Part of your role as the GM involves stewardship of the game as a whole, and that includes your players’ characters. The goal is to make sure that each of your players creates a character that will be fun for them to play, while at the same time not treading on anyone else’s fun.
There are five main ways to help your players achieve that goal — let’s take a look at them.
First and foremost, remember that your role here is to help your players hone their PCs, not tell them what to play. If they need more help — like a player who’s new to gaming probably would, and a player who’s new to the system might — you should certainly provide it, but don’t impose yourself on the process.
A players’ character is their single largest investment in and contribution to the campaign. Done in moderation, helping your players make wise choices improves their investment in the game.
Be Clear About the Nature of the Campaign
The first and most important step in helping your players create fun characters is making sure everyone’s on the same page about what kind of campaign you’re all going be playing. (How you get on that page is up to you, and outside the scope of this article.)
That allows your players to avoid poor character choices up front, and prevents you from winding up with a hodgepodge party that doesn’t play nice together.
Create Characters as a Group
Group character creation is one of the single greatest weapons in your GMing arsenal. You can run a fun campaign without doing it, but your chances of doing so go down (at least in general — your group, of course, may vary).
Group chargen helps to ensure that every PC has a well-defined role in the party, works well with the other characters (nothing spoils a game like a group of parentless social outcasts who stick together solely because they’re the PCs), and — best of all — has connections to the other PCs as well.
Steer Your Players Away from Bunk Choices
Most RPGs have at least a handful of decidedly sub-par character options (abilities, skills, etc.), and sometimes those options don’t look sub-par at first glance. When a player makes a poor choice in this department, they often won’t realize it’s a poor choice until much later on — and when they do, they’ll be bummed. If you bring up why a particular choice might not be the best option, they’re still free to take it anyway, but they’ll know what they’re getting into.
Suggest Things that Look Like Fun
Unless a player is incredibly well-versed in a particular system, chances are they’ll overlook character options that might be a lot of fun. As the GM, you probably have at least as much (if not more) experience with the game you’re running as your players do — so use that experience to help them out.
Once your players are done with their characters, give them all a once-over and see what jumps out at you. They’re likely to appreciate your suggestions.
Allow Changes After the Game Begins
As a rule of thumb, you should always allow your players to revamp, rework or even completely chuck out their characters between the first and second session of play. If you employ preludes (a highly driftable White Wolf game element), the prelude session makes a great test run for new PCs.
You can also allow character overhauls later on in the game, although this presents it’s own set of challenges (see Un-Fun PCs: When Retconning is Good for discussion on this topic).
What tricks and approaches do you employ to help make sure your players have fun with the PCs they create?