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Awesome Character Creation: Three Keys to a Winning First Session

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Wizard figurine
Keeper of the Secret Fire!

Since Marissa and I are about to move out East, we’re trying to fit in a lot of gaming with old friends this month. I’ve wanted to run a Houses of the Blooded game for a while and finally worked out the time in my schedule to set up a gaming group full of people I’ve played with for the last few years. I’m really excited.

If you’re not familiar with Houses of the Blooded, you totally should be. It’s an amazing game that totally changed the way I thought about roleplaying by redefining the roles that players and storytellers play during a session. And it’s only $5!

Anyway, I’ve run the game a few times and I tried out a few new things during the first/character creation session. Some of them worked out beautifully, and I thought I’d share:

1) Print the pages everyone will want to look at simultaneously

Character creation often has choke points, places where all the players get “stuck” at the same time. As the Storyteller, it’s your job to give those parts of the process enough time, but you can take it one step further by preparing a few quick handouts.

For Houses, I knew that picking a name gives new players some trouble. The book has a fantastic list of names (with translated Ven meanings), but since we usually only have one or two copies of the book at the table, name picking can take a while. No one wants to rush something so obviously important, and only so many people can look at the book at a time.

I printed five copies of the names page from the PDF version of the Houses corebook for my players. That meant that everyone had their own personal sheet of names to look over through the session and no one had to wait on another player to finish with the corebook.

2) Make some decisions for your players

One of my favorite parts about Houses of the Blooded is how character creation is about more than picking statistics. For example, players choose Aspects, an awesome feature from the FATE roleplaying system, that add flavor and depth to characters in addition to mechanical advantages.

You cannot rush your players when they choose character elements like Aspects. They matter so much to the characters your players are building that you would kill an important part of the creative process if you push your players to make choices quickly.

But other character elements don’t work the same way. Blessings, for instance, are special abilities that come directly from ancient Ven (the sauven) who can no longer directly carry out their own plans.

I’ve noticed when I ran Houses before that my players took a lot of time evaluating all the Blessings. For this campaign, I did something really different: I picked the Blessings for the players.

It made perfect sense to me. The Ven don’t get to shop around for Blessings; they pick a suaven to follow and the Blessings come naturally.

My players loved it. They thought of every special ability as a unique gift selected just for them. And our character creation session moved along at a quick pace that kept everyone interested.

3) Keep it short, but play a scene

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I don’t like the paperwork section of the character creation session. There are parts that are fun (like selecting Aspects), but a lot of it is just setting up for the fun parts down the road.

It’s important to remember that those fun parts aren’t immediately obvious to your players. As the Storyteller, you see all the great fun you’re going to have at the next session, but your players can’t see any of your notes.

You’ve got to bait the hook.

I ran only one scene for my players. One of the older Ven named Szazs Thayl, the father of one of the player characters, asked them for a favor. One of Szazs’ allies claimed that his lands are under attack, and Szazs wanted the players to investigate the claims…and “deal” with the ally if they are found to be untrue.

The players are already attempting to figure out a way to murder the ally and steal his lands. And I’ve got them exactly where I want them…

Photo courtesy of OceanYahmaha / Available on Flickr

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