I’ve had a really diverse group of players while deployed. Enlisted Soldiers and Officers, all the way from Privates to a Major; male and female, some fresh out of Basic Training and at least one who has been in the military longer than my 30 years on this earth. Forceful and charismatic as well as shy and inexperienced. I really want to get playing ASAP, so I built a bunch of pre-generated characters for them to choose from.
My viewpoint on pre-gens is pretty simple: choose the character because you want to play the character, and not because you like their stats. In my experience, there is only one way to keep the playing field level in this case– the GM builds the characters’ personalities and backgrounds and lets the players choose from those without letting them see the PCs stats before they make the choice. If they ask, you can tell them pertinent info like equipment and feats, but not any hard numbers–no attack rolls, defenses, hp, initiative… nothing crunchy enough for them to compare the PCs in anything but a subjective manner. This forces them to look at the pregens from a standpoint of “which one will be the coolest to play?” instead of “which one has the coolest abilities?” or even worse “which one has the highest attack bonus/damage/hit points/defenses?”
Some people are going to get rather upset by this philosophy, I think, but thanks to the relative PC-to-PC balance of 4E (one of the things I love most) this procedure can be without the “what if he’s better than me” fear that can come with a lot of games. I myself build each pregen step by step (thank you DDI!) and ensure that each character is unique, has the potential to be fun to play, and most important of all has a place in the story.
The second key to a successful game with pregens is to give the characters a solid Group Template. Fear The Boot preaches this philosophy a great deal (with .pdf template, too!) and I couldn’t agree more, especially in this situation.
I have heard of a lot of people who hate the very idea of pregenerated characters– in fact, Gnome Stew made it one of their Hot Button questions once upon a time.
So here’s the handout I’m using for the game we’re going to start up very soon. It contains the “elevator pitch” for each of the pregenerated characters, all of whom have complete writeups on my hard drive awaiting the players to choose them so I can print them out. The players will be instructed to choose their top three and let me know in order of preference– I made 19 of the suckers, so I’m betting everybody will get their first choice, but it’s always good to have a safety mechanism built in. Once they have picked, then I’ll provide them with the character sheet for the PC they picked, and they’ll never see the stats for any PC who doesn’t end up in the party.
As soon as the D&D Encounters materials are finalized, we’ll move on to that, but for now I want to get dice on the table. We only have 2 sets of dice between us, no mapping functionality, no minis, and only the core books, but we’re going to make it work for now. That’s the true glory of this hobby– in the end, if you have your imagination and some dice, you’re set to play.
The Silver Chalice is an adventuring company that is three generations old– the grandparents of some of the PCs founded the Order before the fall of Nerath to combat an incursion of devils, and they took the magical artifact they used to win the final battle as their symbol. Nowadays the order has been resurrected, and stands as a symbol of civilization and order in a world rapidly growing darker. Each of the pregens belongs to the Order of the Silver Chalice and works with them for different reasons, but they all mix and match depending on who is available and interested in the quests that inevitably get brought to the attention of those who protect the weak and defend the helpless in a world rapidly hurtling towards chaos and anarchy.
Feel free to take a look at the Google Doc that has all the pregens in it. Let me know what you think– which of my pregens interests you? Which ones do you think you’d want to play, and why?