It Builds Character #2: Pathfinder

Welcome to the second in an occasional series called It Builds Character in which I use the character generation rules of various tabletop role-playing games to create a character and attempt to flesh them out into something distinctive.

It Builds Character #2: Pathfinder

The Game

For the second entry in this series, I’ll be using the rules of Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder RPG, which I confess I have yet to play and am mostly unfamiliar with it. In fact, creating a character for this post will be the first time I’ve cracked open the core rule book. From what I gather it’s a generic fantasy role-playing game that was marketed as an alternative to Dungeons & Dragons’ 4th Edition for fans who enjoyed D&D’s 3rd (and 3.5) Edition and felt that 4th Edition threw away too much of the baby with the bathwater.

The Character

As I said, I’m not fully cognizant of how Pathfinder works right now, so the only thing I know for sure about the character I’m planning on creating is that they are going to be a wizard or equivalent magic-user and also probably male. Everything else is up in the air

STEP I: Determine Ability Scores

The rule book lists five different methods for generating ability scores, four of which revolve around the number of dice rolled and how they are assigned, and the fifth one uses a points buying system (we’ll see an example of points buying in the next entry in this series) – For simplicity’s sake, I opt for the “Standard” method which is to roll four six-sided dice (4d6) and discard the lowest one six times and then assign those scores to each of the six abilities – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom & Charisma. The rule book notes that for Wizards (like I want to be), spells are tied to the Inst ability, so I’ll keep that in mind as I roll and assign scores.

The rolls

13 (6+4+3+2)

11 (5+4+2+1)

11 (5+4+2+1)

15 (6+5+4+2)

10 (5+4+1+1)

11 (4+4+3+3)

That gives me a fairly even spread of scores, and looking at the chapter on ability scores, it seems like 10-11 is treated as the baseline level, so I have four baseline scores and two above average scores. Based solely on the fact that I’m told that Int is an important ability for wizards, and that in most fantasy, wizards can’t wear armor, so they need to be a little tough to avoid getting killed if they are hit by anything, I assign the scores as follows:

Str: 10 Dex: 11 Con: 13 Int: 15 Wis: 11 Cha: 11

I opted to make Str the lowest score as I assume that’s more for melee fighting, and my wannabe wizard wants no part of that kind of action.

STEP II: Pick Your Race

In Pathfinder there are seven base races to choose from: Dwarf, Halfling, Elf, Human, Gnome, Half-orc and Half-elf. They appear to be pretty much your generic fantasy archetypes. Each of the races comes with modifiers to the ability scores generated in Stage I as well as various other traits that might provide bonuses and drawbacks. I hadn’t really considered which race I wanted to be, but for some reason, the idea of a Dwarf who has gotten sick of living underground, mining and fighting goblins and has so become sunned by his clan and turned to spell books for solace appeals to me, so my character is going to be a Dwarf. That changes some of the ability scores, so now he has Con: 15, Wis: 13 and Cha: 9. Being a dwarf also confers a few special abilities, including being able to see in the dark, expertise at stonework and gem appraisal, being slow but hard to shift, and being proficient with battleaxes, warhammers and heavy picks. Based on my emerging character concept, those weapon abilities shouldn’t matter much. One of the sample Dwarf names is “Grunyan” which I like, but I decide to switch it up a bit and name  him “Garnam Blackaxe” as a generic Dwarven name.

STEP III: Pick Your Class

Well, I’ve kind of already done this with my assumption that Garnam will be a Wizard, so I’ll concentrate on that class (Other options included  Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue or Sorcerer). Classes define the abilities that the character might have, and different classes grant different abilities, as well as the number of Skills and Feats a character has access to at different levels (We’ll be looking at skills and feats in later steps of creating Garnam). A Wizard class grants Garnam certain special abilities at first level (subsequent levels as well, but I’m creating him as a new character, which makes him first level).  Firstly he gains access to the following skills: Appraise, Craft, Fly, Knowledge (all), Linguistics, Profession & Spellcraft. Most of these sound self-explanatory, but I will be looking up what exactly the Fly skill lets Garnam do later.

As I suspected, wizards can’t use shields or armor, but apparently can use clubs, daggers, crossbows and quarterstaffs. I think I’d favor a light crossbow, but we’ll see what happens later.

Another class ability wizards get is the ability to learn spells. Based on Garnam’s Int score, he can cast 3 level 0 and 2 level 1 spells per day.

A couple of other features of the Wizard class are something called Arcane Bond, and Arcane School. Arcane bond either allows an animal familiar or an object with a bonus spell stored in it. I’m opting to use an amulet as the bonded object, and keeping it hidden beneath Garnam’s beard so that nobody can steal it from him easily. As for Arcane School, that allows wizards to choose a type of magic to specialize in which gives spell bonuses at the cost of making other types of spells harder to cast. I’m opting to keep Garnam unspecialized, as I prefer being more of a generalist when it comes to magical abilities. Garnam also has the ability to Scribe Scrolls at first level, which may prove handy as he discovers more spells. He also gets a spellbook with his initial spells known. For Garnam, that means all 0-level spells and four first level spells (which we’ll get to later)

STEP IV: Pick Skills and Select Feats

If I’m reading correctly, then Garnam has 4 skill rank slots to start off with. I opt to use 3 of those slots on some of the class skills, namely Spellcraft, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) & Craft (Alchemy). That leaves one slot for a non-class skill, and I opt Sense Motive, as I think Garnam’s a suspicious little bugger.

On to Feats. Unlike skills feats are less tied to race and class, and often represent innate abilities rather than trainable ones. As such, they’re rather less common than skills, so Garnam only gets to choose one to start with. He opts for a Metamagic Feat, specifically Enlarge Spell, which doubles the range of any spell prepared using that feat, though it does use up a spell slot one level higher than normal (so a level 0 spell would use a level 1 spell slot)

STEP V: Buy Equipment

Now that we have some idea of Garnam’s abilities, it’s time to outfit him with a few choice items. As a Wizard, Garnam starts out with a mere 2d6 x 10 gold pieces to spend on equipment. I rolled (4+4), so have 80 gold pieces to spend. Gaarnam already has basic clothing to wear for free, so let’s see what he can afford in the way of weaponry, as he’ll need something when he’s out of spells…

I mentioned before that I see Garnam packing a light crossbow, which costs 35 of his initial 80 gold pieces. 20 bolts to load it with costs another 2 gold pieces, so he has 43 to spend on non-weaponry stuff. 20 of those immediately disappear on buying a spell component pouch and a blank spellbook. Another 2 go towards a backpack to keep the spellbook in, so only 21 gold pieces left. A bedroll and a day’s worth of trail rations  eat up another gold piece, as does a flint and steel. A vial of ink, two inkpens and 4 sheets of parchment eat up another nine gold pieces, leaving Garnam with 10 to spend over the course of his adventures.

Also, since there’s no other good spot for this, I’ve decided to use this space to figure out what the four first level spells Garnam will have already learned are:

Mage Armor

Summon Monster I


Ray of Enfeeblement.

These give a broad range of abilities that include combat usefulness (weakening an enemy, summoning a creature to fight, rendering enemies unconscious and protecting Garnam from damage).

STEP VI: Finishing Details

And now, time to try and round Garnam out as a character. First off, we have a few more mechanistic items to take care of, so let’s deal with those. The first thing to deal with is why Garnam stands on the traditional alignment axes of Law vs. Chaos and Good vs. Evil. I’ve decided that as a suspicious little bugger, Garnam is scrupulously honest, but also rather pragmatic in his approach to things. He has a code he adheres to, but it isn’t necessarily one of self-sacrifice. He will kill if he has to, or if his code demands it, which I think makes Lawful Neutral the best fit for his alignment, but alignment is more of a relic of Pathfinder‘s antecedents, so I won’t worry over much about it.

Next up, we have the vital statistics. I opt to take the most mechanistic approach possible and roll on the various tables for Age, Height and Weight. Turns out that Garnam is a sprightly young dwarf of 63, who happens to be exactly 4 feet tall, and weighs in at 171 pounds.

The rest of teh details are up to me, so i decide that he has ashy blond hair, slightly ruddy skin, and a two foot beard that he braids into a vaguely runic shape.

Disillusioned with his family’s mining business at a young age, Garnam dreamed of living to seek his fortune in teh world outside of his home citadel, but he knew his parents would never approve. Every night, after a tiring day in the rockface, he would study runes of magic in the darkness of his bedchamber and eventually, Garnam discovered he had an aptitude for magic spells. He was able to cast a few minor cantrips, The thane of his clan, Garnam’s grandfather discovered this spell-casing and banished him from the citadel for his dabblings with magic, which the clan forbade. Now out in the wider world, Garnam seeks adventure to pay for more research to hone his magical abilities so that one day he can return home and show the value of magic to the Thane and have his honor restored. After being banished for (as he saw it) deceit, Garnam never lies, and he despises dishonesty in others. This has led to him becoming very good at telling if people are lying to him. Those that do, often end up with powder burns or crossbow bolts in non-vital anatomical regions.

All done. So we have a very rough sketch of a character, I may try and adapt Garnam into a short story of his own in the future, as despite being somewhat cliche, I can see potential for narrative there..

What do you think, loyal blog followers? Is this a series worth continuing? If so, are there any particular games and editions you’d like me to use to create characters?

Please leave some comments and let me know!


Flash Fiction: Contemplation


Melissa wiped away her tears with her bare forearm. The last time she had cried in public was her first day of kindergarten, a decade ago. That too had been about her mother. Of course, this time they weren’t going to be reuniting at the end of the day. Melissa leaned back on the rock she sat on and stared upwards.


It was an almost cloudless sky, a few white wisps crossing the sun beams. Melissa thought of it as a happy sky, which angered her. How dare nature by happy on this day? Melissa imagined that she glimpsed at heaven and Mom stared back.


The phone call to school wasn’t exactly unexpected. Melissa’s mother had lived, no had existed – it wasn’t really living – with inoperable pancreatic cancer for two years, and six months ago she had abandoned any pretense of treatment.


So when Melissa got the news she dreaded, that her mother had lost the battle, she had been excused from school and made her way to Brown’s Island where she sat in what had been Mom’s favorite spot and wept. Now that she had cried out all the tears she had, Melissa felt she could be strong for her father and the eight-year-old twins.


She was the only woman of the house now, and she felt she needed to be the rock that supported her family.


“I don’t know how you did it, Mom” she said to the sky, “but I’ll always do my best for you.”


The origin of this piece was once again from the Richmond WriMos Facebook group. One of the members posted the image below and challenged the members to come up with a 250 word story based on that image. Because I tend to overwrite and then pare down, my story above is exactly 250 words. It’s also a a first draft, but as ever, all comments are welcomed.


Flash Fiction: On the other paw

On the other paw

Delilah stretched out her paws and popped out her claws. She gave her human a playful rake down his lap.


“Ow, damn cat!” her human muttered and shoved Delilah off of him. She dropped from the chair.

Her body hit the floor and as she looked around, she realized everything she’d been looking for was hers. It didn’t mean she had to like her human, but sometimes she did. Usually the times when he filled her bowl with food. Sometimes, Delilah was able to trick her human into filling it up more than once a day, and those were the best days.


Still, he had just shoved her to the floor. Usually this meant her human was angry, and the red welts Delilah’s claws left on his legs backed that up. The smart move would be running away for a while, and Delilah certainly thought of herself as smart.


Delilah poked her way through the cat flap and into the great outdoors. She immediately regretted her decision as fat drops of rain spattered from the night sky and thumped against her fur in wet bursts. Feeling somewhat bedraggled, she let out a great yowl of frustration. Her voice echoed across the narrow alley, reverberating with strange harmonics before it reached back to Delilah’s ears. An undercurrent of some other sound set Delilah’s teeth on edge. She wasn’t alone in the alleyway.


The other presence showed itself. A hugely fat ginger tomcat with a torn up right ear oozing pus padded towards Delilah. The tom’s hazel eyes narrowed as he bared his yellowing teeth.


“You shouldn’t be here,” he purred menacingly.


Delilah tucked her tail underneath her stomach and shivered. She told herself that it was due to the weather, but even she didn’t believe that. Delilah squatted on her haunches and leapt over the ginger monster. As she landed, she skidded up to speed and tried to bolt out of the alleyway.


The orange cat hissed his frustration and pivoted to give chase. Despite its size, the tom cat was fast and quickly closed the gap on Delilah. A quick swipe of his left forepaw sent a shot of agony into Delilah’s rear thigh. A thin trickle of blood sluiced down the fur of her leg and splattered against the dirty puddles of rainwater.


Delilah yowled in pain as she tried to run. She couldn’t put her full weight on her rear leg anymore and hobbled as she attempted to turn and head back indoors to the warm safety of her human’s lap. Jumping the ginger tom wasn’t an option. Delilah saw the tom coming at her and flattened herself to the ground. As her opponent approached her prone form, Delilah stretched her neck out and bit down hard at the creature’s throat.


The tom screeched a bubbling cry of pain.


Delilah didn’t look back as she limped away from the angry ginger cat and towards her human’s house. She pushed her head through the flap and dragged herself indoors.


The origin of this piece was that I realized I’d been stuck in a non-writing rut for a while and needed some inspiration to break out of it. To that end I posted in the Richmond WriMos Facebook group asking for a prompt so that I can “bang out a 500 worder.” I received two prompts, and this is my response to the second prompt which was ” Her body hit the floor and as she looked around, she realized everything she’d been looking for …..

The piece above is 500 words according to Microsoft Word, which isn’t a bad length for flash fiction. It’s also very much a first draft, so please keep that in mind.

As ever, any and all feedback is welcome!


Lost Limey Watches Supernatural #58 – “Long-Distance Call”

A quick note by way of introduction may be required here. For quite some time now, certain members of the Richmond WriMos have been trying to persuade me to watch the CW show Supernatural. I  have relented and am now embarking on watching Supernatural via the wonders of Netflix. This series of posts will simply be my first impressions, almost stream of consciousness style, presented in the form of the time elapsed in the episode and my thoughts expressed as bullet points. It’s effectively live tweeting the episodes except I don’t have to stick to 140 characters or fewer. So without further ado here’s my take on:

Season 3 Episode 14 – “Long-Distance Call”

  • 01:10 – Our teaser starts with a slightly haggard looking guy pouring himself a drink, pretty much guaranteeing himself Inevitable Teaser Death status.
  • 02:05 – Inevitable Teaser Death guy seems very uneasy taking a phone call from a woman who’s saying “Come to me.” He mentions a wife in a context that suggests the woman on the phone is a lover or similar.
  • 03:18 – Phone calling woman has an impressive level of persistence, especially when you consider Inevitable Teaser Death Guy has smashed he phone up AND torn its plug out of the wall, yet she’s still calling and the phone is still ringing. I suspect she’s an “unflushable.”
  • 03:56 – Inevitable Teaser Death guy lives up to his name by putting a loaded gun to chis chin and pulling the trigger.
  • 04:55 – Apparently Dean’s been on the phone (and nothing dates these episodes like the cell phones the boys use) with Bobby discussing the case of Inevitable Teaser Death guy. They think there’s a spirit involved. Dean wants to take the case. Sam points out that they’re already on a case, breaking Dean’s demon deal, though nothing much has happened on that front lately. So the brothers hash out that argument again. I’m sure you know the beats by now, so I won’t bother recapping them.
  • 05:21 – Dean reveals to Sam that Ruby told him (Dean) that there was no saving him from Hell.
  • 08:16 – Turns out that persistent phone woman from the teaser was Inevitable Teaser Death Guy’s high school girlfriend who died after being hit by a drunk driver. She was cremated, which I guess means that half of the salt’n’burn routine has been taken care of for the boys. I’d also assume that’s why they did a funeral pyre for dead Hunters. Harder to come back as an angry spirit if your remains are already ash.
  • 09:10 – Speaking of Ash, the id’s that Sam and Dean use as phone company employees are Mr. Campbell & Mr. Raimi. Seems a nice homage to what I imagine was an inspiration for the show, even if it is a divergence from the typical rock music aliases Dean favors.
  • 09:32 – Dean tells the skeevy phone tech that platinum membership to is “worth every penny. (Note: I have no idea if that’s a real website, and if it is, I imagine it’s probably Not Safe For Work, or for those of you under 18…)
  • 10:39 – So apparently the century old phone number (SHA33) that persistent teaser phone woman used has called at least ten different houses in the past few weeks. I gather one of the numbers called was 867-5309
  • 12:16 – Young woman from the first house Sam visits calls his bluff about working for the phone company based on his driving a rental (which seems fair) and wearing a cheap suit (personally, I thought it was a pretty nice suit, but I’m not exactly a fashion maven, after all I’m blogging in jeans and a grey t-shirt)
  • 13:38 – Young girl has been getting calls from the dead herself. In this case the deceased is her mother, who passed three years ago.
  • 14:10 – Lot of calls from dead people in town. Dean gets some serious side eye from a passing woman as he mentions how one of the calls “redefined [Dean’s] understanding of the word ‘necrophilia.'”
  • 14:26 – Dean gets his own call from a dead person – Daddy Winchester!
  • 15:21 – Dean looks desperate to hope that it really is Daddy Winchester contacting them from beyond the grave. Sam seems more skeptical.
  • 16:44 – We’re introduced to Edison’s “spirit phone” thanks to Dean reading a tourist leaflet after Sam’s research came up with bupkis. I assume it’s a red herring as there’s too much episode left.
  • 18:27 – Daddy Winchester calls dean back (the terrible-haired one is conveniently sleeping) and berates him over the demon deal, which he’s apparently aware of.
  • 18:46 – Daddy Winchester apparently has a way for Dean to break the demon deal without endangering Sam. I’m suspicious when Daddy refers to the demon that holds Dean’s contract as “he,” as I was under the impression that said demon was Lilith who is not a he.
  • 20:18 – The girl from 13:38 is getting some instant messages from her mother, they seem to be consistent with the mother “haunting” her, including one particular great shot of the mother reflected in a computer monitor and grabbing the girl’s shoulder whilst not being present.
  • 20:35 – The turned off monitor is lighting up with “come to me” messages similar to what Inevitable Teaser Death guy received before living up to his nickname. It’d be spooky and atmospheric if I wasn’t distracted by the poor font choice of Copperplate Gothic.
  • 22:20 – Dean’s hope that this will get him away from the demon deal is heartbreaking to behold. Though he does have a valid point about the alleged demon killing exorcism ritual in that Daddy Winchester is the only one of them that’s been to Hell, so it’s a good source.
  • 23:29 – Sam and Dean are having a raised voice argument on proof vs. blind faith. Whilst I’m a bigger fan of Dean (as you must have noticed reading these), I side with Sam here. The boys need some damned proof.
  • 25:01 – Apparently the weird phone number can even call a kid’s toy phone and be the little boy’s Mommy on the other end of the line. I think the boy is supposed to be the girl’s little brother but I’m not certain.
  • 25:35 – Apparently mom wanted the girl to kill herself to come to the mother. So whoever is on the other end of these calls must have a suicide fetish, which doesn’t bode well for Dean, who already has kind of a death wish…
  • 25:57 – Apparently, Sam’s figured out what is responsible for the calls and he knows it isn’t the mother.
  • 26:57 – Little brother seems to be in a trance crossing a busy street. Whatever is calling has apparently decided he’ll be the next victim.
  • 26:58 – assuming it isn’t Dean who has ignored Sam’s advice to stay put in the motel room.
  • 27:24 – Sam just saved the little kid from getting run down by a big old yellow semi-truck.
  • 27:34 – Per Sam, it isn’t Daddy Winchester, it’s a Crocotta, which is a scavenger that mimics loved ones as apposed to being a delicious sandwich as Dean had hoped.
  • 27:56 – We get a very Exorcist shot of Sam walking through steam in an alleyway as he approaches the phone company where the brothers Winchester suspect the Crocotta to be.
  • 29:02 – Sam brandishes a knife at the skeevy phone tech’s neck, obviously assuming he’s the Crocotta. He’s proven wrong by 1. The tech’s hilarious offer to fix call waiting charges and 2. the tech’s boss smacking Sam upside the head with a baseball bat.
  • 29:36 – You know, it feels like Sam gets tied to chairs a whole lot on this show.
  • 30:37 – Skeevy phone tech is stabbed and has his soul drained by the phone company boss. Proving my hypothesis that the phone company must be Comcast as they appear to only care about soulless monsters.
  • 32:06 – The Crocotta pretends to be a little girl calling her father at what appears to be a police station and telling him that “the man who killed me” is at the house. I’m assuming it’s Dean, and the Crocotta wants to make the two of them kill each other which is an obvious win-win-win situation for it.
  • 32:58 – The point our villain makes about information floating out there just waiting to be “plucked” is even more relevant now with the ubiquity of both smart phones and social media in addition to good old fashioned phone calls, letters and emails.
  • 34:26 – Dean and angry possible cop guy pull an Itchy & Scratchy in that they fight, and fight and fight and fight….
  • 36:12 – Plenty of cross cutting between Dean and cop man fighting (though Dean seems to have figured out his mistake) and Sam and Crocotta fighting. Sam seems to be getting the worst of it…
  • 36:40 – Sam gets luck in driving the Crocotta’s head into a metal spike on the wall, killing it handily and kind of bloodily for the CW.
  • 37:22 – The brothers are reunited and it feels so good. Except it kind of doesn’t as both are nursing their fighting wounds.
  • 38:28 – Dean unburdens himself about his fears about Hell to Sam.
  • 39:07 Dean: “I mean the only person that can get me out of this thing is me.” Sam: “And me.”

A strong episode with a pretty intriguing and propulsive mystery at its core. I figured that it wasn’t going to be Daddy Winchester on the line nor would Dean be getting out of his demon deal fairly early on in the episode, but that’s due to simple logic of how TV works. You wouldn’t blow either of those things until the season finale, which is only a couple of episodes away thanks to the writer’s strike that shortened the season. I’m going to assume that the season follows the pattern of the last two and that the next two episodes will effectively be one two-part season finale, which means there’s a lot to resolve, most notably the deal with Ruby, what Lilith is up to, what Bela is doing with the Colt, that whole escaped demon army thing, oh, and whether Dean is going to hell. Seems like a lot to get through in 80ish mn