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Welcome to Part 5 of Zen & the Art of Character Creation. Over the last four installments we've gone through the philosophies of character design and looked at how to pick the right race, class, skills and feats for your character. Now that you have a good deal of knowledge and theory under your belt, it's time to go through some sample character designs that utilize these principles.

For each build, we'll go through an introduction to the character, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and how they fit into Zen & the Art of Character Creation. If you're interested in seeing exactly how the character is put together, a complete build is available at the push of the button.

Goofus Gallant: Human Shieldhand

Goofus Gallant is a trained and seasoned, although unorthodox warrior. Schooled in the finest battle techniques, he excelled in combat, but during a training exercise, he accidentally struck out too fast with his sword and cut the throat of his sparring partner. Without the benefit of magical healing, the other young warrior died. Goofus, weighed down by his guilt for the death, vowed to never take up arms again. During the day, he still trained in the ways of combat at the academy, but by night, he meditated and practiced. When the time came for sparring, Goofus came at his opponents with only a shield. Although his techniques raised many eyebrows among his trainers, none could doubt Goofus' skill, as he handily defeated all.

Goofus has since left the academy, but he carries the weight of his guilt and his mighty shield into combat, hoping to prove once and for all that one does not need weapons to be a great warrior.

Goofus Gallant is a human warrior-type character who specializes in shields. Although he is strong, he is also smart, and puts his intelligence to good use. On the surface, he is primarily a novelty character, based on Goofy from the Kingdom Hearts series of video games. Combining novelty with specialty, the character learns many techniques during his career that mimic the ones that his video game counterpart utilizes.

This build uses material from the Player's Handbook, Player's Handbook II, Complete Warrior, Tome of Battle and Complete Scoundrel.

The Great Bixby: Human Stage Magician

Bixby is something of an enigma. Growing up in a family of wizards, Bixby never had talent at the arcane arts, but grew envious of his siblings' talents. Instead he turned to practicing elaborate, but mundane illusions, becoming very skilled at sleight of hand. When he was old enough, he set out on the road.

Although technically marvellous, Bixby's illusions couldn't compare with arcane ones, and he was upstaged by lesser talents who wielded more power than himself. Thankfully though, Bixby's tricks caught the eye of thieves guilds across the land, who's members flocked to see him perform with skills that they hadn't dreamed of possessing.

Finally after a misunderstanding involving a rabbit, a lord's daughter and a cup and ball trick, Bixby had to leave his well-established act behind. With no place to go, he turned to adventuring both to hone his craft and to prove that you don't have to have magic to be magical.

Bixby is a skilled character, and a bit of a jack-of-all trades. Most of his abilities are mundane, although he does use a small number of spell-like abilities to help him perform. Not surprisingly Bixby is very dexterous and charismatic, although being intelligent doesn't hurt either.

While Bixby does have the option to to cast a very small number of spells later on in his career, he is primarily a skilled character. He has the ability to mimic several spell like effects as extraordinary abilities through the use to alchemy and the power of persuasion.

This build uses information from the Player's Handbook, Races of Destiny, Complete Warrior, Complete Arcane, Complete Adventurer and Dragon #335. Bixby's weapon of choice, but for flavor purposes, it can be considered a baton or non-magical wand.

Tel'thanis: Elven Sorcerer Knight

Tel'thanis has always known he was a little different than other elves. He looked a little harsher, he was tougher and his magical skill was evident from a young age. Eventually he learned that he was the descendant of a mating between an elven maiden and a gold dragon.

Using his bloodline's power, Tel'thanis began to train his body and his spirit, commanding both arcane and martial prowess. His inner devotion isolated him from other elves and they soon forced him to leave his village. Outcast, the young sorcerer travelled to other lands seeking adventure and a place in life.

Tel'thanis is an spellcaster character, who is specialized almost exclusively to abilities created through his bloodline.

Tel'thanis is an elven sorcerer who focuses on his draconic heritage. While he never reaches a high pinnacle of arcane power, he does learn to be incredibly tough, and can easily hold his own in a battle. Most of his spells should be quick to cast or take advantage of his draconic heritage (such as those from Dragon Magic). If at all possible, he should focus on quick casting times, like swift and immediate actions, to take full advantage of his abilities. To aid in combat, Tel'thanis has a sizable number of bonus hitpoints in addition to numerous ability score bonuses and a sizable natural armor bonus that caps off at 19th level with a total +6 bonus.

This build uses material from the Player's Handbook, Complete Mage, Races of the Dragon, Complete Arcane and Unearthed Arcana. Tel'thanis takes the Stalwart Sorcerer variant class feature at 1st level (see Complete Mage) and at later levels he takes the Dragon Sorcerer variant progression featured in Races of the Dragon (levels 4 and 7).

Durodin: Dwarven Warrior-Skald

Durodin has always felt the music inside him. Even in the midst of battle it wells up, threatening to force its way through with joyful intonements. For the most part Durodin has resisted these feelings. One day, while he was fighting goblin hordes alongside his fellow dwarves, Durodin slipped and began to sing in the middle of bloodlust.

Clerics of Moradin soon heard about the battle, and realized that Durodin may in fact be a prophesied warrior of dwarven mythology, known simply as The Skald. It is the destiny of the Skald to leave the dwarven homelands, and through his efforts both establish a new dwarven stronghold and bring and end to the hordes of goblinoids that have infested the area for centuries.

Now sent away from his clan, Durodin travels through human lands and wonders if he should have just kept quiet.

Durodin is a character combining barbarian and bard abilities. He makes good use of speed and maneuverability to get in close to an enemy and kill it. In battle, he divides his time equally between singing and raging. He is equal parts skilled and warrior, and is more of a dual-specialized character than a jack-of-all-trades.

This build uses only material from the Player's Handbook.

Deadwood: Troll Freak

Deadwood has never known seen another troll. Stolen during his birth and affected by powerful enchantments by a halfling wizard, he has become a powerful gladiator known for his unusual fighting style.

Deadwood likes to tear his own arm off and beat people with it.

With his troll-blood constantly rejuvenating him, Deadwood can easily remove a limb, an act which draws major crowds at the coliseum. The problem is, during a recent battle, another spell was cast on the troll, urging him to seek his freedom. Now Deadwood is on the run, his halfling owner killed by his own hand.

Deadwood is a novelty character with an extremely unusual fighting style. He is specialized and a warrior-type character as well. He simply stands to the side of the fight and throws his arm at an enemy. At later levels, he ricochets and returns the arm to get maximum use of this tactic.

This build uses material from Savage Species, Tome of Battle, the Player's Handbook, Complete Warrior and Player's Handbook 2.

And so, sadly, we've come to an end of Zen & the Art of Character Creation. I hope that these articles have helped you in creating new and better characters than before, or at the very least, given you some direction for the future. There are many other ideas for characters. For instance, there were many characters that didn't make the cut for this article, including:

  • An Illumian Truenamer who is always effective
  • A shape-shifting Aasimar Paladin
  • A Rilkan Rogue who worships the moon
  • A Human Hexblade/Spellthief who dual-wields longswords
  • A Human Wu-Jen who focuses on both metal and abjuration
  • A Paladin/Ninja who skirts between shadows and light
  • A Kobold Sorcerer who gains +20 ability score points

Do you have character builds? If so, share them in the forum, just click the Discuss link below!

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