Recently I got the opportunity to join in on a game using the Roll20 site.
I was instructed to either pick a pre-gen character or I could roll my own first level vision of glory. I decided to create my own.
As a writer, I’ve always tried to draw inspiration from characters I’ve read or adapted something from places deep in my imagination.
I have this strange rule about creating characters including my collection of NPC’s. I’m going to take a bit of time explaining my thought process in dreaming up a brave hero adventuring type.
My process isn’t the best for everyone and really only works when you have a group of strong role-players. I know for a lot of people, they generally start out with a bunch of number representing their abilities and work from there. I have always thought, how did they get all those number? Why is their strength so high? Was it years of hard battle practice preparing them for a service of guard duties or all the heavy lifting they did as a youth on a farm?
I like to start with a little story and some background. From this I can picture and images of the master works unfolding. I have never been a MIN/MAX player but rather go for a character that people will remember for a while. So at times I may disregard putting that extra point into strength for my fighter and might add it to wisdom or intelligence depending on the back story I’ve written. As a DM I do this for all my major NPC’s. It comes from a belief that all hero and villains have a story that shaped who they are and their stats should reflect that history.
It’s best to explain this strange process I will follow through with the example of my brand new awesome fighter.
So here is the little background I wrote up for my new character. Keeping in mind I wasn’t even sure what type of class I wanted to play. My original thought was a cleric of Tymora.
“Like most Half Orcs, Mardrove is product of the many wars between the Orcs and northern barbarians. Her mother wanting to keep the child of battle died in child birth and Mardrove was adopted into the clan despite her Orcish heritage.”
The first place I start is with a race and pick a sex. Depending on my mood, I’m not averse to choosing male or female. It really depends on what I’m reading at the time. Presently I’m reading “The Reaver” by Richard Lee Byers (The Sundering series #4.) If you have read this you might have a minor clue of where my brain might be at.
“It wasn’t easy growing up for Mardrove was alone in her half-blooded nature. She had to learn how to defend herself from a young age. She was eventually traded to a merchant captain out of Luskan, The city of Sails while in her teen years. Her aggressive nature and inability to get along with the other young members of the clan made it increasingly difficult to fit in. Since many of the merchants that visited Luskan were already unsavory it was easy to place the young half blood.”
There you are, and I now have a sailor background beginning to take shape. I didn’t see it coming either till I decided to include Luskan as a semi starting point and remember that it was the city of sails. Luskan is a Northern city so it fit well with the barbarians fro this area.
“As luck would have it she managed to be traded on to a ship that wasn’t under any of the Five Captains rule or have a strong Zhent tie. It was the one eyed dwarf and first mate Grud that taught the art of using the axes she carries with her. Many lessons on a slippery deck that rolled with the waves was enough to build the incredible balance and fighting skill she has this day. She has faced down many a storm, pirate and a few monster from the deep. Life on the merchant ship was never dull.”
My character is really beginning to take shape. I’ve semi got a possible alignment of good and it’s looking like dexterity will be my primary attribute due to the slippery deck and rolling seas. I’ve added some axes into the mix so I might have a fighter or rogue type on my hands. By now my thoughts on a cleric have all but vanished.
“Growing up she learned the ways of the seas and her fighting skill grew as the sea faring merchants were very often the victims of pirates. She has travel along the sword coast from Luskan to Calimport and is more than familiar with the various inns and ports along the way.”
I liked the idea of a fighter, so I’m going to roll with it.
“Her unique wit and charm soon developed and she became a valued member of the crew after a few rough years proving her worth. Known for not only for her ability to fight but also to seemly talk her way out of trouble that might arise in the many port taverns she frequented. Most of the talking is often threatening in nature. To her, a tavern brawl is a nice way to get know a new city.”
So I have a bit of a tavern trash on my hands which I desperately wanted to capture in her character. I made up my mind to put a few extra points into charisma. For those who might consider creating a fighter you’re probably thinking why I would waste my time with a stat that will not help in combat. As I mentioned earlier I not just creating a fighter, but a character with stats that would reflect the background. I’m already building bonds and flaws in the background that would be believable and other people might be able to relate too.
“She is prone to making rash decisions on occasion if left to her own. More of her orcish ancestry that creeps out now and again. She has gotten better at controlling it over the years but it still there. If pushed, it doesn’t’ ever go well and normally begins with a few punches being tossed, and ending with a few broken noses and missing teeth. Pride will always overcome common sense.”
Building on her half orc nature I can easily adapt some of those traits to explain the behaviors I envision for my new character. I’ve solidified some of the flaws that might hinder her and fellow party members.
“Present day this Raven haired young woman is ready to explore the world. There is more to see then empty horizons and nefarious taverns, most of which know her by name. With the luck of Tymora, the few gold in her pouch and the weapons on her back she is ready to see what the world has to offer.”
Sometimes that hardest thing to add to any new character is a reason why they are out in the wilds exploring lost ruins and chasing goblins down in an effort to save villagers. What I included, but didn’t really detail was the pantheon Mardrove believes in and how that plays a part in her actual character and the choice she will make. Tymora is the god of luck for those not familiar with the Forgotten Realms lore. In her equipment is a coin of Tymora that can constantly be seen rolling between her fingers. When faced with a decision she will flip the coin, stating that perhaps Tymora should decide. I added this to give other cohorts something to identify with, and that one defining mannerism to finish off her off. I thought it was just a little bit of random that could sway and steer a course of action I personally might not normally take. During the game she might flip her coin of Tymora and to persuade her fellow adventures on a particular course of action such as choosing a door. I have strayed a bit from my original cleric to a fighter of similar nature.
“Mardrove is a loyal companion to those she knows and trusts. She has learned that the things that keep a ship together is mutual respect between all members.”
Building on her heritage and background I applied this bond to her. Almost taken word for word from the player’s handbook. I think players should spend more time in this section rather than what race/class combo will grant them the best damage. In my years of DMing I can remember the characters that had unique personalities and traits vs which ones did the most damage. Of course, this is all just personal opinion and everyone has their own ideas.
So my final outcome for my new fighter was a little far from what I was aiming for. As a writer I often get lost in characters and they don’t always end as I envisioned them to be.
To generalize the finished stats:
Strength 13 – training with weapons and working on-board a ship adds to the 13 strength score. Coupled with her natural orc heritage this number looked pretty good.
Dexterity 15 – working on sailing vessels with is varied weather and rolling waves one would have to adapt to the every changing balance needed to not be washed into a watery death. With the background developing a high dexterity was a natural pick. The idea of swinging from the ship ropes also persuaded me to choose Acrobatics. Maybe I’ve just seen way to many pirate movies.
Constitution 15 – Half orc already received the +1 in this stat since I have already created a sea faring type who has traveled in the multiple environments, for the far north to the warmer weather of the south, developing a higher than average health to adapt to the changing weather and harsh life of the open water this also made sense to me.
Intelligence 9 – Since life on a ship is rather task orientated and the only really outside interest to this character was bashing heads in taverns, not having a high intelligence wasn’t really an issue. There is not a room for studies on-board ships other than learning ropes work and basic navigation. The basic navigation was the only reason I didn’t lower this stat to an 8.
Wisdom 10 – I put an extra point here to represent her perceptiveness to the world around her. Mostly regarding changing weather patterns and having a better than average perception having spent a great deal of time in the various pub she could or might know when something is not as it should be.
Charisma 13 – This was the one stat I wanted to build to show her personality a bit. Not all half orc are consider to be ugly or lack the ability to interact with others. Like I’ve already mentioned she has spent a great deal of time in every port side inn and pub to gain a good idea of how to effectively win over people. Be it her commanding method of intimidation which is her strong suit of the fact that she was sort of comely for a half orc. I was going to make some sad reference to another ship captain not averse to sharing a bed with certain green races. If you get that, we can be friends. Having spent a great deal of time among those less than stellar holes of brewery and debauchery she has learned how to gather news and rumors with ease. I felt compelled to increase her wisdom.
All this work gave me a new appreciation for those players that go the extra mile and truly delve into the grit and bones that make the character who they are. I almost felt bad for having had a hand in their death. Like most DM’s I let fate rear its ugly head and roll the dice and hope for a positive outcome for everyone.
With my stats picked out and my new character sheet all filled out I was ready to release Mardrove on the land of Forgotten Realms and see what fate had in store for me. Some people have an easy time stepping out of their comfy DM chair and the god like ability to create and destroy worlds. I do not however feel any comfort as it has been well over 20 years since I’ve take the place at the table as a player. But I have a pretty awesome fighter at the ready and what I can tell, a very well rounded DM to guide and help build my story.
I wanted to thank my DM Mark, who took the time to walk me through my character sheet on Roll20 and explaining how it all worked. It was a fantastic job by him and I did feel like a bit of newbie but was very thankful for the extra assistance.
My first act as a new character is flip my coin of Tymora and see where it will take me.