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Friday, 16 March 2012

Creating a character you and your friends will love! Part Three: Powers, Feats, and Skills

Dallas Kasaboski
Originally published on the D4sign blog, see here, this post puts the finishing touches on character creation on paper, and moves toward becoming your character when you play!

So, last time, I gave you more or less the same information as the Player's Handbook when it comes to Class and Race. I tried to make it a little more interesting by providing some examples of my own experience.

Today's topic goes a little more in-depth, transitioning from the character sheet, to the performance at the table. I will start with a quick couple of words concerning choosing powers, feats, and skills.

As should be obvious, your choice of powers, feats, and skills is vitally important. It will affect how you play your character, what you can do, what you're good at, and thus will affect your character's personality. Obviously, you are free to choose whatever you want, but as much as I generally choose the features which will make my character more awesome, effective in and out of combat, I absolutely love the chance to harmonize my choices with my character's backstory and personality.

I guess the first thing we consider are skills. The experienced player might not, but the skills are the next thing on the list in the Player's Handbook after you choose a class and fill out any class features. As mentioned before, your class will limit your options, but I like to think of it as more of a specialization. Your character has simply focused their time learning skills which seem more relevant to their adventuring career.

Let's go back to my longtooth Shifter character, referenced in my last post. His name is Mark, by the way, and the origin of his name is quite simple and funny. I often have a hard time picking a name, whether it be the title of an essay, or the name of a character I play in D&D. I am in a campaign now where I actually worked it into the story that I had amnesia, just so I could have a bit of time in choosing a name. Anyway, my shifter fighter is named Mark, and I named him after one of the fighter's key traits; the ability to mark people. Not that creative, kind of silly, but it worked. Also, I just wanted a simple name, nothing too fantastic.

So, I'm looking at the skills, and I decided to go with Heal, Athletics, and Endurance. I chose Athletics and Endurance because I was playing a fighter, and I wanted my guy to be big and tough. I knew, from talking to the other players, that I would be our defender, so I wanted to be the defender. I wanted my character to be seen, and to be played, as a big protector.

I chose Heal for two reasons. The first is that it generally seems like a good idea. It can save a character's life to have them stop failing death saving throws, or grant them that dearly needed second wind, but I also considered it as an important character feature.

I didn't want my fighter to be seen as a brute. I don't like that type of personality and didn't want to play a whole campaign that way. So, I thought heal would be a nice way to access a gentler side of my character. Thinking about this some more made me want to play a complicated, yet simple character. One who might seem to be contradictory, being a fighter with a kind spirit, but really was a straightforward man who fought when he had to, but didn't necessarily want to.

See? There's a whole lot of personality developed simply from thinking about my skills alone. I hadn't even worked in a backstory yet or anything at this point.

The next thing I looked at were the choices of powers, specifically at-wills. I choose Crushing Surge just because I was looking through the multiple books for my powers and I wanted to choose one which was different from what I would normally consider using. The second power I chose was Tide of Iron.

Now, in case you're interested in following the story of Mark, and his adventures with the daring group known as The Guard, you may follow this link, here. The campaign is called In Search of Fate, and you may follow the rest of the story simply by choosing the label on the left of the screen. In fact, I have been asked to possibly give a reflection on said campaign, as it pertains to character development, so I might just do so.

Anyway, for anyone familiar with that campaign and that character, they will know that Mark had a shield. That shield was almost like an extra member of the party. Anytime it was damaged, it was mourned. One time, it was lost, and so was Mark without it. The shield became such an integral part of my character that I was never without it, and my friends have drawn at least 3 different versions of that shield and one friend even made me a real shield, as seen here.

Where did all this come from? Well, basically, when I was looking at powers and equipment, the heavy shield really stood out for me. I liked the idea of a shield in one hand, sword in another, sword and board as it's classically called. But, I also thought it fit really well with my character's personality so far. I said before that I wanted him to be a fighter only when he needs to, and that I wanted him to not only take on the D&D role of defender, but take on that role in general. I thought the shield sounded like a great way to bring this about. So, the Tide of Iron power stood out and there you have it, at-wills chosen!

Feats are important too, but I won't go into too much detail. Mark's level 1 feat was Toughness. Always a good choice and really stuck with that big defender idea.

And there you have it! Choices made, character sheet filled out, I was ready to what? Well, next time I will give some general advice on how to bring your character to life, and I'll provide some examples. I hope you enjoyed my verbose rant on the obvious, but I do hope this has given you something to think about. To sum it up, your choices made in D&D are just as important to the personality of your character/the way they are perceived, as they are in combat or skill challenges. Choose, but choose wisely, for as the well thought out choices will bring you life and zeal, the bad ones will make you regret them later.

As always,
-Thanks for reading!

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