In my experience, character creation can easily take over two hours. That’s two hours of looking through books, mumbling stats and checking balance, asking the same questions over and over, figuring out how to calculate AC for the ninetieth time—and this is with experienced players!
This process takes even longer if you have new players at the table. They rarely have a solid idea about what type of character they’d like to play. They don’t know the rules of the game. They aren’t even sure if they really want to play Dungeons and Dragons—hint: a two-hour character building session with archaic rules and seemingly random numbers is NOT a great first impression.
So, how can you speed up the fun? Create characters IN A GAME!
This is a method that I experimented with quite recently. I gave my players two instructions: roll basic stats (strength, dexterity, and the like) and choose a profession. The characters start off as level 0 villagers, performing their chosen professions when [enter story hook]. In my game, the players (a blacksmith and a carpenter) witnessed a night battle between two armies, and received an intelligence report by a dying knight and told to take it to the Emperor.
As they progress through the game, the players face all of the common occurrences for a normal D&D game (scaled down for classless villagers), and I observe the way they react to the challenges. If they sneak around and try to flank the enemy, they might become a rogue; if they attack it head on, a fighter.
During this time, I also introduce the players to the main conflict of the campaign and acquaint them with the world. Just like villagers who have never ventured more than a few miles from their town, the players do not know much about their surroundings—show them, don’t tell them.
By the time the players finish the character building adventure—with a heroic climax and tantalizing cliffhanger—they will have learned the rules and formed their own style of play. They will now be much more efficient at choosing their character class and setting up their character sheets with essential feats and skills.
In my game, my two players—one being relatively new to D&D—ended up becoming a fighter and the other fell right in the middle between rogue and ranger. Both were enjoying their characters and has a good grasp on the geography and politics of my world. The game ended when they were injured in a heroic, outnumbered battle holding off enemy forces. They wake up, finding themselves being healed by their countrymen deep in the heart of the resistance. The stage is set for the next game.
So now your players have created their characters; they know the rules, they know the world, and they know the conflict. By the time the next game rolls around they will be more excited, more prepared, and more devoted to their characters. And even better, you just spent two hours having a LOT MORE FUN!
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