[Let's Read] 5E Player's Handbook

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
My real problem with the Transmutation school is that the effects seem largely all over the place. Sure, you've got two "change X into Y" effects of questionable utility and one polymorph effect. But then you have a mish-mash of weird buffs, healing, and resurrection. What? Why does holding onto the Philosopher's Stone give me +10 speed?
Because expeditious retreat is a transmutation spell, for some reason.
 

RadioKen

mailed a second mongoose
RPGnet Member
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Because expeditious retreat is a transmutation spell, for some reason.
Physical buffs fall under the Transmutation umbrella, because they change the physical properties of a creature. And expeditious retreat is considered a physical buff because it boosts your movement.

Not necessarily the way I would have done it, but there's a logic.
 

Kiiratam

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I vote for a Dragonborn Cleric, rolled ability scores.
Second character? Halfling fey warlock.
I second halfling warlock! Using point buy to avoid depressing characters with lots of negative scores like poor Casa above..
Tiefling warlock with familiar, is somehow always distrusted.
Let’s lean into the body horror with a Halfling
Looks like our second character is a halfling feylock. I'm going to go with point buy, mostly for variety/contrast.

Step 1) Halfling. +2 Dex, usually LG, Small, move 25;, Lucky (reroll 1 on 1d20 rolls), Brave (Adv. vs fear), Halfling Nimbleness (move through the space of any creature larger than you). Speak Common and Halfling.

We get to pick a subrace: Lightfoot or Stout. Seeing as how Lightfoot gives a CHA bonus, I'm going with that one. (But, really, for the sake of geneology, our halfling is only three-quarters Lightfoot. Their maternal grandmother was descended from the curious union of a Stout and, well, let's just say there's a little mist in our family tree.) Lightfoot gives us +1 CHA and Naturally Stealthy (can hide when obscured by a creature of Medium+).

Step 2) Warlock. 1d8 hp, +2 Proficiency (light armour, simple weapons, WIS, CHA, two skills), Otherworldly Patron (Archfey, and thus Fey Presence and Expanded Spell List), Pact Magic. We get two cantrips and two spells known, but, like equipment, we'll wait until we get there. I'm going with Deception and Nature as skills, since those are appropriately feyish. We're going to want Stealth, and maybe Survival. Persuasion and Insight would also be nice.

Step 3) Abilities. I'm prioritizing CHA, DEX, and CON, in that order. With 27 points to spend, we buy the max CHA possible (15). That leaves us with 18 points. We don't care about STR at all, so we'll put zero points in it, leaving it at 8. We're a halfling; we're not meant to be swing around surf-board-sized swords, like some twiceling. WIS... I'm just gonna buy the 'common sense' merit, since we made the most reasonable pact. So WIS 10, costing 2 points, which leaves 16. Because I'm perverse, and want to emphasize that the warlock fluff was not well thought-out, we're also leaving INT at 8. It's not that they're stupid; just intellectually lazy. Besides, they ferreted out secrets by talking and schmoozing, none of that 'writing' nonsense that everyone else goes on about. So that leaves DEX and CON, which we can both set at 14, costing 7 points each. That leaves us with 2 points, which I'm just going to chuck into WIS, bring us to 12. All told, before halfling adjustments:
STR 8 DEX 14 CON 14 INT 8 WIS 12 CHA 15
And after:
STR 8 DEX 16 CON 14 INT 8 WIS 12 CHA 16

Which brings us to Step 4 and Chapter 4: Personality and Background.

What separates two nameless male human fighters with Great Weapon Fighting Style? About ten minutes of gameplay and a failed save.

But seriously, the deets (once you get high enough level). Names get short shrift, which is a shame. You can do a lot with a name, as I'm sure all of us who agonize over name selection can tell you. I tend to use Nemo for throwaway characters, or in ironman/roguelike situations. Casa was a shortening from Cassandra, which fit with the other PC, Andromache. Sex is next (Which they do expand to cover "sex, gender, and sexual behavior"), and we get a brief paragraph on Corellon, and I'm just going to reproduce the paragraph in full.

5e PHB said:
You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous, for example, and some elves n the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character's sexual orientation is for you to decide.
It's not perfect, but it's more than D&D has done before. My understanding was that Corellon was genderfluid, and that 'androgynous' was more of a description, applied to various nonbinary folks. But I have imperfect understanding, which is part of why I reproduced the entire paragraph. Any non-cis folks care to offer a critique?

We get a sidebar: Tika and Artemis: Contrasting Characters. It gives a brief summary of both characters (human fighters from the streets), but offers enough initial expansion that we can see the differences. Like Bruenor in Chapter 1, these two are our official example characters. However, since I don't care about either of them, we're going to be using our example characters. Well, Casa (mk II). The halfling warlock is the thread's problem. To actually tackle the Sex part: Casa is Cis-female, bisexual in theory, but hot dudes get 'oh, he's cute', and hot ladies reduce her to a stammering wreck.

Height and Weight repeats some of the same silliness with regard to size and ability scores, then gives us a random table. Unlike the similar tables in 3E, it doesn't distinguish between sexes. Casa is not a small woman, so I'm just going to take the maximum, which gives us a height of 6'4" and a weight of 270lbs. Relative to the 3E human female max, she's gained five inches and 35 pounds. And apparently they lifted the intro paragraph from 3E entirely.

HA WLK stats to follow, once I roll dice. Height is 2'7" + 2d4 inches. Weight is 35 + (height roll) lbs. Rolled a 5, so 3'0", 40lbs.

Other Physical Characteristics get a tiny paragraph. Age, colouration, possible unusual characteristic (limp, scar, ink, etc). Casa isn't exactly sure how old she is, but probably in her early twenties once she starts adventuring. She has medium-dark skin, and raggedly-cut short hair. Her aqua eyes and bright red hair mark her out as a Peri, a folk who are prone to non-human colourations and ancestries. Casa had a rough early life, and the many and varied scars to prove it. The most notable she hides: her right hand is skeletal (but still fully functional), from a bad encounter with negative energy. Typically, she wears a gauntlet and vambrace to hide it.

Alignment is next. It's exactly what you expect - alignment is not a straightjacket, individuals vary, and only a very few are perfect and consistent with regard to their alignment. The alignment descriptions are standard, but they have a few paragraphs on the end. And it's 'goodly gods created races with free will, and evil gods created races to serve them.' Which, given we have several current threads on orcs, drow, and decolonizing D&D, I'm really just going to skip over. Alignment remains a mess. But hey, they carried over Unaligned, instead of shoving them under Neutral.

Casa didn't actually have an alignment (one of the many things the game changed), but I'm just going to peg her as Neutral Good. She helps the helpless, is bad at actually earning a living wage doing so, and sees merits in an ordered society and in following your conscience.

Languages remain uninspired (though they do have a dwarvish, elvish and draconic alphabets at the bottom of the page). Standard languages are Common, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Gnomish, Goblin, Halfling, and Orc. Exotic languages (requiring DM permission) are Abyssal, Celestial, Deep Speech (aberrations, basically), Draconic, Infernal, Primordial, Sylvan, and Undercommon. Some languages are actually language groups with mutually intelligible dialects. Look, you can do interesting things with languages. I wrote a piece about minor benefits languages could offer. Two examples from another setting:
Spoiler: Show

Gloaming
A language of peace and contemplation, it is one of the sacred mysteries of Shift. It is not a precise language, but almost seems to operate on dream-logic. One who speaks it can sleep on a skull to commune with the dead (as speak with dead, but only two questions are permitted, and you gain no other benefit from that long rest).

Mirror
The language of Slide and zheir courts. It allows one to speak with faeries of the deep earth, with birds, and with any one of your seven doubles in the world. It is also the language spoken by identical twins. The written form requires the use of a mirror to write or read.


Look, not everyone is Professor Tolkien. But language is kind of key to communication, and y'all made Social Interactions one of the THREE PILLARS OF ADVENTURE. So maybe, you know, offer so cool stuff? Casa mk 2 has a completely different language list, so I'm just going to go ahead and choose Halfling, so she and our other example character can have an obscure language to chat in.

Personality Characteristics get a bit more room. They break them down into personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds. Plus whatever else you want to think up. A lot of the space of backgrounds is devoted to related characteristics.

Two personality traits: 'interesting and fun' is how they put it. Not quite One Unique Thing, but similar. They recommend looking at your highest and lowest ability scores. Casa was Hardened By The Streets, so she doesn't trust easily, she doesn't like talking to people she doesn't know, and she's not much fun at parties unless she's doing Stupid Axe Tricks. She was Never Allowed to Be a Child, due to her terrible early life. That does mean, however, that she delights in some things that normal people take for granted. And some deeply weird things, like the aforementioned Stupid Axe Tricks.

An ideal that drives and motivates you. What is your moral core (or lack thereof)? Alignment is a good place to start from. And again, the Backgrounds have suggestions. In Casa's case, at the start of the campaign, she's kind of in a bad spot. Imagine, if you will, any number of games that flashes your current objective onscreen. Casa's been seeing the current objective "Survive" for a long time now. With bonus objectives: "Sleep Well", "Sleep Uneasily", and "Don't wake up screaming from your nightmares". Her ideal is I want to survive, but I need to live with myself.

Bonds are connections to other people, places, and events. Much like ideals, they can motivate you. They can tie in to just about any aspect of your character. In the original game, Casa would 100% have a bond to one of her adventuring companions (Andromache, a swashbuckler with romantic ideals from a filthy rich family). For the sake of this LR, though, I'm going to give her a bond of our halfling warlock. We'll hash out the exact details when we know more,

Flaws are exactly what you'd expect. They should be more serious than just a negative personality trait. It should be something that can make you act against your own best interest, something that can ruin you. Your tragic flaw, if you will. Casa? Casa's problem is that she Never Thinks of the Consequences. Leap through a third story window after a ghost? Fall in love with the girl from the family that the city is named for? Swear a blood oath with people you don't know all that well? A lot of her problems are of her own making, and it's debatable whether she really gets this, unless someone explains it to her.

Last up is Inspiration, which, given the amount of 'if's and 'can's, is actually optional. I certainly haven't used it yet. Get inspiration from roleplaying, spend inspiration to get advantage. Players can also hand their inspiration to other players. You can only have inspiration or not have it. No banking it for a rainy day. I mean, it's a quarter-page meta-currency which isn't connected to anything but role-playing and DM fiat. There's not a ton here. Nothing to inspire the catty commentary two of my players indulged in during Mutants & Masterminds, farming hero points with their Competitive flaws.

Casa, NG female feat-human Fighter 1
STR 15 (+2; +4 Saves) DEX 9 (-1) CON 14 (+2; +4 Saves) INT 7 (-2) WIS 8 (-1) CHA 9 (-1) HP 12
Proficiencies (+2): All weapons, All armour Skills Athletics +4, Perception +1; +1 human skill.
Class Features Fighting Style (Great Weapons), Second Wind (1d10+1)
Speaks Common & Halfling, human bonus feat.
6"4", 270lb. Bright red ragged hair. Dark skin, aqua eyes. Skeletal right hand (concealed by gauntlet).
Traits: Hardened By The Streets, Never Allowed to Be a Child.
Ideal: I want to survive, but I need to live with myself.
Bond: to ???
Flaw: Never Thinks of the Consequences

???, ??? lightfoot halfling Warlock 1 (Archfey)
STR 8 (-1) DEX 16 (+3) CON 14 (+2) INT 8 (-1) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 16 (+3) HP 10
Proficiencies (+2): Simple weapons, Light armour Skills Deception +5, Nature +1.
Class Features Expanded Spell List, Fey Presence, Pact Magic (2 catrips, 2 1st circle)
Move 25', Small, Lucky, Brave, Halfling Nimbleness, Naturally Stealthy.
Speaks Common & Halfling.
3'0", 40lb.

So, votes: We need an appropriately Halfling-y name, gender, and other physical characteristics. We also need alignment, two personality traits, an ideal, a bond, and a flaw.

Next time, Backgrounds!
 
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BarefootHobbit

psychic dog-walker
Validated User
Exotic languages (requiring DM permission) are Abyssal, Celestial, Deep Speech (aberrations, basically), Draconic, Infernal, Primordial, Sylvan, and Undercommon.
I didn't notice that exotic languages were supposed to need GM permission. I always take one of those and never ask!

I also didn't realise that you can take thieves' cant or druidic as a language. That could be useful.
 

Kiiratam

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Leaving the halfling warlock voting open for a bit, since I'm doing this much faster than I usually do.

I forgot to mention a piece of art, the frontspiece for the chapter. It's another one of those pieces of halfling art:

I mean, it's a halfling with shoes. Weirdo.

Backgrounds are not new, exactly, but they're newish to D&D. At least so far as a thing you pick at 1st level that gives your character extra features. Sure, you could be a human and dual-class at 1st level for vaguely the same effect (see dual-classing Imoen to mage at 1st level, because you're impatient). 3E had ancestry/regional feats that could only be taken at 1st level, and were about half-again as powerful as a regular feat. 4E eventually implemented Backgrounds, but they weren't in the PHB, and their implementation was shaky. Likewise with Themes, especially since they gave you options, not automatic new powers. But in 5E, they're in the PHB.

What backgrounds do is give you a bunch of hooks and story cues. First off, why are you an adventurer? What made you leave you your background? How did you get your class training, given your background?

Backgrounds give you: two skill proficiencies, and possibly a tool or two. If you would get one of those proficiencies from another source, you can pick a different one. Some backgrounds give you extra languages. If you're using standard equipment packages, as opposed to money, you also get some gear. It also suggests various characteristics. They give you some suggestions on making or customising your own backgrounds,

Before we get into it, we have some art: A man, presumably a cleric, from the solar iconography and mace, in heavy armour, gloved hand on chest, white and gold cloak with cowl up. Dude belongs on a white mana card.

Continuing the tavern theme of the frontspiece, there's a full-page piece of a tavern brawl. We've got a male orc-type getting slugged with a mug by a female barbarian-type, a gold elf using magically-assisted punches on a bearded human, a goblin and dwarf grappling, a tiefling shoving a drow into a well (I guess that makes this the Yawning Portal Inn), and three more folks in the back. A man who is so disappointed with his party members, a man who is either going to join in momentarily, or is enjoying the free show, and the poor barmaid, who is already figuring how long it's going to take to clean up. It's a good piece. Reminds me of the 30th anniversary piece by Lockwood.

(Artist page)

Acolyte
Not necessarily a cleric, but quite possibly actually a priest. Could also have been an actual acolyte, or taken on holy orders of some kind. Or you were in a cult. Insight and Religion as skills, two languages of your choice (clerical skills!), and the equipment is a holy symbol, holy book, meditation aid, vestments, regular clothes, and 15gp. Your feature lets you get free healing etc at temples of your faith (you must provide material components). You can be supported by your church at a modest lifestyle. Near your home temple, you can call on the local priests for assistance. The suggested characteristics are tied to their faith, and they mention hypocrisy and heresy as possible negative bits.

Most of my problems with this are tied into D&D's deeply weird assumptions about religion. The feature would be pretty great in a world where there was one dominant faith, or one filled with pantheonic temples. But D&D has always gone henotheistic, which kind of makes the feature aggressively DM dependent. As opposed to 'Is there a catholic church in town?' 'You're in 13th century Italy. There are four.'

Charlatan
Despite the fiction being all about being able to read people, and sell them on implausible things, Charlatans don't get Insight as a skill. Instead, they get Deception and Sleight of Hand. Tools are disguise and forgery kits. Kit is fine clothes, a disguise kit, gear for a con of your choice (including loaded dice, marked cards, fake signet ring, and fake potions), and 15gp. The feature gives you a second (fake) identity, complete with documentations, acquaintances, and established look. Characteristics depend whether you're looking to define the mask, or the damaged person underneath it. Table for your typical con.

I dunno, you could probably split that into Charlatan and Gambler. Either way, obvious rogue background.

Criminal
Oh look, it's the other obvious rogue background. You're close to the criminal underworld, though one profession or another. Skills are Deception and Stealth. Tools are gaming set and thieves' tools, kit is a crowbar, stealthy clothes, and 15gp. The feature is a criminal contact, who they specify you can get in contact with at great distances. The contact links you in to the underworld at large. I would have made it their fence or fixer, specifically. And make it so they have a reputation you can trade on to get your foot in the door in foreign underworlds. Characteristics are either play up the villainous behaviour, or point to thieves with hearts of gold. Table for your particular set of criminal skills. Which, looking at it, has a lot of 'thug' and 'bandit' on it, which doesn't match up great with the rest of it.

Yeeeeeah, Charlatan and Criminal each have about half of what you'd want for a professional gambler. That's kind of awkward. Poor Lando.

Ooh, it has a variant take at the end of the entry: Spy. Yeah, I watched Burn Notice, I'll buy that.

Two pieces of art, of a set with the male human cleric of White Mana earlier. A red-skinned tiefling in black studded leather and black cowled cloak, and eight blades. Edgy! And a cute gent with a sword, backpack, and pipa. I really like his green-and-gold overshirt, but it's covered by a hideous brown breastplate. Please, for the love of style, match your armour to your clothing.

Entertainer
For bards, people who want to be mistaken for bards, and clowns. Skills are Acrobatics and Performance. Tools are a disguise kit (which I'm reckoning as general make-up proficiency), and one type of musical instrument. Gear is said instrument, a favor from an admirer, a costume, and 15gp. The feature gives you modest or comfortable standard of food and drink when you're performing at a particular venue. Locals who recognize you are usually of friendly disposition. The suggested characteristics, naturally, are dramatic and flamboyant, romantic and idealistic. There's another variant, this with rules changes: the gladiator, which lets you change the musical instrument in your kit to a simple but unusual weapon, "like a trident or net." Doesn't change the tool proficiency to give you proficiency with said weapon, as written, though. There's a table with what kind of entertainer you are, but given that only two of ten actually use musical instruments, and one of those is 'singer'... They may not have really had the mechanical hooks they wanted here.

Heaven defend me from actors. It does what it says on the tin, no muss, no fuss.

Folk Hero
It's your Standard Farmboy Hero. Or non-Noble Robin Hood. Skills are Animal Handling and Survival, Tools are one type of artisan's tools and land vehicles. Gear is appropriate tools, a shovel, an iron pot, common clothes, and 10gp. A table for what marked you out as a folk hero... most of which is level 1-3 stuff, and, you know, might work better as the intro to the campaign. The Feature lets you seek refuge among the commoners, though there's only so much they can do against folk with actual weapons. The characteristics are rustic, and many are linked to their home village.

It feels like they wanted a Commoner origin, but didn't actually have a hook for it. Or a feature.

Guild Artisan
If you hear screaming, it's my various medieval history books and internal monologue. Don't mind them. So, they lay out, in enormously simplified and gamified manner, what a guild is, and how they're not connected to the feudal social order. They're actually master artisans, having already finished their apprenticeship, journyman years, and their mastercraft. Big table of various guilds. Skills are Insight and Persuasion. Tools are one type of artisan's tools. One language. Kit is your tools, a letter of introduction from your guild (very important in something resembling an actual historical setting), traveler's clothes, and 15gp. The feature is guild membership. Dues are 5gp/month (what economy? We're talking 21gp per month to turn a 1gp profit, and that's halving living expenses for a modest lifestyle, since they're not staying in inns all the time), and you need to settle unpaid dues before they give you any benefits. Which aren't bad, per the feature. Food, lodging, funeral expenses. Opportunity to meet patrons, peers, and apprentices. Lawyer support (criminally underused in D&D, given how litigious medieval Europeans were). Access to the guild's political levers with appropriate donations. There's a variant for guild merchants, which exchanges artisan's tools for navigator's tools or another language. And lets you trade the tools in gear for a mule and cart.

Could be worse. Didn't actually make me gnaw my own hand off in a fit of medieval history histrionics. 4/5.

Hermit
Secluded monk/nun/cloistered order, or an actual anchorite. The important thing is that your have the luxury of time for study and prayer. They've got a nice little end-note saying that the outlander is appropriate for 'live off the land' types, the acolyte for less secluded types, and charlatans for, well, folks who pretend to be prophets. It's got a little table for why you live a life of seclusion. Skills are Medicine and Religion. Tool is herbalism kit. Language is one of your choice. Which, seclusion? Maybe you're meant to take an exotic language, achieved during your enlightenment. That would be cool. Kit is a scroll case with notes from your studies, a winter blanket, common clothes, a herbalism kit, and 5gp. The feature is some unique discovery. Which could be anything, really. A great cosmic truth, a lost site, a forgotten relic, a realization from your pre-hermetic past that could be damaging to the mighty, whatever. Talk to your DM. The solitary life, for better or worse, warps their personality.

That's over half (7/13) of the backgrounds. I'll tackle the rest next time, starting with the Noble.
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
Hmm, voting for a male hafling, suggesting Merryfoot as a Last/Sur name.
Also, nature is an intelligence skill, whereas Survival is actually Wilderness Survival[name was shortened between 3e and 3.5e] and is a Wis skill(so with prof bonus it would start at +3 instead of +1) and would still represent feyish knowledge of nature.
I would suggest Perception(good skill to have in general, also Wis based), Survival, then Persuasion and Deception, cuz with his charisma he is are definately getting regulated to the party's face.
There is an argument for a warlock knowing arcana, as an arcane spellcaster, and some also associate s
the Fey with magic, so there are some reasons he might know Arcana, OTOH, as a warlock he didn't study for his power and he isn't the archfey, so he could get by without it.
 
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