The Dungeon Masters Guide
We’ve all been there, the books have been cracked open and everyone is excited about playing a new game. Someone now thrusts a book titled Dungeon Masters Guide into your hand and everyone looks at you expectantly.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Being the Dungeon Master (henceforth known as a DM) is the most challenging part of the game, it can be a very rewarding experience but remember, whilst you may not be actively participating in the game with your friends, it is as much your game as theirs.
From the first page, the book highlights the difficulties of being a DM; and the struggle to become a good DM is never-ending; juggling the personalities of the Players and their Characters (labelled PC – for Player Character), trying to be fair without being biased or too hard and keeping track of a world that only exists because you thought about it.
The DM is all powerful, the supreme entity, the big kahuna, you get the idea. To quote a famous author “With great power comes great responsibility”. The DM has all the power.
The book starts off in a very nice format; First, by telling you how hard being a DM is, how difficult or more experienced players will try to take advantage of you, then, how to roll for statistics (something the players will want to know how to do), here, you will see that infamous bell curve, and suddenly the charts begin: Secondary Skill, Age of the Character, then in true AD&D style a chart for diseases and infections followed by a brief description of Death and how it happens, then back to explanations of how to interpret player Character Ability Scores and the Races.
Let’s roll it back…
The DMs Guide (as it was for the Players Handbook) makes an assumption – a very broad one. Where the Players Handbook assumes one has a passing familiarity of what the players are doing, the DMs Guide assumes you already know (what was declared as an important function for a DM) the rules and that one can already do the job.
In the AD&D 1st Edition system, it's worth noting; the DM and Player are separate. They (the Players) have their book and You (the DM) have yours. In the Players Handbook deconstruction, elements have been included that exist already in the 'sphere of knowledge' the Player ought to already possess. This will allow the DM to concentrate on running the game.
Being a DM requires a lot of ‘on the fly’ thinking, and less than half of what you need to play is in the DMs Guide. The rest comes from your own ideas and what the story expects. Any notes you may keep for yourself to assist in rapid decision making is always a bonus.
Consider the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the beginning of the movie Indiana Jones jumps a pit of some distance with little effort. On his return, when the temple is crumbling around him, now it is a chore.
If it were gameplay, here’s how the script would go:
DM: You move down the tunnel corridor and the torchlight is throwing shadows that flicker and seem to move; you walk up to an open pit, you kick some loose dirt into it and can’t hear anything. It certainly seems as bottomless as you can get.
Player: OK, so how far is it across?
DM: 8 to 10 feet; 12 feet at the most.
Player: I look around.
DM: There are some bits of roots and foliage clinging to the edges and above there are some exposed support beams keeping the tunnel together.
Player: OK. Can I use my whip to hold onto a beam?
DM: Well, you can try; I’ll give you a couple of attempts. Make an attack roll vs AC8 with no modifiers.
Player (rolls and scores a success): Yes! I swing across the pit; I fling the whip back to the Henchman.
DM: Your Henchman also makes the swing, just not with any style or flair.
As a DM, one already knows the pit is there, and would have made a few ideas about how to get around or over it. The DM would have already known the PC had a whip and a desire to use it, and using the rules of the Spetum (from the Players Handbook – being able to disarm an opponent with an attack vs AC8) adapted them accordingly; the player may also have used the Climb Walls ability (making the assumption Indy is a Thief class), which would have required a base chance using the Character's Level; finally the PC could have run and jumped over it, the DM would have used some formula to calculate the distance and any likelihood of success.
Remember, the initial idea is for the PC to actually make it across to be able to get to the next stage, and then have issues coming back. Getting across in the first place is not the issue.
Breaking it down, where do these numbers come from? How does the DM know what to do? Where does it say how far a person can jump?
The numbers come from the most important attribute: the DMs experience.
Hopefully with the help of this deconstruction, dear reader, you too may also find some additional answers and assist you in the preparation of being the best DM you can be.
This guide is broken into parts, the first part is about the Characters; how to roll them up, helping the players get their ideas and understand a little about each class and some of the trickier parts. The second part brings us to the adventure itself, and turning that single adventure into a campaign and breathing life into the characters and the world you as DM have created.
Before we begin, it is important to impress upon the Reader: The purpose of this document is not to attempt to limit you or your campaign. It is mentioned repeatedly in the DMs Guide, that you should never let a rule interfere with your fun – not exactly in those words, but it makes mention to remove or add elements as required to progress your story – that is why there are so many modern contrivances missing, not by accident, but to allow you and your players to explore as you wish.
Rules vs Rulings
The first point to get through to the new DM, there are many instances where rules do not exist for a situation. Players being a crafty bunch will always press for an advantage and use any means to get their characters across the chasm or over the ever increasing pit of lava.
As the DM, it is very important to remember that when rules are lacking, a ruling must be made. Never be afraid to make a decision, if it turns out to be less correct than another answer, don't sweat it.
The primary concern for the DM is to keep the game moving along, and stopping to pour through two or three books looking for a precedence to dis/prove an outcome is time wasted.
Learn the following phrase it will serve you well: "This is how we'll do it now, I'll look into it after."
Working the stats and dice
There are many methods to generating Character Abilities. These numbers are the bones of the character. From these numbers race and class limitations are made. The idea (and not entirely incorrect) presents to the players that the higher the values the better. Looking at these ability scores, even the uninitiated can see there are benefits to ability scores 16 and over.
Dependent upon time constraints, the most favoured dice rolling options for statistics are (in order):
4d6 removing the lowest dice and arrange in any order;
3d6 twelve times pick the best six results in any order;
and Method 3
3d6 six times for each Ability in order.
Some DMs may consider using other alternatives as is the DM’s want (such as distribution of total points values or using fixed Ability values for example); however, the methods listed in the book create an average statistic range of 13 to 15 – which is where our Heroes sit above the ‘common’ average of 9 to 12. Using other methods will likely alter the average to a higher value or will throw out the balance of play by having two or three extreme ability scores and the remaining ability scores very low.
Much of the DMs role in creation is putting things into perspective; it is true to say in most cases there are few bonuses for ability values of less than 15. Ability scores from 13 to 15 are still mighty values however, and achieving these numbers place the Character approximately in the top 10 percentile of the population. As an example: a top level Olympic gymnast may well have Strength and Dexterity values of 14 and 15 respectively (being in the top 10% of the top 10%).
It is fair to accept, whilst a Fighter can swing a sword at any strength, the ability to cast spells by Clerics and Magic Users are heavily influenced by (and dependent upon) their ability values, and players will always strive for those higher statistic values. This idea then extrapolates that bonuses 'to hit' and damage are required to be an effective fighter. What is the difference between a Fighter of Strength 14 and Strength 15? Admittedly, there is little.
The average AD&D 1st Edition Non-Player Character has Strength scores of 9 to 12; and compared to scores of 10 and 11, scores of 14 and 15 seem super-human: weight allowance increases from 500g.p. weight to 700g.p., and the Bend Bars/Lift Gates increase from 2% chance to 7%.
Dare to compare
A 1st Level Fighter with 18/50 Strength gains +1 'to hit' and +3 damage, by comparison a 5th Level Fighter with Strength 15, gains no such bonuses. The amount of experience accumulated by the 5th Level provides a 'to hit' AC 0 value of 16+ (with every single weapon), and more importantly, the ability to hit creatures with AC -4 using the die roll and bonuses, the 1st Level Fighter must roll a natural 20 for AC -1 to -6. By the time the Fighter is enjoying the middling Levels (4th to 8th), statistic bonuses are almost irrelevant.
This isn't only true for the Fighter; if we look at the humble Magic-user: the ability to cast 9th Level spells requires 18 INT; 8th Level spells require at least 16 INT; 7th Level Spells use a minimum of 14 INT and a maximum of casting ability of 6th Level Spells for those with 12 INT.
What this means is that a Player whose character has 15 INT, will roll his or her eyes, and then begin whining about ‘Only using 7th Level spells’ or cry foul and say ’11 spells max per level? Aaargh!’ It is true, a Magic User with 15 INT has a 65% Chance of knowing a Spell and a maximum of knowing 11 spells per Spell Level. The Player will probably demand a new Character.
To cast a 7th Level spell, the Magic User needs to be 14th Level Experience (a total of 1,500,001 X.P.); at 14th Level the number of spells cast per day from 1st Level to 7th Level are:
Spells per day: 5 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 1;
Now the big point of contention: knowing a maximum of 11 Spells per Level; at 1st Level, the Magic User knows 6 spells, and once on the adventuring trail, the Magic User must find any spell from that point on, meaning that the Player picks and chooses which spells the Character learns or even creates. None of this inhibits a Magic User’s ability to read scrolls or make potions and craft new spells (for themselves or others). Finally, take into account that of the Non-Human races to be a Magic User, the highest level to be attained is usually 11th Level.
What does this mean and how does the DM get this across to the Player?
To the Player’s protests and whining, a good DM will simply say ‘Ahh, you’ll be fine’. If you (as DM) don’t make a big deal of it, neither will the Player. Sometimes emotion rolls over logic, and you, as DM, must learn to live with it.
AD&D 1st ed. doesn't make apologies that 1st Level characters seem weaker than many of the Heroes produced by modern gaming systems. An average Orc may have 4HP, but an average Human will have 2 or even 3! There is a reason the band of adventurers join together in the first place, if all were near super-human, then why journey together?
The ‘But I want to be a Paladin’ syndrome
Some Character classes have very strict stat minimums, and sometimes a Player wants to be that class which requires 17 CHARISMA as a minimum, or needs three stats requiring a minimum of 15 in the case of the Monk Class. As a DM, the (firm but fair) way to handle this problem is let the Player use the lowest dice results to become the stat minimum – no one will complain about changing that 9 to a 17 – so, if a Character is one stat value off a Monk, and the Player desperately wants it, then let perhaps let the Player do it. Being firm but fair means that, changing ONE stat is OK, two stat changes or more should be a no-go (sometimes the only option is to allow the Player to re-roll the stats entirely perhaps or convince the Player to select another class – imagine the role-playing opportunities for a Fighter who couldn’t be a Monk but desperately wants to be one, now that’s gold!).
So aside from Strength providing bonuses to melee combat, Dexterity assisting the AC and missile weapons, and Constitution providing more HP, what do the Stats do and how are they used?
It's worth mentioning here how Statistics can be used, since it's not mentioned anywhere in the book on how to do it. Two Magic Users playing a game of Chess for the party survival, two Fighters testing their Strength and/or Endurance. There are no hard and fast rules on how or when to perform a check, but hidden within the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide there hints.
When to perform a check
Every now and then a player will want to do something that falls slightly outside the narrow scope of rules. Examples of when a check might be required include (and certainly not limited to) jumping a chasm, climbing a wall or tree, suddenly needing to lift a rock or some other clever use of a statistic (“I try to remember the exact contents of the room”). There are two prescribed methods when a specific task is required, use either as necessary.
Option 1: To make the ability check is to roll the d20 to determine success. how you determine the measuring of success of an ability check is up to you, the first choice is keeping in line with the usual codes of practice: 20 – the stat value and a dice roll of equal to or higher indicates success (this keeps the concept of preferring to roll higher numbers as the ‘to hit’ rolls, saving throws, etc); more simply, the other way is to roll equal to or less than the stat value.
Option 2: roll 3d6 together and if the roll is less than the Statistic value, success. It's handy to remember the average of three 6-sided dice being rolled is 10 to 11.
Both options have been used and are presented here as viable options. On paper, both are similar enough, however, the second choice provides rolling multiple dice, and tends to create a more consistent 'average'. Having said that the simplicity of the d20 roll also has its benefits - and the method used for the examples to follow.
Let’s look at a couple of situations:
The party arrive to the outer wall of a city and decide to climb over it, the section of wall is not that high (about 15’), and as DM you have decided everyone has a chance to climb it. The Thief will use her Climb Walls ability to determine success and upon that success scuttles up and over the wall, the remaining party members decide to use their own brute strength or nimble hands to follow likewise unassisted. The DM decides that the dice roll (using either STR or DEX whichever is higher) will be modified for the remaining party members thus: -2 for non-Bulky, -4 for Fairly Bulky armour and -6 for Bulky. To figure out how long it takes to climb the 15’ wall, the thief will use full movement as described in the DMs Guide for Rough Surfaces (Meaning the Thief is up an over at 18’ per round); the other party members will use their movement base in feet per round – in this instance requiring two rounds to get up and over.
Why? The concept that the Thief has an ability specific to his/her class is to accept the character trains and practices this skill. Eventually, Players will attempt some cross-skill actions, and the DM should always remember that the class with the ability can’t be disadvantaged.
In another example, a PC Fighter wants to disguise himself as a Captain of the guard, from the Players Handbook, Disguise is the Assassin’s ability and no other character ought to be as good at it as the Assassin. Any other character interacting with the disguised Fighter would be making checks to determine whether the Fighter was successful in the disguise act, and the DM rules 3d6 measured against the Int or Wis statistics may well be appropriate as opposed to the Assassin’s single percentile roll for chance of discovery.
The moral of this section is to try and not let the Player be discouraged to try different actions or activities (a Fighter may act like a contract killer, but that doesn’t make the character an Assassin), and certainly Players should not be disheartened by ability values ranging between 14 and 16.
For tests against another's ability score, the book recommends the following:
Determine which character has the highest score, and that character is the victor, rolling off only where scores are equal.
Example: A PC is challenged to an arm wrestling competition. The NPC has Strength 14, the PC has Strength 15. The PC has the higher Strength and will win the competition.
Example: A PC Magic-user is in a test of wits against an opposing Magic-user, the NPC has a higher Intelligence, and therefore will win the duel (Bilbo Baggins technically lost to Gollum during the Riddles in the Dark challenge).
Using the Saving Throws as checks
Another option at the disposal for the DM is to use the Saving Throws to determine the success or failure of an action. For example, the Characters walk into the room, and not realising they have sprung a trap, suddenly three giant blades swing in succession. The first three Characters in the room have to roll a Saving Throw vs. Poison (also includes Paralysis and Death Magic), modified by their Dexterity reaction adjustment with a dice roll modifier of -2 for Bulky, -1 for Fairly Bulky; let’s change the swinging blades for a cluster of poison tipped darts, then the Saving Throw check might be vs. Petrification/Polymorph (usually 1 or 2 points higher than the Poison column), and on an unsuccessful roll, the Character is hit by a dart and will have to roll vs. Poison for the dart itself; Finally, perhaps the trap sprays a gaseous cloud of nastiness, in which the Saving Throw vs. Breath Weapon would be more appropriate, and modified by Dexterity reaction adjustment.
All are correct, and as there is no where specifically that highlights how to best perform Ability checks, as DM, you have to figure out the best option for you and your game.
Character details and the finer parts to Character Creation
Onto the next part of Character creation, some of the tables aren’t necessary, and the book says that repeatedly throughout. Remember to use the tables as a guide.
The Character background is 80% Player and 20% DM, the player will want to squeeze some extras into the background, and it is up to the DM to be firm but fair. Keeping with the human centric theme of the game, (and as we sort of understand Humans better than Dwarves or Elves), and remembering this is a medieval themed game, many people took up traineeships and apprenticeships from an early age, and many were born into a craft or profession.
We all know the story of a farm boy that becomes a Jedi (and he was 20 years old when he started his adventure – one could equate that to either a Cleric or Magic User, both classes start adventuring at an older age); likewise, in fantasy books and movies we see that theme carried through also. Some other examples are: the farm boy who lost his family to raiders and then learnt the path of the sword to get vengeance, or the child of the blacksmith who learnt how to fashion swords and armour was suddenly called upon to use them; and while these are some popular back stories for Fighters, there are many instances where sometimes a Character also knows how to make poetry and sing well which is good for a few extra coins in towns and cities.
This is where the concept of Secondary Skills ring through. Secondary skills can flesh out the character and rather than generating a list of skill categories and skill points (in later revisions the term non-weapon proficiencies was controversially created) conceptually skills are collated based on your background and experience.
What this means, is that a Fighter who was a farm boy will understand the toils of the farmer, will have some animal handling skills and some basic rural skills, and a street urchin rousted into military service would have minimal skills apart from how to blend into the background of a large city but the character can 'spot the con' or have gut feelings about characters.
Let’s look at the age of a 1st Level Fighter, the book suggests 16 to 19 years of age. This implies that at most a Character would have 2 or 3 years of working in that Secondary Skill, and probably not to a level of competency or marketable proficiency. Being a smith’s apprentice from the age of 12 to 15 doesn’t give one the ability to fashion armour, the general running of a smith… yes, determining the quality of a smith… yes, the ability to talk to a smith on equal terms… maybe, create arms and armour… no. On the flipside, a Fighter that used to work on fishing boats will be intimately familiar with the sea and working a vessel.
Magic-users, Clerics, Monks, Druids, Paladins, Thieves, Assassins, and almost every other class out there have a lot of learning either book learning and/or by intense training. An Assassin will have physical training as well as learning plenty of theory on poisons, and the ways to kill a person; and the starting age reflects that. A Paladin may have no Secondary Skill to speak of, with all the training in arms and armour, as well as the spiritual journey (the same may be applied to the Monk and Cleric).
The original idea behind not concentrating on Secondary profession skills is that whatever the Character was doing before the 1st Level of the chosen Class is almost irrelevant; obviously, the character didn’t want to do it or couldn’t continue with it.
Gaining skills through experience is part of the fun of the game, and as the DM we need to foster the idea of the Character learning by osmosis. For example, if the first few adventures of a Character’s life are with a Ranger as a teammate, by their parting of ways (and a couple of Levels), the Character will know how to make camp, build a fire, and have some idea of where and when to establish camp. That’s why it is called experience. Conan (the Barbarian) was particularly capable of valuing gems and jewellery.
The important takeaway is: Let the player’s work their background story, and suggest ways to incorporate a secondary skill (if any), the Characters are as alive as the players will let them be, and that includes learning those soft skills
Likewise, aging is something to keep an eye on, because as the Character ages some stats do deteriorate over time; there is also having to deal with other NPCs, sometimes the age of the party leader can work for or against the situation. Here’s a ‘for instance’: When the party talk to the town leadership, many of the council members will be in their 30s or even 40s (as a Human would see it), they may assume the 28-year-old 2nd Level Magic User is the leader of the group and not the 4th Level 18-year-old Fighter. On that point, Paladins will most likely be the first one approached as the assumed leader (highest Charisma), then either the Cleric or Magic User (the reasonable INT and WIS scores coupled with their ages make good candidates).
Whew! That’s a lot to take in, right? That’s why it’s important to be a good DM, the players will walk through the world totally unaware of what (as DM) you have put together in terms of time and effort. And guess what? So, they should. As the DM, one must be aware of so much more, and it is a daunting and thankless task.
All of this so far covers about 2 pages of the DMs Guide. If you understand and apply this part right then 40% of problems disappear.
Characters with Multiclass are assumed to have training in two professions, this takes time. When working out the age of the character look to the elder class and use the maximum starting value.
Example: A Half-elf Cleric/Ranger start with Age 48. Being the Cleric age requirement is 40 + 2d4. 48 year old Half-elf is in the Mature category and with the Age modifiers, has a +1 bonus to both Strength and Constitution (the Wisdom modifiers cancel out as -1 for being young and +1 for being mature).
Alignments and Alignment Languages
The concept of how the Character is aligned in the universe is mostly straightforward. There are two parts to the Alignment; how well the Character stays within rules and regulations, and whether the result of an action is for the betterment of self or others.
In the first part of the equation, Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic are the options. To be a follower of the Laws and believing that Laws benefit all is the chief tenet of a Lawful Character, the Lawful Character will always strive to do what is requested by the local laws or be governed by a strict personal code of behaviour; a Chaotically aligned Character believes that rigid structures are in the way, the Chaotic Character will deliberately poke the rules follower and will always look for corners to cut and ways to get around the system, in most cases the Character believes in the survival of the fittest; The Neutral Character holds no ill will to laws and will do whatever it takes to achieve the end he or she is looking for, the Neutral Character may follow the rules as long as it suits but then quickly abandon them when necessary.
The second part of the Alignment mix is whether the Character believes in the betterment of self or others, or works on the more selfish side of the coin. The options here are Good, Neutral, and Evil. The Good Character believes that whatever the chosen path, the ideal of aiding others is paramount; the Evil Character is full of self-interest and/or no feeling at all about others – a lack of empathy if you will; the Neutral character has no bearing on self or others and whether strictly adhering to laws or breaking them on a whim, the result of people getting help or hurt is irrelevant.
Combining them makes up 9 possible Alignment types and are abbreviated as: LG, LN, LE, NG, NE, CG, CN, CE, and True N.
Most people feel they understand the way Alignments work, but here are some Alignments in action:
- Soldiers, police, and any law enforcement types are usually Lawful Neutral, as are bureaucrats and lawyers; they are there to work within the rules and it doesn’t matter if the rules are good or bad – that’s not their job to worry about;
- Serial killers and bad people are often Neutral Evil. Neutral Evil is the pure Evil element, where the person could do anything at any time – one moment they are regular people, then suddenly six heads are found in their freezer (‘He seemed like such a nice boy’);
- Cowards and bullies are often Chaotic Evil – I’m big and strong so you will follow me, if you are bigger and stronger, then I’ll follow you (for now, until I kill you or get you out of the way);
- Assassins are more likely to be Lawful Evil than any other Alignment, as contract killers they will follow the contract to the letter, they may even have their own codes of conduct beyond that, but as Lawful Characters they feel their word is their bond. They are Evil, because they are willing to take a life for money;
- The frontiersmen and explorers of the 17th and 18th century were Chaotic Good, ultimately, many were escaping the stranglehold of society and getting out to places where others couldn’t bother them, but when pressed, would often choose to do the right thing;
- Vigilantes and the ‘Ends justify the means’ type people of books and films are Neutral Good, they firmly believe that they are doing the right thing and if they have to bend some rules here and there they will (think The Punisher, Wolverine, or if you’re old school Dirty Harry);
- Freedom fighters, resistance fighters and rebels are often Chaotic in nature, as they are fighting a system that can’t or won’t help them, whether they are Good, Neutral or Evil will depend on their point of view (One man’s Freedom Fighter is another man’s Terrorist);
- Lawful Good is one of these categories that people quickly gloss over with a wave and say ‘yeah, Mr. Goody two shoes’ or ‘The big Boy Scout’, Batman is Lawful Good. There, it’s been said. Why? Batman has a strict code of practice and follows his own code of behaviour and system of dispensing justice; he also believes that what he is doing is right for society. By comparison, both Captain America and Superman are also LG in alignment (what, no one’s surprised at that?).
- Any Secret society or any group with a strict code of laws and rules will either be Lawful or have Lawful tendencies – for example the Thieves’ Guilds will prefer their membership to follow the rules of the house and any breaking of that code will result in serious penalties therefore in an organised city the Thieves Guild members will be LN or LE;
Ideally, a party should not contain CE, CN, NE, or True N Characters, it’s not a big ask as a DM for the sake of party coherency.
Outside of Clerics, Rangers and Paladins, violations in the Alignment have few ill effects, even a Druid can get a little murky one in a while without ill effect, or the Assassin doing a good deed every now and then is of no consequence (see Leon, the Professional). But for those mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, there are some heavy consequences, a serious infraction against the deity will result in the Cleric losing spells and powers until a means of atonement can be established, Class abilities can be affected for Paladins and Rangers. While an actual Alignment chart showing where the Characters are probably is not necessary, a gentle reminder every now and then is a good thing.
Alignment Language (oh boy!)
On the face of it, it doesn’t make sense. And the way you want to handle it is up to you, most Players don’t really say ‘I speak to him in Lawful Good’, because they also know it is a weird idea and probably a good rule to put in the ‘Do not use’ basket.
The provided example of the middle ages Catholic Church using Latin doesn't really qualify, as either Latin would be a language in its own right, or a dialect of Common tongue. If we go back to our Intelligence chart, a person of 10 Intelligence can have two additional languages, one could easily have been Latin.
Here are some quick notes on interpreting Classes for Characters. As a DM, encourage the Player to expand on the concept of the Character, the more the Player works out the Character the more emotional reward he or she receives during play.
In many games that followed AD&D, (including other revisions of the game itself) the open-ended nature of 1st Edition AD&D seemed to freak people out. With later games, Players would simply choose the Barbarian, Amazon or the Gladiator, or the Fire Mage, or the Warlock, and so on. These templates removed the true elements that made AD&D 1st Ed so special… imagination and role playing.
The first example of a Character is of the Fighter class: Ranger, the Player has chosen a mountain/woodland background and tribal social structure; having come from a colder climate, the Character will have a preference for leather armour for easier movement and the natural hides make better weather resistance; being in a woodland area with limited resources, bows are important as are spears and axes, swords are held in high regard and a valuable social commodity; to explain the need for adventuring, the Character was forced to leave the tribe as he was falsely accused of some wrong doing and fled with his father’s sword and enough provisions to get to the nearest town.
Compare that to the next Fighter, born from a poor farming family and conscripted into the militia; after some basic training, the Character was armed and sent into battle; as one of the few who survived the slaughter, soon found she was abandoned, being counted as dead after the battle; the Character was nursed back to health by a local Cleric and with little more than the scrounged arms and armour decided to seek fame and fortune by becoming a sell-sword for the highest bidder – after all, if a soldier is going to die on the battlefield for no apparent reason a sell-sword at least will die with coin in the pocket.
Both Characters are rich with role playing opportunities and full of character, and at the same time, both are two very different categories of Fighter limited only by the imagination of the player.
Here are some ways that the different classes may be correlated to show how wide the scope is for character creation
CLERIC (and Druid)
- The Knights of the Hospitaller (Clerics)
- Witches - in the traditional sense - (Druids)
- Voodoo priests
- The Bishop (Ladyhawke)
FIGHTER (including Ranger and Paladin and Bard)
- Mulan (Fighter)
- The Three Musketeers (all Fighters, however, Aramis dual classes becoming a Cleric)
- Lancelot du Lake (Paladin then falls to Fighter and is reinstated after atoning)
- Barbarians (Rangers or Fighters)
- Conan the Barbarian (Fighter)
- Charlemagne and his Knights (Paladins)
- Conquistadors of Spain (Fighters and Paladins)
- All Swashbuckling Pirates (Fighters or Rangers)
- Aragorn (Ranger)
- Boromir (Fighter)
- Will Scarlet from (traditional) Robin Hood (Bard)
- Tarzan (Ranger)
- Mowgli (Ranger)
MAGIC USER (including Illusionist)
- Elemental wizards (Magic Users that collect and or use elemental spells)
- Witches – in the modern sense
- Everyone in Harry Potter
THIEF (and Assassin)
- Scaramanga from The Man with the Golden Gun (Assassin)
- James Bond (Assassin)
- Indiana Jones (Thief)
- Jason Bourne (Assassin)
- Other types of Pirates (Thieves and Assassins)
- The Count of Montecristo (Thief)
- John Wick (Assassin)
- Most Special Forces/Commandos (Assassins – maybe starting as Fighters that dual class)
- Danny Oceans (Thief)
- Batman - He probably falls into this category (though it is a tough call)
- Almost all Martial Artists in their movies
- Monks from any of the Shao Lin movies
- Caine of Kung Fu
- Jackie Chan character from Shanghai Knights (Monk dual classed to Fighter)
As you can see, it is easier to pick out the Fighters and Thieves, but they are the more prolific of Classes.
Quick re-cap of events
How to roll Stats; what they mean; why having ability scores less than 18 is OK (even less than 16 is still good); some strategies on using the stats and alternate use of Saving Throws;
Fleshing out the Character with Alignment and Classes; coax from the player a little more background about the Character; touched on Secondary Skills; work with the Player to expand on the Class and help them define some role-playing opportunities by looking to history and literature for inspiration;
Hit Points (HP) – and how to handle rolling a ‘1’
The last part of the Character creation stage is generating Hit Points. The Big Fighter with 18/00 strength rolls for Hit Points and gets a 1 as a result. The Player looks at You; If a Magic User rolled the 1 result, no one would mind – in fact everyone expects it.
What are the best methods of handling this; if the Player has a high enough Constitution, and that 1 result is moved to a 4 or even 5 (jumps to 7HP in the case of a Dwarf or Half-Orc with 19CON), in these instances then nothing probably should happen.
Perspective time (again)
A sedentary worker (such as a scribe, officiate, or bureaucrat) has d4 HP (2 Average);
A slightly more active profession (craftsman, smithy, even trader/merchant) has d4+1 HP;
Any other hardier or vital civilians (to the story) will often start at 0 Level of the appropriate Class (in most cases Fighter), this accounts for Guards, Militia and even mass soldiery types, 0 Level Characters have about ½ Hit Dice; This means that the local village ‘healer’ may have up to 4 HP (half the d8 of the Cleric), and many guards have ½ d10 plus any stat bonuses if any, usually a solid 3 to 5 HP category, The Magic User Apprentice will have ½ d4 (ouch!).
Special note: To be 0 Level was defined to be about -500 XP from 1st Level and if an NPC moves up to 1st Level, then the starting HP is double the total of their 0 Level value (in effect close to the dice roll they originally rolled). If we take a quick look at the Combat Tables, the 0-Level characters have their own ‘to hit’ table – attached to the Fighters. This is irrespective of which class they are 0 Level in (more on the Combat Tables later).
Being Firm but Fair
If the Fighter category of Character has a 16 or less Constitution, and rolls a ‘1’ for HP, then one way to accommodate the Player’s wishes is to allow the Character to start with 4 HP; then encourage them to buy good armour.
For other Classes, 16 or higher Constitution provides a bonus of +2HP per die, so the 1 result moves to 3, and by comparison, that is not terrible either, for no Con bonuses, perhaps allowing them to start with 3HP is also being Firm but Fair.
This way, you are not giving away too much, but also giving the Players a chance for survival.
With a party of Characters containing lower (or even higher) than average HP, as DM make some adjustments to the challenges they will face – if all your Fighters have 15HP at first Level, they can easily face a few extra challenges in their encounters.