How I Made D&D Cooler Part 2: Characters

Here’s an example of a character sheet I sketched out for one of the characters in my D&D game:
[Stolen Image from the Internet]

“Cornelius Finch” Lvl 5 Human Huckster of Evil

Str 12 Con 9 Dex 13 Int 14 Wis 10 Cha 17
HP 22 [ ] , Bloodied 10, +1 Leather 2, Initiative +4
Surges 7, Healing 4
Melee +4, Missile +6,
Fortitude 12, Reflex 17, Will 18
Feats: Smooth Talker, Dodge
Special: Extra Skill, Extra Feat

At-Will: MW Throwing Knives +6 (1d4+5) or +4 (1d4+5), Bluff +10, Diplomacy +10, History +7, Insight +6, Sailing +8, Stealth +6, Thievery +6, Default +3, Bardic Inspiration (+1 to rolls and damage), Helpful Anecdote +2

*Encounter: Entrancement +8

**Utility: Suggestion +8

***Daily: Charm +8, Lesser Geas +8

Pretty simple; I’ll go through it bit by bit. A lot of this is being familiar with the D20 system and working things out organically. As I said before, this isn’t a new system or anything, just a way to play D&D without having fifteen books at the table or having drawn-out rules arguments – basically, beginner-friendly with some Doug-ish twists.

“Cornelius Finch” Lvl 5 Human Huckster of Evil
The class is Huckster of Evil based on the players’ description of his character concept, which most resembled a fast-talking, capitalistic Bard. Levels work the same as usual – his level is his number of “hit dice” and is also added to d20 rolls and defenses as it is in 4th Edition.

As you can see, I kept the usual clunky ability scores, where you subtract 10 and then divide by 2 for the actual bonus. This is just a D&D convention that people are used to.

+1 Leather 2
Armor in this version simply provides DR/-, or damage resistance against everything physical. In this case, I divided the listed AC bonus for leather armor by 2 and that was the DR for the armor. Because it is +1 magical armor, I add 1 to that number, for a total of 2. Easy.

Surges 7, Healing 4
Surges, as I said, are a player resource to boost particular actions their characters attempt. They are like a more versatile version of the action points from Unearthed Arcana and the like. The “healing” rating is a flat number that represents the character’s rate of recovery from Hit Point loss. I get the number by taking their level and adding their Con bonus – in this case, Cornelius’ Con has a -1 penalty because it is a 9. So when he rests for a full night, he gets 4HP back. When someone casts Cure Ligh Wounds on him, he gets a base of 4HP back. When he spends a Surge to have a second wind, he recovers 4HP – you get the idea.

Melee +4, Missile +6
Every character has a base melee and missile attack score, just for ease of reference. In this case, the Bard is trained in either melee or missile, and Cornelius is trained in missile. That means that his melee bonus is equal to 1/2 level + Str mod + Feats, etc. and his missile bonus is level + Dex mod + Feats, etc. He has no combat feats, so the math is simple.

Fortitude 12, Reflex 17, Will 18
In keeping with D20, the Bard has trained Reflex and Will and untrained Fortitude defense. I also used the 4E convention where Fortitude can be modified by either Strength or Constitution, Reflex either Dexterity or Intelligence, and Will either Wisdom or Charisma – that’s a cool little rule. So, Cornelius’ Fortitude defense is 10 + 1/2 level + Str OR Con mod + Feats etc. and his Will defense is 10 + level + Wis or Cha mod + Feats, etc.

For at-will abilities, I include basic attacks, basic (first-tier) Feats, and skills. These are all the things you can do in-game, basically, that will have some set effect on the fiction and that you don’t have to pay Surges for.

Encounter powers cost 1 Surge to use, and in this case, Entrancement works like an attack against Will defense much as it functions in the 3.5 PHb – you can use it to distract people with your performance. The difference, to make this potentially useable in combat, is that you can use it against targets even if they are threatened. They take a -2 penalty to their first action after the entrancement is broken by taking damage or a bigger distraction elsewhere.

All of the rules for these powers are made up and discussed with the player in question. I take what is in the official books as a starting point and then simplify and streamline what I find.

Cornelius’ Utility power is Suggestion, and costs 2 Surges to use, like any Utility power in this system. This is also similar to the 3.5 PHb, and can have you “suggest” anything short of suicide.

Cornelius, at level 5, has 2 Daily powers, each of which cost 3 Surges to use. The first he’s always had – Charm is basically Charm Person – the target becomes your best friend for a scene. The second is the new one – Lesser Geas. The player specifically requested an ability to create magically-enforced contracts to function in his scam-artistry. Again, much like what is in the books.

The way I work out how many Encounter, Utility and Daily powers a character has is pretty simple, and I use 4E as a starting-point.

1st Level: 1 Encounter and 1 Daily (and technically, here, if you use the Daily, you won’t have enough Surges to also use the Encounter unless you earn one…)
2nd Level: 1 Encounter, 1 Utility and 1 Daily (and again, you have to choose, since you only have 4 Surges to start a session)
3rd Level: Move one power down on the list and replace it with another – usually move an Encounter power down to At-Will and add a new Encounter power
4th Level: 2 Encounter powers, 1 Utility and 1 Daily
5th Level: 2 Encounter powers, 1 Utility and 2 Daily
6th Level: the character automatically gets a “Prestige Class”, and gets the new abilities from that class

And so on…I haven’t gone past level 6, but you hopefully get the idea.

In playtesting so far, this sytem has led to much faster-paced D&D games with a lot more happening. I also really enjoy having social powers, particularly in Cornelius’ case, so that a player-character can kick ass between fight scenes. Who enjoys being schooled by the local magic item salesmen at level 10? If one character can kill dragons, another should at least be able to win arguments…

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