8 Tips on Convention Character Design
I just wrapped a podcast with the most excellent Jenn of Jennisodes fame! It was a lot of fun. She’s sharp, clever, and has the whole interview thing down to a science. We’ll keep you informed as to when that officially drops. I gave shout outs to the crew as I could work them in. We talked about all the various stuff in the works. If you want more, you’ll have to listen to the show when it drops.
Now, let’s turn our attention to creating pregens for conventions. Yes. This is likely the worst segue in the history of the RWR, but deal. I’m ready to call it a day, and need to spit some truth at you before I go.
I listened to the latest episode of Smilin’ Jacks, and I was surprised to hear some folks struggle with creating pregens. The thought hasn’t really crossed my mind, but then I’ve been writing and running con games since I was a kid. Seriously, I should tell you sometime.
In any case, here are some tips.
1. Give them all a short, interesting back story. (Keep it to a paragraph. Any longer and they are either going to (best case scenario) copiously read it, slowing things down and not paying attention or are going to not pay attention to it anyway.
2. Make sure they’ll all play well together (i.e. don’t give them hindrances which, if roleplayed correctly will cause party strife, a number of these folks at con games don’t know each other, and you don’t know how people you don’t know will react).
3. Give them a broad-based reason for being together. (Players will buy into this conceit readily and will come up with, on their own, reasons for being together, readily creating a group dynamic.)
4. Provide niche protection. This one can be a little tricky as what could happen if a certain character isn’t played. Right? Tell them, up front, some one has to play Agent Whitehorse or provide Whitehorse’s skill set to another. (Or see 5.)
5. Provide a sub-optimal overlap of skill sets. For example, if Agent Whitehorse is “the” medic, make certain someone else has the requisite skill set (at a lower level, such as d6 instead of d10, he can do in a pinch, but it’s not Agent Blackjack’s main groove).
6. Make certain all the characters are fun (and, possibly, quirky). While Jimmy may be a killer hacker, give him something a bit off. Maybe he won’t work his technological mojo if anyone is in the same room as he is? (This one may sound odd, but it’s true. People don’t normally play off-beat characters in their home games and love it when you throw them curve balls. There is a pregen in Journey to Red Temple who, though he is an amazing archer, will not shoot into combat for any reason. I’ve left this quirk wide open and I’ve seen players interpret it in many fun and interesting ways.)
7. Give them space to make their character their own. This can be in minor ways (like choosing their weapons, languages, or a particular expertise or interest) or larger ways, like allowing them spell choices. This sense of ownership more readily thrusts them into the mindset of their character and, by extension, into the game.
8. Most importantly of all, make certain the characters are designed with the scenario(s) in mind. While an awesome hacker can be, well, awesome. He may be worthless if dropped into a dead zone without access to any technology in a hundred miles.
That’s it. Add these tools to your arsenal. Provide tips you use below.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!