When GMing for a group of players of mixed level of experience in RPGs and with varying knowledge of the setting.

However, my experience shows that less experienced players have harder time creating and developing characters. What I want to do is to support them with more guidance and opportunities to help them be comfortable with their characters and create some goals for their PCs.

For more experienced players it's usually fine if I just ask stuff about their characters or let them figure their goals themselves - throwing in small incentives like "If you describe to me how your character intends to learn more magic in this low-magic world you will get a free cantrip". It doesn't seem to work with less experienced ones, as they often do not know what their options are or what would be appropriate for the setting. What can I do for the newbies to enable them to crystallise and detail their characters?


3 Answers 3


This is one of the places that games with good Flag mechanics do well.

A "Flag" is an explicit goal or motivation, written down on the character sheet that everyone knows about. It allows the GM to know what the player would like in terms of direction and conflicts, it also helps the other players figure out how to support someone in getting the kind of character interactions along those lines.

It also forces everyone to ask of themselves, to think about a direction they want as well.

On the GM side, it also allows you to basically have a list of things to hit semi-regularly in play and you can scan down your list and go, "Oh, yeah, I haven't deal with this in a minute, let me build a scene or two around this one as well" and you get better at spreading out the spotlight.

If you do decide to add a Flag rule to your game, make sure everyone has one, that you actually do direct play towards those flags and that players know they can change them - it's not a locked-in alignment sort of thing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've had failures trying to use flag mechanics with players like the one described in the question. Could you speak to your experience with quiet and laid-back players benefitting from them? I'd love to figure out how to make it work. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1. Make sure they're clear on what it is. Also give them the option to make their Flags tied to other player's Flags. 2. If they avoid their Flags when they come up, pause the game, ask the player if there's a different way they want to come at it. 3. If the players don't want to engage with their Flags, consider if they NEED to for the game to work, and if they should be playing with this game as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – user9935
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 0:46

Newbies are having problems because they haven't seen that world yet, where ones imagination is the limit. The idea that you can be everything takes some time to get used to. They have no idea how to break that boundary or how to play as someone else. Or what is acceptable in setting you all want to play. I think that everyone I ever played with - their first character always hugely resembled themselves, no interesting goals for themselves, no fancy characteristics.

I recently had to GM for a group of complete newbies. And I wanted to break that the first game and the first character always is only introduction. It took some work, but in the end we all had great fun. Pre-adventure work I split in three parts.

1. Getting to know people you are going to play with. I simply asked what kind of games they like (both board and computer), what intrigues them in various plots (books and movies), free time activities and of course - what they expect of the game. Silly thing that I observed - everyone said that they just want to see how game looks like and just enjoy company of others, but their gaming and book reading habits revealed good details about other possible aspects what they could enjoy from the game. As a result, it gave me an idea what to emphasize in adventure - social interactions, combat, detailed scenery, etc., and what might not work.

2. Instead of letting them figure it all for themselves, give them choice from preset themes. I prepared short introduction in universe we are going to play in and four detailed themes to choose from. "Cursed", "Noble", "Member of a guild" x2 - as rich in detail and history as possible. When they chose, I told who knows whom before game, so they can work on their relationship together (in case they took the same guild). It gave them a frame to work with. Actually after that new characters were born quite naturally.

3. Ask them work on details of their character. I asked them to create backstory for every skill they posess - how they got it? They were "forced" to create backstory (theme+details), giving them a frame to put nice characteristics in.

Before game I only gave a reason why we have to meet at inn. After that pure fun followed. Of course you can't prepare everything perfectly - you will have to observe how they play in order to make the best adventure ever for your particular group. But I think giving them a frame to work with is the best you can do out-of-game.


I'm currently GMing a group of 8 players. 3 are very experienced and know what they want but the other 5 players are barely introduced into role-playing and much less to Pathfinder.

What I've been doing for the past 2 months is trying to guide them inside the story showing them their weaknesses and their necessities for basic survivavility. For example:

When dealing with fights since we got 1 tank, 2 melee fighters, 3 casters and 2 supports, I've made it so a couple of monsters have gone wild and randomly attack one of the casters ignoring the tank as they planned (of course, following the rules, high intiative and being close to them).

This caster had luck because I throw a very low attack roll and the monster had 1/2 CR because it was a lvl 1 fight and I'm trying to be gentle with them until they get used to the game, but if I'd hit him it would've coused a serious injuriy. With this I showed him that being a caster standing idle in a middle of a fight casting doesn't make you a good fighter You have to use your 30ft movement action, take a good position, stay behind the tank covered from arrows or other throwing weapons that may cut your casting.

Also, I had another player who didn't pick Perception. Instead he took 4 Knowledges because he said IRL: "I'm going to be the smartest guy in the game!". So I put him in a situation when he had to roll Perception in order to stay alive and he couldn't roll. In this case I allowed him to roll Reflexes and save his live but as soon as he level up to level 2 he instaleveled a rank into Perception. Then I told him to carefully think about what he would need in future.

These are just some advices and the way I like to GM and teach my players. Also I need to point out that these are my friends so I can also help them outside the game. But I think that as Bankuei has pointed out stablishing some good objectives and letting them know their weaknesses is the best practice to let them know how to develop their characters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If any of the downvoters would be so kind of telling me why my answer is not adequate I may be able to edit it so its relevant for the question or I can improve the quality. Downvoting a question is something I never do unless its clearly out of context and I think mine is a response to the OPs question. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 19:04

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