Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Few Character Generations

Hooray.  I 'finished' the character generation spreadsheets last night, though of course I will eventually upgrade them, deepen them and increase their complexity.  Probably I will start by creating a separate NPC-generation sheet, with additional details for levels gained ... but for the moment, I am happy and I can now go on to other projects.

In the meantime, I'll generate some characters and show off how the page looks so far:

I debated with myself at length about the legitimacy of including items such as "stoutly equipped as a man."  The beauty category also includes dropping features on characters such as pimples, a weak chin, a fragile frame and freckles (it occurs to me, I'd forgotten to add stuttering; oh well, next time).  Is it fair to force a nerd to play a roleplaying game where his character's appearance actually isn't an improvement?

Poor 28-year-old with her bald patch, her large breasts and her low forehead.   Kind of brings the 9 charisma into light, doesn't it?  But then, that +3 with a sling is a nice addition.  I should add that the age for an elf won't satisfy a lot of people.  I've said it before, but it's easier to have a planetary history when the elves don't remember personally shaking hands with Charlemagne.  Gentle readers may disagree.  Of course, any one with some time could get in back of the excel spreadsheet and change it to suit themselves (pretty easy, actually).

You may also notice there are no character details like spells or thieving abilities on these.  This is just their background, things they've learned or picked up, mistakes they've made, chance bits of luck, natural talents, their general health and so on.  This thief, you've got to love that bit under reflexes & coordination.  In actual fact, you have to have an 18 dex to even have a chance of getting this, and even then it's only one in 20.  Nice to have for a thief though, eh?  And yes, I was thinking of Big Trouble in Little China when I worked it in.

These do reflect a lot of rules I apply to my world: the 'field of knowledge,' for instance, which would be one of the fields found in the sage tables of the DM's Guide (tailored a bit for my world).  Those may not be of use to you, but you're free to take them out or ignore them.  This character, obviously, isn't going to use a bow for a weapon, but they'll probably be popular in the market place.

Last one.  Picture Woody Strode:

Looks like 18 strength to me.

I like that the player has no actual money, but does have 'credit' ... that is, can borrow up to 750 g.p. on 6-8% interest.  Obviously, the player can screw the lender and run off, but up until this time the character has always been good about paying their debts.  I should also explain about the Tendency and interests:  once the character has entered combat, there's no need to roll under wisdom to keep at it.  The roll only conveys that the character tends to be hesitant about jumping in and hacking away.  Quite a different combat behavior - obviously certain people wouldn't like it (the power character in my offline world got saddled with it for his paladin - and boy, does he hate it!)

I generated these in just a few minutes.  There's a lot of ideas for character development both for PC's and NPC's, and plenty of opportunity for ribaldry at the table too, I can assure you.  The generation of these stats has long been a much-looked-forward-to part of my world.  So nice to have it in an instantly generated-and-printable format.

What the heck, here's another fighter:


ZeroT said...

I think the method you use to calculate character weight could use some refinement. Most notably, the human fighter you listed is 6'6" tall and has a strength of 18, yet weighs only 200 pounds.

From personal experience, a reed-thin person at 6’6” will weigh between 170 and 190 pounds. A muscular person at such a height will range from 200 to 240 pounds. People who are 6’6” and extremely strong (as represented by an 18 strength) tend to weigh between 300 and 400 pounds.

A few examples should suffice as support (a search of lifting competitors over 6 feet tall will yield many more examples). Zydrunas Savickas, winner of multiple strongman competitions, stands 6’3” tall, and competes at 375 pounds. Derek Poundstone has won fewer events, standing 6’1” tall and weighing only 341 pounds.

Even if these competitors were assessed with a strength of 19 or 20, I think their statistics still support the claim that a weight of 200 pounds is far too low for the human fighter listed.

Alexis said...

The generator is not designed to produce distinct averages, nor is it designed to make every human fighter the equivalent of a strongman shape and dimension - which wouldn't be logical for a medieval-renaissance world, anyway.

For the record, Woody Strode, who fought Kirk Douglas in the movie Spartacus, stood 6'4" and weighed 205 lbs. It isn't difficult to imagine him being two inches taller, lean, hard, and quite capable as a human fighter. And Strode was a decathlete ... a far better representation for a fighter than a gut-heavy hauler of freightcars.

Thing is, I didn't generate characters to get the mean ... the chances of getting a character this height and size is only about 1:5100 or thereabouts (working it out). I just happened to get a result that was a little odd (I didn't pick an average result for your benefit).

Alexis said...

Surely you're not going to tell me a world-class decathlon athlete doesn't have an 18 strength. You don't know what strength is.

Kenwolf said...

i agree with alexis, you don't need big muscles to have an 18. 25 strength. you don't need to be very heavy ether.

Alexis said...

I can't seem to let this go.

In a strongman competition, it is only partly about strength; for those men, it is a question of momentum and endurance. They weigh 300 and 400 lbs. because that additional weight gives them a counterbalance against the shit they lift and pull.

Those guys would be at a huge disadvantage for a D&D adventure: climbing mountains, cutting through forests and jungles, taking damage from wounds, living only on the food they're carrying and trying to squeeze down shafts and through narrow tunnels. Just hauling their asses for more than the ten-minute periods they're used to competing would exhaust them.

I repeat. You don't know what strength is.

perdustin said...

Alexis, I have two questions.

1) You let Magic Users use slings?

2) A Fighter with a 16 Strength can’t use a weapon over 5 lbs. until 2nd level?

Alexis said...


1) Logically, any class can use any weapon. How do you stop a cleric from picking up a sword and swinging it? The gods appear and cluck their tongues and wave their fingers? So yes, a mage can use a sling ... however, a mage can't become proficient with a sling - it takes too much time, etcetera. So the mage applies her non-proficiency penalty, and adds +3.

2) You have to think of any stat being 'peak' efficiency. I don't have my full intelligence getting out of bed in the morning. This particular fighter hasn't been training - he's been laying about, boozing, what have you. Until he's gotten back into tone, fit and in the trim, he's not able to keep up a steady go at combat with a 6 lb. weapon. There's more to combat than just lifting the weapon, you know. 6 lbs. might not feel like much in your living room, but after you've been carrying it around all day, swinging it over and over again can be too much for you.

Saying until second level just makes it a convenient measurement. We have to assume if he's taking a long time to reach second, he's still dragging his ass, still drinking, still sleeping and still not practicing. By second level he's either kicked those habits or he's found other ways to make it work with them.

Just as a side note, the result is a random number between 2nd and 4th level to get in the trim.

ZeroT said...

I realize now that my argument was premised on misremembered strength table numbers. The numbers associated with an 18 strength are easily attainable by a 200 pound 6’6” person. I am assuming your strength tables still look similar to the official ones. I searched your site but was unable to find the table you use.

I therefore withdraw the argument that a fighter with an 18 strength should weigh more.

That being said, I’m now curious what your strength table looks like. I’m also interested in how you balance “strength” with “athleticism”. As you point out in your reply, as one gets to extremes in terms of strength, traditional measures of athleticism tend to decline.

However, your reply also indicates to me that you consider both strength and athleticism to increase linearly with the strength score. I seem to remember you discussed this in a previous post, but again, I can’t find it. To me, such an assumption doesn’t raise any real issues when a character’s strength score is 18 or less. The ability to lift or carry such amounts won’t interfere with their ability to run, jump, climb, etc. But, from personal experience, as a character reaches strengths higher than 18 (on official tables), it seems that their athleticism should begin to decline.

I would be interested to hear how your treat characters with strength scores above 18. Do you allow characters to be able to both squat 700 pounds and run a mile in 4 minutes? If you do, is it just for simplicity’s sake?

Alexis said...


I use the Player's Handbook of AD&D for strength bonuses and modifiers.


1) The power to resist attack; imprenability.
2) The power to resist strain or stress; durability.
3) Capacity or potential for effective action.

The tendency is to think of 'strength' in terms of how much you can lift, or move. The modifiers for attacking in D&D have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with how much you can lift. They describe how effective you are at landing a weapon home. There is a strength modifier that speaks of lift: encumberance. But this isn't about how much you can lift for a given count in front of judges. This describes how much you can carry for ten hours a day, day after day, without cease.

I don't recognize sumo wrestlers and strongman competitors as persons of great 'strength.' They have a kind of strength - designed for a specific purpose. They could kick my ass all over the compound. But that kind of strength does not endure (note points 1 & 2). In fact, it typically results in a shortened lifespan and considerable long-term medical problems.

So I dismiss your entire logic with regards to athleticism declining when greater strength is obtained. You are talking about training that produces a particular kind of potency, in which mass is accumulated in order to compliment pure force to create momentum. That's physics, not 'strength.'

Arduin said...

Seeing these has reminded me of something I've wanted to know for some time.

You spoke of the Mage/Cleric/Droodle/Illusionist specialities before, in relation to the Tarot and how you intended to utilize it in game, etc.

I, however, am intensely curious about how you make "metaphysics" work in the game. Heck, they're all interesting.

This definitely delivered as promised, Alexis. Awesome stuff.

Oddbit said...

I think what he's saying, is that they do it without using 400lb bodies as leverage. It seems he is saying that the weight of the character is the cause of athletic decline, not the carrying capacity. Therefore, the characters don't gain much weight as they carry more in proportion to their 200lb bodies and their athleticism rises as well.

Alexis said...

The comment was getting long.

My point is that success at hitting your target, and causing damage thereby, the +1 to hit and the +3 damage of an 18/24 strength, IS athleticism, and not the kind of strength you've been describing. There is little, if any, finesse in throwing your mass against a train car sitting on a rail, to dig in your feet and try to break its inertia, compared with the complexities of hurling a javelin 90% of the distance of the world's record (and following that up with pole vaulting, jumping, running, throwing the shot put and so on). We are talking about two wildly different kinds of using your body to create an effective action - and only one of these things has anything to do with the principles of hand-to-hand combat.

Does it not seem strange to you that most strongmen competitors seem to have little or no history of being any other sort of athlete? Do you think that is because they are too strong to be athletes? Or because it has less to do with strength and more to do with balance and mass, coordinated in a way that is useless for any other sort of effect?

Butch said...

I can imagine the fighter who needs to roll under his 10 Wisdom to enter melee combat will be very unhappy... and if that restriction lasts his entire career, it would make for an interesting gaming experience, to say the least. He's certainly going to have to get handy with a bow.

But is that under EVERY circumstance?

If he's attacked, does he need to roll to defend himself?

If his best friend is attacked, does he need to roll to defend him?

If he is planning an ambush, and his target at last walks by... does he need to roll to actually attack?

Alexis said...


Once the character is IN combat, he or she doesn't need to roll under their wisdom. If they're surprised and attacked, they can just fight back.

However, if it is a situation where they are on the edge, and others in the party are attacked, but not them, yes, they must get past that hesitation block before they can do ANYTHING, including attack with a bow. And yes, if he 'plans' an ambush doesn't mean he's got the heart to carry it out. He could wind up just watching his quarry go past ... or finally making the roll and attacking too late.

Annoying, yes, but a legitimate, psychological phenomenon, and derivative of having made a bad roll against wisdom. Keep in mind, NOT fighting is often the wise choice ... and sometimes even bright people think too much, and that causes hesitation too.

The paladin who has it that I mentioned isn't very hung up by it - he has a 14 wisdom.

Imagine having an 8 wisdom!

Butch said...

I thought it just applies to melee combat... he can't even fire a bow?

Not sure which would be worse, a fighter who is shy about entering combat, or a magic-user who stutters...

Alexis said...

A mage that stutters ... heh heh.

Well, haven't added stuttering to the table yet, but that's a riot.

Gotta imagine your fighter standing their with a bow, thinking, "Should I shoot? Or rush in? If I shoot I may hit my own people ... I better run in ... but they look pretty fast; not sure I can do a better job with my sword or my mace. Mace feels like it hurts more ... but it's awful heavy ..."

And rounds drift by.

Butch said...

And it never goes away? If he (somehow) makes it to 2nd, 3rd level?

Alexis said...

I'm sorry, does his wisdom increase at 3rd level?

Hey, maybe he can find a 'Helmet of Confidence' or a 'Medallion of Clear Thinking,' or even a 'Periapt against Hesitation.' This is D&D, right? But if you're asking if a neurotic person snaps his fingers and ceases to be neurotic, I don't get you.

Figure it this way: You're the hestitating person, and you ARE third level. Or fifth or seventh. Obviously, this hesitation strategy is working for you, isn't it? You're still alive, right? And pretty powerful to boot.

Butch said...

His wisdom never increases... that's the problem. You would think a guy who has survived a dozen combats (or whatever it would take to reach 3rd level) would eventually learn to overcome his natural fear.

Alexis said...

That's what I'm saying. Your thinkings too linear.

A fighter who's SURVIVED a dozen combats would assume his hesitation is WORKING, and wouldn't abandon it. The fighter is a character, and doesn't think like a 'player.'

Butch said...

It's only a hesitation based on the die roll. If the character has a high Wisdom, he might never hesitate at all. What's "working" for him?

As a quirk at 1st level, it's interesting. As a character you'd want to play for years... that might be a tougher sell, especially if you are a typical fighter with a low Wisdom. It's just me, but I wouldn't like permanently taking away a player's ability to play his character.

Alexis said...

I find that argument interesting, Butch, for three reasons:

1) Everything is based on a die roll. His 10 wisdom is based on a die roll, and he always has to have that wisdom, even if he plays his character for years. The 2 he rolled for his points when he gained third level is a die roll he has to live with for years. The arm he lost because he blew save is a die roll.

2) You completely dismissed my argument about finding a magic item that could dispel his hesitation. So it isn't 'permanent' at all.

3) And most important. If I give the player a positive result due to the die, the player NEVER complains that its permanent, or that it needs to be 'sold,' or that it gets in the way of playing their character.

What I'm hearing is just another take on the same old argument. As long as my character is made more powerful, I'm happy, but if you in any way undermine my character's ability to do anything that isn't a rock-solid tradition in the game, I am UNHAPPY.

If you want rewards, you have to risk disabilities. No one likes disabilities. We certainly don't want to treat any of our low stats as disabilities, do we? Face it, Butch, you're just arguing that the low score you put in your dump stat shouldn't in anyway count against your ability to be a great and powerful 'hero.'

So in a nutshell: 1) Thems the breaks; 2) Fix it yourself; 3) Quit crying about it.

Hope you take that in the spirit in which it's intended.

Alexis said...

P.S.: I could write a whole post on the principles of, "...a player's ability to play his character."

Wouldn't be a nice post, though.

Butch said...

I'm trying to think of a comparable trait that would make a decision for you, based on a die roll, that would make your character stronger.

For example, the ability to snatch a missile aimed at you if you make a saving throw... there's a die roll and your character is stronger, but it's not making a decision for you. It's not affecting your ability to play your character.

What if you had the trait that, if you made a saving throw vs. petrification, you could snatch a missile aimed at you... but it happens so quickly that you can't DECIDE whether or not to do it. Under that circumstance, you could argue that character is stronger despite losing his decision-making ability. But I would argue that it's unlikely you'd ever NOT want to catch a missile heading for you -- kind of like the ability to automatically detect cursed items or sense ambushes. Is it really a limitation that you can't shut that off? ("But I always wanted a surprise party!") Has he really lost the ability to roleplay?

That's what I'm talking about -- the ability to make choices for your character, some good, some bad. It's a disagreement we've had before on other facets of D&D, and I suppose we'll have again.

Alexis said...

Yes, we have been around this barn already.

I am unclear on how this, quote, "ability to play your character" is a sacrosanct privilege you have. The disability is NOT telling you what to think. It is giving you something you can't do until you roll successfully. Like you can't climb a wall until you roll. Like you can't hit an enemy until you roll. Like you can't open a lock until you roll.

The only thing that is different here is the thing you can't do. It happens to tread on something you apparently consider a sacred right, as in, "The character shall have the right to attack whatsoever the character wishes, and no die roll shall impede the character's decision to do so."

I argue that this is not a right. I argue that, "Be resolved, the character shall play within the limitations imposed upon the character by his or her stats, and the die roll."

I have simply imposed a limitation on the character, limiting the character's combat efficiency, based upon the character's WISDOM, as opposed to the character's strength or constitution or dexterity. It isn't even very much of an imposition. If your character's wisdom is greater than 10, there's a 50% chance that you will miss ONE round of combat, right at the beginning. There's only a 25% chance of missing TWO rounds, and so on. This isn't much of a hazard. If the enemy has an AC of 10, and you have no to hit bonuses, there's a 50% chance you will miss anyway! And a 25% chance that you'll miss twice!

Ergo, no difference. I am simply replacing the crummy strength of your character (which causes you to miss) with the crummy wisdom of your character (which causes you not to try). No difference. You see a difference because the second circumstance NEVER PREVIOUSLY EXISTED IN ANY GAME YOU'VE EVER PLAYED, and therefore it treads on the sacrosanct tradition.

I don't accept that argument.

Butch said...

A post on players and free will is definitely warranted -- I'd definitely like to hear your thoughts on the subject. And anyway, I feel bad because I've hijacked this thread :)

But in a nutshell... my feeling is the choice to ATTEMPT something is the player's; the result is up to the dice.

Alexis said...

You can still attempt anything you want. Its just that for that particular character, before they can ATTEMPT to attack (defense requires no roll) they must ATTEMPT to get past their own wisdom.

Tim said...

Hey Alexis,

I've been going back and stealing this generator for my new AD&D campaign.
One result under composition mentions "opponents must cause 12 damage in a single hit in order to wound the character, and all wounds occur in multiples of 12 and not 11."
With all the elaboration recently on the subject of house rules, perhaps you'd care to share a little for this one?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sure, Tim,

When anyone in my world does 11 damage or more on a single blow, they wound. This means that the enemy begins to lose hit points every round from bleeding.

For each 11 damage done, the wound is 1hp per round. If, for example, I hit your character for 47 damage, and your character survives, it would suffer 4hp damage per round thereafter - until the character was healed or it bound wounds.

Binding wounds takes three rounds per degree of the wound; so to bind a 4hp wound would take 12 rounds; however, for each 3 rounds spent, the total loss drops one point. So by round four, you'd be bleeding out 3hp per round, by round seven you'd be bleeding out 2hp and so on.

Goodberry, a healing salve, the recently added druid's vintage or any healing spell will close a wound immediately.

Course, this usually means falling out of combat so that healing can be eaten or applied.

The 12 point alternative is simply that it takes that 1 more hit point to wound the character; and that 47 damage wouldn't quite be enough to cause a 4hp wound, because the multiples are counted out in 12s and not 11s.