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

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
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.

🤷‍♂️

race, ability scores, backgrounds all fit these parameters well, and I'd bee happy to commit to excitedly. There are so many characters I'd want to try, I am sure I could make something work.

alignment and personality traits (things we do control in real life) should be left to the players, IMO (I would not want to be told to play an evil character, for example -- that is not the fun I am looking for).
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I think if a player has "stat envy", it's a good chance that there are larger issues at hand.
It wasn’t stat envy, it was option envy.

2Ed Player’s Option rules essentially amounted to a point buy system for choosing opti9ns for your PC. We we’re both playing human clerics, so we started from the same point.

He chose to go with an unarmored martial artist with few weapons, cleric HD & attacks. He had few Domains, but had major access to almost all of them, so he had many spells, plus access to one school of Wizard spells (I forget which, but it was something with significant offensive potential). He kept his Tuning power standard.

I chose a heavily armored caster with edged weapons and fighter HD & attacks. While my PC had access to a lot of Domains, most were restricted to minor access (IOW capped at 3rd-4th level or some such). His Turning became Incite Berserker Rage. Essentially, he was an alt-Paladin. And while he also had access to a Wizard school, it was Abjuration. Of his entire list of potential spells, only 2 did damage (Blade Barrier was one), and almost everything he could ever cast was either healing or a buff- most of which worked better on other PCs.

All he could see is that my character had access to a broader variety of spells than his, while having increased martial prowess by retaining armor and boosting HD & attacks. Nevermind that my PC would never have more than a couple truly powerful spells, ever. Most of my PC’s list of spells would be useless against mid-level or better protection magic.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It wasn’t stat envy, it was option envy.

2Ed Player’s Option rules essentially amounted to a point buy system for choosing opti9ns for your PC. We we’re both playing human clerics, so we started from the same point.

He chose to go with an unarmored martial artist with few weapons, cleric HD & attacks. He had few Domains, but had major access to almost all of them, so he had many spells, plus access to one school of Wizard spells (I forget which, but it was something with significant offensive potential). He kept his Tuning power standard.

I chose a heavily armored caster with edged weapons and fighter HD & attacks. While my PC had access to a lot of Domains, most were restricted to minor access (IOW capped at 3rd-4th level or some such). His Turning became Incite Berserker Rage. Essentially, he was an alt-Paladin. And while he also had access to a Wizard school, it was Abjuration. Of his entire list of potential spells, only 2 did damage (Blade Barrier was one), and almost everything he could ever cast was either healing or a buff- most of which worked better on other PCs.

All he could see is that my character had access to a broader variety of spells than his, while having increased martial prowess by retaining armor and boosting HD & attacks. Nevermind that my PC would never have more than a couple truly powerful spells, ever. Most of my PC’s list of spells would be useless against mid-level or better protection magic.
That's even stranger! All he had to do was say "DM, I think I messed up, could I redo my character?"
 

So, the question: would you play in such a campaign?
Definitely not.

If it was open choice of a bunch of fully coherent and generally well-designed PCs, sure, I've done that loads of times. But that's not what you're suggesting, your description is of a very messy and confused process (you say you've run it like this before, but have you, actually, with this level of needless randomization, in 5E?).

Maybe if just class/race were semi-randomized as you described. But randomizing alignment and personality traits is pointless and destructive, frankly, and never going to make for a fun game in my 30+ year experience - it just leaves about 30-60% of players frustrated, and those it doesn't are the ones who get least involved with their characters - background isn't great too, because backgrounds aren't intended to be picked from a set (this is a common but serious misapprehension), backgrounds are custom by default - the set ones are optional examples.

I'm less concerned about the death stuff, because realistically once 1-2 PCs die the whole party will wipe soon thereafter unless the DM scales the challenge down (which seems unlikely in this scenario). Or you'll make it to levels where revives are possible.

EDIT - Honestly the multiple layers of randomization are what makes this seem like a trash waste of time to me - if you had two fully-formed and coherent characters in the envelopes it would be vastly less obnoxious.

EDIT EDIT - NM I misread some of this.
 
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DND_Reborn

Legend
But that's not what you're suggesting, your description is of a very messy and confused process.
It is perfectly fine if you don't like the concept, but it is not "very messy and confused" by any means. It was rather straight-forward.

But randomizing alignment and personality traits is moronic, frankly
They would not be random. The PCs would be fully developed short of the choice of class, money and equipment.

never going to make for a fun game in my 30+ year experience - it just leaves about 30-60% of players frustrated
Fair enough, but perhaps you could be a bit less vehement about your position as it goes off a bit, well, badly IMO. Thank you.
 

They would not be random. The PCs would be fully developed short of the choice of class, money and equipment.
Oh that makes more sense, I misread - I was under the impression each element was randomized (I dealt with a DM who did this a few decades ago lol and your proposal sounded like how he ran Dark Sun).

So it's character with everything filled in except class?

In that case I probably would, so long as the characters weren't edgelord-y - which based on your posts I doubt that they would be. That's the real killer with pregen PCs - when someone who likes "extreme" PCs does them.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
Oh that makes more sense, I misread - I was under the impression each element was randomized (I dealt with a DM who did this a few decades ago lol and your proposal sounded like how he ran Dark Sun).
Good, I am glad that makes more sense. Your response did catch me a bit off guard....

So it's character with everything filled in except class?
Yes. And equipment, since that depends on class, of course.

I don't think I mentioned it in the OP, but the envelopes would also include brief back stories as well, to ground the PC in the game world.

In that case I probably would, so long as the characters weren't edgelord-y - which based on your posts I doubt that they would be. That's the real killer with pregen PCs - when someone who likes "extreme" PCs does them.
LOL, no, nothing too crazy or anything.
 

Good, I am glad that makes more sense. Your response did catch me a bit off guard....
I think one of the issues with RPGs as a hobby is anyone who has played widely and particularly played stuff before the mid '00s is quite likely to be traumatized by some really bad DMs out there. The Dark Sun guy didn't use envelopes, but it he had tables you had to roll on and he cross stuff off as it got taken. The funny thing was he didn't even run a particularly high-lethality Dark Sun game!
LOL, no, nothing too crazy or anything.
Yeah it's interesting that I think most pre-gens from adventures are fine, and stuff like the pregens from DarkStryder (for WEG/D6 Star Wars) were masterpieces, but I've definitely encountered some outliers and with some DMs I could imagine being forced between "Rapey Vibe The Roguish" and "Sir Pol of Pot, who wishes to genocide all greenskins" or the like.

I guess the only question I have is why not include classes when you're fixing stats? Presumably the choices would be very limited anyway, from whatever stat had been made primary?
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I guess the only question I have is why not include classes when you're fixing stats? Presumably the choices would be very limited anyway, from whatever stat had been made primary?
Either you missed the post or overlooked my responses in it.

To summarize, this concept basically sits on the things about life we have control over and what we don't. We don't control our race, who are parents were, what ability we have innately (STR, DEX, etc.).

However, we can exercise, learn, etc. so I am allowing a -2 to one ability to gain a +1 to another once the PC is selected.

Although background will be chosen (which I debated about!), it was more chosen not because we don't have a choice in life, but because of the point in the PC's life when the player will "take over".

When the player takes over is the point at which the PC will embark on the point of adventure and since class is the primary aspect of a PC, I did not want to limit players in THAT choice as well.

Personality traits will be selected and given along with the PC's back story to give the player a "direction" in the character. Sort of like a director giving actors direction, but trusting them to then improv, adapting the character to become their own.

Finally, I find the fact players get to "pick and choose" every aspect of their character a bit off-putting. Nowadays even ability scores are arranged to taste instead of rolled in order....

Some have suggested to give the players a greater sense of ownership, allowing them to do the rolls, choose races and backgrounds, but then redistribute the PCs randomly. So, you might get a PC of your own creation, or someone else might (more likely).
 

Either you missed the post or overlooked my responses in it.

To summarize, this concept basically sits on the things about life we have control over and what we don't. We don't control our race, who are parents were, what ability we have innately (STR, DEX, etc.).

However, we can exercise, learn, etc. so I am allowing a -2 to one ability to gain a +1 to another once the PC is selected.

Although background will be chosen (which I debated about!), it was more chosen not because we don't have a choice in life, but because of the point in the PC's life when the player will "take over".

When the player takes over is the point at which the PC will embark on the point of adventure and since class is the primary aspect of a PC, I did not want to limit players in THAT choice as well.

Personality traits will be selected and given along with the PC's back story to give the player a "direction" in the character. Sort of like a director giving actors direction, but trusting them to then improv, adapting the character to become their own.

Finally, I find the fact players get to "pick and choose" every aspect of their character a bit off-putting. Nowadays even ability scores are arranged to taste instead of rolled in order....

Some have suggested to give the players a greater sense of ownership, allowing them to do the rolls, choose races and backgrounds, but then redistribute the PCs randomly. So, you might get a PC of your own creation, or someone else might (more likely).
Yeah I get what you're saying it's just that de facto, when:

Attributes
Race
Background
Alignment
Backstory
Personality

Are all pre-set, there's going to be maybe 1-2 classes that will actually be not actively anti-optimised, and probably only one of those fits well with the backstory and personality. I think this is why pre-gens usually include the class. It's like, the STR primary guy, will he have a background that makes a Barbarian plausible? Will he have non-dumped CHA so he could pick Paladin? I guess the DEX guy weirdly might have the most options - well him and the CHA guy!

(I say "guy" but there's presumably more than two for each stat except CON)
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Are all pre-set, there's going to be maybe 1-2 classes that will actually be not actively anti-optimised, and probably only one of those fits well with the backstory and personality.
Perhaps, but IME I think the choice of classes will be closer to 3 or 4 really. After all, most of the PCs will probably have two abilities which would allow good class selection, if not great.

I don't favor optimised characters, at least not at the start, and with ASI just about any combination will work well.

Now, for players that prefer more optimised PCs, I doubt this would appeal in the beginning. Who knows?

EDIT: CON isn't as large a concern, as we house-ruled CON bonus no longer adds to HP. Just FYI.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Tangent to the topic, but a friend of mine once ran a D&D mini-campaign (an adventure path to take us from 1st to 10th level) where everyone had to randomly determine their character race using the table in the reincarnate spell description. It was a lot of fun! There wasn't nearly as much wailing and gnashing of teeth as some folks in this thread might suggest, either.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Are all pre-set, there's going to be maybe 1-2 classes that will actually be not actively anti-optimised, and probably only one of those fits well with the backstory and personality. I think this is why pre-gens usually include the class. It's like, the STR primary guy, will he have a background that makes a Barbarian plausible? Will he have non-dumped CHA so he could pick Paladin? I guess the DEX guy weirdly might have the most options - well him and the CHA guy!
Theoretically, the DM stuffing the envelopes could alleviate that by using a stat spread that has multiple highest stats. Like a character with a 15 Str, 14 Dex, and 14 Int.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Sometime I did back in AD&D, and of course requires player buy-in, but I wondered if people (in general) might be willing to give this a try:

A dozen (or more) pre-generated PC concepts are made and placed in sealed envelopes. Each concept will include race, ability scores, backgrounds, along with alignment and personality traits.

Each player gets to choose two envelopes to open and review the concepts inside. You MUST play one or the other. You cannot change your race or your background, etc. Ability scores can be adjusted only by reducing a score two points to increase a different score one point.

You then choose your class, starting equipment, etc. as normal.

If your character dies, by default your new character is based on your second envelop selection, using the same rules, but will enter the game at the same level as your deceased character.

If both characters die, you can make a sidekick character to continue playing or may leave the game as a player. If envelopes remain, you can choose a third as well, if your first two PCs are deceased. You may continue to come to view how the game unfolds if you wish, of course!

So, the question: would you play in such a campaign?

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.
I’d give it a try, sure.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Weirdly, the fact that they were pre-generated beforehand makes it a bit of a turn-off. I'd totally be on board with doing a random generation if I rolled the race, class, personality traits, etc, on a table, but having someone else do it for me makes me feel not attached.

Not a logical stance, I know, but that's how I feel about it.
That’s how it goes sometimes. I would bet a lot of people would feel just the opposite, willing to play a randomly selected pre-Gen, but not to randomly generate a character from scratch.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Something like this might be fun for a one-shot. Have something like 10 pre-gens per player. Run Tomb of Horrors or similar killer dungeon. If your character dies, take a shot and randomly select a new pre-gen, who coincidentally shows up at just that moment. See if you can complete the dungeon before running out of pre-gens or dying of alcohol poisoning.
 


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