Remember when you first started gaming?
Remember how you were amazed and astounded (and possibly even baffled) by all of the dice-rolling and stat-calculating that went into creating that first character and how, once you started to maybe get some firm hold on how all of those attributes and derived stats came to be and worked together, you started “working the system” to craft and finesse the “strongest, toughest, and best” characters you possibly could squeeze out of those anxious die-rolls?
Sure you do. At some point in our gaming careers, we’ve all munchkined the living crap out of a character or two!
I do… and there’s no shame in it… I was nine and, by the gods, I was NOT going to settle for my thief having any less than super-awesome stats… I don’t care if he is “Level 1” and, as such, probably not meant to be the prince of thieves in this neck of the woods… Roll those d6’s until you get an 18 to put in Dex… nobody’s watching…
Ahh… the good old days! When you’re brand new to D&D (or whatever role-playing game you may have been inclined to)… especially when you’re drawn in young… it’s easy to get caught up in the “roll playing” and, yes, it was FUN to get lost in those hack-and-slash, munchkin versus monster, bloodbath adventures that inevitably followed the creation of those sextuple 18 wielding juggernauts, wasn’t it?
Raise your hand if at least one of your earliest characters and/or games didn’t fit those criteria…
C’mon! There’s no shame in it! That’s the kind of thing that hooks most of us, after all, and eventually leads us deeper into the whole thing. One day we find ourselves stepping out of those storyless, treasure and stat-building, “Hulk smash!” dungeon romps and into an adventure that makes us actually think a little more. You’re now in a world where there’s depth and color (besides the gray of orc flesh and the rivers of scarlet that run forth from your mighty blade) and the NPCs are more than monsters… they’re people… and killing them all might be a bad idea because more than one of them is a city guard that could have your indomitable elven butt in irons and on the executioner’s block before you could even think about bellowing out “Fear my wrath!!!”
Yep, one day (gods willing), we all stumble forth from the darkness of roll-play and find ourselves in basking in the heavenly radiance (or, maybe that should be withering glare) of “role-play”… and guess what, good friend? Old Kal-el the super-solider mercenary/barbarian/king-of-kondroitin is just a wee bit out of place in the all-revealing light of fine story-telling, isn’t he? Yes he is… for this kind of thing, you want to have an actual character behind the steel and armor (or the robes and magestaff as the case may be)… a character with a personality and a life and, maybe in the melding of all of it, an actual purpose in the tale that’s about to unfold.
So, Innmates, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what –really- makes a character come to life, shall we? The stats are crucial in gaming, sure… they provide a tangible set of attributes that your GM can use to “bounce you against the world he’s placed you in and see how you come back”… but guess what? They’re probably not the first thing you want to consider when you’re putting your character together. Nope. The first thing you’re going to want to consider is what type of character you’re going to want to play (i.e. pick your character’s race and class) and, then, once you’ve got that in mind, give some consideration to the setting of the campaign world and, at the very least, plant the seed of an idea from which your character is going to evolve… Choose a particular area from the game world where your character was born… consider the surrounding lands and what it might have been like to grow up there and among the people that populate the place…
Got some rough, maybe even foggy ideas stewing that you can play with, now?
Good… Now you’re ready to pick up those dice and get to rolling some stats…keep those ideas close at hand, though, because you’re going to be polishing them up as you go and the stats that you roll are going to help you do it. The really cool thing, though, is that as those initial ideas get polished up by the first few sets of clattering throws, those slightly less rough bits are going to help you refine some of the other stats and, between the give and take, you’re going to wind up with a character that is, hopefully, as far from “cookie-cutter” as it can be. You’ll have a backstory (maybe not down to every last minute, but enough for your character to already have a bit of depth before the game begins), reasoning and justification behind most (if not all) of your character’s skills, feats, etc., and all kinds of other little odds and ends that will help to immerse you in your character and the world in which he or she (or it) lives, breathes, and is.
Grab your dice, pencils, and character sheets (might wanna grab some scratch paper, too) and follow me! Wanna get started evolving that character now? Me too… I’m not going to try and whip up a brand new character as I go through these steps but, as we go along, I’ll make reference to one of my “favored characters of the moment” as a ‘for instance’… How about Nyx Shyndyn? I had quite a bit of fun pulling him together from original concept, running him through a couple of different iterations, and turning him into the character he is now… he’ll make a fine whipping boy!
Okay, so for Nyx, we’re calling the ruleset 3.5e (because most Innmates are at least familiar with, even if they don’t care for, that version and because that’s the ruleset I used to whip up this latest incarnation of our example). The campaign (or story, if you prefer) in which he’s participating calls for something more than a “this is my first time in the big world” kind of guy, so we’ll say that total character level is set at 7 to begin with. There’s the bare minimum you need to get started… check with your GM regarding any rules or preferences regarding stat generation, spend a little time picking his/her brain and/or doing a little research regarding the game world, and then, make your decision as to race and class.
Nyx, I decided after giving it due consideration, was going to be a mith’ganni assassin. (The Mith’ganni or Twilight Elves were originally created by Tek, one of our very own Innmates, for his campaign world and, after creating the original version of Nyx for an adventure he ran there, I found I had so much fun with them that I couldn’t leave it behind when the game ended and so “hijacked the race” and brought it with me to other venues once Tek’s game had ended… if anyone wants more info on the race, just let me know and I’ll link you to the stuff written by the man himself.) Now, given 3.5e rules, a character isn’t going to start out as an assassin, right? No way to meet all the prereq’s for the class with just a single level, is there? Besides, the mith’ganni aren’t exactly prone to becoming assassins by nature, anyway… they’re nomads… a (dying) race of plains-dwellers much like the plains Indians of North America or the Mongols of the steppes in Asia… they’re good with horses, good at surviving on whatever nature provides them in their travels, and have a good handle on crafting durable clothing… Most likely, Nyx would have started out as a ranger… yeah, ranger, sounds good…
So, what do I have now? Basic requirements and a basic idea, that’s what. Nyx Shyndyn is a Mith’ganni who started out a ranger and, over the course of seven levels and the corresponding years, somehow became an assassin. Sounds like a good place to start to me and enough information that I think I’m ready to get those base stats rolled out and am ready to start fleshing out the skeleton that I’ll build from them.
Got your idea yet?
If so, good… go ahead and roll your stats. If not, you’ve got time to think about it. I’ll end this entry here and continue with Nyx’s rolls and the start of a build in the next installment. Remember, get those dusty little bits of rough-hewn ideas gathered up and keep ‘em close… Dice rolling is about to become about sooooo much more than just rolling dice when you’re crafting your character.
posted by Eol Fefalas on 4/23/2019 at 03:17:49 PM
Yay Eol! Preach the good word! A Roleplaying adventure is so much more entertaining than hack-and-slash (not to say that the latter does not have its merits).
posted by Sibelius Eos Owm on 11/23/2009 at 09:55:25 PM
A whole hearted agreement. Everything should come after building a basic character idea. Including class and race. At times it can become a bit burdensome to pilfer through books trying to find the right class/spells/feats/etc to build the character you have in mind, but it is worth the work.
Can't wait for the next installment of this Eol.
posted by Merideth on 11/24/2009 at 10:25:20 AM
I agree with everything you said here, sadly I've had DMs who lived just to munchkin, rolling and rerolling and tweaking everything they could just to make the most difficult encounter they could. I have always thought the Role-play was much more important than the roll-play. I always try to find an interested concept then build on it, even if that concept starts as a class choice, followed by race and history. I'm reminded of a character I made years ago, an oddity among his race, my half-orc Warmage. Heleforn, or Hellfire as he became known, was abandoned to die as a baby and found by scouts from a warmage academy. He was able to overcome his racial blocks for spell casting classes, but at the same time had not yet tasted the bitter sting of the racism that plagued most of his kind. His entire drive after his first experience with racism was to change who and what he was, a task he was going to go about doing by transcending and becoming an elemental. (elemental savant PrC)
posted by Shield Wolf on 11/24/2009 at 12:30:04 PM
Oh oh oh! Can I be a half demon, Ranger/Assassin/Monk?
posted by Alacrity on 11/24/2009 at 01:44:18 PM
posted by Eol Fefalas on 11/24/2009 at 02:11:07 PM