Tuesday, September 7, 2010

These sorts of characters ARE viable

I'm gonna post a few D&D (BECM/RC) characters. Lots of players might look at them and think they're worthless. But played right, in the right sort of game (in other words, the kind of game I'd like to run), they should actually do alright.

Cleric Level 5
S11 I9 W12 D10 C10 Ch11
Chain, Shield, Mace, Sling
Turn: SkD, ZD, GT, WiT, Wr7, M9, Sp11, V-
Spells: Detect Magic, Light, Find Traps, Speak with Animals

Fighter Level 4
S12 I10 W11 D9 C9 Ch11
Plate, Shield, Spear, Light Crossbow

Magic-User Level 4
S8 I12 W11 D9 C10 Ch10
Spells: Floating Disk, Ventriloquism, ESP, Locate Object

Thief Level 5
S9 I11 W9 D12 C10 Ch11
Leather, Hand Axe, Short Bow
Skills: F/RT30 OL35 CSS91 MS40 HS28 PP40 HN50

No magic items, just what's listed above, and the normal assortment of 10' poles, ropes, torches, oil, and all that jazz.

For a dungeon exploration game, these guys should actually do alright. If they try to avoid fighting as much as possible, avoid obvious traps that they can't easily disarm without relying on the Thief, and make sure each delve has some sort of purpose to it, and leave the dungeon when that purpose is fulfilled (like mapping a certain amount, or scouting the lair of a certain monster).

But most players would rather go with the best weapons, the most offensive spells, and characters with high stats in a multitude of areas.

Now, that pimped out party would likely do better than these guys at combat, but mix in one of these guys with the high octane group, and there shouldn't be a problem unless, to follow the 3E/4E philosophy, everyone's expected to share the load in a combat encounter.


  1. I agree. Nothing wrong with these characters at all. The MU looks fun.

  2. why would they be considered worthless?

    completely average, all of them. a bit bland maybe, but worthless? not really.

    i also like the mu, the selection of spells evokes all kinds of shenanigans.

  3. I 3rd the Huh? about them not being good enough.

    There was a Pathfinder group locally advertising for players. I was interested (I like PF, it's excessive, but it works for me) until I read their CharGen.

    Roll 5d6 (drop two lowest score) 12 times.
    Take the best 6 scores arrange as desired. If one of them isn't an 18, substitute an 18(I assume for the lowest). I lost interest at that point. you'd probably have lower scores if you just let people write down anything.

  4. The key element missing for a real judgment of this crew is their HP. In BECM, good (or at least average) rolls for HP are probably more important than the ability scores.

  5. I didn't think most folks reading this blog would mind these characters. This is just something that's been on my mind for a couple weeks, since a discussion with a couple of the guys in my current board game group.

    Only one of them reads the blog, though, and he wasn't part of that discussion.

    @Shimrod--I left the hit points out on purpose, rather than just assigning them average values or rolling. I could roll some and edit them in if you'd like.

  6. Dennis, let's be honest here, most of the characters I've rolled have had outrageously off-kilter stats when I used a 3d6. STR 5, DEX 12, CON 7, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 10. Yeah, with a Strength of 5, is that a decent cleric? Really? How's he even going to LIFT HIS MACE?

    I avoid playing wizards in OD&D anymore. Why? Because honestly, how does one gain experience? Killing things, getting treasure. Okay. I am 1st level, and I can use sleep once a day... that's it. Alright. I don't get XP for research or practicing casting magic. Just for killing stuff, getting loot. Right.

    So... any wizard worth half a brain realizes that he should spend all of his time at home researching, reading, doing wizardly stuff, not going into a festering hole in the earth filled with dangerous stuff, meanwhile he's armed with a butter knife and a spell that MIGHT put a handful of miniature nightmare creatures to sleep.

    Once the wizard realizes that the only way to get XP in his class is to do JUST THAT, he basically changes jobs. "I used to be a wizard, but I realized it's too damn dangerous, so now I'm the head chef at the local tavern."

    I've cowered in corners from combat far too often. It's not all that fun. It's not a challenge. I used to think so. I used to go into dungeons armed with lanterns to throw as the wizard. But a lot of it is up to the DM. "Hey, I'm a wizard, I'm educated. DM, can I read this elvish script?" Well, if the DM says, "No," and it's OD&D, and no rules exist for it, no stats, no details, well, I'm screwed. "Have fun being useless!" "Gee, thanks, I will."

    "Oh, hey, while you were hiding under a chair, cringing and weeping as we slaughtered all the goblins, we got all this loot. Can you conjure up a Tenser's Floating Disc so we can get this stuff out of here?"

    "Nope, sorry, didn't memorize that spell today."

    "What did you memorize?"

    "... animate bread."

  7. Dave, I did mention this wasn't directed at you. And yeah, that character was unfortunate. But that was supposed to be the point of rolling 4 characters at once. Pick one of the others with better options to be your main character, and let that guy be a glorified henchman until he dies.

    Anyway, the point of these characters was that they'd be good at exploration of a dungeon, and WITHOUT resorting to combat, figuring out ways to get the loot.

    Because you get a LOT more XP from loot than from monsters.

    Personally, I'd be happy if EVERYONE, regardless of class, were trying to find ways to be useful outside of combat, or clever and crafty in combat, because otherwise they've got a high chance to die.

  8. Sorry, I think I came off way too abrasively. And I wasn't necessarily talking about your game. I was just pointing out that those characters are far, far, far more common than most OD&D players like to admit.

    It's basically what Brunomac at Temple of the Demogorgon calls an "Elmer Fudd" character. eight times out of ten, you'll roll up Elmer Fudds. Three times out of twenty you get the party you rolled up above. One time out of twenty you get a badass. I've never played a 3d6-6-times character and NOT gotten someone who was just totally debilitated in some manner. If you don't think mechanically, but actually think realistically, this guy has a serious problem. He's a total gimp in one area. In all reality, nobody would want to go adventuring with someone who had an obvious glaring weakness in one stat, let alone two or three, no matter how ridiculously beefed other stats might be. Your life is going to be in his hands, man.

    But this is all elementary. I wasn't really trying to goad or prick you, just make an observation that I actually find interesting and a bit funny.

    Like I said, though--how useful a character is can often depend on DM arbitrariness. If there's no hard-and-fast rule, then there's no definite mechanic to sort out who can do what and who knows what. What if my thief or fighter wants to forge a document? What if my wizard wants to translate the inscription on the Tomb of Anaphilaxis? Heck, what if my wizard wants to make Greek fire, or a staff of magic missile? What if a character wants to learn to brew beer, open a tavern, and do the necessary calculations in order to actually run it successfully? What if a character wants to be a combat engineer for the Duke of Snuffington during the War of the Two Crowns? What if they just want to sit down and play cards? The OSR is, like-it-or-not, entirely based around the dungeon crawl, and these things are, frankly, beyond its purview. OD&D quite literally doesn't give a crap what goes on outside of the dungeon. Timekeeping for wilderness travel was tacked on later, but despite it the game is pretty much vaporous once the party leaves the dungeon.

    As a first-level wizard, if I go into a dungeon, I want a laundry-list of knowledges and abilities that the DM and I already have agreed upon. Can I translate these languages? Can I read these scripts? How much history do I know? How much lore? Can I play any musical instruments? Some DMs will be pretty lenient, others ultra-strict "if it's not on your character sheet, then you can't do it" kinda guys. That's why this has to be hashed out. In addition, can I make scrolls, wands, rings, etc? When? How? I'm a first-level mage, I get sneezed on and I die--I want some serious protection for myself. I get ONE SINGLE SOLITARY SPELL A DAY. If I blow it, it's gone. If I picked a useless one, I just wasted that slot. Good-bye. Yes, that's the name of the game, but that also spurs these sorts of considerations for me--WHAT WOULD MY CHARACTER REALLY DO IN THIS SITUATION? Probably sit at home and study if he couldn't at least do SOMETHING with alchemical substances or scrolls in order to improve his chances of survival.

  9. @Dave: I know I'm not involved in this discussion, but I figured I'd say a thing or two.

    1) My party uses 3d6 6 times, with a single reroll, and they've all managed to have relatively average characters. Their lowest stat between the three of them is a 5, and the highest is a 15. Not too shabby, considering that the bonuses and penalties for higher and lower scores don't add up to much.

    2) I don't think I agree that the OSR is entirely about dungeon-crawling. Certainly, OD&D and the Basic part of B/X is, but the entire OSR, between LL, S&W, Openquest, Mutant Future, Starships and Spacemen, and the like? There's a pretty big diversity of opinion and preferences in the OSR, even among young guys like me. I prefer wilderness adventures, myself, and things involving travel to stinky ol' dungeons (though to be honest you wouldn't know it from the modules I've been writing ;) )

  10. "In all reality, nobody would want to go adventuring with someone who had an obvious glaring weakness in one stat, let alone two or three, no matter how ridiculously beefed other stats might be."

    In all reality, why would anyone want to adventure with a drow? Or a half-ilithid vampire? People have no problem with that in latter editions of the game.

    I know that immersion is your thing, but seriously, I had a blast playing a Halfling with an Int of 3. Killingmachine had a Fighter with a Cha of 3, and he became legendary for his ability to turn would-be allies into his own private enemies club.

    Those Elmer Fudd characters can add quite a bit of fun to a campaign, if they're just given a chance and not taken too seriously.

    There are just too many people out there (on Wizards.com, RPOL, RPGnet, Enworld, etc.) who believe that any character with a score below 8 or without an 18 (or both!) is worthless.