Character Creation Blog: An AD&D 1E Adventuring party

Okay, here’s another character creation exercise, but this one’s going way back into the sands of time: a classic 1st edition AD&D 5-member gang of murder hobos adventuring party! Each will be made along the “old-school” conceit of disposable PC hardcore character creation principles: 3d6, in order, with no rerolls on attributes (aka “roll ’em and weep”). The concept here is that an intrepid, foolish or perhaps deviously cunning DM has asked his players to each show up with their own pregenerated 1st level adventurer for a dungeon crawl, and the players have done exactly that without bothering to discuss them with one another.

I will assign each character the optimal class  for their stat line. If two character are both best suited to the same class, the less optimal for that class will go to their own “second best” choice unless their statline prevents that, in which case we’ll have two characters of the same class. If some poor fool’s stats are so bad that he is in a mutually exclusive class requirement situation (as in “can only be a Fighter” and “can only be an assassin”) then the lower of these two terrible stats will get one reroll but one reroll only. If he’s still in an impossible situation, I’ll just scrap him and roll up a new statline.

Character gender, alignment and other details will in most cases be randomly assigned, and I’ll pull out the “Random NPC” stuff from the DMG p. 100-101 to assign a few random character traits to build on for the characters also. If these poor slobs are gonna be random, they’re gonna be random. If there’s a really obvious choice of race or whatever for a character, I reserve the right to just pick. Note: I disregarded the intellect (they’ve all got int stats after all), materialism (they’re murder hobos adventurers after all), bravery (heh) and thrift (*snort*) charts because we already know the answers there. I tried to aim for funky, old-school D&Dish names that would not look too out of place alongside such handles as Zagyg, Iuz the Evil, Melf, Otiluke and Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter.

It’s worth noting that, “hardcore player” conceit among grognards aside, Gary Gygax himself actually counsels against the entirety of the methodology I’m using here, including the 3D6-in-order attribute generation, right in the DMG. This post is an exercise, however, not the creation of an actual play group.

A couple of surprises came out of this process. One was that all but one of these characters are human, mostly because their stats and associated optimal classes were incompatible with the races I rolled. The level caps for nonhumans in 1E blow giant chunks anyway – actually, if you look closely, in AD&D1E, nonhuman characters pretty much stink thanks to those crippling level caps even if some of them have cool special abilities. I mean, seriously… Dwarven fighters are restricted to 7th level maximum if they have less than 17 strength… 18 strength only lets them get as high as 9th level. As for the design philosophy there: Gary Gygax has explicitly stated that he put those arbitrarily onerous level restrictions in place to make nonhuman characters undesirable as a means of enforcing their rarity, because he hadn’t wanted to include them as player characters anyway. Not coincidentally, I don’t know of a single house rule more common to 1st and 2nd edition Ad&D than removing those racial class level caps.

One of the strange things about the layouts of the AD&D1E books is that the class and race details are scattered all over the PHB seemingly almost at random, and things like character age, height and weight and the concept of characters having skills that don’t directly relate to stabbing monsters and taking their loot (Secondary Skills) are only found in the DMG… and actual physical descriptions of the various player character races are only found in the Monster Manual, of all places.

Anyhow, I now present: a random adventuring party!

Character 1: Charen of Hommlet

Human Male Cleric
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Age: 19
Height/Weight: 5’11”/ 220
Appearance: rough edged, normal (huskily built)
General tendencies: Perceptive
Personality/Disposition/Nature: Rash/Even tempered/Jealous
Morals: Lustful (rut roh…)
Piety: Average (Heh. Nice)
Secondary Skills: None
Detailed Description: Charen is a heavyset young man whose slightly jowly face generally sports a growth of stubble. His most distinctive feature is a pair of crisp, intelligent and searching blue eyes that dart about taking in every detail of his surroundings. Under his armor, he is clad in the humble habit of his order.

Strength: 14 (weight +200 , open doors 1-2 , bend bars/lift gates 7%)
Intelligence: 17 (Languages +6)
Wisdom: 12 (Magical attack adjustment -, spell bonus -, spell failure 5%, max spell level 5th)
Dexterity: 5 (Reaction/Attacking adjustment -1, Defense adjustment +2)
Constitution: 10 (System Shock Survival 70%, Resurrection Survival 75%)
Charisma: 13 (Max Henchmen 5, Loyalty Base -, Reaction Adjustment +5%)

Armor Class: 5 (12 base + Splint mail + shield + defense adjustment)
Hit Points: 8 (nice roll!)
Languages: Common, LN, Dwarvish, Elvish, Halfling, Gnomish, Kobold, Orcish
Weapon Proficiencies: Flail, Mace
Spells/Day: 1 Level 1 (will typically prepare Cure Light Wounds, Bless or Protection From Evil)
Money: 130 GP (130 GP – 11 GP weapons – 105 armor = 14 GP)
Equipment: Footman’s Flail (1D6+1/2D4 damage, 3 GP), Mace (1D6+1/1D6 damage , 8 GP), Splint Mail (AC 4 80 GP), Large Shield (-1 AC, 15 GP), Small Helm (10 GP), clothes: Robe, belt, low soft boots, cap, cloak (6+3+8+1+5=23 SP)

If he’d had one more point of Dex, he’d have been a cracking good Magic-User instead of the mediocre Cleric his dexterity forced him to become. Alas. All in all, he’s not bad though, with the highest intelligence in the group and he’s the only character in the whole group with a charisma bonus. Looks like the team leader to me. Just don’t ask him to go carrying anything fragile. I had to go for getting him the footman’s flail as a weapon, for comedic reasons. This guy’s hardly saint material (a jealous, venal and not particularly pious priest) and I expect that he became a cleric because he’s a younger son of some aristocratic yet impoverished family that had to go someplace and the church was as good as anything and better than some, rather than out of feeling a particular religious calling. Religion is a societal unifier (except when it isn’t), which suits his LN tendencies.

Character 2: Borl the Whisper

Human Male Thief
Alignment: Neutral Good
Age: 21
Height/Weight: 6’4”/150lbs
Appearance: Mature, ragged, normal/nondescript
General tendencies: Foul or barbaric (a crude, obnoxious thief? say it ain’t so!)
Personality/Disposition/Nature: Aloof/Cheerful/Unforgiving
Morals: Ascetic (Gygax really ought to have had a better editor: he put ‘Aesthetic’ on the chart regarding the character’s sexual morality where this is clearly what he meant… anyhow, we’ve got the crude, rude, cheerful yet standoffish and chaste thief.)
Piety: Saintly. (Man, what? I guess it goes with the other stuff…)
Secondary Skills: Miner, Trader
Description: Great height and a sardonic smirk are virtually the only features of this scruffy, lanky rogue’s appearance that would stand out from the serried masses of other scruffy urban folk whom one is likely to encounter in the muddy tracks that people of this age call streets. Once he opens his mouth he sticks out a bit more, having one of the crudest vocabularies you’re likely to encounter, though oddly he is very careful not to blaspheme while he’s at it.

Strength: 6 (Hit probability -1, damage -, weight -150, open doors 1, bend bars/lift gates 0%)
Intelligence: 9 (Languages +1)
Wisdom: 12
Dexterity: 14
Constitution: 12 (System Shock Survival 80%, Resurrection Survival 85%)
Charisma: 10 (Max Henchmen 4)

Armor Class: 8 (10 base + leather armor)
Hit Points: 5
Languages: Common, NG, Thieves’ Cant, Elvish
Weapon Proficiencies: Dagger, Broadsword
Thief Abilities: Back Stab (double damage, +4 to hit), Pick Pockets 30%, Open Locks 25%, Find/Remove Traps 20%, Move Silently 15%, Hide in Shadows 10%, Hear Noise 10%, Climb Walls 85%
Starting Money: 100 GP (100 GP – 20 GP weapons – 5 GP armor – 30 GP thief gear = 45 GP)
Equipment: Leather Armor (AC 8, 5 GP), Broadsword (10 GP), 5 daggers (1D4/1D3 damage, 5 @ 2 GP = 10 GP), Thieves’ picks & tools (30 g.p.), clothes: Girdle, Belt, low hard boots, cloak, hat (10+3+20+5+7= 45 SP)

This guy’s hardly the most competent thief what ever picked a pocket, but then he’s dead meat a first level adventurer, so what can you do? He’s not actually bad other than that lame Strength, just painfully average, which at least fits the ‘nondescript’ aspect of his details at the top. Frankly, the personality characteristics the dice revealed are inevitably a lot more informative about this guy than his attributes. He’s actually a pretty decent chap though, likely a bit of a philanthropic ‘wealth redistribution specialist’ who robs from monsters and of course long-dead folks that thought keeping all their gold in haunted catacombs was a good idea.

Character 3: Ixaal the Dusky

(Never call her “Ixaal Thighbiter” in her presence. Just don’t.)
Half-Orc Female Fighter (+1 str, +1 con, -2 Chr, already applied to the values below.)
Alignment: Lawful Good
Age: 14 (at 14, HOs are considered in the “young adult” category… they’re in their prime by 16 apparently)
Height, Weight: 5’5”, 134lbs
Appearance: dandyish, stable seeming.
General tendencies/Personality/Disposition/Nature: Trusting/Courteous/Cheerful/Vengeful (whoo… she seems nice on top, but don’t piss her off)
Morals: Perverted (umm… my first roll came up “depraved”, which comes with an auto-reroll where you have to keep the second result. Lawful Good =/= “nice girl” apparently.)
Piety: Impious
Secondary Skill: Tailor/Weaver
Description: This powerfully muscled yet compact, lean teenaged half-orc woman can pass readily enough for human most of the time, though her brown skin and black hair do have a hint of a bluish-green tinge in certain light conditions, and her eyeteeth are a touch more prominent than is the norm. She is highly style conscious and well dressed relative to her purse, and pays careful attention to her grooming, as well as putting on a disciplined, civilized warrior’s air.

Strength: 18/75 (Hit probability +2, damage +3, weight +1,250, open doors 1-4, bend bars/lift gates 25%) (My percentile roll was 79, but female half-orcs top out at 75)
Intelligence: 9 (Languages +1)
Wisdom: 9
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 10 (System Shock Survival 70%, Resurrection Survival 75%)
Charisma: 11 (13 to orcish) (Max Henchmen 4/5, Loyalty Base -, Reaction Adjustment 0/+5%)

Armor Class(Base): 4 (10 base + splint mail)
Hit Points: 8
Languages: Common, LG, Orcish, Goblin
Racial Abilities: Infravision 60’
Weapon Proficiencies: 2 Handed Sword, Long Sword, Dagger, Short Bow
Experience Bonus: +10% XP awards for strength 15+
Starting Money: 170 GP (170 GP – 32 GP weapons – 95 GP armor = 43 GP)
Equipment: 2 handed sword (1D10/3D6 damage, 30 GP), Splint Mail (AC 4, 80 GP), Dagger (1D4/1D3, 2 GP), great helmet (15 GP), clothes: broad Girdle, Belt, low hard boots, cloak, hat (40+3+20+5+7= 75 SP)

btw, I had a bit of an epiphany as I was looking over this particular character, one you might find funny.  It’s not “wow AD&D 1e is a messy, sloppy system with rules scattered far and wide all over their books” though that was true too. Okay, she’s a female half-orc fighter, of LG alignment and has some traits that, at first glance, might not have made a lot of sense. That all came together with the final dice roll.

Some of her random personality traits included “stable” (appropriate for LG), trusting, dandyish, courteous, cheerful and vengeful. She’s impious, so her LG bit isn’t due to religious devotion, and she has the randomly generated non combat skill of tailoring (okay, that explains dandyish partially, but not all the way). I also ended up scoring her the morality trait of “perverted” thanks to a very unusual roll. So she may be LG, but she’s not a “good girl”.

I was puzzling out over all this combination and then realized that I had no idea how old she was. So I dug around and found the chart buried in the dank, mildewed corners of the DMG and rolled. She’s 14. Which for a half-orc is equivalent of like 16-17. So… she’s a horny, slightly naive, highly fashion-conscious teenager who’s naturally cheerful and calm but really, really wants things to be fair (see: LG + vengeful). That’s the teenaged insistence on fairness. That one roll brought it all together: her fashion-consciousness and sexuality prolly tie in too, especially when you factor in that she’s a half-orc that can pass for human (which is how 1E player character half-orcs work)… she’s more than a bit insecure and really wants people to like her. That make sense?

Character 4: Ythyn Unstæd

Human Female Fighter
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral (possibly of the Chaotic Stupid variety – see below)
Age: 19
Height/Weight: 6’2”/115 (emaciated…)
Appearance: Dirty, unstable (hooo boy. I’m starting to suspect that head trauma along the way might help explain a few things about her…)
General tendencies: Careless (shocker)
Personality/Disposition/Nature: well spoken (?)/insensitive/hard-hearted. Starting to look almost like a slightly brain-damaged sociopath or nutcase… but she’s an adventurer, so I repeat myself.
Morals: Virtuous. So at least she’s not a loose woman…
Piety: Reverent (To what, the angel voices in her head?)
Secondary Skill: Bowyer/Fletcher
Description: An unusually tall woman, Ythyn would be a much more imposing presence were there some actual meat on her bones. Her mouse-brown hair is generally tangled, her gear and her person in need of a good scrub, and the gleam in her wide green eyes goes along with her slightly jerky, twitchy movements to leave the impression that she is about to suffer a psychotic break at any moment. However, her voice is smooth and her words well chosen all the same; were the overall effect of her presence not so unsettling and hazardous, she would actually be quite charming.

Strength: 11 (open doors 1-2, bend bars/lift gates 2%)
Intelligence: 4 (Languages -)
Wisdom: 7 (Magical attack adjustment -1)
Dexterity: 14
Constitution: 7 (System Shock Survival 60%, Resurrection Survival 65%)
Charisma: 11 (Max Henchmen 4)

Base Armor Class: 3 (10 base + splint mail + shield)
Hit Points: 6
Languages: Common, CN
Weapon Proficiencies: Flail, Shortbow, Dagger, Battle Axe
Starting Money: 170 GP (170- 24 GP weapons – 105 GP armor = 41 GP)

Equipment: Battle Axe (1D8 damage, 5 GP), Splint Mail (AC 4, 80 GP), Large Shield (-1 AC, 15 GP), Shortbow (1D6 damage, fire twice/turn, 15 GP), 2 Dozen arrows (2 GP), Dagger (1D4/1D3, 2 GP), small helmet (10 GP), clothes: broad Girdle, Belt, low hard boots, cloak, hat (40+3+20+5+7= 75 SP)

Okay, so we get a second fighter thanks to that abysmal and probably head trauma – induced intelligence stat. She’s not a very impressive specimen, but she’s completely bonkers so this should be a self correcting problem that hopefully won’t doom the rest of the party along with her. Tall but rail-thin, unkempt, dirty, hardened and unpredictable… I’d say she used to be a pretty normal fighter but her deteriorating mental state has taken her physical condition with it. Note also the low wisdom and constitution to add to that impression.

Yeah, swords are arbitrarily better than all other weapon types in AD&D1E, but come on: she’s Chaotic Neutral. What (short of a flamethrower or a bohemian ear-spoon) could be a more appropriate weapon for a CN fighter than a battle axe? If only the 1E PG had two handed flails or spiked chains… also, I ~had~ to buy this girl a helmet. She’ll need it outside of combat too.

Character 5: Chichobmay the Chartreuse

Human Female Magic-User
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Age: 29
Height/Weight: 5’3”/138lbs
Appearance: mature, ragged, neurotic
General tendencies: Hedonist
Personality/Disposition/Nature: Friendly/Humble/Unforgiving
Morals: Immoral (see also: evil)
Piety: Impious
Secondary Skill: None
Description: The journeyman wizardess’s road has not been kind to this dark-haired, dark-eyed woman, and her bright yellow-green robes have seen better days, but she has an ingratiating and unassuming way about her that manages not to be cloying or saccharine.

Strength: 11 (open doors 1-2, bend bars/lift gates 2%)
Intelligence: 16 (Languages +5, know spell 65%, minimum spells 7, max spells 11, Max spell level 8th)
Wisdom: 9
Dexterity: 8
Constitution: 6 (Hit Points -1, System Shock Survival 50%, Resurrection Survival 55%)
Charisma: 12 (Max Henchmen 5)

Armor Class: 10
Hit Points: 3 (maximum roll, with that con penalty. Wooo…)
Languages: Common, LE, Ogrish, Elvish, Orcish, kobold, hobgoblin, goblin
Weapon Proficiencies: Dart
Spells/Day: 1 Level 1
Level 1 Spells known: Burning Hands, Charm Person, Detect Magic, Magic Missile, Find Familiar, Identify, Read Magic, Shocking Grasp, Ventriloquism, Write, Light, (I tried but failed to nab Sleep, Shield and Feather Fall. 😦 )
Experience Bonus: +10% XP awards for intelligence 15+
Starting Money: 40 GP (40-7 GP weapons = 33 GP)
Equipment: Darts (1D3/1D2 damage, 3 shots/turn, @ 4 darts per 1 GP, so 5 GP total), dagger (1D4/1D3, 2 GP), clothes: Robe, belt, low soft boots, cap, cloak (6+3+8+1+5= 23 SP)

This girl’s stats make her a reasonably competent but not incredibly fearsome Mage, and her randomized personality traits make her come off, in my thinking, more of a follower than a would-be evil overlord, so her evil is likely more of the “selfish and petty” variety than the “MWAHAHAHAHAA!” type. She’s not consciously evil, just a bit of a conniving, self-centered and toadying git in need of regular validation by her companions and social superiors. Should she actually survive the seemingly hopeless early levels of magedom to reach high level, that might well take a turn…

So there you have a quick(ish?) exercise in genning up a totally random AD&D1E adventuring party. I personally found the results pretty interesting. If I were to personally pick which of these characters I’d want to run, it would have to be Ixaal, because she’s the one I find most interesting, readily setting aside that she has the only 18 attribute in this crowd, even if the rest of her attributes are strictly average. Now, if I were genning this group up for actual play, I’d probably have gone the 4d6 and take the best 3 dice route for attributes, and allowed a reroll of choice, but that’s really beside the point.


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