19 July 2015

Player Aids

Once, many years ago, I participated in a game of Dungeons and Dragons set in an alternate history version of Middle Earth. I did this primarily at the request of the GM, who wanted an experienced gamer to assist the newbies, as they were having trouble progressing in the plot.

This was  a challenging situation, not only because I dislike D&D, but because after every session, when we received XP and levelled up, there was a protracted period of passing around the one copy of the Player's Guide so that players could choose new skills, acquire new feats, learn new spells, etc. It was a boring time, sat waiting for the book to get back round to me, as all the other players fought over who got to look at it next.

This inspired me to create a booklet that I could easily and cheaply photocopy which contained all the necessary information not only for spending experience, but also for walking the players through the character creation process, step by step. I'd hand this out to players during the chargen session, and let them go, and be nearby if anyone had any questions. Nobody had to wait for the book to get to them, because everyone had their own copy.

Obviously, the first version I created of this was for the basic Changeling: The Dreaming. I later made versions for Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, and then the non-standard splats for Changeling, such as the nunnehi, adhene, inanimae, menehune, and hsien.

I've since expanded the basic Changeling one; last summer, when I ran a game, I split the booklet into sections, which allowed me to expand it and include more detailed information, as well as images. Rather than having a session where all the players made their characters, we worked on them individually, in advance. I sent the first section to each player, and as that player finished a section, I'd send them the next one.

A few years back, when I had conceived of the idea of running a GURPS Firefly game, I created a spreadsheet that automatically calculated the character points spent during chargen. It was a rather lengthy process; I had to include spaces for each possible skill, advantage, and disadvantage. But it got the job done.

About a month or so ago, I realised that there was a way to use a spreadsheet to guide players through Changeling chargen as well. I've been working on that since; although the actual spreadsheet itself is finished, I'm still working on including descriptions of all the possible traits so that you don't have to wonder what any given ability or Art or Merit or whatever means.

I've used it once to create a character I plan to use for the introductory one-shot Changeling game I plan to run next week. It's worked pretty well! I'm excited to finish it so I can introduce it to other players.

But I was thinking about how these sorts of players aids can be useful, especially for people new to the game. It makes the process of creating a character easier and less intimidating. It also alleviates the problem of having to share a single copy of the rules book.

Have any of you done something like this? I'm curious what other sorts of play aids are out there. Let me know in the comments below, and until next time,

Game on!

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