[RPG] D&D 5E character background – Skamos Sorrowson

I’m going to be playing in my first D&D 5E game in a few days, it’s a two-shot dungeon crawl inspired by the Tomb of Horrors being run by Rob ‘theSwamper’ Davis and featuring a host of other great players such as Alex ‘Captain Gothnog’ Gillot, Thashif Muran and Sameoldji; really looking forward to it, we’re genning 15th level characters and i’ve settled on a Tiefling rogue called Skamos Sorrowson, during my dinner break I though that i’d have a quick go at knocking up a background, below is what I came up with:

Alignment – CG

Skamos Sorrowson was born to the noble house of Turuval in the great City of Marapolean; whilst initially happy to be given a son at last the Patriarch of the family Michael Turuval was incensed when the childs infernally tainted features became obvious shortly after the birth, for a long time the child was shut up in doors and Michael would speak to no-one, not even his wife Sareena, who he secretly suspected of having been unfaithful to him, after all there was no way that such devilish features could have originated in his own family. The knowledge ate away at him like a cancer until it drove Michael mad and, one dark night, he gathered his loyal bodyguard to him and strode through the house determined to put an end to the cursed child; Sareena stood blocking their path, determined that no-one would kill her child, she was stabbed fatally for her efforts, but even with her last breath she triumphed, her sacrifice had given a loyal manservant time to steal away from the house carrying the child with him.

Originally the plan had been for the manservant Tollamy to carry the child to Sareena’s own family in a distant steading, but as with many things in life, things did not go according to plan and Tollamy ran afoul of the noted thief and footpad Vernius Mudge and his burgeoning gang of the thieves, the Clawed Hand. Determined to carry out his final orders the manservant refused to surrender his charge and was shot before he could leave the bounds of the city, throwing open the carriage, the robbers found not the gold and jewels they expected but a strange child who had an odd devilish look abot him; Mudge’s second in command, a half-orc brute by the name of Ramus, pulled out a knife ready to end the child’s life and as he did so the knife vanished to reappear in the crib next to the infant, smiling Mudge pronounced it a sign from the gods that the clawed hand was destined for greatness and that he would take the child as his own, naming it Skamos (after a child that he had long ago in another life, who had died along with it’s mother).

Mudge’s prophesy seemed to be true as the Clawed Hand, with Skamos as a member, rose to become the ruling thieves guild in the city.

Skamos initially harboured a great deal of hatred against the nobility (although Mudge had only told him the very basics about his history, raising him like his own son) and initially began adventuring as a way to make himself powerful enough to take revenge on those who had cast him; over the course of a long adventuring career he came to understand that the worth of a person was not defined by their class or their riches but by their own actions and the people they regarded as friends and finally he achieved some measure of peace before retiring from his adventuring days and returning to rule the Clawed Hand thieves as second, alongside the aging Verinus Mudge, who welcomed the return of his beloved son. 

(Please note the Tiefling picture is copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast, it is used for non-profit making purposes and no challenge is intended to copyright)

Did 4th Edition D&D kill roleplaying?

To save you worrying, i’ll answer the title question first of all; no of course 4th edition didn’t kill roleplaying.
This blog post is a response to Diane Morrison’s blog post:
Diane requested some input and responses on the G+ Roleplaying Games community, these are my own thoughts on the topic.
Now, before I get into my response, just to give you a bit of background, I started playing D&D with second edition, played 3.0, 3.5, 4th edition and also Pathfinder; i’m not the worlds largest fan of 4th edition (as anyone who will know me will attest) however I do have a fair few books from that edition. I have also signed on to view the playtest materials for the 5th edition of the game (D&D Next). I also find myself in the odd position of being one of the (seemingly few) people who, whilst not an ardent fan of 4th edition, does not find the game extremely objectionable. Whilst I think that the influence of MMORPGs and other computer roleplaying games is clear to see in D&D 4th edition it is only natural that the people designing it have looked around for an element to pull newer people into the hobby and grow their customer base, since Wizards of the Coast is a business at the end of the day; however, the game does feel very divorced from previous editions of D&D, a brave move that didn’t (in my opinion) work completely and that may have alienated many fans of the previous edition.
I was slightly disappointed when I realised that the 3.0/3.5 edition of D&D would be wrapped up (given that I have shelves groaning with core as well as OGL products) and so was extremely happy when Paizo picked up the ball and created Pathfinder (a game I very much enjoy despite the somewhat increased default power levels of standard player characters); however I like to think that i’ve given 4th edition a fair crack of the whip and I have a number of books from that line.
It does seem as though 4th edition was not the runaway success that WotC were hoping it would be as, scant few years after it was released (four years if my Google-fu serves me correctly) a new edition (D&D Next) of the game has been announced and playtests are well underway for that, this is compared to the eight or so years that 3.0/3.5 had. However, I don’t think that D&D 4th Edition came anywhere near to ‘kill[ing] the company’ given that D&D is only a small part (comparatively) of the WotC product line and that they have fair more lucrative and profitable products on the market than Dungeons & Dragons. 
So back to the main question of this blog post, did 4th edition kill roleplaying? Well no, it really didn’t, D&D is far from the only RPG in the market, it’s not even the only fantasy game in the market and, if I had found 4th edition so terribly objectionable (which to be honest I didn’t) then it would have been easy to get my fantasy fix elsewhere. I also think a rules system would have to go a long way in order to completely be devoid of roleplay; yes 4th edition did introduce a more tactical/miniatures battle element of the game and utilised phraseology based on computer RPGs such as the idea of people having different roles within a party, but I don’t think any of these things (or others elements introduced in the edition) quashed roleplay.
Although not a massive fan of 4th edition personally, since i’m not really a great lover of tactical combat and miniatures based stuff, I can see how people who were into that could enjoy it and more power to them; I do not think that the rules intrinsically support roleplay but then nor do the rules for any of the previous editions IMO, rules have always existed as a framework underneath the roleplay in my games, they’re there when required and are ignored when not and, in this regard, D&D 4th edition is no worse than any other RPG game.
One thing that was obvious with 4th Edition was that the featured campaign worlds were tweaking and bent into new shapes to fit the cosmology and races available in the new edition, I can’t say that this unduly concerned me since i’m not really a massive fan of published campaign worlds and generally use home-brewed campaign worlds when I run D&D, although I can see how it might have annoyed die-hard fans of certain settings, but then, if I had been in that position, I would have just taken the elements that I liked out of the new setting version and just discarded the rest.
In short I think that D&D 4th edition was an attempt to do something new and different to prevent the product line from stagnating (and obviously to make WotC more money, they are a company after all) and, in this case, it didn’t really work as well as they’d hoped, although there are a lot of fans of the edition out there; I myself have enjoyed a few D&D 4th edition games and have taken several elements that I liked from 4th edition to use in other games, even though i’m not keen on the tactical/miniatures edge of the rules themselves. D&D Next seems to be an attempt to create a recognisable hybrid of a more traditionally D&D-esque game (presumably to lure back the fans who jumped ship with 4th edition), incorporating some of the lessons learnt from the release of 4th edition and the more prevalent storytelling/narrative based games that seem to be more prominent at the moment.
For anyone interesting in viewing more about the different editions of D&D the wiki page is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editions_of_Dungeons_%26_Dragons

FATE musings: Merged FATE and D&D next

As people watching my youtube channel may be aware I recently reviewed the playtest D&D Next material that has been released:
Whilst looking at the D&D material it seemed obvious to me that the creators of D&D Next had realised that the crunchier rules systems were slightly falling out of favour currently and that a new crop of more storytelling orientated games were proving increasingly popular with the RPG market.
I was idly doodling away at some ideas after filming the video and thinking about how one of my Rogue Trader players isn’t a particularly massive fan of the FATE system, when it occurred to me that D&D Next would be eminently adaptable to work with FATE, perhaps more so than any earlier edition of the game.
I’ll admit that i’m mainly coming at this from a Fate Accelerate Edition (FAE) point of view since that’s my FATE system of choice at the moment; lets have a look at the D&D Next character sheet:
Ability Scores
The standard six abilities familiar to any D&D player, STR, DEX, CON, WIS, INT and CHA – these could easily be used as your approaches in a FAE hybrid.
Skills
D&D Next doesn’t appear to have a skill system in the same way that previous versions of D&D games do, however there are class and racial abilities (plus feats although these are an optional subsystem in Next) that give you bonuses to certain rolls. Most of these work in such a similar way to Stunts that any conversion would be very simple.
Weapon & Spell Attacks
Although FATE (and particularly FAE) don’t by default offer a lot of granularity to weapon damage, there are a couple of systems suggested in the FATE core book that would work fine and numerous variants available; assuming of course that the FATE GM wants this level of complexity for weapons.
The same pretty much goes for armour.
Class Features & Racial Traits
Racial traits are a small group of bonuses acquired for being a dwarf or an elf for example; these could easily be wrapped up in a single racial Aspect.
Class features might be a little more difficult since generally FATE characters start off more competent than the standard first level D&D character but they don’t advance or change as much; by representing class abilities as Stunts this can be simulated in a couple of possible ways:
  • Allow the PCs to start with a few more Stunts before their refresh rate starts to drop.
  • Increase the frequency of milestones within the game.

Lore
This is a new mechanic for D&D Next where you receive a bonus on intelligence rolls if you have that particular area of Lore ticked on your character sheet, again this is easily accomplished with Stunts or Aspects.
The Advantage

One of the main new mechanics that I like is called Advantage/Disadvantage, basically if you have the advantage then you roll 2D20 instead of one for a test and take the highest result, if you have the disadvantage then you take the lower result.
I can think of a couple of ways this could be done in FAE:
  • Keep it the same, a players rolls his 4DF twice and picks the higher or lower result.
  • If the PC has the advantage give them a free re-roll without them spending a fate point and the player chooses which result to use; if they are at a disadvantage then the opponent may force them to re-roll and the opponent chooses which result for them to use.
Spells

Spells and magic would be a trickier conversion and it’s one that has been covered extensively elsewhere; to keep things short I would suggest an Aspect that allows you to use magic and then having either a Stunt or an Aspect for each spell.