Reinventing Characters

One of the tricks I use to learn a new edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game is to re-envision an old character in a new edition. Often times, I pick some NPC who got little “air time” to make it easier. He has no mega-history to worry about, and only a very basic amount of rules and story development. With the new 4th edition rules, and in particular the Player’s Handbook 2, I decided to toy around with the character builder (available through a D&D Insider subscription) to see how I can make the old new again.

I should mention that the 4th edition D&D character builder is addictive. It’s relatively quick, it presents choices and suggestions. I love it. Combine that with a love for all the options 4th edition has to offer, and I’m like a kid in a candy store.

I decided to go hard-core. I pulled out my old half-giant gladiator from Dark Sun. He was an NPC I had who followed around one of the player characters. In Dark Sun, every character gets a psionic wild talent. My character, Kalador, had this power from the Dragon Kings sourcebook titled Strength of the Land. It had two prerequisite powers that he gained automatically as well – Lend Health and Share Strength. Something about a half-giant who could give of his strength and HP to fellow adventurers seemed great. The fact that he could draw power from the very earth beneath him was just awesome.

Imagine my surprise when I got the PHB2, cracked it open, and saw the warden class. Here was a class that seemed to be based around the Strength of the Land theme! I was so excited. I also had my eyes on the goliath race, which had awesome written all over it. I knew what I had to do.

Using the character builder (Did I mention that I dearly love this program?), I transformed my old half-giant gladiator into a goliath warden. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I found a few tricks that may help you if you decide to re-invent your character. And since Dan loves numbered lists, I shall follow suit.

1. It’s okay to change the race. If a new race works out better, or if the race is thematically similar to your old one, give it a shot. Sometimes you will find some new gem, whether rules-based or fluff-based, for your character.
2. Ditto with classes and powers. In my case, I went from an arena gladiator to a primal warden. Yet they share certain similarities. I went from one defender type to another, and I maintained the Strength of the Land theme. In fact, I built upon the theme. I’m not certain yet about the other powers, but maybe PHB3’s psionic power source will have something to offer.
3. Backstory can be modified, but you can also keep it as-is and provide an in-game explanation for the change. I had a 3.5 wizard recently that just wasn’t cutting it for me. An in-game change made him into a favored soul. The cool part about this change was that it added some fantastic story to the game.
4. You will always lose something, but you will always gain something. It’s the trade-off of making a change.
5. Did I mention themes? You won’t ever get a direct translation, but you can use the themes to re-build characters from the ground up. Just remember to build them within the game system you’re using, keep your foundations, and be open to change. My goliath’s tattoo pattern, for example, is eerily similar to his old slave tattoos.
6. Above all, have fun with it. This isn’t too serious of stuff here. If the changes fit, great. If not, don’t convert!

So give it a try and see what becomes of your old characters. You may find new life to old characters, and the desire to play them once more.

Comments (3)

Gary "Kendermage" PhillipsJune 6th, 2009 at 9:09 am

I completely agree in going with the theme of a character. I have tried to model one particular character in several different systems though and despite the theme, she just never seems to work as well as in her original second edition form. This character is a beastly character (22nd level Paladin of Thor/Psionicist) and the class combination should not be allowed by any DM ever! I guess that would make her the exception, not the rule though. Recently I tried to distill the character back from these lofty heights to my original vision of her (when I began playing her nearly 20 years ago). I used the True20 system and got very close to what (I think) was my original idea for her. To get that to fit though I had to divest the character of 19 levels of stuff piles onto the character. I agree with Trampas though, have fun and if it doesn’t fit, don’t convert.

DragonhelmJune 6th, 2009 at 9:12 am

I’ve had a wookiee Jedi I played for years, and continue to play through play-by-e-mail. He’s seen a homebrew White Wolf system, a WEG d6 system, and all three versions of the d20 system. Each time, he loses something. Each time, he gains something in return. What remains the same is the story. Truthfully, I’ve felt the d20 rules have exemplified him the best, though which variant is still up in the air.

LeprosyJuly 22nd, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I envision myself floating near the boot, but not on it.

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