The Game: Dungeons and Dragons (4th edition)
The Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Degree of Familiarity: I've read it the set of books and designed adventures, but I've not yet had a chance to run or play.
Books Required: The 4e Player's Handbook
Dungeons and Dragons is the archetypal roleplaying game. I wanted to like the previous edition. I read through the books, I played in games, but it never really clicked. Despite playing the game repeatedly, it wasn't until I got into Neverwinter Nights that I had to grok the 3.0 rules. Trouble is, by that point everyone had moved on to 3.5. I read through the SRDs and the whole thing just refused to click. I assume that when I focus on NWN 2 (once CoH drops it's iron grip on my heart) I'll start to appreciate the 3.5 system, but I never liked it enough to actually own the books.
4e is different. 4e boils away all the general special cases and replaces them with a robust framework where everything that a character can do that's sufficiently mechanically unique is defined in a fashion that's easy to reference. I fully appreciate that it's the first version of D&D to mandate the use of miniatures and a board or mat. I fully appreciate that without charm cards or some other form of reference it could be a bastard to constantly have to check what your powers could do. But the basic fundamental shift from "class features" and fuzzy combat moves to a robust set of powers is a very shiny thing. That it's closer to the model used in City of Heroes for character abilities also helps.
In every fantasy game I play, I have to attempt to make an archer. Grounded, normal, no particular reliance on magic, but shit-hot with a bow and stealthy to boot. The stereotypical thing to do would be to go for an elf, so that's what I'll do.
That gets +2 Dexterity and Wisdom, Speed 7, low-light vision, some Skill bonuses, proficiency with all kinds of bows, a couple of features (a boost to the group's perception and a slight increase to mobility), and a per-encounter power. I scan through the roleplaying advice, and pick Lucan as a traditional elven name.
4e has cleared up a few things. No more are Fighters the gods of all form of combat, this time fighters fit the role of the "lead from the front and keep hitting things" types. Hit-and-run and ranged types are Rangers. Which is nice, as it finally means that you don't get a Fighter who can kick the crap out of a Ranger at that Ranger's combat schtick.
I get proficiencies in cloth, leather, and hide armour, proficiency in simple and military weapons, and a bonus to Fortitude and Reflex defenses. I also note down starting HP and number of healing surges. The Skills stuff comes in step 5. Finally, I note down class features. I have to choose a path, and that's easy enough: Archery. I get a bonus feat for that, along with the Hunter's Quarry (extra damage to the nearest enemy), and Prime Shot (giving a bonus if I'm leading the charge.
3: Ability Scores
Rather than throwing dice, the primary means of generating ability scores is by spending points to generate a set of scores and then assigning them to the ability scores. I want a high Dex and Wisdom, with an okay Strength.
The default array isn't exactly wonderful, but I'll roll with it for now because faffing with the alternate arrays isn't something I can be arsed about. 16 into Dexterity and 14 into Wisdom, as they're the ones that most affect my powers. 13 into Constitution, because I like the idea of a hardy, wilderness-y type who doesn't get sick easily. 12 Strength, in case I grab a melee weapon. 11 into Charisma, because he's slightly more personable than he is smart.I then add the race modifiers.
4: Choose Skills
I have to be trained in either Nature or Dungeoneering as a feature of being a Ranger. I can then pick four other skills. Nature is a no-brainer, as I get the Elf bonus. From the list, I take Acrobatics for the joys of staying on one's feet, Endurance for staying alive when the environment becomes hostile (or malicious), Perception and Stealth for hitting hidden things and not getting hit by things that can't see hidden people. Then it's just a case of adding in the linked abilities. As play goes on, Skills (and a lot of other things) add half the character's level, but that's always rounded down so I don't add anything at first level.
5: Select Feats
I get one feat. Agile Hunter is the suggested one, but I don't like the look of it. Instead, I go for Light Step, which increases out-of-combat travel speed, increases the difficulty of tracking the party, and gives a bonus to Acrobatics and Stealth. It feels like it suits the character better.
6: Choose Powers
I get two At-Will attack powers, one Encounter Attack Power, and one Daily Attack power. From the At-Wills, I go for Nimble Strike (battlefield mobility, baby) and Twin Strike. Quantity over quality. The encounter power Two-Fanged Strike rounds out the "machine-gun" nature of the character. Split the Tree would be a good Daily power, holding close to the same ideal, but Hunter's Bear Trap opens up combat options by applying status effects and DoT to a big bad.
7: Choose Equipment
Starting characters get 100gp to blow on stuff. The logical place to stop first is a decent bow. A longbow does judicious damage, and I get the proficiency bonus. That sets me back 30. Leather armour gives a decent bonus without penalising skills, and costs 25gp. In case of melee combat, Lucan should have a longsword for it's high proficiency bonus. 15gp down. With 30 gold left, the standard adventurer's kit looks like a good deal. 150 arrows is 5gp, and the remaining 10gp go on a holy symbol, for luck.
8: Fill In Numbers
Now it's a case of adding everything up. Initiative is +4, and I pick the higher of each possible set for my Defenses. Because leather armour is light, I get to add my Dex or Int bonus as well. That gives me AC 16. Fortitude defense is going to suck, and at 11 it's a bit shabby. Reflex defense is another matter, being 15. Will is 13, so none too shabby. I've 25 hit points to start with, which means Bloodied kicks in at 12. I've 7 healing surges, each returning 6hp. Passive perception is 20, passive Insight is 13. I go through and fill out the rest of the skills as well.
9: Character Details
Finally, some details. Alignment's simplified from the classic 9-grid of yore. Lucan's falling pretty squarely in the Good camp. Certainly not Lawful Good, that'd imply too much respect for external order. He's more a "nature, red in tooth & claw" kind of guy. Bugger the idea of the elven ranger as a hippy, he's never more at home than cooking and eating something. Choosing a deity adds some details as well. Melora is stereotypical, and possibly a bit hippie. Avandra is all about travel, which seems to fit, but Kord's all about being the best you can be. In the end, I plump for the former as I don't have to stretch as much to make it fit.
And that does give me an idea. Unlike most elves, Lucan is a wandering woodsman out of necessity. He did live in one of the great forest-cities of the elves, but did something in the name of the greater good that pretty much nobody agreed with. Rather than living with him as a mark of their shame, his kin cast him out and he's been living off the land ever since, trading freshly-caught meat with a local village in exchange for necessities. He's taciturn and doesn't trust people easily, but when there's a crisis he's happy to point out the right choice. After all, it's the one he'd make. Avandra looks out for those who help themselves, and he's rather pro-active in that regard.
Str 12 (+1)
Con 13 (+1)
Dex 18 (+4)
Int 10 (+0)
Wis 16 (+3)
Cha 11 (+0)
Healing Surge: 7/6
Passive Perception: 20
Passive Insight: 13
Acrobatics* (Dex) 10
Arcana (Int) 0
Athletics (Str) 1
Bluff (Cha) 0
Diplomacy (Cha) 0
Dungeoneering (Wis) 3
Endurance* (Con) 6
Heal (Wis) 3
History (Int) 0
Insight (Wis) 3
Intimidate (Cha) 0
Nature (Wis)* 10
Perception (Wis)* 10
Religion (Int) 0
Stealth (Dex)* 10
Streetwise (Cha) 0
Thievery (Dex) 4
Proficiencies: Simple Melee, Military Melee, Simple Ranged, Military Ranged, Armour: Cloth, Leather, Hide.
Group Awareness (allies within 5 squares get +1 Perception)
Wild Step (ignore difficult terrain during shift)
Archery Fighting Style
Hunter's Quarry +1d6
Defensive Mobility (from fighting style)
Hunter's Bear Trap
Longbow (+2, 1d10 damage, 20/40, load free)
Longsword (+3, 1d8, Versatile)
Leather armour (+2)
Flint + Steel
Trail rations (10 days)