Gming Campaign Building
The World Campaign Era
Campaign Feel
Designing Worlds of Adventure
Populating the World Power Level & Character Points
Creating PC Templates
Selecting Options

For many games, there are often prevalent or over-arcing abilities which can cover an entire profession, or even a whole race of creatures! And for other games, your players just may just prefer a more class-like system for creating characters than a point-buy one. This section offers help and guidelines for creating PC templates, which will go a long way to cutting down the workload for players trying to create characters which fit into your game's world.

Racial PackagesEdit

Racial Packages are meant to represent what would be classified as "races" in other roleplaying games. Racial templates are useful in games where different kinds of non-human races are common, especially fantasy games (where elves, dwarves, and similar creatures might coexist with humans) and space opera games (where dozens of alien species could exist).

How Expensive Should a Racial Package Be?Edit

How pricey to make a template depends on how many special abilities a race might have and how important you want those abilities to be relative to the rest of the character's abilities. For creatures similar in ability overall to humans, a 5-10 character point racial package is relatively fair. More powerful creatures will have increasingly more powerful racial packages, to the point where a character of that race might have few abilities other than his or her racial abilities.

How to Balance Racial PackagesEdit

Racial packages can be relatively easily balanced by comparing the creatures to "average" humans. Are they more dexterous, or tougher, or less charismatic? Is their eyesight better or are they blind?

You have the option of "building in" drawbacks and negatives to racial packages to help balance them. For example, a race of elves might be nimble but frail (with a +1 bonus to Dexterity but a -1 penalty to Constitution, for a net cost of 0 character points), or a particularly bizarre-looking alien species might stick out enough in a crowd of mostly humanoid creatures that is warrants the Noticeable drawback (reducing the cost of the racial package by 1 character point).

So long as you keep in mind that the average human on the street with 0s in all of his ability scores is the baseline average for d20 Advanced conceptually, you won't have a hard time creating racial packages.

Sample Racial PackagesEdit

Below are two sample racial packages for popular fantasy races. Note that they are both relatively inexpensive packages, and are appropriate for characters even at low power levels.

DWARF Racial Package, 6 cp

  • Ability Scores: +1 Constitution, -1 Charisma (0 cp)
  • Skills: Endurance +1, Survival (Mountains) +1 (2 cp)
  • Feats: Attack Specialization (Axes) 1, Profession (Miner) 1 (2 cp)
  • FX: Enhanced Senses (Vision Counters Obscure (Darkness)) (2 cp)

ELF Racial Package, 6 cp


Whereas racial packages would represent where a character started (his race, species, whatever), roles more represent what a character's place within the game-world is. For some games, this might be something like the character's profession (such as soldier, spy, knight, wizard, or reporter). More generally, it might just be the generic niche the character fits within the party (such as controller, defender, leader, or striker), and is largely genre-independent.

Roles as ProfessionsEdit

Almost all genres include some fairly archetypal roles. Fantasy in particular has the traditional three-man group of the Warrior, the Thief, and the Mage. When trying to construct roles for your game in this way, it's important to decide just which roles are important to your setting, and which are relatively unimportant. Do you want to create a role for any of the dozens of possible profession adventure-seekers in your game might have, or would you prefer only a few generic-but-customizable professions the players can choose from?

You may base your answer on how much or how little your players enjoy customization of their characters. If they'd rather just play a simple archetype, it might be best to have a wider number of options for the players to choose from for their roles. If you think they'd be happier with a little more customization, then going for more generic roles is probably your better bet. (Then again, if you don't feel strongly about enforcing archetypes and your players are eager to customize, then feel free to let them loose on the standard character creation system!)

Roles as Party NichesEdit

If you're playing a game where "adventuring roles" are less easily defined, or something you'd rather not enforce setting-specific roles within your game, you may instead offer your players the chance to use more generic roles that define how they act in the party, instead of how they fit into the world as a whole. In this way, these roles become applicable across many different genres, and can be used across multiple games with minimal conversion.

Roles Instead of Point-Buy?Edit

Should you use roles as a starting-point from which your players can jump off to develop their characters as they see fit? Or should roles become the default by which character increase in ability ("leveling up" in their roles with each successive power level)? Which is a better fit for your group?

The answer to this question lies again in how much your group likes customizing their characters, and how much your players enjoy improving their characters. Especially if coming from a game with levels and classes, restricting character development to only "leveling up" in roles is probably going to be well within your group's comfort level.

Alternatively, you can provide the characters roles only to start, and allow them to spend character points normally from that point forward to improve their characters with the standard point-buy method. In this way, you can provide a solid starting-point for players (especially those new to character creation in d20 Advanced) from which they can explore the character creation system and get more comfortable with it. They might not be ready to use the more open, flexible point-buy system right from the get-go, but with a little bit more experience with the game, they might be willing to try for the second game, or when it comes time to make a new character for an existing game.

Constructing RolesEdit

Roles are actually relatively simple to construct. All that you really need to do is to provide enough structure that the roles are clearly defined while still allowing enough "wiggle room" for the players to make the roles their own. Ideally, for each power level you have in the role, you will spend 15 character points on abilities. The only exception to this is that at power level 1, those 15 points should go almost exclusively towards "background" things for the character, like racial package, ability scores, background feats, starting equipment, etc.

The brief walk-through below will give the example of creating a woodsman or ranger role for a fantasy game.

Step 1: Trained SkillsEdit

Each power level in a role will increase certain skills which are considered "trained" for that role. This includes both combat skills (such as a skill point in a specific weapon group, defense), resistances (like will and fortitude), and other non-combat skills. Which skills you select depend on the role itself.

For the ranger, we probably want to make sure that the role has access to clearly "woodsman-y" skills, so we'll make the role trained in "Survival (Forest)", "Reflex" and "Athletics". We should also represent combat training with "Defense" and "Attack (Bows)". For resistances, rangers are often supposed to be eagle-eyed and hardy, so adding training in "Fortitude" and "Perception" are appropriate. This has already taken 7 of our 15 alloted points for any given power level.

Step 2: Proficient SkillsEdit

If there are skills which a role should have training in, but isn't necessarily a defining feature in the role, you should consider making some skills only "proficient", which implies that the role is good with the skill, but not great. Proficient skills increase most (but not all) levels. Ever four level, you skip increasing ranks in a proficient skill (and it is often at these power levels that the role gets other special abilities, see below).

When considering our ranger, it might be fair to add "Endurance" as a proficient skill. Rangers won't be as good with endurance as hardier roles might be, but they're also quite good at it, overall. This means we've spent 8 of our alloted 15 character points (with one spot open every four levels).

Step 3: FX, Feats, and Special AbilitiesEdit

You should also decide if there are any special abilities which the role you are creating calls for. These would include consistently-increasing or periodically-increasing ranks in ranked feats or FX. You need not improve these abilities at every level, and it's okay to "underspend" at one power level in the role's progression to afford something at a later level.

For our ranger, the first thing that comes to mind is some sort of loyal animal, which would be well-represented by gaining a rank in Ally every level. We have also been neglecting our ranger's woodsy-side. This might be a good time to grant our ranger a little bit of extra bite. One option would be to grant our ranger a rank in Favored Opponent every other level. This would increase the cost of our ranger to 10 character points every other level (and 9 at every even level). Opposite Favored Opponent at even levels, we could make our ranger more magical ranger and allow him to entangle an enemy with Inflict (movement and attack, Snare extra, Reflex resists) to represent undergrowth springing up to snare an enemy the ranger touches. This will not be the ranger's most powerful attack, but it will still be an option for him. Then, every four power levels, we can grant our ranger an Alternate FX for his snare as a small array of "nature magic" spell (perhaps including Conceal and Enhanced Senses). The cost for our ranger is now 10 character points per level.

Step 4: Feat PackagesEdit

Since most feats are one-off abilities, it's generally a good idea to leave about 1/3 of a role's alloted character points "free" for the player to invest at each power level as he sees fit, such as dabbling in a skill which the role otherwise won't have ranks in. You should also consider listing feats which are a good thematic fit for the role but aren't granted automatically to the role. You might also want to recommend some additional skills which could make a good choice for the role.

For our ranger, some good potential matches include (but are by no means limited to) Animal Empathy, Critical Strike, Favored Environment, Move-By Action, Precise Shot, Hide In Plain Sight, Ambidexterity, Direction Sense, and Track. In general, you want the feat package to include about two or three feats for every power level you plan on running the character through, to leave lots of choices.

Step 5: The Finishing TouchesEdit

Once you've decided on a progression for the role, now you need to clarify on how that role fits into your world. What kinds of people fill that role? What are they like? Why do people of this role go adventuring? How do they approach combat, or other important conflicts in your game? What is their purpose in your world?

For our ranger, we can describe the role as one of an ancient, distant organization dedicated to hunting and purging the woods on the fringes of civilization of monsters that would threaten innocent people. They've learned a little bit of nature magic over the years from their time as students of elven mages, but still mostly rely on their trusty bows to see them through fights. They're efficient and dangerous woodsmen, who are often unable to find a happy life within society but who still seek to protect the people of that society. So instead they live on the fringes and frontiers, helping to clear the way for the cities and towns and farmers they left behind, and patrolling the borders to keep them all safe.

Special PackagesEdit

In addition to these options, you have another way in which you can help to control and provide guidance for the players in creating their characters which are more self-contained and work better with the standard point-buy system. Special packages allow you to supplement most approaches to character creation (including roles) with slightly more standardized abilities for players. This can be helpful in giving your players a starting point for creating their characters, or provide them with paths to follow in improving existing characters (which grant you additional balance oversight since you were the one who created these packages in the first place).

Packages are built around specific themes (almost always tied to one or more features) using different numbers of character points to build them. Minor special packages are usually below 30 character points and don't constitute a major part of the characters' abilities. Moderate special packages are generally between 30-60 character points, are can be a significant part of the characters' overall abilities. Major special packages are going to be the focus of the character, or barring that, one of the single most important abilities the character has.