frog_wizard2

I love pregenerated characters. They’re great for con games, online games, pick-up games, or when you need replacement characters after a TPK.  They’re an easy way to get new people gaming quickly.  Obviously you won’t use pregens in every game (more later), but they are handy to have around.  This article will talk about some ways to get the most out of your pregens, perhaps even for years and years.  We’ll first look at some things to consider when creating your pregens, then how to use them to save time.  Most of my examples will be from the fantasy genre, but the philosophy should work for any genre.

 

CREATING YOUR PREGENS
This part will take you some time, but if you get it right, you’ll only have to do it once.  Create 6-8 pregens for the system you are most comfortable running, and that you can realistically find players for.  Create your pregens, covering all the major classes or roles needed for the system.  Don’t worry about covering every possible permutation of race and class, just hit the standard builds.  You don’t have to start with beginning or “level one” characters.  For example, if you prefer to start players off at level three to increase survivability, then stat up third level characters.  Don’t give the characters names or genders.  Let your players do that later.

 

Type this file into a word processing program or spreadsheet.  You want a digital copy to edit if you find mistakes or your players have trouble reading the character sheets.

 

Save this file.  Twice.  You’ll want a working copy to edit as players give you names or background details.  Also, you’ll need to change stats as players gain experience.  However make sure you have a separate, clean copy of the original stats.  This is going to save you time later.

 

You may want to make some tokens that represent the characters.  I try to have a variety of both genders and of different ethnicities.  I keep these in a baggie in my game box with the character sheets.  Then I have them anytime I get the chance to game.

 

GETTING MILEAGE OUT OF YOUR PREGENS
Making pregens will take you more time than you think.  You’ll need a balanced party, and in a format that is easy for players to read.  Then you can print clean copies whenever you need them.  Beyond that, you can use these pregens to save you time in some other situations.

 

New editions:  Suppose your favorite game comes out with a new edition (I hear it happens).  Many of the stats will remain the same, and it should be fairly easy to convert your pregens to the new system.  Again, keep the original file.  You might not like the new edition (I hear that happens too).

 

Being a Player:  Sometimes even long-time GM’s get a chance to play.  Just print out your favorite pregen, check with your GM, and you’re ready to go.  Many GM’s will even let you use the pregen even if it is a different level or different edition than they are running.  Be nice to those GM’s, they’re good people.

 

Different Genres:  Sometimes you want to run a different genre and don’t have the time or inclination to learn a different ruleset.  Simply reskin your pregens (keeping the original file), and you’re all set.  For example, I ran a “Redwall” type game for several sessions.  My wizard became a frog-wizard just by adding swimming and jumping special abilities.  The player even made outboard motor noises while swimming.

 

 Need a Jedi-type?  Take your cleric and change “Turn undead” to “Affect Weak Minds”, tweak the spell list (be sure to include Telekinesis), and it will probably work just fine.  Need a Vulcan?  Perhaps a Sleep or Hold Person spell can model the Vulcan Neck Pinch.  With very little work, you can stretch your pregens to cover a variety of genres.

 

IN CONCLUSION
Sure there’ll be times when you won’t use pregens.  Some players prefer to design their own characters from scratch.  Some groups make creating their characters the entire first session to assure there are connections between the characters, or to help build the game world.  Sometimes you have to learn a new system because it better models the genre you want to play.  However, having pregens handy to use and reskin may save you some precious prep time.  It may help you game more often too.

 

How about you?  Do you use/reuse pregens?  If so, let us know below.
John Fredericks

About  John Fredericks

In the early 1980's, John was given the Moldvay Red Box set as a birthday gift. The Blue Expert set soon followed and the mania has yet to subside. Over the years, he has played and GMed various flavors of D&D, Star Trek, Star Wars and the odd superhero game. Most of his recent GMing has been online using virtual tabletops.

While not a current photo, John assures you that he has never looked better. Sad, but true.



6 Responses to Characters to Grow Old With: Getting the Most Out of Your Pregens

  1. I’ve found pregens most useful when targeting them at a specific new campaign or system.

    For example, our first Savage Worlds adventure was Zombie Run, and before the game I emailed the group a set of 8 pregens I had made. Most of players proceeded to tweak the characters a little before the game started, but I think it was still helpful to have the pregens as an example.

    For an even tighter connection between pregen and adventure, look at how Lady Blackbird actually uses the pregen characters as a means of conveying much of the information about the setting and scenario. The new D&D Starter Set does a bit of this too, by giving each pregen very specific hooks into the adventure.

    I think it works because of how it can help guide game play. PCs are central to any RPG, and the “blank canvas” of free-form character creation can create a sort of writer’s block. Pregens can help keep people on the same page regarding what the game is about and set expectations for how it will go. For a great example of “guided character creation,” that is sort of half-way between pregens and free-form, look at the Apocalypse World playbooks (free to download).

  2. John Fredericks

    Thanks 771M and thanks to osrtoday for the pingback.

    I just hate spending a session making characters. Or having everyone waiting while one person has to create a character. I should say that if players want to make up characters before the first session on their own, no problem.

  3. I almost never reuse pre-gens, and it’s a big time sink. I can see the appeal of producing a set of pre-gens once, particularly if you play the same game frequently.

    I know that I’ve appreciated Chris Chinn’s Better Pregen Characters… maybe I should get off the stick and make up some characters.

  4. John Fredericks

    I’ve run multiple con games and pick up games with my third level Basic/Expert D&D characters for years.

    I tweak the character sheets a bit, but otherwise I’ve more than gotten my mileage out of them.

    Maybe I’ll bump them up to fourth level for our October Gameday. They’ve earned it.

  5. John Fredericks

    Nice link to Chris Chinn’s post. That’s good stuff.

  1. Growing old with pregenerated characters | OSR Today

    […] Fredericks has posted an article on Gnome Stew regarding maximizing use of pregenerated characters for your games. In the article, he covers creating a small number of pregens and how to use them over an extended […]

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