House Rule: Gradually Reveal Character Details

House Rule: Gradually Reveal Character Details

During character creation, only determine stats and gear. Then, if the character survives the session, they earn more detail. At the start of the following sessions, let everyone roll on one of a number of character aspect tables to flesh out their character, background, and relationships.

Atlas Slave - Michelangelo

Conceptual Status:
 Seems To Works In My Game


I think this simple house rule can have these benefits/effects for old school style play:
  • It helps speeds up the first session to get into gameplay more quickly
  • It adds a fun ritual to the start of every session
  • It dulls the impact of an early death, due to being less attached to a particular persona
  • It increases their desire to survive in order to discover more about their character
  • It emphasizes the tentative nature of the PCs
  • It helps orient the players' focus on the game situation and environment, rather than inward to their character
Of course, you may want to provide the party with an obvious motivation for the starting situation, or perhaps roll for that first.

This can also be done in a game where players create bespoke character backgrounds, rather than discovering them by rolling on tables. In that case, players simply reveal (brief) bits of their character at the start of each session (or perhaps in scenes around the campfire, etc).

In My Campaign

My players loved this aspect of our campaign, with each session starting with a brief ritual where we flesh out the party with more interesting detail, inferred background, and relationships between the characters. One of my players has refused to roll a name yet, so we've refer to him as Nameless all this time.

This probably shouldn't be continued ad nauseum; eventually (maybe after ~8 sessions/details), we got to a point where we felt like the characters had enough meat to them and coherence between each other that, while it was fruitful when they were more skeletal, adding additional random aspects would induce non-sequiturs that would strain our ability to rationalize them in light of the preceding discoveries. But I think we all miss it now!

Related Resources

These are the tables we rolled on for my campaign:

I encourage you to comment below, rather than elsewhere.
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  1. I like it. I've seen this happen spontaneously on its own (learning around session 7 that a character is an exiled queen who needs to track down her insane father to stake a proper claim on the throne), but a bit of a nudge extra doesn't hurt.

  2. I love this idea.

    Are you still working on your "Quintessential B/X" that you mention in the Principia post?

    1. Thanks Shawn. I'll want to revise some bits of QBX in light of running it, but eventually I'll probably post it as a printable booklet.

  3. Yeah, hot tech. I've done this for a while. It's part of the camping ritual. The first evening where the characters survived a fight that day, every PC finds out what unusual item they've got in their backpack and a random one of them sitting around the fire tells a 30-120 second story about how they got it and/or what it means to them.

    Ported this over from a lot of small press games I played 10-15 years back. This approach makes so much sense when character mortality is high and the focus is adventuring.

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