missing fields on the 1e character sheet

In the player-creation process as detailed in the 1e Players Handbook, you roll your stats, choose race/class/alignment, and then “establish your character,” which means 1) making up a name, 2) writing a will, 3) renting an apartment, 4) buying equipment, 5) meeting the other PCs, and 6) acquiring hirelings. In my new-school experience, 2) and 3) never happen, but I’m totally on board with them. Here’s the passage from the PHB:


By determining abilities, race, class, alignment, and hit points you have created your character. Next you must name him or her, and possibly give some family background (and name a next of kin as heir to the possessions of the character if he or she should meet an untimely death) to personify the character. Having done all that, your Dungeon Master will introduce your character to the campaign setting. In all likelihood, whether the locale is a village, town, or city, your character will have to acquaint himself or herself with the territory.

The first step will often be getting into the place i.e. a gate guard demanding to know what business you have in the town or city. Thereafter it will be necessary to locate a safe and reasonably priced place in which to lodge – typically an inn of some sort, but perhaps a rented cot, a loft or even chambers at a hostel. Since the location selected will have to serve as base and depot, it must be relatively safe from intrusion or burglary. Once a headquarters has been found, your character can set about learning the lay of the land, and attempt to find the trade establishments needed to supply the desired equipment for adventuring. Perhaps it will also be necessary to locate where other player characters reside in order to engage in joint expeditions.

In any event, your character created, personified, and established will be ready to adventure once equipment is purchased and relations with other player characters are settled. If player characters are not immediately available, or if they are not co-operative, it is advisable that men-at-arms be hired. Hirelings of this sort, as well as henchmen (q.v.), are detailed in the sections entitled HIRELINGS and HENCHMEN.

Fiddling with D&D logistics like that is a strangely soothing activity. I’d be fine if “choose next of kin” and “pay for lodging, secure it from burglars” were as classic parts of character creation as “buy equipment” and “meet other PCs in tavern.”

(This style of D&D reminds me of The Three Musketeers. It’s a very AD&D book. The characters are greedy: the name for the era’s gold coin, “pistole,” occurs more than 100 times in the book. In Chapter 1, d’Artagnan enters the gates of Paris and rents a garret. Next, he locates the other player characters (by dueling with them). Finally, he engages a hireling (on credit). There’s even a chapter called “Searching for Equipment.”)

I think there was an early, unofficial D&D character sheet that had a blank for “next of kin”. A good start, but not far enough. If this stuff is really part of character creation, the official D&D character sheet should also have spaces for Street Address and Rent. Is the 5e character sheet finalized?

10 Responses to “missing fields on the 1e character sheet”

  1. Jake says:

    Sadly I think 5e is likely to elide those details, 4e style. Here’s the character sheet (not sure whether it’s final or not): http://ow.ly/i/5X4Jr

    I agree that they’re great details, because they force even the most hack-n-slashy player to establish relationships and build setting.

  2. 1d30 says:

    I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to start a campaign where there is no inn available, no secure place for storage of loot and sleeping off your carousing. Maybe a little civilized village built inside a ruined city, similar to Phlan. People in town have houses but aren’t willing to let murderhobos leave impressions or incisions on their children by staying over. I guess you’d assume someone would start an inn, but maybe inns always get broken into because adventurers sleep there next to fortunes in gold coin and magic items, and so have a terrible reputation. Travelers camp in the streets or a ruined building.

    As the PCs gather valuables they should consider it important to secure some part of the ruins for themselves. It’s part of establishing themselves as members of the society. If some PC doesn’t trust another they could set up different living spaces. As the ruins are stone and players naturally love castles, these dwellings will quickly become fortified as the PCs spend funds on masons, carpenters, and architects. And the dwellings will become festooned with valuables as the players raid the dungeon and wilderness for treasure. Naturally this will attract thieves and if the players don’t adequately secure the premises they will be burgled and gain a reputation for being an easy mark.

    I think many players must get on pretty easily, with the DM rarely ever introducing encounters with pickpockets, wizards paid to identify items but who swap it out with a cheaper but similar-looking item, thieving fences, burglaries of their rooms at the inn, malicious tax-men, etc. Basically anything from Lankhmar. Certainly players regularly skip out on encumbrance issues, carrying thousands of GP on their persons with no reduction in movement. It all depends on the DM I think.

  3. KenHR says:

    The original 1e character sheets had spaces for all that. A fairly generous space on the back was given over to writing out your will, frex. And there were spaces for info on your lodging and such.

    Those sheets were baroque pieces of genius. And I always tried to fill in every bit of them (I learned a LOT about the rules doing that…I think I was the only one in the area who ran unarmed combat BtB, ha).

  4. Jake says:

    KenHR: I have been using the unarmed combat rules for my two 1st edition Google+ play-by-post games. It works great in play-by-post, since you have plenty of time to do all of the calculations — and also unarmed combats are over super fast at low level.

    I do think that Gygax made up those unarmed combat rules as he was writing them, and no one ever edited them. 😉

  5. paul paul says:

    Ah yes, you’re right: this character sheet has all that: http://www.mad-irishman.net/pubs/MI_AD&D2CharacterRecordSheets.pdf

    Is this the 1e original? What a great character sheet this is! The cleric one has a blank for “parish.”

  6. Jake Maas says:

    Oh, yes, that’s the 1e original. I had a wave of nostalgia just looking at it.

    I also like the tiny box clerics get for “Status in Church.” Every cleric I have played would need half a page, at least.

    Oh yes, I could spend a lot of time with this character sheet…

  7. KenHR says:

    Jake: I think you may be correct. They work, but they’re not very wieldy at the table. I did convert the system to use a d20 rather than d100 for a couple 2e campaigns I ran in the late ’90s.

    Funny, those character sheet packs had a lot of (imo) critical adventuring rules that I only had access to because my brothers had bought them back in the ’80s and bequeathed them to me. Stuff like carrying capacity of packs and sacks, etc. It turned me into quite the rules lawyer, which I hate to admit persisted until the ’90s, haha.

  8. Baf says:

    One of the things I like about the more narrativist RPGs and “storytelling games” is that they tend to make character background of this sort into an integral part of the character creation process,. Heck, in Fiasco, establishing your character’s relationship with the other PCs is the *entirety* of the character creation process.

  9. Paul says:

    That’s great. The character sheet is really the players’ main window into the rules, more important than the PHB at the table. It’s great to pack rules for the whole play experience in there.

  10. Friar Ambrose says:

    I seem to remember a D&D/AD&D clone from the late 1970’s / early 1980’s called “Chivalry & Sorcery” … I only played it a few sessions (moved soon after) but as I recall that game had a lot of character background development built into the character creation process. Anybody know the game or better still have a copy of it?

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