Making a Character

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What kinds of people live in this world?

When the campaign begins, the players are in the middle part of Erin, in the lands dominated by the tribes who elected Diarmaid the High King. These lands are dotted with small farming villages, and in some places you will find the hill forts of the kings, where there are craftsmen and soldiers. Druids live in the forests, often alone, and come to villages at feast days to conduct ceremonies. Monks live in small self-sufficient settlements with a wooden temple in the middle and huts all around. Merchants and bards travel between these settlements. In order to be safe, merchants and travelers will usually want some armed guards when traveling.

Usually a village or King will be leaning to one side or another, but they do not fight about it. Wars do happen from time to time between the tribes. When the tribes go to war, they may then ask the Monks or Druids for their support. In times between such conflicts, such as now, Monks and Druids and their adherents can mingle peacefully (though uncomfortably) in villages and halls. Settlements close to forests will have more people aligned with the old religion, those near monasteries with the new.

By the way, the term ‘Monk’ in these introductory essays means, “a religious character aligned with the Good Gods, who lives in a monastery.” Similarly, ‘Druid’ means “a religious character who follows Gozreh and lives in the woods.” These references will always be Capitalized, to set them off from the terms ‘monk,’ which means the Pathfinder character class of monk, and ‘druid’ which means the Pathfinder character class of druid. You don’t have to be a monk character class to be aligned with the good gods. If you choose druid as your character class, you don’t have to take Gozreh and be on that side of the war. The situation is that local society calls the religion of the forest “The Druids” and the religion of the monasteries “The Monks.” This doesn’t have to have any effect on which character class you pick.

That having been said, a druid or ranger character class is more likely to be aligned with the Druids, while cleric and paladin and monk character classes are more likely to be aligned with the Monks. You can also switch these around, and have a Druid monk or a Monk druid. You just need the right backstory to support it, to explain why the Good Monks in their settlements have a person with druidic powers, or why the Druids of the Forest have a cleric running around.

What about arcane magic? Basically, nobody in this world thinks of arcane magic as being separate from the religious powers of the Druids and the Monks. If a farmer saw a sorceror casting a fireball, he would think it came from Gozreh, or one of the Good Gods, or one of the evil gods. If you make a sorceror, you can see yourself as someone who truly understands that the magic is not religious, but you won’t convince anyone else. They’ll ask you which god gives you the power. Sorcerors, as loners, are more likely to be out in the woods, while Wizards are more likely to be in the monasteries – getting power from the books.

The same goes for races. You can be any race, but a backstory that puts an Elf in the monasteries is going to take a little more work than one putting an Elf in the forest. Same for Gnomes, which are woodland creatures, and for Halflings, which aren’t woodland creatures in Pathfinder but, for this tale, they probably are. Dwarves and probably Half-orcs are going to be from the northern part of Caledon. Icy place, not sure how they got down to southern Erin without being killed by a crowd somewhere. Maybe there’s been a shipwreck. One possibility: The Monks, as worshipers of the Good Gods, are the kind of folk who would perhaps hide a strange-looking orphan or wanderer and protect them from the Druids, who would almost certainly offer them as a sacrifice, and the common folk, who would burn them out of outright terror.

As level 1 characters, the PCs will already be very, very special in these lands. Almost nobody has adventurer levels at all, and those that do are usually fighters. Druidic magic is rarely seen, and Good and Evil magics are just as rare. A +2 weapon is a very rare thing. No one has even seen a dwarf, halfling, gnome, elf, or the like; all these are the subject of fairy tales. The character backstory will have to explain why the character is so special and how she came to be here.

How to choose a character class

It is usually a good idea to match the character’s mechanical complexity to your level of investment in the game. Some characters, which we usually call “fiddly,” require you to spend a lot of time in the books, looking up rules and spells. Other characters require a little bit of work to set up, then they do their thing in a fairly straightforward way. Many players get frustrated playing fiddly characters. It stinks to have to stop in the middle of an exciting situation to look something up because neither the player nor the DM really knows how the rules work for that action. It’s even more frustrating when a player tries to do something and the DM or other players have to remind them that it isn’t allowed under the rules. So they have this cool move worked up and, just when they go to do it, they find out they can’t.

Because I’ve seen this happen over and over, and it takes so much fun out of the game, I’m going to say that when you choose a character, you really should be willing to learn all the rules about that character and have them down cold. If you take a fiddly character, for the sake of the other players, please do the work you need to do to keep our game going smoothly.

Character classes by complexity

Fighter, Rogue, Barbarian

Monk, Paladin

Really Fiddly:
Cleric, Bard, Sorceror, Ranger

Insanely fiddly:
Druid, Wizard, any advanced class (Alchemist, Summoner, Witch, etc.)

Fiddliness, as you can see, has a lot to do with spellcasting: You have to know how dozens of spells actually work, plus you have to know what happens in combat when you try to cast. Add in an animal companion (druid) or some kind of weird way to power up your character (wizard spellbooks, advanced class options) and you have a character that takes a lot of work.

Contrast that to a fighter, who basically just swings hard every round, and you can see the difference.

Please share your character ideas and we can talk about matching fiddliness to your play style and come up with ways to manage the complexity! A character can still have a complex story and be a lot of fun, even though the mechanics they use are simple.

What kinds of abilities, feats, and skills should the party have?

Dalriada has a very primitive economy. There’s no unified kingdom, so there’s no coinage. What little gold and silver there is here is usually crafted into precious ornaments, not minted for coins. There’s a lot of barter and haggling going on, so the Appraise skill will be important. Profession: Trader will help the party find Traders who have goods you might want. You can also use one of 4 types of “Knowledge – Local” skills to try to find Traders: Knowledge – Local (Erin), Knowledge – Local (Dalriada), Knowledge – Local (Prythain), and Knowledge – Local (Caledon). Diplomacy and Knowledge – Geography will not help you find Traders.

The party might want to invest in item creation feats too. You won’t be able to wander up to Al’s Magic Emporium and buy a Wand of Cure Light Wounds and 12 Cure Moderate Wound Potions for 1,157 Gold. You won’t have the gold, and they’re won’t be a magic emporium anywhere. So the ability to make your own stuff would be a powerful addition. On the other hand, item creation feats are really fiddly – you have to know a lot of rules to do them right, and be a spellcaster too. Beware of getting into this unless you are willing to master the rules.

The regions involved in the campaign are separated by large bodies of water. Profession: Mariner might be fun and would help the party with transportation.

A lot of the treasure elements in the game revolve around books, parchment, and inks. Profession: Scribe would open significant roleplaying opportunities and give insights into the value of precious book-related components. This will help in the haggling parts of the game.

Since the lands are not civilized in the way high-fantasy Pathfinder worlds usually are, there’s going to be more need for nature skills like survival (which allows tracking), Knowledge – Nature, and Knowledge – Geography.

Please share your character ideas and we can discuss.

Making a Character

War of the Book TeddyC