I always have a hard time picking the 9 characters I'd like to use and randomizing isn't satisfying at all so I thought about rules for using all of them. Be aware, that the number ranges are not meant to be dynamic choices made by players and they won't change every round. The idea is to provide rules you can adapt to your preferences. The steps work like this:
1. Shuffle all character cards
2. Randomly discard a number of cards face up to the table
3. Give the cards around until everyone has two, three or four cards
4. All chosen cards are placed face up in front of the player
5. After the card have been choosen, they are picked up
6. Every player discards a number of his cards face down
7. The round starts
1. No explanation needed
2. This is done to keep some characters out of the game and thus making it different every round. Because the character selection isn't hidden, there is no need to hide these discarded characters. I suggest randomly discarding three to five cards.
3. The first player chooses a card, puts it face up in front of himself and hands the remaining cards to the next player. This is done until everyone has two, three or four characters. If you want to play with two characters each round you either choose three or four cards. If you want to play only one character then you should pick two cards.
4. Done during step three
5. No explanation needed
6. Discard a number of characters face down until you have either one or two cards on your hand depending on the number of characters choosen at step three.
7. No explanation needed
I've encountered no troubles with the rules using all 18 characters. The order the characters are played is simple. One to nine and the original cards (round icon) are played first. Using the King and the Emperor at the same time is no problem. The Emperor is an inferior character and in this variant basicly a counter to the king. The Queen is no problem to use, even with two or three players. She simply earns three gold. Compared to other characters she is strong but not overpowered.
This variant is a lot more confrontational because you know exactly the cards every player owns although you don't know which cards he is going to use. This however can be a good thing because players already loosing won't be screwed by false guesses. There is no random targeting going on.
If you have any questions, then please feel free to ask.
Hmm... Interesting variant. Sounds like a nice way to incorporate all the characters. However, I do feel that this changes the basic nature of the game. For my gaming group, we enjoy the attempt to second-guess the choices of the other players in the original rather than guessing from the limited range. I personally find that to be more exciting than having a 50% (or 33.3%) chance of guessing the right character; otherwise, the Thief/Assassin/Witch become less than optimal. About messing up players who are lagging behind, I don't think that's a chronic problem of Citadels at all!
Oh well. Like I said, interesting variant. Perhaps a good option if I feel like using all the characters in one game.