“I’ve never played D&D with a girl before,” James confessed when I first told him that Audrey would be joining us. “I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable or anything; it can get kind of juvenile.”
“Are you talking about that one time you farted?” I asked. “You apologized like twenty times.”
“I, uh, well, we do other guy things.”
“You mean when Alex and I talk about UFC? You always tell us to be quiet and focus. One time you threw pretzels at us.”
“Yeah, well, good. Who wants to hear about dudes just laying on each other?”
“Listen,” I said, plopping a bag of dice on the table. “It shouldn’t be an issue at all. She owns a 360 and has a Live account. She even asked me if I play Call of Duty.”
“Yeah, I know, but still. It doesn’t sound like she’ll be the judging type.”
“Fine. But she better bring snacks.”
After the jump, oh she brought snacks
“Choose your character!” James proclaimed, cracking open a can of Sprite, and helping himself to a handful of chips. Beside the Tostitos, seven manila portfolios were spread out upon the table, each with a D&D miniature on top. As we looked them over, he turned his iPod on to give us ambient music, which I recognized as Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Throne’s theme.
“We’re not creating our own characters?” Alex asked, visibly peeved.
“I don’t want to spend too much time going over all the new stuff with creation. These seven characters represent a mix of classes, races, and backgrounds. Just choose whatever sounds coolest to you, don’t worry about party makeup.”
“Okay,” Alex groaned, grabbing the Lifegiver-Deity Cleric (healer). Alex doesn’t usually like healers, but it was the only human on the table. Alex only plays humans.
As I looked over the remaining portfolios, I noticed that none of the classes were categorized as the archetypical “fighter” or “rogue” – they all had specific labels like “duelist” or “trickster”.
James must have seen me frowning because he spoke up to explain. “They’ve really returned to using the class kits from AD&D. It’s pretty sweet because it means that each class has several subclasses, which means you can have multiple members of the same class but still have a diverse party.”
I chose the Elf wizard. Magic, man. It’s the best. Sit around and read books all day while eating and drinking? I’ve never role-played a skinny wizard because I don’t believe they exist.
“What with my being a strong and aggressive individual who goes out of his way to protect others, I will choose the fighter,” Vegas squeaked.
“Ah, the half-orc!” James exclaimed.
“How fitting,” I said. A cheap shot, but whatever, man.
“I was hoping someone would choose him,” James said. “He has the Noble background, which means you get three NPC servants to follow you around.”
“Wait, backgrounds actually matter now?” In fourth edition, a background was a trifle – maybe you got a negligible bonus to a skill or could see better at night. No one got servants.
“Yeah, they’re pretty neat. It’s a good way to give your character some flavor that has actual benefits as well as personality. It also influences the skills you’re trained in and gives you abilities called ‘traits’ – the servants are the noble’s trait.”
“So I get three servants, huh?” Vegas piped up. “Okay, I want a squire named Alex, a cool, independent serving lady named Audrey, and a local pig farmer named Rudy.”
“Hey, be creepier,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Why do I only have one feat?” asked a squire named Alex.
“You have two feet, you’re a human,” Audrey joked. I think “joked.” Hopefully “joked.’
Thankfully, the Winterfell portion of the Game of Thrones theme broke the uncomfortable silence.
“No, um, heh. Feats are bonuses you get every few levels,” I explained. “Let’s say you’re playing a fighter who can only use swords, but you want to fight with an axe – you’d take the axe training feat. Normally you get a couple from the start though, not just one.”
“Feats have been changed with this edition,” James said. “They are now incorporated within your specialty, which is another thing you choose when you make your character. Alex, since your cleric has healing spells, I figured that the ‘healer’ specialty would work for that character – right now, it means you get the ability to make potions. As you level, you’ll get new feats that are fitting for a healer.”
“Oh, awesome,” I said. “I like that feats will have a common theme now. Cherry picking feats from a huge list was always cool, but you’d end up with some weird combinations that didn’t always make sense together.”
“It’s still sort of like that,” James told me. “Right now every specialty has one feat every three levels, but they all have pre-requisites, too. You can follow the path set by your specialty, or you can grab a feat from another specialty if you meet its requirements. I imagine that down the line they will have choices within your specialty as well.”
“Ooh!” Audrey squealed, interrupting us. “A halfling! I’m going to play the halfling rogue.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Halflings. Those guys are really… good.”
“You hate halflings,” Alex said.
“No, I don’t,” I lied.
“Yeah, you do,” Vegas rejoined. “Last campaign you made a point of spitting on every halfling we encountered. You set an inn that belonged to halflings on fire, then cackled as it burned to the ground. I remember because you specifically said ‘cackle’.”
“One time you tried to eat a halfling,” Alex said.
“I was role-playing an ogre!” I shot back. “It’s called immersion!”
This conversation was taking an unflattering turn. I looked pleadingly to James.
“Oh, uh,” he stammered. “Roll initiative!”
Tomorrow: Dudes (and a dudette) fighting!
Rudy Basso, an accountant with an English degree, is living proof that your major really doesn’t matter that much. You can read his previous series, Farming Vader, starting here.