One of the things that I like to do before a campaign starts is to give my players a chance to test their characters. This allows them to tweak their characters and make changes before being locked in during our first session. Often players only change a minor thing like what weapon they use or spells they know/prepared. Sometimes an ability just doesn’t pan out the way we thought it would in the conceptual phase vs the in-play phase. I work hard to assist them with making their concept come to life at the table. I want them to be happy playing their character – especially for something as long as a campaign arc. It also allows for mistakes to be made without huge long-term consequences right out of the gate.
Second, it also has the added benefit of the other players learning about each character. Since each player’s character exists within the microcosm of the party, they need to learn about each other in order to function cohesively as a unit. While this happens naturally at table over time, I find that this extra boost makes things more interesting and expedites that process even further.
Third, it gives the players a chance to find their character’s voice. I don’t require character voices at my table (and I understand this may make it more difficult to discern who is talking during a podcast) but this lets the player understand who their character is beyond what they have filled out on the character sheet. For example, Ashta normally plays a fastidious character. Her characters are often the hyper aware detail-oriented rogue. They have to be because one mistake, and a deadly trap can spring in their character’s face. This will differ greatly from how Olpheron will approach the situation. In my mind, Olpheron is more of a curious scholar, eager to explore the world and learn new things. How will Ashta’s desire and enjoyment play out with this character? I don’t know yet, but I am looking forward to finding out.
Finally, it allows me to calibrate the encounters for the campaign to the party. I am running a large table (7 players!) for this campaign and so I need to learn how to balance everything to their tastes. This is typically everything from social role-playing encounters to combat encounters. We also have several new players at our table and this gives us a chance to explain mechanics, define terms, and give them a little bit more of hands on tutorial. Since new characters are still calibrating their understanding to their characters and the game, they can often be at a disadvantage or not live up to their full potential. When a player doesn’t use all of their character’s talents it can throw a normally easy or moderate encounter in the realm of hard or deadly.