If you want an Old School feel to your Pathfinder game you’ve got to go back to the very beginning…
I’ve talked a lot recently about the Old School style of play and my desire to marry it with the Pathfinder ruleset in my design of Gloamhold. One thing it’s important to remember about Old School play is that the experience starts way before party’s first dungeon. If you are going to do Old School properly, you’ve got to start with character generation.
With that in mind, I’ve roughed out some Old School guidelines for use in Pathfinder (and Gloamhold). These rules in no way support optimisation or min/maxing — to a certain degree you are at the mercy of the dice. This has some upsides, and it has some downsides:
- Upside: Character generation is quicker, as players have fewer choices to make.
- Downside: Characters are not optimised; they are less effective than those created using more modern methods. A GM should keep this in mind when crafting adventures.
- Upside: Characters are mechanically similar; thus their personas becomes much more important in differentiating them from their fellows. This promotes roleplaying.
- Downside: Characters develop more organically and are not as designed as with other methods. This can lead to an unbalanced party, as it removes some of the choices from the generation process.
- Upside: Characters are more rounded because the player isn’t assigning scores to attributes. With this method, there is no such things as a dump stat.
For this method of character generation, use only the options presented in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. A close reading of the rules below will undoubtably show I have done away with certain aspects of Old School character generation. In particular, I don’t include class restrictions for demi-humans or racial prerequisites; I wasn’t wildly keen on those in the Good Old Days and I’m still not wildly keen on them now!
Point buy is not Old School. In Old School you roll your stats and you assign them in the order you rolled. You’ve got two options:
- Old School: 4d6 drop the lowest, in order.
- Hardcore Old School: 3d6, in order.
If your character has an overall negative stat modifier, discard the character and re-roll (unless you don’t want to).
Choose Class and Race
Choose your race and class as normal, and apply the relevant racial modifiers.
Hardcore Old School: If you want a hardcore Old School experience, use the following class prerequisites:
- Barbarian: Str 13, Dex 13, Con 13
- Bard: Dex 12, Int 10, Cha 15
- Cleric: Wis 10
- Druid: Wis 12, Cha 15
- Fighter: Str 9
- Monk: Str 15, Dex 15, Con 11, Wis 15
- Paladin: Str 12, Con 9, Wis 13, Cha 17
- Ranger: Str 13, Dex 13, Con 14, Wis 14
- Rogue: Dex 9
- Sorcerer: Cha 12
- Wizard: Int 10 (universalist), Int 13 (abjurer, conjurer et al)
These prerequisite limit your choices somewhat, and result in most adventurers becoming clerics, fighters, rogues or wizards. This it turn means characters qualifying for classes such as barbarian, paladin, monk and so on are exceptional folk. Even sorcerers, rangers and druids are special people. I personally like this approach, because when everyone is special no one is special. However, it removes even more choice from character generation, which may not be to everyone’s taste.
Halfway House: Alternatively, you could tweak the above prerequisites slightly. Bonuses for high abilities scores start much lower in 3rd edition et al, than in earlier versions of the game. For example a Strength score of 17 gives a +1 to hit in 1st edition, but a +3 in Pathfinder. With this in mind, some of the higher prerequisites could be reduced by 2 or 4 points (depending on your preference).
Your character probably had a job or trade before he became an adventurer. Perhaps he worked with his family in the fields or was apprenticed to a craftsman. To simulate this, spend a free skill point on a Craft or Profession skill to account for his early training.
- Hardcore Old School: If you’d rather, you can randomly determine which background skill your character knows. Roll a d20:
- Craft (armour)
- Craft (weapons)
- Profession (farmer, fisherman or miller)
- Profession (architect, engineer or scribe)
- Craft (jewellery)
- Craft (baker, brewer or butcher)
- Craft (carpentry or stonemasonry)
- Profession (miner)
- Profession (sailor)
- Profession (merchant/trader)
- Profession (carter)
- Craft (tailor, leatherworker or cobbler)
- Craft (artist: paintings or sculptor)
- Handle Animal
- Perform (choose any one)
- Craft (choose any one)
- Profession (choose any one)
- No skill of measurable worth
- Roll twice on this table; ignore this result hereafter
Knowing what your character did before he became an adventurer might give you an insight into why he took up such a danger-filled life. Perhaps a gambler adventures to clear his debts while a merchant or trader could have become fascinated with foreign cultures and travelling. Similarly, your character could have hated his profession or trade so much he became an adventurer to escape it. Alternatively, he could have been so bad at his previous job his master threw him out onto the streets; with no other options the life of an adventurer beckoned.
Starting Wealth and Gear
Roll your starting gold as normal. To add depth and detail to this facet of character generation consider how he came into these funds.
When buying gear:
- Don’t buy anything from the Special Substances and Items table.
- Don’t buy any cold iron, mithral or adamantine items.
- Be sure to buy the staples of dungeoning equipment: rope, pitons, flasks of oil, a light source and so on. If you’d rather skip this step, buy one of these equipment bundles.
- Keep 10% of your wealth back for in-game expenses. This money could be spent on bribes, fines and taxes and (of course) paying your hirelings’ or specialist’s wages and fees.
Example Adventuring Parties
Just for fun, I’ve rolled up two starting adventuring parties using this system. I haven’t fully fleshed out these characters, but they still give you a sense of the kind of group you could expect to see adventuring in Gloamhold. I picked a group size of six for these groups as I have six players in my home campaign.
Group 1: Hardcore Old School
- Etune Lightstep (NG female halfling rogue 1; Str 9, Dex 14, Con 9, Int 7, Wis 12, Cha 16; Profession [gambler])
- Aldal Garsten (NG male dwarf fighter; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8; Profession [miner])
- Ylermi Rantanen (LG male human wizard [evoker] 1; Str 9, Dex 12, Con 7, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 10; Craft [jewellery])
- Firatis Natityrr (CG female half-elf bard 1; Str 8, Dex 15, Con 7, Int 12, Wis 11, Cha 15; Profession [carter])
- Ilari Eskola (LG male human cleric [Darlen] 1; Str 14, Dex 8, Con 15, Int 9, Wis 17, Cha 13; Profession [architect])
- Aune Pasanen (CG female wizard [universalist] 1; Str 5, Dex 11, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 8; Craft [tailor])
Group 2: Old School
- Amallaemar Uthliavar (NG female half-elf wizard; Str 9, Dex 10, Con 8, Int 15, Wis 11, Cha 11; Craft [sculptor])
- Elgal Torsten (NG male dwarf rogue 1; Str 8, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 10; Profession [engineer])
- Urmas Lankinen (LG male human cleric [Darlen] 1; Str 12, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 18, Cha 16; Craft [armour])
- Ogan (NG female half-orc cleric [Kalron] 1; Str 14, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 8, Wis 15, Cha 11; Perform [wind])
- Valto Itkonen (CG male human barbarian 1; Str 18, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 13, Cha 11; Profession [merchant])
- Leneal Ningel (NG female gnome druid 1; Str 9, Dex 9, Con 17, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 16; [Craft [leather])]
What Do You Think?
What do you think — does this method give characters an Old School feel? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you want to learn more about the characters above? Should I use them as my Gloamhold iconics? If so, which party should I use?
Finally — why not make a character using one of these methods and post his details in the comments below. Who knows — they might end up in Gloamhold!