Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BoL v D&D starting characters

Dol the rogue peered into the gloom, his flickering torch only illuminating a tiny portion of the ancient crypt the and his three stout companions had discovered high up in the Wolfkill Mountains.
Behind him Alana the righteous warriors of Pelor , her retainer Jorge and the wizard Heloas waited patiently.
"C'mon theif, pick the bloody lock and let's get this show on the road," Jorge growled, absently scratching his bushy beard.
"That red headed lass at the inn said she'd wait for me if we got back early."
There was a muffled chuckle from the wizard.
"As long as you bring gold back from this wretched place is what she said."
Ignoring his companions' banter Dol carefully jiggled the door lock, sliding one of his long, slim picks into it.
A slight turn to the left, another half twist and just a little...
The door gave a sudden loud click.
Grinning the thief turned to the party.
He was still grinning when the floor fell out from beneath him. The wiry rogue has just enough time to let out a yelp before sharp blades slid up, slicing through him heart and head.
The three remaining adventurers turned on each out, gaping.
Suddenly from behind they heard the clank of metal and creak of leather.
Six heavy set orcs stepped into the chamber, all six were clad in heavy coats of mail and carried a medley of weapons - wicked curved swords, barbed spears and heavy axes.
"Six? Six of 'em? We're done for, lads," gasped the fighter.
"We only started doing this crap a month ago!"
In front of him, his mistress drew her bastard sword and started her death chant to her god.

It's a pretty familiar occurrence - a party of 1st level heroes blunder into a dungeon and within a couple of rounds one has been hacked to bits of by Gnolls another has been impaled by a spike trap and the wizard was turned into a testicle after drinking that potion of amber liquid.
Total Party Death.
Now, I've got no problems with this: I've lost many a 1st level character and it's always fun.

But what happens when I roll up a 1st level character with a back story. The general premise of most D&D characters is that they grew up in a small rural community and then suddenly decide they want a little bit of action and adventure in their lives.
What about if I want to roll up a first level fighter who happens to be a vet of the Goblin Wars or a mage who has spent some time travelling around learning the arcane ropes?
The level of experience and stats you're faced with generally means you can't reflect this.

Now, when it comes to Barbarians of Lemuria* the four careers mean you have to roll up a new character that's been around the traps.
Getting four points to spend on various careers is an interesting concept because, straight off the bat, you're playing with a slightly matured hero.
It also means you're probably more likely to survive your first trip down into the dungeon.

Example: I decide I want to roll up a barbarian warrior as a new character. We'll call him Korvald.
Knowing I toss three points at strength and one at agility to make him a strong and fast bruiser.
Next I decide to throw one point in brawl, two in melee and one in ranged. Korvald is a big bruiser who knows all about infighting but is also a decent hand with a bow.
Now - careers is where's it all at.
As said before, Korvald is a barbarian of the frozen north so has to take a Barbarian career.
What now? Well, how about our young blade decides he wants to get out of the icy wastes and goes to his father, demanding a share of his inheritance. (Ungrateful little turd!)
Using this one fifth of his father's gold and property he raises a small mercenary company and heads south to the civilised lands.
So we'll give him a second point in Mercenary. Actually, how about we give him two to represent several years as a captain of sell swords.
Still with two points to go I throw a point down on thief.
After several years as a wandering warrior Korvald settles down in the city of Tyr-Sog with his fortune. But he quickly finds he simply can't cut it as a man about town and has blown most of his dough.
So he takes to house breaking and this eventually leads him on the road as a travelling thief, willing and ready to break into ancient crypts and temples.
We've got one more point to spare so I decide to spend it on Noble, bringing us to four career points.
Noble? Well, during his travels Korvald, now a relatively experienced adventurer, breaks into an temple dedicated to a dark god and bloody rites in the city of Koth.
After nicking off with the golden chastity belt of the head priest and some nice silver candlesticks he discovers the princess Lela chained to the main altar, ready for sacrifice in some dark ceremony.
After much sword slashing, leaping and jumping Korvald flees the temple with the princess and the gold.
As a reward the old king Oswald of Tyr-Sog marries the young lass off to our warrior.

Now Korvald is ready for adventure once more: eventually he'll get tired of living the live in a gilded palace and hit the road again.
He's perfect as a starting character - a little bit seasoned, plenty of backstory and plenty of reasons to head back adventuring. Will Lela be captured or murdered by an evil warlord, maybe the cultists come back, maybe the king orders Korvald to re-assemble his old warband and race to the border, etc.

But possibly the best bit is the story - I'm all about the back story and the motivations: I've just spent the last 10 minutes crafting a pretty compelling back story and history for what is just a 1st level character.
Pretty neat, eh?

Barbarian 1
Mercenary 2
Thief 1
Noble 0

* I'd like to point out I don't actually work for Cubicle 7 or anyone selling BoL - I just like it...


  1. This is one of the reasons I like BoL too. Character generation and backstory go hand-in-hand. Even if you don't create a backstory per se, the character has one anyway.

    Simple stuff, good stuff.

  2. The character not only has a backstory per se, but a backstory that is hardwired into the mechanics of the game--and thus comes into play repeatedly in a given session.

  3. I limit starting characters to 2/2/2, however, they do survive much better than the Labyrinth Lord characters. Death by Giant Bats at the 3rd encounter? Yikes!

    Word verification: Porkpaw. Ah, the party's new nemesis.

  4. I've never had much luck with 1st level Labyrinth Lord. They break too easily.
    Actually, I do remembering playing a thief who was the only party member who rolled a save against a ghoul's paralysis. The poor little Halfling was left all by his lonesome...

    @Narmer - You're right: even if you just spend your four points without thinking much more than "I want to be a fighty type", you can still later create a rather nice back-story.

  5. By tradition, I allow D&D characters to start off at 3rd level. I like the characters to be somewhat seasoned. I consider 1st level Fighters to be common grunts (I only use 0-level men for weak commoners - not basic troops), and I consider all the other classes to be at apprentice-level. Sending out a group inexperienced grunts and apprentice into a nasty dungeon without an experienced leader, is just asking for a fate-worst-then-death!

    I also like how the Careers works like an open-ended skill-system, but without the messy skill lists and sub-rules that are so common with other systems.

  6. I just discovered BoL and I love the system probably more than most I have just after a quick read through. The way the creation mechanism develops a back story is just perfect. I am already playing in one PBeM game and about to start another game via internet with my group of friends.