D&D Next interesting characters

The latest version of the D&D Next playtest package has raised my hopes. Not only are they updating the system to modern roleplaying, they are changing things. I was really afraid that they would feel pressed by Pathfinder, or online gaming, and they ended up screwing the few sane bits remaining after the 4th edition.

There are some mechanics that I’m happy to see in the playtest packages:

  • Backgrounds and Specialities. Instead of cherry picking skills and feats just to maximize the combat side of the character, you choose packages which represent his background and specialities. At the end of the day you get some skills and feats as usual, but it helps the players make their characters a little more interesting for roleplaying.
  • Skill dice, Martial dice, and Maneuvers. A few simple mechanics allow most of the characters to work with the same basic rules, but making sure each of the character classes has its own personality.
  • Unique monsters and magic items. Another good use of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. Magic items are again something special and rare, and each monster doesn’t need a separate ruleset in order to play it.

In addition, taking some borrowed concepts from FATE, I would suggest that all the characters have three “aspects”, which don’t even need a mechanic behind. They can work as reminders of who the character is, and make sure that two wizards (or two characters of the same class) are never similar.

The first thing a player should define for her character is the concept. It’s a short phrase describing who the character is, and what is known for. A player is rolling a wizard, so she chooses…

Noble spellcaster of the Royal School, with ambitions

She has suddently created something called “Royal School of Wizardry”, shaping the world and helping her Game Master to create adventures involving people and places her character knows.

This would help choosing the background and speciality of the character, which she could choose Noble (already in the playtest rules) and Royal School of Wizardry. The latter is not in the rules, but it could easily contain the feats Skill Focus (arcana knowledge), Energy Substitution, Heighten Spell, and Purge Magic. She would add the aspects…

Noble family with a tradition for magic

Years of study in the Royal School of Wizardry

And in order to round up the character, she would add a reason for the character to go adventuring, and a personality trait. As it comes from a proud family and wants more power to reach a high status in the School, she could add…

Would-be High Wizard

Total snob

The character is now perfectly defined, and it is easy to tell apart the wizards of the party if more than one player wishes to roll a spellcaster. Once this is written down, the numbers in the sheet seem to be less important, as the player is sure her character is what she wants to play. The system will worry about balancing characters, and the specific mechanics.

Do you use a similar process during character creation? What do you think about stealing these ideas for D&D?


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