Now comes the time for an updated take on character generation, a belaboured procedure under the more modern paradigms of the game, and that my gut feeling says should be as seamless and immediate as a game is deadly. Despite thinking of attachment to a character as something absolutely positive, the old school of “gravel for breakfast” is not about projecting expressionist fetishism onto a shell predestined for success, rather more humanly about coping with the unknown quantities fortune inflicts, starting right with the character sheet. The less choices to agonize about at the outset, the better. This means attributes, starting equipment, feats and most else is to be randomized, in a deliberate push against customizability and toward improvisational play.
Past this thought of immanent attachment only mattering insomuch as failure also can befall the character, it bears out that if shit does happen, player and referee alike will want to get back into the game post-haste. As such, tightened the procedure aiming for swiftness, as I definitely did not want to compromise the “five minutes and it’s done”-ness of the process.
There is a reason why this is being called character generation and not character building. Lack of care for balance sits at the core of the process, the unpredictable essence of which is what makes for an entertaining generation procedure: not knowing what you as a player are going to get and adapting to what the dice give to you is vastly more interesting than buying scores, tweaking feats and the whole optimization trailer of manifest destiny, complete with bulging background saddlebags.
A liminal stat value for viability has not been traced. It is to be accepted that character building, even if pared down to inane point-buy schemes, will inevitably see characters cling to differing power curves; if not from their raw stats, then from the different classes, which is something this procedure attempts to offset both through randomness and a more “apples to oranges” remedial approach, by awarding extra feats to attribute-poor characters.
Narrativists seem to like flawed characters (as long as the flaws stay well the fuck away from interfering with the payoffs, also known as “forced down the path of what one was going to do anyway”) whereas characters marred by shortcoming, like unhappy families, tend to all rapidly gain in distinct traces of true character.
As stated before, a player that finds his character reduced by circumstance is free to retire and return him to the setting fishpond whenever he feels like.
Master of None
As written elsewhere, I’ve looked to reducing the syndrome of stat dumping or gold-star stats. Quixotic, I’ll agree, but the aim remains wanting for players to pine for competence to the extent that, unless endowed with scores of 15-plus across the board, a character ought to always feel inadequate and overextended.
This meant attaching greater value to the mental stats and strength by resorting to a variety of small details.
Like the first version, I’ve kept the inclusion of some flavouring options in the shape of feats (table to follow soon), of varying levels of power and tied down to randomness, having them be determined first to minimize deadwood by allowing the player some elbow-space to make the most of what he rolls.
A player gets 6 tokens at the beginning of character generation. Once per stat, whether attribute, hit-die or feat, a token may be expended to roll an additional die of the appropriate type and then discard one of the results (typically the lowest).
1) Choose Character Race
2) Buy Feats
Trade mulligan tokens for rolls on the feat table at an increasing cost of one token per roll.
3) Generate Stats
Roll six sets of 3d6, assigning one to each of the character’s attributes.
Choose Character Class & Roll Hit-points
Roll the hit-dice: one dictated by size, for the unleveled character’s health, the other granted by class training.
4) Is the character viable?
Total up the character’s attribute modifiers; if the sum is negative, either retire him and roll another or add back a corresponding number of bonus tokens, to be spent only on feats, and continue the generation process.
5) Gameable Details
Some details, such as height, weight and age are gameable details and thus must be generated.
Height & Weight: the PHB’s competent take on this (pg. 121) suits me perfectly.
Age: 10+2d6 years for mankind, adding a d6 per level past first.
Starting Experience: multiply character’s age by his Intelligence modifier, minimum 0.
6) Choose Name and finishing touches
Choose name and details – hair, eye or skin colour – that are minor or have no gameable impact.
7) Determine starting equipment
Depending widely upon the vagaries of where and how a character joins a party, the new arrival’s starting equipment will need to be randomly determined:
Basic equipment: You’re guaranteed a simple melee weapon of choice, a basic set of clothes, boots, a belt pouch (1 slot), a small backpack (5 slots) and a roll on the armour table.
Armour Table (d10):
2. Studded leather
4. Scale mail
5. Ring mail
7. Splint mail
8. Full Plate
9. Buckler shield, make a second roll on this table with a d8.
10. Medium shield, make a second roll on this table with a d8.
Results with which the character has no proficiency are counted as Leather Armour instead or can be replaced by a roll on the equipment table.
For equipment, you’re entitled to 5 rolls on the following table, modified by Wisdom. Any result can be replaced with either d6 rations, d6 torches or a full waterskin.
Equipment Table (d20):
1. Any item here presented or a roll on d100 trinkets.
2. 10’ pole, 3 iron spikes or whetstone
3. Small keg of beer (weighs 3 slots, 3d6 servings)
4. Simple ranged weapon of choice (10 pieces of ammunition)
5. Vial of contact poison (d4 doses), or healing potion
6. Mirror, flask or tankard (bronze)
7. Vial of acid or alchemist’s fire (50/50)
8. Climbing hammer and 10 pitons
9. Cloak and hunting horn
10. Torches (2d6) and flint
11. Melee weapon of choice or simple ranged (10 pieces of ammunition)
12. Crowbar, shovel or miner’s pick
13. Bedroll, tinderbox, wooden mug and cooking pot
14. Bag of Caltrops or Ball bearings
15. Chain (10’)
16. 2d6 rations and a full waterskin
17. Rope (50’)
18. Lanthorn, flint and 2d4 flasks of oil
19. Grappling hook
20. Large backpack or sack (10 slots) and two additional rolls on this table