The World of Llowellen: Play-by-forum & Roll20 Virtual Tabletop.
“Lots of D&D players will tell you that building your character is one of the best parts of the game. Not since I spent an entire day at an outlet mall have I been required to do so much math, but the payoff is worth it. Sure, you can play Dungeons & Dragons out of the box using the ready-made characters from the Basic Game. But call me selfish; I chose to build my own. Would she look like me? Share my sense of humor? Have the same weak ankles passed down from her Grandmother?”
- Shelly Mazzanoble (Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress)
So tell me about your character…
1. Establish a Group Template: It is important for the players and the GM to have good communication before the game begins. Consider the GM who has crafted his adventure, an elaborate murder mystery among members of a theater troupe visiting a major urban city.
The GM says, “We’ll play on Saturday, just bring 1st level players,” but he gives no further information. The GM’s adventure might be in jeopardy before it has even begun if his players turn up on Saturday each with characters who were created in a vacuum.
Our GM might be confronted with a 1st level frothing-at-the-mouth dwarven berserker, an awfully good elven paladin, a despicably foul sibeccai necromancer and a human druid who hates cities and has sworn never to ever set foot in one. They would be a poorly cast band of heroes, more likely to tear each other apart upon sight than to pay any attention to the poor GM’s dangling plot hook.
In a World of Llowellen game, it is recommended that the first time the players all sit down together is not the first time they play. Rather, the first session should be used solely for character creation and brain-storming.
Players shouldn’t be shy about asking for things they’d like to see, or not see, in the game. “I really hope we get to have a good dungeon crawl – I just want to kick in the doors and kick ass!” One player might say.
Another, “I’ve got an interesting backstory in mind for my character, and I’d really like to be able to search for his missing brother.”
Someone else, “I’d love to explore an in-game romance, but only with an NPC.”
Any GM worth his screen will thrive upon this kind of feedback and use it, twist it in unexpected ways, and deliver a game that his players will remember fondly.
When the players reach for their pencils and blank character sheets, the GM will give them a template with which to work. These parameters for character creation should be loose enough to allow for creativity and yet still prevent unlikely or inappropriate casting of our heroes.
For example, “Our game will take place in Farid during the First Age, you are all currently urban residents of the great metropolis of Istaduk. You have lived in the city for at least two years, if not your entire life.”
Or, “Our game will begin far out to sea above the Kalani Ocean. Whether you are a serving member of the crew, or a paying passenger, you are on board an airship owned and operated by the Merchant House Summonel.”
Or, “Our game will be a classic dungeon crawl. None of you have met yet, but each of you has heard the rumor of a city hidden beneath the desert for millennia and only now uncovered. It is drawing adventurers and treasure hunters of all descriptions.”
Some games might require a more narrow focus, such as, “You are all members of the City Guard, although you do not have to be a warrior, you do wear a uniform and work within a hierarchy.”
Or, “You are all pirates on board the same ship.”
Or, “I don’t know what race you are, but you are all members of the same family. You can be brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts or unmarried spouses – just so long as you all belong to the same family.”
2. Character Concept: The next thing to consider when creating a character is who that person will be. At this stage it is not necessary to think about specific game mechanics, like ability score or class, instead try to picture your character’s personality, their background and motivations. Place yourself in their head, and consider the following questions as if you were them. You know, let’s pretend, make believe – role-play.
What is your name?
What do you look like? Are you beautiful, plain or hideously ugly? How are you dressed? In tattered rags or battle-worn armor? In the finest silks and latest fashions? Or in the practical garb of a tradesman? Do you have any scars? Any tattoos? Any unusual features? Would someone notice you in a crowd?
Imagine your family. Do you know your parents or were you orphaned or abandoned? Who are they? Do they live together? What do they do? Are they beggars or nobles? Are they thieves or merchants? Are they guild members or guardsmen? When did you see them last? When might you see them again? Do you have any siblings? Are you the oldest or the youngest? Would you sacrifice your life for your family? Or do you value your own life above all else?
What are you the most passionate about? Are you in love? Has your heart ever been broken? Have you ever broken another’s heart? How is your temper? Are you cool under pressure? Or do you have a hair trigger temper? Do you follow your heart or your head? Or your libido?
What do you most regret? Is there something in your past you wish you could change? Where do your insecurities lie? Is there something about yourself physically that you would change?
What are you afraid of? What do you despise? Is there anything that you hate? Do you hold any prejudices?
What are your flaws? Are you a boaster or a liar? A bully or a coward? Are you greedy or an addict? Are you gullible? Are you unreliable or inhospitable? Are you slovenly, profane or argumentative?
What do you find interesting or enjoyable? Do you have any habits, either good or bad? Do you wring your hands or play with your hair? Do you smoke a pipe? Any hobbies or collections? Do you enjoy music? In the theater or the tavern? Do you enjoy reading?
Did you go to school? In a university? Or a small schoolhouse? Were your teachers kindly or harsh? Were you an apprentice? Are you superstitious? Are you cultured or coarse? As a child did you once break the window of the mad old wizard that lives nearby? Were you once plucked from a life of crime by a Sergeant in the City Watch? Or was there a local beggar that always took the time to tell you some fanciful tale of his life long ago?
How strong is your faith? What is your faith? What is your families faith?
What is your job or career? If the GM’s adventure wasn’t about to happen, what would you be doing? What would you like to be doing in five years? Or twenty?
There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions, but whatever those answers are they will bring the character to life in a way that no statistics will ever do.
Characters in The World of Llowellen do not have alignment; instead they have growing and evolving personalities. No magic can determine good from evil or law from chaos – instead people must make their own moral judgments and assessments of themselves and of others.
3. Ability Scores: This stage of character creation is covered in full detail here. But, in a nutshell, if you are playing a Fey character you can roll 4d6, discard the lowest and assign the scores as you choose (because fairies are generally luckier and always tougher than mankind).
If you are playing anything else you should use the Point Buy System found in your DMG. How many points you have to spend at 1st level depends on which Age you are playing in (because mankind was never tougher, faster or smarter than in the good old days before we all got lazy and fat behind our modern technology): if you’re playing in the First Age you can spend 52 points; in the Second Age, 46 points; in the Third Age, 40 points; and in the Fourth Age, 34 points.
4. Race and Nationality: The next stage of Character Creation is to select the character’s race and nationality. The GM should already have adjudicated the nature of the campaign (see Step 1, above) and this will determine the options that are open to the player. The GM should be able to help the players if they are unsure whether a particular race would be appropriate to the campaign.
A character may be of any race that is native to the continent on which the campaign will begin. They may also be of any race that could realistically have traveled there from another land.
Fey and Heavenborn characters both enjoy a global society and are not restricted by region. Therefore any Fey or any Heavenborn race is appropriate to any continent and they do not need to select a nationality.
Once a character’s race has been decided, any racial modifiers to their ability scores should be applied.
If the character is mortal then a nationality needs to be chosen. Many nations might exist on a single continent, not all of which will have similar cultures (although they might share the same race). A character’s nationality is an important part of their identity. Again, consultation with the GM will be helpful while making this decision.
5. Class: Now that you know what your character is, and where they come from, it is time to decide what they do. Are they a fighting man? A magic-user? Or a priest? A Player’s Guide to the Old World: Classes will present the classes available for play in the Old World. Although some races and regions favor particular classes (just as some classes are more common in different Ages), these classes are available to all characters of any race or origin at the GM’s discretion.
6. Spend skill points: Your class description has a section titled “Skills”, refer to this section to determine how many skill points you have available to spend.
For example, if you are playing a ritual warrior your class description reads “Skill Points at 1st Level: (4+ Intelligence bonus) x4.” Therefore, if your Intelligence score is 15 your ritual warrior has 24 skill points to spend at 1st level (and more if you begin play at a higher level).
Each class is more proficient at certain skills than others and these are called class skills. Class skills are listed in the same section of the class description. It costs 1 skill point to buy 1 rank in a class skill. It costs 2 skill points to buy 1 rank in any other skill.
You can spend your skill points as you see fit, there is no limit to how many ranks you can buy in a specific skill until you run out of skill points.
7. Select feats and talents: It is important at this point to decide whether or not the character (regardless of race) is unbound or not. By far, the vast majority of people have a true name which they gained during a naming ceremony during their adolescence – but not everyone. A rare few remain unnamed or unbound and this decision affects the character’s initial feats and will have lasting consequences throughout their life.
8. Calculate hit points: Roll twice at 1st level and select the best roll. Take your chances and roll only once every level thereafter.
9. Buy equipment: A character’s starting funds and the equipment available to them will vary greatly depending upon the campaign. A player should confer with the GM or the appropriate Gazetteer for these specifics.
10: Complete character sheet: All of the above details and other specifics such as gender, age, height and weight should be recorded on the character sheet. At this point all the character needs is a name and a reason to adventure!
Cartography by Ian Hewitt.