One of the first questions I get when a new player joins the table is “what’s a character sheet?” Those of us who have been playing for awhile tend to take questions like these for granted – why would someone who’s never played before know what a character sheet is? And naturally, there are many of these types of questions as they get up to speed – as there should be.
So today’s post answers one of the basics: what is a character sheet?
Your Character on Paper
In stories, characters have attributes. Whether they be of the mind, body, or spirit, characters possess traits, talents, and flaws. Hermione is brilliant, clever, and brave. Sam Gamgee loyal, enduring, and steadfast. Jean Luc Picard, wise, diplomatic, and excellent leadership. Whatever those attributes are, tabletop role-playing game systems, the underlying set of rules which facilitate playing stories, try to quantify them.
Growing up, I played the Star Trek Collectible Card Game (CCG). Characters in that game had Strength, Cunning, and Integrity as their core attributes as well as both skills and their role which they could contribute to solving dilemmas. Picard might have had 6 Strength, 10 Cunning, and 11 Integrity. Whereas Data might have had 12 Strength, 11 Cunning, and 10 Integrity. But Picard had his Officer role, Diplomacy, Leadership and more I’m sure. And Data had Engineering, Physics, and Robotics.
The Star Trek CCG was translating those characters, and their attribute/traits/talents, into quantifiable bits and pieces. Those cards were character sheets – a quantified version of the character on paper apropos to the system. And when you tried to solve dilemmas, you perhaps needed a certain amount of Strength, or Officers, or Engineers.
Those cards, those character sheets, are what allowed the player, via those characters, to interact and proceed with the story at hand.
Today’s Character Sheets
Taking it a step further, Dungeons and Dragons for example, has a far more robust character sheet. Everything from your Strength, to your Intellect, to your Charisma is on there along side your skills, talents, bases of knowledge, and reactions to various issues. Having that quantitative foundation allows your character to interact with the multitude of challenges in the story world.
Trying to persuade a king, for example, should use a different skill-set from your character than battling a goblin king one on one. And for Dungeons and Dragons, set in a incredibly diverse high-fantasy setting, naturally, there can be many different types of challenges and obstacles! So the character sheet should be complex enough to accommodate that story flow.
Our system, StoryNite, is aimed at the new and intermediate players. While the attributes, skills, and talents are there, everything is simplified and slimmed down to facilitate playing stories to the widest possible audience without sacrificing the wonderful depth, nuance, and great times that come along for the ride.
So there’s your answer: character sheets are a quick way of quantitatively measuring your character’s capabilities on paper for use when playing a story! If you have any questions on this topic, just let me know and we’ll solve it for you…