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You are here: Home --> DragonBlog --> More than just stats... (Part 2)

More than just stats... (Part 2)

All right, Innmates, I’m back and ready to get the evolution of our characters underway. Did everyone show up with their dice, character sheets, and all that good stuff?
Good… Got those rough-shod ideas regarding your characters at the ready, too, I hope… we may be using them sooner than you think.
Okay, if you’ll remember from the last installment, I’ve decided that I’m going to whip up a level 7 character for a 3.5e style campaign - a mith’ganni assassin named Nyx Shyndyn…
Oooooh! Assassin!
 Oooooh! Level Seven!
… I know, right? An elven assassin with seven character levels sounds like it should be a super-cool character, doesn’t it? Pretty decent set of feats and skills and abilities, yeah? Could even be a fairly challenging if not deadly opponent if he was made an NPC and plopped down in a campaign and sent after the one or more of the PCs…
Woooo! Let’s play!!!
…Not yet… I need you to set aside the whole level 7 thing for a while, first. You can’t get to 7th level, after all, without looking at levels 1 thru 6, and to build a good, rich, playable character, you’re going to want to look really closely at each one.
Take Nyx… He’s an assassin at his 7th character level but, since assassin isn’t a “base class” in the ruleset we’re using… and since, realistically, no one is “born an assassin”… we’ve got to pick an available class that will get us to where we’re trying to go, and make it believable and true to the character to boot…
Hey! Drop the dice, skippy! We ain’t there yet!
…If your goal is for the character to take on a “prestige” or “advanced” class at some point during his/her evolution, I want you to take a look at the prerequisites for that class even before you roll your base stats. It’s always a good idea to have a firm grasp on what you need to have before you go charging dice-long into trying to get there. So, that in mind, to be an assassin at 7th level, Nyx will need to meet the following requirements:
  • Must be of evil alignment
  • have at least 4 skill ranks in Disguise
  • …8 skill ranks each in Hide and move silently
Not too challenging, really… those skill requirements should be fairly easy to reach by level 7 and you can just pick your alignment, right?
Sure… you can just pick your alignment where the finished character is concerned, I guess, but, to get some depth in there, you really need to consider how that alignment is going to apply to your character. Take Nyx for example, I knew, starting out that he was going to be either Lawful or Neutral Evil but, at the same time, I don’t imagine that, in his early days, he was inclined much to evil. He was a hunter/warrior (we’ll use the ranger character class to represent this) in a small, nomadic clan of plains-dwellers that typically went out of their way to avoid humans (and to a lesser extent, other races, as well). They’re a dying race, content to keep to themselves and keep their clans going for as long as their gods see fit to make possible, and the most “evil” they may commit in their day to day lives is moving their herds of horses through the range of another mith’ganni clan… Nope… Highly doubtful that Nyx was evil to begin with… in fact, I’d say the “average” mith’ganni tended towards true Neutral… we’ll figure out how to slip evil in there later.
Okay… now pick up those dice! Our first step on the path to our assassin is a true neutral, first level, mith’ganni ranger… Stat generation is 4d6 drop the lowest and, since I’m feeling generous and chatty, rerolls on anything lower than 10, okay?
Nice! Fairly good set of rolls there… a pair of 13’s, a 12, a 17, an 18, and a 16! Impressive! (Aren’t you glad you go to reroll that 6 and 9?) Let’s allocate those to our base stats… don’t forget to take into consideration your chosen race’s modifiers when doing this, of course. It’s really tempting to throw that 18 into something like strength or dexterity in an attempt to make the guy a devastating melee combatant or a deadly threat at range buuuuut the mith’ganni have a -4 CHA adjustment and, when you get to be an assassin, you’re going to need a decent charisma score in order to pull of some of the more complicated jobs, aren’t you? There’s also a -2 INT modifier to look at on the downside and, where pluses are a factor, we’ve got +2’s working on DEX and CON.
Yep… we’ll be able to work with these… that 18 isn’t going into STR or DEX, though, we’re sacrificing that to Charisma right now! Here’s how Nyx’s stats were allocated (and why I chose to allocate them that way):
  • Str: 13 (Nope… not horribly strong but a 13 isn’t bad… seems like a good number to represent an early life spent riding the range and handling horses… besides, assassins don’t need to be horribly strong… a good one can finesse you to death)
  • Dex: 17!!! (Like I said, grace and finesse are key (for both assassins and rangers)… tack on the +2 racial mod and you’ve got a damn nimble 19 Dexterity!)
  • Con: 12 (Again, not necessarily the hardiest kind of guy but not a bad score… especially when you consider the +2 race mod sets Nyx’s Constitiution at 14… with that, he oughta be able to endure exposure, have a chance at handling poisons, etc)
  • Int: 16 (A bit high, you think? Better allocated to strength? Nah… Brains never hurt any character and, when it comes to bonus points for stats, a modifier on the plus side doesn’t hurt… I want Nyx to be rather crafty and have a good shot at getting some of those skill pre-reqs out of the way with relative ease… with the mith’ganni’s -2 Int, this leaves Nyx with a respectable 14… and a nice +2 to skill points on level-up)
  • Wis: 13 (because I’ve already decided to put the 18 in CHA…)
  • Cha: 18 (for the reasons explained above… darn charming until you consider that the -4 race mod pares this down to a middling 14… but still not bad for getting him where we’re going, right?)
So, our mith’ganni “assassin” starts as a ranger with the following base stats: Str: 13, Dex:19, Con: 14, Int:14, Wis: 13, and Cha:14… respectable… *nod* Now, away go the dice… Time to throw in a little detail work and, since I tend to overlook language selection if I don’t do it way early in the creation process I like to get that out of the way once the stats are set…
Why bother with languages, especially when everyone I game with speaks the same language as I do, anyway, you ask?
Flavor, my friend. Depth of character. And hey, there’s been more than one GM in history who let a whole party get their shiny butts get handed to ‘em because of a language barrier, hasn’t there?
…So let’s look at languages, shall we? By default, Nyx gets Common and Elven (Mith’ganni Dialect) as granted languages. That +2 mod from INT gives him the potential to speak/comprehend two more, though, doesn’t it? Hmmmm… what to choose? Draconic? Nah… doubtful that Nyx has encountered a dragon, let alone knows how to converse in it’s language… Let’s see… he’s spent his life, so far, wandering the steppes with his people… Gnolls aren’t uncommon in grasslands and such, right? And, maybe, just maybe, his clan had regular dealings with some of their forest-dwelling cousins? Gnoll and Sylvan, then… entirely more plausible for a ranger than Draconic and Abyssal, yes?
See? Quick and painless… it’s all done, languages are out of the way and some modicum of thought regarding the character’s background helped you make the choices. Envisioning Nyx (in lighter days) chatting it up with a pack of Gnolls or a band of wood elves? Yeah… me too… Don’t get too distracted, though… keep those thinking caps on because we’re looking at our skills next…
At level 1, Nyx has 32 skill points to spend… sometime between his first level of ranger and his first level of assassin, he needs to come up with the 8 ranks in Hide and Move Silently and 4 ranks in Disguise, right? So let’s knock that down first. Hide and Move Silently are both “class skills” for rangers (gotta be able to hide from enemies and hunt your food, don’t ya? Maybe the hide skill is even applicable to being able to set up the clan’s camp without it being easily detectable, right?) anyway, class skill means you can beef out up to four ranks each on these, right now. Disguise, on the other hand, is not a class skill for rangers and, unless I want to spend 2 points for a single rank in the skill, I’m probably better off not trying to add anything to that just now.. Besides, who would Nyx need to disguise himself <i>from</i> at this early stage… he only knows his own people and has passing contact with only a few others outside of that… *shrug*… Disguise comes later then… let’s look at what else we can do with the 24 points we’ve got remaining for this first level.
Since the mith’ganni are a “horsing folk” it makes sense to throw some points at Handle Animal and Ride, doesn’t it? Besides, the mith’ganni get a racial adjustment of +2 to both of these skills, why not take advantage of the extra bonus? This early on, though, I’ll be conservative and buy 2 ranks of each and maybe add more if I still have anything left… I want to consider the other skills that “young Nyx” might have learned, though. Listen, Spot, and Search all come to mind as things a tribal hunter/warrior would make use of on a day-to day basis…Survival and Use Rope are good and appropriate “class skills,” too, for a hunter… and speaking of Hunter, why not throw a skill point or two at Profession (Hunter)? Hunting and defense of his kinsmen are his roles in the clan, after all… and what ranger wouldn’t have some nature knowledge? He’d need to know how to read the earth, pick the stuff that’s good to eat over the stuff that’s poisionous, understand the migratory patterns of animals, identify the healing properties of certain herbs, perhaps… Hey… Healing! There’s another one!… what else? I’ve got 5 points left… Climb and Jump! Rangers climb and jump, right?
Cool! All done. After all is said and done, and due consideration given to the life Nyx has lead thus far, the 32 skill points have been spent and here’s what we’ve ended up with:
  • Move silently: 4 ranks (all mods to this point bring him to a +8)
  • Hide: 4 ranks (another +8 after modifiers are factored in)
  • Ride: 3 ranks (+9 when all is said and done)
  • Use Rope: 2 ranks (+6)
  • Survival: 2 Ranks (+3)
  • Spot: 2 ranks (+5)
  • Search: 2 ranks (+6)
  • Profession (Hunter): 2 ranks (+3)
  • Listen: 2 ranks (+5)
  • Knowledge (Nature): 2 ranks (+4)
  • Jump: 2 ranks (+3)
  • Handle Animal: 2 ranks (+6)
  • Climb: 2 ranks (+3)
  • Heal: 1 rank (+2)
32 points went pretty quickly, I guess… but if those skills were slid in front of me with nothing else, it’d be pretty easy to determine that they belong to a ranger, huh? Plus… we’ve already cut the Move Silently and Hide pre-reqs for our assassin class in half. Now we can go on to Feats and Abilities, I suppose….
A lot of your characters starting feats and abilities are going to be determined by your race and/or class selections, of course… Nyx is an elf and a ranger at first level so, by “default” he’s granted the following: Simple and Martial weapons proficiencies, Armor Proficiency (light), Shield proficiency, and Track… gets to select a first “Favored Enemy”, and, finally, after all of that, gets one more Feat to select from a huge list of possibilities…
So, Favored Enemy first? Okay… easy enough… Nyx picks Humans. In the world he lives in Humans are engaged in the wholesale subjugation or destruction of “inferior races”… Aside from some inter-clan skirmishes and perhaps the occasional run-in with a cantankerous gnoll, the mith’ganni had no enemies until the humans started their genocidal tear.
That leaves us with one more feat to select… what say we pick “Stealthy”? Them breeders ain’t exactly sharp eared as an elf but it don’t hurt to be a bit sneaky when you’re planning a preemptive strike, right? Plus, it oughta help our future career in assassination. ;)
And, that’s it, Innmates! Level 1 is done and out of the way! If, as is the goal of this whole exercises, you have considered your character’s history and background as you’ve made your selections and allocations, you should already have polished off some of those rough-ideas you started with and, on the fly, be able to explain where your character’s skills came from and how they relate to who and what he or she is… and BONUS: while you’ve been contemplating that you’ve likely planted the seeds of evolution and have at least an inkling of how the character is going to grow, huh?
So, with level 1 laid as our foundation, we know that Nyx Shyndyn was pretty much your quintessential ranger early on. Mix all of the stats and skills in with the campaign world and race info, and you’ve got plenty of fodder for pulling a pretty detailed and, perhaps more importantly, believable backstory out of the soup already… You should be able to tell tales about the exploits of your character, know his relationship with his own people, and his relationships with people/creatures not of his particular breed and, with that, my friends, you’re ready to keep building on those blocks that you’ve just cemented in as your character’s past!
It’s break time for ol’ Uncle Run With Scissors, now… In our next installment we’ll see how Nyx develops through the next few levels and what new story snippets we can add to his background as a result, eh?
Go… marvel at your characters… have a coffee or a chai… I need to blink… There will be more later… I promise.

posted by Eol Fefalas on 7/04/2020 at 08:38:27 PM Digg Technorati Blinklist Furlreddit


Superb content here, sir. A really nice walkthrough of the character creation process.

posted by t_catt11 on 11/24/2009 at 04:58:57 PM

Thanks, boss... Even better when I can get the formatting done properly, huh? ;)

posted by Eol Fefalas on 11/24/2009 at 05:02:46 PM

Chai!! *grin*

And wow... if most of us put half of this much work into a character... we'd be... half as good as Eol. ;) And probably better for it.

posted by Merideth on 11/24/2009 at 05:36:35 PM

I really enjoyed reading both of these articles and look forward to further installments. This is a great new frontier for players just beginning and a phenomenal reminder for those more advanced. I know that I still get caught up in stats stats stats sometimes and have to remind myself that being a tank as it were doesn't always make for the most fun game or the most interesting character. Weakness creates realism, which, though it sounds like blasphemy, is actually way more enjoyable to play! In the middle of working on two characters as it were, this article came as a godsend and will, I'm sure, come in handy in the future.

Also, I thought I'd mention, because neither Eol or Meri will toot their horns I'll plug it for them, even if this isn't the best venue for that: if you want to hear more about Nyx check out A Duet in the Creative forum. That's all for now, besides the fact that I drool over the idea of being half as good as Eol. ;)


posted by Dragonblood on 11/24/2009 at 06:10:51 PM

Out of curiousity, Eol, what would you have done if you had not been allowed to re-roll anything under 10, and had to use the 6 and 9?

I ask because in most games that I play at the table are much less "powered" with regards to stats than your above example.

You have a total of 89 stat points in your example. Most games are more in the range of 75-80 (if 4d6, drop low, is used).

So, what would you do then? ;)

posted by Ayrn on 11/24/2009 at 09:42:28 PM

Good question, Ayrn... I would imagine that if I -had- to use the 6 and 9 (which were rerolled as a 13 and that loverly 18) Nyx would have become a bit of a different creature. I'd have likely chosen Barbarian as his first class and taken him more along the "savage knee breaker" line as opposed to the "sneaky assassin" track... I may have also reconsidered race and selected something with a different set of stat modifiers (if any at all)... in which case, I probably wouldn't have ended up with the Nyx we know and love/hate today. :)

posted by Eol Fefalas on 11/25/2009 at 07:15:53 AM

Hmm... yeah. I guess that's why I don't like random generated stats. :(

Does this somewhat change how you would approach character generation, then?

That, really, you need to either roll the dice up front and get your stat spread, or work with a point-buy or set number stat distribution, so that you know what you're working with.

Otherwise, you end up putting all the work into figuring out what kind of character you want to play only to roll the dice and realize it's not going to work...


posted by Ayrn on 11/25/2009 at 10:09:13 AM

I don't know that it really changes the way I, myself, would approach character generation, no.

As the title of this "series" of entries suggests, I think characters should start with the idea first and then, take what the fates hand them with the dice rolls or set points, and then sculpt that concept as needed, or maybe even dictated, by those stats.

Continuing with the "what if I had kept the 6 and 9" example... I'd have certainly tried to keep to my original concept of Nyx but, say I'd thrown that 6 in Wisdom and maybe the 9 into Con (shuffling the remaining stats as appropriate, of course)... A 6 in wisdom isn't exactly what I'd call "ranger" material... He'd still be part of a plains dwelling clan, but, instead of being one of the ranger-types, responsible for hunting, scouting, moving the clan's camps, etc, he'd been a "laborer" or perhaps one of the "stay at camp and kill any outsider that threatens us" fighter-types... so Barbarian as opposed to ranger.

That fact, alone, though, would have also changed some of the character's back story, as you will see in the next installment, and so, perhaps the path that lead him to becoming an assassin might have been a bit different....

Ach! I ramble... my answer is no... for me it wouldn't change my approach, just mold, fine tune, and adjust the character's history, etc, as I proceeded... More than just the stats, you know?

posted by Eol Fefalas on 11/25/2009 at 10:26:53 AM

:) LOL

Yep... I hear ya, brother! I completely agree with you that it is more than JUST stats... but it's hard to deny that stat generation plays a large part in shaping your character as you try to find the fine balance between working with the game mechanics and creating the character you really want.

Anyway... -I- ramble. :) Let me not derail this excellent work any longer! :TUP:

posted by Ayrn on 11/25/2009 at 10:50:20 AM

Sorry about this, but I want to put my two cents in about the stat generation, at least by random means :)

I find that usually, if using a d6 method, the dice tend to give you what you need with the method used and are what the game required. The scores are higher tier, but perhaps the game is also higher tier on the whole, which means a potentially unbalanced game is still balanced in some way. Alternately, the rolls are so unworkable that rerolling is possible. I kind of trust the dice when it comes to character scores (although I don't always trust them when it comes to use them in game...).

I suppose it also has to do with how realistic you want it. The worlds have been known, barring very direct meddling of destiny, to provide things that are, for lack of a better word on-hand, unsatisfactory. Natural faults and flaws. Sometimes working with what the dice give you is a reflection of that, or that's my feeling on it at least.

Of course, the most difficult part is considering that over the course of 20 levels, you only end up with an income of 5 stat points. In some cases it's difficult to show character growth because of this; over the course of four levels, the character is bound to develop more than the additional layer of muscle. Or perhaps they develop a lot with regards to their personality, going from a cold, methodical and calculating individual to a warmer and gentler soul. In this case, the point to show growth should go into Cha... but because the game itself is getting harder, you can't afford to show that growth due to the point being necessary to raise your Con above 9, or some other necessity. Sure, you could try using skill points to show this by increasing the relevant 'people skills', but at the same time, like the stat points, these are usually needed elsewhere. This is, in my opinion, the point where the system does not truly accommodate for character development.

Oops, I said I was going to continue on the random generation discussion... but I went further off track ^^;

Oh well... said my more-than 2 cents at least ^^

posted by Reralae on 11/25/2009 at 12:29:45 PM

Flattering, that Nyx should once more appear outside my own realm. He suited this article as a great example, though. Wonderful, enlightening piece you've composed here..

posted by Tek on 11/25/2009 at 05:39:25 PM

Thanks, Tek... for both the kind words and, of course, the inspiration for Nyx.

More of the bugger's backstory to be revealed in the next installment, by the way. ;)

posted by Eol Fefalas on 11/26/2009 at 12:45:52 PM

Ain't you something, Eol! Very nice work and what's best, it's a very nice read as well. Sir, I salute thee.

posted by Raven on 11/26/2009 at 02:17:34 PM

Reralea the concept of the character being more than stats applies beyond just generating. The idea of your character leveling and growing into someone you didn't anticipate should be reflected as you assign the new stat and skill points. For example if your character finds themselves the diplomat of the party and is constantly using diplomacy to the best of their ability then when you level you should assign stat points into diplomacy. Not just cause you'll use the skill but more cause your using the skill, see the difference? I think you should assign stat and skill points based on the last level/four levels to show how your character is evolving through roleplay instead of numbers against numbers to test survivability.

posted by Ion Kired on 11/30/2009 at 06:29:32 PM

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