Every group approaches character building differently. Even the same group going into a new campaign can merit a different approach. Going into Kingmaker, I knew that a large portion of the campaign would be open-world sandbox type exploration with a significant portion of the PCs wealth and xp would come from random encounters and the like. What this told me was that there would be plenty of room for me to add in personal quest hooks and introduce NPCs to further engage my players.
So when laying down the requirements for character building for this AP, I tried something new. Beyond the standard race, class, and sourcebook considerations I asked my players to write up a background for their characters. Specifically I wanted them to address the following: Who are you? Why are you an adventurer? What are you doing in the River Kingdoms?
As an added incentive, I allowed my players an additional 1 gp per word of their background write up (to a maximum of 500 gp). I've never tried offering such an obvious bribe to players to get them to give me more than just a stat block for their characters. And to be honest I've never really felt like I've need to. But for this I was hoping that my players would help me seed the adventure with NPCs or personal goals of their own devising that their characters would already have a vested interest in.
My players didn't disappoint. After reading their backgrounds I have side quests and plot hooks enough to take us well into mid-level adventuring. I feel like I have a solid idea what will and won't engage my players' characters, what will stir them to action, what will make the shy away. And all before a single die has been rolled.
So who do we have to fill our roster?
Adem Margrave - a young nobleman from a middling Brevic family. Adem found his true calling in lyric and song. An academy trained minstrel, he journeys with his friend Garren and the knight's peculiar wards.
Balas and Calidrel Orron - half elf brothers and twins at that! Balas is a brutish type while Calidrel's blood is further muddled with all kinds of sorcerous mischief.
Garren Stewardsson - a human knight and equine aficionado. Though he's now well into middle age, Garren has sworn to protect the Orron twins with his life.
Marius Ranicot - another human knight. Marius armors himself in steel and bluster, projecting the very essence of a brash cavalier. But perhaps there's more to him than bravado.
Sergey Popovitch - a human scholar who's spent most of his life dedicated equally to both arcane and divine pursuits. After decades of empirical study he's finally decided that some fieldwork might be in order.