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Role-Playing Games: Creating a Character, Pt II

In the previous article, I talked about the ability scores you assign to your character, as well as the basic description area of your character sheet. In this article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into the character creation process and discuss an important section I like to call “Hit Points, Modifications, & Bonuses.”

Pathfinder Character Sheet

Again, from Suviel’s character sheet (which is from the Pathfinder role-playing game), we see that she has 75 total hit points (HP). In parentheses, however, we see that there is an 87. Why? Because she is a Barbarian and when she uses her ability called “Rage,” she gets to increase her HP and damage at the expense of her armor class (which we’ll talk about in a moment). You’ll see there are two blanks on either side of the Max HP area. The first is where you keep track of how many HP you have remaining; the second is a more complex method of HP tracking and we will discuss it in a future article. If Suviel is attacked and gets hit for 15 damage, I would mark her Current HP as 60, and so forth. Because of the constant need to change numbers, these types of games are also called “Pencil & Paper” RPGs. It’s always good to use pencil…because you can erase. Modern computer programs such as D20 Pro and Fantasy Grounds are called virtual tabletops and keep track of damage and dice rolls for you.

The Movement section is fairly self-explanatory: It’s how fast you move. If you’re a halfling, you are short and have short legs; your maximum movement speed is 30 feet per turn. In Suviel’s case, she’s part horse; she can run 40 feet per turn. There are actions that can be taken to increase your speed. If Suviel wanted to charge into the battle, she would be able to double her speed and run 80 feet; however, she would not be able to attack (unless she’s raging, but that is class-specific and I am trying to be general).

Saving throws are the bonuses you receive to certain types of response-actions, called Saves. The three types of saves are Fortitude, Reflex, and Willpower. Fortitude is usually used when trying to resist a poison or something that would directly affect your Constitution (upon which the saving throw is based); likewise, Reflex is typically used to dodge incoming damage (such as a fireball from an opposing Wizard). Willpower is used against spells that would alter your mental state (such as sleep, charm, fear, etc). Here is a quick scenario example of a Will Save:

SCENE: Suviel burst through the heavy door of the antechamber. Standing before her is a very surprised Count Strahd, the demon vampire. He does not appear amused. With a penetrating stare and a low rumbling voice, he speaks to her: “You are not to be here. Leave now, and I will spare your meager life!” Suviel rolls a d20 vs. Strahd’s Intimidation (with a fear affect) at a difficulty challenge of 20 (DC20). Suviel rolls a 15 and adds her Will Save of 3 for an 18. Sadly, she is compelled to run as far as she can from Strahd.

The final 3 boxes, we’ll look at as a whole. Armor Class (AC) is how difficult it is to hit the character. All characters start with a base AC of 10. Armor and other bonuses can increase this defense. A character with a 10AC is fairly average to hit. The higher the AC, the more difficult it is to hit the character. Suviel has an AC of 20. That means in order to hit her, the attacker must roll high enough and have enough bonuses to reach 20 or better out of a 20-sided die. It is important to Suviel that the attacker not roll a Natural 20, meaning that the 20 is what comes up on the die, without bonuses. If the attacker rolls a “Nat20” and confirms it by rolling another 20, then Suviel takes a whole bunch of damage and that isn’t a happy day for her. But, that is all very technical.

You will note that there are 3 armor classes listed: Total (20), Touch (12), and Flat-footed (18). Her total AC is what is going to be used, primarily. Flat-footed AC means the character is caught by surprise and is not ready to attack. Touch AC refers to attacks that require the attacker to simply put a hand on her (say, a poison attack or some spell attacks). In order to harm her with a Touch attack, the opponent must reach a 12 or higher on their ToHit roll.

The Defenses box provides information about any extra defenses a character has. Miss % is the chance a spell will miss its intended target; DR is Damage Reduction. As you may note, Suviel has a DR of 3, meaning any damage she takes is reduced by 3 points. SR is Spell Resistance, or the ability to resist magical attacks. Finally, Resistances are anything the character has a resistance to, usually elemental damage or poison damage. Suviel is from a very hot, dry climate, and as such, she has a Fire resistance of +4.

The final box is the Attack Bonus. Hooray! We’ve made it this far without too much brain explosion! I’m about to break that streak, however, because this box can be confusing. Here we go…

Pathfinder Character Sheet

To read this box, start with BAB. BAB is the Base Attack Bonus. This bonus is based on class and level. Fighter classes will increase their BAB by 1 every level; Stealth classes increase by 2 every 3rd level; Magic classes increase by 1 every 4th level, and so on. Once the BAB reaches 6, the character is granted a second attack at BAB 1. With me so far? So, on Suviel’s sheet, she is a Level 6 Barbarian, which is a fighter class. She has a BAB of 6, meaning she gets a second attack (BAB 1). She has a Strength Mod of +5 (STR 20), which is added to her BAB (6/1) for a total of +11 for her first melee attack and +6 for her melee second attack. For the Ranged attack, she has a Dexterity Mod of +2 (DEX 15), which is added to her BAB (6/1) for a total of +8 for her first ranged attack and +3 for her second ranged attack. She is a Medium size, which gives her no size bonuses, and she has no miscellaneous modifiers.

Note: In the following paragraph, I will use terms that we haven’t discussed yet. They will be covered in subsequent articles, and this scene will be repeated for your benefit of understanding:

SCENE: Suviel is walking ahead of her party, focusing on the long, desert pathway ahead. The GM says, “Roll Perception.” She rolls a 2 and adds whatever bonuses she has. She sees nothing. Despite having a Dex of 15, she is surprised to have Sandmander attempt to stab her with a trident! Because she did not see them, she cannot move out of their way (no Ref Save). The Sandmander rolls a 17 and has a +1 attack bonus (ToHit). Suviel is considered flat-footed with an AC 18, so the Sandmander hits and does 5 points of damage, dropping her HP to 70. It is now Suviel’s turn. She attempts kicks the Sandmander with her hoof, rolling a 7 on the d20. She has a Melee Attack bonus of +11, which gives her an 18! The Sandmander’s AC is 15; she connects with her hoof and the Sandmander goes flying. She rolls her Acrobatics skill (+8) and rolls a 10 on the die. This gives her an 18 and she successfully rears back on her hind legs and miraculously tumbles forward, thrusting her halberd at the Sandmander. The dice are kind and she rolls a 17 to hit, plus her second attack bonus of +6, for a total of 23 (vs. AC 15). The dice are kind yet again and she rolls a 10 on her 1d10+8 weapon. This means, she does 18 points of damage to the Sandmander; however, her halberd also does +1 fire damage, bringing the total to 19 points of damage, which drops the creature to 1 hit point. Suviel and her party determine if they should continue through the desert.

Building characters can be challenging, fun, and rewarding. It causes you to creatively think about future possibilities and how you may handle such encounters based on the KSOAs you want your character to have. Much is the same within the world of business and leadership–you need to be able to think ahead and determine if you possess the appropriate skills to handle potential problems. Is your +5 Strength going to help you in delicate negotiations? Probably not, but neither is a -2 Charisma! Know when and where to delegate, when possible; and when impossible to delegate, ask for help to improve your weak stats! That is the key to being a Critical Success! There’s still more to talk about on the character sheet. In the next article, we’ll focus on Traits & Skills and apply them to our working world!

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