Whenever I need a player to make a character, usually above level one (e.g. TPK) they usually miss more details than I can manage, sometimes the player takes a terrible spell on his spells known, and there's a better choice, and on occasion a terrible feat, because browsing through a list of feats gets boring eventually.

How do I simplify the character creating process, should I just ask for their concept and make a character for them? Should I limit their sources to avoid boring them and picking whichever choice happens to be in front of them? (It's pretty obvious when all their spells or fears start with the same letter). I'm afraid it might impact the campaign in a bad way if I don't change the challenges radically to make their skills useful.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ May I ask how often "whenever" and "usually" is? \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 16:05

4 Answers 4


Go ahead and make the characters for your overwhelmed players

It's been my experience that about a third of players are far more interested in interacting with the setting (often with sword in hand) than building the character. While both are part of the game, some folks really do want to hurry to the former and find the latter boring. Those players are grateful when given the chance to play a competent character with interesting options.

And in a system as vast as Pathfinder only a heartless DM says to such a reluctant character-builder, "Make a level 3 character." So much baggage comes with that sentence! Race and racial traits, class and archetypes and favored class benefits, traits, feats, skills, equipment, spells, pets... that's a huge undertaking, slathered in jargon.

So don't say that.

First, get non-mechanical feedback from the player in the form of expectations for the character: hit things with sword, light things on fire with powers of the mind, sneak around and stab people in the back, whatever. Alternatively or in addition, ask for a fictional character as a reference: Link, Wolverine, Tyrion Lannister, Han Solo, whatever.

Second, build such a character as best you can within the system's limits.

Third, explain in person (if possible) the differences between the player's expectations or the fictional character and the actual character the player's going to play. Also explain that, after playing the character you built for a session or two, the player can make any (legal) changes he wants to make to it or make his own character from scratch.

Fourth, play the game! When you've such players, they really don't want to spend a whole session making characters and chatting about the game. They want to play the game. You owe it to them to at least get the adventure started, or else they'll feel their time was wasted.

It's not bad to make someone else's character, and it's especially not bad to make a new player's character. While a veteran role-playing game gearhead may balk, the player who wants to play now will thank you, especially if the character lives up to his previously expressed expectations.


Character building takes Time

So whichever route you choose make sure there is enough time. The easiest way to frustration is to try to finish the pc in a hurry because you will miss something or the one to play the pc isn't really happy with it.

Ask the player what (s)he wants!

(I'll use the masculine from now on for ease of writing)

Some players like to build characters but aren't good at it while others think it is a chore. Both is ok but needs a different approach.

In both cases try to help him find out which class best fits what he wants to play. For example does he want to play a rogue (class) or rogue (flair/concept) which might be better filled by other classes.

Then find out if he wants to build the pc by himself, with someone's help, wants a rough outline build for him, wants a complete ready to go character sheet. Offer to be the one to help but make it clear that you will not be upset if the player chooses someone else.

General advice if this comes up often

One possibility to reduce information overload at pc generation is to make traits available through the additional traits feat only. This means that players can still choose traits if they want them but if they don't care there is one HUGE load of info they don't need to care about. But make sure your players are on board with this.

How I go about building a PC for someone else

I usually build a PC that most closely resembles what the player asked for but in a way that I would have fun playing this pc myself. After that I add some traits, feats, spells so the player has some choice which to keep. But I make sure to tell them what my choice would be and why but also why the other options would be good, too.

Example: In a game I'm playing in we had one player who wasn't happy which his pc. He had tried to create someone who could combine fighting and magic by multiclassing oracle and cavalier and it didn't work out too well. I suggested to help him build a "better" version of said pc while keeping him as similar as possible. After suggesting several options including warpriest he decided he'd like to stay cha based and we settled on the cha based magus archetype (eldritch scion?). He'd fought with a scimitar and in medium armor before which still worked afterwards. He "lost" his shield and used some different spells but from the outside that was everything that changed. I build that pc for him, explained each choice I had made and suggested some alternatives. He is happy and the game runs smoother with an additional strong striker.


First off, your ideas. Creating their characters for them is a bad idea. That way, it'll be very hard to RP that character, because it'll never truly feel like it's theirs. Secondly, if you hand them their sheet, they'll probably forget what kind of feats you've chosen for them, what items they have and what spells etc. Generally, this is actually a rather bad idea.
You could limit your sources, but since you're playing Pathfinder the amount of information will probably still be rather overwhelming. It could work, but I'd do it as a last resort.

A simple solution would be that you help them. Come together a moment before the session starts, and work on their characters together. You can help and advice them on their characters, but they'll make all the final choices themselves. This way, they'll also learn how the character-creation system works and they'll have an easier time next time they create characters.

If you don't have enough time to actually organise this, you could try to find another way to keep in touch with each other, in case if they ever stumble across a problem. For instance, a What's App group with the players and the DM, where questions can be asked and useful links and advises can be shared.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not too sure if I can accept this as the solution, it's a nice one for first level characters, but it becomes a drag with higher levels, (to be honest, I like to start at levels 2-5 as I get paranoid, I feel like my players have ADHD sometimes.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Teco
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Teco True, but I'm afraid we'll have to handle this problem as if it's their first character, since they make the same mistakes new players make. The amount of options is too much to skip through, and it would probably help if you all take a day to slowly go through it all. You don't have to organise this day every time, just until you think it won't be necessary anymore, and there'd still be the chatroom available if questions pop up. Accepting-this-for-an-answer-wise, I'd rather help you than earn two extra reputation. You may reserve those for someone else, if you deem that necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joninean
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Come together a moment before the session starts" I really like building characters and sometimes, when I'm bored, I do so even if I know I don't have a game to play the pc in. But even when doing it often "a moment" will not be enough. It normally takes me several hours to build a pc above level 1. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:04

In my experience, I prefer helping the players' making their on character. I believe it's better than pre-generated characters because I've found players are less likely to care about the game if they don't have that investment of creation, and it reduces the amount of times you need to remind characters of what they can do. Similar to @Joninean, I ask them what there goals are- What trope(s) do you want to fill? What do you want to do in combat? Out of combat?

Being a (moderately) experienced player, I can then give them 2-5 options for feats/class abilities pretty quickly. In doing this, I help them fully realize their own character, but without the muck of actually sending them to the vast treasure trove that is PFSRD or similar.

I don't feel like the admin burden is any heavier on myself than it would be to make the characters from scratch... sure, I need to pick a few feats per level, but all the decisions are made by the character, so all I'm doing is filtering the options.

Most likely, if your players aren't as experienced, they won't even want some super complex build that gets them the Nightmare Striker feat, or if they do then most of their choices are made for them.

Obviously, this method is hardest for casters. I've limited my new casters to the core book by providing them spell cards that are filtered to that list. Don't forget to allow them to add spells to their spellbook/choose different divine spells/change their chosen Sorcerer (and similar) spells at level ups. If there are constantly a couple problems, allow them to 'retrain' them. This could be for money or just in game time, but careful not to set a precedent when you don't want to. One thing I've used (for non-spellbook classes) is that 0-2 level spells are free to retrain if you spend the time in town, but starting at 3 it costs money appropriate to the wealth rate for that world.

I do most of this in IM's and texts between sessions. Summarizing ~3 feats or rogue talents or whatever is needed can be quick and painless, and they simply choose the effect they want to have. Make the character sequentially, one level at a time. By level 5 (if you go that high) your offerings should be pretty accurate to the players' desires. The best thing you can do is ask for feedback. If they don't love the character, suggestions abound about how to bring them in line with the players' expectations.


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