Monday, January 11, 2010

pregeneration

I thought today I'd talk a little about my pregens for my upcoming Empire of the Petal Throne con game. When I first started running con games I would make six or eight PCs using the same methods any player uses for making their personal character. At some point I decided that making pregens that way was procedurally inefficient and artistically myopic. So nowadays I usually do some variant of the following method.

First I decide how many pregens I'll need. Usually I'll take the number of players at the event and add two to get my total. The extras allows me to give some choices for eveyone to pick from or add a couple of people who show up wanted to play even though the event's full or kill a couple people without making them sit out the rest of the game. For my Big Dumb Tekumel Game I decided that I would need 20 pregens. The event is open to twelve players and I want to be able to kill a whole bunch of people. It's that kind of game.

So then I open up a new spreadsheet. I have a column for pretty much every stat that would appear on the front page of a charsheet. For some games I have strong ideas what kind of PCs I want. By having everyone in the spreadsheet I can think about things like "which one of these mofos is the smartest? which one is the dumbest?" That way I can holistically design the party rather than individually design the characters. For the EPT game I wanted the kind of freaks you'd see in an actual campaign, so I generated a bunch of stats randomly by using the random number generator in the spreadsheet. This resulted in a couple kickass PCs, some decent ones, several mediocre characters and quite a few complete losers. This is completely acceptable to me, as every campaign that uses random chargen will show a similar distribution.

Next I think about the race, class and level spreads. When using random chargen like this case I usually just assign the best class to each set of available stats, but with an eye towards making sure all classes are represented. That was easy for EPT since there are only three canonical classes: magician, warrior and priest. There's a jack-of-trades in an old Dragon article and Jamie Mal has a nifty Shaman class in Fight On! #7, but I decided to keep it simple. For race I decided to focus on humans, so I only made on PC a non-human. I chose an ahoggya, which is sort of a cross between a wookie and a xorn. By the way, I chose that particular race so I could make a charsheet that says "you're sorta like a cross between a wookie and a xorn." I wanted an intro adventure, but I didn't want everyone to be first level. So I assigned PC #1 to first level, PC #2 to second level and PC #3 to level three. I just repeated that pattern down the spreadsheet, resulting in 7 first level PCs, 7 second level characters and 6 third levelers.

Each character got an equipment budget equal to normal stating gold times their level, resulting in most 2nd and 3rd level characters being able to afford a big pile of dungeoneering gear and some decent armor. A few first level characters are nearly naked. I gave a couple characters some special equipment based upon their skills. The net-maker gets a big net suitable for dropping onto monsters, the bird-trainer has a pet Kyni, a hawk-like creature, etc. Then I used the NPC treasure charts to roll some magic items. One character got a magic sword, one got a shield. One magician got five different Eyes, the Tekumel equivalent to a magic wand. That would normally be horribly unbalancing, but to be honest, that particular magician pretty much sucked on toast before the Eyes showed up.

Every EPT character needs to pick an alignment, good or evil, and a patron god. In EPT the rules suggest that opposite alignments will not cooperate on missions, so I did the only sensible thing and made the whole party evil. Whether anyone will use this as an excuse to be a dick at the table remains to be seen, but hopefully if someone acts up the rest of the party will realize they need to slap 'em down themselves. I'm the referee, not their friggin' nannie. For patron gods I used a semi-random method. I rolled dice but if I didn't like the results (like a big dumb warrior ending up with Ksarul, a sorcerer-god) then I picked something else.

Finally, I named everyone. When I decided to run Empire of the Petal Throne I made a promise to myself to take it just as seriously as any other game. In that spirit, I totally ignored any rules for constructing proper Tekumellian names. Most player's wouldn't know what to do with the accent marks and apostrophes anyway. Instead, I shot for names that were odd but easy to pronounce. I also strove to be as gender-neutral as possible. In this last regard I failed utterly with Changuu the Bearded. Though a warrior woman who could moonlight in the circus freak show would be a hoot to see in play.