Chapter 1: Characters

Chapter 1: Step-by-Step Characters:

Step 1. Choose a Race (see also Chapter 2 review).  I have restrictions on available races for player characters, which I detail in my review of Chapter 2.  I’ve done this for two reasons:

The first is to tailor PCs to the game milieu set in the World of Greyhawk (WoGH), which as I stated previously, is populated mostly by human peoples.  By default, the WoGH generally supports some races and disallows others.  And, although I suppose one could concoct a plausible argument for just about any race, it would stretch the long-standing, well-documented background information on this particular milieu.

The second is a call for a return to original simplicity, which may or may not resound with many of you.  At the time of this writing in the fall of 2021, Dungeons and Dragons is in its fifth edition, with a likely release of edition 5.5 sometime in 2022.  As each new edition of D&D has been published the proliferation of new races has (in my humble opinion) made the game ever more complicated and, honestly, has completely eclipsed the original works of fiction upon which the game of D&D in its early editions was based.

Step 2. Choose a Class (potential use of Quick Build) (see also Chapter 3 review).  Here again, I’ve imposed restrictions on available classes for player characters, which I detail in my review of Chapter 3.  And here again, I’ve done this for the same two reasons as noted above for available PC races.

Step 3. Determine Ability Scores (see also my review of Chapter 7).  The 5e Player’s Handbook describes a few different ways to generate ability scores in Chapter 1 and lists racial modifiers to those scores in Chapter 2.

I have a more streamlined system for determining ability scores.  Players simply allocate a fixed number of ability “points”, based on their chosen race, across the six attributes of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Humans distribute seventy-two points, for an average attribute score of 12, placing any Human PC well above normal Humans who average 9 across these same attributes.  But in my system, I don’t allow the Human PC their +1 increase to all ability scores as noted in the PHB on page 31.  That would be overkill.  Still, this method allows the player to craft their PC as they see fit, and still places Human PC at a distinct advantage.  However, Humans don’t receive any of the special innate racial abilities available to Demi-Humans, such as Dwarven Resilience or Elven Darkvision (see Chapter 2), which is also something to consider.

Demi-Humans (Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Gnomes) are allocated only 66 points, for an average attribute of 11, which is still above Human norms.  Further, each Demi-Human race receives a +2 bonus to one key attribute score (see Chapter 2), bringing their average ability score to 11.3.  Additionally, each Demi-Human race receives other innate bonuses such as Darkvision, special resistance to poisons or charms, heightened senses, and other abilities, giving them further advantage.

My reasoning for establishing an advantage for Human PCs over Demi-Humans is to provide at least some encouragement for players to choose a Human character in the first place.  Established racial advantages (see Chapter 3 review) frequently prompt players to choose non-human races and that (again IMHO) unbalances the game, especially since the WoGH is a decidedly human-populated milieu.

Step 4. Describe Your Character (see also Chapter 4 review).  It’s a requirement of mine that you provide at least some detail on your PCs background, and that’s best done in close consultation with me, your DM.  In that way, you’re sure to have a PC that “fits in” to the milieu of the WoGH, and with my other house rules.  The PHB devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 4) to “Personality and Background”.  In general, it’s all good stuff, but if you follow all of that, be sure to read my review of Chapter 4 first.

Step 5. Choose Equipment (see also Chapter 5 review).  This step is OK as is, but I have some very definite ideas about encumbrance, carrying capacity, starting funds and the monetary system of the WoGH, etc.  You’ll find these in my review of Chapter 5.

Step 6. Come Together

Beyond 1st Level.  Here you’ll find the general concept of the adventuring “party” and teamwork amongst party members.  I’ll take care of bringing the party together during a “Session Zero” game session, which is a game session run before a larger campaign actually begins, in which the DM and the players all get on the same page about the campaign that will follow.  We’ll discuss house rules, requirements, restrictions, and prohibitions, verify characters generated, talk about the milieu, etc. (Session Zero)

Tiers of Play & Character Advancement.  A word about character advancement in levels is probably appropriate here.  Typically, in my campaigns, a PC will advance slowly through levels, especially beyond perhaps 6th level.  In fact, most PCs in my campaigns will probably be looking for retirement by 8th or 9th level.

Most ‘static’ NPCs such as ‘high level’ fighters who may be the Baron of a territory, or a former adventuring cleric now running a priestly order and monastery are rarely above 10th level.

The hard truth is that playing ‘low level’ PCs – ‘first tier’ as outlined in the PHB (1st through 4th level) – is much more fun and challenging than playing higher-level characters.  Experienced players understand this.  The higher the average level of any given party, the harder it becomes for the DM to challenge them.

The whole idea is to start down in the trenches along with everyone else and rise to greatness through steady and careful adventuring.

I will typically begin ‘wrapping up’ a given campaign scenario as the party crosses into ‘second tier’ per the PHB (5th through 10th level) and will eventually begin encouraging players to retire their PCs to some ‘static’ position in life… and providing the opportunity to do so.

Once the party gets to those upper ‘second tier’ levels it’s time to close out gameplay, generate new 1st level characters and start a new campaign.  In that case, the players have a personal stake in the milieu in the form of their now-retired PCs.  And those retired PCs may even figure into the party’s new low-level adventures!

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