Everyone talks about how important it is for a gaming group to be on the same page and have similar expectations of what’s allowed at the table. Plenty of GMs will explain that all one needs to do is discuss everything with the players before the first session starts. But it can be difficult to remember all the topics you might want to cover, and what you leave out can come back to haunt the game later. It can also be daunting for players to speak up (particularly when they are new to the game or the group). New GMs might be wondering: Where do you even begin? Where should you end?
To this end, I’ve compiled a campaign character sheet. This can be a sheet for the whole group to fill out, expressing desires and conditions in a quick, organized format. It’s systemless and is not genre-specific, in the hopes of being applicable to as many games as possible. You may want to add or remove sections, depending on your needs. The DM can fill out the sheet first to cover what they are most interested in running, and then show it to the players to start a conversation. A group could fill it out at the same time, or fill it out during the week before a game and share the results with the group before speaking face-to-face. Online-only groups can get to know a lot more about each other by sharing their results.
You can scroll through a preview of my campaign character sheet in the box below:
If you want to try it out for your game, save your own copy. You can download it as an Excel file and fill it in that way, or save a copy to your Google Drive and edit from there (use the File menu for these options). Just don't delete the MainData sheet; it's necessary for the drop-down menus to work.
The first section of the campaign sheet is expressly about the type of campaign desired: the system (as well as edition), power level, frequency of combat, setting, module, and level of cooperation expected from the PCs. You also get to express opinions on optional game elements like miniatures, open rolling, digital desktops, graphic descriptions, backstories, and so on. You might discover that there are things you would like to see during play that you hadn’t realized before. A DM might decide that there are certain elements they definitely don’t want to allow, and they can note those things before they send the sheet to the whole group.
The next section is about the player characters. Do you want to have PCs advance quickly and use magic freely? Perhaps you’re hoping that magic will be rare and special, instead. You may want a local adventure, or a planar-hopping one, full of death and danger. You may expect your character to die and to have backup sheets ready. Is a backstory needed or wanted? If you’ve had a DM murder all the NPCs who meant something to your character in the past, you can make it clear that you do not want to repeat that experience.
After that, there's a section for the DM’s "stats." How much experience do you have to offer? Do you view your role as a DM in a particular way, such as a worldbuilder, an impartial judge, or strategic opponent? You can play up some of your specialties; it doesn’t hurt your players to know that you’re good at one-shot adventures, character voices, and maps. You can also take note of some things that people feel strongly about, like the DM fudging dice rolls, and setting some policies, like whether or not players are required to have their own books.
Finally, the main sheet ends with a section for players to offer information about themselves. It might help your group to know if you've been a DM before, or if you're a brand new player. You might know what you're good at as a player and/or what you most enjoy, like improvised solutions or remembering the rules. You should consider what your main goals are in gaming right now. You may want to let the group know that you need to game in the evenings because you have to pick up your kids from school. It will definitely help your DM and group to know if you're mainly attending for socialization or strategy. You can and should also express your preferences about things like smoking or being recorded during play.
You might not expect that mature themes will come up in fantasy settings. You may believe you already know how your group knows everyone's feelings and boundaries, especially if you've gamed together for years. You might figure that things like animal abuse won’t matter in a fictional world, where no one is actually being hurt. The main problem with assuming you know how it will go is that you don’t. No matter how many years you’ve gamed with someone, you don’t know how they'll react. And things change as gamers age; what your players might have laughed at when they were 20 could be cause for tears at 50.
I've seen the fallout from such things for decades, which is why I included this page. Plenty of games have been disrupted by controversial topics and groups have been torn apart when people’s boundaries and feelings weren't respected. Perhaps some of the conflicts can't be avoided because of different values - but if a group can stave off disaster with a little forethought, why not try it? Good groups can be hard to find, after all.
Everything here is optional; you don’t have to fill out any portion of the sheet you don’t want to. If you save your own copy, you can remove or add things at your leisure. But I highly suggest you consider filling out some of it, especially if any of the topics make you deeply unhappy. Go with your gut - if you really don’t want to deal with torture in your game, let your fellow gamers know. If you don’t mind if NPCs are tortured, but you very much mind if PCs are, then mark that down.
The first section in my mature topics sheet covers common issues like slavery, drugs, and sexism. These elements can come up in stories - and make people uncomfortable - quickly, so it’s best to know where you stand.
The rest of the sheet covers romance and sex because of how often games have gone sour due to mishandling these matters. If a DM isn't comfortable with flirting in-character with PCs, then that should be noted. If a player is interested in their character being able to get pregnant but can’t stand for miscarriage to be an option, they should make that known. If a player wants a freewheeling sexual adventure, they should make sure everyone else is on board. There's a section specifically about orientation and gender because it could be quite important to a player to explore or eschew those topics. You can establish how okay you are with each one in a fictional setting, and which characters can comfortably be involved.
I don’t know if anyone will ever use this resource, but I offer it here humbly, as a way to start a conversation and perhaps save some hard feelings down the line.
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