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Monday, 12 March 2012

Creating a character you and your friends will love! Part Two: Class and Race

Dallas Kasaboski
Once again, this was originally posted on the D4sign blog. Should you wish to check this out there, or see other related posts, please give it a look at
D4sign: A D&D game design blog! 

Last time, we discussed some considerations you should have before even narrowing down any choices. Hopefully, after talking with the DM, and maybe the other players, you have interesting and exciting options in mind.

So, now you've got the books in front of you, or maybe the Character Builder program, and you want to create your character. Today, we will discuss Class and Race and I will provide you with some thoughts and tips concerning choosing what might be right for you.

Honestly, the first thing I consider and choose is usually Class. I use the Class to define the basis of my character. While occupation or craft doesn't really exist in 4th edition, I use Class to showcase how my character has been going about life. I mean, most of the classes either involve training, studying, natural skill, or pacts made with powerful creatures, so it makes sense that your class will outline what you have been doing with your life, or what choices you've made/have had made for you.

Now, if you're a real story-teller, and you prefer to go the other route, as in making a backstory first, a way to fit into the DM's world, it still makes sense to think about class. You must have a way to work with the other characters and your class not only flavours your attacks, it can really affect and emphasize your entire character, your origins, and how you interact with others.

For instance, after discussing with the DM and the other players in one game I played, it seemed very obvious that we would need a defender. I chose fighter because I liked the description in the Player's Handbook of becoming "a master of combat through endless hours of practice, determination, and your own sheer physical toughness." Not only did that sound pretty cool, but notice the endless hours of practice and determination part. I decided to make my character very patient, very stubborn, and very disciplined, just from that comment alone.

Then, I looked to race. Depending on your level of power-gaming, the choice of class may weigh more heavily on race options as you might want to compliment race and class features. The Player's Handbooks are quite good at recommending which races work well with most classes, and vice versa. Seeing as though I had never looked at The Player's Handbook 2 before, I decided to give it a look. I thought the Shifter, Longtooth, was pretty cool, and as my friend, the DM, pointed out, Shifter's work well as Fighters as they give bonuses to Strength and Wisdom.

Before we go too far, let me just say that I am not too much of a power-gamer. By power-gamer, I mean choosing abilities and options which make you the most mathematically strong character in D&D. I understand doing so, you don't want to make a great character with an amazing story only to have them never succeed/glory in battle, or be particularly good at anything. Still, unless you're out to just beat up guys or be a wonderful poker player, I suggest not choosing race purely on stats.

This may all be very obvious to you, but race is important as it can narrow your backstory, and it speaks for you before you've even said a word. Your DM's world might have prejudices against certain races which might make things challenging or interesting.

As far as mixing class and race goes, I have two options for you to consider: classic archetype, and breaking the mold.

Classic archetype is almost always a blast, sometimes literally. D&D can be a surprisingly racist game and sometimes we have certain stereotypes with certain races due to their depiction in movies and books. Dwarves are seen as stolid, stout, stubborn creatures who might or might not have a Scottish accent and drink a lot. Generally, they make great Fighters or anything martial. Halflings are seen as jokers, sneaky, or stout determined fellows and generally make great bards or rogues. The list goes on, and often it can be quite fun to play the dwarven fighter, or the elven ranger, not only because it's predictable and dependable, but it makes role-playing that much easier. Plus, the bonuses are usually pretty good, and it makes a solid character.

However, breaking the mold is also quite fun. If you're quite familiar with the game and with role-playing, sometimes it's nice to try something different, or strike out to be different right from the start. What's that? A half-orc bard? An elf barbarian? A warforged wizard? All of these not only could make for some interesting combinations statistically, but provide many exciting options for roleplaying. Bear in mind, that playing such a combination would generally require you to explain how such a bizarre combination came about. This can provide interesting inspiration for backstory but might be difficult to portray. Additionally, it makes roleplaying a little harder as you don't have those stereotypes to fall back on. However, if you have conviction, and you make it your own, breaking the mold can have the effect of making a very memorable character.

Of course, it's all up to you. That's the best thing about D&D; the DM makes the world, but you make the hero, or the villain, and it's up to you to shape the DM's world through your actions. Have fun with it, try new things or not, and I hope you found my thoughts helpful.

And that concludes this little guide. I hope you found what I had to say interesting and helpful. Next time, I will go into a little more detail when it comes to choosing powers, skills, and feats.

-Thanks for reading!

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