Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Danny's Dynamic Character Creation System (4e)

This is a reddit post that I made and wanted to document here, as well.

Reddit thread I just posted:

This post will likely be the most updated, but discussions may be more engaging on Reddit.


I greatly enjoy D&D and think it's kind of a horrible game (hear me out!). I enjoy it so much that many non-D&D friends want to try it, so my next DM session will be for these newcomers.

Below is my experiment to seamlessly get through what I think is the most burdensome (horrible!) barrier to entry: character creation.

I ask you for input, ye olde reD&Ditors, especially around the following.

- Danny, you're missing this thing that you didn't consider for character creation.
- You know, you can't get around character creation factor X at point Y because of Z. You'll need to compensate around Z by doing something like <*your wisdom here*>...
- I think you could streamline X for character creation sooner or more seamlessly by addressing it at point Y, instead of at point Z where you currently have it.
- Can't you more easily address the problem point by doing <*your genius idea*> instead of <*Danny's dumber-than-your-genius idea*>?
- Something else.


Danny's Dynamic Character Creation Experiment (4e)

**Session Preparation**

1. Get at least X powers from X different classes so you have at least one for each of your X players.
2. Create a single character called "Street Rat" that is a human rogue with powers that can be used in your first battle encounter, and with ability scores that use a standard buy-in or 10,11,12,14,16 system.
3. Print out that character sheet X times and pass them out to your X players. Inform them that they're all the same except that they get to choose a gender and a name they don't have to disclose.
4. Begin your campaign by addressing why these rogues are all involved with each other.

Problem Points Resolved

- Play session can begin quickly, after players choose gender.
- Burden of knowledge for few rogue powers is distributed among X players, instead of X players each trying to learn about at least 2 unique abilities (total of at least X * 2 powers in that case).
- Future collective knowledge more quickly goes through mistakes, learning of power usage in combat -- instead of everyone being confused about, envying, or trying to understand how disparate class powers all work together efficiently.

New Problems Created, to be Mitigated Later

- Limitation on Freedom: choices are reduced to name, gender, and personality.

**Beginning the Story**

This will be based on the environment I'm running -- Waterdeep, leaning toward the *Halls of Undermountain* adventures -- but you can suggest or think of how well this system works in your environment of choice. This system is meant to be generic, with your single **Session Preparation** character being suited to the environment you choose.

1. Players are told about Waterdeep being a big, busy city full of many diverse people. They are currently street rats of this city.
2. Today, they find themselves at the same location: an intersection that is less-traveled, darker, and generally more isolated. The patterns of the police known as "The City Guard" don't patrol here as much, making it a great spot for thieves.
3. You're pretty sure you've seen the other players before, though you may not have ever really gotten to know them. They may not even know your name, but you all generally have learned how to move from each other.
4. Your stomach grumbles as a merchant with two guardsman come your way. You and the other players look at each other with the same recognized expression: this looks like a big enough hit for all of you to eat and pay decent shelter for a few days.
5. "What do you do?"

Nothing New or Experimental Here; Deliberate Opportunities Set Up in this Encounter

* The players are allowed to explore any avenue for the encounter: roleplaying, skill checks, or combat.
* Learning: the players can learn one or all of the encounter types, depending on the choices of the first outspoken players to act.
* If combat is chosen at any point or an inquiry is made about the usage of powers, learning about powers in combat can begin and benefits all players.
* I will be leaning toward making combat happen eventually, preferably after the other two options are explored. The main benefit sought: connecting the idea of "character stats", "modifiers", to "powers" in the minds of the players.

**Opening Up The Can of Worms**

I was originally thinking of using souls-filled bracelets, but since I wrote that section header let's just go ahead with a can of worms in the spoils. The players find a strange can of worms in the merchant's goods, and there's something strange about them as they squirm out of the can -- hypnotic, almost...

1. Make the characters roll a hard DC {will, arcana, whatever you fancy} check. After everyone's rolls are resolved, describe the worms harmlessly -- pleasantly, perhaps, for all the failed save throws? -- making their way to/on the players' flesh. The worms seem to wriggle and melt, then vanish. Anyone that succeeds on the roll can make an action that somehow still gets worm weirdness on him or her (smash the worm, kick the can, etc.). Everyone comes to and makes off with their booty.
2. Hallucination or dream time begins. Either roleplay about being tired, getting lodging, and going to sleep or just have the players hallucinate about a myriad of figures in a cramped space.
3. Hallucination or dream time continues: all your players are experiencing this. Describe silhouettes acting out various motions that you'd see in combat: explosions, divinations, healing, breaking things with great strength, etc. Map these to the powers you chose for **Session Preparation** step 1.  Ask players which they find more interesting.
4. Hallucination or dream time ends: as players select the ones they find more interesting, give them that power and describe the dream silhouette as fading away or dying or something. Continue until they each have a different class power. For fun, anyone that succeeded the {will, arcana, whatever you fancy} check gets to take any power they want at any time -- even if another player chose it, because *can of worms* magic.
5. The dream shows something about Undermountain. Or they are compelled by worm magic to go to the Yawning Portal and seek someone there. Or they consult someone and find out they have worms and the cure is down in the first level, whatever.

**Applying the Bad Class Power in the Next Encounter**

Lead the players to the next combat encounter, at some point.

1. Let anyone use the new power they have.
2. Have them calculate its lameness because their modifiers for that class probably don't match the rogue awesomeness you built.
3. Describe the feelings of going through the power; if it's a divine spell, mention the holy inspiration of otherworldly deity smiles shining upon them (yes, I wrote that as intended; no, you don't have to mention which deity, leave that to player discovery later); if it's a wizard spell, describe the chaotic energies that amass at their fingertips. And tell them they now have an option, as this deity-beckon and spellmastery are tinged with that same entrancement from watching the worm.
4. Players choose between embracing the worm power or fighting it to stay a rogue. If they choose the embrace it, they can switch the 16 ability modifier for that power's modifier. If they don't embrace it, just leave the choice for next time they try to use the power (maybe they want to stay a rogue). Explain that the surge of power in wisdom or intelligence leaves him feeling weak or drained in strength, if that's the way the ability modifiers get swapped. Something like that.
5. Repeat until all characters have tried the different powers and started their paths to another class. If they want to try out a different class power and stat, let them during the next extended rest (dream time!) or whenever you like (hallucination!).

Problems resolved:

- No more limitation of freedom.

... Okay, this is pretty long already. If there's a discussion going on here, I'll complete the rest of this (race change, people battling to remain themselves or choosing the worm-soul's identity instead, etc.). Otherwise, I'll just take what I've got and run with it. Remaining items are things like:

- Race, as mentioned.
- Feats.
- Backgrounds, themes.
- Swapping of all ability scores to the player's liking, and adding some finality to it.
- Leaving the can of worms/soul bracelets as some sort of underlying, always-motivating factor to keep the group adventuring.

Thanks for reading this far, if you have. Good night!