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Friday, September 12, 2014

DnD Character Creation - Syris the Halfling Monk - Part 1

This week, I will continue my look at the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  In my previous post (here), I unboxed the Starter Set for the edition.  Our group continues to enjoy our play through of the starter set adventure - The Lost Mines of Phandelver.

For the next set of posts, I will walk through character generation in 5th Edition.  I'm excited about this series of posts, as my good friend RedRaggedFiend (of RedRaggedFiend.com/) is going to run a series of posts in parallel on the same topic!  Each blogger will discuss how he approaches character generation, and how he feels 5th Edition lives up to his expectations as we each create a new character.

RedRaggedFiend's post is even up already.  Go take a look:  http://www.redraggedfiend.com/?p=468


Motivations - How I Approach the Game


When I go to play any role playing game, it's all about the story.  I love opportunity for stories, and no gaming experience is greater than spontaneously creating a story with a group of friends.  If you have not played table top RPGs (or have had a bad experience in the past), I encourage you to give it a (or another) try!

A lot of blogs I read focus on the necessary balance of a game like Dungeons and Dragons.  Players and DMs (like my friend RedRaggedFiend) will focus on the numbers, the probabilities, the ability to maximize their character's power, etc.  In gaming, we need people like this.  They make sure the game is balanced, they know the rules inside out, and they help find issues with the game that down the road can take our fun away.  I love to rely on them figuring all this out so I don't have to!

When I first read a Player's Handbook for any edition, I let myself dream.  I look for the "cool factor" in various classes and races.  I think about the types of characters that would match up with the various race/class combinations available in the game.  I think about the setting the character would play in and how he would fit into the world.


Step 1 - Race and Class


The new Player's Handbook fits well with my style of character creation.  In the PHB, step 1 is to choose a Race, and step 2 is to choose a Class.  This is different than old school editions, where you had to roll your ability scores up first.  In those days, certain classes required very high abilities to be played, and if you rolled 4d6 and kept the highest three numbers for each ability, you might not get that 17 in Charisma you needed to be a Paladin.  I'm looking at you 2nd Edition.

In later editions, this changed, and ability scores became step 3.  Class requirements were no longer as strong, and DnD introduced the idea of a "standard set" of ability scores.  With this, there is not requirement to actually roll any dice.  Instead, a player can distribute these numbers among her six ability scores:  15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.

For me, the PHB step 1 & 2 is really a combined "step 1."  The combination of these two defining traits of the character begin to automatically tell you who the character is.  Dwarf clerics make sense!  The dwarven people rely on their clerics in the worship of their Gods, and dwarf clerics are known to be battle hardened and ready for adventure.  But a half-orc bard?  This combination requires you to come up with a reason such an odd combination would exist.  

So, what did I want to play?  Why a halfling monk!


Who Is Syris?


When I read through the PHB race and class chapters, it struck me how much Wizards of the Coast added "cool factor" to everything.  From halflings' "Lucky" trait (reroll 1's) to fighters' three unique subclass builds, there are enough options and combinations in the PHB that I can see it lasting much longer than we are used to before the whole edition gets bogged down with massive amounts of new races, classes, and powers to confuse us all.

Syris came together for me in two parts.  First, as I read through the description of the monk class, I knew I would need to play a monk.  In 4th edition, I played a monk character for a time, and really enjoyed how he played.  Monks are lightning fast, able to move around as they fight, and can even stand toe to toe with a good number of monsters through their ability to dodge.

The new monk class shares some basics with his previous iteration, yet sounded fresh and different as I read through it.  (I will discuss more specifics in the next part of the series, but I'll say for now:  Deflect Missiles is going to be a fun power to play with!)

Part two of Syris came in parallel to another story I was working on.  In a previous blog post, I introduced a halfling character named Charis, based on a miniature figure I painted at the time.  I wrote a little back story, and modeled her after my daughter since the mini was for her.  More recently, my little girl and I started working on more stories about Charis, and we worked a monk ancestor into Charis' history.  The character of Syris was born.

Creating Syris - Background Basics and Ability Scores

After seeing a vision of a future calamity, Syris left his halfling homeland to join an order of hermit monks.  His mission is to find the source of his nightmares and understand his role in it all.  Perhaps he can even stop whatever is to happen.

For ability scores, I took the standard set:  15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.  I chose this route to simplify the process.  I'm not married to any one way of choosing ability scores, and believe all the options presented in the PHB (die roll, standard set, point buy) are valid and have their place.

Luckily, halflings get a +2 dexterity, which is good for monks, and "stout" halflings get an extra +1 constitution1, which will help keep him alive.  Finally, wisdom is important to monks and their "Ki Magic."


  • 15+2 = 17 dexterity
  • 13+1 = 14 constitution
  • 14 wisdom
  • 12 strength
  • 10 charisma
  • 8 intelligence.


The low intelligence made sense to me in this case, as Syris is more concerned with wisdom and purpose than he is in book learning.


Next week, I'll expand a little more on the halfling race and monk class and what about them specifically I like.  I'll also walk through backgrounds and how I selected Syris' to match the story I hope to tell with him.

Don't forget to go check out RedRaggedFiend's post as well.  I think you'll see you can approach character generation from many different angles!

Thanks for reading.


Notes

1 - stout halflings also get poison resistance while their lightfoot brothers and sisters get +1 charisma and some stealth bonuses.