Creating a character involves following a list of steps, each of which solidifies the character concept you are working towards. As you go, you fill out your Character Sheet, a document that keeps track of every detail of your alter-ego. Eventually, you'll have a sheet that contains similar information to this one: Captain McKracken, a pirate Rogue.
The major facets to your character can be summarized as such: abilities, alignment, race, class, skills, feats, magic and equipment?. These factors all interact to define your character and what he or she is capable of.
Here is an overview of the steps we will perform:
- Invent a basic description
- Choose your name
- Roll basic ability scores
- Choose race
- Choose class
- Choose skills
- Choose feats
- Choose gear
- Flesh things out
1. Invent a Basic Description
Before you roll your ability scores (which decide the basic abilities of your character) or even your character's name, you need to think about the kind of character you want to play, so that you can place your scores in the correct slots and make smart choices about the skills you pick and train.
Once you've figured out the sort of hero you want to be, start fleshing out his or her basic description: age, height, weight, hair and eye color and other small (or large...) details. Then pick a name.
NOTE: The following text is extracted from the 3.5 SRD
You can choose or randomly generate your character’s age. If you choose it, it must be at least the minimum age for the character’s race and class (see the Random Starting Ages Table?). Your character’s minimum starting age is the adulthood age of his or her race plus the number of dice indicated in the entry corresponding to the character’s race and class on Table: Random Starting Ages.
Alternatively, refer to Table: Random Starting Ages and roll dice to determine how old your character is.
With age, a character’s physical ability scores decrease and his or her mental ability scores increase (see the Aging Effects Table?). The effects of each aging step are cumulative. However, none of a character’s ability scores can be reduced below 1 in this way.
When a character reaches venerable age, the MC will secretly roll his or her maximum age, which is the number from the Venerable column on the Aging Effects Table? plus the result of the dice roll indicated on the Maximum Age column on that table, and records the result, which the player does not know. A character who reaches his or her maximum age dies of old age at some time during the following year.
The maximum ages are for player characters. Most people in the world at large die from pestilence, accidents, infections, or violence before getting to venerable age.
Height And Weight
The dice roll given in the Height Modifier column determines the character’s extra height beyond the base height. That same number multiplied by the dice roll or quantity given in the Weight Modifier column determines the character’s extra weight beyond the base weight.
NOTE: Here ends text extracted from the System Reference Document
A character's alignment is his or her morale compass: characters can be Good, Evil, Lawful, Chaotic, or like nature, brutally Neutral. Someone can be both Evil and Lawful, so lines can get blurry. Either way, it is the players prerogative to role-play his character's true alignment. A characters race or class might limit the possible alignments that they can adopt.
Alignment is oft-times brushed over, and the explanations are quite lengthy, so it has been moved to a chapter on it's own, for those who want a detailed breakdown of the possibilities and how they affect the game. See the chapter on Alignment.
2. Choose a name
Pick a name for your character. Try to make it fit in with the campaign world as presented by your MC. At this point you may want to consider the race (such as theEndhro, Elf, Dwarf etc.)and class (such as Rogue, Fighter, Sorceror etc.) that your character will start out as, because for greater verisimilitude or "realism", you should tailor your name to evoke your character somehow. Of course, sometimes something random silly can work, but it may do your tired MC an injustice...
Fill your chosen name in on your character sheet. You might want to come back to this step this later on as you develop your character more deeply.
3. Roll Basic Ability Scores
"Rolling your ability scores" means to generate the six basic values that define the core attributes of your new character. There are a million ways to do this, and none could really be called "right" or "wrong", but some are more or less lenient or "balanced" that others. Many folk settle for one of two basic options: rolling randomly or by picking from a set of pre-defined defaults. Your DM might also allow you to go crazy and pick anything, but then you'd better be prepared to justify those abilities in role-play...
The six ability scores of a character are: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. From these ability scores are derived bonus values, which affect all sorts of things in the game, such as your ability to cause damage with an axe, your talent for diplomacy, to how much gold you can carry out of the dungeon.
Generating ability scores randomly
- Roll the six-sided dice 4 times. Record the number each time (these are "scratch" values - only the total will matter, but we need to remember quite a few numbers).
- Drop the lowest value of the 4 above numbers.
- Add up the total of the 3 numbers left after removing the lowest value. Write down this number on it's own little column. This is the first ability score you have generated, it should fall in the range 3-18. You will assign it to one of the six abilities listed above.
- Repeat all of the above another 5 times, until you have 6 numbers.
- Assign the numbers to the abilities, taking into account the race and class you are playing (for example, a fighter can only succeed with a high strength and/or dexterity scores.
Now, calculate the ability bonus for each score. Keep the distinction between SCORE and BONUS clear in your mind. Bonuses (or penalties) are derived like this:
To speed things up, instead of rolling all these random numbers, you can simply insert values from one of two pre-defined sets: the normal array and the hard-core array. These values are:
- Normal array: [16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8]
- Hard-core array: [18, 16, 13, 12, 10, 7]
Simply pick which key ability you place each number in, and derive the ability bonus.
- Into the core ability section of your character sheet, under STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA, fill in your six newly-derived ability scores, and relevant bonuses
4. Choose Race
Now you must choose into which of the noble races of the Austfolk you were born. Different races have different advantages and disadvantages based on their physical, mental and societal makeup. Unlike your characters class, your race is fixed and permanent, and affects your game immediately. Classes, on the other hand, change over time as your character improves through experience. See the chapter on races.
- In the "Special Abilities" section of your character sheet, fill in short reminders of your race-based abilities. For example, an Elf has +2 dexterity, so you need to be reminded of this, or directly modify the ability score you rolled to integrate the value.
- In the "Skill" table on the character sheet, fill in bonuses or penalties to skills that might be affected by racial traits.
5. Choose Class
A characters class reflects his place in society and his skill-set. As a character gains experience in the wide world, learning new things, overcoming challenges and interacting with society, they develop their abilities and gain new ones. If it is possible given the circumstances, characters might take on more than one class, gaining different sorts of skills. A rogue might decide to learn some sorcery, or a bard might decide to begin practice with a sword.
Your class decides the general direction your character will grow. Choose a class that reflects the kind of character archetype you want to act out. Take note of the core abilities most useful to each class as listed in the class description - these are the abilities you want to put high scores into.
You can use your basic ability scores and the bonuses (or penalties...) they provide, together with the information provided in each class description, enough information to start fleshing out your character sheet. See the chapter of classes
- Your Hit Die (HD) - this is a fixed value based on a dice roll (such as a six-sided dice,or d6). It represents how much physically tougher you get as you gain experience and training. Fighters and barbarians have higher-numbered Hit Dies (d10 and d12, respectively), while bards and sorcerors have lower Hit Dies (d6 and d4), due to their less physically demanding routines.
- Your Base Attack Bonus (BAB) - derived from class tables. Your ability to attack with any particular weapon is derived from this value (but also takes other things into account, such as your strength and certain feats).
- Your Base Saves (Fortitude, Reflex and Will saves), which together with your ability bonuses in Constitution, Dexterity and Wisdom, derive your total Save Bonus that you use when your character must make a saving throw?.
- Fill in your class-based Special Abilities, following after from where you listed your race-based abilities. Include class-based weapon proficiencies.
- Mark off your class skills: mark off all the skills that are class skills for your class. These are skills you can improve in more easily due to your vocation. Other skills will cost you more skill points (effort and training) to buy. These marks will remind you later which skills will cost more skill points to buy ranks.
- Spells Known and/or Spells Per Day values (but maybe leave this for later until you know more about magic.
6. Choose Skills
Next you must purchase "skill ranks?". Skill ranks represent training and experience in the usage of certain skills. As your character gains experience, he or she will "level up" and gain new skill points to spend on skill ranks and thus improving their skill usage. Some classes, like the Rogue, get more skill points to spend each time they level up, since they are a "skill-focused" class, as opposed to a Sorceror, who is a magic-focused character.
- "Skills" are attributes, capabilities or procedures that a character is capable of performing, such as "Appraise", "Listen?", "Jump?" or "Use Rope?". There is a predefined list of skills available, which varies somewhat with different versions of The Game.
- "Skill ranks" are how much training and experience one has had in the use of a skill, while...
- "skill points" are points you get to spend on ranks when levelling up.
- There are "class skills?" and "cross-class skills?". Each character class description provides a list of classes that are "class skill" for that class. These are skills your character can purchase for a skill point cost of 1:1 (ie. 1 point per skill rank). If you want to train "cross-class skills" (those skills not exercised routinely by an individual of a certain class), it will cost you 2:1 (ie. 2 points per skill rank). Therefore you can see that it will cost you valuable skill points to train in cross-class skills, and it is arguable that keeping focused on skills useful to your class archetype is a wise move. Doing otherwise is called "playing against class" which is interesting, but difficult.
Skills can synergize with other related skills and are affected by the relevant core abilities of your character. For example, jumping? is a Strength-based skill, and so stronger characters (with higher STR scores) will be able to jump higher and further. Certain feats (see later) might provide extra bonuses in certain circumstances. See the list of skills.
7. Choose Feats
Feats are special capabilities that a character can make use of. They might be "actions", such as "Great Cleave" (an unusually mighty swing of the sword) or "activities", such as "Scribe Scroll". They can also be trait-based "descriptions", such as "Toughness" that provide some kind of rule-based boon or bane to your character. Most feats are a boon - they provide unique benefits that help individualize your character - while some can be a bane, bestowing a troublesome aspect of life that your character must deal with. Players are free to choose their own feats, and can do so every 3rd level they ascend. This text lists the core feats available in the SRD, but many more are available in various commercial products as well as free online supplements.
- Your list of feats. This list will start small, but grow over time. It is often useful to write down page numbers in the margin for reference with your hard-cover rule-books.
- Feats might affect statistics on your character sheet. Fill in these changes or additions where required. For example, the feat Improved Initiative, gives your character a +4 bonus to his or her Initiative? score. Make sure to take this into account.
8. Choose Gear
The last major thing to do is to kit yourself out for exploration and preparing yourself for potential combat with evil-doers or nasty monsters.
9. Detailed Description - Fleshing things out
You can start play with what you've got so far, but you've really only just begun. As your game goes on, your character will gain experience and abilities, and you can start to really step into the role of your character. Feel free to write up (on the back of your character sheet, or maybe in a wiki online) your characters background story and major motivations. These can help you when it comes to playing the part.
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