Character Building Made Simple: Introduction

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      Character Building in NWN can appear daunting for the new player.

      A large number of options are available to the player. There could be concern a bad choice may lead to a weak or even unplayable character. However I wish to diminish that concern.

      By following a couple of simple tips, character building becomes simple and builds become very playable. In addition, the complexity no longer becomes a burden, but rather a joy. This is because the complexity allows for a rich customisation of characters using the DnD 3.0 rules that far exceeds what is possible in other games, including many dedicated RPGs.

      The complexity allows for a character to be what a player wants, as much as it possibly can within the DnD 3.0 rules. This is part of what makes NWN special – a translation of pen and paper DnD made into a computer game. And pen and paper DnD is all about imagination. Without imagination, pen and paper DnD is a couple of people throwing dice and doing mathematics.

      In essence, character building is about imagination, and it becomes simple once one knows what they want. It is harder when one doesn’t know what they want.

      So here are some tips that I hope help.

      Know what you want and set a core concept

      The most important part of creating a character is setting a core concept. That is, the most essential part of what your character is.

      This could be a number of things:

      • A high strength warrior wielding a two handed weapon, aiming to smash enemies into the dirt
      • A high dexterity rogue wielding two daggers, aiming to backstab enemies to death
      • A high wisdom cleric using spells to defeat enemies and having a high persuasion skill
      • A high charisma sorcerer using spells to defeat enemies

      And the list goes on and on.

      This is the core identity which is not compromised for other features, which can be powerful.

      Consider synergies with your core concept

      Certain core concepts are very powerful, and they are powerful because of synergies – that is factors which when added together, are more powerful than expected.

      Some examples:

      • A very high strength warrior wielding a two handed weapon, aiming to smash enemies into the dirt. Boosted with Bard levels to get Tumble 40 for extra AC, UMD to cast any spell from scrolls and wands, equip nearly any weapon or armor, and additional saves against from Spellcraft. Further boosted with RDD 10 for +8 Strength, +2 Con, +4 AC and Fire Immunity for more amazing stats. The classic Fighter / Bard / RDD combination.
      • A very high dexterity rogue wielding two daggers, aiming to backstab enemies to death. Boosted with Champion of Torm for better combat prowess, hit points and saves. The Evasion from Rogue means any damage that requires a reflex save could be cancelled completely, and this is further boosted by Champion of Torm. Finally having Hide in Plain Sight from Shadowdancer to improve the rogues ability to sneak attack more often. The classic Rogue / Champion of Torm / Shadowdancer combination.
      • A very high charisma sorcerer using spells to defeat enemies. 2 Paladin levels for amazing saves with a high charisma score as well as, fear and disease immunity. 2 Rogue levels for the evasion feat, which can cancel damage that requires a reflex save – which synergises well with the amazing saves, along with some amazing skills, and the ability to put tumble to 40 for extra AC. The classic Sorcerer / Paladin / Rogue (or Monk) combination.

      Ensuring you can perform your role

      Some players like to plan everything in advance. Others want to make decisions as they play.

      Grizzled_Dwarflord, a noted character builder, describes this as ‘having character build prepared in advance’ versus ‘letting things happen organically’.

      Both are fine ways to play. The most important factor however, is to ensure you can perform the role you want to perform from your core concept.

      Roles can be broken down into a few groups. They are:

      • Melee Combat
      • Ranged Combat
      • Defensive Power
      • Spellcasting
      • Skills

      Certain statistics are important for each role.

      Melee Combatants want to hit things, and deal damage. They will want to have a high melee AB and some ability to deal damage. This is covered in Character Building Made Simple: Melee Combatants and Defensive Characters.

      Ranged Combatants want to hit things, deal damage. They will want to have a high ranged AB, and some ability to deal damage. This is covered in Tactical Archery – A Guide to Building Archers, 2nd Edition.

      Defensive Characters (or tanking) will want to be hit less often, be hit for less damage, have high hitpoints, have high saves, and possibly other features. This is covered in Character Building Made Simple: Melee Combatants and Defensive Characters.

      Spellcasters will want to have effective spell penetration, spells which are resistant to dispels, a high number of memorized spells / day, and a high spell DC. The first three features can be covered by having high caster levels, meaning casters are interestingly, simpler to build. This is covered in Character Building Made Simple: Spellcasters.

      Skilled Characters such as rogues, will want to have appropriate skills to manage the tasks, such as setting and disabling traps, persuasion skills, stealth skills, scouting enemies etc. Skills can be complex, and some skills their exact mechanics can be hidden, such as Discipline and resisting Knockdown attempts.

      Once one is clear on the roles they wish to cover, this guides what statistics to invest in, pretty simple, and I have prepared some guides for some of those topics to assist what to invest into.

      This is probably the most outrageous character build I have designed, Sword of the Dracolich, a Sorcerer 20 / RDD 10 / PM 10.

      Robe wearing, critical hit and sneak attack immune with a full non-epic Sorcerer spell book, he hit em hard with a big flame-weaponed keen greatsword and 50 strength, and made melee enemies hit themselves for significant damage with damage shields spells (Mestil’s, Elemental Shield and Death Armor) and a low armor class score, while protected by buffs such as Stoneskin. He could do ok against NPC spellcasters, disabling them with Bigby’s spells and damaging them with Issac’s Greater Missile Storm, removing their defenses with Lesser Breach Spells and Mordenkainen’s.

      He hated archers though, enough of them could turn him into a pincushion. He made a special wand of the darkness spell, allowing him to hide in a magical darkness, unable to be targeted by the archers, to keep himself safe from them in combat. 

      Solo building vs Party building

      The environment the character plays in affects what is enjoyable to play.

      Party play allows for super-specialists to thrive – characters who can do one task extremely well at the cost of being unable to do other tasks well at all. A very powerful archer or spellcaster who sacrifices all their defensive capabilities can function well with a defensive character who can draw the enemy attention but doesn’t do much damage. Or a powerful melee warrior with some defensive capabilities but no skills or spellcasting can function well with a skilled character who can disable all traps and open all locks for them, and has use magical device to cast a few spells.

      In contrast, solo play is much less forgiving, and a more versatile and balanced character concept is valuable to solve multiple different problems. Here are a few examples:

      • A melee warrior that does a lot of damage with a longsword without any defensive capabilities he cannot stand in battle for very long before he has to retreat, or can be easily affected by mind affecting spells making him weak in battle.
      • However if that melee warrior has the UMD skill, that warrior can cast improved invisibility and stoneskin from scrolls to enhance their defensive capabilities, and lesser mind blank to make themselves mind immune.


      • A ranged combatant who can deal a lot of damage with her bow with no defensive features will struggle alone, as enemies can reach melee combat against her and put her at risk, and enemies get extra attacks from attacks of opportunity when in melee range each time she shoots her bow.
      • However if that ranged character has called shot, she can slow enemy movement down, and always be at a distance to the enemy. Or if she has spellcasting to disable enemies or have a summon to distract them. Or have skills such as set trap or stealth.

      Solo play rewards versatility more than super-specialisation. There can be special features to solo builds, for example, very high strength, or very powerful spell casting. However I would recommend having a few additional features such as defensive capabilities, skills etc… such characters can to conquer challenges alone. Therefore covering a few of the roles discussed can go a long way to an enjoyable solo experience.

      The heavily armored elven weaponmaster wielding two wickedly shaped heavily enchanted longswords took the biggest and most impressive chair in the room, right next the fireplace.

      The black robed ridiculously muscular greatsword wielding human sorcerer with a bone arm sat in the chair next to the mage, his sword ablaze with a flame weapon enchantment. As charming as he was, he didn’t seem to be the most intelligent.

      “Make yourself comfortable, you’re our guest!” the elven weapon master said pleasantly.

      The mage looked comfortable. The Sorcerer thought. He wasn’t sure why though. He would be able to figure out why, he was sure, if he was sharper and brighter and paid more attention in magic school, but suddenly those memories of struggling through those exams led to him banishing those thoughts immediately. There must be a reason he thought… then he just shrugged.

      (Source: NWN EE, World of Greyhawk PW server)

      Player versus Player (PvP)

      I am not an expert on PvP building, however the concepts I believe are similar in terms of covering roles. Certain features are very powerful however. Spellcasting provides a lot of control, by controlling time or disabling opponents, and Empowered/Maximized Issac’s Greater Missile Storm can do a lot of damage.

      From what I read certain characters are very powerful in PvP. I am happy to share what I have read but note I don’t particularly play PvP.

      • Sorcerers (and to a lesser extent, Wizards), who can cast multiple time stops, remove enemy defenses with Mordenkainen’s Disjunction, disable enemies with Bigby’s Forceful Hand or Grasping Hand, and deal a lot of damage with empowered or maximized Issac’s Greater Missile Storm spells. I understand these are the powerhouses of PvP play, and generally are built with a high Constitution score and focus on ‘non-DC casting’ or spells which do not have saving throws.
      • High spell resistant or even spell immune monks, who have so much spell resistance they are unaffected by the above spells, are mind immune, are lightning fast, and have very high AC.
      • Rogues, who can have high stealth scores they can remain undetected, and set certain Epic Traps (such as Epic Frost Traps) which with enough stacked, can kill any enemy, regardless of whether they have evasion, or high saves against traps. Or can do so much sneak damage they can kill enemies rapidly.
      • Elven High Wisdom Zen Arcane Archers or Clerics, who have exceptional ranged AB and damage, have exceptional Spot scores, keen senses and are able to detect stealth characters, and exceptional AC from high Wisdom if Monk is included.

      There are other builds no doubt in PvP but I think this covers my understanding of what I would personally bring to such battles, if I ever participated in this kind of thing.

      One may note I haven’t included a strength based warrior build (with devastating critical or something like that), I believe such a character can be dangerous, but could be dealt with by the above (for example, a Sorcerer casting Bigby’s Grasping Hand successfully, can render a deadly melee strength warrior helpless).

      Character Building Made Simple – knowing what you want, then following steps to get it

      To summarize, character building actually comes down to knowing what you want. One can then use the NWN (DnD 3.0 rule) system to then obtain what you want. Simply bear in mind synergies for your core concept, make sure you can perform the core roles you want, and you are well on the way to playing a fun and successful character.

      Thanks for reading and hope you found this useful.

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