Monday, July 27, 2015

One Character, Nine Systems: Part 1

Obviously the rules for D&D have gone through many changes over the years, and I've had to put up with (read as enjoy) most of them. I've played characters in every edition, even converting across editions in a few cases (especially 2nd to 3rd). I have a lot of ideas about what I like and do not like about the various editions, and even enumerated several of them in one of the very first posts on this blog, but have never done a true side-by-side comparison of the various rule-sets or of what a character would like throughout all of them (though I played around with this a bit as part of a thing for work many years ago).

So, here is the plan:

  1. I will take one of my old characters who was played in a couple of different editions.
  2. Using him as a basis, I will try to re-create that character in each of the following versions of D&D: OD&D, AD&D, Basic D&D (Moldvay), AD&D 2nd edition, D&D Rules Cyclopedia, D&D 3rd edition, D&D 4th edition, Pathfinder, D&D 5th edition, 
  3. I will generate a single set of stats for the character, using 3d6-in-order and apply it to every version.
  4. I will try to faithfully capture the spirit of the character using all nine versions of the D&D mechanics.
  5. I will try to post a new version of the stats every Monday until I've done them all...

For now, let's establish the base-line:

The Character:

Junco Eliade is a scholarly dwarven priest dedicated to the philosophical study of Cosmogony (that is theories concerning the creation or origin of the universe), Hierophany (that is manifestations of the sacred or supernatural into the world), and Ontology (the nature of being, existence, and reality in general). Eliade was one of a number of archaeologists, adventurers, and researchers who have braved the Misty Blue Mountains to study the ruins of Shalast some time ago and is recognized as one of the founders of New Shalast.

At the end of the sixteenth century, Eliade stopped to spend the night near the spring that would become New Shalast‘s main water source and planted his staff in the ground. The next morning when he went to resume his journey, he found that it had taken root and that buds had sprouted on it. He considered this a sign of the gods’ will and settled in that place, forming the town that would come to be known as Madain Sari.

Eliade has long studied the Malimë Imadh from the reports of various adventurers who have attempted to assail it, and wishes to compile the definitive work on the Mountain that he believes lies at the “Center of the World”. According to various accounts of the creation of the world he has compiled, Eliade believes that at the heart of the mountain is a copper pole (the “axis mundi”), passing through the three cosmic levels (underworld, earth, and sky), and that the point at which it enters the sky is the “door to the world above”. Eliade believes that anyone ascending Malimë Imadh all the way to its highest peak will be able to enter the heavens or, delving deep the opposite direction, plunge into the realms of the dead.

Despite his deep fascination with the Mountain, Eliade has never set foot on it yet for to him “every existential decision to situate oneself in space constitutes a religious decision.” Eliade believes that exploring and claiming new territory is akin to reproducing the gods’ paradigmatic work of creating the cosmos out of the primordial chaos: in effect each time man builds a house, founds a new village, or discovers and settles new territory, he is creating a new world (on his own micro-scale) and vanquishing the forces of chaos anew.

Likewise all enemies that attack this “world” are assimilated to the enemies of the “gods”, the demons and the primordial archdragon conquered at the beginning of time. An attack on this “world” is equivalent to an act revenge by the primordial forces of chaos attempting to annihilate the cosmos which the gods created. Any destruction of a city is equivalent to a retrogression towards chaos. The victory of the gods over the forces of darkness, death, and chaos is repeated with every victory of the city over its invaders. Unknown, foreign, and unoccupied territory (i.e. “unoccupied by Eliade’s people”) still shares the fluid and larval modality of primordial chaos, by occupying and settling it, Eliade insists that one symbolically transforms it into a cosmos through ritual repetition of the cosmogony.

Eliade’s religion is highly ritualistic and stylized, believing more in ritually reenacting the works of the gods than in actively offering prayers or worship to any god directly. The formality of practice and sense of closeness to the act of divine creation in Eliade’s teachings has appealed to many in New Shalast, developing a fairly populous and active church over the years that has little need of Eliade’s presence to operate. However, many in the town find his practices strange: whether it is using divination and astrology to find the exact spot where the first stone of a new house must be laid, or his insistence on reciting (at length) the history of a sickness, the demons that provoke it, the saints that first conquered the malady, the birth of the first healer, and the appearance of medicines before offering a patient the herbs to treat it. Eliade is often cited as saying “life cannot be repaired, it can only be recreated through symbolic repetition of the cosmogony”.

Eliade, like most dwarves is broad and stocky in build, with a strong jaw and high forehead. Due to his long time spent living among humans in Madain Sari, he has taken to shaving his wiskers and dressing in human clothing (typically sporting a tie and thick black-framed glasses, which he thinks make him look more erudite). Eliade always carries a cedar staff, his own replica of the “axis mundi”. This serves as both weapon, holy symbol, and directional guide, choosing the direction he will take by the direction towards which this sacred pole bends.

The Baseline:
This is what we will use to try to create the character in each system...

Race: Dwarf
Class: Cleric/Fighter Multi-class
Level: 3rd

  • Str: 9
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 8

Because demihuman multi-classing is one of the things that changes significantly between editions, we'll make him a multi-class Fighter / Cleric in order to better show off those changes. Likewise, knowing that 3rd and 5th edition multi-classing are based on taking levels of a new class as one gains levels, we will build him at 3rd level (max level for Moldvay Basic) in order to be able to reflect that. Obviously some of the rolls are not ideal for a Cleric, nor for a Fighter, nor necessarily for a Dwarf, but that is what makes this fun (and may better reflect the constraints of character creation in some of the systems).