Okay, so I had some comments and a few emails regarding yesterday’s post about the new 2014 D&D5e Player’s Handbook and the character I will use Wednesday night for the kickoff of the Adventurers League Encounters event. I’ve been mulling it over since I finished reading the PH book, and I’ve made my decision… but before I get to that, let’s talk about the D&D Encounters and Expeditions events.
The best place to start is on the Adventurers League homepage. Here, you’ll find some downloads that include the D&D Basic Rules that can be downloaded for free. Yep… free. You’ll also see a box where you can enter your zip code and find out exactly where your fellow adventurers are meeting up.
Just look at that graphic above… now THAT is a D&D group, right? Well, compare it to the group in the image below from an early 80s Dragon magazine advertisement. Just your average, every-day set of employees playing in rolling chairs around the break room’s circular table during their lunch. Oh, 80s… we do miss you. And your sweaters.
Okay, time to get serious. Adventurers League (AL). If you’ve found a nearby group and want to join up, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the free Basic Rules as well as a few rules that are specific to the AL gameplay. So, visit the AL Resource Page. Here you’ll want to download the Basic Rules and read them, then read the Player’s Guide (scroll down the page a bit — printer-friendly versions are available for downloads) and the Quick Start Guide. When done, download and printout a copy of the Adventurer Log Sheet and probably a few copies of the Character Sheet.
Print out what you can manage (including the rules if you have the desire) and make sure to sign up for either the Encounters or Expedition events. Event location rules probably vary from site to site, but I know mine requires a signup using Meetup.com — probably to help the staff determine the proper number of DMs to schedule and the number of chairs to set up. Make sure to call or check in with your site to make sure there is space — otherwise you risk facing a DM like this one from an early 80s advertisement for Grenadier Models miniatures. (While I was often the DM for my gaming group, I never went to this extreme. Of course, I was too young to grow a beard, and holding a staff makes it hard to roll dice and consult tables and charts. My robe was comfortable. Don’t judge.)
Note: Encounters events are every Wednesday evening and typically last 2 hours or so, and the Expedition events are usually any other day and have a longer play time (3-5 hours). Be sure to read the FAQ for details about the two types of events (including the big ones called Epics that are held at Cons and other major gaming gatherings).
Once you’ve got a Character Sheet and the Basic Rules, it’s time to create your character. My local comic book store (that’s hosting my Encounters event) had a character-creation meeting scheduled a few weeks back, but I was out of town. I contacted the coordinator to ask if I should show up and create my character there or have it already made. He told me as long as I followed the special Ability Score rule provided in the Player’s Guide (not to be confused with the new 5e Player’s Handbook), I was gold. What is this special rule?
Okay, in the Starter Set and the new 5e Player’s Handbook, characters have their six basic Ability Scores that must be “rolled” — Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma. With normal play in your own gaming group, one option you can use is the rule that allows you to roll 4d6 dice (four six-sided dice) and toss out the lowest die roll. What you should end up with are six values between 3 and 18. You assign a value to each of the Ability Scores in such a way they support your character’s chosen Class and Race. For example, a Fighter is probably going to want to have Strength assigned the highest value. A Cleric wants a high Wisdom score… and so on. Again, the Basic Rules (and Player’s Handbook) provide more details about the various classes and races that are available for you to select.
But with Adventurers League, the Ability Scores are generated a bit differently. You have two options — you can start out with these pre-generated values: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 or… another option uses 27 points and this variant is found in the Player’s Handbook that I cannot duplicate here (copyrighted information). If you’re interested, it’s on page 13 and is labeled Variant: Customizing Ability Scores. The basic idea is that you “buy” Ability Scores using these 27 points and it roughly works out to to a fairly average set of scores such as 15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8.
Why would you prefer to use one method over another? There may be different benefits and drawbacks, but the one that immediately comes to mind is that your choice of class and race (such as Human or Half-Orc… there are nine in all if you’re referencing the Player’s Handbook — four if you’re using the free Basic Rules) will allow you to bump up certain Ability Scores. You might want to have a bit more control over your individual scores (rather than using the pre-gen values) so that you can pick just the right values for your combo of class and race.
Note: If you have a Player’s Handbook, selecting the Human race also lets you use the Variant Human Traits rules that are found on page 31 (lower-right corner).
Again, read over all the rules (Basic Rules and/or Player’s Handbook PLUS the Adventurers League specific rules found in the Player’s Guide). I’m going to create a character below so you can follow along, and I’ll be using the Player’s Handbook to select both a class and race. The Player’s Guide, however, is the “path” I’ll be following, as it has excellent step-by-step instructions for creating a character and I want to make sure my final character is legal.
So… here goes.
The Player’s Guide states the first step is to choose a Character Origin. At the current time, the only allowable origin is Tyranny of Dragons. I imagine as the new 5e rulebooks and adventures are released over time, more origins will become available, allowing DMs to pick the one they wish to run. It also sounds like different origins might have different rules assigned to them (such as the Ability Score rolling rules described above) to facilitate the playing of a particular campaign.
Next, race and class are selected. I’ve played a variety of classes and races in the past, but I’ve always enjoyed spell casters. The problem with spell casters (typically) is that they’re often very weak and vulnerable in lower levels. For anyone who has played games like Diablo or Torchlight, you probably know that as spell casters grow in level, they can get really dangerous depending on their selected spells and the magic items and weapons they can wield (and sometimes create). I’m willing to take the risk early on with a weaker class, knowing that as this character develops and levels up, the power will come. I may not be at the front of the party leading my fellow adventurers into battle, but I’ll do what I can from the middle or rear.
Now, the Player’s Handbook has three spell caster classes I’m interested in — Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. I’ve read the details, studied the spell offerings, and examined the three different manners in which these three classes do their work, and I’ve narrowed it down to Sorcerer and Wizard. I like the Sorcery Points the Sorcerer class can earn and apply to upgrades to its spells, but I’m not certain yet about the two Sorcerous Origins (Draconic and Wild Magic) and the options those specialties offer.
The Wizard class doesn’t offer the Sorcery Points option, but it does have a LOT of School choices to choose from at Level 2 that have some amazing specialty powers depending on your selection (School of Enchantment or School of Illusion, for example — and there are six more).
It’s a tough call, but I really REALLY like not only the Sorcery Points feature of the Sorcerer class, but it also starts with 4 cantrips and 2 spells versus 3 cantrips/2 spells for the Wizard class. This guy will need all the help he can get, so 4 starting Cantrips it is. (Cantrips are simple spells that don’t get used up… you just KNOW them and they don’t require spell slots.)
Now, here’s the deal — the Sorcerer class features include using 1d6 for Hit Dice. Starting Hit Points is 6 + Constitution modifier, so I immediately know if I want this guy to have the maximum number of HP, I’ll need to make certain one of my higher Ability Scores goes to Constitution. Interestingly enough, it’s not Intelligence that the Sorcerer relies on for Saving Throws… it’s Charisma and Constitution. So I’ll need to decide between assigning my highest Ability Score to one of those two… something to ponder as I now consider race.
The Player’s Handbook offers up nine races in all, but most of them aren’t going to lend themselves very well to the Sorcerer class. For example, a Half-Orc Sorcerer sounds cool, and a Half-Orc does get a +1 to their Constitution, but they get a +2 to Strength… and the Strength attribute isn’t going to help my guy survive. They do have good speed (30 feet) and can see in the dark, but much of their other abilities are related to melee attacks. Nope… no Half-Orc.
A Dwarf might be cool — that race gets +2 to Constitution. But the speed is 25 feet and their weapon proficiencies will not help my class. Also, there are two sub races I must choose from (Hill Dwarf or Mountain Dwarf) and their bonuses are Wisdom +1 and Strength +2… again, not much help to my Sorcerer. The Halfling and Gnome races are also pretty specific ones, with not much in the way of bonuses to support a Sorcerer.
This leaves Elf, Human, Dragonborn, Half-Elf, and Tiefling. After reading the details of the Dragonborn and Tiefling races, I’m not really wanting to role-play those particular races as my Sorcerer. They come with a lot of fear and/or mistrust in most cities and town, and I’m wanting to play a race that can both blend in and achieve trust (especially if I’m going to have a high Charisma value). They’re both AMAZING races, and I can’t wait to see how another player might play them, but they’re not for me…
So, Elf… Human… Half-Elf.
Humans get +1 to all their Ability Scores. Not too bad, huh? But Half-Elf gets +2 to Charisma and +1 to two other ability scores of my choice. Elf comes with Dexterity +2 and depending on the sub race (High Elf, Wood Elf, Dark/Drow Elf) I’ll get a +1 to Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, respectively. I think I’ll go with the Half-Elf so I can have the option to upgrade two scores that I wish to pick.
Now here’s where a spreadsheet comes in handy. What? You didn’t know that D&D requires a background in Excel?! Just kidding. If I rank the Ability Scores how I wish to use them with my Sorcerer, I’ll go with this order: Constitution (first for the HP bonus that comes from the highest value I can assign), Charisma (because Half-Elf gets a bonus here), and then Dexterity, Wisdom, Intelligence, and then Strength. (No one’s going to be asking me to try and open a door or carry an unconscious adventurer, I imagine.) I’m going to use the 27-Point Score Buying system from the Player’s Handbook, and use the following six values: 15, 14, 14, 10, 10, 8
Those two 10 values mean no bonus modifiers to Intelligence and Wisdom, but the 8 is going to give me a -1 modifier for Strength. I can live with that. My starting ability scores will be Constitution 15, Charisma 14, Dexterity 14, Wisdom 10, Intelligence 10, and Strength 8. Applying race and class bonuses gives me the following character summary (with Ability Score Modifiers shown):
Strength 8 (-1)
Dexterity: 14 (+2)
Constitution: 16 (+3)
Intelligence: 10 (0)
Wisdom: 11 (0)
Charisma: 16 (+3)
Hit Point Maximum: 9
AC: 12 (10+Dexterity Bonus)
Proficiencies – Weapons: Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows
Skills: Arcana, Insight
Characters you create can get a pre-configured set of equipment (based on class and race) or you can roll the dice and start with some gold pieces and buy what you like. The Sorcerer class can choose a Light Crossbow and 20 bolts or any simple weapon, a component pouch or arcane focus, and a dungeoneer’s pack or explorer’s pack. The class also comes standard with two daggers. I’d like a little more control over my starting equipment, and the AL rules state that all classes can begin with maximum gold pieces provided in Chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook. A Sorcerer can start with 3d4 x 10gp so I have 120gp to go shopping. Here’s what I grabbed:
Light Crossbow (25gp)
Crossbow bolts – 20 (1gp)
Dagger (x2) (4gp)
Explorer’s Pack (10gp)
Component Pouch (25gp)
Arcane Focus – Staff (4gp)
Bag of Ball Bearings – 1000 (1gp)
Caltrops – 20 (1gp)
That leaves me with 40gp and a few more days to consider a few extra purchases.
Now on to name, alignment, details such as height, weight, etc… and the Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws. Toss in a Background and a Faction, and I’ll be done.
Name’s have always been difficult for me, so I typically go with the celebrity-style single monicker… I’m holding off on the name until I know this character a bit more. So let’s tackle the Background that will help me flesh out this Sorcerer with Ideals, Bonds, etc. There are 13 Backgrounds to choose from, and I really like the Hermit. The description is something I can fit with the Sorcerer role, and it provides me with two new skill proficiencies — Medicine and Religion — and a tool proficiency… Herbalism kit (time to go shopping again). I get to pick another Language (Half-Elf provided me with Common, Elvish, and one extra… I took Goblin) so it’ll be Orc. I’ll work my knowledge of Goblin and Orc into my background story.
The Hermit background also provides me with some additional equipment — a scroll case full of notes and prayers, a winter blanket, some common clothes, that Herbalism kit, and 5 bonus gp.
One of the things I really enjoy about this new 5e Player’s Handbook are these Backgrounds and the questions they raise to help players understand their character better. I’m going to use a d8 and d6 to actually generate random rolls for the details covered in the Hermit section, so here’s what I came up with:
* A d8 roll provided me with a reason for my life of seclusion — “I retreated from society after a life-changing event.” Hmm… I can work with that.
* A d8 roll provides with with a Personality Trait of — “I connect everything that happens to me to a grand, cosmic plan.” Cool!
* A d6 roll provided me with an Ideal — “Live and Let Live. Meddling in the affairs of others only causes trouble.” Hmmm… doesn’t go along with what I was considering for my half-elf sorcerer, but I will work with it.
* A d6 provided me with a Bond — “I’m still seeking the enlightenment I pursued in my seclusion, and it still eludes me.” A deep thinker here, maybe.
* A d6 also gave me my character’s Flaw — “I’d risk too much to uncover a lost bit of knowledge.” Ooooh… gonna have to play this guy a little dangerously around artifacts and ruins.
For alignment, based on the above Features of my hermit half-elf sorcerer, I’m going to go with Lawful Neutral… seems a good fit, and matches up to the Monk class which my sorcerer seems to emulate a bit. AL players must choose a Faction, so I’m going to run with the Harpers based on the description in the Player’s Guide.
Height and weight? I’ll go with a 5’11” half-elf who weighs in at 146lbs. (I rolled the dice to generate the random height and weight found on the table on page 121 of the Player’s Handbook.)
Now all I need to do is take everything I know about this guy… his class, his race, his Background (including Flaw, Bond, etc.), his alignment and affiliation with the Harpers, and develop a half page story to explain the How and Why… oh, and a name.
So, after taking a few hours pause from the above detail development, here’s what I came up with (although I may make some changes before Wed night):
Niloshis had finally tired of the solitude.
“Quietwalker” the children from the closest human settlement called him after he’d left from his twice-a-year visit for purchases at the town’s outfitter. Niloshis Rukliknok (“Danger”) to the curious goblins or orcs who braved his company in the cave despite the various tribes’ warnings about encounters with the outsider.
Many answers had been discovered as Nilo pondered the cosmos from the safety and seclusion of the hidden cave he’d claimed from the long-dead orc huddled in the cave’s deepest pocket. Many answers… but not enough. The years away from the High Elves and his family. Sustaining himself on the unfamiliar vegetation and small animals that also survived on the side of Gray Ash Mountain. Practicing over and over the most simple of sorcery skills he’d learned in secret from his grandfather. These were not difficulties. The freedoms he possessed outside of both human and elven society were a blessing, if truth be told. No, Nilo’s exhaustion stemmed from his lack of comprehension.
Why had his family been prohibited from practicing any form of magic in the elven cities? Why had he been singled out by the Council for the tests? And why had he been exiled at such a young age, forced to leave family and friends with nothing but a map to the farthest mountain range still under elven protection and a small pouch of gold coins? It took ten years for Nilo to realize the answers to those questions would never be pulled from the thin mountain air or the occasional glimpses into the hidden planes that his meditations revealed.
Time for a change.
True, many elves his age would hesitate to leave the cities for another twenty, maybe thirty years. But he was a half-elven. Half-human. If the elves didn’t want him, maybe he could find some answers out among the humans? Maybe what he lacked were more experiences and more knowledge. Surely others existed that could assist him with his search for… for what? That too was a question.
Yes, time for a change.
Nilo would take the risks necessary to find the answers to his questions. And a slight smile hinted at other possibilities — that he’d also find answers to questions he hadn’t yet asked. And questions he couldn’t yet know for lack of experience.
Nilo thanked the previous owner of the cave for sharing its shelter, left two small torches and five gold coins for the next occupant to discover, and walked out into the light.
At this point, I still need to pick the Cantrips and Spells, but I’m going to have to really think about those a bit longer. I probably won’t make any firm decisions until a few hours or so before the actual event.
It’s going to be fun seeing where Nilo’s adventures take him. Hopefully he’ll survive long enough to discover a few answers. I’ll be sure to follow up once I get a few Adventurers League sessions under my belt, so stay tuned…