Improve Your Game: Character creation as a team effort

In some modern roleplaying games, especially games based on FATE rules, character creation is something one player can’t do on his own. In order to create your character you have to cooperate with your fellow players. The character creation method in FATE makes sure the background stories of the player characters are already intertwined in some way. The GM (and the players) will never have to face the issue of the dreaded “team of loners” that have no reason to cooperate.

Another game that makes cooperative character creation necessary is the latest edition of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game. In that game each party has to chose why they are working together (there’s a limited number of choices) and each party type grants certain abilities. There’s even a mechanic for handling in-party stress.

What I’ve learned in my years of roleplaying experience is, that a game definitely profits when the first session of a new game consists of character creation and coming up with a reason of why these characters work together. And in my opinion game masters should make it clear that the characters are supposed to cooperate. In-party intrigue and infighting may be fun once in a while, but when the party members are on each other’s throats all the time, it has usually an detrimental effect on any game.

My advice to GMs is, that when you’ve decided what game to run, schedule a character creation session. Talk about what the players have to expect. Then ask the players to discuss their character concepts and make sure each character at least knows one other character in the party. Another possible connections are being a friend of a friend or having the same mentor, patron or enemy. Whatever it is give the players a reason why the would work together. And trust me, forcing the player characters to work together “because the king said so” never works. It’s better when the players come up with something themselves. The GMs role should be to encourage them to think about reasons.

As with all roleplaying advice your mileage may vary, but creating characters as a team effort definitely made things much easier for the players and the GM. If you haven’t done so, give it a try.