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!


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