As always, scroll to the bottom for TLDR
I’m not very good at visual design. Everyone’s got talents and this just isn’t one of mine. So designing a character sheet has been a harrowing endeavor. This post hopes to briefly sum up the experience so far:
Version 0 is made in excel. It was designed with the idea that no one would ever use it, and was mostly a way for me to push excel’s automation capabilties to see if I could automate the vast majority of stat buffs during character creation. So I have dropdowns to select the class, race, and religion, as well as a drop down for selecting the players level. Each level would automatically send the bonuses or de-bonuses (?) to the stats on the sheet so that the player didn’t really have to worry about filling them in manually. I also color coordinated the skills to their corresponding Natural Talents so players knew which points went where. It was designed for simplicity, but not really for usability. Still, it has a special place in my heart.
Thanks to the response to that reddit post, and the realization that I’d have the opportunity to play the thing in person, I realized I needed something in paper. So I got some rudimentary design software and basically recreated my Excel sheet. Except without automation. But still with color (yay, printers will love that!) and now with special boxes that didn’t quite line up. Nice! I showed that one off in the RPG Design Discord channel and politely pointed in the right direction by Nordin, who put together a really quick better version to get me started.
In the space of an hour, and after a short conversation, he’d sent me a mockup for what could be my game’s character sheet. On first glance, to me it looked perfect. The lines were aged a bit- appropriate to a game set 400 years in the past, and the shapes seemed more in-theme as well. Some labels were wrong, and the boxes were maybe just a teensey bit too big, but I loved it. Especially attractive to me was that dice shaped box for entering the Natural Talent points. It’s size and unique shape lent it some credibility as the games most important factor for determining the path of your character.
But during playtesting, I discovered a lot of things were missing from this sheet. Even after updating labels and sizing, I needed a space for Level, HP, Experience, and more. Unfortunately, my friendly contract with Nordin was up, so it was time to get my own hands dirty.
So I added a space for experience, a space for level and a space for HP. I rearranged the tables and changed the fonts to match my Guide Doc. I also made a fairly drastic spur of the moment decision on what to do about “Nature”, the skill used for survival as well as a host of other things.
It seemed to me more thematically faithful to keep Nature as a STR skill, even though the uses of the skill in the real world require a fair bit of Intelligence. But keeping it in STR gave that Nat Talent 5 skills where all others had only 4. No bueno. So after a few weeks of waffling, I just realized – por que no los dos? And so there it is, smack dab in the middle, begging for points. And rightfully so, it’s a damn important skill.
I also like it because it gives players two fundamental ways of surviving. Braun or brain. Do I knock down a small tree by shouldering into it over and over, or could I just pull down dead branches from a nearby tree?
It’s been a week since I finished this character sheet and I have to say that I’m still pretty happy with it.
This was a first for me, making character sheets. It was a process, with many steps and tweaks and changing. But I got there eventually, and at least for now, I like the way it looks and functions.