epic preparation – p2 – Character Generation

Epic Character Generation

So we’ve started to prepare our toolset for the adventure or campaign in part one. Now comes the part most of us will definitely enjoy and the part that will have the strongest influence on the adventure itself – the characters.

Just a short reminder , if you’ve never before been a dungeon master in an epic adventure, the characters can travel large distances through lands as well as planes with little efford. Their ambitions will be the most important part of the adventure and you will have the doubtless hard part of knowing all of these. How to influence the story and lead them into danger or give them hints will be another part. Let’s focus on the character creation for now.

This will be the hardest part of your preparation because you will have to know a lot more than you’re used to. You will have to absorb every bit of the background stories and remember all the magic, and special powers your players have access to. Furthermore you should not try to limit them by giving them only very limited access to magic items, it will feel very strange to them and it will most probably unbalance the game in favor of the mages, clerics and psions. Furthermore if you have a plan on where you want to send them, this is again one of your key concerns – know your characters but let’s go into the details now:

Attitude and Alignment

More important than ever it is that you know the motivation and motivators of the characters. In general as a guideline: Whatever made you uncomfortable at lower levels, when a character walked a different way or didn’t feel he had to do something you were trying to make appealing to him will cause you troubles when you try that at higher levels. Characters will not be pushed around easily at this level and therefore everything needs more preparation. (I’m not trying to say that pushing characters into a direction is generally a good idea but it might come handy every now and then, agreed?) So what’s the catch? Be aware that evil, good, chaos and order will have an effect on your campaign, purely chaotic and not (in the least) predictable characters might be a real challenge for you as a dungeon master, if it is your first epic adventure ever you might want to discuss things a little bit before with the players, plane shifting to planes you’ve never imagined before might give you a hard time and the players will not benefit from your unpreparedness in this.

Background and Contacts

The background story, yes – it is one of your tools and it should always be something you can take advantage of for the good of the game. Every player in our campaigns takes at least a little time to formulate a background story, even at lowest levels this is a great idea. It gives the character a direction, color – life. The thief that comes from the slums of Calimshan might appear a bit different than the pasha’s son that has never felt like a pasha’s son and gone the rogue’s way by his own choice and on his own terms. In epic this means you will have a lot of reading unless you’ve all played the characters from the beginning. Every powerful character has made allies and foes, he might have some special items, knowledge of portals and pathways and access to usually “not so important” things that you will find most appealing for your campaign to use. It’s hardly a good idea to force everyone to write 20 pages of a background story, but you will need some material for every character. Focus on other characters, probably family-members and friends he has made, take into account to reward a player for his work with accepting his characters into your story, give him the chance to rid himself of a lifetime foe or challenge him through friends who were not what he believed them to be. Make sure you know where the character has been before and why…

Magic and Items

Take into account any additional magical items he might be able to use. (Why?) You will probably regret having an epic character carry around his epic³ sword and his epic² shield, his epic armor and his epic toothbrush without having him a few additional useful items that he might come back with. At this level you might want to take them to a plane of fire and a few protective items might be exactly what they needed, have a character’s wizard henchman create a few of them, maybe with only limited uses, or have a friendly contact help them out (and let them know where they still have some favors left in case they need them). There is virtually not a lot of things they are not able to do at this level and it will hamper your pace with little positive effect if you narrow them down to item creation for a few months just to make sure they can go somewhere…

Other concerns

When you’ve come so far you probably decided to run this epic quest / adventure / challenge / campaign for real? Congratulations, if you prepare well, this will be one of the most rewarding experiences you can give to your players. Maybe you’ve already read through my short article problems of epic campaigns. Therefore we will set a few more foci in this preparation to make sure your players understand what they imagine when you talk about it. When background stories are written this might be one of the best opportunities to let them know what they are up against, maybe your opponents are npcs from the background stories, maybe it’s just one. Let them know the differences between a village guard and a soldier. Tom (one of the other dungeon masters from my group) told me recently about the Cloudkill spell one of his players in another campaign let loose on “just a few guys in a hamlet”, killing every single one of them, while he meant to use something to nauseate them… He just didn’t think they were “so fragile and weak”… Hey that makes a hell of a background story, the butcher from littlehamlet might be a title he never got rid of and now after so many years and challenges he has the chance to clean his name when demons infest the little city next to where littlehamlet stood.

The whole series (links to the posts will be active after publishing of them).

Getting started on Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part one
Problems of an Epic-Level Campaign
Epic Character Generation Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part two
History and Geography Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part three
Background Interweaving Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part four
Additional resources (links)
Specialities and Resources Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part five
NPC Definitions and Setup Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part six
Political Setup Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part seven
Actionplan Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part eight
Weaving it together Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part nine

2 thoughts on “epic preparation – p2 – Character Generation

  1. Hey Johnn,

    many thanks for dropping by. I’m a long term fan of your newsletter – so I just give the latest line back to you and – keep up the great stuff!

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