Let’s jump right in and generate a character!
The free Basic D&D pdf provides all the information you need to generate and play a character from 1st to 20th level. We are given four classes, four races and five backgrounds. These cover the traditional D&D races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human) and classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard), with five backgrounds to give your virtual buddy a little more depth (Acolyte, Criminal, Folk Hero, Sage, Soldier). These duplicate the information found in the D&D Starter Kit pregenerated characters, and I would expect more backgrounds to be made available when the PHB is released.
I feel that the true test of any system is if you can mix any combination of features and still create a truly viable character. If only there was something I could use to roll random numbers.
I’m creating this character this old fashioned way using an iPad dice roller and form fillable character sheet, because old school doesn’t have to mean luddite (but it could. Luddite is cool too). 5th Edition character sheets are available here to download, and in my humble opinion they are the best official D&D sheets ever made – worlds apart from the ugly-as-sin-itself 4th Edition ones.
Rolling d4 for Race and Class, and d6 for Background (rerolling the inevitable 6) I get….. a Halfling Wizard Folk Hero! Now isn’t that better than playing yet another stereotype? C’mon!
Time for stats. Six lots of 4d6-drop-lowest gives me 18, 12, 11, 10, 15, 17. The dice gods are smiling on me today and who am I to complain? Allocating those we get the statblock on the right, before any other modifications.
I’m picturing her (for she is a she) as a smart and attractive halfling who uses her keen mind and wit to keep her twelve bumbling brothers out of the trouble they all too often get themselves into. Along the way she has made something of a name for herself by leading the whole village to safety and hiding them with cunning use of cantrips when a Goblin Wartribe came calling. Now the village elders have told her it is time to spread her wings and explore the world; she has far more potential than can be contained in a mere backwater village in the middle of nowhere.
It’s worth noting that the statblock in the character sheet can be used in two ways – with the numbers large and the stat bonus small underneath, or with the bonus large and the actual number small. Which you use is entirely down to personal preference. I prefer the former because the number means something to me. I’ve gamed long enough to be able to read a set of attributes and picture the character based entirely on those values. That might be slightly less practical in play, but it works for me. I suggest you try out both and see which suits you best.
On to race. As a Halfling, Cora (she has a name now!) gains +2 DEX, is Small in size and has a walking speed of 25′. She is Lucky, Brave and possesses the Halfling Nimbleness common to all of her kind. I decide to make her a Lightfoot Halfling – that +1 Charisma is too good to pass up, and a Wizard with both Halfling Nimbleness and Naturally Stealthy suits the image of her being cunning and wily rather than merely book-smart. I like.
On to her class.
As a Wizard I want Cora to be clever rather than blasty, so choose cantrips and spells accordingly. She has Dancing Lights, Minor Illusion and Fire Bolt (she’s not that daft, and fire can be a very effective distraction) for her cantrips and Burning Hands (ditto), Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Mage Armour, Silent Image and Sleep as her level one spells. Mage Armour is going to be essential if she’s caught up in close combat but otherwise Cora prefers to stay back from such nonsense, ideally with her light crossbow on hand. In Cora’s mind, magic is for clever stuff, not killing. And if all else fails she knows Burning Hands.
For Cora’s Folk Hero background I’ve already invented her Defining Event (saving her village from a Goblin Wartribe) and decide to choose her Personality, Ideal, Bond and Flaw from the list provided.
You are free to choose, roll or make your own up entirely and they make for great storytelling devices and role-playing hooks in game. I’m cackling like a loon at the idea that this slight, faintly egocentric little halfling whelp of a girl secretly believes that the world would be a much better place if she were in absolute charge. If there was ever a road toward Halfling Lichdom (a Halflich?), she’s already on it and walking briskly.
The final thing to do is round out Cora’s equipment and fill in any remaining blanks on the sheet. I decide to go with the equipment given by her class and background. It’s entirely optional and you can roll for cash and purchase exactly what you require, as well as spend remaining funds on any additional items. The suggested items fit my image of Cora though, and I’m happy to save the gold for whatever she might require on her first adventure.
Generating Cora took minutes, far less time that it took to write this post, and less time than any other edition of D&D after the very first edition. That’s partly down to the intentional lack of options, but also down to the fact that this really is a simple and streamlined system. I’ve just created a 1st level Wizard (arguably the most complex class of them all) and it all fits onto a single sheet of paper including spell list and role-playing notes! That’s not half bad, at all.
Tomorrow we take a look at how the system handles role-playing and out-of-combat options before things take a bloody turn for the worse on Day Four.