Monday, May 8, 2017

What I Learned Rolling Five D&D Characters in a Row

Because I'm bored and far away from my D&D party, I've been entertaining myself by watching Web DM (a Youtube channel with lots of in-depth tips for players and DMs,) as well as the Acquisitions Incorporated spin-off The C Team (which has gotten really good in the past few episodes,) planning an elaborate adventure for my party for when I get back to LA, and today, coming up with several potential player characters (that I'd want to play, though I suppose if we have some players who want to pop in I could let them take these for a spin.)

When you're new to D&D, as I was when I first started DM'ing, there's a hell of a lot of information to take in (thankfully the Monster Manual is almost pure reference.) So while I've got a pretty solid understanding of how to run combat, build dungeons (sort of... I never have anything as elaborate as what you find in the published adventures, focusing more on outdoor stuff,) and do general RP/character interactions and such, I mostly rely on the honesty of my players to get the details about their capabilities right.

Rolling a bunch of characters has really given me a much better sense of what these classes can do. So I'll go character-by-character and say what I learned about the classes. All these guys are at level three, which I figure is a relatively standard place for most campaigns to start (I started my guys at level one, but given that only one of us had played the game before, it wasn't a terrible idea.)

Generally speaking, I think that the traits, ideal, bond, and flaw things are all stuff that one might be tempted to skip over when creating a character, but they're actually really good to help you get a feel for how to role-play. If you take the time to figure these things out - even if you are just copying them down from the suggested characteristics in the book - you'll start to get a real sense of the character, which will inspire you to come up with more ideas to lend the character specificity.

Alfred Nightfire - Human Warlock, Great Old One, Tome Pact, Noble, Chaotic Neutral

Alfred's the character I came up with a long time ago, and he's actually shown up in my campaign as a temporary party member when we only had three people in the group other than myself. I re-rolled him today as an exercise.

I think Warlocks have fantastic storytelling potential, as you kind of have a Bond automatically. Mechanically, they are a bit limited in that they rely a lot on their spell casting, but have a tiny number of spell slots. Thankfully, you can get those slots back on a short rest, but you'll have to ask your party to break for lunch about as often as the Hobbits do. The eldritch invocations focus a lot on the Eldritch Blast cantrip, which certainly seems like the ideal cantrip, but it'd be nice to make it non-mandatory. I love the idea of playing an escaped mental patient with a direct line to some sort of eldritch abomination, though, so he's still top of my list to play if I get someone else to DM.

Zarlak Azoral - Blue Dragonborn Fighter, Eldritch Knight, Sage, Lawful Neutral

I don't know why, but for some reason I've always been a little repelled by the "straight fighter" classes in RPGs. It always seems to me that if you're going to play in a world with magic, you're kind of nuts not to play a class that has magic.

The Eldritch Knight archetype solves this big time, and it also realizes a class archetype I could have sworn was a real thing, but can never find in actual RPGs: the Battlemage. An Eldritch Knight is pretty much exactly what you need for a Battlemage. I feel like Eldritch is too firmly associated with Lovecraftian horror in my mind, but this is totally a Battlemage, and I imagine it's a lot of fun to play.

Kex Kariko - Wood Elf Monk, Way of Shadow, Acolyte, Chaotic Good

I've also never been drawn that much to martial arts classes in the past. I don't know why. Maybe it's my subconscious occident-centrism tendencies or a draw toward heavy armor and heavy weapons, but for some reason it doesn't usually click with me. Reading through the Monk entry in the player's handbook, however, is doing a lot to change my mind.

If you go Way of Shadow, you get a straight-up ninja, with the ability to cast stealth-enhancing spells to go with your martial arts moves. And actually, on top of that, there's some really cool flavor to Monks in general, what with the ability to catch arrows and thrown weapons and toss them back at your enemies, as well as the ability to, very early on, smack your target with up to three attacks. Monks get a lot of toys.

Jadro Coppledart - Lightfoot Halfling Rogue, Arcane Trickster, Enforcer (custom background,) Lawful Good

First off: there's really no good "cop" background. The Soldier background is too focused on army camaraderie and the Spy variant of Criminal doesn't really change how the benefits work for the background. So what I suggest is something I partially cribbed from suggestions online: Give Insight and Investigation proficiencies, one extra language, proficiency with thieves' tools, a badge of office, a crowbar, common clothes, and a coin purse of seized assets worth 15gp. This works, pretty decently I think, for a detective character (Investigation to search for clues, Insight for questioning witnesses and suspects.)

Rogues I actually have some experience with, as one of the members of my party is a Rogue. That sneak attack damage can really make them hit for huge amounts, and it's not terribly hard to get the bonus if there's melee characters in your party.

Palthan Arbrecht - Human Wizard, School of Necromancy, Charlatan, Neutral Evil

There's also a Wizard in my party, and I have to say that as a class, it's really defined by the spells you choose. Most of the class features just focus on getting more spells, recovering spells slots, and making it quicker and cheaper to add spells to your spell book.

At least at early levels, your school doesn't change the way the class plays a whole lot. However, because you can effectively know unlimited spells, it means that it's very easy to customize your capabilities. The only downside is that you're really going to have to either invest in a set of spell cards or print out a list of all the details of your spells (or just flip through the Player's Handbook constantly.)

Also, as a character note, I'm really happy with the idea of a snake-oil-selling necromancer, complete with his false identity he uses on the road, Doctor Lukvard von Toffel.

Other Characters:

I imagine I might do a bit more of this. I rolled a Barbarian, Druid, and Bard to serve as allied NPCs in the upcoming adventure. I'd like to start looking into alternative races, backgrounds, and class features that have popped up in other books. (Actually, the Barbarian I rolled was a Goliath.) Still got room for a Cleric, Ranger, Paladin, and Sorcerer.