and then we work out the specifics at the first "pre-session" after that I will work with everybody to get all the backstories lined up and meshed with the setting, then we start play at the next session.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    In my little gaming experience, character creation always took the first session even if everyone pregamed a little bit, I have to agree that it does help bring a group together fairly well sometimes. My groups have tended to be rather low on experience as well, so questions always get answered by someone that has a campaign or two more under their belts. Primarily though, my games have been face to face, so not a lot of email/Skype type stuff is really necessary for us that often. Its good to have an idea beforehand, but its nice to work with a group too. Somehow as well, I seem to have a good many of the books, but rarely time for a campaign, at least not the stones to DM; it normally falls to one of my friends, if only because of a lack of faith in my storytelling ability, but that's neither here nor there. I digress though, face to face is great, it cant be replaced by anything else.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Terraoblivion's Avatar

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    You can't really think before the first session, if the basic ideas and concepts for the game don't get laid out until then, which is quite often the case. Similarly, email is indeed incredibly clunky as is calling people, but between online chat, forums and for that matter texting on the phone there are plenty of other options for talking between sessions. Because, really, you need both good communication and people having time to think and develop their character to get a good game, any games that failed to have both that I've been anywhere near have ended up exceedingly mediocre as a result.

    For that matter, waiting and possibly discussing over the course of two or three sessions as people clear their head and develop more is an option. I've seen it done several times and it tends to work out perfectly fine as well.
    Last edited by Terraoblivion; 2014-08-25 at 03:33 PM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    The system itself can affect this as well. HERO? You have those sheets done a week before the first session, thank you very much.

    On the other end of the spectrum, part of the fun of Paranoia or the last edition of Gamma World was rolling them up during the first session.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Terraoblivion View Post
    You can't really think before the first session, if the basic ideas and concepts for the game don't get laid out until then, which is quite often the case. Similarly, email is indeed incredibly clunky as is calling people, but between online chat, forums and for that matter texting on the phone there are plenty of other options for talking between sessions. Because, really, you need both good communication and people having time to think and develop their character to get a good game, any games that failed to have both that I've been anywhere near have ended up exceedingly mediocre as a result.

    For that matter, waiting and possibly discussing over the course of two or three sessions as people clear their head and develop more is an option. I've seen it done several times and it tends to work out perfectly fine as well.
    This could certainly work, but I usually find that if the GM does a 'GM infodump' of the aforementioned 'basic ideas and concepts' then it's pretty easy to do some thinking beforehand - I actually think this sort of pre-session stuff is where the various technological solutions really show their worth. It gives people the ability to come to that first session with something other than a blank slate.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Terraoblivion's Avatar

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    You should definitely think in advance and I do think it's the best practice for GMs to send their infodump out before the first session to make sure the players have had the opportunity to think by the time they arrive for it. It's just that sometimes GMs don't and in those cases, you'll definitely need time afterwards to have ideas bounce around, even if the big parts have been nailed down. And I do think that some time spent refining and polishing is an important part of creating a vibrant character and that isn't really compatible with doing everything at the first session, even with some thought in advance.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Griffon

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    I have never had players in a campaign of mine make characters all by their lonesome. We always have a character creation session. I've been a player in groups where this hasn't been the case, and I have never liked it. You end up with a bunch of random adventurers with absolutely no connection or interest in one another, nor any prior knowledge of one another; and that so often means a less compelling beginning ("you all meet in a tavern") and a less cohesive group (backstabbing thieves and what not).
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Terraoblivion View Post
    I vote neither. First a session to discuss the game, ideas, characters and so on followed by people doing all the work actually creating full characters from it at home. People just showing up with a finished character seems weird, arbitrary and a quick way to lose any kind of real coherence in either the party or the feel and theme of the game, while making characters in just one session results in flat, rushed and boring characters if there isn't done work filling it out when you have more time and less noise around you.
    This. Although sometimes the discussion session isn't a full-length one by itself, but rather tagged onto whatever we're playing the previous time.

    Getting everyone together to get some cohesion in concepts is a good idea. But for anything longer than a one-shot, I dislike trying to make characters at the table. For a couple reasons:
    1) Sometimes the initial concept that leaps to mind is not actually the one that will be the most fun to play. And then a couple days later while thinking about it, you realize that. Or refine the concept enough that it requires a major change to the mechanics.
    2) Good environment to make a character: At home, where I can easily look up anything I need to, and no distractions. Lousy environment to make a character: At a table with books shared between several people, side conversations, people asking the GM questions, etc.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ailowynn View Post
    I have never had players in a campaign of mine make characters all by their lonesome. We always have a character creation session.).
    I avoid having people make their characters all by their lonesome. That's why I don't like having a character creation session. Such a session by definition happens after people have been thinking and planning. I'd much rather have days of back-and-forth by email before the session, so all the ideas we're slowly developing in our minds are coordinated.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheEmerged View Post
    The system itself can affect this as well. HERO? You have those sheets done a week before the first session, ... part of the fun of Paranoia or the last edition of Gamma World was rolling them up during the first session.
    QFT but in general what I find to be key is how invested you expect your players to be. A highly lethal game? Get them all set up at once or via online chat. but if you want deep personal growth, character immersion, etc. I do tow things. One is have a meetup with everybody to discuss the game. Pick a system if you haven't, pick a setting (be it Eberron, Greyhawk, Rifts Wormwood or Earth Region, WOD city), pick themes moods, how graphic with sex, violence, drugs etc, do people have issues with religious stories, how funny vs dramatic should the game be?, how plastic and effect-able should the world be?, can the players blow up the world? how do people feel about snacks? about days players miss game? Why are you guys together and what kind of party are you anyway? (do you have a goal? provide a certain kind of service? work for someone? etc)...and with that last one people start coming up with ideas-often a thumbnail or two is produced at the time-sometimes key party roles are established (combat specialist, hacker, or mage or whatnot). I then meet with each players separately over the next few weeks (often while I'm building/rebuilding the setting to match) to have each one come up with their own character complete with their own history and lots of secrets. Thus the players can choose to reveal as much or little about themselves as they want and I can have players pushing the party to various paths based on their characters wants without the others knowing their actual goals.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    This. Although sometimes the discussion session isn't a full-length one by itself, but rather tagged onto whatever we're playing the previous time.

    Getting everyone together to get some cohesion in concepts is a good idea. But for anything longer than a one-shot, I dislike trying to make characters at the table. For a couple reasons:
    1) Sometimes the initial concept that leaps to mind is not actually the one that will be the most fun to play. And then a couple days later while thinking about it, you realize that. Or refine the concept enough that it requires a major change to the mechanics.
    So change it. I still think you're way more likely to come up with an appealing and integrated concept while discussing ideas with a group than you are when you're sitting at home staring at the book.

    2) Good environment to make a character: At home, where I can easily look up anything I need to, and no distractions. Lousy environment to make a character: At a table with books shared between several people, side conversations, people asking the GM questions, etc.
    Yeah, because you certainly would never want to ask the GM a question during character creation? there are plenty of ways to ease your concerns here. One I am fond of is making sure everyone is at roughly the same stage of character creation at a time. Ideas come out. Then general concepts. Then specific game implementations, then the final fiddly bits can probably be taken care of later, because at the end of the day, no one REALLY CARES if you character has Expanded MegaSpell or Extended MegaSpell. This isn't the kind of character creation decision that matters for purposes of the group, but it's the kinda that creates the most distraction and demand for books.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    2) Good environment to make a character: At home, where I can easily look up anything I need to, and no distractions. Lousy environment to make a character: At a table with books shared between several people, side conversations, people asking the GM questions, etc.
    Yeah, because you certainly would never want to ask the GM a question during character creation?
    As it happens, my GM and I both have email. When I ask him a question by email, he answers it when he has time to consider it without distraction.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    For a new system or a new group I'll spend a session on character creation.

    I feel like I don't trust players with a new system. Some will powergame right away. Others won't figure it out. And there will be one guy who makes an illegal character. Just dodge that problem and introduce everyone to the game together.

    For a new group, I want to get everyone acclimated to each other. I don't like the feeling of knowing a character better than the player and that's what happens if we jump right into a game without any chance to socialize in advance. I think this is also a good time to get a feel for what the group will be like. ie, if it's okay for the rogue to steal from the party can come up during creation.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    As it happens, my GM and I both have email. When I ask him a question by email, he answers it when he has time to consider it without distraction.
    Sure. But what if the other players wanted to have input (They should)? Do you have a 5 way email conversation every time someone has a question?

    You can do that if you want. It's the equivalent of spreading out the 'chargen session' over a week or more using a medium that tends to have some issues for this sort of discussion. You'll end up with similar but generally inferior results due simply to the fact that no one has any focus and the whole thing is a diffuse "I'll tap out a few words on my smartphone on the way home." kind of conversation.

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    obryn's Avatar

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    It depends on the game.

    For build-heavy games like 3e, 4e, their close kin, and other rules-heavy games, I like to have some discussion ahead of time but let everyone build their PCs at home.

    For more narrative-heavy, rules-light, or randomized characters - quick stuff, or stuff that assumes the players build their characters in a game session - it's (part of) the first session.

    In a few weeks, I'm running Classic Marvel FASERIP. We'll be making characters at that first session because they're fast and the players aren't totally familiar with the game.

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Make the characters session 1, or do it before hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    Sure. But what if the other players wanted to have input (They should)? Do you have a 5 way email conversation every time someone has a question?
    Every time? No, of course not. Some emails go to the DM alone, some to the whole party, some to a subset. I remember a conversation I had about my 2e thief/mage that included the other elf and the DM, but not the paladin or cleric.

    Email allows all combinations of subgroups, without the excluded people knowing about it. A table session does not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    You can do that if you want. It's the equivalent of spreading out the 'chargen session' over a week or more using a medium that tends to have some issues for this sort of discussion.
    There are no issues with asynchronous conversation if people wish to communicate. We're doing so right now, aren't we?

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    You can do that if you want. It's the equivalent of spreading out the 'chargen session' over a week or more using a medium that tends to have some issues for this sort of discussion. You'll end up with similar but generally inferior results due simply to the fact that no one has any focus and the whole thing is a diffuse "I'll tap out a few words on my smartphone on the way home." kind of conversation.
    Simply untrue, at least with my group. We're all fairly literate, so there's no problem with email. Each of us has focused sessions, but at our own schedule. Nobody approached it as 'a diffuse "I'll tap out a few words on my smartphone on the way home." kind of conversation' except the one guy who stays unfocused in character creation sessions as well.

    Also, nobody in this group is under 40. That may make a difference.

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