Hopefully the geekiest question I will ever ask
March 2, 2009 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Help me build a D&D 3.5 Character

I've been invited into a new D&D 3.5 game with a small group of my friends. I'm 28, and the last time I did anything like this I was 13. I enjoyed it then, and expect to enjoy it now, but I don't have the background going into it that the rest of the group will, and as such find the player's handbook a little bit inscrutable.

A couple of years ago, some of my friends and I tried to create our own TTG, which never came to fruition, but some of us still put a lot of thought and work into what we wanted from it. As the setting for our game was to be steampunk, my character was going to be a saboteur. I still really like this idea, and as far as I can tell, the closest thing in D&D 3.5 is the prestige class of "Arcane Trickster."

So basically what I'm asking is - 1.) Is this actually a fun class, or does it just have a cool name? 2.) What would one generally do with this class in practice? 3.) Should I take a Bard or Rogue track to get there? 4.) Assuming that I want to take the Bard track, would I be better off as a Gnome or a Halfling? 5.) What am I knot thinking of that I need to take into account?

Bonus Question: It'd be awesome if I could get my GF involved in the game as well. Her twin sister is a big TTG fan, but my GF has never played, and has a bad opinion of them from having to sit around doing nothing when visiting her sister while their group played and ignored her. The group we're convening is all friends of hers, and she'll have an open invitation to join, but what might I do to make that offer seem attractive?

As always, thank you all.
posted by Navelgazer to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The prestige classes are "jimmies on the sundae" that you have to work a fair bit to qualify for. Moreover, I don't think the prestige classes are worth the rewards, and certainly not more than a plain-jane multiclass. My advice would be to go Human Rogue, which will give you the broadest base of skills and a bonus starting feat. Get a feel for the 3.5 rules; you will have time to choose to go to a prestige class after several rounds of games.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:57 PM on March 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick answer, Cool Papa Bell. I should also mention that I've always loved playing as thief characters, but that the DM for this game used to play as a Bard and loves the idea of somebody taking up that mantle. I don't know how much narrative freedom the DM is granted in 3.5, so I don't know if that makes a difference, but he seemed excited.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:04 PM on March 2, 2009

Yay D&D!

I would ask your DM about the setting of the campaign and his/her style of play -- e.g. role-playing heavy, combat-heavy, etc. Also, what level are you starting at? If you're starting from level 1, then you have the opportunity to change tracks depending on how the gameplay is. There may be small inconveniences, like if you start as a rogue and put your highest stat value in DEX, but then want to do a rogue/wizard combo (fun and classic, lots of skill points, can make self invisible for sneak attacks, etc), you'll wish you'd put it in INT.

Some people I've played with have arrived at D&D from a drama angle -- they love doing voices, writing convoluted backstories, etc. Some of us are power-gamers who love planning awesome combinations of feats, spells, items, etc. So, the argument will depend on her temperament. It's true that there is generally some time spent looking up rules -- often this is done between the DM and one player. If the rest of the players are friends, that's a great time for general gossip, jokes about the Rod of Splendor, and so forth.
posted by ecsh at 9:08 PM on March 2, 2009

but what might I do to make that offer seem attractive?

You can buy little unpainted figs to customize. Maybe she would like picking out her own and painting her own character.

Agreeing with cool papa bell about the prestige classes. If you haven't played in a while I would try to keep it simple. Especially if you'll be helping your gf with her character.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:13 PM on March 2, 2009

Best answer: As a long-time D&D girl, I'll take on your bonus question.

The allure of Dungeons and Dragons to most girls I've played with, myself included, is the level of customization within character creation and subsequent "taking on the persona" of that character.
If the campaign is not so much hack and slash, but focuses on problem solving, character interaction, and dialogue, I suspect your girlfriend will enjoy it more. Maybe mention this to the DM, and encourage him to have character roleplay be of importance at times.

If it's appropriate in the setting of the game, let her character flirt with yours. It's a fun way to take your relationship to an interesting level.

Hope this helps!

P.S. I was always an elven ranger. A very girly character, but quite fun nonetheless.
posted by derogatorysphinx at 9:16 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's quite a bit of narrative freedom in 3.5 -- my longtime DM created several of his own worlds. Ummmm.... bard. How many players are in your party? If only 4 players, the group probably shouldn't include a bard. The conventional wisdom is that you need a healer (cleric preferred, but druid can work), an arcane caster (SOR or WIZ), some muscle (fighter, barbarian, maybe monk)... and for the fourth, a rogue or one of the alternates not chosen (monk, druid) is a stronger choice than a bard. Rogues can take skill points in Use Magic Device to read scrolls and such, but they aren't as powerful as sorcerers or wizards in that regard. Rangers I've played with have seemed weak, but I suppose they could be useful in an extreme climate or a forest or something. Strength-based clerics can help out with the muscle factor, but you can also craft a cleric with CHA as the primary stat.

Your DM probably isn't going to want to tell you the party makeup if your characters are meeting in-game during the first session... but it's to his advantage to make sure you have a healer, at least. You could probably feel him out about the gaps remaining. Rogues are fun and adaptable depending on the skills you choose; similarly, one sorcerer can be very different from the next depending on the spells chosen. Have fun!
posted by ecsh at 9:21 PM on March 2, 2009

Further to all of this, a good DM doesn't really just go "by the book". The rules can be bent to a certain extent to accommodate the player characters, the campaign, the story and so forth. It's roleplaying, after all, not tablereferencing.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:21 PM on March 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks again to everyone!

Interestingly, aside from the DM (who is a guy, so that we can deal with our pronouns more appropriately) the current group is two women and two men, which I think should help out with my "bonus question." Also, all of us know each other from a theater group (which my gf is a part of as well), so I imagine that we'll be leaning towards role-playing as a default. We're also all lawyers though, so the rules-debates could also take precedence pretty easily...

now I'm wondering if this was all such a good idea after all
posted by Navelgazer at 9:22 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: and to ecsh: we're looking at a Wizard, a Sorcerer, and either a Paladin or possibly a Ranger aside from me. Who knows what my gf would choose. All of that is making me think I might be better off as a Rogue.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:24 PM on March 2, 2009

To be honest, I've never felt the prestige classes were worth much, really. They've always seemed like a substitute for having a solid character concept to start with. I think your best approach is to discuss what you've got in mind with the DM beforehand; perhaps the two of you can agree on a suitable class/prestige class, or even modify something to suit the game and your concept. E.g., if you're a rogue, perhaps you swap out trapfinding for something more saboteurish.

One thing that just occurred to me is that you might want to check out some of the options in "Complete Adventurer" and "Complete Scoundrel", if your DM is allowing those books. I know there's a scout class that might work for you in Complete Adventurer, and Complete Scoundrel has a bunch of stuff for roguish types.
posted by Janta at 9:34 PM on March 2, 2009

Halfling rogues are wonderfully fun to play. I played in several campaigns not too long ago, and my halfling rogue was awesome. You'll want to have high dex, int, and wis (for spot checks, etc) OR cha (for talking and using bluff, etc). Halflings make great rogues due to size bonuses. You'll of course want to make sure your race doesn't conflict with that of the others in your party. Also note, we played as an evil party so that may have made the rogue bit somewhat more fun from my angle.

Try not to rules-lawyer too much, and allow the DM his leeway, otherwise you could spend too much time arguing and too little time having fun.

As for your gf, heh. It really really depends on the girl. Out of myself and my three other female friends who are into D&D, I like rogues, one likes fighters, one likes high-damage dealing casters, and one likes barbarians. If your DM will allow it, have her sit in on a session or two and see how it goes.
posted by Night_owl at 9:50 PM on March 2, 2009

Gnomes are smaller than Halflings, I think (not sure about whether this applies in 3.5), so if your saboteur wants to pass unnoticed or be able to access tiny machine parts, you might like to be a gnome.

From the group you've outlined, you seem to need a tank. If your girlfriend fancied being a warrior sort, you could fight as a team, with her engaging enemies toe-to-toe so you could Sneak Attack them. Also, a fighter or barbarian of the "RRAARGH! SHE-HULK SMASH!" sort might be an amusing contrast with two arcane casters and a goody-two-shoes paladin or hippie ranger...
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:40 AM on March 3, 2009

Best answer: Your party makeup is healer light, so if I was joining I would tend to favour the Bard. They can back up the Paladin with healing, if necessary. But Bards are more buff machines than saboteurs, so that might not work with your concept. Still, I can kind of picture a smooth operator type, all flash and easy smiles, who uses his charm to distract people while he works on his latest bit of sabotage.

There is a trapsmith prestige class in Complete Scoundrel - I can't remember the name of it and its still packed away - that is really great for a saboteur type. They are able to work with traps in single standard and move actions, much faster than anyone else, and therefore can effectively trap things while in combat. The only downside is the DCs to avoid them are pretty easy at first. I played this prestige class for a while coming into it from Ninja and enjoyed it. Its also a 'short' prestige class, 5 levels, so it doesn't take too much away from base class abilities.

If you're going Bard, I would go Gnome (ghost sound is great for distracting people), high CHA, DEX, INT, don't skimp on the CON. :) If you're going Rogue, then Halfling, DEX, CHA, INT. Again, that's just me. Human is always a good choice because of the extra feat and skill points, which for a rogue-type character always seem to be in short supply.

If your GF's complaint about TTG was she was bored because people ignored her, then I would talk to the group before hand and encourage everyone - not just you - to help her with making a character, painting a mini, and working on integrating her concept into the rest of the group. Just work hard on making her feel included and actually part of things. Maybe have someone (who isn't you) be her 'rules buddy' for the first few sessions, again so she is getting the attention she needs and not just from you but from the group.

Hope you have fun.
posted by sandraregina at 4:40 AM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: So here's the update:

I'm playing as a Rogue, with an interest in multi-classing as a Bard once I get a feel for the rules and gameplay.

More importantly: I had the talk inviting my girlfriend in. Here's a summary of how it went.

Me: So here's something that's going to make you scream in frustration. [Name extracted] is starting a D&D game, and since it's going to be happening at my apartment anyway-
GF: /screams in frustration (seriously)
Me: It'll be on Saturday afternoons-
GF: Saturdays?!
(note: due to our work/school schedules, Saturdays are when we get to hang out and be lazy together)
Me: I'm mentioning this because you have an open invitation to join the group (and here I name the members of the group, who are all friends of hers)
Me: You see, I played these a lot when I was 12 or 13, but those were mostly purely narrative games, and not these dice kinds of things, so I don't know what this will be like.
GF: But the dice are cool.
Me: ...I think I'm going to be a Rogue.
GF: What are the classes in this?
Me: well, I'm not going to remember all of them, but... Barbarian-
GF: /laughs
Me: Yeah, well, and similar to that are Fighter and Paladin, but Paladins have to be lawful good.
GF: Nah, that's boring.
Me: And Wizards and Sorcerers-
GF: What's the difference?
Me: I honestly don't know. And Bards, of course, and Rangers - they're like archers, as I understand it-
GF: Ooh!
GF:Wait, so what are the "races"?
Me: Um... Human, Elf, Half-elf, Halfling-
GF: Like Hobbits?
Me: Yeah, but not exactly, and Half-Orcs, Gnomes, Dwarves, and... um...
GF: (meekly) I want to be an Elf.

Before going to bed tonight, she looked over the players handbook excitedly, and confirmed that, yes derogatorysphynx, she wants to play as an Elvin Ranger. She also confirmed that she is not the type who would want to flirt with me in-game, however.

Still, it was kind of awesome chatting with her tonight and her telling me that, if I really want to play as a Rogue, I'm going to need to be halfling if I want to be serious about it. ALl of this in a matter of hours. Thank you all for your help. I'm going to call this "resolved," but if anyone has any more tips, please please please feel free to add them.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:02 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

So, uh, it will be great fun if she changes her mind about flirting with you in-game. Considering that you're gonna be a size category smaller than she is. That should be interesting. Good luck to you both!
posted by Night_owl at 9:22 AM on March 5, 2009

but if anyone has any more tips, please please please feel free to add them.

All the different numbers and modifiers, feat and skills can be a bit confusing for a first-timer so during the game you or the DM should be prepared to help figure things out about her characater if she needs you.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 10:55 PM on March 17, 2009

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