For those of you who run events where you are using Pre-generated characters for what ever reason (lets say its a tournement module), how do you do them?
Do you write out everything, leaving nothing for the players to customize on it?
Do you do just the base stuff, giving the player a lot to customize?
Are you somewhere in the middle?
How many do you make up? Say the event is for 4-6 players.. Do you just make 6 characters up?? More?
Do you give some notes on stuff on the sheet (such as say a quick rundown on what an item does/spell does)? Do you make that as a separate hand out or other 'token" (like for ADND, if the player has a potion, do you say make a 3x5 card for said potion he can hand in when it gets used up)??
What else do you do?
Depends very much on the system and scenario, personally.
For more games, I try to have some level of customization. Time-consuming decisions are taken care of but with space for at least a few personal touches: pick a skill or choose an option from a couple presented on the sheet. Stuff like name, appearance, gender, quirks, etc. should be left wide open whenever possible (see below).
I should say I'm also a huge fan of the "playbook" idea that Apocalypse World brewed up and Dungeon World spread. I've seen the idea creep into some great Fate scenarios, too. Very helpful for a pick-up-and-play kind of game. If nothing else, the idea of having some pre-defined bonds/conenctions to other characters at the table that you can fill in when you sit down is hugely helpful. Far more useful in a one-shot than the usual 20 questions for character creation.
I wouldn't normally put in many rules unless I was writing an official demo module the company will distribute to other GMs to run. I also tend to not to run super-complicated systems, at least not as one-shots with strangers.
A lot of the scenarios I really like to run come with some character background and PC relationships baked in, too. I usually put those on a separate sheet the player can keep hidden and try to be short and sweet: give the player the required information but don't put in so much they are either overwhelmed or too constrained.
Other useful tools include table tents of some kind for character names. A very useful touch, especially if you'll run the same scenario repeatedly.
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I run LARPs at Gencon using exclusively pregenerated characters. In each packet, I include game stats, character background, personality profile, people of note (individuals important to the pc), character goals, and item cards. Special abilities are explained on cards as well. It's a lot of work and usually takes several months to do thirty to fourty characters, but the payoff of detailed preparation is a phenomenal experience for players and gms.
For my 6 person Paranoia adventures:
No choices; all characters are prewritten. Character creation takes valuable time away from convention length events.
I only make 6 characters. Relationships are generally a group of 3, a pair, and a single so I can drop out the appropriate number and still have working missions. I won't run for less than 3; it just doesn't work.
All characters have some information on their sheet and they get a secret mission early on in the adventure to help generate conflict.
I give them nametags (printed labels) and props to play with. Players especially like the happy pills (candy).
Since the rules are above their security clearance, I don't bother telling them much about how anything works. :)
I am a huge fan of pre-gens. First, a lot of people sign up for games without knowing the system, and there's just not time to teach someone the system and write a character in most four-hour blocks. Second, even if someone does know the system, a lot of people just take a long time to make a character (this is especially true in competitive events). Even the living campaigns often have generic pre-gens for new players that they can customize if they stay with the campaign.
When I write pre-gens I go for archetypes. A new player may not have the time or inclination to understand the nuances of Legend of the Five Rings and the long tradition of the Akodo military Academy, but they can probably do a lot with, "Traditional, honorable samurai." I also choose simple mechanics, preferably that can be written into the base numbers on the character sheet (i.e. if someone has an ability for +1 on attacks with sniper rifles, I don't write that as an ability, I just put it into their attack bonus on the life for "sniper rifle"), with one or two abilities that need to be activated (i.e. once per combat you can throw this bomb).
My goal is to get the whole character's mechanics on one sheet of paper, and then use a second sheet of paper to describe how to play the character; half of the second sheet as the character's history and half of the sheet as a primer on the main mechanics and any special abilities the character might have (remember, there'll only be two at the most).
For a six-player game I try to come up with eight characters and let players choose. If there's any ability that is crucial to the game, I try to make sure there are always three characters with that ability so that no one is forced into a character they don't want.
More mainstream genres don't require as much of a dossier. My DC Heroes and Firefly Games both just use the sheets from the books. It's mainstream, so we should be able to assume everyone knows Superman shoots heat beams from his eyes and Wash is always the best man at Serenity's helm.
Also, remind your players they don't need to know what dice to roll. They don't need to know which Action Skill gets countered by which Opposing Skill. They just have to " want to do". As a GM, I feel it's more my job to help newer players with the "If you want to use the Fireball Staff of Gygax's Dream then you need to roll a d20 and add your Concentration skill." "If you want to use that 18-Wheeler as a club to hit Doomsday, I need you to tell me what Superman's Dexterity is and then roll 2d10."
And yes, I make 3 characters more than I'm seating. That way, even the last person to pick had an option and doesn't feel like he's the fat kid in dodgeball.
As far as Personality Deviation, that depends on the Scenario. Everyone knows how Superman, Mal, Batman, or Captain Jack Harkness might act. However not everyone knows how Lotharian the Barbarian I created for this one game might act. So generalize it. "Lotharian has a good heart, but he's lived a tribal life. His attempts at tribal nobility may be lost on civilized witnesses." Definitely don't dictate a character's reactions. "Lotharian will never kill an unarmed man" can be taken too literally if Lotharian's tribal priest just sentenced said-man to execution. In this case, "No killing an unarmed man" and "Upholding tribal nobility" are now in direct conflict.
It really depends on the complexity of the system. For a four hour time slot, if you can get characters and intro done in the first half hour, go for it. Otherwise, go pre-gen. The best system I've seen I learned from my sister. She creates fully filled out character sheets, with a very general blurb about the character as a second sheet. She then has another section that explains any abiities that aren't easily recognizable. All of it goes into sheet protectors in presentation binders, (the ones with the clear fronts.) Each game has it's own color, and there are generally 10 or so per game. Doing this, as folks come up to the table, they can scan through the blurbs on the front and pick a folder quickly. They're reusable, and you can mark on the page protectors with dry erase.
Another method is to have everything filled in, but leave some slop points for players to adjust to fit their individual style/vision. Or fully fill out the sheet and have a loose descriptor like "grizzled detective" on the cover, and then have the intro part of the session used for players to describe their visions of the characters.
The more pre-work you do, the easier it will be at the table.
Or, you could just run Dungeon World.
-The Wrecking Crew-
Yeah, the playbooks from Power by Apocalypse games are absolute genius, particularly for quick-start convention games.
If anyone is looking for tips on how to structure character creation and pre-gen details, go take notes and experiment with presenting your own stuff in a similar manner: players sit down and in 1-2 pages (usually) they get all the rules specific to their character, make some choices to customize, build a bit of world, and establish their relationships to other characters.
Can't recomend it highly enough for quick-start games, even if you're gonna actually run in any other system.
For my Savage Worlds games (all Supers thus far; same for this year) where I have a max of 6 players, I have 8 pre-gen characters that have all the important stats/powers done, along with a decent background. Each background contains how the PC might view the other pre-gens -- this was trickier than originally thought, because the things I leave blank: the PCs name and gender.
But, this has worked out well. It gives immediate RP hooks for those players who want/need them, but doesn't force a fully realized PC on the player, as they are free to ignore and/or change what they want from the pre-gen'd background/relationships.
The pre-gens range from the direct, dead simple superhero to those that might take a bit more of an experienced player to use. It's been easy for a Savage Worlds newbie to pick a character and play; thankfully SW makes that really simple anyways.
I feel just a bit guilty that I've used the same pre-gens for the last couple of years, but since they've been proven to work and I've only had one, single return player, it's not been a huge deal. :D
Don't feel guilty. Making new heroes always keeps me up at nights the week before GenCon (I'm a horrible procrastinator), although I've almost reached a point where I have enough heroes created for the variety of settings I run that I'll rarely have to create new ones. Of course, like a sucker, I decided to run a Batman adventure with the Alternity rules (my game of choice) and now I have to come up with 5 new characters. I just never let myself take it easy.
It is a huge amount of work, pre-gens, but probably worthy of investment. I am running a Renaissance Deluxe series of events and it will be the same pre-gens for each event. I am hoping little touches like name, skills from previous experience, equipment etc can be taken care of once people register for the game but prior to the Convention. Is that a realistic expectation? Is there typically an exchange of emails with players before the convention begins to hammer out little details, answer questions about their characters and/or the rules?
Depends on the system. Some lighter systems are good for on the spot char gen...WEG's d6 or the old World of Darkness 90s era system. And if the scenario is lighter too, we can make them when we sit down.
For a more serious game, with trickier plot points and more 'tragic' storylines, pregen all the way.
And definitely for the LARPs we run. Not a fan of byoc LARPs.
I've heard from players only a couple times, but I'm not asking them to contact me. (I do provide my email in case they have questions.)
Agreed. You can ask them, but plan on them not responding. We have put into our game listings for years that players can contact us before the Con to discuss characters...and we have had (a very few) people at the start of the game upset because 'they didn't know that'. If they do get in touch, all the better. But most likely won't.
I try to have a good cross-section of character types (tank, social, etc), but I always make more than the number of player slots - if there's six players, I'll usually make 10 pre-gens so nobody gets "stuck" with something they don't like.
I also try to give them decently-rounded personalities and short backstories (four or five paragraphs at most), but that's usually wasted effort - 90% of the time there's very little roleplaying, at least in my experience.
It's also GM-dependent. If the GM encourages and rewards good roleplaying within the first half our of the beginning of the game, then the whole game can be an excellent role-playing session.
I do know some people, myself included, who are going to try to role-play no matter what you give us. We used to have challenges surviving True Dungeon because we were in character the whole time :) Our barbarian couldn't help with a lot of puzzles because "Me not so smart"!
Also have a buddy who showed up for a high level characters provided game--an all-stars of fantasy PC list, including guys like Elric of Melnibone, Raistlin, Conan, and the like. He was given the thief character--Bilbo.
He spent a lot of the adventure hiding in the shadows rather than doing all the classic bold D&D thief/rogue sort of stuff...because he was role-playing as Bilbo...the guy who refused the only backstab opportunity he ever got! The other players started getting a little upset, and his argument in reply was that Bilbo wasn't a great example of a dungeon crawling thief to use for this game. He had a point.