Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Gorgon Archer - Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition - Character Advancement

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Character advancement in Dungeons and Dragons is done by accumulating experience points. Once you gain enough points you go up a level, which is done by applying another template based on the class you choose to advance, usually the same you started with though many campaigns allow you to take more than one class if you want to. Multi-classing is an important tool in creating unusual concepts, but I'm not going to need to do that with either of the two versions I did here.

With each level you gain Hit Points and usually gain some other capabilities displayed on a table and assigned to each of the levels for that class. Each class has several subclasses which you will choose from usually on third level though a couple of classes grant the choice at first or second level. Fighter chooses at third level and I am going to take two different versions of the class for each of the versions I created.

Dungeons and Dragons advancement is very much advancement and, as the best known game, the reason why the term advancement is most often used for what would more broadly be termed Character Development. D&D is designed to reproduce the stories where the characters are built as rookie adventurers and build themselves up through several adventures to the level of epic mythological heroes like King Arthur or Guan Yu. 

The character creation is not meant to be a completely developed character, they are meant to grow into who they are meant to be over the course of many stories. D&D 5e has altered this basic framework a little bit in that most PCs even at 1st level are extraordinary and have already had a good amount of experience before they began taking to adventuring. As the campaign progresses their capabilities grow and build on their starting abilities. In many cases, the personality and attitude of the character changes, but some players prefer to keep to basically the same character throughout.

In addition, some capabilities are flavor-gated by the game so that they can only be reached by higher-level characters. This is mostly to enforce the idea of a mostly mundane existence but tinged by magic and with the idea that the more bizarre and wondrous things are held off until later in the story. This has resulted in the idea that some powers are more powerful or dangerous than others in much of the community. 

While you stick to official materials this is not too much of a problem as you will be limited to what already exists. However, it is a consideration when you start trying to homebrew a new player option. A lot of players and GMs in the D&D community look at what the capability is rather than its scope or magnitude. Also, a lot of GMs only have experience running D&D and have not played games like Hero System or Fate where a character can start the game with literally any power and have thus not had much experience with tailoring enemies to unusual powers. 

Since D&D is built with some levels of inherent flavor-gating the official monsters are built with the assumption of these limits. As such if you create a character who can use teleportation, is immune to certain attacks, or has other capabilities you don't see much at low levels then the GM will likely have to adapt new enemies to account for this, or at least adapt tactics that they wouldn't normally use for a low level characters. Some GMs are fine with this, others will be out of their comfort zone and thus less likely to approve homebrew character options that tread too far from the base.

Pure Wizards of the Coast Content Only

2nd Level - Action Surge, +8 HP, (20)

3rd Level - Martial Archetype: Battle-Master, Combat Superiority (4d8), Maneuvers: Precision Attack, Pushing Attack, Trip Attack, Student of War: Fletcher's Tools, Yuan-Ti Innate Spellcasting: Suggestion (1/Rest), +8 HP (28)

4th Level - Ability Score Improvement: Stealthy (Dex 16), +8 HP (36)

5th Level - Proficiency Bonus +3, Extra Attack, +8 HP (44)

Homebrew Version

2nd Level - Action Surge, +8 HP (20)

3rd Level - Martial Archetype: Scout (UA Classics Article), Bonus Proficiencies: Investigation, Perception, Stealth, Combat Superiority (4d8), Natural Explorer (Original Ranger Version) Forest, +8 (28)

4th Level - Ability Score Improvement: +1 Dex, +1 Con (16 Dex, 16 Con), +12 HP (40)

5th Level - Proficiency Bonus +3, Extra Attack, Gorgon's Mantle: Statuary Gaze (1/Rest, 2nd Level effect), +9 HP (49)

Further Notes

This is enough for observation. As you can see, each level comes with some very significant boosts in power.  The character's competence with skills and attacks goes up with regularity and most levels produce new options that significantly expand the capabilities of the character. As you continue to go up in level you reach those levels where some capabilities are gated and you get another jump in what you are capable of handling. As you advance, the enemies you faced in the beginning cease to be a challenge and you find yourself graduating to more bizarre and dangerous enemies who present a threat over an increasingly wide stretch of the world.

Another matter of note is that character advancement in D&D is not entirely based on experience points and levels but also with gear. I generally prefer the ability to start with some ancestral weapon and have it be my main weapon throughout the campaign unless something dramatic like it breaking occurs, but D&D and the monsters are built assuming you will be upgrading your gear as you find new weapons and such. D&D 5e has less of a problem with this as you don't find yourself needing a specific level of bonus to your weapon in order to hit an enemy, though some might require to be made of a specific material. This facet of advancement is almost impossible to plan unless you plan to craft your own gear and can have profound effect on the development of your character.

There is also a defined end state. When you get to a total of 20 levels you are no longer capable of advancing any of your classes. There are some optional rules about getting some specific "Epic Boons" but your character somehow mysteriously stops being capable of learning new things about their classes. While I can sort of see why they went this way, creating challenges for experienced players becomes progressively more difficult if every improvement involves vertical advancement and there is no upper limit, and getting to level 20 is unlikely enough, I still find this facet presents a psychological impact for my enjoyment of character creation.

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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