Character Creation Tips – D&D The Next Generation

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 10, 2010

Think of the most memorable characters that have made appearances at your gaming table over the years. Don’t let this trip down memory lane be restricted to just the characters you played. Think about all of the PCs that have made an impact to your D&D experience. Now assume that many years have past – enough that these characters have settled down and raised families. What is the next generation of heroes like?

I find that creating characters is one of the most exciting parts of D&D. However, creating a character from scratch presents the player with a lot of options. So many that the task can be overwhelming unless you have a good idea of what you want this character to be like before you open character builder. Once you have that initial idea or concept the rest of the process becomes a lot easier.

The next time you and your gaming group decide it’s time to build new characters why not create the next generation of D&D heroes? Think of all the characters that have graced your gaming table over the years. Now imagine what their children are like? You know the parents, how have they influenced and shaped who their kids became?

By establishing this background for the character before you even start, the choices become easier. This back-story will help guide your decision making when you look at training skills and choosing feats, powers and equipment.

You don’t have to limit yourself to the children of your own characters. In fact it’ll probably be more fun to play the child of someone else’s hero. I’m sure there were times when your friend’s character did something that really annoyed you. Draw on that annoyance when you’re creating that PC’s kids. But don’t just focus on the negative. They’re heroes for a reason. Be sure to include a healthy amount of hero-worship (or resentment) as you feel is appropriate. By playing the child of another PC you leave the door open for that other player to step into their old character if there ever needs to be a child-parent interaction.

Motivation

As fun as this initial concept seems on the surface, there is a lot of great opportunity for character development and role-playing too. Ask yourself what the character’s motivations are. Have they become an adventurer because dad pushed them into it? Did they opt for a class their parents disapprove of as a form or rebellion? Maybe the child grew up hearing all the great stories and longs to experience them first hand. Perhaps the parents were killed and the child has vowed revenge upon the monster or assassin who killed them.

Adventuring Hooks

There are also a lot of great adventure hooks built right in to this idea. Here are just a few of the more obvious examples.

  • Did the child steal or “borrow” dad’s magical sword before running off to be an adventurer? Is dad hot on his heels, forcing him to keep on the move? Or did the PC’s older sibling steal dad’s sword and the younger brother now feels obligated to retrieve it?
  • Just how closely does the child resemble the parent? Will the parent’s former associates who are members of a race with a long lifespan mistakenly assume that the child is the parent? Will this be a more common mistake if the child has some of dad’s old adventuring gear?
  • It’s likely that your parents had enemies. If they are still around and learn that the son of their mortal enemy is adventuring on his own, how will that impact your new PC?
  • Maybe your new character is an illegitimate child and he needs to earn a reputation in order to prove himself worthy of the family name. Or maybe dad was unaware that you even exist and you’ve been worshiping him form afar all of your life, waiting for the right moment to introduce yourself.

Creating characters is a lot of fun. By using the “child of my previous character” concept, you invent a way to keep those old heroes alive. They remain in retirement but suddenly their adventures matter again. The children probably retell their parent’s stories to their adventuring comrades (with the appropriate amount of exaggeration). This is also a great way to let a new player feel like part of an established gaming group. The new guy hears about the previous adventures in-game through the next generation of heroes.

Additional Resources

Have you ever played the child of another PC? How strongly did the established and well-known adventures of the parent influence the new game? Did the new PC begin the campaign with any magical items that belonged to their parent? Did this hurt the campaign or add an interesting wild card?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Noumenon September 10, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Wow, great ideas throughout, especially about inheriting weapons and enemies. Would love to make an homage to a friend’s character this way.

2 Alton September 11, 2010 at 9:24 am

I really love the concept.
Dragonlance did something similar with Caramon and his own sons, when Palin took the tests of the High Sorcery.
It is also a good way for the nostalgic players to bring their favorite characters back to the table without the sappiness. I really do like Amerons’ comment on how the child would relive “Dad’s days” in an exaggerated fashion. I am big on roleplaying and this can be used for absolutely anything.

ex. All the characters are sitting around a campfire in the middle of a swamp, telling stories of the past. The mist is thick and the air is humid, every movement in the woods is amplified. The character specifically starts telling a story about his fathers exploits at Trollhaunt Warrens. The character is describing how one night a 15ft Troll oozed his way out of the mist and almost made mince meat of his Father’s adventuring party. As he is telling the story, a Troll may actually be oozing out of the marsh ready to attack the characters. Good for random encounters, or pretty much anything.
Excellent article!!

3 Lord Matteus September 11, 2010 at 11:24 am

Great article. I have used this concept in the past with my Forgotten Realms Campaign. At the time I started playing D&D, the Wyvernspur family had been getting some attention with the Finder’s Stone Trilogy by Kate Novak and Jeff Grub. So, I took up the family name for characters I created and later incorporated as a DM. I felt it helped create a sense of continuity with all of my Forgotten Realms Campaigns as my player’s would meet the son of Roas Wyvernspur (who was my first D&D character), or his niece or his butler. I would use these NPCs to retell the exploits of prior player characters (and their relationship with Dad, or “Uncle Roas”) and how those player’s changed the Forgotten Realms. This continuity really helps develop a sense of ownership for everyone at the gaming table and transform a pre-generated world into one of your own.

4 DarkTouch September 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

The most memorable character that I’ve played with in recent years is a Dwarf named Grumble. In our Pathfinder game he’s a cleric of Torag. All pretty typical really. Except he’s a zealot. He breaks into hellfire and brimstone sermons regularly. It’s awesome and all makes perfect sense for the character. So much so that my original Half-Orc Sorcerer converted to the church of Torag in game and has since become a Paladin of Torag..

5 Rook September 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm

My old gaming group has often thrown around the idea of starting a campaign of next generation characters based of our much beloved epic characters. I really like the idea of switching things up and playing the kid of someone else’s character, allowing for parent-child interaction. Brilliant idea.

6 Ameron September 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm

@Noumenon
Glad you like it. I find that I often struggle with an initial character concept and this, to me, is a good starting point with plenty of potential.

@Alton
We’ve had a lot of turnover in our core group over the years and often tell stories of our favourite PCs. By playing the next generation of heroes we can still share these stories, but do it in game. Thanks for the comment.

@Lord Matteus
Any character with a strong background is easier to play and often more rewarding. This seemed like an easy way to give a brand new PC a fully fleshed out history through their family lineage.

@DarkTouch
It’s been a long time since we had a truly pious PC in our game. As long as his proselytizing isn’t disruptive to the group, and is in character, then I’m all for converting the locals (and fellow PCs).

@Rook
Playing your own PC’s child seems kind of boring to me. Especially if they’re a similar class. Playing the son of your friend’s character sounded like a much more interesting role-playing scenario to me.

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