Character Sheets: Lessons in Learning

The RPG community has a joint understanding of that guy — the person so completely oblivious to the way their actions affect the other players that the only option is to kick the nerd out. I see a similar problem in online communities. It's a kind of that guy-lite. I call them: those people.

What do you mean "those people"?

Codified games like this can attract people who love rules and tradition, people who are convinced that the official way is the best way. I see them perched like gargoyles on Reddit, shutting down discussion with unhelpful gatekeeping. Those people try to correct streaming DMs who make a calling outside the official rules. Those people think that being correct is an opportunity to be snarky and unkind. Those people can bugger off.

In general, I don't think it's helpful to assume anyone is motivated by cruelty or stupidity, or anything so reductive. But in this instance, I can't help but see a lack of empathy. Whenever I see someone unnecessarily tear another person down on Reddit, I mark them as one of those people using the Reddit Enhancement Suite and avoid talking with them moving forward.

So what's the problem?

The problem arrives when those people have anything to do with introducing a new player to the game. Nothing turns new players off more than some haughty connoisseur trying to drill the entire Player's Handbook through their skull, not empathizing with what it's like to be brand spanking new to the concept of an RPG. 

To learn or teach the game, I think these are three important attitudes:

  • It's OK to simplify the rules.
  • It's OK to make mistakes.
  • It's OK to ask questions.

With those thoughts in mind, I made a D&D character sheet for beginners.

Character sheets for beginners

  • The first section of this character sheet explains what Dungeons & Dragons is — that's an indication of the players' expected exposure to roleplaying games.
  • Much like the pregens from the Lost Mine of Phandelver, these pregens will take characters from level 1 to level 3. 
  • All pregens come with preselected spells and a suite of spell cards.
  • The bottom strip has a cheat sheet to remember the dice names. Dice are colour-coded to match The Dice of Rolling.
  • All derivative math has been removed, so every number on this sheet is actionable. No proficiency bonus, no ability scores or modifiers. This will piss those people off. (Good!)
  • Ability scores are available in a separate errata text document in case players want to take this character to level 4 and graduate to a more complex sheet.
  • Abilities are written in full where possible, or in simplified language.
  • Abilities and spell slots indicate the level at which they're unlocked.
  • Small text explains some of the less-intuitive elements, like hit dice or how to make an attack roll.