D&D 5E I want my players to ignore class in character creation

I’m trying to get my players to create their next characters in ignorance of class abilities. My players will be starting their 3rd characters ever, so they’re not super informed on all the available options, which is good for a start. I’m trying to get them to imagine what their character looks like, how they fight, what sort of weapons they use, what spells they might cast, how they interact with the world, what they’re good at, and all that before we figure out class or background.

But, they ask, well, what can a warlock do. And, it doesn’t matter, what do you want to do, isn’t helpful to them. Whatever the heck you want is available is too much for them. So I want to come up with choices for them to help them build characters true to their own imaginations and desires, and once that’s done, we’ll figure out what class/mulriclass/subclass/rules will make that happen with me being a super flex DM who will bend stuff to make their vision a reality.

I have players who are mostly comfortable being creative inside boundaries. So I’m looking for decision tree ideas that instead of reducing, expand, or prompts, or EASY questions that draw out their creativity to build something unique.

Ideas?
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
But, they ask, well, what can a warlock do. And, it doesn’t matter, what do you want to do, isn’t helpful to them. Whatever the heck you want is available is too much for them. So I want to come up with choices for them to help them build characters true to their own imaginations and desires, and once that’s done, we’ll figure out what class/mulriclass/subclass/rules will make that happen with me being a super flex DM who will bend stuff to make their vision a reality.
There's a lot of space between being Average Joe and Thor. The PCs might have a blank page to write on, but they could use some direction.

I have players who are mostly comfortable being creative inside boundaries. So I’m looking for decision tree ideas that instead of reducing, expand, or prompts, or EASY questions that draw out their creativity to build something unique.
Ask them which genre-specific characters (movie/book/RPG) they'd like to be. How would they change those characters, given the opportunity?
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
One. But does it matter? They are tasked with creating a concept, unlimited power not a concept.
It does, because there are some questions you can't really ask as plausibly.

At level 3, you could ask "describe your first adventure" - how did the PC reach this relative level of power? But at level 1, their adventures are in front of them, not behind.

I'll also note that some people like creating their characters mechanics first, RP second. "I want to make a fighter. A quick nimble kinda guy. Maybe he has links to the thieves guild?" Others do the reverse - they get an idea of the character and then find the mechanics to make it work.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Further thinking on my FATE comment I'm reminded of Spirit of the Century a pulp game that does character creation via four phases:

Phase 1: Background
-covers the character’s youth, from birth to age 15 the core concept for the character as a “normal person”. Reflect on the character’s family and upbringing.
What were the family’s circumstances like? Rich? Poor? Scholarly? Isolated? Pious? Political?
How big is the family?
How well does the character get along with his family?
What nation is the character from? What region?
How was the character educated?
What were the character’s friends like? Did the character get into much trouble?
Player writes down a brief summary of the events of the phase.
Note the characters racial, national, familial, or cultural heritage.

Phase 2: Becoming an adventurer
Asķ how did the character go from normal person to adventurer? What got them away from home, where did they go, what new skills or knowledge did they learn? What trouble did they have to deal with?
Did they have a patron or mentor?
Did they meet any other characters then?

Phase 3: Your Story
In Spirit of the Century this is the characters first pulp novel - and they are the star! The player comes up with a title for the Story eg
"Karynor and the Tower of Shadows"
Give a short blurb about What happened in the story? who was the antagonist (potential nemesis?) etc

Phase 4: Guest Star
Swap your story with another player whose character is now the guest star in your story - discuss how they get involved as a supporting character’s role. Was it as chance acquaintences, friends, lovers, rivals?
Also consider what did the characters discover (items, secrets, new abilities) and how did the characters finish/escape from that adventure?

Phase 5: Repeat with another player, but now youre the guest star.

Phase 6: Getting the Party together - why are you together now ready to go on a new adventure?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
So I want to come up with choices for them to help them build characters true to their own imaginations and desires, and once that’s done, we’ll figure out what class/mulriclass/subclass/rules will make that happen with me being a super flex DM who will bend stuff to make their vision a reality.

I have players who are mostly comfortable being creative inside boundaries. So I’m looking for decision tree ideas that instead of reducing, expand, or prompts, or EASY questions that draw out their creativity to build something unique.
I have helped introduce a few players to the hobby, and in my experience, what you want to do is best when it’s very hands-on.

When I did something along these lines, I told the players a little about the campaign setting and asked them about what kind of hero they like to play in that context. Then I make recommendations based on their answers, trying hard to maintain a neutral stance. I want them to make characters THEY vibe with, not something appealing to my preferences. Eventually, you help the player assemble their PC.

I’ve done that 1-on-1, which is very time consuming. I’ve also done this in a group setting. In the latter, it becomes a bit like a brainstorming session,
 

ezo

Where is that Singe?
@Tonguez has a great outline/process, and the only thing I'd add would be a short discussion about ability scores.

Are you strong, smart, self-confident, agile, etc.?
Which is your best and why?
Which is your worst and why?

Also, rolling ability scores in order is a great way to get combinations you might not otherwise consider. In 2E, I once had a character who was a wizard but had a STR 17 to go with his INT 18. He ended up dual-classing to Fighter, was double-specialized in quarterstaff, and with the help of a Strength spell quite effective in melee combat. Sort of a precursor to the 5E Eldritch Knight (but from Wizard to Warrior, instead of the other way around).
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
Giving them some kind of prompt that hands them genre and trope advice might give them enough of a seed to start. Like, "All your characters are young adults from a farming village, you've decided to band together to explore the unknown in your generic fantasy medieval D&D-like world. What sort of abilities did your character learn in their youth in this village?"

Detailing some boundaries as to power level is good, so someone isn't like "I want to be Dr. Manhattan, except I'm green."

The more explicitly you spell out where the boundaries are, the easier they'll find it to build something within the boundaries.

As DMs, we tend to underestimate how easy it is to imagine characters from whole cloth because it's part of the job when we make NPCs, but players who haven't DMed sometimes have to get over a mental hump to make characters from an authorial perspective (which essentially is what they need to do here) rather than build details into an existing template.
 

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