D&D 5E The "Sealed Envelope" Character Campaign. Would you play?

I'd happily try it for a one-shot or for a mini-campaign of a couple of sessions, but for anything longer I'd prefer to create my own character. My gaming time is limited, and I'd prefer to spend it playing PCs that I actually want to play.

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Only if this was in one of the envelopes.

Kidding aside, I've pregened PCs for players and ran full campaigns with them. I found it works better for newer players to get a game up and running to introduce people and get them acclimated to the game. Once they are more experienced, they want to make their own PCs. But yes, I would play (and have played pregens) but as others have said they need to be complete, having to finish half of someone's work seems too much like a job.


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Staff member
With a good GM? Probably. Other than that, coin toss.

Besides, even though I’ve never done it suiciding a character I don’t like isn’t exactly difficult.


....There is a challenge here, of course, and I expect players who "only want to play what I want to play" will say "no". I also understand for many people playing time is limited, so having that view is not by default a bad one (no judgement here!).

As I opened with, I have run such games in AD&D with a lot of success, but with modern views I am not certain how well received it would be.
Why would this be beneficial? What, in your opinion, would make this an attractive option for players to enjoy?

I find that random commitments often do not play well. If your goal is to get players to try something unusual, I think you'd get better results (if your players know each other) by having them build PCs for each other rather than assemble them randomly. This gives people a chance to experience a design they perhaps did not create, but still to have the efficiency of a well designed character with a plan behind the construction.

As I have dozens of PC ideas that I actively am eager to play and have yet to get to the table, I would rather play in a campaign where I get to use one of those ideas.


Unserious gamer
But for anything longer I guess I prefer a bit more of a hands-on approach, even if all those hands are doing is rolling a lot of dice and writing down the results. I've done the completely-random character thing numerous times in long-standing campaigns and some of them have worked out quite well, so if a whole campaign were slated to start out this way I'd be in like Flynn.
Yea, there's a lot to be said for procedural generation of characters. Two of my favorite old-school games (Beyond the Wall and WWN) both heavily feature this, and I really enjoy the rules around creating the character.


There are some DMs I’d play that game with, sure.
This is my answer too. Some GMs I will do whatever they want to run because I trust it will be fun. Other GMs, not so much.

Also, probably not my only campaign, but if I was looking for a second game id probably give it a whirl.


I'd definitely be in for a game like that. It would offer me a chance to play outside of my usual selections, and having the backups ready sets the expectations that the PC's might not be expected to survive, which is another plus for me.


Dusty Dragon
In warhammer frpg (2nd ed), you choose your race, then you roll twice for your career (a sort of class/background combo) and pick one of the two. If you got ratcatcher and peasant? well that's what you rolled.


100% yes.

The character is how I play it, not what its stats are. I'll create a character out of anything.

(This actually reminds me of a thread that was here on the boards however long ago... a year, two years?... where the game was to roll for a random low-level spell on a chart the OP made I think... and that we were then supposed to create an entire character based around that spell being their most important facet. It was a heck of a lot of fun. This sounds kind of like that, except there are just more bits that are selected for me to guide me in my design.)

So, the question: would you play in such a campaign?
I think the first question here is to the DM. Why?

The change is a pretty major constraint on playing the class/race/archetype that I would like so before committing myself, I would want to know why the DM thinks this would improve the gaming experience.

Already, “trust me, I have a plan” is a non-starter. Why does the plan depend on you not sharing the plan with me?

“To try something different” is also a response to be wary of. I am always wary when “try something different” means “different is a large impact on you, minimal impact on me”.

If there is a good reason for it, I’d be willing to try it for a short campaign.


If I felt comfortable with the DM and the other players at the table, I’d give it a shot.

I’ve played in this sort of situation at gaming conventions - in one case I ended up with a fighter who had a 6 int in a OD&D game (though oddly, he had a ring of 3 wishes…); it was interesting to play, to say the least.

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
I would play if I knew and trusted the DM, but it's not clear what is being gained by the process.

Players are given (a choice of two) stats, race, personality traits, and they then choose class and build.

Stats: functionally no different than rolling or a customized array, and if the DM had made them grossly unequal it's easy enough to say no thank you right away.

Race: race is an important factor for many players. Being assigned a race takes that fun away, but acceptable in most circumstances. Again, not functionally different than a random determination, which would be fine, except it allows the DM to stack the deck. I'd prefer the DM just say "everyone is small" and let the player choose (or whatever).

Personality Traits: What does this gain over random determination? I would accept them, and then quickly let them blend into who I wanted. But This does feel invasive, if the DM is going to start policing player behaviour because they are not following the pre-written traits well enough. This, for me is the big obstacle.

So... would I play? You bet -- I suspect I could make something I'd love to play out of any combination given to me. It's more complicated than it needs to be for Stats and Race, but that's fine. I would want to be clear why personality traits are being assigned, and how that would be monitored/policed over a campaign.


Victoria Rules
The change is a pretty major constraint on playing the class/race/archetype that I would like so before committing myself, I would want to know why the DM thinks this would improve the gaming experience.
The bolded is, I think, the whole point: the idea is that instead of going into char-gen with a character concept already built in your head, you go in with a blank slate and then adapt to whatever the envelope (or dice-rolling) gives you.

In other words, you have to adapt your play/desires to suit the character, rather than adapting the character to suit your play/desires.

James Gasik

When I was considering doing something like this, I realized my players (despite the fact that some of them seem to really struggle with making characters) might balk, so this is how I was going to do it.

I'd take a bunch of notecards in two piles. Race and Class. I'd hand everyone two random cards from each stack.

"Alright, as you can see, you have two Race cards and two Class cards. If you make a character of either of those Races, you get a bonus. If you use either of those two Classes, you get a bigger bonus."

At the time, we were playing Pathfinder, so the basic bonus was a bonus Trait, and the larger bonus was a bonus Feat. I'm not sure how I'd do that in 5e- Feats are a bit stronger, and there's nothing like Traits...maybe a Skill or Tool proficiency? But that's the general idea.


As a one shot or limited series of games kind of thing, hell yeah, sounds like fun. As an entire campaign, no I want to get to craft my character at that point.


Staff member
Or, how about just tell them, "Folks, for this game, I'd like to see each of you play a race & a class you haven't played before."
In my most recent game group, this would be akin to torture for a couple of them.

One Guy had primarily played optimized human wizards since AD&D, with only minimal variations. Very Brian VanHoose. In 4Ed, he stretched to play a cold-themed human wizard.

Another guy plays some kind of sharpshooter 90%+ of the time, regardless of RPG or genre. I’ve only seen one PC of his that broke that mold in 20 years.


The High Aldwin
Thanks to all for responses! I'll expound a bit since people have asked: why? what is gained? why not complete pre-gens?

  • First, the "why?"
Fate. Chance. Plain and simple. None of us choose who we are, who are (biological) parents were, and so forth. We each were born with an innate measure of ability in STR, DEX, etc. as well. Now, we can certain work to change our measure of ability to a point, which is why I included the drop 2 points to raise 1 point elsewhere. This shows the work a person can do to become strong, quicker, smarter, and so forth. With ASIs later on you could continue to improve which ever ability you wanted, of course.

I liked the idea posed above about making it random, which I have also done before, and even allowing the players to roll up the races and ability scores, etc. would be ok.

  • Next, "what is gained?" A couple things, IMO.
1. A sense of playing something outside of the box, which might or might not be the case depending on the random selection you pick. You at least have a bit of sense of ownership in that you have two selections and can choose between those two.

2. Making something great out of something when you have little control over what you start with.

With 5E, for instance, the ONLY thing typically left to chance IME is starting gold--and even that is often either "choose starting equipment based on class" or "you get maximum gold, don't bother rolling." Now, I know a lot of people DO roll ability scores instead of using point-buy or the standard array, but even then very few stick to the old "roll in order" mentality. So, even if you roll, YOU still choose what your strong and weak points are.

  • Also, people asked "why not complete pre-gens?"
Well, I felt forcing the choice of class, which IMO should be determined by the PC during the course of their "lives", would be too much. I think most of us (hopefully) got to choose our profession, right? And I would imagine most of us choose careers/paths that we felt would benefit us the most, we would enjoy the most, or whatever.

In summary, the idea was not so much about pre-gen characters who might fit the adventure/campaign/whatever. It is more about NOT having the choices for your PC you don't, yourself, have in real life. TBH, I debated a LOT about backgrounds and whether those would be pre-determined or allowing the PC to choose, but IMO race and ability scores are things we have little control over.

As I said in the OP, I know for many players it is about playing something you really WANT to play, and idea you've had of your own, and for many of us with (very) limited play time, I can understand why this might not have any appeal.

  • Finally, how long would this last/run?
Who knows? If people enjoy it, it might run the entire campaign. If not, I would stop and let players make their own PC as usual. 🤷‍♂️


Staff member
“To try something different” is also a response to be wary of. I am always wary when “try something different” means “different is a large impact on you, minimal impact on me”.
Speaking for myself only, I wouldn’t say this is a minimal impact thing for the GM.

If your group has enough players firmly entrenched in certain roles, they become a bit of an open book for you. If- taking my above-mentioned group as an example- you know one guy will always play the sniper and the other the wizard, their reactions to certain things will be fairly predictable.

Give someone else a chance in those roles- if they’re even represented in the random draw- means you’ve lost a degree of certainty about how encounters will go.

Clearest example: the optimized wizard player is very surgical and precise in his casting. He usually picks the right spell to use, and rarely casts anything more than what a given encounter requries. He has a decent collection of magic daggers or darts; he never goes nova.

A player new to playing a wizard might be all about lobbing those spells, and might jeopardize his party if he’s out of magic at a crucial point.

The adventure you crafted to be a good test for your group might turn into a TPK just because of that swap.

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