Top 6 ways how to use character growth for your game
By: Jesse C Cohoon
Even though for the most part, DMs don’t really use character growth for game plot, it’s relatively easy, effective for game play, adds depth to the game, and helps with the suspension of disbelief. What is meant by character growth? Character growth gaining of skills, feats, increase of stats, spells, followers, etc.
1) Roleplay a “Zero level.” Before the game actually starts, take a session or two to play the characters before they meet up with the rest of the party. That way they can learn some of the ins and outs of their character before being with a group. Also, skills don’t develop overnight; they take time, training, and practice to do well. Maybe the session can cover several years of time showing how the character became as good as they are with the skill.
2) Make them train. I know some DMs really enforce this rule, but IMHO, it should be a mandatory thing. How are you going to learn how to do something while in the middle of a dungeon unless you run into someone willing to train you there? But even so, the character can be practicing their new moves while the party is resting, in town, or even while captured and stripped of equipment (provided that there is enough room to do the maneuvers and they’re not chained to the wall or something.)
3) Reward them for use of skills, feats, spells, stats, etc. Give characters who are fighting a lot of orcs bonuses for fighting such. The same thing goes for picking locks, casting spells, and using feats. But don’t limit the bonuses to “everyday use” of such. Reward behavior that uses their skills in unique ways, in different circumstances, and in ways that you wouldn’t have thought of to solve the situations they find themselves in.
4) Use leveling for plot. For instance, when the party’s magic user gains a level, perhaps it becomes a quest to find a spell book to learn another spell. Maybe the druid’s or ranger’s animal followers/ companions got rescued by him when they were adventuring. Or perhaps the fighter’s follower was rescued by the players from a dungeon. You could arrange the campaign where the party’s ranger has a hate for orcs because something bad happened to their family or friends.
5) Use equipment for plot. Instead of telling the players “you have a +1 sword” or whatever the particular bonuses are, think of how to give your player’s equipment a story as to what it is and how it got there. Perhaps as the game goes along, the equipment can grow with the players and gain abilities as well, and in your next campaign, have the same sword that had a history show up again.
6) Allow for character customization. In games where characters can tend to be “cookie cutter” in their backgrounds, skills, their abilities, and equipment as they go up in levels – allow the players to mix things up a bit by adding interesting tweaks to their past, uses for standard skills, and abilities, as well as different equipment than standard. One good way of doing this is to look at the “splat books” and incorporate what’s appropriate for your campaign to change things up.