The Cheat Sheet to Character Design

Our little Smashface Family kicked off a new D&D 5e campaign this weekend just gone (6th Feb). We’ve been discussing it for a while, but at the beginning of the year we started sorting out dates and  I had to actually think about pulling my character together.

Now ever since I can remember my online/gaming/rpg persona is a redheaded tall woman by the name of “Sai Rei”. If you have seen any reference to this name in forums or on FF14 then chances are that is me. I loved identifying with a strong, powerful yet slim and attractive woman (don’t all women everywhere?) who had a fucking big gun.

But this time I decided to switch it up. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to play as but it I wasn’t sure how to flesh out my ideas – do I figure out the full background and squeeze the stats to fit, or do I decide how I want to play the game and then make the person match? Or is it completely a 50/50 approach?

Our band of merry adventurers took a variety of approaches to character creation (some writing their backgrounds at the table during the big introduction), and I thought I would share a little bit about mine (because I was actually ridiculously proud of my dwarven fighter).

So, as I said before I had a *vague* idea of what I wanted. I still love to hack and slash (I just don’t enjoy fighting from the back) so I knew I was going to be either a fighter or a barbarian, and I knew that I was going to play a female dwarf. But a picture began to fill in the more I thought about it, and I decided that for me at least, the best way to flesh out this character was to think about her in terms of personality and background, and then the stats could be moulded to fit.

This was by far the most fun I have had with a character for a long time. I saw this kind and motherly figure in my head and just knew that was what I wanted to play. For those that have read Terry Pratchett I basically wanted a Nanny Ogg warrior. I saw her waddling round the countryside with pockets stuffed full of rock cakes (that could be used as rocks), her hammer strapped to her back and the medieval equivalent of a photo wallet crammed with illustrations of her many children.

Think this, but less witchy…

 

Dwarf Picture
Like this! (Original by AnekaShu)

The background and history for my motherly dwarven warrior was fairly easy to pull together. I googled some Dwarven names and picked some out I liked, I even went so far as to google basic Dwarvish to create a name for her Warhammer (no judgement people). What I found hard was the last part – making the stats fit.

If any of you readers have gone to the trouble of filling out a character sheet for D&D you will realise it is not the easiest of endeavours. So many numbers to roll and boxes to fill it – I genuinely found it hard to keep track of what stat affected what bonus and as a result needed ticking in which box. During our initial game our group was still arguing over the finer points on calculating successes for various skill checks or attack rolls.

Normally when playing a character I try to keep my stats fairly balanced. This time I decided to be more creative, and I think having a fully fleshed out character beforehand game be some additional confidence to do so. In the end I made her a full fighter – strong, dexterous yet not at all bright. I gave her some charisma (she did manage to have 8 children afterall), and put some points into wisdom (raising children means you know when they are up to no good and you learn when someone is trying to lie to you.) Therefore the skills I picked were Athletics and Insight (at 284 she’s bound to have gotten insight into something!)

My main focus when pulling these stats together was to create someone I wanted to actually *play* rather than someone that would be useful to the group. To be honest my impression of D&D is that if you enjoy playing a character and put your effort into playing them properly, the DM should reward that and as a result you will help your group.

So after this experience what would my advice me to anyone creating a character from scratch?

  • Pull together a couple of key points you think would be fun to play. I picked motherly, wise, warrior
  • Have a fun side note to flesh out the character – mine was a terrible cook, and will literally go talk to any Bard to see if they have news of her children
  • Don’t worry about the stats until the end – if you have a good idea what type of person you are playing, you will have a good base to figure out which skills fit them best and will give you the most to work with

Most of all – HAVE FUN WITH IT. If you enjoy the process, you will create a fully thought out and interesting character. Seeing a person in your head helps you bring them to life, helping you bring them to the table. Don’t worry about what your group needs or what someone else wants you to play, a good DM will tailor a campaign to fit your needs. So enjoy yourself!

What characters do you like to play? Let us know in the comments below!

Direct link to this post.

Mice and Mystics – Campaign in a Box

For my birthday this year I was very lucky to receive a copy of Mice and Mystics, a board game which is like D&D but with mice.

Review done! Phew that was short….

Alright, alright – all joking aside! We finally managed to pick a rainy day where we were all free to try out this great game, and I thought I would write a review for you all.

As I summed up (very briefly) in the beginning, the easier way to describe this game to people that haven’t played it before is a “campaign in a box”. You have all the components you need to run a campaign with your friends – miniatures, drawn up characters, maps, items, even a story to play through. All you need to do is read through the rules on how to play, pick which mouse you’re going to be and play the story!

ZZ6DDBC3FC

The game is designed for 4 players running through chapters in a story, going through different rooms and fighting various “minions” to complete the objective within a set time limit. The minions follow easy rules to make their turns quick and simple for players, as it is designed to be played without a GM. Each chapter has the opportunity to earn ‘achievements’ in the game which gives you bonuses for the rest of the chapter (for example, there’s an achievement for defeating 4 roaches in one area).

Now it’s at this point I must confess we tweaked the rules a little to fit our group. The game calls for 4 players, and we regularly have 5 of us meet up to play games. Initially we ran a chapter with one of us playing a GM and controlling the enemies and controlling all the additional pieces (there is a *lot* to keep track of in this game). However for the only time in his entire life he somehow developed the ability to roll well, so after our spectacular failure at completing the chapter we decided to try it as a 5 person campaign. And to be honest I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t work with that number – the difficulty is already ridiculous (the designer admitted that he wrote this game to only have a 25% success rate for completing each chapter), the only tweaking required (at least for chapter 1) was the number of players that can stand on a square. Once we agreed that we could work with 5 players on a square each scenario played out pretty well.

It took us a good hour or so to get to grips with the mechanics of the game, but once we had that it down we could focus on the game itself. The time just flew by when playing it, and as one of our group said to me after – it is one of the few campaign games where it’s easy to fully immerse into the game play and see everything unfold in front of you.

The game is really well presented, with detailed miniatures you can paint yourself if you so desire (so adorable!), and well made boards that map each location. The character cards are beautifully made with artistic drawings as well. And the story book is wonderfully illustrated as well, and written clearly so it is easy to progress through each chapter.

download

Overall I loved playing this game. Although we weren’t playing it exactly as intended, and we did play it wrong for the first couple of turns (teething problems that happen with all new games), we all had loads of fun. I didn’t even mind failing the campaign with our first run-through and was eager to play the same chapter again, a sure sign of a good game.

I highly recommend picking up a copy for your own group of adventurers. It’s a brilliant opener into playing role playing games if you are interested in trying it out, and even if you’re an old hand at them it’s a wonderful addition to any gamers collection.

If you want to see this game in action I highly recommend watching Wil Wheaton’s playthrough on TableTop – the first part is linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YquWfQ7eSU . It’s what got me interested enough to want a copy, and hopefully this article has sparked interest in getting your own copy. If you do, please let us know how you get on!

Direct link to this post.

Acquisitions Incorporated – Adventuring with a Brand

With another PAX comes another campaign from Acquisitions Incorporated – the D&D Saga from Wizards of the Coast and Penny Arcade. Since it turns out that this year is their 10th year adventuring together, I thought it would be nice to write a little something.

As I have already mentioned, Acquisitions Inc. is a D&D group set up by members of Wizard of the Coast and Penny Arcade. The D&D group consists (currently) of:

Chris Perkins as the Dungeon Master
Jerry Holkins as Omin Dran
Mike Krahulik as Jim Darkmagic
Scott Kurtz as Binwin Bronzebottom
Patrick Rothfuss as Viari (the “Sub-employee”)

Previous characters have made appearances as “interns”. Aeofel “Al” Elhromane (played by Wil Wheaton), was a main member of the group between seasons 2 – 6, and Morgan Webb made an appearance in Season 8 as the intern Môrgæn.

Originally set up as a Podcast series, the group’s advertures grew in popularity until the live games started in 2010.

I LOVE Acquisitions Inc. The dynamic between the players is brilliant, and the stories that Chris Perkins thinks up as GM are fantastic. It’s all in the small details, which links together each adventure. They are very good at involving the audience (GREEN FLAME!), and the sets and toys have gradually gotten more elaborate over time, resulting in the superb set that was used in the Pax Prime live event held this year (kudos to Matt Smith a.k.a CzarofHappiness for that work of art. The detail on it was mindblowing).

One of the things I really enjoy watching as well is the short, animated introductions that these guys put together to summarise what happened in the last game. They started using these for the live events, and they’re all available on YouTube. Watch them with each campaign, as the light-hearted tone and the inspiration for each short (there’s one that is a spoof of the old “Dungeons and Dragons” cartoon from the 80’s) shows you that these guys *love* what they’re doing.

If you’ve never seen these guys in action, I most definitely recommend you give them a look (here is the link to the podcast series, the live events are easily found on Youtube: https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/podcasts/acquisitions-inc#submenu-page). The dialogue is hilarious, the adventures are brilliant and the action is pretty fast-paced for a D&D session.

Seen Acquisitions Inc in action? Let us know in the comments which campaign is the best! Feel free to also let us know who your favourite character is (BINWIIIIIIIN), or your favourite catch phrase!

Direct link to this post.

TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana

If you’ve dabbled in gaming culture you will realise that if a game has a long title it general means it’s safe to assume that you’re looking at a Tabletop RPG epic, and TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana is no exception. Well…almost.

TitansGrave (TG) is a YouTube series on the Geek & Sundry channel in which a group of people play through a table top RPG run by the master himself Mr Wil Wheaton. The world itself seems to be a mash of the two main table top genres, combining the magic and mythology of fantasy with the technology and futuristic settings of Sci-Fi. Combining the two is a brave decision – without flawless execution you risk creating a world that comes across as flat and crammed full of cherry-picked features from both in the author’s attempt of fan-fiction (quick disclaimer: I love me some fan fiction. I once won an award on a fan fiction site for “weirdest pairing” with some Wakka/Seymour FFX love). Thankfully we don’t need to worry too much with TG, as the world of Valkana has been thought out with great care. The traditions and history of the world have been carefully put together to form something Tolkien would approve of.

Wil Wheaton is a brilliant GM/DM (whichever you prefer); allowing the players to add unique details to the story (such as things they can see, the opportunity to take part in telling legends) and he is honest when it comes to his own dice rolls regardless of whether or not they work in his favour. The players are all eager to be involved in the world, willing to embrace their characters and their motivations (5 GOLD AND A PARTY!). It’s good to see, as I have sometimes found it hard to get players to fully engage with the game straight from the bat (I’ve been guilty of it myself sometimes) – and a game can quickly become uninteresting and flat if that happens.

Each episodes so far has been edited extremely well, with the story and progression cut with some amazing artwork. Far from just gilding the lily, the artwork helps show us the action and setting and helps to fully immerse the viewer in the world that’s being played out. We are only on Episode 3 (if you include Episode 0 which sets out the world and the characters for this RPG), and although the quests are expectedly small the audience gets the sense that they are already leading to something much more impressive.

Now I know I am one of those weird people that can happily watch someone or a group of people play through a game. I’ve even mentioned it in a previous blog post, of how I can happily spend an evening with the future-husband and watch him play through a game. But even with that in mind, I fully recommend you give this series a chance. If you haven’t played any D&D type games before and think you might be interested, this show will show you the kind of gaming experience you could have. If you’ve played plenty of tabletop RPGs, then consider this show excellent inspiration for your next campaign. Whatever your motivation – give this show a look, you won’t be disappointed.

Direct link to this post.