Making Character Creation Faster, 1 set of books.

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Hey there,
I'm having a session 0 for a game I'm running soon, where all the players will get together to create characters, establish backgrounds, etcetera. But I only have one set of books, and the rest of the players don't have books of their own. Assuming I don't have access to D&D Insider, or any other copies of the books, does anyone have any tips on how I could make character creation go faster for my party?
Hey there,
I'm having a session 0 for a game I'm running soon, where all the players will get together to create characters, establish backgrounds, etcetera. But I only have one set of books, and the rest of the players don't have books of their own. Assuming I don't have access to D&D Insider, or any other copies of the books, does anyone have any tips on how I could make character creation go faster for my party?

Offer a very open retraining policy. Give people a few minutes each with the book, to throw something together. Once play starts, make a note of any issues. If someone finds they forgot something the reasonably should have (like not having arrows for a bow) give it to them. If a feat or other option isn't working as expected, jot that down and let them change it later. Let them change anything they want in the first few sessions, and be sure not to focus the game on anything that involves the exact nature of the characters, since that can change.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

This is a pretty good question and one that I've always found troubling about later editions of D&D - character creation takes too damn long. Not that I don't like tinkering on my character for a week picking this or that perfect feat to make my ridiculous concept work on paper. But as a design, it's not very practical. I honestly don't know how non-DDI subscribers even do it. I don't think I've even cracked open a book in 2 years.

But, I can offer some group management advice since it's fairly neutral: Don't worry about the time. You've obviously set aside a block of time for Session Zero which is fantastic. (You haven't mentioned actually starting an adventure in that same session so I'm going to assume not for the purposes of this response.) So make the most of it. I posted over in another thread how to approach Session Zero. You may notice how most of what I write are questions. So just keep asking questions as people flip through the books and make decisions. Find out the reasons they're making those decision in the context of the world - where might have Ragnar learned that technique? Where did the rogue pick up Arcana anyway?

That sort of back and forth can make what may seem like an arduous process of paperwork and page-flipping into more of a thought-provoking, creative conversation. Plus, the answers they give you are gold when you set about writing your first adventure.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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The advice about being generous with retraining also applies to a party starting at a high level, as it's difficult to balance everything with a new high level character that you haven't been playing all along. Our group generally allows two or three retrainings each time the group levels up, so long as they are taken retroactively for levels that didn't have a retrain yet. We've also sometimes done more radical adjustments with DM approval.
The advice about being generous with retraining also applies to a party starting at a high level

At my table, I pretty much just allow them to retrain anything between any two levels, although if they are going to retrain the entire race or class, we'll have a talk about just introducing a new character. Even this, however, is not set in stone. The bugbear slayer in our game just recast himself as a bugbear barbarian (berserker). I didn't bat an eye. Just traded his weapon out to match the new concept.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
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