October 3, 2013
What Goes On A Character Sheet
The other day I helped some of my friends create characters for a rather impromptu game of Rifts. None of them had ever played before, and so everything was new to them. We started out jotting down notes on some blank paper before organizing everything and putting it down on a character sheet. I always find that doing this is incredibly helpful, especially when the official character sheets are not much to speak of. Games like Rifts, that are very crunch heavy, require a lot of character notes, and so it can be difficult to discern what needs to go on the sheet and what does not. Is it okay to just note that your character has that nifty device you had them purchase or should you note exactly what that device can do? Should you note only what spells your character knows or should you also write down the entire description of the spell out of the book? As with many things, there is no one right answer to this question, though I find that the best solution is to note as much as you can so you have as little need for the books as possible during a game.
Your character sheet is not your character. Your character sheet is a tool used to remind you of all the things your character knows how to do and how to do them. It is meant to be used to track all of the numerous statistics that make up a role-playing game character. In short, it is your notes about your character, organized so that everything is easy to find. That is why your character sheet should have all of the information that you need to play your character, so you can do exactly that. So, while another player may need to note every detail about every spell or psionic power their character has, you might not. You might have memorized the entire game’s grimoire (and yes, I have met someone who has done exactly that) and so you do not need to note every detail of your character. However, you should be able to provide proof of what your character is capable of doing should your Gamemaster ask for it. Gamemaster’s do not enjoy calling someone out for cheating, but if you do not have noted what your character can do, there is no way for us to know if you are or not. Trust can only go so far, so it helps to keep good notes about your character’s abilities.
I do not use character sheets much anymore. Personally, I find that using my laptop and an Open Office document works just find. It uses less paper, because gamers can be Eco-friendly, too. Plus it allows me to customize each character document to my own needs. My goal with each character is to not need to look at the game books at all during play. Typically, I have most of my core information on the first page, namely things like the character’s class, alignment, attributes, skills, and basic abilities. Following that, I note whatever else the character uses or owns, and then the remainder of the document is all the information I need copied out of the books so that it is at my fingertips when needed. Sure, this means that I can have character sheets as long as twenty or more pages, but this frees up the books for others and means I do not detract from the game by having to pause to look something up. Questions like “So, how does this spell work again?” or “How big of a blast radius does a frag grenade have?” can sometimes pull you out of a really awesome in-game moment.
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