ACKS has an optional rule for generating multiple characters to start with: roll up five, pick one primary and two backups. Others go the Judge’s NPC pool.
I like this in several ways, but find some of the details niggly — at least in the context of my game.
- It drives home that characters can die, which not everyone is used to.
- It decreases the chances of having characters with truly sucky stats.
- It increases the chances of meeting the minimums for the class you wanted to play. (Not that those minimums are particularly onerous in ACKS.)
- It smooths the speed bumps caused by character death, because the replacement is there already.
- It slows things down when you have several new players. Since I have a fairly large and variable pool of players, I expect someone who hasn’t played before to be present at least 50% of the time. Making up one character with a new player takes 15 minutes. Rolling up five and fully statting out three can easily take an hour.
- It splits the focus. Since not every character survives even the first session, I would like to have those characters shine as brightly for the short time they’re with us.
- My initial intention (and the way we ran the first session) was to allow hiring one of the backups as a henchman, and largely waive the morale and loyalty rules for this PC-in-waiting. While this significantly bolsters the strength of the group (which is good), it worsen the issue of split focus, introduces issues of character ownership (Judge or player?), and is also strictly speaking against the rules: henchmen are supposed to be of a lower level than the PC hiring them.
While I might not care so much about the RAW re. level of henchmen — since that is what also bolsters the strength of the group — the split focus and ownership questions do matter to me. I’m on reflection also not entirely happy with waving the morale and loyalty rules for the PCs-in-waiting.