I have been able to get back at the table this year with my gaming group and there is an Age of Worms campaign being run that has been modified for the Eberron Setting using the beta Pathfinder rules. I came into the game late, so I needed to make a 3rd level character. WARNING: My group tends to be min/max crazy, so there will be thought put into how the mechanics of the character work. You’ve been warned.
When I create a character, I usually like to start out with a broad concept and then start narrowing it down. I do pay attention to mechanics, because I like to be effective at the table. However, when I begin filling in feats and class information, I like working it into the concept. Meaning, I explain why my character has these classes, skills, and feats. It becomes part of his history.
So the mechanics feed from the concept which in turn feeds from the mechanics. I think this makes a very cohesive character that not only hits with the crunch but also has interesting personality traits and a history to utilize for in-character interactions.
I want to play a character who is atoning for a mistake he made because his pride made him overconfident. No big bad evil caused his misfortune. The gods were not responsible. It wasn’t Fate. Only my character was accountable for the deed. For his mistake, he has been exiled from his home. For now, I’ll leave the exact details about this deed undefined.
After nearly dying from exposure as he wondered aimlessly through the wilds, he finds refuge. In this place of refuge, my character becomes immersed in training to keep his mind of his mistake. Soon he grows restless and seeks to atone for his mistake. He atones for this terrible deed by traveling the world, bringing justice to the wicked and helping folk in need.
My character does not like striking from a distance, as he feels it is the coward’s path. Honorable warriors meet their opponents face-to-face and allow them to defend themselves. The closer, the better. Which means my character likes to put fist to mouth.
This is a pretty broad concept (and perhaps cliché), but keeping it lose allows me to solidify the details later using mechanical inspiration. This is where I begin choosing class(es), skills, and feats. But first I’ll give my character a name, Vandrath.
The monk class is an obvious choice for my character because of his preference for unarmed strikes. This is good because I have never played a monk in 3.5 and it will hopefully prove interesting. It also works because it allows me to use a monastery as the location where Vandrath took refuge and began training.
Being well versed in character optimization, I remember reading about a few builds that focus on increasing a monk’s unarmed damage. Seeing how Age of Worms has a reputation in my group for being a meat grinder, dealing a lot of damage back may not be a bad idea. There is also the fact that there is a lack of damage dealers (or strikers in 4e vernacular) in the adventuring party. These builds often use psionic classes to provide enlargement effects, which brings me to the other class I want to use, the Psychic Warrior.
I love the idea of imbuing a martial artist style class with psionic powers, an über form of ki. The best part of the campaign being located within Eberron is that several feats sourced from its supplements allow levels of a manifesting (psionic) class to stack with Monk levels for determining unarmed damage, flurry of blows, and armor class bonus.
This gives me some mechanics to use to go in and start adding details to Vandrath’s history:
Vandrath had a latent psionic ability, which he was only partially aware of. He sometimes could just will things to happen, and that caused him to be overconfident. His overconfidence in turn caused his misfortune.
Vandrath liked to play games of skill and chance and chance finally caught up with him when his powers failed to manifest. Instead Vandrath ended up taking the life of his friend, and for it he was punished. Vandrath was crucified (literally) for his crime of murder. However, his fortunes changed when the upright timber snapped, allowing Vandrath to escape into the wilderness.
He managed to tear his hands free from the cross timber and nearly succumbed to an infection induced fever while he stumbled through the wild. Chance instead decided to smile upon him when he happened across a monastery hidden in the hills. The monks took him and nursed him back to health.
Once he was well, Vandrath joined the order and began training. He found the physical and mental exertion allowed him to forget his past, for a while. However, after a couple of years, Vandrath was stricken by the need for greater atonement, and so he ventured out to bring justice to the wicked.
I had originally chosen Vandrath to be Kalishtar, because they are a naturally psionic race, and they are native to Eberron. But once I revisited the beta Pathfinder core rule book, it was apparent that they were outgunned by the new races. I tend to gravitate toward Humans anyways, which is the race I eventually settled upon (extra feat, no negative ability modifier, and extra skills or hit points!).
I find that I often have problems getting into character for other races. I love Dwarves, Halflings, and even the occasional Half-Orc, but I think I can’t identify with more exotic races. This may stem from the fact that I am obviously not a member of those races in real life and their outlooks are too alien to me. Maybe in the future I will expand my RP horizons, but not today.
Humans are the most diverse of the races, so it also gives the freedom (without raising too many eyebrows) to put strange spins on local culture to help make my character stand out. I am sure there are countless nameless villages on the outskirts of civilized Eberron where I can carve out interesting new traditions.
So using this idea, I weave further detail into Vandrath’s background:
The villagers of Sascerene pride themselves on their mastery of archery. Some of the best archers in the Last War came from this small human dominant province of Adar that is along the border with Riedra. Skill in archery is so ingrained within the culture that the most beloved of children’s pastimes is a form of archery, albeit using non-lethal arrows made from specially treated leather.
These arrows are rigid enough to fly for about two hundred feet, but soft enough to cause little harm on impact, at most creating small bruises. The goal of the game is not to strike your opponent, but to see how close you can get to him without touching him. The game is called Pyramid.
The basic game uses two arrays of ropes dyed various colors. These ropes have been tied together forming a non-equilateral isosceles triangle with several lengths of rope parallel to the base (which is the side of unequal length. Each array is placed at the feet of the players with the base furthest away and perpendicular to the player’s line of site.
The object of the game is to score more points than your opponent. You score points by landing your projectiles within the rope array at your opponent’s feet. The closer to the opponent you get, the more points that are awarded. To land all of your projectiles in the section of the rope array closest to your opponent is a perfect game. Ties are broken by continuing the game until someone scores better.
Growing up, Vandrath was considered an exceptional player of Pyramid. In truth he was really only an average shot with a bow, but he soon learned he could use his force of will to direct arrows. Vandrath’s ego and pride soon led to despair while he was competing a game of Pyramid with his best friend, Koreth.
The two friends had tied for three consecutive rounds of Pyramid when Vandrath bet he could shoot an apple from off the top of Koreth’s head from a distance of five hundred feet. Koreth quickly agreed, thinking that a feat like that was the stuff of legend and could never be accomplished by a fellow teenager with Pyramid arrows.
Vandrath paced five hundred feet out turned and drew back. What went unnoticed was the fact that Vandrath has nocked a real arrow, as he knew it would fly farther than the ones they used for the game. Vandrath released the arrow and began will it towards the apple.
While concentrating on the arrow, Vandrath was stung by one of the large and irritable bees that are common to the area, breaking his concentration. Just as he tried to reach back out with his mind, his concentration was interrupted again by screams.
He opened his eyes to find his arrow embedded in the chest of his friend, Koreth. Koreth slumped to the ground grasping the shaft that protruded from his body. Then he fell to his side and bled his life onto the ground.
The town placed him under arrest and the council of elders deemed it a murderous act since Vandrath had chosen to incorporate a true arrow into the game. His life was forfeit and he would be crucified at dusk. His family turned their backs on him after such a dreadful act.
After Vandrath was nailed to the timbers and they were raised into place, Koreth’s father visited him. He brought with him an armful of solid gold arrows. When he spoke to Vandrath he said, “These are all the awards my son earned over the last twelve years. I have tied them together and I am going to let their weight bear down upon you. I am sure Koreth would not have asked this fate for you, but perhaps the additional weight will quicken your death and prevent too much suffering.”
With these words he placed the weight of the golden arrows around the neck of Vandrath, but the additional weight did not bring a quick death. Instead, it probably saved Vandrath’s life, as that night the timber snapped and allowed him to flee into the wild.
When it came to assigning scores to Vandrath’s abilities, the DM had given everyone a free 18 and asked us to randomly roll the other five. I prefer point buy, because I think it is the fairest method (I hate thinking the entire future of the character could be skewed because a few bad rolls at the start).
I ended up with these results: 18, 16, 14, 12, and 7. Not too bad really, my character nets two 18s, but I have that awful 7 to deal with. I figure Vandrath will be a gruff, no-nonsense character after his horrible mistake and monastic training, but the same circumstances gives him strength and wisdom.
The final ability score array I have assigned to Vandrath is the following: Strength 18, Dexterity 16, Constitution 14, Intelligence 12, Wisdom 20 (18 +2 for being Human), and Charisma 7. I think the low Charisma will also play a part in his physical description that I’ll write up I have purchased equipment.
Humans receive an extra feat and proficiency in one martial weapon at first level. I want Vandrath’s Human weapons training to reflect some things from his history, so I will pick the Composite Longbow. My vision of a bad-ass pugilist includes wearing some metal girded gloves, so I want to use the extra feat to pick up an Exotic Weapon Proficiency in Heavy Gauntlets.
Heavy is a special attribute applied to weapons made from magically hardened gold or platinum and can be found in the Magic of Faerun supplement for the Forgotten Realms Campaign setting. Attacking with a gauntlet counts as an unarmed strike. And the Heavy attribute increases a weapon’s damage category by one. The drawback is it confers a negative modifier on attacks unless you have exotic weapon proficiency with the heavy weapon.
For the normal first level feat, I take Unorthodox Furry in Heavy Gauntlets from Dragon Compendium Volume I which will allow Vandrath to treat a heavy gauntlet as a Monk weapon for purposes of using the Flurry of Blows class ability. I also pick Monastic Training with Psychic Warrior from the Eberron Campaign Setting book which allows a character to freely multiclass between Monk and a single manifesting class.
At second level, I pick Combat Reflexes for the Monk feat and at third I pick up a level in Psychic Warrior and choose Two-Weapon Fighting for its bonus feat. For the character level three feat, I choose Tashalatora from the Secrets of Sarlona supplement for the Eberron Campaign Setting.
Tashalatora is the linchpin for Vandrath as it allows the levels from the manifesting class chosen for the Monastic Training feat to stack with Monk levels for purposes of determining unarmed damage, flurry of blows, and AC bonus. It is also a bonus because it allows me to detail which monastery Vandrath stumbled upon.
Since beginning to write this character build, Vandrath has gained a level. For the second level Psychic Warrior feat I chose Practiced Manifester from the Complete Psionic supplement to bring Vandrath’s manifester level up to his hit dice.
With eyes blurry from pain and fever, Vandrath stumbled upon a monastery hidden in the hills. He collapsed in the fields the monks cultivated just outside the walls and was discovered in the morning with they went came to fields to work the ground.
Vandrath has unknowingly found Tashalatora, the monastery famous for merging the path of the focused mind with the path of the sharpened body. The monks tended to his wounds and soon Vandrath was healthy enough to leave.
The monks sensing his turmoil offered to teach him the ways of Tashalatora. Vandrath accepted, hoping to bury his guilt and shame in hard work and toil. Here the monks taught him to hone his mind and meld its power with his body.
After a few years of training, Vandrath had a vision in which his friend, Koreth visited him and asked that he take up a quest to scour the land of evil and injustice, and that through this quest he would be forgiven. In the vision he said to seek out the Silver Flame and to become its Golden Fist.
Vandrath spoke with elders about his vision who instructed him that before he go forth into the world that he should seek out their blacksmith and he would equip him with the weapon of his choice. Taking the vision to heart, Vandrath took the golden arrows that had once belonged to Koreth and had spared his life to the blacksmith.
He instructed the blacksmith to forge a set of gauntlets sheathed and banded in the gold. The blacksmith hammered for two weeks before he presented Vandrath with a pair of fine golden gauntlets, the finest work the smith had ever done.
I really do not assign Abilities, Skills, and Feats in any particular order, I usually find the feats I need and make sure that any required Ability scores and skill ranks are met, and then I beginning back-filling everything else.
To make the conversion to Pathfinder, I did reduce any skill requirements by three. I also rolled Concentration into Psicraft, which I guess I could have substituted for Spellcraft, but I was not for sure how the DM was treating Psionics (totally different than magic or otherwise).
After I ensured all my requisite skills were taken care of, I just placed skills where I thought it was appropriate for a Monk. This included Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, and Perception. Note that on the included character sheet, there are ranks in Heal. This is an error in the sheet’s calculation of synergy skills.
Using the 3,000 gold a third level character receives, I bought Masterwork Heavy Gauntlets (which took more than half of the allotted money) and spent the rest on Bracers of Armor +1 and a backpack with standard equipment. Note that the character sheet also includes additional items gained from adventuring.
Before Vandrath set out on his quest, the monastery presented him with a gift, a pair of magic leather bracers said to help protect its wearer from harm. Vandrath graciously accepted them by strapping them on and then shouldered his pack of equipment as he took the first step of a long walk.
Vandrath stands in at five feet and eight inches, but is stocky frame has him weighing in at just shy of two hundred pounds. He has close cropped blond hair, a bear of the same length and very light blue eyes. He often wears nothing but a well oiled pair of leather bracers, brown buckskin breeches, sandals, and his pack. When traveling in inclement weather, Vandrath often wears a thick gray cotton cloak.
Vandrath has earned a dark tan from long days toiling in the fields around the monastery, but the sun has failed to darken areas on his wrists and ankles. These white scars are constant companions that remind Vandrath of the terrible deed in his past.
When ready for combat, Vandrath dons a pair of heavy gauntlets bedecked with thick gold bans and studs. These gauntlets are noticeably heavier than items of this type normally are. These unusual weapons have earned him the nickname of The Golden Fist.