Now we’re getting towards the edges of the races you can play in Dungeons and Dragons from the main Players Handbook. There are additional races or race options in other books. I’m going to call out some Tiefling things are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. […]
I’ve done a lot of in depth posts on the different backgrounds and classes from the core book, and I’ve done some posts on building out characters before, but I wanted to come up with the simplest way of how to create a character. By this, what is that smallest area that you need to align your character with to have a good character for a game?
One thing you’ll see that I’m not going to be talking about is backstory. I think that a good backstory can make it easier to role play, give the DM a bunch of story hooks, and give you a more rich character, but that isn’t needed for building a character for a game.
What I’m going to recommend is that you start by understanding the campaign and make a character that fits the game you’re playing. If it’s a heist game, making a paladin with AC 22 and stealth of -2 is going to cause issues. Same with a more social based game, just because you have this great half-orc barbarian idea doesn’t mean that it’s going to fit into a game with a ton of social situations when the half-orcs favorite word is supposed to be smash. This should all really be hashed out in a session zero where you come with your ideas for characters and the DM comes with their idea for games and then you figure out what game you want to play and with that, what character idea you can use.
Next, you’re playing in a game with one or five or more players, so build your character to not be Batman. I know what playing the character that can do everything, but the more people you have, the less you need the rogue who dipped into bard to get all the expertise. Make a character that is good at what they are meant to be good at. If you want to make the rogue character, focus on stealth and deception and slight of hand. You don’t need to be better at Arcana than the wizard is just because you can be.
Now, that does sound like you could end up creating a character that isn’t fun for you to play. Maybe you want to be to tools monkey who knows a bit of everything all the time. That’s fine, but then leave of combat. Which is what Batman forgot to do. But for the final piece of advice, play a character that is fun for you, but is also fun for everyone else to play with. Let’s go with the Rogue example again, just because you can steal from the paladin doesn’t mean that you should steal from the paladin. And maybe your paladin is all about being that thief, but at least make it then that he respects at least some of the members of the party enough to not steal from the party. You can certainly try and steal from shops still, but the party is off limits, because when you steal the trinket that the paladin has written a massive backstory for, they are going to be pissed.
And that’s it, it’s a bit of a shorter article. Sorry for missing yesterday, I was out sick. But those are the three things, really two, just with one split out between mechanics and role playing. But this is the simplest level of creating a character that you’re going to have fun playing, and that is going to fit into the campaign and be fun to play with in a game.
Now, this is a bit simplistic, hence the 101 added to the end. I am going to continue until we get up to a graduate level course, just remember that all the information for building a good character is going to build off of one another, so starting at the graduate level course isn’t going to do you that much good.
Have I missed anything important for the extremely basic how to create a good D&D player character?
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Building a city as a home base or where your adventure is taking place can be a cool thing to do, it can also be a daunting thing to do, because putting together a whole city can be a lot of work. I rarely go into a city knowing everything about it, even if I’m running the game. There are multiple reasons for this, from me not wanting to spend the time to giving the players more control over the shape and feel of the game. But you might want to lay out more of a city, if it’s very important to your game.
When you start to build the city, first ask yourself, what is this city built around. In the case of D&D, most cities are going to spring up close to water for shipping purposes or along trade routes. That’s how most cities were founded in the real world for the large cities. You’re also going to have the smaller towns spring up along these trade routes. So, what is the primary good that’s being traded along this route? Is it going to be that there are a lot of different things coming down into a port city, so they have basically everything, or are you going to make this a city at the edge of a large forest that sends furs and wood down the river to a city along the coast with no trees?
To go along with trade, what significance does your city have in the realm that you are building. Is it a city that has a lord or lady ruling over it, but is under a king. Is it something that is near the border of two realms so it might be in a state of war more often than a city in the middle of a kingdom would be, though even in the middle, there could be land disputes around it. Or is it the seat of the king or queen of the realm and so it has that more heavily political atmosphere around it. Some of this will depend on the story you want to tell in the game, maybe you want the throne or politics to be further away from your game, if that’s the case, and you still want a city game, keep them away from the politicians and a long ways away from that.
Once you have an idea of the basics of your city, trade and political positioning, you can move more into the finer details. You will want to consider the different aspects of the city such as crime, wealth, what sort of businesses are going to be common, what sort of education is there, what sort of power merchants have in the city, how common are temples, how much magic is there, and more. Now, that is daunting, so I tend to keep it pretty simple in my games.
Generally, I think it is good to know how much crime there is outside of thieve’s guilds or other sort of criminal organizations. A good criminal organization is going to keep other crime down so that they are able to operate more freely, and also to keep the law enforcement off of their back. An example of this would be John Marcone from the Dresden Files who keeps other gangs and criminal organizations out of Chicago. Yes, Marcone is not a good man and causes a lot of issues of his own, but he’s running a business of crime, and that is what a thieve’s guild would do in a city.
The other big one is magic, how common is magic in the city, is it only tied to the temples, or are there shops set-up on street corners that are selling potions. There are going to be some cities that have more magic in them than others because of having a wizarding school or something of the sort in them. But you can also think about this on a grander scale as well. If you’re world is fairly low magic, you might then need to consider how special it would be if in a city you had magical items. That would have to be an extremely rich city, and most likely is going to have to be the seat of power for that realm. Or it could be that magic is mainly focused on those given by the divine, so clerics and paladins are accepted, but warlocks, wizards, and sorcerers might not be.
You can see how it is a bit daunting to completely build a city, so what are some things that you can do to make it easier on yourself.
You could have, as part of session 0, a brainstorming session with the players. Together you can come up with what sort of city it is. There are several nice things about doing this or doing my next suggestion of asking players to help describe the city in game when needed. The reasons being that it takes pressure off of you to come up with everything for the city and it gives the players more ownership over the game and the city.
If you were to go with either brainstorming in session 0 or asking in game for help building the city, I’d consider having a few surprises. If you’ve listened to Dungeons And Flagons season 2, you’ll hear me asking for things, but there are certain things, like the underground city that had been there that they stumbled into that were meant to be surprises for the players. That will keep the world and city more interesting for the players when they realize that their characters might know the city well or at least parts of it well, but there are still surprises even for their characters that they didn’t realize were happening in the background.
Another solution is to use an online resource. There are various things that will help you build your city, especially the layout of it and map it out for you that would be a lot of work otherwise. I haven’t used it much, but https://watabou.itch.io/medieval-fantasy-city-generator makes a beautiful city and you can tweak it as you need. It would help you get up and running faster. There are also more detailed articles on building cities out there, but if you’re trying to lesson your work load, using something to generate the map would be very helpful.
Finally, you can just build your city as you need it on demand. Quickly figure out if this is a big city or a small city. Will your characters run into the politics of the city, and how much magic there is. Then just build it as you go, if you need a docks section of the city for a session, spend time fleshing that out. Flesh it out only as you need it and you’ll have a fully planned out city eventually. That can keep some pressure off of you at the start, but you’ll eventually have to put the effort in.
How have you built cities before for an RPG? What’s worked well for you before or do you keep them out in the country and in dungeons so that you don’t have to build a city?
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I retired my first Gloomhaven character last night, and I wanted, for those interested, so write up what some of the different characters are like. Thus far we’ve seen five different characters and I feel like I have a solid grasp on a few of […]
I’ve held off on writing this one because in terms of backgrounds, I feel like it’s the most open. If you do anything heroic, you’re going to be a folk hero. Even if it’s something for a community in a small town or saving a leader from an assassination attempt in the city, you are going to become someone of legend.
In fact, that’s what adventurers are doing most of the time, they are trying to become folk heroes. Now, it might not be their biggest thing as to why they are adventuring, but it’s going to be part. If you are in a small town and you help them somehow, you’re going to be famous, because they don’t know anything more.
So how do you make a truly unique folk hero? I think you write whatever story that you want. You can choose a tragic backstory, a heroic backstory, but it’s always going to be something that really can lead you into adventure. It even works fine for evil characters because there are legends and stories being told about them, so how do you do something that feels interesting and different?
I don’t know that you really can. In terms of backgrounds, I’m going to write less for this one, because a lot of the other ones I’ve written for the other backgrounds, they can be that of a folk hero as well. Because, there are big events and people are going to tell your story. I will point out that there does seem to be more of a small town feel to a folk hero, but I do think you can be a folk hero from a city and that might be the more unique part to it.
You didn’t grow up in a good life, in fact, as a small kid, your parents left you at an orphanage in the big city. You don’t know who they are, but you always hoped that they were someone important. When you reached the age of sixteen the orphanage had to send you out into the world. Unfortunately, you weren’t able to get a job, you didn’t have training that other kids your age did, so you fell in with a bad crowd. You learned of a plot to kill the governor of the district. They asked you to help and you agreed, but you didn’t feel like you could be a bad guy, so you decided to turn the tables on them, and you saved the governor. That got you enough to get on your feet and the money then allowed you to travel and you hope to be able to find your parents some day, maybe if they’ve heard your story they’ll want to claim you.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
I wanted to write this one because it shows the big city folk hero. People everywhere know of you and the people in the small towns are going to be impressed by you.
Life sucked on the border. That is what it was like for my family as I grew up. There were a lot of battles around our town and our crops were burned often. Things looked terrible one time as the armies and battle spilled into our town. I was sleeping when I saw a holy vision. The angel spoke to me and told me what I needed to do. I sneaked into both camps while the armies slept and killed two wizards who were controlling the generals and making them fight. When they woke in the morning, they didn’t know how they got there, a few people had seen what I had done and soon the story spread, as well as the story of the angel. The temple in the town sent me out to spread the word of our deity, because that is the only one who could have talked to me.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Our town was a normal town until the circus came to town. They had picked up an infernal ring master who had taken control and was leading them around as they headed around through the underdark. I had been trained to see these things with the help of a patron who had given me my own talents. I saw the sign and with the help of my patron, I stood up to them. It was terrifying, but I felt more power flow through my than I ever would have thought. Because I stood up to them, we were able to released the four people they had already kidnapped. It was the right thing to do, but terrifying. Now the infernal ring master might have been killed, but his boss is now interested in me as I’ve ruined their plan.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
There are ton of different ways that you can go, and most any story can really work. These are just a few ideas that you can do. You can see how the first option could have criminal as well for the background, but they never went into that too far. Folk Hero is a really good catch-all for a lot of different backgrounds.
Have you played a folk hero in Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder or another game? How did you create your backstory?
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