Heroes Without the Handbook
The world's best-known roleplaying game has seen a recent rise in popularity, sparking the curiosity of many new players. It can be challenging, however, for a newcomer to find their bearings in a game that has three core rulebooks comprising almost 1000 pages of content!
In fact, even the very first task -- creating your player character -- can be daunting. Newer players may not have access to the Player's Handbook, and even if they do, new players are often overwhelmed by the number of options that are available.
Over the years I've tried to reduce the learning curve required to play the game, while still making space for players to create an epic character that will make the experience fun for them.
Click here to create your new character!
My first design goal in the streamlining effort was to create a series of handouts that could be used for character creation in place of the Player's Handbook. My second goal was to make the materials (character sheet, magic spell lists) more welcoming to new players. A third goal was to work against one of the game's more problematic elements.
My first decision addresses this third goal: these materials eliminate "race" as a choice that impacts character abilities. Players can choose to have their character be of any ancestry. This was a philosophical change, made to work against the game's often-problematic handling of fantasy races and racism. For more about this important topic, see Orcs, Britons, and the Martial Race Myth by James Mendez Hodes.
Ability scores are set using the standard array and then 3 ability score bonus points can be applied as the player desires (no more race-based ability adjustments). Players are then free to choose four skills proficiencies as they desire.
I streamlined the list of playable classes from twelve to eight. Some features of the paladin have been merged into the cleric. Some features of the sorcerer and the warlock have been merged into the wizard. The fighter, barbarian, and monk (and a bit of the bard) have been merged into a class called "warrior."
I created a one-page handout of special abilities for each class, chosen from among those available between first and fifth level (or so). Shortened spell lists were created for the cleric, druid, and wizard.