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    Default [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    I have recently decided to run a game of D&D 3.5 for some friends via email, much like a pbp game here on the boards. These are mostly friends of mine from gaming groups past who have moved on to distant lands, making in-person gaming impossible. I thought that this would be a nice way to stay involved in gaming (especially given our increasingly-busy lives) and keep in touch.

    One of these friends has never placed D&D before in his life and expressed interest to me in learning how to play. Since he already knows everyone involved, I thought this might be an opportunity for him to learn the ropes. To that end I am writing a series of articles for him that outline, in as much detail as possible, how to go about creating a character and playing a game of D&D. I thought I would post these articles here as I finish them (I'm not even close to finished). That way I can get your feedback on the articles and anyone in a similar position could use them. I hope that they will be helpful in distilling the basics of the game in a simpler and more approachable way than simply reading through the SRD or the PHB. I would welcome any comments you may have.


    A Step-By-Step Introduction D&D for Total Beginners

    Article 1: Introduction - Deals briefly with game philosophy, the basic mechanic, the adventuring party, and some important terms

    Article 2: Character Creation: Mechanics - A step-by-step guide to building a first-level character

    Article 3: Character Creation: Story - Some tips to building a well-rounded and interesting character

    Article 5: Leveling - A check-list of things to remember when leveling up

    Article 4: Basic Combat - The basics of combat: attacks, damage, armor class, movement, saves, skills

    Article 6: Advanced Combat - More advanced combat techniques, spell usage, situational modifiers

    Article 7: Beyond the Core - A brief discussion of non-core classes and systems (psionics, Tome of Battle, Magic of Incarnum, etc.)
    Last edited by Mephibosheth; 2009-12-15 at 11:22 PM.
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    Default Article 1: Introduction

    Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons 3e

    Dungeons & Dragons (hereafter referred to as D&D) is a table-top role-playing game in which players use pencils, paper, polyhedral dice, and their imaginations to guide characters (often called “Player Characters” or “PCs”) through the dangers of a (usually-medieval, Europe-based) fantasy setting. The game can be seen as an exercise in cooperative storytelling, in which the participants create a story together as their characters interact with the imaginary world. In most cases, the players and their characters work together as a party.

    A D&D group consists of two or more people; the Dungeon Master (DM) and the players. The DM establishes the setting and plot for the game. He or she plans the adventures, determines the actions of monsters, non-player characters (NPCs), and the world around the PCs. Ideally, the DM creates adventures that challenge the players and force them to think creatively but that do not overwhelm the players and the abilities of the PCs. The players, on the other hand, control the actions of one PC within the world the DM creates, working on their own or with other PCs to overcome the challenges the world presents.

    Game Philosophy

    Before launching into more concrete topics, I want to say a brief word about the mindset that, in my opinion, players and DMs should have. D&D is, first and foremost, a game. It’s about having fun with your friends and exploring an exciting imaginary world. It is not unlike reading a book or watching a movie in the sense that it stimulates your imagination and provides a mechanism with which to interact with a different, perhaps more exciting and certainly more fanciful, world.

    Unlike most games, however, D&D is not about defeating your fellow players. To be sure, the PCs must overcome challenges and risk defeat with every encounter, but their goal should be to defeat the obstacle presented by the world, not their fellow players. Similarly, the DM should try to present a challenging encounter but should not actively try to destroy the PCs. There is a fine line between a fun challenge that may or may not claim the life of the PCs and a frustrating inevitable defeat against overwhelming force. DMs and players should not try to beat each other. D&D is fundamentally a cooperative exercise, where the players and the DM work together to challenge each other and have fun.

    Basic Mechanic
    D&D 3rd Edition (usually abbreviated “3e” or “3.5”) uses the d20 fantasy rules set, the basics of which are available for free (with a few exclusions) online at www.d20srd.org. The rules set seems daunting at first and the rules are indeed extensive. However, the entirety of the rules set boils down to one simple mechanic:

    Roll one twenty-sided dice (called a “d20”) and add the relevant modifier

    The system functions by incorporating different modifiers for different tasks. To attack an opponent, roll 1d20 and add your attack bonus. To jump over a chasm, roll 1d20 and add your Jump skill modifier. To resist a magical assault on your mind or body, roll 1d20 and add the relevant save modifier. To break down a door, roll 1d20 and add your strength modifier.

    The Adventuring Party
    Most games of D&D (but not all) take place in the context of a small group of adventurers, usually 3-6 characters. They may be a mercenary company or a military Special Forces unit or a wandering group of exiles from a nearly-destroyed race, but they function as a team to overcome obstacles.

    Players usually (but not necessarily) create characters that fill a certain role in the party and reinforce or compliment the abilities of other characters. There are five archetypal party roles that are usually filled in one way or another.
    • Meat Shield/Tank – The meat shield is usually the character with the most formidable defenses, able to withstand or avoid damage and keep enemies away from more vulnerable members of the group. The meat shield is usually a warrior of some sort and most often focuses on conventional melee combat (i.e. hitting things hard with a big stick).
    • Skill Monkey – The skill monkey is usually a weaker, more vulnerable character. However, a skill monkey has specialized, non-magical skills that enable him to overcome or bypass challenges in ways other characters cannot. He may be able to climb, jump, and balance to go around or over obstacles. He may be able to use diplomacy or bluff to talk his way out of trouble and make deals. He may be able to pick locks or disable traps (often considered the key skill monkey ability).
    • Arcane Caster – Magic is an archetypal ability in fantasy settings and the arcane caster plays a crucial role in any party. Arcane magic is the magic of wizards and sorcerers, based on their ability to manipulate the laws of reality through study or innate talent. Arcane casters can rain fire down upon their enemies, they can control the minds of others, they can summon powerful creatures from other planes of existence, or they can enhance the abilities of their comrades. Arcane casters can have a number of specialties, but their abilities to re-make reality are formidable.
    • Divine Caster – While arcane magic is gained by the caster of his own ability, divine magic is granted to character by the gods. Clerics, priests, and druids use divine magic. Divine magic lacks the versatility and quirkiness of arcane magic but has several advantages. Divine magic is the only way to access healing spells (and indeed, some players call divine caster “healbots” and consider healing their primary role). It also has a wide array of spells that enhance the abilities of the caster and his or her comrades.
    • 5th Wheel – A 5th wheel character is a character who usually fills multiple roles in the party but doesn’t do so quite as effectively as someone who focuses in that role. They are jacks of all trades but masters of none. They fill gaps in the party and enhance and compliment the abilities of others.

    It is important to note that these aren’t the only party roles, just the most common. It is entirely possible (and in some cases, desirable) to create a character that doesn’t fit one of these roles perfectly or to make a party that doesn’t have all of these roles filled. A good DM and a good group of players can make any party configuration work. Again, the important thing is to have fun, not to play the game to win or “the way it’s supposed to be played.”

    Important Acronyms and Terms*
    D&D has an extensive specialized vocabulary. The following are brief explanations of some of the most common acronyms and terms.
    • AC – Your AC, or Armor Class, determines how well you can avoid being hit. It includes the type of armor or shield you use, how well you can dodge blows, how tough your skin is (in some cases), and a number of other factors. The higher your AC, the less often you’ll get hit.
    • BAB – Your BAB, or Base Attack Bonus, determines how well you can wield weapons. A high BAB allows you to hit your target more often. Your BAB is determined by the class you select and increases as you gain experience.
    • Buff – The use of an ability (usually a spell or similar effect) to improve your or your allies’ abilities.
    • DM – The Dungeon Master, or DM, builds and runs the world around the PCs, creating the adventures that make the game fun.
    • HP – Your HP, or Hit Points, determine how well you can take a hit. Having a lot of HP means that you can take a few hits and keep on going. HP is determined by your class and by your toughness.
    • NPC – Non-Player Characters, or NPCs, are any non-monstrous entities that exist in the game world and are controlled by the DM. The king of the country, the prison guard, the drunken bum in a tavern, and the highway robbers who try to take your money are all NPCs. NPCs are usually humanoid, though this need not necessarily be so. They are distinct from…
    • PC – Player Characters, or PCs, are the characters controlled by the players. They are obviously affected by the DMs world but should not be controlled by the DM.
    • Saves – Your ability to shrug off attacks on your body and mind is represented by your saves. Your fortitude save (fort) helps you avoid poison, disease, and being turned into a frog. Your reflex save (ref) helps you avoid being caught in explosions or trapped under avalanches. Your will save (will) helps you avoid mind control and telepathy.
    • Skills – Skills represent your ability to interact with the world in (by-and-large) non-violent ways. They include your ability to negotiate and bluff, to open locks, to pick pockets, you understand complex concepts and recall facts, to jump, climb, balance, and tumble, and a host of other things.
    • XP – Experience Points, which determine when your character moves to a new level and gains new abilities



    *I will probably be adding to this list as I write the other articles.
    Last edited by Mephibosheth; 2009-12-14 at 12:15 PM.
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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    You'll want to decide early on in the process whether you're describing 3.5 as it's written, or 3.5 as many people like to play it. For example, as written, it's entirely possible for sorcerers and bards to access healing magic, and possible for wizards to independently research spells that heal or buff.

    As you probably know, it's also possible for a druid to be both a tank and a divine caster, a skill monkey and a divine caster, or possibly all three with sufficient forethought - and even barbarians can be both tank and skillmonkey with relatively little effort. So you might want to expand your description of traditional party roles to note that some classes inherently cover two or more of those roles, and do so just about as well as other classes devoted specifically to one specific role.

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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Do you know how your players like to play?

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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by imperialspectre
    You'll want to decide early on in the process whether you're describing 3.5 as it's written, or 3.5 as many people like to play it. For example, as written, it's entirely possible for sorcerers and bards to access healing magic, and possible for wizards to independently research spells that heal or buff.
    For the purposes of this campaign I'm going to play as close to RAW as possible, only deviating where absolutely necessary and where the changes are easy to explain. However, with these articles my goal is to be as generic as possible so others can use them as well, which means sticking to RAW.

    Quote Originally Posted by imperialspectre
    As you probably know, it's also possible for a druid to be both a tank and a divine caster, a skill monkey and a divine caster, or possibly all three with sufficient forethought - and even barbarians can be both tank and skillmonkey with relatively little effort. So you might want to expand your description of traditional party roles to note that some classes inherently cover two or more of those roles, and do so just about as well as other classes devoted specifically to one specific role.
    I am aware of the distinct possibility of a single character or class filling multiple roles. In the article about character creation currently underway, I have a section that briefly explains each of the core classes and notes what roles they can fill. I explicitly mention some of those possibilities (tank clerics and druids, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Pharoh's Fist
    Do you know how your players like to play?
    Yes, I've been playing with most of these friends since I learned the game. Like I said, with this campaign and with these articles I'm trying to hold as close to RAW as possible to make the articles useful in other circumstances and by other people. I know that a lot of people find it difficult to get into D&D, especially over the internet, and thought that a series of articles like these might be helpful for people other than myself.

    Thanks for the comments. Keep 'em coming!

    Mephibosheth
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    Default Article 2: Character Creation: Mechanics

    Character Creation: Mechanics

    Creating a character is the first thing you must do when playing D&D. Your character is your avenue through which you, as the player, interact with the game world. The abilities your character possesses determine what role you will take in the adventuring party and how you will overcome challenges. This is intended to be a step-by-step guide to creating a 1st level character.

    There are two main methods of character creation: story-driven and mechanics-driven. A story-driven character comes up with the character concept first (ex. a small-time thief from the big city who was forced out of the guild by a rival and is now adventuring to make his name in another city before coming back and exacting his revenge) and builds the mechanics of the character to fit the concept. A mechanics-driven character comes up with the mechanics, often called a “build” (ex. a spiked chain-wielding fighter with improved trip and a lot of ranks in craft [weaponry] to make his own impromptu weapons) first and fits the story to the mechanics. It is possible to craft an interesting character with either method but, in my experience, both aspects are important for a truly interesting and enjoyable character. Your build might be powerful and interesting but without fun character quirks, a compelling motivation, or interesting backstory your character will be lacking. Similarly, you might have fascinating character development in mind but if your character can’t contribute in combat, the game will not be as enjoyable.

    That said; let’s go through the steps to creating the mechanics of a D&D character. I’ll leave the story up to you for now!

    Step X: Determine your Ability Scores
    Your ability scores determine your character’s general attributes. There are 6 basic abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. There are a number of ways of determining the score for each ability, and your DM will assist you in making this determination. I call this Step X because there is no best time to determine your ability scores. Some people like to determine them first and build their characters around their ability scores. Others like to determine them after choosing other aspects of their character and work within the limitations of their abilities. The following are basic descriptions of each ability.
    • Strength – This ability measures the power of your character’s muscle. It determines how accurately and how powerfully you can swing a weapon, how well you can trip and wrestle, and how well you jump, climb, and swim.
    • Dexterity – This ability measures how agile, nimble, and accurate your character is. It determines how accurately you shoot a bow or throw a knife, how well you dodge blows, how well you tumble or balance, and how well you can manipulate small objects. It also affects your reflex save and how quickly you can act at the beginning of a combat.
    • Constitution – This ability measures how tough your character is. It affects how many HP you have, your fortitude save, and how well you can concentrate amid distractions.
    • Intelligence – This ability measures your character’s intellect. It affects how many skill points you have to allocate, how many languages you speak, and how well you can analyze and recall information. If you are a wizard, it is also important for your spell-casting ability.
    • Wisdom – This ability measures how aware and perceptive your character is. It affects your will save and your ability to observe and perceive. If you are a cleric or druid, it is also important for your spell-casting ability.
    • Charisma – This ability measures the force of your character’s personality. It affects your ability to persuade or fool others. If you are a sorcerer, it is also important for your spell-casting ability.

    Your base ability score is somewhere between 1 and 18 and is modified by a number of factors including your race and any magic items or spells affecting you. Your ability score determines your ability modifier, or the number added to rolls that depend upon that ability. For example, you add your strength modifier (not your strength score) to your melee weapon attack and damage rolls. A score of 10 in any ability grants you a modifier of +0. Your ability modifier increase to +1 for scores of 12-13, +2 for scores of 14-15, +3 for scores of 16-17, +4 for scores of 18-19, and increasing in that pattern. On the other hand, the modifier decreases to -1 for scores of 8-9, -2 for scores of 6-7, and decreasing in that pattern.

    Step 1: Choose a Race
    D&D enables you to choose to play a character of a variety of fantasy races. Your choice of race will impact the type of character you play. Below is a list of the standard races and a brief sketch of the type of character to which they lend themselves. Note that it is always possible (and can be a lot of fun) to play a character that goes against the grain.
    • Human – The baseline race, humans are adaptable and can be a good choice for almost any character.
    • Dwarf – Dwarves are tough but gruff and slower than other races.
    • Elf – Elves are graceful and quick but less hardy than other races.
    • Gnome – Gnomes are small and tough but not as strong as other races. They have some simple magical abilities and an affinity for illusions. They are also slower than larger races.
    • Half-Elf – Existing between elven and human worlds, half-elves are consummate diplomats with some traits from both their human and elven heritage.
    • Half-Orc – Half-orcs are strong but not as intelligent or charismatic as other races.
    • Halflings – Halflings are agile and dexterous but not as strong or fast as larger races. They excel at stealth and acrobatics.

    Note that your race determines your base speed, unless the class you choose grants you a bonus. Fill in this portion of your character sheet now as well.

    Step 2: Choose a Base Class

    Your base class determines what abilities you will gain over the course of your adventuring career and how you will fit into a party. A base class contains 20 levels with a number of abilities spaced out over the progression. It also determines your BAB, saves, HP, and your skill usage. I’ve outlined the basic features of the standard base classes below, referencing the party roles we discussed previously.
    • Barbarian – One of the primary meat shield classes, barbarians are marked by their speed and their ability to rage, boosting their power and toughness. Barbarians rely on high HP to survive combat rather than heavy armor.
    • Bard – Often highlighted as the classic 5th wheel class, a bard has some arcane casting ability, significant skill ability (especially social skills), can wear some armor, and has some combat skill. They are also able to use their musical abilities to assist their comrades. If built correctly, bards can fill almost any party role.
    • Cleric – Clerics are divine casters and some of the strongest healers in the game. They can also wear heavy armor and have substantial buffing capability and can serve as a meat shield.
    • Druid – Druids are divine casters focused on the power of nature. They can heal (though not quite as well as clerics), buff, summon allies, and deal damage. They also have the ability to assume the forms of various animals, giving them substantial combat abilities and enabling them to serve as meat shields.
    • Fighter – Perhaps the archetypal meat shield class, a fighter has high BAB, high hit points, and access to all types of armor. They have the ability to customize their fighting style and become skilled in a number of types of combat.
    • Monk – Monks are mobile fighters who rely on unarmed combat. They gain a number of abilities related to this role and have perhaps the highest saves in the game. They also excel at skills related to movement and acrobatics. However, they aren’t quite tough enough to fill the meat shield role and are perhaps best suited to the 5th wheel or skill monkey role.
    • Paladin – Holy warriors whose skills are powered by their faith, paladins are formidable combatants well able to fill the meat shield role. Their limited healing abilities give them staying power in addition to their more conventional defenses. They gain the ability to smite evil foes, making them especially skilled at combating evil.
    • Ranger – Rangers are martial characters focused on wilderness environs. They gain many druid-like abilities to interact with nature and excel at tracking and fighting on the move, especially when fighting their favored enemies. They have significant skill ability and can chose to focus on ranged combat or fighting with a blade in each hand. They also gain very limited divine spellcasting ability.
    • Rogue – Perhaps the archetypal skill monkey class, rogues have unparalleled access to skills and are the only standard class with the ability to disarm traps. They can also be formidable combatants, especially when fighting distracted or surprised foes.
    • Sorcerer – Sorcerers are powerful arcane casters, though they have little conventional combat ability. They gain their magic through innate talent and have access to a limited number of spells that they can cast whenever they want (within limits).
    • Wizard – Wizards gain their arcane power through study and knowledge. They carry ponderous books of spells and must prepare each spell they cast at the beginning of the day. They have access to more spells than a sorcerer and are generally more versatile, but they can cast fewer spells per day and are limited by the spells they choose to prepare in the morning.
    • Other – A number of supplementary books include new base classes. Discuss options with your DM if you are interested in any of these other classes. Be careful though. The added options can be overwhelming even for experienced players.

    Once you have selected your class, read up on your class abilities and enter them on your character sheet for ease of reference.

    Step 4: Select your Feats
    A feat represents a significant ability your character has. It might be increased skill with a certain weapon or the ability to strike more forcefully at the expense of accuracy. It might be an innate mental toughness that helps you overcome attacks on your mind. It might be familiarity with a certain type of spell.

    There are a bewildering variety of feats available and choosing them can be a daunting task. It helps to consult with an experienced player, outlining what you want your character to be able to do and working with him or her to select appropriate feats. Your DM should be able to assist you with this process. It may also help to limit yourself to a certain number of sources instead of combing through every book looking for the perfect feat.

    Your character gains one feat at "x" level and an additional feat at certain subsequent levels levels.* Certain races or classes also grant “bonus feats” (occasionally, but not always, from limited lists) which allow you to exceed the limits set simply by level. For example, human characters can select an additional feat at 1st level while fighters gain a number of bonus feats from a limited list over the course of their career. Feats are a limited resource and have significant impacts on the way your character functions, so choose them carefully.

    Step 5: Determine your Initiative Modifier
    Your initiative modifier determines when you will act in the combat order. A high initiative score will allow you to act before others, which can be a significant advantage. Your initiative score is the sum of:
    Your dexterity modifier + any miscellaneous bonuses (from feats like Improved Initiative or class or racial abilities)
    Determine your initiative modifier and enter this number on your character sheet.

    Step 6: Determine your Hit Points
    The class you choose determines, to a large extent, how many hit points you will have. Each class is assigned a “hit dice,” or the type of die you use to roll for your hit points every time you gain a level. For example, sorcerers and wizards use 4-sided dice (or “d4s”) to determine their hit points. On the other hand, barbarians use 12-sided dice (or “d12s”) to determine their hit points. You automatically gain full hit points at first level and roll to determine how many hit points you gain at each subsequent level, though some DMs use alternative methods for determining hit points. Your hit points gained at each level are determined by the amount rolled on your hit die plus your constitution modifier. For example, a barbarian with a constitution modifier of +2 would gain 1d12+2 hit points at every level up. Your character’s total HP are equal to the sum of HP gained at each level. Certain feats also grant you extra HP, so be sure to include these feats in your calculation.

    Step 7: Determine your Save and Attack Modifiers
    The class you chose will determine, in large part, what your modifiers for saves and attacks are. The bonuses granted by your class are listed under the appropriate column on your class’ table. Determine what the bonuses are and enter that amount in the appropriate place on your character sheet.

    Your attack modifier is the sum of the following:
    • Your BAB (determined by your class) + your strength modifier for melee attacks or your dexterity modifier for ranged attacks (though in some cases, other ability modifiers will be added or substituted) + any size modifiers (if you are playing a small race, for example, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls) + any other modifiers (certain feats, high quality or magical equipment, class or racial abilities, and other effects can grant bonuses or penalties to attack rolls)
    • Ex: A 1st level human fighter wielding a masterwork sword with a strength modifier of +3 would have a melee attack bonus of +5 (+1 for BAB, +3 for Strength, +1 for his masterwork sword).
    • Ex: This same fighter with the Weapon Focus feat would have a +6 melee attack bonus (+1 for BAB, +3 for Strength, +1 for his masterwork sword, and +1 for the Weapon Focus feat).
    • Ex: A 1st level halfling fighter with a dexterity modifier of +4 wielding a masterwork throwing dagger would have a ranged attack bonus of +7 (+1 for BAB, +4 for dexterity, +1 for his masterwork dagger, and +1 for his racial bonus with thrown weapons).

    Your save modifiers are the sum of the following:
    • Your base save (determined by your class) + the relevant ability modifier (constitution for fortitude saves, dexterity for reflex saves, and wisdom for will saves) + any modifiers from equipment + any other modifiers (racial, class-based, etc.)
    • Ex: A 1st level human fighter with a constitution modifier of +2 and a wisdom bonus of +0 would have a fortitude save of +4 (+2 base save, +2 from his constitution modifier) and a will save of +0 (+0 base save, +0 from his wisdom modifier).
    • Ex: If that same fighter took the Iron Will feat, he would have a fortitude save of +4 and a will save of +2 (+0 base save, +0 from his wisdom modifier, +2 from the Iron Will feat).

    Step 8: Allocate your Skill Points
    As we’ve already discussed, skills represent your character’s ability to interact with the world in non-violent ways. A list of the available skills (with a few specialized exceptions) appears on your character sheet.

    The class you have selected determines to what skill you have access. You class description lists which skills are considered “class skills” for you. You can increase your modifier for class skills more easily than you can for “cross class skills.”

    Your class also determines how many points you can allocate toward skill usage each time you level up. Each class grants between 2 and 8 skill points per level, which you can spend on any skill you chose. Additionally, you gain bonus skill points equal to your intelligence modifier every time you level up. For example, a rogue with an intelligence modifier of +1 would gain 9 skill points every level (8 from the rogue class and 1 from his intelligence modifier). Note that at first level you gain quadruple your normal number of skill points, as outlined in the class description.

    You can purchase one “rank” in a class skill by spending one skill point, while one rank in a cross-class skill costs two skill points. You can have a number of ranks in a single skill equal to your class level + 3.

    How you allocate your skill points is entirely up to you. Some people like to spread their skill points around, gaining passable ability in a multitude of skills just in case the need arises. Others like to focus their skill points, specializing in a few important skills and keeping as many ranks in these skills as possible.

    Your skill modifier (the number you add when making a skill check) is the sum of your skill ranks + your relevant ability modifier + any miscellaneous modifiers. Certain feats, class abilities, racial abilities, pieces of equipment, and special circumstances grant bonuses or penalties to your skill modifier. Additionally, the armor you wear can impose a penalty, called an “armor check penalty” on certain skill checks associated with movement.

    Step 9: Purchase Equipment
    Your equipment is an important part of your character. Your equipment includes the weapon(s) you wield, the armor or shield you use, and any other gear you deem necessary to carry around. Your DM will tell you, based on your class and level, how much money you have to work with when purchasing your starting equipment.

    The following are a few general pointers.
    • Always have a backup weapon. If you rely on spell-casting, don’t forget that you may run out of spells and be forced to rely on conventional weapons. If you do rely on conventional combat, don’t forget that you can always lose or damage a weapon or that certain creatures may be affected more easily by a club or mace than by a sword. A ranged weapon can come in handy even if you rely on melee combat.
    • Choosing armor can be difficult. On the one hand, heavy armor can provide great protection. On the other hand, it can impede your mobility. Certain types of armor work better for agile characters while other types are better for more stolid characters. Make sure you take these factors into account when choosing what type of armor to wear.
    • Ask your DM about his or her preferences when it comes to rations and supplies. Some DMs are sticklers for keeping track of these things, in which case buying rations can be a good idea. Other DMs dislike the extra bookkeeping and assume you can forage for your food.
    • Some people like to carry everything they can on the assumption that you never know when you’ll need a signal whistle or a clay mug or a crowbar. Others prefer to travel light. The choice is up to you.

    Step 10: Calculate your Armor Class
    Your AC determines how well you can avoid taking hits. At this point you should be able to calculate your AC and add that number to your character sheet. Your AC is the sum of the following:
    • The armor bonus provided by your armor or similar protective item
    • The shield bonus provided by your shield, buckler, or similar item
    • Your dexterity modifier. Note that certain armors restrict the amount of your dexterity bonus you can apply to your AC.
    • Your size modifier. If you are medium-sized, this modifier is +0. If you are smaller than medium, you gain a bonus based on your size. If you are larger, you take a penalty to AC.
    • Your natural armor bonus, if any, which represents the natural toughness of your skin. Most common races do not have a natural armor bonus, but certain exotic races and a number of spells or magic items do.
    • Your deflection bonus, if any, which represents an ability that turns blows aside. Some spells and magic items grant a deflection bonus to armor class.
    • Any other modifiers from any source.

    Step 11: Spells
    If you are a character that casts spells, you will have to select them. If you cast as a sorcerer or a bard, you will have to select the limited number of spells you know and can use. If you cast as a wizard, cleric, or druid, you will have to select the spells you have prepared for the day. Either way, your spell selection determines, in large part, how you play your character. Choose wisely!

    Step 12: Final Tweaks
    Your character sheet also contains space for a number of more cosmetic (but no less important) details about your character, including physical descriptions, religious beliefs, gender, ethical alignment, languages spoken, and carrying capacity. Determining these details can add a lot to your character and make it easier to play. Fill these in as you desire, in consultation with your DM. Again, some DMs run games where carrying capacity or languages known play a significant role. Others are less rigorous about these details.


    *Details removed to comply with the Open Gaming License.
    Last edited by Mephibosheth; 2009-12-16 at 10:15 AM.
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    Default Article 3: Character Creation: Story

    Character Creation: Story

    Depending upon your interests and playing style, creating the story-related aspects of your character (often called “fluff” to contrast with the mechanical “crunch”) can be even more important and enjoyable than developing the mechanics. Your character’s backstory, personality, appearance, character quirks, and other facets can bring him or her to life in a way mechanics and rules cannot. There is no correct or incorrect way to go about developing this side of your character, nor is there such a thing as too much or not enough or a proper order in which to make these decisions. What is most important is that you enjoy playing the character. Thus, this article provides a series of suggestions, rather than the step-by-step guide of the previous article.

    It may be a wise decision to consult with your DM when establishing the basic concept for your character’s story and personality. Often, DMs will work to incorporate elements of your character into the fabric of their campaign, which can make the gaming experience more enjoyable for you as well. Alternatively, they may have some concerns about how your character’s goals, motivations, or past experiences line up with their campaign plans and may want to suggest some alternatives. Obviously, you shouldn’t let your DM dictate what type of person your character is and a good DM will mold the campaign to fit the players’ characters rather than vice versa, but a brief consultation is never a bad idea.

    That said, here are some things to consider when working on your character fluff.

    Appearance:
    Establishing the details of your character’s appearance can help you flesh out his or her past or personality and communicate these details to your fellow players in subtle and interesting ways. Your character’s intensely-colored (and perhaps slightly glowing) eyes might indicate arcane power or a mysterious heritage. The scars on his back might point to a prison sentence or a run-in with organized crime. Her sunken eyes and thin face might indicate a period of extreme poverty and hunger or ascetic practice. His fastidiously-maintained clothing might be a hint of burgeoning obsessive-compulsive disorder or simply his meticulous nature. Perhaps your bard’s fingers are callused from playing the lute. Interesting visual quirks like these can make your character much more compelling.

    Personality:
    Perhaps more than any other facet, your character’s personality determines how you will play. Is she reckless (in which case you would probably charge first and ask questions later) or cautious, waiting to attack after appraising the whole situation. Is he diplomatic or tactless? Is she trusting and quick to befriend or suspicious and difficult to win over? How does she feel about her friends, her family, her enemies, and meeting new people? It isn’t necessary to know every aspect, but putting some thought into how your character thinks and views the world can make playing a much more rewarding experience.

    Goals and Motivations:
    Adventuring is a dangerous, stressful life. It can help to think about why your character decided to eschew safer, more conventional employment and take up a life of skirting death. Often, you can derive much of your character’s personality or backstory by thinking about his or her motivations. Perhaps he’s a skilled but unemployed blacksmith who wants to establish a high-end weapon and armor business but needs starting cash. Perhaps her entire family was murdered and she adventures to find clues to the killer(s). Perhaps he’s a younger son of a wealthy noble family who takes up adventuring because all of the other opportunities are going to his older brothers. Perhaps she’s just an adrenaline junky. Whatever the motivation turns out to be, it can be an important part of determining who your character is.

    Backstory:
    The key to your character’s personality and motivations can often be found in his or her past. Fleshing out, even briefly, the events that led up to the beginning of the campaign can make your character feel more real and help you establish who she is and why she acts the way she does. It can also be a great source of old friends or unpaid debts or long-forgotten rivals that the DM can work into the campaign world. The backstory can be as simple or as complex as you desire.

    Behavioral Quirks:
    Little behavioral things can go a long way toward making your character unique. Perhaps he has a slight lisp or a strange accent or uses unnecessarily complicated or formal vocabulary. Perhaps he has a nervous habit of some sort. Perhaps she walks with a limp or tends to stare vacantly into space. Perhaps he talks to himself or to some spirit companion no one else can see. All these things make your character seem more like a real person, give you something fun and interesting to do at the game table, and help you get in character.
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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    I am fairly certain mentioning when you gain feats is against OGL.

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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by Milskidasith View Post
    I am fairly certain mentioning when you gain feats is against OGL.
    Actually...I was set to look for it, but it's nowhere on the SRD. Wow. Not that you couldn't just look for it on the internet.
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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by Milskidasith View Post
    I am fairly certain mentioning when you gain feats is against OGL.
    You mean we can't say that he gets feats at first level and again once every three levels?

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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Perhaps not, but I can mention that characters in Neverwinter Nights, a game based closely on 3.x D&D that I have played extensively, learn feats at every level divisible by 3.

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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Yeah, I know, it's pretty easy to get the info for most of the character creation stuff.

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    Default Re: [Article] D&D 3.5 for Total Beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by Milskidasith View Post
    I am fairly certain mentioning when you gain feats is against OGL.
    Thanks so much for reminding me. I can't believe I forgot to take that into account before posting the article. I've edited it above.
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