Tag Archives: character creation

Keeping It Classy with Kim Frandsen

Kim Frandsen, author of  Heaven & Hell: Aasimar & Tiefling Ancestries for Pathfinder 2, kindly agreed to do a guest post about his Keeping It Classy series, which is available on the DMs Guild. Take it away, Kim!

Keeping It Classy

Today, I’m here to talk about fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and more specifically a series of books that I’ve been releasing, called Keeping It Classy.

So far these have been released for the barbarian, bard, and cleric, with more to come in the following months. Each book is 40–50 pages long and jam-packed with content for that class.

A Series is Born…

So what prompted these books? Well, it was a series of conversations with fifth edition players and people who’d been having a sniff at Pathfinder (this all started before Pathfinder Second Edition came out). And the one thing that seemed to connect all of these experienced players (most had been playing for a few years) was that they felt tied down to the options given in the Player’s Handbook. For example, the barbarian only has two standard options in the PHB: Path of the Berserker and Path of the Totem Warrior.

When I started toying with the idea of various characters from fiction and myth, it struck me that it was a very limited view of what the barbarian could be. So, one evening, I sat down and started brainstorming — to see which fictional characters would fulfill the criteria of a barbarian, but who wouldn’t necessarily fit within those two paths. Rather quickly I had a long list of characters ranging from Conan (the classic barbarian, who you could, at a squeeze, fit into the Berserker, but who was really more of the “noble savage” type), Achilles (the warrior who could not be damaged), all the way over to more esoteric characters like Mr. Hyde (from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) or He-Man.

The idea of more barbarian paths was born, and I set a few goals for these. There had to be something new and unique to each path (this wasn’t so much of an issue for the Barbarian and Bard, but we’ll get to the Cleric), and I wanted there to be a plethora of options. So, my shortlist ended up being 15 different, and new, paths, all with new and unique powers.

That got me wondering: where do these people come from? Again, there are a number of backgrounds in the Player’s Handbook, but some of the character tropes that you typically see for barbarians weren’t covered, so the book ended up with 5 new backgrounds too. Of course, that got me thinking about races and equipment, until I eventually had a full book on my hands.

When The Barbarian was released, one of the first questions I got was “So, what other classes are you doing? Can I have X?” While I’d originally intended The Barbarian to be a once-off thing, I started digging into various classes and found that a lot of them had the same issue that the barbarian did, that there simply wasn’t that much choice to be had in how you made your character (the bard for example, also only has two options in the PHB, the College of Lore and the College of Valor). I realized that all of the classes, in one form or another, are a bit underserved with the options in the core books.

Now you’ll see that I’ve specifically mentioned the amount of paths/colleges available to the barbarian and bard, but that was not the issue facing the cleric. The cleric has 7 domains to choose from, but you’ll notice that a LOT of the powers are recycled or reskinned versions of each other — and DAMMIT, I want my character to be unique, not just a copy-paste of another domain. It bothered me a lot (and The Cleric took me a lot longer to write than The Barbarian and The Bard) as I wanted each domain to not only have unique powers but also to feel like they belong in a fantasy setting. This gave birth to The Cleric, and it’s 15 new domains, all tied to mythology and the existing pantheons in D&D, and all with unique powers that only they have.

In essence, I want to give you, the player, the option to make the character YOU want to make, not just the one intended by the writers of the Player’s Handbook, while maintaining the accessibility of fifth edition.

You can find The Barbarian, The Bard, and The Cleric, on the DMs Guild.

Aasimar & Tiefling Ancestries – Pathfinder 2nd Ed

The second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game launched this month at GenCon. If you’re eager to include aasimar & tiefling ancestries with the new rules of the game, we’ve got you covered.

Heaven & Hell Cover Heaven & Hell: Aasimar & Tiefling Ancestries presents two popular races — the tiefling, of diabolic heritage, and the aasimar, descended from angels — fully compatible with the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Inside you’ll find:

  • Everything you need to create an aasimar or tiefling character
  • Aasimar & tiefling heritages, including the lawbringer archon heritage and gobmaw barghest heritage
  • Ancestry feats for both ancestries, for 1st, 5th, 9th, and 13th level
  • 50 random ancestry features for each ancestry
  • Ancestry equipment
  • Rules for adding either the aasimar or tiefling to another ancestry, as a heritage, are provided in the errata, which will be added to the book in the future.
Heaven & Hell: The angelic aasimar
The artwork conveys the majesty of the aasimar, and recalls the works of the Renaissance masters.

The book was written by the talented Kim Frandsen, with art and layout by Bob Greyvenstein. Bob has given the tiefling and aasimar a classical representation that lends real weight to the book.

Ancestry feats for the tiefling
Ancestry feats for the tiefling
The new Bestiary includes the aasimar and tiefling as “planar scions”, and doesn’t provide rules for building characters of either type. Paizo will be releasing rules for both ancestries in the future, but don’t be worried about the rules in Heaven & Hell becoming obsolete. There’s plenty here that you’ll be able to use in conjunction with their offering.

Buy Online

You can find Heaven & Hell on the following stores:
When you buy from our store, we offer a 30 day, no questions asked money-back guarantee.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Be A Star Player – Rule the Rules

My wife and I were recently talking about why learning the rules of role-playing games is such a scary task for so many players. With core rule books averaging over 300 pages, it’s not surprising that it seems like studying for an exam. Also, it’s quite easy to get by sometimes without knowing the rules, especially around a good GM. Well, thanks to some inspiration from the guys at Campaign Mastery and their great series on Rules Master, I thought I’d share some advice specifically for players.

 

The Key

The key to reading and learning rules, as the Campaign Mastery guys say, is not to read the book from cover to cover. Just read what interests you and what you need to play your character. The rest of this post is aimed at helping you do just that.

 

Start At The Beginning

As with a new text book, always skim through the Table of Contents first. This gives you an idea of what’s in the book and where you’ll find what you want. It’s a bit like looking at a map to get a general idea of where you are. You might even find chapters with names like “How To Play”, “Getting Started” or “The Basics”. Go there next.

 

Reading Lists

In the first chapter there is often a nice little reading plan. Follow that and you’ll save a load of time and be ready to play much sooner. The introduction will also give you a good idea of setting, or at least the feeling of the game, so I’d recommend reading it. From the reading list you can make your own reading plan, like I mention below in the Action section. Generally, your reading plan will skip anything for the Game Master, unless it pertains in some way to how you might want to use your character. Skip anything not related to your character. Not using magic? Then just dump that chapter from the list.

Action – Make A Reading Plan

  1. Write “+1 Reading Plan of Power” on the top of a sheet of paper. Underline it in neon. Draw a dead goblin head next to the heading for extra flair.
  2. Write down a list of all the chapters you’ll need. Exclude everything that’s for the Game Master.
  3. From the Table of Contents, find the page numbers for each chapter. Mark these on your reading plan.
  4. BONUS: Take some sticky paper tabs and mark out the sections you’ll need. If you’re wanting to play a pirate, put a tab where rules for pirate are given to help you find things quickly.

By the way, this method works well for studying too. Web guru’s call it “chunking”, or breaking down information into manageable bits. Our brains are kind of lazy, so you can grasp more if you can see there’s less to actually learn.

 

Build A Character

Once you have your reading plan, the next step is to build a character. A good idea is to have a character concept, as this will help you build a specific kind of character with the rules. As you go, use your reading list to track what you’ve done and add in anything else you want to look at. Just don’t forget to take stuff off the list too, you don’t need extra work.

As you build your character you might get an idea of where you want to take your character. Will your rogue establish her own guild? Make a note of this, preferably on your character sheet. It will help you play your character and, when the time comes, you can use your ideas to direct your reading further.

 

Play

So, supposing y0u have a character and you’re ready to play then try your character in a game. You can learn most of the rules at the table under the watchful eye of the Game Master and with the help of more experienced players. While you’re playing though, make a list of any rules you feel uncertain about and any rules you want to check out. Then you can then look at those rules later or in down time.

 

Dig Deeper

After the game, or if you have enough time before a session, get a better grip on the rules by looking at the following suggestions, which are ordered by importance, from most to least.

Combat: Learn how to fight with every weapon in your arsenal, including your fists and makeshift weapons like broken bottles. You’ll also want to know how to use your special combat abilities and know exactly what their effects will be, since these are often character specific and something your GM may not know off hand. A good place to keep notes is on your character sheet.

Skills: Skills make up a large part of what your character can do. Keep in mind, however, that your skills are not as important to the GM as his campaign and session preparations. So if you understand what you can do with your skills, you’ll get more out of your character. Think of it like this: if you’re a sneaky halfling with major stealth skills, but don’t know how to use them, you just won’t sneak as effectively as you could if you knew the rules.

Movement: The more I learn about martial arts, having tried a few, the more I realise fighting is all about moving. Where you are directly influences your effectiveness. Movement is relatively simple too, so make sure you know how your character will move, both on land, in water and when riding something. A good way to think of this is to look at how a hero in a story of the same genre as the game you’re learning would get around. Aragon walked, ran, rode a horse and used a canoe.

Magic: If you’re using magic, know how it works. A good idea is to keep page references of each spell you can cast.

Miscellaneous: Subjects such as alignment may be covered in a chapter along with other miscellaneous rules. Many of these rules may be fluff that you can skip or skim. I’d leave this stuff for last.

 

Some Other Ideas

Beginner’s Boxes and Solo Modules: These are a great way to learn the game. Play at your own pace while trying out the rules. I don’t need to say more except that our free module is here.

Forums: The web is a great place to learn, especially when there’s a rule your don’t understand. Check out forums like EN World or RPG.net, you may even get an answer from the designer of the game themselves. If you can, find a local forum too, it will help you make friends and find game groups in your area, as well as help you learn local house rules. For South Africans I recommend www.rpg.co.za.

 

You Gotta Read To Succeed

At the end of the day you just need to jump in and read. I always think that a little work can lay the foundation for more understanding later, so even if time is limited, read what you can, it will be worth it.

Let me know if you have more tips or something that worked particularly well for you.

 

Be A Star Player – 10 Ideas to Improve Your Game

There’s plenty of information out there to help aspiring Game Masters (GM’s), but not quite as much for players. Most resources are players’ handbooks, which generally deal with the rules of the game and how to play, not always how to be the best player you can be. The wonderful thing about role-playing games is that it’s an ongoing learning experience as well as a group effort. So, without further ado, here are my 10 Tips for being a better player, in no particular order.

 

1 – Play

To quote Michaelangelo in the latest Ninja Turtles movie: “Learn by doing dude.” You’ll learn more about the rules, the game and what it means to be a player when you’re actually at the table throwing dice. And if you can’t play with friends, you can always try out a solo adventure like our own Sentinels Watching. Most games that have boxed sets also include solo missions that are specifically good for new players but may leave veterans frustrated with the lack of options. Failing all that, online games are becoming increasingly popular, such as Dungeons and Dragons Online and even Heroes of Neverwinter on Facebook. These games give you some idea of how the game works and an insight into the mechanics, but I still think rolling dice with friends is the best way to learn.

 

2 – Read Them Rules

It sounds obvious, but read the rules. It’s easy to get by without actually studying the rules, but this generally slows down the game and puts added pressure on the GM. I’d recommend focusing on the introduction, character generation and combat sections in general. Some books follow quite a different format (such as the Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game), but will recommend chapters for players. Read them. It’s not necessary to know the rules off by heart, but having a general idea of where everything is, will speed up the game. Also, get yourself your own copy of the rules to have on hand for easy reference during the game. Most rulebooks are available in PDF format from places like Drive Thru RPG, making them much cheaper and easier to use on small devices like net books and iPads.

 

3 – Read

Reading the rules is important, but that’s not all you should be reading. There are tons of resources out there, from advanced players’ guides to online forums and blogs like this one. Also, reading stories set in a similar genre to what you’re playing can really spark the imagination and give you some great ideas for where you want to take your character. My current character, a duellist, had me scouring Wikipedia and the net in general for more information on “the gentlemen’s game”, which had some interesting results, including finding rules for duelling that intricately detail the amount of blood required to pay back various levels of insult.

A word of warning though, especially for younger players, there are plenty of sites you don’t want to visit because the information on them is worthless and unhelpful. I generally start with Wikipedia if I’m doing my research on the web and work out from there, using the “See Also” and “External Links” sections.

 

4 – Be Prepared

Having your character, dice and miniatures ready is always a good idea. I keep a folder of character sheets that goes to each game and I make sure I update my character as soon as possible when he levels up. A good way to level up is to find a character editor that works for you and use that, along with the rule book. For Pathfinder I use Erian_7’s Excel sheet, which is pretty complex but very useful.

Keeping notes from past sessions is also a great idea. It helps you to get back into the game quickly and ensures you don’t miss any of those important hints the GM keeps dropping.

Lastly, bookmark any spells, special abilities or sections in the rules you’ll need to look up during the game. It will make it look like you read the rules and give you street cred with experienced players.

 

5 – Play Your Character

I think it was Steven King who said that characters write themselves, you just record what they do. It’s the same with role-playing. Eventually your character will walk into trouble while in your head you’re screaming “No, don’t go down there, it’s a trap!” And do you know what? That will be okay. My duellist character has a knack for shooting his mouth off, while I’m usually reserved and often prefer to take a back seat. The key really is to just play the character as you envision him, which makes for some great role-playing and a great game in general.

Talking in character is a very useful way to get into and stay in character, and most GM’s I’ve played with tend to give awards to those who use a different voice from their own. My wife recently played a half orc that had everyone in stitches because of the voice she used, which not only added to the game but made her believable as a hulking male half orc barbarian.

 

6 – Be A Team Player

This is a general tip, but remember that role-playing is a team game, be prepared to work with everyone and you’ll be a star player in no time.

 

7 – See The World – Imagination

A while back I posted about imagination gaming, so I won’t say too much here except that, in role-playing, you need to try and see the scene in your mind’s eye. I find the more I imagine the scene, the more I get lost in the game and the more I enjoy it. The simplest way to do this is to ask questions about the five senses: “What do I see? What do I hear?” and so on.

8 – Run Some Games

Walking a few miles in the GM’s shoes is a great way to be a better player, because you understand what it’s like to run a game and can sympathise with the GM when things get busy at the table.

 

9 – Help The GM

Helping the GM goes a long way to keeping things running smoothly. Filling a cup, offering snacks and even tracking initiative order all help the GM focus on telling the story. You might even get bonus XP for your troubles, who knows.

 

10 – Help New Players

Helping newer players is a good way to improve your own knowledge of the game and, again, to keep things flowing. Finding rules for them is a great way to get more familiar with the rules yourself and lets you learn about characters you’ve never played before. It also gives you something to do while other players are busy with the GM.

 

 

Ultimately, the goal of being a better player is to be someone who people want to play with – someone who covers their side of the game in an entertaining and fun way without being “that guy” who makes things unpleasant. If you keep working at it, your game will improve, which will lead to more fun for all and more table time for you. It’s a roll you can’t critically fumble.

Starting a New Campaign

Campaign Journal

In this series I’ll be taking you through our bi-monthly Pathfinder campaign that began at the start of 2011. Mostly I’ll just focus on the story, but will also point out some of the lessons we learnt and fun ideas that came up. Unfortunately, it looks like I will be missing the last half of the campaign, but I’ll see if I can organise someone else to continue the story where I left off.

In this post I want to focus on how we got started and all the ground work that was laid before we started playing, which I hope will give you some ideas for your own game.

Picking The Team
The biggest question when we set out, and in most RPG groups, is who is playing. There are always people with different levels of commitment or difficult schedules and finding a time that suits everyone is a bit of a logistics nightmare, especially when everyone is working and has a family. I missed the 2010 campaign because of my busy schedule which left me with only Wednesdays and Fridays open during the week, and Thursdays nights were more convenient for the rest of the guys.

So, we set up a meeting for all interested parties to discuss times. Some of us have played together since meeting on-line, (www.rpg.co.za for South African players), others were relatives or friends of other players, and so on. We drew up a grid of each day and who would be available when. We decided that we would choose one week day and play every two weeks, which would also mean that the impact on our weeks would not be too unmanageable. Wednesday was chosen and we keep our game days to that, although busy schedules and wierd holidays have meant that we’ve played less that twice a month, it does mean that people try and keep Wednesday open.

A number of potential players have not yet pitched for a game and some players have only played a single session, but our core of six players has remained pretty solid. Instead of choosing one person to be the GM, we are taking turns that span a few sessions. This method worked well for the guys in their last campaign, and lead to some interesting results, including a multitude of villains that had it in for the party, each villain the brain child of a different GM.

Picking The Rules
Our next decision was picking a games system. In the 2010 campaign the guys used Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, but there were many other possible available now with our collections of books growing as they have. In the end we chose Pathfinder because it is 3.5 and lets us use all the 3.5 stuff we have.

Picking Pathfinder meant that we didn’t need to learn new rules. This is worth mentioning because, although it is 3.5 compatible, Pathfinder does make some changes. The key though is that when we look up a rule, we look it up in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, and we haven’t really needed to invest much time learning.

For interest sake, some of the other games that were listed as possibles included Mouseguard the RPG, Call of Cuthullu, World of Darkness, Warhammer Fantasy Role-play and Dungeons and Dragons 4, which at least 3 of us are currently involved in a campaign of.

House Rules
At this point, let me just mention that if you do have a session like this to plan your campaign, be sure to order pizza. In fact, if you remember nothing else from this post,remember the pizza. Good friends and good food makes all the admin seem like fun.

With the rule set chosen we defined a number of house rules, some more bizarre than others:

We use a critical fumble table for 1’s rolled in combat. If you fumble, not only do you miss, but now bad things happens to you, such as loosing your weapon and so on.

Each play must bring a white board marker, since we use a glass pane over a grid map to mark out encounter locations. If each player brings one, we always have a choice of markers and it’s not an issue if someone forgets. You could easily do the same thing with bringing map tiles or maps.

Halflings have hairy feet. This was an odd one, and I brought it up, because I’m a Tolkien nut. Discussing the world makes it more immersive, in my opinion. If you imagine the same things, you share the experience more deeply.

Keep the beer lids. We are keeping beer lids to make into a suit of scale mail. The Yaya Sisterhood have their jeans, we have our scale mail.

Story points. Players can accrue story points both in game and out of game that they can then use to affect the game in a way not normally available to players in Pathfinder, such as to get a re-roll on a dice, changing something in the story or bring in an NPC. You may only ever have 3 story points and you can spend 1, 2 or 3 points to get various effects:

One story point: Re-roll a dice, make an acrobatic move you could not normally make or get extra information from someone.

Two story points: An extra attack, an automatic crit or convince an NPC of something.

Three story points: Avoid death, invent an NPC or change the story.

Character Creation
We decided that any Humanoid character was legal, resulting in a party consisting of a Catfolk, two Tieflings, a Giant, an Elf and a Blue. We discussed the party make-up to try and get a balanced party, and ended up with a multi classed rogue wizard, a wizard, a bard, a monk, a ranger and a paladin. I’ll be introducing the characters in the next Campaign Journal post.

Many other aspect of character creation were decided after the meeting. In fact, nothing was actually decided regarding characters on the day, but the first GM requested that each player send him an email with class, race, name, a short description and a backup character class. We could then go ahead and create a level one character.

In Summary
I think the planning session was very valuable, and our games would probably not have gone as smoothly as it has without the planning meeting. It surely saved us a great deal of email. It was also fun, and we got to shared many war stories and got to meet other role-players, have some great pizza and just laugh about our adventures.

Have you had a similar planning meeting for your campaign or group, please tell us about your experience.