A GM has a lot of different tasks and pre-generating characters is one of them IF a GM wants to run a one shot game. As I am currently preparing some semi-pregenerated characters for Chthonian Highways I want to share my approach to it today (together with ten examples). These are not ready-to-use-characters, as I like to give my players the chance to apply some personal touches to their characters.. but read for yourself!
So, what am I doing here?
My approach differs from the rules given in the AlphaKit as I prefer a different order of things. So, let´s not waste time. Here we go!
1) Skills first & 3x 4
I do not start with the Abilities but with the Skills. The Skills are what is actually effects each and every Skill check in the game (hey, they are called Skill checks for a reason!) instead of “just” being a juice stat that is used to push some of them. When creating pre-generated characters I find it important not to waste to much time on details so I use a cookie-cutter method. I give each character a set of three skill with a base skill level of 4 (later modified by Role and Trait). As pre-generated characters are usually used in one shots me as the GM already has a solid grip on which skills will become useful for sure. (compared to: may become useful as the players find clever ways of handling things). These are the skill I will used for the “3x 4”. The remaining 8 points the players will be able to allocate to other Skills during the game session as they see fit (yep, right in the middle of it!)(. The only limited here is that they cannot allocate more than 3 points to one skill. This allows the player to flesh out some parts of their PC while it reduces the actual prep time.
But what skills? Well, if I prepare a high number of characters at one (like 8 or more) I first make a list of all the skills I deem useful and put them down in an OpenOffice Calc (or EXCEL) file, as one column. Each line is later going to be a character, and thereby I already have my first skill for each of them. If I want to have more characters than skills, I fill up the column with some other usueful skill, just picking one that comes to my mind then. Afterwards I copy the column and paste it to the right, but a couple of lines lower than the first. The skills that “fall out” at the bottom I copy and past into the empty space above. I repeat this with the third column at some random point, but make sure I replace any doubles with something else, right out of the top of my head. This beats rolling up random skills in my books as it safes times and makes sure that each character has three important skills.
2) Working title as a character name
After step 1) I try to come up with some quick yet descriptive “name” for each character so that it is not just a line in a table. These can be as cheesy as they come and in regard to Chthonian Highways I am not afraid to go for western-movie-style names.
3) Role Suggestion
Based on the Skills I attach two role suggestions to each Semi-Pregen. If one wants to shorten the prep time, it is important to lower the available options. Otherwise the players will pounder every possible options and as much this is part of the fun of the character creation for a real game, it can be become sand in the gears of two-evening one-shot-adventure. The exact means of the different roles will be given to the players in the form of a hand-out and explained briefly prior to the process of character creation.
4) Abilities & Push Limits
Instead of allowing the players free allocation of points I present them with only two choices. They either allocate the number 8-5-4-3 to their character or they assign 6-5-5-4. In both cases the Push limits (3 / 2 / 2 / 1) are clear as well. Again, more options would lead to the players spending more time pondering these options.
Instead of letting the player roll, I offer three options per character which I determine semi-randomly (which means that I re-roll if it would mess with the three main skills).
6) Et Violá! (“Final Touches”)
Now most of my work is done. The players will choose (or roll for) Drives and Vices for their characters themselves and the starting gear is either that of the Roles or something specific for the game.