You’ve gotten your group and your new player both ready to play. He’s sat in at least one play session and thinks this “roleplay thing” looks pretty cool and both you and your players think he’ll be a good fit for your game.
So now, with all of the prelims out of the way, it’s time to sit down with your brand-new player and build his character. But what’s the best way to build a character for a brand-new player? That’s what this article, the third in my series on introducing new players to your game group.
There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to creating characters for brand new players:
In this situation, you give your brand new player a pre-generated character to play until he’s comfortable enough with the game to build an effective character. The advantage of this approach is that the player doesn’t have to struggle through two (often very different) sets of rules and can immediately jump into play.
Character creation can be confusing and seemingly unrelated to the game itself to the brand new player. He doesn’t yet know what kind of character he likes or is good at playing. That makes it hard to build a character he enjoys, because he doesn’t yet know what he enjoys. In his ignorance, it’s all to easy for him to create a character he hates.
The downside of this option is that none of the available characters may interest the new player
The other school of thought says to start by walking the new player through character creation, step-by-step, if need be. This way, the new player will have (hopefully) a character he likes from day one. What I’ve found, though is that most brand-new players have no idea what kinds of characters are out there, making it difficult for her to come up with a character idea.
As a middle ground , I’ll ask her what kind of character she’d like to play. Then I ask her she wants to create the character herself, or if she just wants to give me the details and let me worry about creating the numbers to match those details.
Even if she chooses to create the character herself, you’ll need to walk her through the character process step-by-step. At the very least, she’ll probably appreciate some advice about the choices she needs to make, such as which weapons are most effective and which skills would be the most use to her. Remember though, you’re giving suggestions, not mandates. Give her the choices, explain the pros and cons of each for her character, then let her decide for herself.
It’s helpful to sit down with your new player before his first actual play session. At this time, run him through a one-on-one play session working out his character’s background. This serves two purposes: it gives the a player a dry-run on the mechanics and it helps him learn about his character, both of them will help make play run more smoothly at the official first game session.
Talk with your group
Ask the new player to arrive 15-30 minutes later than the rest of the group. This will give you a chance to talk to your existing group. Let them know if you’re suspending or modifying any rules for this session, especially table rules. Also layout how you expect them to treat the newcomer.
Remind them they were once brand-new players and ask them to be sympathetic if the newcomer makes “newbie” mistakes or doesn’t seem to know how to do things. We forget that we actually had to learn many of the in-game actions we do automatically now (like looking for secret doors or testing the floor with a 10′ pole). Also make sure they know the game will likely move much slower tonight because you’ll have to stop frequently to explain things.
Ask your group to be especially welcome and to keep in-jokes to a minimum (or at least explain them). Reiterate that you want the new player to feel comfortable and welcome. Warn them to be especially conscious about not interrupting him and to be patient while he figures out his character’s actions. Also tell them if there’s anything they shouldn’t say, such as background information the new character wouldn’t know.
Ask (or choose) one player to be a mentor to the newest member. Make sure she has a lot of patience, knows the mechanics and can explain them well.
Don’t let the mentor take over playing the new character–it’s great for her to suggest possible actions, but the decision must reside with the new player. If you find the mentor insist the newcomer take certain actions, find a new mentor.
Don’t overlook the new player when asking for character actions. A brand-new player is likely to be very quiet and hesitant to speak out of fear of doing something wrong. He could easily be overlooked in the flurry of activity, especially at the outset of combat. If your group uses a caller, ask the caller to pay special attention to the newcomer.
Be prepared to provide a list of possible actions for the player to choose from. Many brand-new player have no idea what’s even possible for their character to do. But try not to make him feel “on the spot.” If he’s completely stumped, give him two or three possible actions and tell him you’ll come back to him later, so he has time to think things over. Don’t give him more than about four possibilities–two many choices can be as overwhelming as too few.
That’s all for this segment. Next time, I’ll cover adding an experienced player to your game.
[Image courtesy of SmartBoyDesigns via Flickr Creative Commons]
You can’t have a character without a name. Yet, sometimes, creating the name is the hardest thing about making a character. “Beyond ‘Fred’” is a series that lists names from history and other cultures to help you find that perfect character name.
This time, we’re covering Anglo-Saxon names again, they’re just that cool. I’m doing something I haven’t done before in this series, and that’s giving some pronunciation guides, along with the name’s meaning. That’s because Anglo-Saxon names have meanings that are so perfect for fantasy games. My pronunciations may not be exactly perfect, but they’ll work for fantasy games.
Because of that, I’ve repeated some of my favorite names from the first Anglo-Saxon names post, so that you have an idea of how to pronounce them. Of course, if it’s fantasy, you can pronounce these any way you want to .
As always, I am more concerned with “flavor” than historical accuracy. So, without further ado….
Æðelbald (A-thel-bald): nobly bright
Ælfhere (Alf-he-re. These are short “e”s, as in “red”): elf warrior
Ælfred (Alf-red): elf counsel
Ælfwine (Alf-win-e): elf friend
Æthelwulf (A-thel-wülf): noble wolf
Arlys (AR-loos): honorable
Baldric (Bald-ric): bold power
Banan (BAN-an): slayer
Baylor (BAA-oo-lore): horse trainer
Beorhtraed (BE-ore-tread. Short “e”, like “bed”): bright counsel
Betlic (BET-lick): Splendid
Boden (BO-den. With a short “o”, like “pot”): messenger
Cædmon (CAD-mon. With a short “o”, like “pot”): poet
Cæna (CHAIN-a): brave, fierce, keen, warlike
Canute (KA-noot-e): knot
Cedric (CHED-rick): renown leader
Dægal (DA-gall): dweller by the dark stream
Deogol (DE-o-gol): secret
Deorwine (DE-or-win-e): dear friend
Drefan (DRE-van): trouble
Eadmar (E-ad-mar): happy and illustrious
Earh (E-are): coward
Edwyn (ED-woon): valued
Faran (FAR-ann): advances
Firman (FIR-man): traveler
Frithuric (FRI-thu-rick): peace ruler
Fyren (FOO-ren): wicked
Galan (Gaa-laan): sing
Gar (GAAR): spear
Gifre (GIF-re. Short “i”, like “gift”): greedy
Gim (GIM. Short “i”, like “gift”): gem
Godwine (GOD-win-e): God’s friend
Grindan (GRIN-dan): sharp
Halwende (HALL-wen-de): lonely
Hengist (HEN-yist): stallion
Ida (ID-a): rich
Irwyn (IRR-woon): sea lover
Kenric (KEN-rick): fearless leader
Landry (LAN-dree): ruler
Leodgar (LE-odd-gar): people’s spear
Lufian (LUV-ee-an): love
Magan (MA-gan): competent
Merwyn (MER-woon): good friend
Nyle (NOO-le): desire
Osbeorn (OS-beh-arn): divine bear
Rædan (RAW-dan): advisor
Raynar (RA-oo-nar): warrior of judgement
Raulf (RA-ulf): house wolf
Rowe (Rah-we): red-haired
Sar (SAR): pain
Scead (SKE-ad): shade
Scur (SKOOR): storm
Seleferth (SELL-e-ferrth): hall life
Selwyn (SEL-woon): fitting friend
Sherard (SER-ard): glorious valor. I’m guessing this is actually “Serard”, since I’ve never seen an “sh” sound in true Anglo-Saxon. It’s usually a modern interpretation
Sigefried (SIG-e-fri-ed): conquering peace
Temman (TEM-man): tame
Þunor (THOO-nar): thunder
Thurgis (THOOR-yis): Thor’s hostage
Wassa (WAS-sa): satyr(?)–uncertain about the exact meaning of this
Wilfrith (WIL-frith): resolute peace (my actual guess would be “stern friend”)
Winfrith (WIN-frith): friend of peace
Wulfric (WÜL-frick): wolf ruler
Æðelþryð (A-thel-throoth): noble threatener
Ælfgifu (ALF-gi-voo): elf gift
Ælflæd (ALF-lad): elf beauty
Æryn (AR-oon): elf-like
Ardith (AR-dith): good war
Bemia (BEH-mih-a): battle maiden
Bysen (BOO-sen): unique
Cate (KA-te): innocent
Cendra (KEN-dra): knowledgeable, understands
Cwen (KE-wen): queen
Cyneburga (KOO-ne-burr-ga): pledge of kindred
Darel (DAR-el): little beloved
Eadhild (E-ad-hild. The first “e” is a short e): rich battle maid
Eadlin (E-ad-lin): princess
Edita (E-dit-a): joyful
Eldrita (ELD-rit-a): prudent advisor
Erna (ER-na): reserved, shy
Faina (FA-in-a): joyful
Frithuswith (FRI-thoos-with. Both “i”s are short): peace strength
Gisa (GI-sa): hostage
Hreða (HRE-tha. The “hr” is an unvoiced r. Say ‘H’, then ‘r’ very quickly): an Anglo-Saxon goddess
Hrothwyn (HROTH-woon. The “hr” is an unvoiced r. Say ‘H’, then ‘r’ very quickly): famous joy
Leola (LE-ola. The “o” is short, like in “pot”): deer, swift (as a deer)
Maéda (Ma-ee-da): maiden
Mildryth (MILLED-rooth): mild pledge
Muriel (Muh-ri-el): myrrh, perfumed
Ora (AH-rah): money
Orfa (AH-fah): courageous
Rowena (RAW-en-a): white skirt
Synne (SOON-ne): gift of the sun
Wilona (WILL-ahn-a): hoped for
Ymma (OOM-ma): work
Sometimes the hardest part of building a character is coming up with a good name. You can always take a name from Tolkien or other fantasy novels, but you’ve seen those names over and over and you want something a little different, but not way out there. How about an historical name? Or one from a different culture?
This time I’m covering German names. As always, I’m selecting these for use in fantasy games, so many of these names may be archaic or uncommon.
[Photo courtesy of kevindooley via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]
Sometimes the hardest part of building a character is coming up with a good name. You can always take a name from Tolkien or other fantasy novels, but you’ve seen those names over and over and you want something a little different, but not way out there. How about an historical name? Or one from a different culture? So far in this series, we’ve covered Roman, Russian, Italian, and Anglo-Saxon names. If none of these suit you, how about an Ancient Egyptian one?
Ancient Egyptian Name Structure
Names in ancient Egypt seen to have been chosen with great care for their meaning. Many contained the name of a god, as well as common words or phrases and could be used by either men or women. In some cases, as needed for identification, a person might be known by two names: one as their formal name and another, which was what they were called most of the time.
As with all posts in this series, the list here isn’t intended to be historically accurate. It’s merely providing suggestions for use with role-playing games. If historical accuracy is important, you’ll want to check your name against reliable historical records.
Other Beyond Fred Posts
Stumped for a background for your newest character? Why not try some randomly generated ones? Last week, we covered the steps for generating a random background event and the tables for bad things that could happen to your character. Today, we’re covering the good things. Check out last week’s post for full details.
Of course, you can also use these for “down time” events in-between adventures.
Look for next week when we’ll begin a “Player Month”, with articles for the players in your group.