Monday, November 9, 2009

Standardized Sheets? Phooey!

On the left, I include the character sheet front page of one of my players, running a mage/thief.  I only chanced to see this a few days ago, as it is on my player's computer - and she hasn't had access to her computer for a few months.*

The character sheet is of her own design, created on power point.  It has a definitely feminine appearance, but no matter - it suits her personality and it suits what is important to her about her character.

I hate standardized character sheets.  In a world like mine, where there are many house rules, and where many of the rules that have been imposed by the establishment in the last three decades are ignored entirely, bought or downloaded character sheets are a total waste.

To begin with, I do not have any alignments.  Nor skills.  Nor feats, electrum or platinum pieces, nor multiple spoken languages or a number of other features.  But I do have excessive details about the character's past, knowledge fields and specialties and other things which a character must take account for.

The thing is, as a character develops in my world, one sheet is never enough.  I tend to introduce a lot of NPCs that have only a passing acquaintance to characters, plus many details about the world and a considerable amount of highly diverse objects to be found.  By fifth level, most of my players find they are keeping at least five to seven sheets of notes, designs, maps and so on.  They find they have to divide their equipment up between what's stored at their keep, what's on their horse, what's hanging on what belt and what is in what pouch, since I care about things like that.  It gets complicated.

And since most equipment sheets are busy with lines and boxes and extraneous shit, they're not very flexible when it comes to anything except a cold, lifeless list.  Besides, anything kept on paper needs to be rewritten and rewritten, over and over.  Annoyingly.

So again, thank you for computers.

Most of my players like to have a computer generated sheet that they can print off, scratch all over the page making notes, then go home and update.  Virtually every standardized sheet I've seen is full of black ink which can't be comfortably written over and which reduces, considerably, the space for notes.  Note that the character sheet in the example above has tons of white space.

In most ways, a character sheet is like a player's home.  Sometimes messy, sometimes clean, but always very personal.  It defies standardization and it should defy standardization.  I am always arguing that players need to think outside  the box.

Giving them more boxes to fill doesn't help.

* The cantrips are missing from the sheet because somehow in the computer being down that data was lost.  We didn't have time our last running to generate new ones, and the character wasn't in the combat we were running.


A Paladin In Citadel said...

Agree with you 100%. As long as the sheet makes sense to the player, and I have a summary of the character behind the screen, Players should use whatever sheet design works best for them.

The only use for pre-made sheets is for new players and DMs, when they have not yet arrived at what works best for them.

Ryan said...

I find I still like notebook paper for characters sheets more than "official" or even well-made DIY character sheets. This might have something to do with me not having regular access to a printer until high school... but at the same time, notebook paper is where I can write down what's relevant and skip the rest. I find myself adverse to using computers to keep any sort of game related record, given my track record with the damn things.