Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Character Binder

My buddy Dan, from The Dungeoneering Dad mentioned one of the "rules" from my home games on a post on G+ (I'm not sure how sturdy that link will be, and you'll probably have to be in Zak Smith's Gamer Circle to read it). If you aren't so into the whole G+ thing, here's what Dan said, "I read how +Michael Bolam 's group has a binder full of PCs that the players rolled up. When a PC bites it, the player goes to the binder and gets a new PC. I thought it was a cool way to have replacement PCs at the ready." I figured I'd give a little more detail about it here..

We're using Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion. Character generation is done by the book. Roll the 3d6 and place the numbers in order. Select race and class, roll hit points, roll gold and buy equipment, pick spells if necessary, and fill in all the other numbers. At the start of the first game, we all rolled up a handful of characters, selected one, and placed the rest in the binder. Since then, people occasionally show up with more characters to restock the binder. We have them separated by class, so you can quickly find what you want, thumb through what is available, and pick something. We've reserved the back of the binder as a "graveyard" for the characters who have died to this point.

We're running two games from the same pool of characters. Jonathan is running classic TSR modules every other Tuesday. I'm running some of my own stuff, combined with a lot of the OSR produced modules on Sundays. There is a fair amount of player overlap between the two games, but the goal was to keep this as open as possible. We are trying to be as realistic as possible, knowing that we all have full time jobs, many of us are in bands, or have kids, or something else that might get in the way of gaming. We know there are people in our circles that want to try out D&D, but don't have the time to commit to a regular schedule. Because of these facts, we're allowing anyone to drop in and out as necessary.

Once you select a character, you've got rights on that character as long as you continue to show up. If you miss a game, you have to accept that the character may be played by someone else, returned to the binder, or become an NPC for the night. Players are free to swap characters in and out of the binder at any point, assuming it makes sense for the current game (you are some place adventurers might hang out -- a town, village, keep, tavern along the road, etc). Characters active in the Tuesday game are not available for the Sunday game and vice versa. A character that has been returned to the binder is potentially active for either game after that point. Hired classed henchmen can also be taken from the binder (or created if something suitable isn't available) and will remain with the adventuring group until they are relieved of their duties. At that point, they are added back the binder, and become potential playable characters at future games.

If a character dies during play, and there are no NPCs floating around for the player to take control of, the player selects another character from the binder. At that point it's up to the DM to find a spot to fit them in to the adventure. We don't want anyone sitting there doing nothing for too long. After about 10 or so games, it's been working out very nicely. You do lose a bit of that connection to the character you might experience, since they just come from a generic pool. That said, low level characters in classic D&D are fairly fragile creatures, so there is bound to be a lot of turnover (aka We're not pulling any punches here. Characters die in these games.) We haven't had a TPK yet, but the potential is totally there. The pool of characters allows for some connection across games. Characters that were temporary retired could potentially be pulled to help keep the connection to previous sessions, if necessary.

We've got a game tonight and I think I'm going to try to crank out some "binder characters" while waiting for the rest of the group to show up.

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I stumbled onto a similar method when one player (never the same player!) misses a session. I think I'll try to make it an official part of the campaign.