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Messages - Faldred
« on: March 26, 2007, 11:21:38 am »
This is a Layonara-specific version of Kamiryn's Character Build Calculator (CBC) from the IGN Neverwinter Vault. The CBC is a very useful tool for character planning, allowing you to try out different combinations of classes, feats, and skills in order to better define your character (strengths and weaknesses) while still ensuring that your choices will allow you to progress the character as desired.
The file (too large to be attached here) is located at:
CBC 2.80.1 for Layonara (Beta 2)
CBC 2.80.1 for Layonara (Beta 1)
Please post questions, comments, and bug reports here.
Quick Start Guide[LIST=1]
What's there to say?
36 years old, father of three (all under age 2 at the time of this posting), professional software engineer.
I got NWN only about a year and a half ago, and have been playing online for just over a year, all of it here (after researching a few PW's, this one looked best, and it looks like I was right).
I've penned a few articles in the Roleplaying forum, mostly to show that despite playing Zug, I can put a coherent sentence or two together when I feel like it.
Also, I'm doing voice acting for Rogue Dao Studios' Planescape Trilogy for NWN2. This is doubly ironic as a) I usually play with the sound off (see above about the three children), and b) I don't own NWN2 for the lack of a computer capable of running it.
The following users thanked this post: Thak
Roleplaying Attributes (a/k/a Faldred's Essay Time, again)
In D&D, and by extension, Neverwinter Nights, there are six basic attribute types that define the basic "shell" of a character: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These attributes are used for a variety of purposes -- to apply bonuses or penalties to certain tasks, or as qualifications for certain classes, abilities, or feats.
But there really are two different types of abilities represented here: physical abilities (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution) and mental abilities (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma -- yes, I'm classifying Charisma as a mental ability, stick with me here). From a role-playing perspective, physical abilities are very easy to deal with -- how strong is the character? How nimble? How tough?
Mental abilities, on the other hand, are a bit different. Take Intelligence... how smart is the character? Well, unlike sheer physical strength or endurance, "smart" is harder to quantify and represent in-character. Ditto for how wise or how charismatic the character is. To make matters more difficult, it can be quite easy playing a character with radically different physical abilities than you possess, but in some ways, it can be quite hard playing characters with very different mental abilities, especially if they are higher than your own.
A high intelligence does not necessarily imply having a great deal of knowledge. That is, a character with an INT of 25+ doesn't simply "know" everything. In real-life, there are many highly intelligent people who are relatively ignorant because they have not had the opportunity to access information or to learn how to use their natural abilities. On the flip side, many intelligent people who have had the opportunity know a great deal about certain areas, but still know very little about others. (E.g., a PhD is often characterized as someone who knows a great deal about a very narrow subject and very little about everything else.)
Intelligence is, rather, a measure of how capable the character is of critically analyzing, synthesizing, and correlating information. Or more simply, how well he or she is able to learn and to use logic. In game terms, this is expressed in puzzle-solving, number of languages allowed (not necessarily granted), and as a skill modifier for skills requiring the use of learning, critical analysis, and/or problem-solving. For example, a high intelligence helps the Search skill because the character can analyze the environment for clues as to where hidden devices may be located, and indications that one actually exists.
Roleplaying intelligence requires acting in accordance with your abilities when faced with a problem that requires thought and analysis. This is a perfect example of why it is much easier to play "dumber" than it is to play "smarter". That is to say, if you're playing a half-orc barbarian, you can very well play him as if he couldn't figure out the puzzle you the player saw through in an instant. On the other hand how do you roleplay your elven wizard's ability to solve the riddle if you personally have no clue?
Wisdom is a dual-purpose ability. It represents common sense, but more importantly, force of will -- mind over body, if you like. On the first point, unlike Intelligence, a high Wisdom leads to a more intuitive approach to knowledge or problem solving -- certain things just make sense... well, because. The character simply knows something to be true (even if it isn't). Skills like Listen and Spot highlight this type of intuition.
On the second point, Wisdom acts as will power. How strong is the mind against external attack or distraction? In mechanics, this shows up as adjustments to Will saves, but in roleplaying, it is about staying focused on-task and avoiding temptations.
While not as difficult to play the extremes with wisdom as it is with intelligence, if you're personally borderline ADD, it might not be easy to play a character who can maintain a tough mental discipline.
Ah yes... Charisma. A mental ability? Am I serious? Absolutely. Physical attractiveness is not the end-all and be-all of Charisma. In fact, I would strongly consider dissociating the two a great deal, though not completely altogether. A "beautiful" person can have the Charisma of a stick, and an "ugly" person can rule an empire by sheer will. This is, of course, extreme, and human (or demi-human) nature leads us to naturally perceive those with what be believe to be positive physical traits as more charismatic, so it has some place.
But much more so than that, Charisma is the couter-point to Wisdom. Whereas the latter is about force of will focused inward on one's self, Charisma is about the ability to impose one's will on others, hence its inclusion as a "mental" ability. Leadership, to be slightly cynical, is about getting people to do what you think they should be doing, or, in other words, manipulating them. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- the Paladin may believe that she is showing people the True Path and helping them focus their energies. Of course, the same ability can be used by the dark side to dominate or (mentally) oppress others. In any case, the abilities come from some combination of physical appearance, force of personality, leadership skill, smooth talking, and apparent moral authority.
In game mechanics, Charisma is expressed in two ways: spell-like abilities and diplomacy. For "spontaneous" arcane casters (Bards and Sorcerers), it is the ability to manifest one's force of will in physical form as a spell; for Clerics, Paladins, and the like, it has an effect on their power over the undead, and as a "force multiplier" to certain spells and abilities. Even the Use Magic Device skill works in this first regard -- the Bard or Rogue manages to bend the item to their use by force of will. Diplomatic skills, specifically, Bluff, Intimidate, Persuade, and Taunt, are impacted by Charisma, in terms of imposing your will on someone else.
Charisma, from a role-playing standpoint, offers probably a wider set of options than Wisdom or intelligence do. A middle-of-the-road Charisma could be a slick-talking attractive person who just has no leadership skills or could just as well be an excellent managerial type who faints at the thought of public speaking.
Mixing and Matching
From a character definition standpoint, what makes the three "mental" abilities even more interesting is how they work together to create a personality. The stereotypical absent-minded professor (or Wizard) can be represented as having a high intelligence and a low wisdom -- with a high Charisma, perhaps he becomes a great mentor, with a low one, a stuttering recluse.
But in short, just bear in mind the traits (or variety of traits) associated with each skill, and mix and match them together to come up with one logical approach for the character. Above all, just avoid the lazy stereotypes of high-INT = "know it all", high-WIS = "sage who speaks in cryptic riddles", and high-CHA = "Faldred in a tux".
Edit: typo fixes
Many articles and opinions have been written about alignment in D&D. So why one more? Apart from the stock "why not" answer, there is a slight twist I want to add that may not have been covered elsewhere. This may not only help understand the characteristics of each alignment choice better, but also help in character creation to define the character's personality in more detail.
Ok... so what's the twist? Well, I think that most people operate under the concept that there are nine basic alignments. A more sophisticated look at alignment considers looking at the law/chaos axis and good/evil axis separately, and that the basic alignments are regions on a chart composed of the two axes. Where a minor fallcy creeps in even here, however, is that there is an underlying assumption that each axis is weighted equally.
In terms of understanding characters and their philosophies, in addition to figuring out where they lie on each axis and deriving the general alignment from it, it is important to determine which axis is more important to the character's personality. In this respect, each alignment can be represented two ways, with the first category being a modifier to the second -- essentially, the second part is the more core philosophy, and the first part is the means to that end. For example, a "Lawful Neutral" is someone who is predominantly Neutral between Good and Evil, and decides that Lawful is the best way to ensure this balance; a "Neutral Lawful" is someone who believes in Lawful philosophy over all else, and chooses Neutrality between Good and Evil to ensure a fair and unbiased application of the law. (Of course, a "Neutral Neutral" doesn't tell you which Neutral is more important, but that's the fault of the game designers for overloading the term.)
The differences can be subtle, but important. In addition to defining a character concept more cleanly (i.e., why they believe what they believe), it shows which direction the character is more likely to show flexibility in terms of philosophy. The "Lawful Neutral" would be more easily influenced toward the Chaotic than toward either Good or Evil, if he/she feels that the restrictions of an ordered society, etc., hinders keeping a balance of good and evil; the "Neutral Lawful", on the other hand, would not be likely to budge from Lawful behavior, but could be convinced that taking a stance toward either Good or Evil would help ensure the proper application of the Lawful philosophy.
Of course, it is important to have clearly defined characteristics for each axis so that generic terms like "Lawful", "Chaotic", "Good", and "Evil" have better context.
Lawful charatcers believe in the rule of law and are likely to be well steeped in tradition (though a highly legalistic society may have such an evolving set of laws that tradition is minimized or ignored). They believe firmly in honor and duty, and expect others they deal with (friends and enemies alike) to abide my the same set of rules. Society (and individuals) should be ordered and governed by principles than can be set down and followed no matter what.
Chaotic characters think that laws, rules, and regulations are too restrictive. Each individual should choose his or her own path based on the current situation and the dictates of their own conscience. Tradition is something that can be learned from, but it should never constrain someone from doing what they think is best. They are likely to simply ignore or undermine legal structures, depending on how restrictive they are toward the character's goals and philosophies.
Neutral characters, of course, seek a balance of the two. On one side, things are too restrictive, on the other, too anarchistic. This person is more likely to believe that laws, rules, etc., are all well and good, but that there are times they need to be set aside. The phrase "situational ethics" comes to mind with Neutrals on this axis.
I don't know if anything is more misunderstood in D&D than the distinction of "Good" and "Evil". Specifically on the latter, I think most people envision "Evil" characters/NPCs are those who go around spitting small children on the ends of spears and then roasting them over fires built on their parents' homes. As a hobby. I think "Evil" in game terms is just a tad more subtle than that.
Good characters are essentially altruistic. The needs of society in general outweigh their own needs or desires, and helping out those in distress is simply the right thing to do. Rewards may be taken, as long as they are given freely and are not an undue burden on the giver. The helpless must never be harmed, or allowed to come to harm through avoidable inaction.
Evil characters basically concerned about themselves, and themselves alone. The rest of the world can burn, as long as they get the power, wealth, knowledge, etc. that they desire for themselves. While the "Evil" category contains true sociopaths, this masks the more typical evil -- those who are quite willing to use, abuse, and discard anyone or anything that gets in their way. The rest of the time, they have little to no use for people at all. Putting themselves at any risk had best be counterbalanced by a disproportionate reward.
Neutral characters, being by definition in between the two extremes, can basically be defined as rugged individualists. They are mostly concerned about themselves, but have some level of social responsibility. Generally, they feel that people are responsible for themselves, so they expect to be rewarded for helping someone out, and don't expect to place themselves at high risk for doing so (unless the anticipated reward matches the risk). Acting in such a way as to intentionally hurt innocents is pretty much off-limits, unless a very compelling reason exists. Inaction that causes harm to innocents is acceptable, especially if the price of action is risky.
Going back to the original example... a "Lawful Neutral" believes primarily in himself or herself, and has some ambivalence about society as a whole. This person believes that he or she can make their way best in a predictable, ordered system that ensures relatively fair dealing, and therefore, reasonable compensation for any services rendered.
The "Neutral Lawful" on the other hand, is convinced that a rigid code of conduct or legal system is the best thing for himself or herself, and probably society in general, too. The consequences of following the laws are irrelevant -- they are there for a good reason, and if people get hurt in the process, it is regrettably unavoidable and a necessary cost -- unbiased application of the system is required regardless of result.
The "Chaotic Good" character differs from the "Good Chaotic" character -- the former believes that "Good" is best achieved by freedom from rules, regulations, and laws. The latter is a generally an anarchist (who can either "opt out" of a rigid society or rail against it) who feels that helping people out will show them that laws and rules aren't necessary as long as good will exists.
More so than anything else, this is intended to help flesh out the character design concept. As a secondary goal, it should hopefully help characters play their chosen alignments better -- not only staying within alignment, but knowing how to "lean" away from it one way, but not the other.
When creating a character, make sure to define not only where they stand on each axis, but which one is most important to that character. Then ask yourself the questions of:
Why does the character feels that way?
How much more important is that aspect vs. the other?
How does the secondary aspect follow from belief in the first?
How likely would the character be to change his/her mind on the secondary aspect?