Let's take a quick look at a lovely little game of sanity, horror, and the cosmos.
Call Of Cthulhu has had a long, satisfying run, and though the major mechanics have pulled away from the influences of 4th edition and Pathfinder (like COC D20) in favor of more nuanced D100 play, the theming and expectations have stayed consistent.
Let's get one thing out of the way immediately: this is not a game of HEROES.
In fact, so much of what we see in play and in its surrounding lore supports and reinforces the idea that each of us, though a cut above the average human and exceptional in some way, are just regular people. And with that, subject to mental breakdowns, psychic attack, possession, and a quick, gruesome death. We are squishy, delicate bags of flesh just doing their best against forces we have little knowledge of.
This is ELDRITCH HORROR. Dark shadows, tentacle beasts, unexplained occult, and the energy of grasping at the very edge of understanding - just enough to be able to act - in the face of very likely doom.
And anyone who plays this game, KNOWS THAT. They know they might get decapitated if they take a wrong turn and roll badly; they know that their character's life is inconsequential to the grand scheme of the universe, and they're here for it. This is a game of atmosphere, immersion, PROPS, and cosmic horror.
So, noting the fact that I am alone in my den while my wife is at work pondering about my singular not-hero in a cosmic horror dystopia without the help of a Keeper (the GM)...I still find the best way to begin understanding a system is to comb through and make yourself an adventurer! ...I mean...INVESTIGATOR!
This is not your daddy's D&D. Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition utilizes 8 "pools" of specific characteristics for your Investigator, plus a Luck attribute. Each one is generated *a little* differently, but each one will use some combination of rolling some D6's and multiplying by 5.
We'll take a look at each one while we generate it:
STRENGTH (STR) - 3d6 x 5
My roll: 15 x 5 = 75
Strength is tied to one's athleticism and ability in hand-to-hand combat. Pretty straightforward.
CONSTITUTION (CON) - 3d6 x 5
My roll: 12 x 5 = 60
Constitution is your health, vigor, and vitality. Your resilience to injury, poison, and attack.
SIZE (SIZ) - 2d6+6 x 5
My roll: 9 + 6, 15 x 5 = 75
Size...worries me. It is supposed to represent height and weight as a single number, the higher it is, the bigger you are? Can...can creatures reduce that score? (Probably)
DEXTERITY (DEX) - 3d6 x 5
My roll: 11 x 5 = 55
Dexterity is what you think it is. Agility, coordination, flexibility, and quickness.
APPEARANCE (APP) - 3d6 x 5
My roll: 16 x 5 = 80
Appearance can be equated to one's "charisma" score, carrying with it both one's physical attractiveness and personality.
INTELLIGENCE (INT) - 2d6+6 x 5
My roll: 6+6, 12 x 5 = 60
Think of Intelligence in this case as a combination of Int and Wisdom; investigative ability, remembering and sorting information, and solving puzzles.
POWER (POW) - 3d6 x 5
My roll: 16 x 5 = 80 (woot!)
Your Power score also creates your Sanity score (at least for now!), so I feel good. Power, unlike Strength, is your force of Will. It's your mental fortitude and presence; personal, intrinsic, even mystical, power.
EDUCATION (EDU) - 2d6+6 x 5
My roll: 10+6, 16 x 5 = 80 (yay, I think)
Education is your book knowledge and level of, well, education! Higher the score, the more educated you are.
LUCK (Luck) - 3d6 x 5 (though later in the text it says roll 3d6 x 5...weird)
My roll: 8 x 5 = 40 (oops!)
Luck is used in the game to alternate the fickle hands of fate. Looks like I'm none too lucky.
What My Numbers Mean
Well above average strength, and approaching "one of the strongest people you've ever met."
Slightly above average healthy human.
Pretty tall and strongly built.
Average human. Sigh.
Exceedingly charming human.
Slightly above average human intellect.
Strong willed, driven, and possessing a high potential to sense and connect with the unseen and magical.
Master's degree held, and a Bachelor's to boot!
Unfortunately, we now make adjustments based on our Investigator's age. I'll keep mine around 35 to keep it simple. According to the chart, I need to make an Improvement Check on my Education, meaning I need to roll 1d100. If I roll higher than my current EDU score, I get to roll a D10 and add that to my EDU. My roll: 29. Guess I took a year off to get exceedingly handsome.
DAMAGE, BUILD, and HP
We add our STR and SIZ scores together first: 150
My Damage gets a +1d4 bonus, and my Build gets a +1.
If I add my CON and SIZ scores together (135), then divide by 10 and round down, I get my Hit Points!
...Remember what I said about being squishy?
There are a few other derived statistics, but let's keep going.
Now it's time to figure out my class! Yes! The best part...the best...
Right. This isn't going to work the same way, is it?
Not in the slightest! Let's go!
An Investigator's Occupation isn't their class, like in D&D. In fact, there's nothing of the sort. COC isn't a game about level progression or powerful features or capstone abilities. It's a dark, horror fantasy that is all about personal, terrifying storytelling.
The Occupation determines what Characteristics grant you Skill Points (for allocation), Credit Rating (more on that later), Suggested Contacts based on that Occupation, and the 8 skills that define the Occupation. There's an extensive list, and it's not even close to complete or comprehensive, because you're invited to MAKE YOUR OWN Occupation based on the time period you're operating in.
Because I don't know what I'm doing, I'll just pick a Diver.
Skill Points are your EDU x 2 + DEX x 2
My Skill Points: 110+160, so 270 (yay?)
Credit Rating: 9-30
Contacts: law enforcement, smugglers, coast guard
Skills: Diving, First Aid, Mechanical Repair, Pilot (boat), Science (Biology), Spot Hidden, Swim, and one specialty.
Allocating Skill Points
This is where I need to stop and ask some questions.
Do you only have access to skills tied to your Occupation, or can you take a skill not on your list?
--- You can take skills not connected to your Occupation. These are Personal Interest Skills and whose points are derived from your INT score x 2 (so 120 for me).
What is the benefit between Occupation skills and "untrained" skills? Can you even do a thing untrained?
--- Seems that I add the additional "percentages" to skills that have my Occupation? Unfortunately, it seems the RAW is particularly vague on this, despite it's apparent mechanical lynchpin importance! It clears up a few things by offering an anecdotal walkthrough, but why didn't they have that in the actual workflow of the rulebook?
For now, I'll place my points in what I know well, and allocate my personal ones in some sick brawling and knife fighting skills. As a diver, I'd assume I'd know how to at least defend myself against an eel or two, right?
Backstories and Equipment
Personal descriptions and backstories can be decided randomly by rolling on tables, or just used for inspiration. Here you decide your ideologies, people and locations significant to you, treasured possessions, traits, and any other backstory connections.
After that, your Credit Rating comes into play to give you an idea of overall wealth and lifestyle, also letting me equip a few things, but not much I need to go into here. I've got the important stuff, and after that it's up to my Credit Rating to explain away certain expenditures. Just like any other value in the game, it's something you roll for.
And That's Part One...
With my Investigator made, the next step is to deep dive and put the little sucker into practice. I am very much a kinesthetic learner, so experience goes a long way in amplifying a system and understanding it on my terms.
I'd apologize for the cliffhanger, but I don't actually care. ;)
The Core Concept (I love Kobolds)
Kobolds are cute. Always have been.
There's something pitiful in their representation, and they can feel like fodder if you're not careful, but I'd argue there's a depth to them we often don't get the chance to explore. They can be industrious, courageous, intelligent, even empathetic - their presentation suffers from always requiring a draconic master or a simplistic society or some other measure that keeps them downtrodden and low.
That's why in Io, though there ARE the "traditional" Kobold clans, there are still many others that break from that tradition and embrace their heroic natures. Whether it be the courage to fight, or the courage to study, there is a wide spectrum to the nature of accomplishment a race could achieve after a millennia of working with whatever they had to spare. That's something we may not realize; there are Kobold inventors, fliers, alchemists, bombers...these little guys build stuff. They dedicate themselves to industry...but their resources are often sub-par. Imagine what a Kobold could accomplish with access to the resources of a Dwarven forge, or an Elven library, or a Human leatherworker. Their weakness of station has little to do with their personal intellect and a lot to do with their environmental experience.
So with the understanding that a Kobold with proper resources would dedicate herself to the study of a craft, even if the methods may go awry or be haphazard in nature, would this not create a powerful master in this study? Skilled in unorthodox mixtures, brilliant workarounds, and a keen observation of new possibilities, a Kobold's need to survive opens the door to innovation.
This is where you track with me to the obvious Kobold Artificer...and I keep walking. For this study is a discipline of the mind, body, and soul, and for that to ring true, the more appropriate answer is the Monk.
Martial Discipline Carries Over
Any martial artist that's dedicated enough energy and time to their art can tell you: this isn't about fighting, it's about learning. In fact, a lot of the martial disciplines teach oneself, yes, how to move well, how to defend yourself, but moreso how to cultivate one's understanding of the world that surrounds them by learning how to learn for themselves. A disciplined martial artist isn't simply learning how to kick or punch or block, but how to navigate their world with intelligence and wisdom with the confidence that is only derived from a dedicated practice in self-improvement. Once you know how to learn, and you have cultivated your discipline to support the hard work needed, the world opens to you.
This is why swordsman drew calligraphy, archers played music, generals wrote poetry, and monks...learned to cook.
The Actual Build
DUNGEON COACH'S APPROACH
I'm not rolling stats the same way this time. Instead, I'd like to take a page from Dungeon Coach's book (linked HERE), and try an alternative roll. See, sometimes I get really lucky in my spread, and sometimes I stink hardcore, but Point-Buy doesn't thrill me and to me, Standard Array is boring. I still enjoy rolling quite a bit, even if the outcome is less than optimal.
So "DC" proposed something a bit different. First, we roll FIVE stats using our standard 4d6, drop the lowest, sort of fare. I'll do that now...
6 (oh gods why...)
OUCH. Now, my DM in charge *might* take a look at this trend and say "Nope. Start over." BUT NO SIR! WE'RE TRYING SOMETHING DIFFERENT TODAY.
Because DC's idea involves one more step. I add up all of these (shudder) numbers and I get...56. I then take a magic number that DC has discovered is the total of your numbers whenever you use the Standard Array - 72. I subtract the two, and I get my sixth stat: another 16.
The philosophy here is that for all the possible suckage one could roll out, you'd be guaranteed at least one decent stat out of everything, and conversely if you rolled remarkably well, you're guaranteed one stat as your main flaw - something we openly embrace around here. It's no fun playing characters that are just good at EVERYTHING.
RACIAL MODIFIERS AND WHERE THE STATS GO
Kobolds get some nice little bonuses, but their penalties are nasty in Volo's Guide, with a +2 Dexterity bonus but a -2 Strength penalty. Lump onto that some lovely SUNLIGHT SENSITIVITY and you've got a LOVELY little Package of Argh. But Pack Tactics is nice for the "group up" mentality and, though I hate the name, "Grovel, Cower, and Beg" will be great for setting up my (hopefully) Rogue and Barbarian allies.
Keesh is intended to be quirky, smart, observant, and adorably weird. The latter might convince you to put that already low 6 into my Charisma BUT NO I say! No, no. ADORABLY weird. Nah, I'm going to lean into that Strength penalty like WHOA. Monks need Dex and Wisdom, so let's save our 16 and (now) 18 for that madness. We're level 7 for his little adventure, so I'll need to pick a Feat or max out my Dex, but I'm getting ahead of myself. All told, my Attributes are as follows:
STR - 4 (!)
DEX - 18
CON - 10
INT - 13
WIS - 16
CHA - 12
But who needs Strength when I'm FAST and cute! He said, unknowing of the horrors his friend DM will unleash upon him for his birthday. Lawl.
By Level 7 I've got most of the things that make Monk great: Evasion, my fists overcome resistances, stunning strike, DEFLECT MISSILES, Ki, and Unarmored Defense. Next, I have a Feat to consider, and in a game that supports most raw numbers better than flavor, my first experience with 5E monk in a full campaign avoided Feats in favor of maxing out that beautiful Dex score. However, Mobile has served me well in the past (but Drunken Technique will open that door nicely) and Lucky or Alert are always super helpful. This time around, I'm favoring story over numbers, and I like the idea that this little Kobold can be favored by decent luck when things go awry; another testament to his survivability. Tonight I choose Lucky, and call it a day. Meaning, I shall shape up as such:
Class: Monk - 7 (Way Of The Drunken Master)
STR - 4 (-3)
DEX - 18 (+4)
CON - 10
INT - 13 (+1)
WIS - 16 (+3)
CHA - 12 (+1)
I'm going to use stale potatoes as projectiles, jerky as nunchucks, and spices as emotional currency. Keesh seeks to improve everyday cuisine by unlocking your senses, enhancing your flavor palette, and pairing everything with chocolate - because you can't go wrong with chocolate. Ever.
I'll let ya'll know how he plays at the table.
See you there.
Sometimes I'll have a character concept in mind and I will commence scouring the internet for something that fits said image, at least enough to be representative. Then, while searching for such an image, I'll stumble across something else entirely, and it sends my mind aflutter with ideas, backstories, voice, and an in-depth concept. It was in one of these particular moments that I stumbled across this particular image.
Alluring, I know. But also completely badass. And that's what got my mind running.
See, at the time, the players were visiting the sister city to Stormwrack (where they've spent nearly a year of play time - about 3 weeks in game time), called Feathertongue. Feathertongue is a high art, high class society. Low crime, pleasant areas, knowledge and art celebrated. It became a running joke in the city that platinum was like their gold here, and they weren't wrong.
So where does this woman fit in? How does one get to such a point where you're that comfortable, and also extremely capable and dangerous. I got to thinking what this person's story could be.
- Slates -
1) The Concept
Small, but mighty they call me. And when they say cute and cuddly, effervescent and mirth, I shall call the lightning upon their hubris and laugh maniacally in their wake.
Small, but mighty indeed!
2) Heroic Array = 17, 15, 14, 12, 11, 10
3) Racial Traits
Slight and sly, Gnomes are smart and charismatic, doing what they can to slip by unnoticed (if they want).
So YAY, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma.
Fey Ancestry - I'm fey when it counts.
Master Trickster - Ghost Sound cantrip for free.
Reactive Stealth - stay hidden when initiative starts.
Trickster's Cunning - extra bonus to saves vs. Illusions.
Fade Away - Racial Encounter Power that allows me to go invisible when I take damage!
4) Class Traits and Abilities
STR 11 (+0)
DEX 12 (+1)
CON 16 (+3) = 15 + 1 at Level 4.
INT 16 (+3) = 14 + 2
CHA 20 (+5) = 17 + 2 + 1 at Level 4.
Being Small, my speed is only 5 squares, but it helps to have some Low-Light Vision too.
Armor is Cloth and Leather only, but my Defense Bonuses are +1 to Reflex and +1 Will.
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple Melee, Simple Ranged
1) ELDRITCH BLAST - Your At-Will powers are intrinsically tied to your class choice by theme and pact, so Eldritch Blast is an automatic At-Will power. Your Eldritch Pact decides your other At-Will power...
2) ELDRITCH PACT - You get three choices: Fey, Infernal, Star. This selection decides your second At-Will power, as it is mechanically tied to the flavor of the pact. Star punishes movement toward you with Dire Radiance (Movement), Fey makes you Invisible with Eyebite (Buff), Infernal channels additional damage to a target when I take damage with Hellish Rebuke (Offense). Each one is still an initial attack roll, with the appropriate follow-up bonus. I'm going with Hellish Rebuke, because the language specifies that the target doesn't have to be the one that damages me; I could take damage from something else entirely, and still automatically deal 1d6+3 fire damage to my chosen target. That's nice. Also, I get Dark One's Blessing, which grants me temporary HP when a creature under my Warlock's Curse (see below), dies.
3) PRIME SHOT - As long as I'm the closest to my target (so no ally is closer than I), I get a +1 to all ranged attack rolls against that target. Nifty.
4) SHADOW WALK - As long as I travel at least 3 squares on my turn, I gain Concealment until the end of my next turn. Which is great, because I plan to keep my distance whenever possible.
5) WARLOCK'S CURSE - once per turn, as a Minor Action, I curse a dude. That dude is more vulnerable to my nasty attacks and takes extra damage (+1d6 for now). So there.
6) IMPLEMENTS - Warlocks make use of specific powerful wands or rods or pact daggers that add extra powers or bonuses to their spells. Cool beans.
5) Powers (Spells)
1) Eldritch Blast - you can choose your Charisma or Constitution to help out with this spell, but you can't change later. Charisma is my OBVIOUS CHOICE with a +5 modifier. With the added benefit of this spell counting as a basic ranged attack, allies that grant such opportunities open up a world of hurt against our enemies.
2) Hellish Rebuke - Constitution-based ranged attack vs. Reflex, so 1d6+3 fire damage if I hit. The added bonus is they take an extra 1d6+3 fire damage if I take ANY damage before the end of my next turn.
Racial) Fade Away - We've talked about this. Take damage, go invisible!
1st Level) Diabolic Grasp - Another Constitution-based power that hits nice for 2d8+3, and will move the target 4 freaking squares!
3rd Level) Fiery Bolt - 3d6+3 fire damage, and burst 1 with 1d6+3 fire damage, with another +3 for my Intelligence. Ouch.
1) Armor of Agathys - Gain some 13 Temporary Hit points and any enemy that starts its turn adjacent to me takes 1d6+3 Cold damage until the END OF THE ENCOUNTER.
Utility - Daily
2nd Level) Fiendish Resilience - Minor Action to give myself 8 temporary hit points. Meh. No choice in the matter.
1) Improved Initiative - the earlier I go, the better. +4.
2) Improved Dark One's Blessing - when a Cursed enemy drops to 0, I'll gain 7 temp HP instead of 4.
4) Magic Of The Mists - retain Fade Away when I attack. Booyah.
6) Gear and Overview
Basic Ranged = Hand Crossbow; +5 to hit, 1d6+1 damage --- Hand Crossbows have +2 Proficiency + Dex (1) + 1/2 Level (2)*
**I don't plan on using this, as my Eldritch Blast counts as a Basic Ranged Attack. 1d10+5, with a +9 to hit is way better.**
Implement: Magic Tome = +1 Attack and Damage rolls, but on a Critical add 1d6 damage.
At-Will Powers: ELDRITCH BLAST, Hellish Rebuke
Encounter Powers: Fade Away [R], Diabolic Grasp, Fiery Bolt
Daily Powers: Armor of Agathys
HP: 30 (15 at level 1, +5 per level )
Healing Surges: 9 (6+3) Surge Value: 7
AC: 15 --- (10+1/2 level +Dexterity Mod +Leather Armor 
Fortitude: 15 --- (10+1/2 Level +Con Mod )
Reflex: 16 --- (Int +3 + 12 + 1)
Will: 18 --- (Cha +5 + 12 + 1)
Trained Skills: Arcana, Bluff, Intimidate, Streetwise
Gnome made. Let's blow some stuff up.
See you at the table.
1) The Concept
Recently, I've been drawn to the image of an almost Dr. Whovian holy warrior. The idea being that through the ages, this warrior has been reincarnated and reborn in many different bodies, all attempting to vanquish evil This can be hard to pull off with mechanical justification without homebrew in 5th Edition, but 4TH EDITION has this concept down with the addition of the racial option, Deva (from the Player's Handbook 2). Couple this with the class option (also from Handbook 2) of Avenger, and we've hit the ground running.
2) Heroic Array - 17, 15, 14, 12, 11, 10
3) Racial Traits
Devas are immortal spirits that are born and reborn perpetually into new physical lives, so it follows that the bonuses they enjoy are more mental representations.
Long way of saying, YAY, +2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom.
Astral Majesty - +1 to all my defenses against bloodied creatures.
Astral Resistance - resistance to necrotic damage and radiant damage.
Immortal Origin - I guess I'm considered Immortal when it counts.
Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes - Racial Encounter Power that adds a 1d6 bonus to an attack, save, skill, or ability check.
4) Class Traits + Ability Distribution
STR 11 (+0)
DEX 18 (+4) = 17 + 1 at Level 4.
CON 12 (+1)
INT 16 (+3) = 14 + 2
WIS 18 (+4) = 15 + 2 + 1 at Level 4.
CHA 10 (+0)
Armor is Cloth only, so I'm pleased that my Defense Bonuses are +1 to Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple and Martial Melee, and just Simple Ranged (so I guess I'm going up close and personal)
Now, that Armor proficiency feels a bit disappointing, but the Avenger gets a few little features to help out their "battle cleric" status:
1) ARMOR OF FAITH - as long as I'm not in heavy armor or using a shield, my deity rewards my courage in the face of certain doom with a +3 bonus to my AC.
2) AVENGER'S CENSURE - I choose one of two bonuses that tie directly to a creature that is the target of my Oath Of Enmity (what up, 5E Vengeance Paladin?), Pursuit or Retribution. I like the damage bump (3 from my Int) of Retribution, as well as the synergy in Power selection later (you'll see), so I'll go with that.
3) OATH OF ENMITY - select a chosen prey, and take the best of two attacks on them until the end of the Encounter as a Minor Action. Woof. Probability is now on my side.
4) CHANNEL DIVINITY - you start with two Channel Divinity powers (more if you take certain Feats): Abjure Undead (deal sick damage to one undead target and immobilize them) and Divine Guidance (let an ally roll twice for an attack). Both Encounter powers, so I've got 'em each fight.
At-Wills - my focus is on dealing decent damage and chasing down opponents so I can smite the crud out of them:
1) Bond of Pursuit - Weapon attack plus Wisdom Modifier damage, but the kicker is that I can chase down the target if he ends his turn away from me.
2) Bond of Retribution - decent damage and radiant damage tied to my Intelligence if an enemy other than my target smacks me. That'll learn 'em good. :)
Racial) Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes - didn't like that roll? Let's add 1d6 to it!
Class Feature [CF]) Oath of Enmity - roll two attacks and take the better result for the whole fight or when the thing dies. All that for a Minor Action.
CF) Channel Divinity: Abjure Undead - immobilize and wreck one undead creature.
CF) Channel Divinity: Divine Guidance - when an ally attacks your Enmity target, have them roll twice and take the better result. Yes please hit my quarry!
1st Level) Avenging Echo - Don't stand so close to me! Until the end of my next turn, enemies near me take 8 radiant damage (5 + 3 from my Int because of Censure of Retribution).
3rd Level) Halo Of Fire - same deal as Echo, but better weapon damage, and this time it's 8 fire damage.
1) Temple Of Light - Double weapon damage + Wisdom radiance AND it creates a zone of extra damage that follows the target. Creatures struck by me in such a zone take extra damage. I see this limiting a target's movement, as the spillover damage to their own allies is less than helpful.
Utility - Encounter
2nd Level) Resonant Escape - triggered by being hit, or missed, I get to teleport a few squares away. Cool.
1) Improved Armor Of Faith - an additional bonus to AC that increases at later levels (+1 for now)
2) Melee Training - effectively (if I pick Dexterity) turns my basic melee attacks into 5E finesse weapons, so I can use my Dexterity modifier to slice the junk out of enemies instead of Strength.
4) Melora's Tide - another Channel Divinity option that grants some regeneration to me or an ally until we're not half dead.
6) Gear and Overview
Basic Ranged = Crossbow; +8 to hit, 1d8+4 damage --- Crossbows have +2 Proficiency + Dex (4) + 1/2 Level (2)
At-Will Powers: Bond Of Pursuit, Bond Of Retribution
Encounter Powers: Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes (Racial), Oath Of Enmity (CF), CD Abjure Undead (CF), CD Divine Guidance (CF), Avenging Echo, Halo Of Fire, Resonant Escape (Utility)
Daily Powers: Temple Of Light
HP: 33 (15 at level 1, +6 per level )
Healing Surges: 8 Surge Value: 8
AC: 20 --- (10+1/2 level +Dexterity Mod +Armor Of Faith 
Fortitude: 14 --- (Con Mod  + 12 + 1)
Reflex: 17 --- (Dex +4 + 12 + 1)
Will: 17 --- (Wis +4 + 12 + 1)
Trained Skills: Religion + Acrobatics, Heal, Perception
Time to kick some butt, Vered Felstaff. Let's rock.
The Rolled Array - 13, 15, 18, 16, 16, 12
1) Race + Class Choices
Shifters are from the Wayfarer's Guide To Eberron, and act essentially as were-touched individuals.
Shifters enjoy an automatic +1 to their Dexterity, and Swiftstride grants another +1 Dexterity, with a +1 Charisma bump. If I allocate correctly, I've got a 20 Dexterity at Level 1, so Monk or Rogue is a pretty clear choice. Without a Wisdom bump, I'd normally be questioning it, but my other extremely high stats back me up and open the door to any class I like. ;)
Tack on the fact that Swiftstride grants Proficiency in Acrobatics, Perception, Darkvision, additional movement speed, and a circumstantial "Mobile" feature (moving without triggering attacks of opportunity), and this choice is feeling more and more obvious. Plus, the Shifting feature gives me a small damage buffer (+8 Temporary HP, Level+Con Modifier) if I really need it.
CLASS - Monk, Drunken Master
So let's map these stats:
STR: 13 (+1)
DEX: 18+2 = 20 (+5)
CON: 16 (+3)
INT: 12 (+1)
WIS: 16 (+3)
CHA: 15+1 = 16 (+3)
I'll decide to avoid all those awful Opportunity Attacks and take Mobile at 4th level, increasing my movement speed by 10 more, so by Level 5, I'm running circles around the board with 55 Speed.
Lump onto this all the great features from Drunken Master like:
1) Ki and Flurry of Blows
2) Stunning Strike
3) Drunken Technique - grants Disengage + 10 speed every time I Flurry.
4) An extra proficiency in Performance won't hurt the busking in the street for some much-needed coin. :)
2) Gear and Loadout
3) Powers and Effectiveness
Ki Points: 5
Martial Arts: +8 to Hit, 1d6+5 bludgeoning damage
Stunning Strike DC: 16
Total Possible Attacks Per Round: 4
AC and Defenses
AC = Wisdom Mod + Dexterity Mod + 10 = 18 (will rise in later levels as I max out my Wisdom score
Saves = Strength +4, Dexterity +8, Constitution +3, Intelligence +1, Wisdom +3, Charisma +3
Speed = 55 Feet
Swiftstride Bonus Ability: once per short or long rest - SHIFT into a bestial form for +8 Temporary Hit Points, +5 movement speed, and a Reaction option to move 10 feet without provoking Attacks of Opportunity.
Weight: 185 lbs.
Height: 6' 1''
Hit Points: 51
Should be fun to try out.
See you at the table.
Why This One?
I was mobile, strong, and very dangerous up close. I didn't have a bunch of Hit Points, but my enemies were often dead before they could deal much damage. I was beautiful. And with many fond memories flooding back, I figured I could ride this momentum into our first main build in this system.
1) Ability Scores, Racial Improvements, and Distribution
RANGER Key Ability Scores: Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom
Dragonborn Ability Score Improvements: +2 Strength, +2 Charisma
So, the race bonus didn't entirely line up with my needs, but I didn't really care. Plus, since we're building each of these to LEVEL 4, so I've got an ability score increase to think about too. Let's flesh out my scores.
STR = 14+2 = 16 +1 at Level 4 = 17 (+3)
DEX = 16 (+3)
CON = 12 (+1)
INT = 11 (+0)
WIS = 13 +1 at Level 4 = 14 (+2)
CHA = 10+2 = 12 (+1)
2) Race Features
Pretty run of the mill here. Medium creature, moves 6 squares each round, no darkvision (bummer).
Draconborn Fury - when I'm Bloodied (down to half or below half my Hit Points), I get a +1 bonus to all my attacks.
Draconic Heritage - makes my Healing Surge value bigger (1/4 my total HP + my Constitution modifier).
DRAGON BREATH Power - the reason I took the race in the first place... An excellent Encounter Power.
3) Style, Powers, and Feats
On top of this, a Ranger gains the Hunter's Quarry feature: as a Minor Action, you can designate the nearest enemy to you that you can see as your Quarry. Once per round, you can deal extra damage to that quarry when you hit them, and that damage increases every 10 levels or so (ours will be at +1d6 for now).
At level 1, I need to select 2 At-Will Powers, 1 Encounter Power (useable once per fight), and 1 Daily Power, plus my Racial Power. Level 2 I get a Utility Power, Level 3 another Encounter Power, and Level 4...an ability score increase. Also, at Levels 1, 2, and 4, I select a Feat.
At-Wills are pretty obvious here:
1) Twin Strike - effective double attack.
2) Hit and Run - run past, slice through, keep running and no Attack of Opportunity.
Racial) Dragon's Breath - we'll go with lightning, I think. :)
1st Level) Evasive Strike - I can shift around the board 2 squares before or after the attack, and I deal double weapon damage + my Strength modifier.
3rd Level) Thundertusk Boar Strike - another double attack with a push; if both attacks hit, I push 'em a number of squares equal to my Wisdom Modifier (which I want to increase!).
1) Hunter's Bear Trap - Double weapon damage + Strength + slowed target + 5 ongoing damage if they can't save to stop it. Ha.
Utility - Encounter
2nd Level) Yield Ground - triggered by being hit, I can move away and gain a +2 bonus to all of my defenses. Gotta watch myself!
1) Dragonborn Senses - gain Low-Light Vision, and +1 to Perception
2) Enlarged Dragon Breath - increases the size of my Dragon Breath. Booyah.
4) Dragonborn Frenzy - +2 damage when I'm bloodied. Because often the best protection is to eliminate threats faster, and that's damage.
4) Gear, Skills, and Proficiency
+ Weapons are a little more vast, with Simple and Military grade melee and ranged. Let's snag two Longswords to lay down the law with a little higher accuracy, and a Longbow for good measure.
+ Defense Bonuses: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex
+ Hit Points at first level end up being only 13 (12+Con modifier), with increases of 5 per level, so add another 15 on for only 28 HP at level 4. Even with Toughness, that only raises it to 33 HP. Argh. We'll see if we can do something about that.
+ Healing Surges = 7 per day, at 8 HP per surge (thanks Dragonborn).
+ Trained Skills (+5 training bonus): Dungeoneering or Nature (I pick NATURE), plus four others from a decent list - let's go with Acrobatics, Athletics, Perception, and Stealth.
5) Overview and Future Choices
Basic Ranged = Longbow; +7 to hit, 1d10+3 damage
At-Will Powers: Twin Strike, Hit and Run
Encounter Powers: Dragon's Breath, Evasive Strike, Thundertusk Boar Strike, Yield Ground (Utility)
Daily Powers: Hunter's Bear Trap
AC: 18 --- (10+1/2 level +Dexterity Mod +Armor Bonus 
Yeah. That's about right. Welcome back, Helaku Stormwind. Let's play.
See you at the table.
What The Black Sheep Did Right
Now, I'm not new to 4th Edition. I cut my teeth on 1st edition, and scaled those characters through 3.5 and Pathfinder, then we churned out a new campaign in 4th Edition. Sure, there were elements I didn't like - the out-of-left field feel, the power sets, the strange board game nature of it all - but it was still D&D, and we played it through all the same. The mechanics were just the mechanics; we still had our story to tell.
Fast-forward to 5th Edition, and our now about 4 years teaching it and running it, and returning to 4th edition is...not that bad.
There are a great many things that 4th Edition does very well.
1) Roles are clear. Each class is broken down into one of four main categories of roles: Controllers, Defenders, Leaders, and Strikers. With your lives on the line, and the mechanics to back it up, there's never a question of what role you are supposed to fill; maybe a question of a secondary role, but not the primary.
2) Tactics are KEY. Immediately, in fact. Our first fight we played like 5th edition - Goblins, no trouble, right? Wrong. Each goblin has more hit points than I do (and I'm a Minotaur Warlord), and none of us could go toe-to-toe with any one of them. It's expected at a fight that two things happen - you immediately use your Encounter powers (more powerful attacks/spells usable once per fight) to eliminate threats early and second, you draw fire to the Defender, while everyone else wrecks enemies from a protected position. Oops.
3) Action Economy Works. On your turn, you have a Standard Action, Minor Action, and a Move Action. Now, these aren't necessarily the same as 5E's Action, Bonus Action, and Movement, mainly because EVERYONE has a Minor Action (like drawing a weapon, opening a door, etc.) available, and certain powers or abilities consume one of those three actions. As long as you have the action type available, you can spend the power, so if you've got a power that's a Minor, another a Standard, and another a Move...you're using three cool things that turn. You're not moving, but still, three cool things. Also, also, you can make your Standard into two more Minor Actions instead, making the economy more flexible. When you're learning the game, that can add time, but, just as with any system, you get faster. And, because this system IS so mechanic-driven, it's rare that you'd have a strange interpretation mix-up that would bog down play anyway.
4) All of your stats are important, with three mains. For each class, there are at least three primary ability scores, and each of your powers will use one of them. Often, INTELLIGENCE is one of those, so the worth of your stats is elevated and definitively depends upon your class, which is refreshing.
These classes encourage and motivate their adventuring companions, but just because they fill the leader role doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a group’s spokesperson or commander. The party leader—if the group has one—might as easily be a charismatic warlock or an authoritative paladin. Leaders (the role) fulfill their function through their mechanics; party leaders are born through role-playing. Obvious Leaders are found in the Cleric and Warlord, with the Bard (duh), Shaman, Ardent, and Runepriest fulfilling it later.
In a lot of ways, a blank canvas can be terrifying, so the embedded structure of 4th edition helps support new players in selecting limited powers that further their selected role. Because of this, I thought it fun to further explore this through character building. So, for a little while, each Tuesday at noon, expect a bonus blog on character building...and we'll kick it off with the Ranger in 4th Edition. See you there.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
In short, I'M A BIG NERD.
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