Guardians of the Past
When choosing your spells make sure that the spell isn’t superfluous. A lot of spell effects can be achieved just as well by having the right equipment or by the skills of your fellow party members. For instance, if you’re a low-level mage and have several warriors in your party, go light on the combat spells. Most of the time, the damage you can do with them is negligible compared to what the fighters will dish out. Pick something more useful instead.
With all the combat skills to pick from, it’s often easy to overlook the more unobtrusive ones. Don’t forget skills like swimming, riding and reading/writing.
As a group make your characters as a group. Too often the characters are independently made. This results in holes in the group. By making characters as a group, it is possible to provide a better width and depth to the group. Think what happened when no one made a cleric or magic user.
Strange as it may seem, sometimes your odds are better if you don’t try to create an all-powerful character. There are several reasons for this:
a. DM compensation. It’s a gamemaster’s job to provide the players with a challenge. If you create characters capable of taking on dragons, then dragons are what you’ll get.Overconfidence. Powerful characters usually wade into combat without even considering if there’s another way of dealing with the situation. They often forget that combat can be deadly no matter how strong you are.
c. Lack of character attachment. Powerful characters rarely have interesting non-combat skills or equipment, because the player spent all his resources on boosting fire-power. The end result is usually a combat machine with about as much originality as the average Drizzt wanna-be. Because of this, the player tends to care much less about keeping the character alive.
If you’re used to playing Drizzt-type characters, it can be quite difficult to make a change.
Power gamers usually shudder at the thought of not maxing out a combat skill, and start sweating at the idea of actually spending some points on charisma or social skills. The best advice I can give is this: when creating a character, choose one thing that most defines the character. This could be anything. Perhaps your character is a thief with a love for climbing. Or perhaps she grew up near the ocean and loves ships. Or tends to be very curious. Or wants desperately to be a part some social group. Or has a drug problem that he’s trying to beat. Or wants to be the first mage to perfect the growing (and domestication) of really big carnivorous plants. Once you establish the core concept, the rest of the character usually comes naturally and you’ll feel much less inclined to spend all your character resources on combat.
Write a player background and take your time and tailor it to your character. Don’t write a hastily scrawled vanilla background 30 minutes before the game. Give yourself some individuality and talk to your DM for ideas if you need help.
In my experience, DMs are much more willing to let poorly played boring characters die, while they may go out of their way to find some way of keeping well played interesting characters alive, even if they don’t come out of the situation completely unscathed.