5e Character Generation pt III

We are bringing this character builder look at the new Player’s Handbook to an end. When I build a character my first focus is on the mechanics, I want an adept character. Naturally this last post will be about skinning the wood elf warlock.

It’s been a few weeks since I the last post so I want to review some of the characterization thoughts that occurred to me as part of the building. I like the warlock class because it has some built in motivation. A warlock is someone who desperately wants or needs power and is willing to broker a deal with an alien entity for the power. It speaks of desperation, dark desires, maybe a broiling anger. I also chose the wood elf race. A character of that nature is long-lived, might be more inclined to the wild than cities. They are also resistant to some magic.

I chewed on these aspects of the character for a little while. I liked the idea of a character that is playing the long game of power and vengeance. With that in mind I turn to the background section of the PHB and flip some pages. While merchant interests me I find it difficult to choose over the obvious choice of noble. The noble background thumps the ideas for this character right on the nose. Now I know who he’s plotting against. He picks up History and Persuasion proficiencies, and another language, which plays into his charisma and his good schooling. Since I chose the Great Old One for the warlock pact I went ahead and spent the extra language bump on aberrant. This character knows exactly what he’s doing.

I like the idea of backgrounds. I think it’s a great addition to the game and gives characters that extra layer of what they did before adventuring. It can be difficult to know how to balance the features element if you are wanting to create your own background. I would expect some more information will be presented in the DMG for people who want to tailor campaign-specific backgrounds.

The other big bonus for the noble background is the Position of Privilege feature. Now I can place this character elbow to elbow with the powerful and influential people of the campaign. Other perks include fine clothes, a signet ring, scroll of pedigree, and 25 GP extra starting cash. The character also gains proficiency with one type of gaming set. I chose playing cards, the traditional gaming choice of the nobility. The tool/gaming set proficiencies are a nice flourish in 5e but I haven’t had them come up in play despite we’re some months into the edition.

Now I can roll back and fill in the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. I have a better feel about the character now, which saves me some of the writing, erasing, and rewriting that goes along with choosing character personalities. This area is probably the biggest step for D&D in the new edition. Prior editions have been lambasted for focusing on the dice rolling, skills, and mathematics of ‘winning’ the game. WoTC has taken a page out of the rules-light, RP focused trends, to give the outside of combat interactions some foundation.

I have yet to understand how people can suggest a rules system keeps them from role playing. That said, it’s never been a focus in D&D. The progenitor of them all always assumed people were able to tap into that 5-year-old imagination space without being told when and how to do it. As a result 70% of the rules focus on the guidelines and arbitrations of combat. It’s nice to see a little more focus given to the other two pillars of the game: exploration and interaction.

The personality traits were easy to determine. The first? Well, this guy clearly holds grudges. The second is he regularly abuses his Position of Privilege feature. As a third son of his house he has no inheritance or money. All he has is his name so he stretches that beyond proper decorum. Get ready to let this uninvited guest crash on your couch for a month or three.

The warlock’s ideal is independence. His lack of family wealth, his contract with an alien entity, it all says this guy is going to do it his way. He’s not for taking handouts but he’ll be sly to get to his ends met.

His bond is his family’s name and line. The gooey center of his tough hide the character wants to provide and protect his family’s good standing into the future. But it’s a task he feels only he can accomplish, and there are two brothers in the way.

The major character flaw then is he hates his eldest brother. By virtue of birth order it is decided who should run the family. Maybe that brother is inept or the character is just jealous. The character’s bond and flaw are a dual threat. Maybe his bond is just the rationalization of his hunger for power. He holds no enmity for the middle brother so long as he steps aside. It’s possible the character hates his father more for not breaking tradition and passing the family on to him and all that negativity is just being projected on the eldest brother.

As you can see, just because I begin my character generation by focusing on the game play mechanics doesn’t mean I can’t have an interesting character with a little depth to his character. I take mud and straw then decide to make a hut, not start building a skyscraper then look for I-beams.

The final bit? Trinkets. The PHB was nice enough to include a trivial d100 table for unique items. It’s very reminiscent of systems like 13th Age and its one unique thing. I did a post: Randomized Items that talked about these signature items a little. Players latch onto these things as being important right off the bat. They can even be obsessive about it, they’ll ask every NPC they see if they know anything about it. The items must be important because we found them, yeah? This can really hook characters into a new campaign quickly because they have their own private puzzle box. The best part? You don’t have to know what the significance is at the time. The player will probably come up with some awesome theory about the item, why not use that?

For the warlock I rolled a candle that cannot be lit. That’s an A+ in my book. It’s a simple item, but just that hint of strange and while dealing with a pact with The Great Old One it clicks nicely. Just remember to actually TELL your DM about these things or else they’ll just be ink on a character sheet.

However you go about making a character I would encourage you to try a different approach on your next character. Changing your point of view can afford you some greater insight into making better characters so you can have better games.

Don’t forget to check out the sister post over at Ryndaria.com. Thanks to everyone who stuck with this series to its end. Have a question or want me to weigh in on a topic, leave it in the comments. You can also grab my attention over on Google+ and Twitter.

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