Character Creation: Getting it Done

This week we take a look at ways we can  keep everyone on track and on the same page during character creation (which we all know can be a challenge with RPGs):

Why hello there!

So, I managed to get a group of people together who all

want to play tabletop RPGs. We decided on the Dresden Files RPG,
which is based on the fate system, which is in the fudge system.
Because of my adoration and vast knowledge of the Dresden Files, I am
a pseudo-GM. I’ve been assigned to help two others get their character
backstories ready, so we can finish character creation (which has
taken absurdly long already). But none of them can pick a damn
character and go with it! To make matters worse, our GM wants to be
super in-depth, while our players aren’t quite that dedicated, making
long sessions of preparation even longer….

My question to you is: how can I get them to make their characters

once and for all?

Happy Trails,

Character creation is a lot of players’ favorite time (except for my wife, because she’s a weirdo).  They get to exercise their creativity in coming up with an interesting personality that has his/her own unique history, and will hopefully be successful at killing things.  Or at the very least, be effective at supporting other PCs in killing things.  Because the character you’re playing is so hugely important, this is a process that takes a good long time (and it should!), but only to a point.

As a rule of thumb, I expect every one of my players to finish their character within a single session (4 hours MAX!).  If they need or want more time, it’s on their own time, and they had better have me their final decision before the first gaming session the following week.  I’m not a fascist about too many things in D&D, but this is one thing I stick to firmly.  We are gathering together to PLAY a game, not to make endless preparations for when we eventually start. 

There is a very specific type of person (you know who you are), that worries endlessly about: “What if I don’t like my character?”, “What if he doesn’t play the way I think he will?”, “What if he’s not balanced enough?”, blah, blah, so on, etc.  Sometimes you need to take the leap of faith and commit.  You’re not getting married.  You’re hardly forming a lasting relationship unless you plan on adventuring with the same character for years on end.  If it doesn’t work out, oh well.  Make the best of it, and if you really hate your character, do something idiotic to kill them off and make a new one.

The situation Jake has presented us with is slightly different though, as the GM is also part of the problem.  What happens when Players don’t mesh well with their GM?  What do we do when it’s the GM that’s the obsessive-compulsive one?

First, to all the DM/GMs out there: Don’t be a dick.  That’s rule number one, and something they should consider putting in every core rulebook for every RPG ever made.  We need to know our Players, and sometimes that means making sacrifices. 

If you’ve DMd for a lot of groups over your lifetime you know that eventually you’re going to end up with a group that rubs you wrong the way.  Maybe they’re too social/casual.  Maybe they only pay attention during combat.  Maybe they just want to run around stealing cupcakes and kittens and ignore your finely crafted campaign.  Whatever the case, you don’t like DMing for them all that much.  In situations like this we really only have 4 options:

1.  Suck it up, and keep on truckin’
2.  Yell at them until they stop or go home
3. Learn how to compromise
4. Find new Players

Players and DMs need to remember that the game isn’t possible without both of us.  No one should get cocky, no one should get arrogant, and no one should underestimate the usefulness of the other.

If we remember this, we already eliminate the first 2 options.  Sucking it up is giving into the Players being a bunch of turds, and yelling at them is thinking that we’re more important.  Assuming we want to avoid option 4, the only solution is compromise. 

Right off the bat I would caution you to reconsider the question: “How can I get them to make their characters once and for all?”  You shouldn’t be making THEM get their characters done.  You should (if I’m understanding the situation properly) be telling the GM that he/she needs to let go of some control.  If the Players aren’t into the super detailed in-depth character creation then the GM can’t be either.

This doesn’t mean that you and the GM have to settle for sub-standard characters with little to no development and planning, because even if the Players aren’t in to it, you can almost guarantee they will appreciate it when the game starts.  So you and the GM need to sit down and decide what the most important things are, and forget about the rest.  Sometimes it’s just about knowing which battles to pick (being a GM really is like having children).

Once you decide what’s really important and what isn’t give everyone a time limit.  Sit down and say, “We WILL have our characters completed TODAY by this time.”  End of story.  Get it done.  And make sure everyone is there, including the GM.  This is why I always have a character creation session.  Players know it’s their designated time to make a character and they will not have another chance for my input before we start playing the following week.  Sometimes you just need to be a hard ass.  I hope this helps.

Roll it like you mean it.
The Dungeon Master

Please submit more questions! 

If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to, or you can Tweet me a question @AskthedDM. And make sure to review the disclaimer.

You can also see me in action in One Die Short.

This entry was posted in DM Advice, Fantasy, Geek Culture, General Roleplaying, Player Advice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Character Creation: Getting it Done

  1. Another entertaining read and we are in such agreement. Have your character ready to go and step away from the endless tinkering. This is one reason that point based systems can drive me up a wall. If a player is having problems finishing his character it is probably because the character has yet to be developed and all their focus is on statistics, abilities, powers, and feats. One player in my group suffers from needing to change things because he routinely selects things like themes based on the powers with not even a nod to the flavor text and then realizes that what he selected doesn’t actually work so well with his other selections. He routinely takes choices that would obviously be better for other characters. Perhaps I will forward him this link. Keep up the great work.

    • Ask the DM says:

      Thank you kindly! And you make a really good point. I think a lot of players approach character creation by flipping through Feats and Abilities instead of actually thinking about who their character is first. I strongly encourage my players (and force my new players) to develop their character before they even look at a character sheet. Makes for quicker character creation, deeper character development, and more interesting gameplay.

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