Making A New D&D Character or How To Not Make A Newbie A Total Pain In Your Ass!
I haven’t really written about gaming in a while. This might be due to the fact that my regular Saturday Night gaming group collapsed in no small part to my inability to reign them in to focus on the game itself. One too many tangential conversations interrupted game-play and the fact I would get sucked into these conversations didn’t help matters any. Hell sometimes I even started those conversations. On average for a 3 hour gaming session only one hour to 90 minutes was spent actually playing. But these gripes aren’t the point of this article.
Now I’ve had a life-long love of Dungeons & Dragons. I mean of my 39 years on this rock I’ve spent 29 of them playing D&D in its myriad of incarnations. The problem is when you start playing and you’re the experienced player and there is someone playing for the first time. There is nothing as pathetic as newbie gamer at a table full of veterans. Hell they might not even have bought dice yet. Odds are that they also haven’t had the luxury of someone having handed them a copy of The Player’s Handbook. Any experienced player knows that dealing with a newbie can be the most aggravating thing a veteran dice-slinger can deal with. The hardest part though is always getting them through Character Generation.
Newbies have a hard time wrapping their heads around story based game play as is, so asking them to assume the role of a character for play can be equally anathema to them. Character Generation for newbies can be an absolutely hair-pulling endeavor. Just throwing a Player’s Handbook at the newbie doesn’t really help them either since the PHB starts by telling them about the rolling of stats and what said stats represent. Honestly, this is the worst way to go about Character Creation. Throwing a numbers game at a new player as the first step is the WRONG way to go. It is the responsibility of both the game Master and other players to walk the newbie through Character Creation. My belief is to start the new player out in either the Races section of the PHB or the Classes section after getting such matters as gender out of the way. Always check with the DM if you are starting with the Races section, especially if the GM is running his/her own original Game World. Starting with the races gives the player an idea of the flavor they want their character to have.
Now Starting in the Classes section has its own benefits as it helps set-up a concept of the character a little better as it gives the player a starting point for a profession. Using either Class or Race work toward that end and thus starting with one or the other is what I usually suggest recommend do. Only after both of those are selected should the new player even consider rolling stats for the character. Yes, stats are important but having a clear idea of who their character is more important in my opinion. Having an idea of the character and what they want them to be allows the player to Role Play more effectively as the character. This is at least my experience dealing with new players.
Now it is imperative that it is explained to the player that they are not playing themselves. It is quite the opposite. They are playing exactly what it says in the PHB, A Character. Too often new player’s play thinking they are just playing themselves in a Fantasy setting. This should be discouraged/ I had this issue with a group I was playing with where 4 out of the 5 players thought that was exactly they were doing. Add to this the fact we were playing Oriental Adventures. When I asked in the middle of a game for a player to describe his character to me I got the response “ell he’s me, only Oriental”. This brought my game to a screeching halt as I explained that they weren’t playing this game in order to be themselves but rather they were playing to escape from themselves.
This really is where the English language causes problems in Dungeons & Dragons. It is Role Play, i.e. you are playing a role as if you were in a play so knowing what you want from your character is very important. It is not Roll Play, yes dice are rolled during the course of the game but they should by no means dictate every facet of how a player controls their character. Every character you play is different, even if every time you play a Bard, Bard A is different entirely from Bard B and needs to be treated as such.
The best Role Players, in my experience, have a flair for the dramatic and play their characters up as much as possible. I mean it is called a “Character” for a reason. A new player needs to be encouraged to throw themselves into the character as much as possible. They need to become that character while still making sure that the character reflects them as a person as little as possible. Sticklers for dissecting the rules of the game tend to make lousy Barbarians just as a disorganized player tends to make a lousy Wizard or Sorcerer. Don’t discourage a person form playing any class but never be afraid to point them to something that makes it easier for them throw themselves into that character. This may seem contradictory but I assure it is not. It benefits a new player and the game a whole and in the end the game NEEDS to be fun for everyone.
Being the new player in any established gaming group can be enough of problem for both the new player and the group without the hassles of making a new character mucking things up. I honestly believe following these guidelines to character creation makes easier for everyone involved in the long run and the easier it is, the more fun everyone will have at the table.