Saturday, 23 March 2013

1st Campaign Session Reflection Part 1: Character Creation

So way, way back at the beginning of January we played our first session of my Ionia campaign. This was my first time running a campaign that wasn't entirely traditional D&D, having only run 7 (I think) sessions of Keep on the Borderlands before and having never played D&D as a PC, so there has been a steep learning curve.

The first session was Death Frost Doom, an opening act before the sandbox starts properly. Players were dropped at the foot of the mountain with starting equipment. Here are some thoughts on how the session went, about time I did this with things in real life settling down and giving us a good chance of playing again. I'll be splitting this up into sections, looking at different parts of the session.

PC Creation
I had three players and had each player roll up two characters, one as a main character, the second as a henchman who would get half the XP of their master. This pads out the party size to give it more flexibility in classes, and more survivability, although ideally there would just be more players.

Characters were:

Denise Brown, a goatlike Beastman (beastwoman?) Illusionist.

Demontorque, a Gnome Specialist, with very traditional D&D thief skills.

Renic, a Dwarf Fighter.

Le-sha (pronounced LeDashAh), Human Cleric of Ilsucaepus, god of medicine and healing.

Orel, Orc Fighter, big and strong.

Billy, a thickly furred and hooved Beastman Specialist with some wilderness based skills.

Everyone picked classes they fancied, with no one picking a MU or cleric until I pointed out that some casting power would be pretty useful. As it is they still don't have a MU (the illusionist being closer to the specialist), something they may feel the lack of in the future.

Race & Class
Everyone created their characters using my homebrew race and class rules, which took way longer than expected and has made me reconsider my initial rejection of race as class. There are 3 options to consider, 1. Carry on as is, 2. Cut the options to simplify things, 3. Go race as class. If I went with option 3 I would probably still cut things to keep it as pure as possible.

There are currently have 6 playable races:

1. Human - basic and expected. With RAC would be the base 4 classes as standard.

2. Halfling - Pretty standard mechanically. I could happily cut them as playable, I doubt they'd be missed much.

3. Dwarf - Again, standard mechanically. I  wouldn't cut them as they're well loved in the group, could use the Labyrinth Lord rules for RAC.

4. Gnome - Nothing special but were specifically requested by a player.

5. Orc - Have bonuses to wilderness skills and are written as a tribal and isolationist for the most part. Could be made a fighter/specialist blend with a bent towards wilderness, essentially a back to basics Ranger. I think having orcs as a playable race sets the tone for the setting, in that there are no Tolkien style "evil" races.

6. Beastmen - Are a favourite of mine and my players seem to like them too, with two in the campaign. Currently there is a random table to roll up some of their animal features, making them clunky and time consuming, this could be removed to give the players free reign on designing their own monstrous beastmen. I predict wolfmen, as both my female players are keen to play werewolves (you have to earn lycanthropy in my game girls!). The main issue is that I'm not sure how they would fill a niche in a RAC system, other than as an alternate fighter, a role filled by orcs and dwarves.

Beastmen, the most metal race
 There are also 6 classes:

1. Fighter - Pretty standard, with a couple of bonuses such as extra crit chances at higher levels.

2. Barbarian - Is Joesky's with minor changes. I love this class, it's flavourful enough to spread on your toast (Flavor Flav would approve). I think this would only work as a human for RAC purposes, and could be cut if there is still too much bloat.

3. Cleric - Gets 2 random spells at creation, plus 1 for each point of Wisdom bonus. There are a number of different gods to choose from, with different spheres of influence which effect what spells clerics get.

4. M-U - As LL rulebook, with 2 random spells plus Int bonus.

5. Illusionist - Class is taken from Chris over at Rolang's Creeping Doom. The illusionist seems the most disposable, although I love how it essentially makes your character Derren Brown. Maybe gnomes could be illusionists in a RAC system.

6. Specialist - The specialist is straight from LotFP.

So, if I had to break it down and trim the options to 8 classes it would look like:

1. Fighter - Human, as above. D10 HD

2. Cleric - Human, as above. D8 HD

3. M-U - Human, as above. D4 HD

4. Specialist - Human, as above. D6HD

5. Dwarf - Fighter/Specialist with a strong leaning towards lockpicking and architecture skills. D10 HD

6. Beastman - Barbarian-like (abandoning Joesky's class), basically tougher fighter with D12, AC bonus, maybe a random table for flavour.

7. Gnome - As Illusionist. D4 HD

8. Orc - Spell-less Fighter/Ranger leaning towards stealth, tracking and spotting skills. D10 HD

Effects on the PCs
Converting would only make a couple of the current characters unviable. One option would be to keep the current characters as is, but to make all replacement characters follow the new system. 

Switching to RAC is something I will have to discuss with my players, hopefully they are open to tweaks in these early stages, being aware that I'm still getting used to the ruleset.

Part 2 will look at the module, Death Frost Doom, and the practicalities of actually GMing it.


  1. Yeah it's really amazing to observe how much longer it takes to create race & class characters vs race-as-class. Of course it's only relevant occasionally -- depending how often players need to create characters (i.e. how deadly the campaign is).

    As the time concerns you, it sounds like you feel there may be a lot more chargen as the campaign goes along...?

    Btw, beastmen sound great :)

    1. Thanks on the beastmen! I found a company that sells lots of different animalman models, it's very tempting (

      Oh yes, I'm expecting deaths to be frequent early on, until some levels have been gained and my players have learnt when to run. They have very little gaming experience currently and, like me, know most of their roleplaying from computer games where there is always a quicksave to let you try again.

      In our first session there was one death as the party faced down a mummy and started to get badly beaten. Only after one character went down and most others were close to death did they get some lucky rolls and finally take it out. Death Frost Doom is a very low combat adventure so I think the novelty of a hard fight made them more foolhardy than they might otherwise have been but until they learn to fight smarter they'll have to expect deaths.

      I'm being strict with when death occurs (at -3hp or -level if over level 3), so no soft padding of 10 negative hp, and resurrection will only be available in very few places, simply being far too high a level for most NPC clerics. On top of that starting characters get a very small amount of money, so no chance of heavy armour or carrying 10 flasks of oil each. I'm hoping that this encourages them to play well and when characters do survive it will (hopefully!) feel like the well earned reward that it is.