Designing player characters for the Hero-Cities Campaign

Getting a character for the first game

You can either design a character on your own, have me design one for you, or some combination. Several options are:
  1. Design the character yourself and bring the character to the game. This will require you to have access to the D&D 3.5 Player Handbook, and to read the guidelines and procedures below.
  2. Design a generic D&D 3.5 character, and then modify it at the first game. You need the PH, and to read the guidelines below, especially race and class restrictions..
  3. Design a generic D&D 3.5 character, and then send it to me to modify. I'll mail it back before the game.
  4. Mail me as much information as you've decided about your character and ask me to design the rest. For example, ``I want to play an Elvish wizard who's fast, good at illusions, and a bit snooty about how wonderful elves are''. Come a little early to the game, to run through the character and make any modifications you want.
  5. Come early to the first game, and make up a character with me.
  6. Pick one of several characters I've already designed (pre-gens) when you arrive at the game. Arrive a bit early to make a few modifications.

Guidelines for Player Characters

We will use the D&D 3.5 Player Handbook rules, with a few minor variations. However, one of the goals in this campaign is to make rule artifacts also part of the game world. For example, D$D 3.5 has a strict rule about how many spells a beginning wizard can cast. In the Hero-Cities, this rule is a law enforced by the Cults of the wizardly heroes. Wizards are able to cast more spells, but doing so except in real emergencies is illegal and may result in their being expelled from the Cult and so cut off from further advancement. This ``reification'' of game concepts to world concepts will require some tweaks to the rules, but usually it is a reinterpretation of the rules rather than a change. I'll present first game-world guidelines, and then modifications or interpretations of the D&D 3.5 rules for the campaign.
  1. Characters should be heroes, risk-takers who undertake dangerous adventures, either out of duty or hope of personal gain.
  2. The San Diego group is somewhat nomadic. It would be helpful if your character were not very settled, without longterm commitments to a place.
  3. They will be members of a hero-cult, an organization of like-minded adventurers who seek to emulate a legendary hero and draw their power from this hero. Being a member in good-standing is essential to progress in the game. Hero-cult membership will have few privileges or responsibilities to start, but both privileges and responsibilities will accumulate as the character grows in power. See Hero-cults for the list of cults.
  4. Morality: For practical reasons, I prefer characters that will work together co-operatively, and like each other. They do not have to be of stainless character or selfless defenders of the weak. There are both selfish and altruistic motivations to adventure, and a stable party can have characters with mixed motivations. I prefer not to start with any characters who are outright evil, seeking harm to others for its own sake. There will be opportunities for a character to ``go to the dark side'' during the game.
  5. The civilized humanoid races native to this part of the world that the game is in are humans, dwarves, elves, and hobbits. Your character should be one of these four, or a half-elf. If you desire it, it may be possible to play a kind of intelligent creature which is usually good or neutrally aligned, e.g., unicorn. However, I prefer most characters to be of standard races, so I may limit the number of such characters.
  6. Barbarians and monks do not have corresponding cults. So I prefer no characters from these classes (see below).
  7. Currently, most characters are 3rd to 4th level, so you can have a starting character of 1st or 2nd level. (A first-level character will be second level by the end of the first session, so it won't make that big a difference.) A monstrous character can have an ECL of up to 4 to start, but expect some difficulty advancing. If you want to play a monstrous character with a high ECL, we may be able to arrange for you to play an immature, inexperienced monster.
  8. While it's not been critical for play so far, each character should come from one of thirteen homelands, founded by the 13 heroes. If you are uncertain, pick one at random. See City-States for a list.
If you are designing a character from the Player's Handbook, here are some rule-specific guidelines.
  1. Abilities: Use the standard probabilistic method of generation: Roll 6 times, 4 six-sided dice. Take the best three. Arrange in the six attributes as desired. Repeat if negative bonuses or no score of 14 or above.
  2. Races: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Half-elf, or Hobbit (Halfling). No gnomes live nearby. Half-orcs will face severe prejudice. Monstrous characters will be at least a source of rude curiousity, and may also face prejudice, depending on species. There are no preferred classes or experience penalties for multi-classing per se; but a small penalty applies to multi-classing into the cult of a hero of a different race.
  3. Classes: Barbarians and Monks have no hero-cults to join. If you must, you can have a character from outside the area who is a first-level monk or barbarian, but further advancement will be through multi-classing. You can take the Aristocrat or Expert classes from the DMG, if you want (but I'm not sure why you'd want.) D&D 3.0 had an apprentice system for beginning multi-class. There is no corresponding system that I could find for 3.5. Beginning multi-class using the DMG 3.0 system is possible, modifying for 3.5 rules as best we can, but only for the following combinations, usually in only one cult: bard/ranger (Ellander); bard/rogue (Tomkins); druid/fighter (Enkidu); druid/ranger (Beryl, Enkidu); druid/wizard (Caerfallin); fighter/ranger (Enkidu); fighter/paladin (Raq). Characters that multi-class one of the above combinations will have the possibility of taking levels in an avatar prestige class assoicated with the corresponding cult. These prestige classes are designed to circumvent some of the disadvantages with high-level multi-class characters. These classes require you to be level 9 in a single cult, so it is unlikely that they will affect play much soon. (I expect characters to reach level 9 in about 45 sessions of play, so perhaps after 2 years level 9 PC's will be an issue.)
  4. Skills: Some Knowledge skills are tailored to the setting, or slightly reinterpretted. See Knowledge Skills for the list of non-standard knowledge skills.
  5. Feats: Some advanced feats are only available to one cult, but this shouldn't matter to starting characters. Each cult has some special feats available, too. These are usually powerful for starting characters, but diminish for advanced characters because they are not pre-requisites. Exclusive and special feats are listed with the appropriate cults.
  6. Equipment: Start with equipment worth the maximum amount of starting wealth for a character of your class. If your character has an item creation feat, start also with one item of the type that your character could make. (I think the only possibility is a first-level spell on a scroll.) If your character has the ability to summon a familiar, she can start with any standard familiar. Druids can start with an animal companion, preferably from the standard list and one that doesn't mind sea voyages. You should have only a few gold unspent after purchasing equipment.
  7. Alignment is a matter of magical attunement, not personal morality; unless your character flouts standards dramatically, her alignment will be determined by her cult. Most people revere all the gods; a specific religion is only appropriate for clerics. See religion for a description of the religion and gods of the land.
    There are no evil cult alignments in civilized lands, and you should start civilized. You will be given opportunities to ``go to the dark side'' as the game progresses (although this will probably be eventually found out and lead to expulsion from the adventuring group).