The first session of our Iron Gods game consisted of five hours of character creation, after which everyone hung out for another five hours (!) talking about characters, while we had dinner and put the kids to bed.
Only one person rolled her character completely randomly, but everyone got use out of the easy-to-follow lists with links. The only problems we had were introduced by the “Singular Curiosity” list. One player rolled “you are a changeling,” and couldn’t figure out how to make that work with her back-story.
We started out talking about the group template, which I’m a big fan of. The group didn’t end up with a firm template (like a military unit or extended family), but starting the conversation with the template (before looking at any other aspect of character creation) encouraged people to think about how their characters are connected. There’s a web of connections between the characters, and it looks like they’ll have real reasons to stay together when the chips are down. Most importantly, everyone has a connection to Khonnir Baine, in some way, whatever background they rolled or chose.
Four characters, and using the character sheet as a teaching tool
Once the relationships were worked out, people started rolling or reading. We came up with four characters (they may be two more later):
1) A four-armed thrake gunslinger who was left as a changeling with a human family, and who everyone thought was human until she left to join the Technic League and the glamour hiding her identity lifted. She escaped the League with the help of Khonnir Baine and some Varisians, and returned to Torch and her family.
2) The thrake’s older sister, a guild artisan artificer cleric whose family came to Torch when she was a child, and whose grandmother left her a slightly-magical hammer (+1 damage, flies to her hand, and acts as a holy symbol of Brigh). Sometime apprentice to Khonnie Baine.
3) A transitional toru charlatan ranger who has a device (made by Khonnir Baine) that hides his alienness and keeps him from being hunted, who was once in an ill-advised relationship with the cleric. Gave up his device briefly to help Baine rescue the thrake from the League.
4) An android mesmerist spy/criminal who has been in Torch for 200 years, in different incarnations, recording the history of the town for unknown reasons, and has a longstanding friendship with the toru, and a keen interest in Khonnie Baine’s quick rise to power.
I’m pleased that two of the races and two of the classes I’m working on will see play, as will three of the classes/ races I’ve pulled from other blogs. I’m really interested to see that only one and a half race and class choices came from the book (the human and the ranger, who will be using certain robot fighting Hunter archetype additions I built). Will my players be getting the “real 5e” experience? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it will be fun to watch.
Character sheet/ teaching tool
None of my players had much experience with 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, none of them had looked at the book. I knew that would be the case, going in, so I wrote up a walkthrough of the character sheet that helped to introduce some of the key concepts for this edition. After everyone had decided on their race, class, and background, we pulled out character sheets and pens. In the write-up, below, “you” refers to my players…
Step 0: Fill in the box at the top. This might change, but it’s good to have reference points for all these details.
Step 1: Column 1. Determine your ability scores. Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die six times, and assign them to the six ability scores. (For added challenge, keep the scores in the order in which you roll them, allowing for one ability swap.) [This gave us an opportunity to talk about which scores were most important for which classes. We discussed modifiers (probably not in enough detail), and reviewed which skills and abilities relied on which stats. Sometimes, the conversation was as basic as “write the small number in the big box, and the big number in the small box.”]
Inspiration: Inspiration comes from playing to your personality traits, bonds, ideals and flaws in a way that is either interesting or causes complications (“I value knowledge, so I spend time reading a book” isn’t interesting, but “I value knowledge, so I steal a rare book from the shelves of the noble we are trying to negotiate with” is.) You can have one “inspiration point” at any time, and can spend it to gain advantage on any d20 roll. (Advantage/ Disadvantage: one of the primary mechanics of this edition, roll two d20 whenever you would usually roll one and take either the highest or the lowest, respectively. Advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out, no matter how many of each you have.) You can gain advantage by using an NPC’s bonds or ideals against them, and you can gain inspiration if you choose to take disadvantage when an NPC uses your bonds, ideals, or flaws against you.
Proficiency bonus: +2. Your proficiency bonus will go up as your class levels do, and is added to your d20 roll any time you have a related proficiency (with a weapon, a tool, a skill, or an ability, from your race, class, or background; you can also train skill and tool proficiencies, but we’ll talk about that later).
Saving throws and skills: your attribute bonus goes here, unless you are granted proficiency in the save or skill by your race, class, or a feat.
Passive Wisdom: 10 + your Wisdom modifier. When you are not actively looking, this is assumed to be your roll. If you choose to actively perceive, it is possible to get a lower score than this number (this represents “looking in the wrong place”).
Other proficiencies and languages: As determined by your race, class, background, and feats, this includes any proficiencies (such as tool proficiencies) not listed elsewhere).
Step 2: [For this step, we moved to the right-most column, because I wanted us to talk about background before attacks.]
Personality traits: Choose or roll two, from the list in your background or based on your own idea of your character’s personality (or a mix of the two). These are your defining personality traits, though not your only traits.
Ideals: Roll or choose one ideal that is central to your character. This represents your moral compass, and it can as easily see you through difficult times as get you into trouble.
Bonds: You will have two bonds, a campaign bond and a background bond, representing your connections to other people or places. You can choose these in common with other members of the group, or roll them randomly from your list.
Flaws: Roll or choose a weakness, something that gets you into trouble. If playing up your flaw gets the party into trouble, it is possible that the inspiration you earn will be awarded to another party member, as compensation.
[This conversation probably took the longest, as everyone wanted to have exactly the right details, here, and they all wanted to know what the others’ details were.]
Features and traits: Any racial, background, class, feat, or other abilities that you reference regularly will go here.
Step 3: [The middle column was the easiest, and the most rules-focused. This whole column can be pulled from the class write-ups in the PHB, so it was the least interesting, to me.]
Armor class: usually determined by your armor or class abilities, it is at least 10+your Dexterity modifier. Does your class give you any armor, to start with?
Speed: determined by your race (with bonuses from some classes and feats). Probably 30, unless you’re a halfling, a gnome, a wood elf, or a human with the Mobility feat.
Initiative: your Dexterity modifier, unless altered by your race, class, or a feat.
Hit points and hit dice: from your class. Take the highest number on the dice and add your Constitution modifier, and write 1d# in the hit dice box. You’ll use these for healing after short rests, and we’ll talk about that, later.
Death saves: when you fall to 0 hit points, you begin to make death saves. If you succeed at 3 Constitution saves before you fail three, you stabilize. If you fail three, you die. (Also, if the total damage you take equals your current hp + your hp total, you are dead. If you are damaged while at 0 hp, you automatically fail two death saves.)
Attacks and spellcasting: Add your most commonly rolled attacks and spells, for ease of reference. Make sure that you add your proficiency bonus and the right ability modifier to the attacks.
Equipment and wealth: Add your starting equipment, based on your class and background, and leave room for loot. Remember to roll on the “trinket” table, as well!
At this point, everyone’s head was full of 5th Edition information, so we stopped. Next session, everybody gets to hit something, and everybody gets to run away from something.