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What are the six abilities that every character has?
Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS), and Charisma (CHA)
What is the range of ability scores, and the average?
0 through 20, the human average being 10
What do ability modifiers do, and what are they?
- Ability modifiers add bonuses [or penalties] to skills, saves, and other stats. They are as follows:
- -5 (0-1)
- -4 (2-3)
- -3 (4-5)
- -2 (6-7)
- -1 (8-9)
- +0 (10-11)
- +1 (12-13)
- +2 (14-15)
- +3 (16-17)
- +4 (18-19)
- +5 (20)
- It is possible, though very rare, for them to go even higher or lower.
What are skills?
Skills are specific tasks the player can do, though some require training. Some skills are specific (Swim), while others encompass a broader range (Survival). Each skill has an ability related to it. The higher a person's ability, the higher their bonus in that skill.
How are skills calculated?
- A character's skill is a combination of a few things:
- - the number of "ranks" they are trained in the skill (if any)
- - a 3-point training bonus if it is a "class skill" (listed under the person's class)
- - any bonuses/penalties from the related ability modifier
- - miscellaneous bonuses/penalties received elsewhere
- Example: Dovast the elf rogue has a Wisdom score of 14 and has one rank of perception. So he gets 1 pt for the training, 3 pts because it's a class skill for Rogues, 2 pts because he's an elf (more on race later), and 2 more points for the ability modifier from Wisdom, which is the related ability for perception. This would give him 1 + 3 + 2 + 2, or 8 pts total in Perception.
How are skills used, and what is DC?
- When a skill is used, the player roles a 20-sided die (d20) and then adds their skill points (if any) to the number they rolled. This is then compared to the difficulty of the task in question, also know as DC (difficulty class.)
- - Sometimes the player knows the DC, but a lot of the time only the GM knows how difficult the task is.
- - Also, unless the character sheet says the skill can be used untrained, the character has to have the skill in question. It doesn't matter how easy or difficult a wand is to use, if the player doesn't have the Use Magic Device skill, they can't use it.
- Example: Dovast the elf rogue is in the forest, and something is watching him. However, only the GM knows this at first, and so he asks the person playing Dovast to roll for their Perception. Dovast rolls, and gets a 9. He adds his 8 pts of Perception skill, for a total of 17. If the GM had decided the DC to detect the creature watching him in the forest was 18 or greater, than Dovast would have failed to detect the creature, and most likely would be ambushed, or at least oblivious to the creature. However, if the DC was 15, Dovast beat that by 2, so he would be alerted to the fact that he's being watched. The more someone beats a DC by, the better they were at it. So if Dovast rolled a 19, that would have been a total of 27, at which point the GM might add, "You can tell it's a large feline creature just north of you." (Or whatever seems appropriate.)
Is there ever a way to keep from rolling badly?
- Depending on the situation, a player may choose to not roll, instead doing what's known as "taking a 10," or "taking a 20." In the first instance, if a particular task is not overly hazardous or is not during a stressful situation, and the player knows their skill is up to the task, they can say "I'm taking a 10" (which is the average die roll), and add their skill to that. So in the case of Dovast above, if he'd taken a 10 on Perception, he would have gotten 18, enough to detect the creature. (Though the player didn't necessarily know what they needed, or if there was even anything to detect, as sometimes the GM will just let the player detect that there's nothing there.)
- "Taking a 20" is reserved for the most non-urgent, non-lethal situations. It basically means, "my character is going to keep doing this until they get a perfect 20 on the dice." Because of how long it takes (usually two minutes, possibly longer depending on what it is), this can only be done when time is not an issue and nothing is endangering the player. It also requires that failure not be disastrous. For example, one cannot "take a 20" on Climbing, as the risk of failure can be deadly. Also, if it is something that a player typically only has one shot at, taking a 20 is not an option. For instance, you can only Bluff a person once. They aren't going to wait patiently for you to get it perfect.
What happens if I roll badly? Can I do over?
Sometimes, but not usually. Unlike computer RPG's, which allow reloads, resets, etc., pen-and-paper games are always moving forward. Which is why even failure isn't the end of things, just a different path along the story. (Admittedly this isn't necessarily the case if the failure is so massive that everyone involved dies, but luckily that doesn't happen too often.) You just keep going with it, and the GM can adjust the game on the fly to work with the new turn of events. Sure, it's preferable to roll well, but sometimes the most interesting moments happen when you botch. (Or when the NPC's botch.)
What's an NPC?
An NPC is a Non-Player Character, or anyone not controlled by a player. This basically means anyone controlled by the GM, and consists of everyone you meet [other than other players, when applicable.] NPC's have attributes, skills, classes, etc., just like players. The only real difference is that you have no control over them. And typically they are not as important as the players, either.
What if I want to do something that's not specifically covered by a skill?
- The GM can decide to broaden the scope of a skill to include the thing you want to do, or perhaps combine two or more separate skills to equal the thing you wish to attempt. (For example, to camouflage yourself you may combine the skills Hide and Disguise, and possibly Survival.) Or in some cases one simply rolls a d20 and then adds whatever ability modifier seems appropriate.
- Example: Dovast the elf rogue wants some input deciding whether climbing down the cliff face would be a wise move. The GM can have him roll a d20 and add his Wisdom modifier, and depending on the result, the GM might say, "You think this is the best course of action," or possibly, "You know you'll probably die if you attempt this." [Note: this is at the GM's discretion. They might decide that this is going to be entirely your call. Or they may go the other way and just flat-out say, "Your character is wise enough to know this is not a good idea." Though ultimately the decision will be the player(s).]
Die? How/when would I die?
Each creature has hit points (HP). When these reach 0, the player is on death's door. HP is lost from damage or from spells/effects that lower hitpoints, either directly or indirectly. HP is gained from healing, rest, potions, magical items/spells, or leveling. At zero hitpoints, the player loses consciousness and [except under certain circumstances] is said to be dying, and will slowly go into negative values of hitpoints unless healed/stabilized. When a person reaches the negative equivalent of their constitution score, they are dead dead. The higher the constitution, the longer it takes for them to die. [This also means that if, heaven forbid, someone's constitution score should somehow be lowered to zero, they would be dead, because the negative value of zero is zero.]
So how do I not die?
At the most basic level, avoid damage. Avoid traps, avoid spells, avoid hazards, and avoid aging. Since most of this is unavoidable, then try to minimize it as much as possible. The most basic way to reduce the odds of being hit is to have a high Armor Class, or AC.
What is AC?
- AC is the number someone has to reach (with dice plus whatever natural ability) in order to hit you. Your AC starts at 10, but can be added to with literal armor, an increased dexterity, class abilities and feats, related spells, and size differences. (Smaller targets are harder to hit.) So even though it stands for "Armor Class" there doesn't have to be any actual armor involved.
- Example: Dovast the elf rogue is wearing a chain shirt. This gives him an AC bonus of +4. He also has a Dexterity of 16, which gives him a +3 bonus. So his total starting AC would be 17. This means that in order to hit him, an attacker would have to get an end result of 17 or more with their attack.
What if they hit me, how else can I avoid death?
The ability to heal, or knowing someone with the ability to heal, is a very nice thing. As is having access to healing potions. There are other ways as well, but are too complex for a blurby explanation and probably won't apply to beginning characters anyway.