Monday, March 11, 2013

Discussion - Back Up Characters

It's been kind of a crazy weekend for me and I haven't had much in the way of time for writing or preparing for this week. Between that and the lack of a discussion last week I figured it might be fun to start this week off a bit quicker and shorter and do a discussion now. The topic I'd like to discuss? Back up characters.

Now, in any campaign with a high PC attrition rate it isn't too unusual for a player or two (or all of them) to have some idea of what they want to play next. Some players also just really enjoy making characters and will have folders full of fresh PCs ready to go at a moment's notice. My question is though, how do you feel about them as a GM?

I've played under several GMs who had the view that you having a backup character ready to go was your way of telling the GM you wanted your current character to die. Effectively, they saw it as you wanting to do something different. Perhaps because you were bored with your current character, or perhaps for some other reason. Either way, they were going to help you achieve the goal of playing that other character.

Of course, I've also played in games where the GM has encouraged having a backup character ready to go just in case. The view there was that death could, and would happen at some point, and if at that time you had a sheet ready to go the GM could get you back into the game nad having fun a lot faster.

So, how do you feel about it? Personally, I am leary of making a backup character because when I make a character I tend to get very excited about the character and want to play them. I thus worry that having a backup ready will start to move my mind away from enjoying the character I currently have to the fullest. However, that is me as a player. As a GM I don't mind them, provided the player is still focused on who they have in game now or is up front with me if they want to switch out their character.

How about you though?


  1. I tend to not make back up characters because then they start taking up space in my brain that should be dedicated to the characters I'm currently playing. Part of my lack of desire to have back up characters is how fast I can create a whole new concept most of the time. I think if it took me days or weeks to create a character I'd be more likely to have a back up, at least for things like Shadowrun.

  2. I tend to have concepts ready for back up characters, but not fully made characters. In most parties each character fills a role and if one character dies then you need to figure out how to fill the role without being a carbon copy of your last character. If multiple characters die then you might be able to swap roles.

  3. Good post - I hadn't even thought of having "back up" characters. Playing in a Call of Cthulhu game and it hadn't crossed my, I don't think I want to have a back-up character; I'd rather focus on my current one.

    I'm GM'ing a campaign in Dark Heresy at the end of this month and...I'm thinking I'd rather the players NOT have a back-up character...but as I start to mull it I can definitely see the advantages. They're over for an eight hour session and die in hour 4 - now what? I guess they could go off and generate another one while the game continues with the rest of the players.

  4. I tend to have a bunch of back-up characters, not because I expect to need them (the games I'm in are relatively low lethality) but just because I enjoy creating them. I find designing characters fun on both a mechanical and story level.

    And sometimes I end up using them as NPCs, further down the line.