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Let Me Tell You About My Character (Velor)

Seriously, this is nothing more than a character history for a Pathfinder game I’m playing tonight. I wrote it yesterday, and decided to post it. There’s nothing particularly special here, it’s just a quick look at what I consider a typical character history for a d20 game PC.

Velor Varrison

Velor was born to the warrior-hero Varri in a yurt belonging to the Wildtusk following of the realm of the Mammoth Lords during the depth of winter. She passed him to a shaman within minutes of birth, saying the infant would carry her name but in no other way be a child of hers. She left the following within a day, and though her name and deeds echoed back to Velor many times, he never again laid eyes on her.

Her words were repeated to him many times, “In no other way a child of mine.” Velor knew Varri had great deeds to perform, and did not begrudge her wishing to do it without the responsibility of raising a child. At the same time, the two married women shamans who did the work of raising him took the duty of his upbringing seriously, though they owed him no debt of blood or kinship. Velor came to believe that responsibility could not be forced upon you, but once you took on some duty it could not be put down until fulfilled or another is found to replace it. Raising a child was a sacred duty, but the childless are more free to take risks and struggle to end the evils of the world without needing to worry about their need to care for a younger being.

Velor sought to follow in his birth-mother’s footsteps, to be strong and able to defeat evil. But his two mothers also ensured he was well-educated, by Mammoth Lord standards, and taught him the basics of the spiritual world and the gods. In particular, he was struck by tales of ancient Thassilon, an empire that had long since ended but the evils of which insisted on lingering to the modern day. Obsessed with the idea that the rightful time of Thassilon and all its works had passed, Velor learned the ancient language and considered becoming a shaman so he could use spirts to seek out and remove the evils of Thassilon. Following in his adoptive mothers’ footsteps, he began spending nights deep in the dark snow, alone, meditating and seeking to make contact with a spirit of his own, a creature to guide and serve him. Weeks passed. Then months. Then years.

Then something answered.

As Velor knelt in darkness, so far from the Wildtusk camp that its fires were little more than points of light, a great black rose grew from the ice before him. It spoke to him, a quiet whisper in the wind he could barely hear, but which also filled his mind with every word. But this was not a spirit, and what it offered was not to serve Velor but to burden him with responsibility.

Some things, it said, must end. And if they continue on past their time, they must be destroyed. Velor could become an agent of those endings, to shoulder the holy duty of annihilating those things that should no longer exist. It would cost him everything. He would have no child to carry on his name, would have no place within his following. He would be forever struggling, with no home to call his own and no rest or reward in this life for constant toil. He would suffer, and fail, and watch friends fall, and someday die, in abject failure, with blood on his lips.

And in the next life, he would be reforged as an even greater tool of rightful ends. He would continue to struggle, and destroy, and act as an agent of the sunset of evil, eternally. His path would not be that of his birth-mother, or his life-mothers, but the path of a weapon of the gods. A bringer of destruction, for those evils that could only be ended through violence. There would be no paradise for Velor. Only an eternal existence of bloody service, for the greater good. But Velor felt the righteousness of the Black Rose’s cause, and knew it sought only to destroy those things that were blights on the world, wicked forces that, like boils, could only be cured with a sharp blade.

Velor did not hesitate. He swore his service to the Black Rose, to become the executioner of those things that must be stopped. He took up arms, naming his javelins the Black Thorns, and the specially-forged curved two-handed blade Woundgiver. He stayed with his following long enough to ensure he was capable, that he could survive on his own and be useful to the Black Rose, rather than immediately placing himself in situations where others would have to risk themselves to save him.

But before he was sure he was ready, word came from a fur trader, that Thassilon’s name was spoken more and more to the South and West, in the lands of Varisia.

Within a week Velor left his home, to fulfil the responsibility he had undertaken.

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Professional PCs: About My Character (Part 3)

Okay, as outlined to About My Character Part One and Part Two, my new PC now has a name, race, class, history, and through line.

So, Now I can actually make a character. In a lot of ways this is the boring part. 🙂

Ability Scores
Because it’s going to affect so many other choices, I like to do ability scores first when making a Pathfinder character. I often adjust those choices from time to time during the process (when the character creation rules allow that), but knowing what my character’s natural abilities are helps me know what he or she can do, and what the character is likely to focus on in the training that leads up to 1st level.

So, I know Krokar is a half orc who plans to kill a god, and who embraces tactics but it better known for being a fanged killer. I can work with that.

With a 25 point buy and a character is hits things first, soak up damage second, and casts spells third, I want a big Strength and Constitution, and a fair Wisdom. I also like the idea of being quite intimidating.

I drop 16s in Strength and Constitution, eating 20 of my 25 points. I wrestled with that for a good long time. There are lots of ways to boost hit points – the Toughness feat, favored class bonuses, and so on. So do I really want a 16 Constitution? Would a 14 not be just as good, and much cheaper at 5 points?

On the other hand, inquisitors have a d8, so I don’t have as many hit points as a fighter with the same Constitution score. And for hp calculations after 1st level, I don’t know if we are doing maximum, or rolling the hit dice, or some formula. If we roll and I get a 1, I’m going to want to use those other hp addition methods even if I already have a 16. So, that stays.

That leaves mw with 5 points to spread out among my Dex, Int, Wis, and Cha. I need at least an 11 Wisdom if I want to cast spells. Of course, I COULD sell off something I don’t need as much. For example, with 6 skill points/level as an inquisitor, I could go down to an 8 Int and still have more skill points/level than a typical fighter. That’d let me buy my Dexterity up to a 12, for example, which would be an etra point of AC and Reflex saves, even in very heavy armor.

But I don’t see Krokar as dumb, even if he’s not a genius either. Similarly he’s not clumsy and not unstriking. No matter how much it might make sense from a pure effectiveness point of view, it doesn’t match my character concept to sell an ability down below 10.

I decide to go with a 14 Wisdom, thinking I’ll put my +2 racial bonus to any one ability score from being an Orc in, and end up with three 16s, ensuring I can cast 5th and 6th level inquisitor spells when I am much higher level.

But I don’t.

As I go to make that note, it just doesn’t feel right. Krokar is a massive brute in my mind, and he just isn’t equally strong and wise. He may get there. I kinda hope he does. But right now he’s too brash, and too dedicated to the patently insane idea that he’ll kill his own god. One could certainly argue that praying to the god of war for the power to challenge the god of war is not wise. even if it worked in this case.

Instead, I put my racial +2 into Strength, ending with Strength 18, Dexterity 10, Constitution 16, Intelligence 10, Wisdom 14, and Charisma 10. I’m not 1005 convinced about that Charisma, but certainly there are physically imposing individuals who just don’t know how to make the most out of their visual look. I decide to ponder at as character design goes forward. I can always adjust, later.

Traits

First, since the Advanced Player’s Guide is available, I want to look at alternate racial traits. I decide right off the bat I’m not willing to sacrifice the “intimidating” feature for anything. Getting +2 on Intimidate checks ties into my character concept too well.

But then I spot “Toothy,” which gives me a bite attack. My character history calls out his noteworthily large tusks, so this seems a perfect fit. Since I’m using a greatsword the natural attack would be a secondary attack most of the time – low chance of hitting, low damage, but I like the idea and it means Krokar has options if he’s disarmed or captured. I decide to take it.

Next, there are the standard 2 traits many campaigns allow, and the GM confirms we can pick 2 from the APG. Looking through those, I immediately liked the sound of “History of Heresy,”

“You were raised with heretical views that have made it difficult for you to accept most religious beliefs and often caused you or those you love to be treated as pariahs. As a result, you have turned your back on religious teachings. As long as you do not possess any levels in a class that grants divine spellcasting power, you gain a +1 trait bonus on all saving throws against divine spells.”

This trait would literally do me no good since my first level is in a divine spellcasting lass. And Krokar hasn’t exactly turned his back on religious teachings, he’s just taken a different message than expected from it. I still note it down, in consideration. It’d be a strong roleplaying touch to support my character history with a trait that’s useless to me, though it might also make the GM feel like I was asking for something to be done with that choice, and I don’t want to add any pressure in a light and fun campaign.

Then I run into Indomitable Faith.

“You were born in a region where your faith was not popular, but you still have never abandoned it. Your constant struggle to maintain your own faith has bolstered your drive. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Will saves.”

I suspect telling your religious teachers you plan to kill their god WOULD be unpopular, so this actually seems a closer match to my character history, if not quite as a weird-fun choice.

In combat traits, I find Courageous.
“Your childhood was brutal, but you persevered through force of will and faith. No matter how hard things got, you knew you’d make it through as long as you kept a level head. You gain a +2 trait bonus on saving throws against fear effects.”
Krokar’s entire childhood wasn’t brutal, but the part where the lost his whole family and came to hate his chosen god is. And, I like the idea that opposing your own deity takes courage.

I go with Indomitable faith and Courageous, because I like what they say about Krokar’s mental state, and how he got there.

Skills

As I noted, inquisitors get a lot of skill points. I put a rank each in Intimidate, Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft. The Intimidate is supposed to be his natural (and growing) ability to be menacing. The rest is his formal religious training in Absalom.

Class Features

About the only class feature choices I need to make as a 1st level inquisitor are my domain and my spells known. Domain is easy – the tactics subdomain of war. It’s one of the things that drew me to Forum as a god, and it fits nicely into Krokar’s character history. I don’t get a lot of spells know. 0-level I take detect magic, light, stabilize, and virtue, in an effort to get a mix of utility and tactical options. I wouldn’t give a half orc light normally at 1st level, but Krokar sees the benefit of making allies able to see.

For my first level spells, I take cure light wounds (because I don’t know if we’ll have a cleric and, anyway, it should help keep Krokar in the fight if things go south), and magic weapon. That last is another effort at a tactical choice. If we run into ghost rats, for example, being able to make a weapon magical will have a big upside. Also, it’s less likely to step on the toes of a cleric, if we have one. I can pick up more standard options, like bless, divine favor, and protection from (alignment) later after I see who else is in the group.

Though I don;t have to select it, it’s also worth noting that stern gaze works nicely with my desire to be intimidating. I pretty well decide to stick with my 10 Charisma. Krokar will get scary just fine, and leave diplomacy and deception to charisma-focused members of the team.

Feats 

I get a single feat. I’ve played a fair number of human fighters in my time, so this feels light, but them’s the rules, and honestly there’s no feed I need to make this character feel right, which is nice. I can explore some other options.

I suspect Power Attack is a must-have eventually, and lots of feats will come with that as a prerequisite, but I don’t qualify for it right now since my base attack bonus is +0.

I could do Weapon Focus (greatsword) to represent Krokar’s training, but it doesn’t feel right. Krokar is a monster in combat, but he focused on tactics in his training. Later, the inquisitor’s teamwork feats will represent that nicely, but for the moment even if I took a teamwork feat it’s unlikely anyone else will.

Other than “hit it harder,” most of Krokar’s current tactical options involve spells. He doesn’t have a LOT of those at 1st level, but using them judiciously in combat may be the best way to get the feel of someone who does more than slice at targets. And if I am casting in combat, with my non-maximized Wisdom, casting defensively is far from a sure thing.

So, despite not being interested in a major spellcasting focus, I take Combat Casting. It’s a solid feat with high use throughout my career, and right now it represents Krokar having studied when martial magic can tip the scales in a conflict.

Equipment

We have a LOT of money for 1st level characters, 300 gp each, but we still can’t go crazy. I pick a greatsword, and decide I like the idea of a long suit of chainmail for his main protection. That’ll likely change to a breastplate later on, but the 50 gp savings is worth it to me right now. I also get a light crossbow for ranged fights, and a morningstar as a back-up weapon.

That leaves me plenty of money for a backpack, rope, blanket, food, and so on. Since I have darkvision and light, I skip torches or lanterns.

 

And that’s it, my 1st level character is basically done! I hope you found the explanation of my process interesting (and if not, why are you still reading this?). Assuming the campaign lasts long enough for me to level up Krokar, I may revisit this idea and go over the choices I make at each level.

 

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Professional PCs: About My Character (Part 2)

So we have examined how I started looking at a character concept back in Part One.

So, I know my PC for the new Reign of Winter campaign I’m playing in is going to be Krokar, a ½-orc CN inquisitor of Gorum. That’s a mechanical description, though. It tells me WHAT Krokar is, but not WHO Krokar is. And I like my mechanics and my story to work together in an RPG. So before I make any more game rule decisions, I want a backstory, and a through line.

Half orcs are often fodder for some pretty horrific ideas in RPGs, and it took me all of a hot second to decide I didn’t want any of them. I’m shooting for someone who is CN, so for my own definition that means they are driven much more by goals and guidelines than rules and systems, and are neither primarily driven by a willingness to sacrifice themselves for others, nor a willingness to specifically plan success that call for harm to others.

And worships war.

Now, to build a background I like that has that character a a destination.

So my first call is that I want Krokar to have had a stable and happy childhood, with both parents involved… because I want to explore what the world looks like to a half orc with a more normal sense of normal. I decide he is of one orc and one human parentage (as opposed to being the child of two half orcs, which might be the direction I went if I was going to have him grow up in Averaka, the Golarion town of half-orcs).

Because I normally see it done the other way, I decide his mother was an orc, and his father human. I put them in Katapesh, because half rocs are common there and because I always see half-orcs portrayed as Nordic or Germanic, and I like the idea of one with different cultural roots. I don’t worry about the fact I plan to use a greatsword perhaps not tying well to that culture, because that’s a divine mandate.

So, I see his mother as a traveling mercenary, and his father as a caravan master. They worked together, grew to respect each other, then fell in love and married. Krokar remembers early years living in a wagon as happy times. Then his parents decided to be part of a Great Venture to create a new town, in part of the Mana Wastes thought to be safe enough for the attempt.

Krokar grew up there, aware that dangers lurked, but he was safe behind mud brick walls.

Then, war.

Krokar was too young to know the cause of the war. And it was a small war. Gebbites attacking Nex, or mercenaries attacking Alkenstar. His home, which he never knew the name of, wasn’t even the goal of the war. It was just a secure place for one side to plan from, and then because a legitimate target for the other side. His parents, his friends, his entire home were killed and destroyed just as his physical childhood ended. His mental childhood died with them.

The forces that took his town had no interest in killing children if they didn’t need to, and he was sent to Katapesh in a refugee caravan. There were, they told him, rules to war.

He didn’t believe them.
Krokar’s parents had prepared for their potential demise, given they had a child and had opted for a high-risk venture. When he arrived in the huge city, he might have been sold into slavery, or taken up to be trained as a gladiator. He was already showing his orc heritage, and was broad, and tall, and strong, with great tusks jutting up from his lower jaw. But some woman he had never met, claiming to be a friend of his parents, arrived to pluck him from the refugees, and said he was to be given an education. What, the woman asked, did he wish to know about?
War, replied Krokar.

He was sent to Absalom, where every god has at least a small church, and trained in the ways of war. The church of Gorum there focused on Siege as their primary aspect of war, but taught a little of all the ways of war. He took to combat well. He took to tactics better. A warrior is one person. A war is won by many. Krokar remembered his mother as a mighty warrior, but she had been killed by a group of lesser warriors who worked together to destroy his home. Lesser creatures could work together to destroy greater ones. It was a lesson he would not forget.

He learned that a fight is any conflict where one creature seeks to harm another, for any reason, but a war was a political tool designed to achieve a greater goal. He also learned that Gorum grew out of the conflicts between humans and orcs. A suit of armor, not even a living being, Krokar decided Gorum had invented war.

Krokar hated war, and was now trained to carry it out.

Krokar knelt in the Siege House of Gorum in Absalom, and prayed. He swore to dedicate his entire life to one war, one political goal. To find a group of lesser creatures he could work with, and a tactic he could implement, to achieve a single goal otherwise beyond his reach.

Krokar would kill Gorum, and thus kill War.

Krokar stood an inquisitor, empowered by Gorum himself to carry out a war against his own god.

Okay, no I know where Krokar came from, and have a much stronger idea of who he is. I also have a through line, an idea that motivates him to adventure, to work with others, and generally be a good PC. In Part Three, I’ll investigate how to build this idea with the rulebooks I have access to for this game.

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Professional PCs: About My Character (Part 1)

Professional PCs: About My Character (Part 1)

Do professional game designers make characters differently than other experienced and skilled players?

I honestly have no idea.

I kind of doubt either group actually has enough similarities that the question is even meaningful. But, in case anyone cares, and since I have sucked you in this far to my article, I’m going to use that thin excuse to tale this week to tell you about my character.

The Campaign

My wife Lj is beginning a new campaign she’ll GM, to be played roughly once a month at our apartment. Each session is likely to be a few hours, and include dinner. The players are friends, and the tone is going to be non-jokey (as opposed to “serious”), but likely light-hearted.

We began with a one-off adventure to introduce the PCs to each other, and then we are moving to the Reign of Winter adventure path. I know a bit about the LAST adventure in that path, but it’ll be a long time before that matters.

The Game System

Pathfinder. To keep things simple, but not limiting, the GM originally restricted options to the Core and ACG. She later added the APG, and allowed a magus.

Character Creation

The GM laid out that is was 25 point ability score buy, and everyone began with 300 gp. Since we’re using the APG, each PC also starts with two traits.

My Character

My PC process is one of first deciding what concept I am interested in, then working out a background, then choosing specific details and rules options. The concept is often a simple matter of picking a class and race, though sometimes it’s a more vague concept, such as “A necromancer who wants to understand why undead are all evil,” or “An older doomed hero who just wants to gain the immortality of being in legends and stories.”

I also often work with other players to form a cohesive group of PCs, especially for d20 games, but in this case that wasn’t practical timing-wise.

In this case, I decided to play Krokar, a ½ orc inquisitor of Gorum, the Golarion god of war. Let’s break that down a bit.

Class

I picked my class first. Basically, I don’t recall ever playing an inquisitor PC. I’ve played one of everything else in the Core and APG, if I count 3.0 and 3.5 games going back 17 years. So the oldest Pathfinder class I’ve never played is an inquisitor, and I want to give it a go.

I was also influenced by the fact that I wasn’t able to work with the other players to conceive of a group together, as is my preference. One of the nice things about an inquisitor is that the class can fill a lot of party roles, depending on how you build it. At first level it won’t matter much, and if the group has a major gap (especially if the gap involves lore, spellcasting, or fighting) I can lean toward filling it as I go up in level.

Race

I’ve played a lot of humans, so I wanted to avoid that this time. My last character was an elf, so I’d rather avoid doing another elf or ½ elf. I thought about halflings and gnomes, and no idea I liked for a Small inquisitor came to mind. I had a nearly three-year run playing a dwarf warpriest, which just ended recently, so I didn’t want to play another fighting-6-level-casting-divine dwarf.

That left ½ orc.

I’ve played a few ½ orcs, and I like them, but always as full bab fighting classes, or arcane spellcasters. So a fighting-6-level-casting-divine ½ orc felt new and interesting.

Name

Once I knew I was a ½ orc, I wanted a name that had hard, short sounds. I played with a few until “Krokar” game together. I’ll probably work out a meaning later. It may even give me the push I need to do a whole new name generator for orcs.

Deity

So, I have played all good characters for the past dozen or so PCs I made. I liked the idea of not being good, but I had no interest in being evil. Especially since this is supposed to be a light, fun game whatever deity I selected, I wanted it to be one that supported and encouraged an inquisitor who was into team play. So, in the Big 20 from the Core, who are my options?

I worked on the Temple of Abadar not too long ago for Inner Sea Temples. That isn’t the same as running a PC that worships Abadar but it has some of the same effect – Abadar doesn’t strike me as new and interesting right now.

I’ve never run a player character that worships Calistria… but it didn’t feel like a pro-team-play build. And, importantly, I have an idea I like for a CE paladin of Calistria who can work with a group – but that won’t work for this campaign. So, I don’t want to do something similar now, then not be excited by that idea later.

Gozreh. Fine choice. Nothing wrong with it. No idea that supported team play and excited me came to mind.

Green Faith. I’ve played Green Faith rangers and a Green Faith hunter, so that seemed less interesting that some new deity.

Irori. I’d go too monk. And my last Pf monk worshipped Irori. Just didn’t excite me.

Nethys. My only active other current PC worships Nethys,and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to do something new.

Pharasma. I chewed on this one for quite a while. I had a female human militant midwife Pharasma-worshiping  PC idea I kinda liked, but the mixed heritage of a half orc made that idea seem insufficient. I thought about if I wanted to alter it to be more about difficult births, perhaps like those ½ orcs’ mothers go through… but that felt problematic. I decided I didn’t know enough about actual midwifery to play one, and that was my favorite Pharasma-based idea. I don’t have time to do the research right now, so I tabled this one.

Gorum. Golarion fans who know the non-evil, non-good neutral gods by heart will have noticed I skipped Gorum in my alphabetical rundown.

At first I dismissed Gorum. He’s CN, and that’s often code for CE for PCs. Also, he doesn’t feel like a team-player. But, while reading over him, I saw he has access to the Tactics subdomain from the APG. That suddenly clicked as interesting. A Gorumite inquisitor who focused on tactics would naturally think in terms of allies and teamwork and support actions. And a ½ orc with a greatsword had a nice visual appeal to me.

So I settled on Gorum. That just left me needing a backstory, to inform the rest of my character choices. Which we’ll talk about in Part Two.

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