Selecting pre-gen characters is a bit tricky, especially in games like Cthulhu. For D&D I usually bring at least twice the number of characters required, so there’s always a nice stack to choose from and even the last person at the table gets a good number of options. For Cthulhu though, usually you’ve got exactly enough characters, and they may even have some secret info attached to the sheet that should only be read by the person who’s actually going to play that character. I’ve both GMed and played games where the GM describes the characters, then leaves it up to the players to figure out how to divvy them up. This never goes well. Usually it starts with an awkward silent hesitation, with everyone wondering who will lead the group into some magical equitable system of selecting characters. Finally someone grabs the bull by the horns and just says “I really want to play X” and grabs up the sheet. Then it’s a free-for-all, and polite players are rewarded with having to just play whatever is left over at the end.
I saw two things at Origins at two different games, both of which I think I’d like to steal for my next Cthulhu game. The first is kind of minor – the GM of my first Cthulhu game began by putting out little name tents for each character that listed just the name of the character and their profession, then said “OK, select your characters.” Name tents are a pretty common practice, often done on the fly with whatever scrap paper is lying around. I like that the GM pre-made them, as they were of good quality: printed on stiff paper that did not droop and using a nice big legible font. But also I thought it was clever to have players select based on this minimal information, and not deal with character sheets until all characters had been assigned using just the tents.
The second one occurred in our Star Trek themed game. After listing off which characters were available, the GM told us all to roll percentile dice. He then gave first pick to the highest roll, and choice then passed down the line from there. Rolling dice to determine choice priority is not a particularly novel idea, but I liked that the GM just instituted it immediately. There was no discussion, no hesitation, he just said this is the way we’re doing it and off we went. It’s a reasonably fair way of handling things, and having the GM who is basically in charge anyway dictate it meant there was no dissension and the whole thing proceeded quickly and efficiently.
So I think I’d like to institute both of these at my next game. I will pre-print some nice character name tents, put them out on the table for everyone to see, then demand they roll dice and have them choose from the tents in the order they rolled. Nothing really revolutionary here, just a couple solid ideas that I think will remove all awkwardness and delay from this first step of the game.