For an just about any old school campaign, character generation is sure to be a hotly debated topic– especially if players are coming from other variants and editions. The Adventurer Conqueror King systems introduces an optional system generating characters that is a little different from what else is out there, so we will be demonstrating that here. Just going with straight up 3d6 in order is more than a lot of players can handle for some reason, and this is the “official” method for ameliorating that under ACKS. Here is the rule:
As an optional rule, at the start of play, each player generates five characters and selects one primary and two back-up characters. The remaining two characters are given to the Judge to use as NPCs to populate the campaign setting. If the primary and backups are all killed, the player generates five additional characters, again picking three and giving the Judge two. This ensures that the player always has a variety of characters to choose from to find one he likes, and gives the Judge some additional NPCs to populate the world. (page 16)
Now, here is my five sets of attribute rolls. (And remember, attribute blocks are in STR-INT-WIS-DEX-CON-CHA order.)
Note that under B/X D&D, certain attributes could be dropped by two in order to raise certain others by one. The rules for this were kind of a pain to explain, especially in a convention environment. The rules fore this are simpler under ACKS and are also a bit more liberal:
Once a player has selected his character class, he may raise the class’s prime requisite ability or abilities if desired by sacrificing points in other abilities. 2 ability points may be sacrificed from an ability to raise a prime requisite ability 1 point. This may be done more than once, but no ability can be lowered below 9, and no ability may be lowered if it is also a prime requisite for the class, even if there are a few points to spare above the minimum required score. (page 17)
Here are my class selections and adjusted ability scores for the five characters:
- 10-12-11-9-10-12 Fighter, 7 hit points
- 7-10-9-18-13-11 Thief (+10% XP Bonus, +1 hit point per hit die, -1 to to-hit and damage with melee weapons), 2 hit points
- 10-10-7-10-10-12 Fighter (-1 penalty to saving throws vs. magic and magic items.), 5 hit points
- 9-18-10-10-12-6 Mage (+10% XP bonus as mage, -1 penalty to reaction rolls and max number of henchmen), 3 hit points
- 9-10-13-10-16-8 Cleric (+2 hit points per hit die and +5% earned XP), 6 hit points
My thinking here was that Fighter was the best choice for the worst sets of ability scores. It’s not high strength that lets a Fighter do his job. His plate armor, high damage melee weapons, cleave ability, and class damage bonus means that he will be effective with or without a high strength score. Also… the death rates for front line fighters are brutal. People in that role tend not to last more than a few sorties. Excellent ability scores are pretty much wasted on this class.
Now, the Thief could have made an excellent Bard. But in terms of what actually contributes to a party’s overall health, it’s hard to beat a thief with DEX 18. The initiative bonus that results from this means that this character can pretty well trump any Mage that wants to throw a spell at the party. Listening at doors and disabling traps is not what justify’s a Thief’s presence in the party. Neutralizing enemy magic users does! This character’s CON bonus makes up for the class’s low hit dice and will quickly add up if he can advance rapidly. The STR penalty is no big deal, though– Thieves have no business engaging in melee anyway, so it won’t hurt too badly.
Likewise, high INT is crucial for effective Mages. It means more starting proficiencies, more starting spells, and bigger spell repertoires. It’s awesome. Yeah, I gave up a CON bonus to get that. I think it’s well worth it.
Finally, that Cleric there. They don’t need high prime requisites in the same way that Thieves and Mages do. Clerics end up serving on the front lines and are inevitably going to take the lumps intended for other characters. That +2 bonus on hit dice is a huge asset for this guy.
As far as what I’d actually run with these, I’d probably start with that first Fighter. Starting out with seven hit points is pretty awesome. And that thief…? He rolled a one! I don’t think I could live with that regardless of that high DEX score.
Now, the strategy for how these characters come into the game is impacted by how the players handle the banking of XP. And they play the heck out of that rule, too. Here it is:
Unless the player begins playing an existing henchman, a character’s heir is assumed to be a new 1st level character, and a player is only allowed to leave a character inheritance one time. A player can allow his heir to begin at a higher level by establishing a reserve fund of experience points that will be available to the player should his original character be permanently killed and he needs to roll up an heir. The number of experience points in the reserve is equal to 90% of the gold piece value of money allocated to the reserve. (page 115)
I would play the Fighter expecting to die within a couple of sessions. Given that, I would bank every gold piece I came into so that my replacement character could come back with a leg up. Packing away enough XP that the guy could start at level two would be a big deal and it’s worth a shot. (Making it to level two is a pretty challenging task as it is, but using the XP banking rules to give an edge to the really good characters is something to consider.)
When the Fighter gets killed, I would come back as either the Cleric or the Magic-User depending on what the party really needed just then. For that guy, I would not bank XP at all! I would buy anything that gave my character a better chance of living. By the time the third character comes into play, the party is liable to be of a high enough level that making it to second level will go a lot faster. Also, the party will more than likely loot the body, so all of his perks will remain in play increasing that third character’s chances of making it.
So that’s my basic character generation and XP banking strategy. In a game where characters are liable to die in almost every sortie, dealing with the implications of this sort of thing is inevitable. Hopefully this makes it easier to understand how the game really works in actual play and whether or not you want to even deal with this stuff!