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I usually GM point-based games without classes (like Star Wars D6, WoD -- Mage the Awakening or Wraith -- etc.) When I prepare an adventure for 5 players, I usually make more than 5 PCs to have some variety (in SWD6, I made up to 12 PCs).

My main problem comes when the players choose 5 fight-oriented character, leaving more talking-oriented, sneaking-oriented character aside. It's like choosing 5 fighters or 5 Mages in D&D…it probably works, but if everyone have the same skill sets, it becomes boring.

Any suggestions not involving fewer PC options or class-oriented games?

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Have you expressed your concerns with your players? Do they feel the same way you do? Do you and your players have the same expectations for the game? –  Colin D Jun 17 at 16:35
    
Ah, I forgot to mention. I use one-shot on conventions. Btw, thanks for the edit Jadasc –  Cactuar Jun 17 at 17:23
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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Create "Roles".

Group your characters in a few different roles. Each player select a different Role, and from that role select his character.

I will give you an example, using generic terminology, for a D&D-like fantasy game:

Role A - The Warrior

  • Character A1 - Sword and Shield warrior
  • Character A2 - Spear-oriented duelist
  • Character AB3 - A Paladin of a Good Deity

Role B - The Diplomat

  • Character CB1 - The Bard.
  • Character B2 - A good-looking noble duelist.
  • Character AB3 - A Paladin of a Good Deity

Role C - The Sage

  • Character CB1 - The Bard
  • Character C2 - A Wizard with power over the Fire and Earth
  • Character C3 - A Witch from the woods.

Each player chose a Role, and them select one of the Characters from that role. Two players can't select the same Role.

Notice that some characters can fulfill more than a single Role, so they appear on multiple lists.

Expand to your own needs!

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I really like Tridus answer in the conceptual level, but your answer is a practical solution (and easy to implement). Thank you very much! –  Cactuar Jun 17 at 17:44
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+1; It's fine to create more PCs for the one-shot than there are players signed up, but if there's going to be 5 players, don't make 5 combat-focused characters unless your one-shot is going to be wholly focused on the fighting! –  Brian S Jun 17 at 20:58
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The first thing you need to do is figure out: Why Are The Players Doing That?

Answer A: Because They Like That Archetype

I've known players who always want to play something that hits things with a sword, and that's it. I've known players who always want to play healers. I've known players who always want to have some kind of pet. etc.

Those people are playing that because they really like that archetype, and they're happy playing it. There's really nothing "wrong" with that, and so changing the situation in a way that makes people happy requires a delicate hand.

Since you're not interested in removing player options, the only thing you can do with these people is figure out what it is that they really like about what they're playing, and show them how they can get it in another archetype. Sometimes that's easy ("I want to have a pet" can actually be done a lot of different ways, so you can mix it up). Sometimes what they want to play is so specific that there may not be much you can do unless you're willing to create a custom class for them.

At the end of the day, it's not really a big problem if they're having fun playing the archetype in question.

Answer B: Because It Works

I've also known players who play something because they believe it's going to be the most useful thing in the campaign. This can be particularly true in a game like D&D, where it's usually assumed that combat is going to happen but it can't be assumed that diplomacy/sneaking/other things are going to happen. In the case of these people, they're not opposed to playing something else so long as it's going to be effective on a regular basis.

For these people, the answer is easier:

  1. Tell them that other things will be needed/useful. If you want someone to play a "party face" social type character, make sure they know the campaign is structured that a character like that will be effective.
  2. Actually give those roles a chance to be effective.

Number 2 is where things can often go wrong. If everyone favors combat focused archetypes in your game, maybe it's because you usually run games that are combat focused. Players who want to be effective are going to want to focus on what you're throwing at them, and if every problem can be solved by hitting it hard enough, that's what they'll focus on.

I know someone who when he GMs, places a huge focus on the world building and social aspect of his game. When I'm playing in his game, I know I can make a character that's a lousy combatant but great at something else, and I will not feel like I suck all the time. That's huge, and gives me confidence to make a character like that. In other games I would never deliberately make a character that's bad at combat, because I'll just wind up not doing anything most sessions (or doing it poorly).

Actually, my next character in his new campaign is going to be a barmaid. In a party full of heroes. The only reason that works is because I know there will be times when being a barmaid is just as useful as being a death dealing Wizard.

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Thanks for this answer. I usually run one-shots on conventions, so the players don't know me. Nevertheless, the answer B1 hit the spot on how should I present the adventure and the character to choose. –  Cactuar Jun 17 at 17:42
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I would propose to diversify each character on top of proposing diverse characters.

As a player, I do feel restricted if I end up with a character that is so focused that anything out of its niche role is out of its reach. I am not asking for a character that is a good at everything, or average at everything, but I am asking for a character with more than one dimension.

Therefore, supposing that you have varied roles:

  • Fighter
  • Scout
  • Diplomat
  • Sage

You can easily create combinations by giving each character a Major and Minor focus (*), here represented as Major/Minor:

  • Fighter/Scout
  • Fighter/Diplomat
  • Fighter/Sage
  • Scout/Fighter
  • Scout/Diplomat
  • Scout/Sage
  • Diplomat/Fighter
  • Diplomat/Scout
  • Diplomat/Sage
  • Sage/Fighter
  • Sage/Scout
  • Sage/Diplomat

Note: this generates many combinations quickly, some may be inconsistent or hard to pull off and you will leave them off.

Now, supposing that your players select only things with Fighter in, you have a party of 6 (at most): Fighter/Scout, Fighter/Diplomat, Fighter/Sage, Scout/Fighter, Diplomat/Fighter and Sage/Fighter.

Well, it is still varied and they should still be able to accommodate a variety of situations. Plus, since there is no Just Fighter character, all three characters with a Major on Fighter should be equally good at combat (although maybe in different ways), so none should feel left out.

It also gives a chance to have multiple players involved, there is not a single Sage or a single Diplomat, so you don't have all players (but one) twiddling their thumbs when you play a scene that is not fighting oriented.

(*) Of course, you could elect to have several "Minor", still I personally prefer to have roles my character cannot fulfill, because it forces me in being creative when faced with a situation that would be most suited to this role.

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The best policy is probably to discuss this openly with your players - it is likely evident from the characters stats which is "fight-oriented" or "sneak-oriented", so there's no spoiler in asking the players to choose a more diverse combination.

One mechanistic way to handle this is used on Battle Star Galactica - the Board Game (of all places) - in that game, characters are grouped into three major roles ("Diplomatic Leaders", "Combat Pilots" etc.). Each group of characters with similar roles has a different color. Players choose their character in the following manner:

  1. Players agree on an order of selection (talk it out, use dice, whatever).
  2. First player chooses any character he likes.
  3. Second player chooses any character he likes from a group not selected yet.
  4. Third player chooses a character he likes from the remaining unselected group.

Now each group has exactly one representative, so you start another cycle:

  1. Fourth player chooses any character he likes.
  2. Fifth player chooses any character he likes from a group not selected yet.

etc... The game also have 2 "support characters" that may be chosen instead of a "major character" - any player may select them without any of the limitations for major role group.

You can probably adapt this to something which suits your game need.

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