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The Douchey DM » Advice » JiB on Character Creation

JiB on Character Creation

There are as many ways to approach
creating a character as there are people to create them. None of them
are intrinsically better or worse than any other though some work
better for one player or another, or for one sort of game or another.
What follows is an example of how I create a player character. This
example is my current character in my Wednesday night Pathfinder
game.


The concept – Everything hinges
on the concept of the character as a literary construct. At this
point I am largely disinterested in game mechanics other than to know
whether the sort of character I want to do can be done within the
rules of the game we’re playing and/or within the limits established
by the GM. NOTE: Sometimes the concept grows out of an idea
that comes from something in the rules. That is the case with the
example character. Faced with the need to create a new character (RIP
Selbrin) someone said, “Hey you should make a gunslinger.”
[quizzical monkey] Ooooh ??? says I. Immediately the idea of a
dwarven Rob Roy pops into my head. Scots highlander dwarf (ok nothing
new there) armed with a musket, a pair of pistols and a basket hilted
claymore. Hmmmmm … This could be interesting and fun. So I do
a little checking, the gunslinger base class is to be found in the
play test beta ( link ) available from Paizo. I have to stretch the
rules just a little bit in that a gunslinger gets either a musket or
pistol at 1st level for free not both, but the gm says
it’s ok for him to have both. It doesn’t give him any bonus and it’s
just spending some money that he really doesn’t have. It wouldn’t
have bothered me if he’d said pick one (I’d have gone with the
musket) but he said it was ok so off we go.


So, we have a basic concept of a dwarf
(highland version) armed with guns and blades we have to give him
some background. Why does he have guns? Where does he come from?


Our game takes place outside the normal
places but the GM says we can be from anywhere. So, my dwarf is from
a dwarf hold (I’ll make one up) in Golarion (the official Pathfinder
game world). In the dwarf hold every clan has a specialty. His
family’s specialty has always been siege engines and the machines of
war so we’ll credit them with inventing gunpowder. All of which leads
to the following description.


Hidden deep in the dwarf hold of
Earthfast, the dwarves of the McDuggin clan practice a form of
warfare terrifying to behold. Smoke and fire bellow from the mouths
of guns and cannon and mortars raining molten death on their enemies
from afar only to then be swarmed under by the rough and tumble
dwarves with axe and hammer and sword.


Cormac McDuggin springs from that
rough and tumble family with wild copper hair flying out from beneath
a bold leather cap bright blue eyes scanning the battlefield for
enemies. A deep toned breastplate over well tended maille covers his
body a broad kilt of deep green plaid wrapped around his hips and
legs. A broad leather covered targe and odd basket hilted broadsword
his weapons of choice for close combat. However, to get that close
enemies will have to get past the fire and death of his long barreled
musket and pistols.


Not the most
original of concepts but with lots of potential for fun particularly
when taken into account that in this game none of the other
characters have any familiarity with firearms at all.


So we have a
concept and a bit of background and we even have some notion of his
equipment. I could cheerfully role play the character right now, but
we don’t have the necessary game mechanics worked out, so let’s make
with the rules.


We
have a race selected, so let’s buy some ability scores. GM says to
use a 32 point buy method, so this will be easy, and make for
characters with a little more oomph than normal. I’ll give preference
to his scores in this order: Dexterity (He shoots things), it’s kind
of a toss up between Strength and Constitution, he’ll need both but
he gets a bonus to Constitution so I’ll go with Strength.
Intelligence comes fourth followed by Wisdom and finally Charisma.
NOTE: Wisdom is actually
more important to a gunslinger than intelligence because of the way
the rules are set up.


Picking feats and
skills.


He’ll
need both, but feats are easier so I’ll do that first. GM said to
start the characters at 2
nd
level so he only gets one feat. Even though gunslinger is a
derivative of fighter one of the prices of being a gunslinger is that
he doesn’t get all of the feats that a fighter gets. Although I’m
firmly of the opinion that going first is a benefit, being able to
shoot more often is more important, so I’ll pick the rapid reload
feat rather than improved initiative.


Next
I’ll pick his skills. I don’t pick skills based on game play but
rather based on the character. At 2
nd
level and with his Intelligence I have 8 skill points to work with so
there’s not much to do, but he needs to know how to make gunpowder
and he needs to know how to fix his guns (they tend to break from
time to time) so we’ll put skill points into craft alchemy and
knowledge engineering. Pathfinder limits the number of ranks in any
skill to the level of the character so no more than 2 for Cormac
leaving us with 4 points. Two for Perception and 1 each for knowledge
dungeoneering and survival. Could I pick skills that would make him
more “powerful” in game terms. Sure I could, but that’s
not what I’m after. I’m after skills that make sense for the
character to have as I’ve conceived him. Cormac practices what
amounts to an art that is still very new despite his family’s history
and he has to be able to fend for himself. He can’t go running off to
a gunsmith every time there’s a misfire. One quick note about the two
points of perception. He’s a marksman which gives him really good
vision so it makes sense to me that he would be more able to spot
things. In Pathfinder that means perception.


Archetypes, Racial
Traits and Traits


Pathfinder includes
the concept of a character archetype. These are particularly handy
for building a character quickly. They have not as yet published any
archetypes for the gunslinger class so there’s nothing for me to do
there. Racial traits, however, abound for dwarves. Because of
Cormac’s family and his weapons of choice I picked the Craftsman
racial trait. It doesn’t really do much for us in game terms except
to make him a little bit better at crafting things with stone or
metal (which includes guns). Honestly this may not help at all in
game play but it still suits him so I’m going to stick with it.


Also available are
general traits which tend to give characters a minimal bonus to some
aspect often a saving throw. For Cormac I’m going to pick two.
Courageous because he’s a dwarf warrior and it makes sense to me, and
Deft Dodger because he’s somewhat more lightly armored than a typical
dwarf warrior and the idea of fire and cover.


Disadvantages


Pathfinder
doesn’t include the concept of disadvantages in any game sense so I’m
going to apply a couple of my own devising to make him more
interesting. Let’s face it, it’s the disadvantages that make a
character more fun to play. The other side of the coin of being
courageous is that he won’t likely run from a fight, and the fearsome
power of his weapons could make him over confident so we’ll fabricate
a disadvantage to reflect
that. Also he is very attached to his guns. He won’t leave them
behind. So we have the disadvantage of being overconfident, and
having an obvious and accessible focus


His disadvantages
don’t hurt him in game terms but they will be helpful when I’m role
playing him.


Armor Weapons and
Equipment


Time to buy some
equipment and get him ready to go. First things first what’s he
wearing. Having a bit higher dexterity than most dwarves and a bit
less strength we’ll go with something lighter than heavy plate. A
breastplate is a good choice for medium weight armor that should give
him a nice balance between protection and mobility. [Game
information: AC 6, Max Dex Bonus +3, Armor Check Penalty -3] For
those times when the beasties do get close a small wooden shield
should suffice, besides it’s very highlands which adds to the whole
image. [Game information: AC 1]


The
rules for the gunslinger say that at 1
st
level he gets to pick either a musket or pistol and get one of them
for free. The GM was kind enough to allow me to have each of them,
but Cormac’s preferred weapon is his musket. So we have a musket and
two pistols. To that we’ll add a longsword and a dagger and a
sufficiency of ammunition and gunpowder. [I would think that
availability of ammunition and gunpowder could be a problem for a
gunslinger, but the GM says he’s going to gloss over that anyway so I
won’t worry about it.]


Buy all those
little necessities that an adventurer can’t be without and as far as
the mechanics are concerned we’re done.


Final Touches


I could play Cormac
just as he is, but let’s put some finishing touches on him. There are
a couple of questions to be answered before I’m really done with him.


First off, what
does he look like? This may not matter to other players, but it does
to me. Physical appearance and clothing are required.


Secondly, why is
Cormac out in the world and not hanging around the dwarf hold
drinking ale and shooting orcs, goblins and giants like the rest of
the dwarves?


I save these sorts
of things for last because as I’ve built him I’ve gotten to know him
a bit better. In any case, here’s the final description of Cormac
McDuggin, Dwarf Gunslinger.


Cormac McDuggin:


Hidden deep in the dwarf hold of
Earthfast, the dwarves of the McDuggin clan practice a form of
warfare terrifying to behold. Smoke and fire bellow from the mouths
of guns and cannon and mortars raining molten death on their enemies
from afar only to then be swarmed under by the rough and tumble
dwarves with axe and hammer and sword.


Cormac McDuggin springs from that
hearty family, his wild coppery hair spilling out from beneath the
dark toned leather cap he wears bright blue eyes sighting down the
barrel of his long musket for enemies of hearth and kin sending death
with the thunderclap, fire and smoke of gunpowder. Should an enemy
get within the reach of his musket, and within that of the pistols
tucked into his broad leather belt, sword and targe await with
gleaming hunger. A broad leather belt encircles his waist gathering
the deep toned green plaid kilt about his waist the remainder pinned
over his right shoulder somewhat hiding the heavy breastplate
guarding his torso. Boots of supple reddish brown leather cover his
broad feet and calves. His well kept weapons gleam with the well
oiled care of constant tending no amount of rust or tarnish allowed
to linger on the chased silver trim work or deep polished wood of
musket or pistol and were he so inclined the glittering hungry edge
of his sword would shave closer than any razor.


A younger son of a wealthy but not
noble clan, Cormac has left the hold to make his own way and if all
goes well establish his own holding. He hopes one day to send for his
brothers and cousins to come and lift mugs of ale and bright swords
and axes in their own hold.


Now, finally, I
have a fully formed character that I’m ready to play. There’s room
for him to grow and his story is just beginning. Though I have every
expectation that the process I follow will not work for everyone,
maybe it’s given someone something to think about when making their
own characters. If so wonderful, if not I hope at least you’ve been
somewhat entertained. JiB

Written by

Software developer, gamer, ice hockey player, sometime musician.

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