Lighthouse for the Blind
Character Creation Guidelines
“From the lowliest slave to the highest templar, our fates are decided for us. The slave at the hands of the master, and the templar at the will of the king. Pray to Ral and Guthay that your children are born when the stars align to favor them. Few are those privileged to choose their own path of life, and cursed are those for they are bound by choice and have but themselves to blame for their misfortune. The bard addicted to his alchemical mixtures, the templar imprisoned for his crimes, and the gladiator sacrificed for the thrill of the fight. It is the choices that define who you are and how you die, regardless of who makes them.”
―The Oracle, Blue Shrine Scrolls
This page describes the character creation guidelines for this campaign. It’ll also be a brief description of how to start making a character if you’re new to D&D. Probably best to read to the bottom before you get started, and I’d open any links in a new tab.
If you don’t want to read that much, or you’re not comfortable making your own character, I’ve prepared a few pre-made characters that you can pick from. See Here:
Toan the Survivor, is a venerable, endless, War Veteran (Survivor | Primordial Guardian Bloodline ) that wants to remember a past that has been long forgotten.
Zwaithe the Delver, is a noble-born, thrill-seeking, Dungeon Delver (Noble | Swashbuckler) that wants to explore the most dangerous corners of Athas.
I expect a high mortality rate for this game, so the first character you play as might not be as important as you think :P
First of all, this is a D&D 3.75 game we’re playing. That means that we’re using the Pathfinder ruleset (see here for the wiki page and here for the system reference document) along with some of the late-game content of Wizards of the Coast’s revised 3.5 edition D&D (see here for the wiki page and here for the system reference document). What does that mean for you? GO WILD! Whatever crazy character you can think of will probably work. Keep in mind this is a gestalt game, so you effectively gain levels in two classes at the same time. Always wanted to play a Warlock | Gladiator? Go at it!
For a quick summary of the changes from 3.5 to Pathfinder, see here.
See the Roleplaying Introduction and/or keep reading.
Dungeons and Dragons has always been about the players and their adventures. This is collaborative storytelling, so how do we collaborate? I find the following distinction to be useful: there are Combat roles and their are Intrigue roles.
If you’ve played games before, you might recognize the basic combat roles:
- Striker – Their job is to deal damage to a single enemy.
- Tank – Their job is to protect the team by engaging enemies directly (taking damage if needed).
- Healer – Their job is to heal damage.
- Controller – Their job is to deal damage to multiple enemies, or to hinder them in some ways.
- Support – Their job is to boost their teammates in one way or another.
And if you’ve ever heard of the Five-Main-Band, you might recognize the basic intrigue roles:
- Leader – Their job is to make decisions for the group.
- Lancer – Their job is to act when action is needed.
- Smart Guy – Their job is to solve puzzles for the group.
- Big Guy – Their job is to be all big and scary.
- Chick – Their job is to be a voice of reason.
The above aren’t hard-and-fast rules, however. Just guidelines. There’s a lot of roles one could play, but in my experience, everything tends to go more smoothly when players know their role and play to (or against) their role. You’d be surprised how easy it is to roleplay social situations in game once everyone understands who’s large and who’s in charge.
As you go through the character creation process, think about what kind of role you’d like to play in combat and what kind of role you’d like to play in social situations. There will be plenty of both in this game.
All characters begin with character points (CPs). Basically these are your personal currency to change the game. You can use them to bend the rules text for a feat or start as a higher social class, among many other things. During gameplay, you can even use them to introduce new characters or possibly even subplots. For those in the know, these subsume and replace action points.
You’ll spend these points to build your character initially and to advance them later. An important point to mention is that in general you can’t spend your CPs on an improvement that you haven’t yet seen in-game. So if this is your first time playing D&D, it might be best to save your extra CPs for now.
If you find you have points left over, these will be useful in a pinch, so hold onto them. If you feel like you don’t have enough points, play your character well and survive until the next session – then you’ll have more.
I’m feeling generous so how does 50 points to start sound?! If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. You’re building gestalt characters after all, and this is Athas we’re talking about, so trust me, you’ll need all the help you can get.
So how do we start? Well first of all, let’s talk about ability scores. Each ability score represents an essential aspect of a creature. If you’ve played an RPG before, this should be nothing new. Generally, 11 to 12 in an ability score is average for a human on Athas. An 18 in Strength or Intelligence would make you a world-class athlete or a verifiable genius. The higher the better.
We’re using point buy rules (see here) to allocate these ability scores, so you’ll need to spend your CPs to increase them. A good number to spend is something between 32 to 36. There’s only four conditions for spending these points: (all before racial modifiers are considered):
1) no ability score may be above 18,
2) only one ability score may be above 16,
3) only one ability score may be below 10, and
4) no ability score may be below 8.
This’ll be enough to get you two reasonably high ability scores, and then some – and you’ll need it since you’ll be leveling in two classes at once. Best to keep in mind the important ability scores for your main classes when you allocate everything. Also, there’s another house rule in effect to remember, you’ll be receiving two more ability score increases at 4th level instead of only one increase, but they must go to different ability scores.
Races next. See Race Introduction and/or keep reading.Races are important in Athas, but perhaps less than in other fantasy worlds. Generally class, social status, and faction matter more here. We’ll do classes next, and you guys won’t start with a faction, so forget about that for now. I’m going to keep the door open for just about all the races published in the D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder books, but I hold veto power so be reasonable. However, there’s not that many races in Athas (and some are explicitly extinct), so whatever race you choose will be considered a subrace of one of the 15 official races in Athas: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Thranger (Knoll or cat-like), Giants, Dray (dragonborn), Sauren (lizard folk, avians, etc.), Qin (drow, insects, etc.), and Teotl (warforged, constructs, etc.). These races are distributed throughout the world geographically and ethnically, with representation in virtually every class, social status, and faction. Hybrids are also known to exist, but they are somewhat rare (except for Half-Dwarves, Half-Elves, and Half-Giants which are fairly common in the Tablelands region). If you have a question or don’t know where to start, just let me know. I’ll try to finish all of those racial pages as soon as I can find the time.
As with races, technically all classes are allowed. See Class Introduction and/or keep reading.
We’re starting at level 1, but first a few notes. For those of you that are familiar with the tier system for classes (see here), I’d like to keep this game somewhere between tiers 3 to 4 (or as close to that as possible in gestalt). To facilitate that, I’m going to put some serious role-playing limitations on all spellcasting classes, especially the tier 1 and 2 classes such as Wizards, Clerics, Druids, etc., but you can still be one if you really want – just talk it over with me.
In general, if you’re new to the game and you ask, I’m going to say NO to any class with spellcasting. This includes Wizards, Clerics, and Druids, but also Duskblades, Dread Necromancers, and many other obscure classes. Some classic classes, such as Bards and Rangers, which had a limited amout of spellcasting, will be house-ruled with replacement class features. Even some of the obscure spellcasting classes such as Factotums will be available with a few house-rules, so it really is worth it to ask. For a full list of blacklisted and whitelisted classes, see here.
This is a dying world ruined by aeons of ecological and magical abuse, abandoned by the gods and consumed by the constant fight for survival – so that’s generally what you’re dealing with there. To help bring some of the lower tier classes up to par, I’m going to allow a couple of things: you can use the Pathfinder core classes since they’re generally stronger than the 3.5 core classes, and you can fill up your dead levels in other classes as described here and here. Again, if you’ve got any questions or you don’t know where to start, just let me know.
One good starting place is to check out the wiki. If you search for pages tagged “Class” then you’ll see all the classes that I’ve approved and updated for this campaign. Definitely check them out if you’re rusty on the rules or you don’t know where else to find them.
Characters begin with maximum hit points (HPs) for members of their classes. In addition, players may spend 1 CP to buy a 1 HP increase to their maximum hit points. This can be done at character creation or between sessions, but generally not during a gameplay session.
See the Skill and Skill Trait Introduction and/or keep reading.
Characters begin with the standard number of skill points (SPs) for members of their classes. In addition, players may spend 1 CP to buy 1 SP to immediately invest in a skill in which they are trained. This can be done at character creation or between sessions, but generally not during a gameplay session. To put SP in new skills, find a trainer for the skill in game. You can also spend 2 CP for 1 skill trick. At 1st level, the only available skill trick is Learn Language.
See the Equipment Introduction and/or keep reading.
Characters begin with the maximum amount of gold (valued in Ceramic Pieces (Cps)) for members of their classes. You can’t spend Character Points to gain more Ceramic Pieces, but you can take levels in the Aristocrat Class or Trader Class; use the Profession, Perform, or Craft skills as part of a trade; or become a member of a Faction to have access to more wealth.
See the Trait and Flaw Introduction and/or keep reading.
We’ll be using character traits from Unearthed Arcana as presented here. Pick something out that you think fits your character, and make sure to describe it while we’re playing. Ask me if you’d like to propose a trait of your own.
I’ll also be allowing flaws (from Unearthed Arcana) but they’ll be a lot tougher than the normal ones. You don’t have to choose any if you don’t want to, but doing so gives you bonus feats. Each flaw will relate to the feat that it grants and generally the flaw will impose a penalty that is at least twice the benefit of the feat. For example, if you use a flaw to take Weapon Focus (Longsword), you can expect the flaw to be something along the lines of, “…but you take a -1 to attack with all other weapons.” I feel like it’s got to be something that’s going to really affect your character or it’s not worth it. For a description of the normal flaw rules, see here.
See the Feat Introduction and/or keep reading.
Characters begin with their 1st level Feat and any bonus Feats as normal for a member of their classes. In addition, all players begin with the Exotic Weapon Proficiency Feat. There are may unusual weapons on Athas, and traditionally metal weapons are hard to come by. You may also spend 4 CPs to buy 1 Feat. You may choose this feat from any feat you’ve seen used in play, or you may choose it from the Pathfinder SRD if you’ve never played before. This can be done at character creation or between sessions, but generally not during a gameplay session.
Classes have certain resources that they expend to produce certain effects. You can spend CPs to improve these as well. You can’t buy these if you don’t already have that resource, but you can add to your existing pool. For example, 1 power point (PP) = 1 CP for manifesters and 1 essentia = 2 CPs for life-shapers. For other types, ask me.
Finally, there’s a few extra things you should know. There’s a few more ways to spend character points, like advancing in social status or bending a certain game rule – but ask me first about anything else you’d like to do.
At the end of each session, I’ll give you guys a chance to award character points to the other players that you think did the best job roleplaying. You’ll be giving 2 CP to the player you think did the best job, and 1 CP to another player as an honorable mention. You may give either of these awards to yourself if you wish. This is a nice rule I like to add to give people a bit more incentive to roleplay and a bit more control over their character.
Background & Final Notes
See the 10 Minute Background and/or keep reading.
Ok, so I’d like you guys to write a brief background for your characters. Ideally, it’d be a few paragraphs long, but at a minimum it should be a sentence with this format: “[Character Name] is a [adjective][slang name for profession] ([ class name 1 | class name 2 ]) that wants to [do something].” For examples, see the pre-made characters at the top of the page. Any extra details like a physical description would also be appreciated.
I encourage you guys to stick to 1 or 2 sources outside of the core books when designing your characters. You’re responsible for bringing any extra material to the table, and if you don’t have the rules-text for something you want to do then you can’t do it.
Now, if you post your characters on the campaign website with included rules text for abilities and feats (with page numbers, see the Scarlett Scorpion), then that’s acceptable, but just generally try to keep it simple. Also, all Dungeon and Dragon magazine material must be pre-approved. Again, if you have any questions, find me.
And that should be all, good luck!
Continue to The d20 Manifesto.