You've found a group, pitched your game, and settled on a game night. Now it's time to get into the nitty gritty of the game itself, and the best place to start that is with Character Creation. In today's post I'm going to outline three different ways to handle this, along with what you want to have in mind before you start your players off on putting pencil to sheet.
What & How?
We've gone over this before, but it is important to review before character creation. You want to know two things in specific. The first is what your game is about. The second is how you plan to run your game.
What your game about is simple. You've already pitched it. You either have your dungeon crawling live in the world game going, or your story based extravaganza, or whatever else you have planned in mind. From that you know how action packed, exploration & puzzle based, or social work
How is a bit trickier. This involves self-awareness about your style of GMing and how that works. What kind of things do you play well to? What kind of things are you weak on? Are you willing to roll with crazy experimental characters and out of the box thinking or do you want a more tried and true approach?
You know what and how you're going to handle in your game? Good, because the next step is to explain this to your players. Now, the more open ended your game is going to be the less you need to tell your players. The tighter your idea for the game is, the more you have to tell them.
Why is this important? You don't want to run a game about super Heroes (emphasis important) only to have a group of super powered thugs that will as soon rob the bank as save it. Nor do you want people bringing in a bunch of courtiers for your L5R game set on the wall. Then again, maybe you do want those things, and that is just as important.
This talk is as much for the players as it is for you the GM. A player doesn't want to bring in a character reliant on a mount for strength in a game that is going to take place in tunnels where the mount can't go. They also may not want to bring in a Chaotic Evil character into a game about Paladins. You get the idea.
Character Creation Method #1
The first and most common form of character creation is for the group to do it as a whole. This is sort of like a session 0. You get everyone together, you give the group the talk, and everyone makes their character together. This works well for a lot of games, because it lets the players talk to each other as they make their characters.
The most common benefit of this style of group creation is that it prevents an overloading in a particular area of group strength unless it is done deliberate. You've likely seen this if you play D&D where one player calls rogue, wizard, cleric, or fighter and the group goes around making sure all the primary roles for D&D combat are covered.
The other benefit you can get out of this is rigging a group back story. FATE Core games do this by actually having the group work out official stories that happened covering past adventures. Other groups just go simpler and use the time to define past friendships and any other key group dynamics.
This is also ideal if you have a shortage of base books in your group, as it lets people share.
Character Creation Method #2
The second way I've seen the most is a lot more free form. After the group knows the What and How of the game, everyone makes their own characters and sends them to the GM. This is often the fastest of the character creation methods because everyone makes their character on their own time.
As a GM the trick here is to keep some lines of communication open. If you don't want six mages in your game, it's probably best to tell the group that Bob has the mage character, and Sarah has the paladin. It also works to have players talk about at least making a few links to each other to help get them into the game.
Character Creation Method #3
The third method is the most time intensive, but also one of the best for heavy social games or games with a PVP component. This method involves the GM having a one on one with the player for character creation. During this the GM can answer any questions, share knowledge that should be shared (i.e. Sarah's paladin and Bob's mage.) It also lets the player share any secrets or back story items that the player wants to have in play.
Required Back Stories?
The last thing you need to know for character creation is whether or not you are going to require back stories from your players? Some games, and GMs like to have them handy. Some players love to have them in play. Others don't care too much about either one.
This is done by preference of the player and the GM. If you are going to require one, I'd recommend not requiring it to be much longer than a page, or a couple paragraphs. Some people don't like writing them, or are bad at doing so and forcing them to work on a multiple page effort is not going to be worth it. On the other hand, with some players I've seen GMs put a maximum length on things. If your players are prolific when it comes to backstory, this can be a good way to make them focus the narrative.
Once this is done, you're ready for your first session.