Thursday, November 22, 2012

Making a D&D Next Character

I made a D&D Next character today using the most recent playtest rules (from the set that includes the monk).

The last time I made a character was with the very first set of playtest rules, and quite a bit has changed since then.

We're doing an online playtest tonight, and the group needs a rogue.  Our experience in the Next game that I DM is that the rogue is pretty powerful, but apparently some smack has been talked about them, so I'm interested in creating one to see just what they can do under the newest rules.

So, race comes first.  Everyone plays a halfling thief, so I figure elf or human, or maaaaaybee dwarf if I come up with a good idea.  Perusing the races my latent min/maxer kicks in - I pick the wood elf for the +1 dex bonus, the automatic training in spot and listen and the enhanced ability to hide.  All good things for a rogue.

Stats come next, roll them up using 4d6 drop lowest - 12, 17, 12, 16, 10, 8.  Those are quite good, actually, especially when you realize that you get to add at least 2 point to those scores.

I'll take Str 10 cause I don't need it, Dex 17 of course, Con 12 for a slight HP edge, Int 16 for the skills, Wis 12 for skills and Cha 8.  Yaay for Charisma dump stat!  Add the +1 Dex for being an elf and I'm sitting pretty at 18 Dex.

I already picked the rogue class, so I get another +1 to add to Str, Dex or Int.  Dex it is for the 19 and the +5 bonus.  Finesse weapons here we COME.  And the damage dice increase on shortbows from being an elf don't hurt none either.

On to the Background, Specialty and Scheme.  So many choices here!  I don't like the Backgrounds and Schemes that I see, too much overlap and duplication of what I already have.  It seems like if you get training on a skill you already have you should get an extra +1 or +2 or something.  Is there a rule I missed?

Since I'm not happy with any of the ones I see here, I'll make up my own.  They thoughtfully give me rules to do that, and hellz, I'm a DM, I make up my own shit ALL THE TIME.

Brigand. You are a robber or forester who lives in the wilderness. You have excellent forestry skills, and excel at avoiding pursuit or detection.

Skills: Track, Survival, Search, Climb
Trait: Wanderer – excellent memory for maps and terrain, can find
food and water for up to 5 others each day.
Cool art from this blog.

Nightrunner. The Nightrunner is an elven assassin, spy and saboteur. They are trained in stealth, climbing and agility, as well as sneaky tricks.
Skills: Stealth, Balance, Disable Device, Tumble
Maneuvers: Danger Sense, Precise Shot, Sneak Attack, Spring Attack, Vault, Controlled Fall, Parry, Tumbling Dodge.

Woot - that means I have training in Listen, Spot, Track, Sneak, Survival, Search, Climb, Balance, Disable Device and Tumble.  Thiefy and scouty!  I get a skill mastery maneuver automatically that lets me add my expertise dice to a skill check, so that enhances all these skills.  Being a rogue also gives me thieves tools, proficiency in light armor and basic, finesse, simple and martial missile weapons for a reasonable weapon selection.

Picking a Specialty is actually pretty tough, as there are a lot of Specialties that fit with my character concept (elven Snake-eyes FTW!)  Eventually, I pick Ambush Specialist, getting the Improved Initiative feat.  +4 on initiative and a minimum of 10 on initiative rolls means that I CANNOT get less than 19 on an initiative roll.  Plus my danger sense maneuver lets me add my expertise dice to initiative.  Minimum 20, then, so I will be going first.  And that is good since I only have 7 HP and 16 AC.

For weapons, being an elf gives me enhanced damage dice on the shortbow, that will be a no-brainer.  I also take a katana (SNAKE-EYES!  SHUT UP!) for the higher damage since I can't use a shield anyways, daggers for thematic effect and throwing and a spiked chain (kusari) because it's cool and I could see it coming in handy.  Indiana Jones always found a use for the whip, so a weighted chain should be useful.

Because of the high Dex and the +2 rogue attack bonus, I have +7 to hit with all my weapons, and most of them get a +5 damage adjustment.  I may not be durable, but I'm pointy.

Leather armor is obvious since my Dex is so high.  I'll also take a raft of sneaky gear:  backpack, climbers kit, 2 grappling hooks, caltrops, oil, ball bearings, pitons, tinderbox, waterskin, chalk, thieves tools, a steel mirror and the obligatory black cloak.  That leaves me enough money for all my weapons and about 20 GP left over, as you are allowed to spend 175 GP if you don't take the standard gear recommendations.

Finalized sheet is here:  Cerdwin

I did have the +1 rogue bonus added to STR instead of DEX on this character sheet, but I'll fix that up shortly.

Some thoughts:

It's a bit fiddly if you care about duplicating skills.

Improved Initiative will be nerfed shortly.

Between Class, Race, Scheme, Specialty and Background there is a LOT to choose from.  Maybe too much for a newbie.  Definitely harder than the first couple of rounds of playtest.

It's really easy to customize character creation, which is great.  Min/maxing is there but less of an issue than 4e and you don't seem to need a doctorate in systems design to plan a character like you did in 3e.

These characters remind me a bit of Palladium system characters.  Many of the basic bonuses and skills are set on creation and the characters don't change THAT much as you level.  Sure you get better, but the basics are all the same.

This rogue is going to be nasty if I don't die immediately.

I could easily die immediately.

It's a bit weird having katanas and things in the equipment lists, but I rationalize by saying that they are just elven-style weapons analogous to katanas and kusari and other ninja/oriental stuff.

You could still do old-school characters very easily on this system by removing Scheme, Specialty and optionally background.  The system would still work at least as well as 1e.  Keeping background and Scheme would mean you basically have 2e.

The feats are simple and the Specialties work more like Vampire Disciplines now - neat new powers every few levels.  I like that.

This is flexible and interesting enough that I like creating characters.  Probably the most interesting character creation in D&D since 2e.


  1. Its if initiative TOTAL is less than 10 treat it as 10, not if roll is less than 10. I double checked that one because it seemed too good to be true.

  2. Well, pre-nerfed, then. I'm very, very unlikely to ever get less than a 10 as it stands now.

  3. "It seems like if you get training on a skill you already have you should get an extra +1 or +2 or something. Is there a rule I missed?"

    Backgrounds and Skills, page 1, on the left under Skills > Training > paragraph 2: "If your character already has training in a skill and gains training in that skill again (for example, a skill granted by both the character’s class and background), you instead choose a different skill in which your character becomes trained."

    So a little redundancy helps, not hurts, 'cause it means you get your pick of skills.

  4. Perfect, that makes it easier. I knew there was probably something I missed.

  5. Removing retainers from the early game and 2d6 reaction rolls certainly does make charisma sort of useless. I've never really understood why WotC did this. In 4E at least some classes can make attacks using their charisma bonus (though that's also not exactly to my taste, at least it has function).

  6. I don't see any reason that this version of D&D can't accommodate retainers. I've been dropping unaltered 1e and 2e monsters into my test game with no issues, and the low AC and HP totals for low-level characters seems to support that play style. There is also quite a bit of charisma work in the skills - persuade, sense motive, intimidate. Maybe not enough to totally support charisma, but it's there.

    I didn't really like the 4e "killing them with the force of my awesome personality" effects either, but I agree that at least there were mechanical reasons for taking high charisma. For this character, I have no issue with low charisma. He's a cold, unfeeling killer.

    1. Yeah, I expect that retainer rules will come back at some point, but it is possible that they will only be part of the endgame (for followers, etc). If so, that would be a shame, but I suppose we will have to wait and see. I agree it makes sense for this character. Overall, the number of choices does seem a bit high to support what is essentially an elven rogue/ranger, don't you think? And the bonuses are pretty high... I expect lots of players will not want to play characters that don't have at least a +4 or +5 to their main thing. All that said, I'm still enjoying the development of Next quite a bit, and they have already had way more interesting ideas than I expected (expertise dice are really pretty cool).

    2. Yeah, that is the main thing I noticed as different from the earlier versions of the playtest. Character creation right now is analogous to 2e characters with the kits from the "Complete" books.

      I'm pretty sure you could streamline the whole thing by just using the defaults they designate for each class. I made a lot more choices a) because I like to make choices like that and b) I didn't get the swap-out rule for skills.

      The bonuses are pretty high - this is a bit of what I meant by it seeming like a Palladium character - you get most bonuses front-loaded in that system. In a way, this is a different take on D&D - less of a 0 to hero and more like tough but fragile to tough and durable.

      Being able to add a few stat points in character creation should go a ways towards mitigating the "I want a +8" issue, but min/maxers is min/maxers, not much you can do to remove that. Unfortunately, 4e was basically Min/Maxing SCHOOL for many players. We'll see how it goes, but I agree with you, I'm seeing lots of new ideas that I like.

      Expertise dice - spells castable as rituals, vancian and at-will combinations, I like all these things.

  7. If I understand the ability score bonuses correctly, a 19 Dex would only give you a +4 bonus. Am I missing something?

  8. You know, stat score of 19 gives you only +4 bonus. To have +5 you have to have a score of 20. Best regards from Bloody Adventures of Sword and Sorcery!

  9. Hey, thanks for all the detailed insight into how you created this character. I'm an old school AD&D player/DM from the 80s and got interested in this public play testing I heard about. Thinking about getting some of the old farts I used to play with in high school together on skype to give it a go...

    Got a quick question: How did you make the character sheet PDF editable so that you could type on it. There is no way I'm gonna write everything out by hand anymore...


  10. As several people have noted, I did get the dex adjustment wrong. That was a last minute change that I didn't really research well enough.

    Lewis, I used an online PDF to word converter: I had to do a bit of post-production, but it worked well. You could also use Adobe Acrobat or something like Goodreader, if you want to use it on an iPad.

  11. It seems the PDF copy's all stat modifiers for all your base stats to the same or am I doing something wrong