What aspects of character generation should the DM limit?

I'm a new DM starting a new campaign with 6 players that have no previous Dungeons and Dragons experience. I've played before; they haven't. They've created characters, but I felt like I was being really controlling because of the stipulations I put on their characters:

  • No chaotic evil characters. This is to avoid My Guy catastrophes; neutral and lawful evil are okay.
  • Bugbears and Yuan-ti purebloods were banned. They're broken at the moment, and I'm not keen on designing all combat scenarios exclusively for them.
  • One of my players wants 2 PCs. I suspected that the player wanted some kind of combo thing, so I said he could have 2 PCs as long as 2 or more players were absent.
  • The players seem to have taken some homebrew stuff that they didn't run by me first. I'm okay with some of that, but they don't even know what's official and what's not.

It feels like I'm hitting my players with a rules stick, restricting their freedom. This didn't seem fun to the players. On the other hand, I think it's necessary to make sure that everyone is balanced against each other and everyone's having fun during the game. I'm trying to determine what's okay to control during character creation and what just adds stress.

In one of the previous campaigns I played, the DM allowed just about anything. I played a CE jester. In another, players were restricted to just the 5e core rules. I played a paladin. In the last, the DM said no evil PCs, no homebrew, and no artificers. I played a cunning spy. All of these felt much looser than I'm being. Am I being too restrictive?

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    \$\begingroup\$ For the record, "no evil PCs" and "only core books" is a very common arrangement for first time players, for a multitude of (very good) reasons, so don't fret at your generous restrictions. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2017 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your restrictions are pretty light, honestly. I suggest that 'Run everything by the DM' is a good rule to have for any group, regardless of how experienced. Honestly, maybe run a one-shot with every zany BS thing allowed to get it out of their systems and to let them get some experience with the rules, then lay down the more stringent campaign rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – user47897
    Nov 6, 2018 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I certainly agree with restricting the numbers of PC's. They'd be forcing others to sit around while they essentially took an extra turn each round. Could be slightly annoying. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2019 at 21:26

8 Answers 8


I favor very open, liberal character creation rules, in both the games I run and in the games I play. I chafe quickly at too many restrictions, and feel that some DMs who enforce too many are shooting themselves in the foot.

But even from that perspective, your rules are really very minimal. Even with my preferences, I still expect more rules than that—you really are being very open here. Allowing a player to play two PCs? That’s quite generous (but not so uncommon for small groups—I suggest offering the same to other players, though!). And wanting to know what the source of material they use is really pretty much a given for any DM. I’ll have to take your word for the balance problems of Yuan-ti purebloods and bugbears, but really nixing just two, obscure races for PCs is quite tame as far as a banlist goes.

Blocking the chaotic evil alignment bugs me slightly more, in that really any alignment can cause “My Guy” problems, and I feel like it is better to address that problem itself, but OK, new players, I can see it.

And that’s it, as far as requirements you’ve described. That’s really quite minimal: none of these requirements are too severe individually, nor is there overly many of them. Meets my preferences, personally, and with quite a lot of room to spare! What is OK to control and what isn’t is massively subjective (and depends on more than just the group, but also the setting, campaign, and so on), but I find it very hard to believe that anyone would feel you’ve gone overboard here.

The real issue, it seems to me, is that you have new players; they don’t know what is or isn’t expected. They seem to have real buy-in and enthusiasm, since they seem to be going online to find options (presumably where they found this homebrew, and quite likely also where at least some of the ideas of the two-character combo came from)—which is great. Except that they don’t know how to judge what they read online, and they don’t know how much of it is stuff they have to work with the DM on versus stuff they can reasonably just “expect” to be available.

This is why I tend to prefer to do character-creation with new players in person, together. Craft a party together, focusing more on story and character, with you and/or the books there to provide relevant rules for bringing that character to life. Even when you have to say “no,” it’s much better when you can do it immediately, rather than after the player has chosen something and gotten emotionally invested in the idea. In the future, that’s the approach I recommend.

In the meantime, I suggest that if your players resist any of these rules, you work with them to try to come to a method of representing their character that satisfies you both. If that means toning down the bugbear they had their heart set on, so be it. If that means finding analogous options to the homebrew they like within the official rules (including by “refluffing” the official options—teaching new players to not feel restricted by the characters described by the books is a great thing!), then OK. If that means allowing the CE character, replacing your ban with stern warnings about getting along with the party, well, like I said: it doesn’t have to be a problem, and any alignment can be a problem, so really, maybe it will work out (and if not, well, you did warn the player).

But don’t feel that you’re being overbearing! The only reason I suggest you work with these players at all is because they’re new, you don’t want to damage their excitement and enthusiasm, and the things they didn’t know have to be excused. If these players had been in even a single campaign before, I would instead be telling you that they should know better than to try to complain about these minimal rules, and recommending that you stay firm with them.


No, you are not being unreasonable and your rules are fine.

The only reason I'm writing an answer at all is to urge you to keep in mind Rule Zero: Have fun. Especially since this is the first RPG experience for your players, I would personally recommend more of a yes-man attitude. The reasons they've agreed to sit down and play D&D with you are probably not the same reasons you think D&D is fun. I'd play the long con here and keep your eye on the real prize: the second characters they roll up. So let them make an OP half-minotaur half mind-flayer this time around and smash through a quest or two in epic fashion; that is what is appealing to them at the moment. And as they play through and you deliver your intriguing towns and your deep NPCs and your well of loot and items and quests etc etc etc, they'll get a taste of what makes D&D inherently fun and, if they're like everyone I've ever played with, won't even want to be anything ridiculous next time around.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A heuristic answer. I like. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or maybe they like ridiculous and you'll end up running XCrawl, Paranoia, or Abberant. And there's nothing wrong with that either. Sometimes you just need to be a cannibalistic bugbear bard wielding akimbo grenade launchers. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2017 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rule zero is the ball to keep your eye on, especially with new players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neal
    Jul 6, 2017 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have made the mistake before of denying new players. "But I really want to start with lands, a noble title, and a horse." "Sorry, that's just not realistic at level 1. Do not worry though, as it will come in time; part of the fun is getting that for yourself." That person, who I really wanted to get into the game, played half-heartedly for a quarter of the first session then left. At the time, I tried to get him to stay and was even annoyed at him, but later I realized I was the problem. I have also commonly had people want to start as dragon-mounted knights. If it's fun, it's fun. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:38

What you described is well below what I and most people I know, including people over the internet, would grant for a D&D campaign.

The usual stipulation for a vast majority of non-sandbox games is that the characters need to have a reason to fit together, and the campaigns are usually about fighting some enemies, not in-fighting.

Of course this is not a thing the manuals tell you. So, many new DMs don't realize how good it is to apply such a limitation. But most of those that ask other players how to proceed get told to behave this way, and you will find many answers suggesting even stricter alignment limits even on this site.

Playing a whole party of chaotic evil characters with some reason to not start infighting is also possible, but if you as a DM are not comfortable with this, it is perfectly OK to ask your players not to.

Again, limiting the available races and options is something you decide. In most of my games, only removing two races would feel very liberal, because I usually want the party to feel "normal people with an epic destiny" and exotic races somewhat lessen this feeling.

Players with two PCs? This is something that is not usually done, because the player with 2 PCs will use more time at the table, detracting time from others. Does he want to combo? He needs another player to do that, and it is good for the game because it forces him to be nice to another party member.

Usually, all sheets get validated and accepted by the DM. You're not OK with OP races, yet you let them come up with OP options that are not even part of the game, without telling you? How do they think this is normal? My suggestion is "official material only, at least for your first adventure, until you understand the game better."

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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, "my guy" catastrophes happen even with LG paladins. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jul 5, 2017 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ More so, really. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 5, 2017 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Especially on that last part. The DM needs to specify what constitutes acceptable source material....or you're going to find people grabbing homebrewed stuff that breaks the game to a ridiculous extent. I've denied players access to homebrew classes that casually drop more than double the DPR of any core class, and have something like a 98% hit chance on the friggin Tarrasque. And ones that give players Legendary Actions, and a Dragon (matures to Adulthood by high level) bound companion \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2017 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel we held character creation V2 yesterday. I have 2 of them on a 6-man party. ohhhh boy. \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Jul 10, 2017 at 15:26

The DM/GM should be allowed to restrict or allow almost any aspect of character creation.

Many times character creation is where you set the tone of your game. Depending on what type of game you're planning to run you have the right to restrict or require any number of options during character creation as you see fit. This can help continuity in your game world and prevent a plot line from being muddle up with unnecessary conflict based on these character creation choices.

I say this from experience:

  • Classes/Races: I frequently limit classes/races only 'core' classes/races. Meaning what was published in the 1st rule/Handbook. This make creation usually easier, especially for new players as the additional resources add additional complexity.
  • Alignment: I almost always restrict alignment to fit the tone of the game I wish to play. This is mainly for simplicity, but helps prevent unnecessary issues at the table.
  • 'Un-offical Content': I rarely allow if ever any un-offical content for published systems.
  • Multiple PCs: I've never allowed a player to play multiple PC's. Especially since you said you already have 6 players, each player should focus on their singular character and work that way. I've only ever once play with multiple PC's and they were conjoined twins so they were basically 1 PC

From your example 'Restrictions' I would say what you have is very lenient, and would not consider it micromanagement.

Important Note: When setting up these restrictions/requirements be sure you have it set in stone during character creation so that players are creating their characters under the same rules. You don't want to start your first game and someone comes to the table with a Goblin PC and another player is confused why he/she wasn't allowed to be a Goblin.

I'll also recommend The Same Page Tool or something similar. I believe this has been the single most useful addition to my knowledge for running RPGs. Keeping everyone on the 'same page' and ensuring everyone has the same expectations has made my games so much smoother.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That title is equivalent to saying "you can shoot that gun in any direction" when asked where to aim on a shooting range. Technically true, but kind of circumvents the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Jul 5, 2017 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps it needs and edit as I was writing this to use the same verbiage that was used in the unedited question. It was since been changed to be more specific. I'll update. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2017 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Multiple PCs really is not so bad. I have both played and DM'ed games where single players had 2, 3, or even 4 PCs. I know of a separate group who likes the "large band of warriors" feel who generally do 5 or 6 PCs per player. It can change the feel a bit, but it can work very well. Sometimes it is cool seeing a half-dozen players with a half-dozen PCs each being essentially a small army of 30 to 40 PCs who have plenty of muscle, plenty of magic power, and a tool for every situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:48

Most of the answers to date are validating your rules.

Right up front, I share in that validation. The choices you have made are well within the norms I have enforced as a GM and experienced as a player. Aside from norms, you also have a very strong, possibly absolute right to enforce these sorts of boundaries.

Leaving that aside, let me offer some concrete advice for how to keep yourself from going too far, and making the rules enforcement go down easier.

1. Set The Rules Up Front

As best you are able, decide what rules you want to enforce, and make a list before the game begins and before the character creation process starts. You will not be able to cover everything-- I would not have thought to ban double PCs, for example-- but you probably have some general guidelines in mind. Mine are similar to yours: I won't tolerate certain alignment/personality issues, I keep a tight rein on class/race for mechanical reasons, and I closely vet all outside materials.

Knowing in advance roughly what your boundaries are is useful to avoid those rules creeping forward.

2. Make Those Rules Public

No one wants to put in a few hours of labor (often labor of love) on a new character and have the GM bleed red ink all over it. If you know what your rules are, tell your players in advance. They may be a bit surprised to be hit with a bunch of downer rules, but it also lets them constructively work around those rules and come up with viable characters the first time. It also prevents you from looking arbitrary and capricious, and will help your players monitor your rules-strictness over time.

3. When Possible, Justify Your Decisions

Justify may be too strong a word, but tell your players why your guidelines are what they are. Tell them what you are trying to avoid. Most players worth playing with will try to work something out.

But when you need to stand your ground, stand your ground.

4. Engage In Collective/Community Character Generation

Others have suggested this, but I make the suggestion for several specific reasons: First, you will show your players that you are not arbitrary, capricious, or playing favorites. The rules apply to everyone. If you are arbitrary and capricious, your players will probably call you out on it, helping you avoid the problem. Second, if everyone sees every objection as it happens, you save time-- once something is rejected for one, it's off the table for all. Finally, your players might see ways to fix things that you don't. Brainstorming is goof.

5. (If Applicable) Plan To Move From Strict To Lenient

I say "if applicable" because this might not be your intent. But if it is not, I urge you to consider it. I reason that it is better to be strict initially and lenient later, because that is a transition the players will enjoy. Everyone enjoys more freedom and latitude; almost no one enjoys having their latitude taken away in progress.

It also, in my experience, actually works because if you are initially strict, you can successfully instill the habits you desire in everyone, and get everyone used to your style and limits while you get used to theirs. That done, it's easier to convince yourself to lighten up.

And finally of course, if you make it a goal to move from more strict to less strict, you are yourself adopting a mindset that will help you avoid becoming an authoritarian monster.

(And if you make this your goal, then you should say that to your players.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Criticality is something i seek. +1 for the criticality \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Jul 5, 2017 at 22:45

Your houserules look fine to me.

I run a 3.5 game. My houserules on character generation include:

  1. No Evil, minimal Chaotic

  2. Your character must actually want to be a member of this group

  3. 1 character per player. If we're missing people, someone can run the absent player's sheet. But can't do things like spend XP or gratuitous GP.

  4. Zero material from sources not explicitly allowed, except by approval.

  5. Only +0 ECL races.(Assuming you're speaking about 3.5)


The great thing about having the official rules is that you can lean on them (I do this alot to avoid problems)But, they can be limiting. So, keep in mind that the game is for everyone. You want your players to get what they want out of it. You want to avoid any rule adjudication/game breaking nightmares. I suggest backing it up a bit. Have a meeting with your group to discuss what each person wants out of it. Identify where your concerns lay and work toward good compromise. It's perfectly okay to voice your concern, stand your ground even. Remember, you are the one they will look to fix something when things go sideways. Don't be afraid to remind them of that.

That said, restrictions on race, alignment and alternate sources is nothing new and shouldn't be surprise to your players. I don't know the dynamic of your group, but I think its a little presumptive on their part to assume that you wouldn't take exception to them "going out of the box" so-to-speak.

Playing two characters - in my high school days (80's) I was the guy in our group that played two characters. It was more out of necessity due to a small player pool. But I ran 2 fighters and we didn't get into character much. Today as the DM I don't allow it. But we also get into character. If you guys roleplay then don't do it unless the player already suffers from multiple personality syndrome. If you don't RP and the other players don't mind said player getting more play time then maybe its okay. But he needs to be thoughtful about the time he takes for his turn, i.e. he should be able to make decisions for both pc's in the time it would take for one. Having 2 spellcasting pc'swill make this difficult. They should be a seasoned player.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If everyone else has 1 character, then having 1 player with 2 characters in an in-person game can reduce immersion. In an online game it can be a lot easier though, as you can appear to be two players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:54

To quickly answer the opening question: Any and all aspects he or she desires

Personally; for new players, i would go for Core rules only, anything else on case-by-case approval The more sources you allow, the more chances for things to become complicated and unbalanced, and by making non-core options a "no unless i say so", you prevent problems like you describe where even the player can't tell official from 3rd party content.

I would also restrict players to non-evil period, at least at first (drifting to evil can happen, but characters being evil at creation? best not for new players), and only 1 character per player (you could allow them to alternate characters for separate sessions)


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