Dragon Heresy playtest: Group 2 – character build and design chat

+GodBeastX , +Anne Hunter , and Wright Johnson joined me for three hours to kick off the “second” playtest group (of three) for Dragon Heresy.

We did not play. Nonetheless, they stuck with me for three hours of chatting, with interruptions by my 6yo, something outside, and tea. We talked setting and character generation from the perspective of three people with varying amounts of knowledge whose first experience with the rules as I’ve written them is getting the draft in their mailbox.

Anne actually followed one of the character generation guidelines I had laid out: the Journey of Discovery.

I’ll quote it selectively:


Sometimes you might not have a great idea of what class you want to play, or the GM might stipulate some of the more old-school methods of character generation. That need not limit your available choices, and some very interesting characters can result.

Assign Ability Scores. Starting with generating ability scores gives the player an idea where the character’s natural talents will lie. This option of picking attributes before anything else will tend to be best used when attributes are generated randomly, rather than assigned.

Choose a Race. The attribute scores rolled don’t necessarily dictate the choice of race. Not all dwarves or dragonborn are stronger than all humans and gnomes, but they are stronger on the average than humans or gnomes. Having rolled attribute scores, decide if your combination of scores and race makes you a particularly unusual member of your race (a very strong member of a very strong race), or if your attribute scores make you stand out in a different way (a very strong member of a race known for being nimble and gregarious). Either way can be interesting!

Background. Choosing he background next allows the player to start with the basic origin of the character, and sets the stage for future development.

Class. With so much background and characterization accomplished, picking a class at this point sets the direction for the character’s adventuring life. You probably have a good feeling for why the character is going out into the world to risk life and limb, as well.

There’s an example worked in through the text as well. But she rolled her dice (and rolled them very well; I’d estimate she was in the 80-90th percentile on 4d6 drop lowest) and wound up with a Barbarian with the Path of Primal Runes as her subclass. Excellent. 

Wright wanted a non-caster, so he picked barbarian. He chose to roll 4d6 drop lowest and then asked me, since he rolled so poorly, if he could take the standard array instead. I said yes – this is a playtest, and I want my playtesters happy with their characters.

Merlin is going with a paladin, with the Oath of Justice, with the call from Skadi, goddess of Winter, hunting, and the justice of righteous anger, of white-hot vengeance in a just cause.

We had a great discussion over whether one of the level boosts I gave at 2nd level was overpowered (it was), and found a really neat way to tone it down:

Channel DivinityWhen you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options. 

Lodestone of Justice. By performing a ritual with a piece of lodestone (magnetite, or iron ore) and praying to your god you can mystically mark a target that is thought to be guilty of a crime or other transgression against law or righteousness. You must know both the identity of the wrongdoer, and the supposed nature of the crime for the mark to take hold. Note that the mark taking hold is not evidence or proof of guilt – just that there’s enough information to allow your deity to acknowledge your request.

By placing the mark, the stone becomes attuned to the target, and can be used in further rituals to help you track down your quarry. You may make a DC 15 Charisma check to petition for guidance. If successful, you will gain knowledge roughly as specific as a compass rose (“Northeast” or “south”) that will take you to something that might help track down your target. The GM will provide a piece of information, some examples of which might be the person’s location (if your god is feeling benevolent), but might be a piece of evidence, a physical token of the target’s presence, or a person who has seen or spoken with that creature. Once you find that lead, you may petition again, but until that new information is obtained, you get a busy signal.

Yeah, I’ll be rewriting the busy signal bit. The original version was basically a perfect detection system for both guilt and location for any criminal, partially due to my design intent, but also the wording left it open to great mischief. This may not be perfect, but it’s way better.
Lots of good back and forth on setting – the backgrounds were acknowledged as thematically unified with the implied setting, and they were compelling (yay). The fluff text for character classes brought them to life usefully (yay), and it was clear, for example, that barbarians are such in the terms of “Conan the . . . ” not “not belonging to a great empire or culture.” So good there, too.
They’re making 7th level characters to give the upper ranks a workout. I’ll be getting three sheets from these guys, and still trying to recruit 1-2 more players, so a pretty mighty band will be setting out for a “real” game, which may occur as soon as next week.
The importance of getting playtesters with a fresh perspective to the work cannot be overstated. I have now learned my game is approachable even if you’re not steeped in the rules engine that is the SRD5.0/5.1. Vital tidbit!

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