The Workshop: The Level 0 Character (Part 2)

Author’s Note: As you will read next week, I have since tried to use these rules to create some Level 0 characters of my own and realized that I may have started too conservative in my estimation as far as cutting and diminishing things. These rules will be being revisited in the coming weeks after some more work, but I still present my first draft so that you can catch a glimpse at my creative process. I also keep them up here because they may fit your style of game, and if you can get some use using these as a guide, then they have done their job. -Ben

Last week caught me waxing nostalgic over a game that I played many years ago in the days of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. In this game, we started off at level 0. We knew what classes we wished to go into, and we roleplayed our entry into those various classes throughout several adventures. It was honestly the second most fun time I’ve had playing a character. (The first is a different story altogether, one that may get told at another point). Not having all of those class abilities really made me appreciate how much different and more powerful level 1 characters were over basic people. Looking at how 5th Edition presents itself in character creation, I found myself drawn to the concept of replicating this style of play by simply diminishing access to proficiencies and abilities a character receives from his class.

When creating a character for this type of play, you create your character as normal, rolling or assigning your stats, choosing your race, and deciding what class you wish to play and choose your desired background. But instead of taking the listed proficiencies and 1st level abilities listed in the Player’s Handbook, you instead take the proficiencies and 1st level abilities presented below. You gain the full hit points granted to your class at 1st level, and your proficiency bonus remains +2; you’re still a cut above a normal man or woman of your race, but you’re not a full-blown fighter or cleric just yet. You do however, gain all the listed background proficiencies as listed in the Player’s Handbook. Once a character reaches 1st level, they gain access to the rest of their proficiencies as normal.

Now, this has not be playtested by any means, but considering the goal of this type of game is not to test the characters as you would a standard 1st level party, balance can take a small back seat for the first session or two. Most classes have diminished access to some of their defining abilities, and some even have access to abilities that don’t come into play until 1st level – for example, a Cleric chooses their Domain as normal, but they don’t see any of those benefits until they reach 1st level.

Barbarian

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: All simple weapons, any one martial weapon of your choice
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Strength OR Constitution
Skills: Choose one from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

Rage: As 1st level, except you can only rage once per day and receive only a +1 to attack and damage rolls when you make a melee attack using Strength.

Equipment
–          A martial weapon you are proficient with
–          (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon
–          An explorer’s pack and four javelins

Bard

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons, any two of the following: hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords
Tools: One musical instrument of your choice

Saving Throws: Dexterity OR Charisma
Skills: Choose any one

Cantrips: You know one cantrip of your choice from the bard spell list.
Bardic Inspiration: As 1st level, except you can only use it once per day and only grant a d4 with your Inspiration Die

Equipment
–          (a) a rapier (if proficient), (b) a longsword (if proficient), or (c) any simple weapon
–          (a) a diplomat’s pack or (b) an entertainer’s pack
–          (a) a lute or (b) any other musical instrument
–          Leather armor and a dagger

Cleric

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor and shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Wisdom OR Charisma
Skills: Choose one from History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion and Religion

Cantrips: You know two cantrips of your choice from the cleric spell list.
Domain: You choose your Domain, but you gain no benefits from it until you reach 1st level.

Equipment
–          (a) a mace or (b) a warhammer (if proficient)
–          (a) scale mail (if proficient), (b) leather armor, or (c) chain mail (if proficient)
–          (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) any simple weapon
–          (a) a priest’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
–          A shield and a holy symbol

Druid

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor and shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)
Weapons: Any 5 of the following: clubs, daggers, darts, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, scimitars, sickles, slings, spears.
Tools: Herbalism kit

Saving Throws: Intelligence OR Wisdom
Skills: Choose one from Arcana, Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, and Survival

Cantrips: You know one cantrip of your choice from the druid spell list.
Druidic: You know Druidic, he secret language of the druids. You are starting to learn the language and can attempt to use it to leave hidden messages with a successful DC 10 Wisdom check. You can attempt to spot and decipher hidden messages left by others with a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check.

Equipment
–          (a) a wooden shield or (b) any simple weapon
–          (a) a scimitar (if proficient) or (b) any simple melee weapon
–          Leather armor, an explorer’s pack, and a druidic focus

Fighter

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor and either medium armor OR shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, any 2 martial melee weapons and any 1 martial ranged weapon
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Strength OR Constitution
Skills: Choose one skill from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival

Second Wind: As 1st level, except you regain 1d6 hit points

Equipment
–          (a) scale mail (if proficient) or (b) leather armor, longbow and 20 arrows (if proficient)
–          (a) a martial weapon you are proficient with and a shield (if proficient) or (b) two martial weapons you are proficient with
–          (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) two handaxes
–          (a) a dungeoneer’s pack (or (b) an explorer’s pack

Monk

Proficiencies
Armor: None
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: One type of artisan’s tools or one musical instrument

Saving Throws: Strength OR Dexterity
Skills: Choose one from Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion, and Stealth

Unarmored Defense: As 1st level, except your AC is equal to 10 + your Dexterity modifier + ½ your Wisdom modifier.
Martial Arts: As 1st level, except you do not get to make an unarmed strike as a bonus action when you make an Attack action with an unarmed strike or monk weapon.

Equipment
–          (a) a shortsword (if proficient) or (b) any simple weapon
–          (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
–          10 darts (if proficient)

Paladin

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor, medium armor, and shields
Weapons: Simple, any 1 martial weapon
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Wisdom OR Charisma
Skills: Choose one from Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion

Divine Sense: As 1st level, except you can use it once before you need to take a long rest.

Equipment
–          A martial weapon you are proficient with and a shield
–          (a) five javelins or (b) any simple melee weapon
–          (a) a priest’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
–          Scale mail and a holy symbol

Ranger

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor and shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, longbow, any one martial melee weapon of your choice
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Strength OR Dexterity
Skills: Choose one from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival

Favored Enemy: As 1st level

Equipment
–          Leather armor
–          (a) two shortswords (if proficient) or (b) two simple melee weapons
–          (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
–          A longbow and a quiver of 20 arrows

Rogue

Proficiencies
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons, any two of the following: hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords
Tools: Thieves’ tools

Saving Throws: Dexterity OR Intelligence
Skills: Choose two from Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth

Sneak Attack: As 1st level, except you only deal an extra 1d4 damage.

Equipment
–          (a) a rapier (if proficient), (b) a shortword (if proficient), or (c) any simple weapon
–          (a) a shortbow and a quiver of 20 arrows or (b) a shortsword (if proficient)
–          (a) a burglar’s pack, (b) a dungeoneer’s pack, or (c) an explorer’s pack
–          Leather armor, two daggers, and thieves’ tools

Sorceror

Proficiencies
Armor: None
Weapons: Daggers, any one from the following: darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Constitution OR Charisma
Skills: Choose one from Arcana, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Religion

Cantrips: You know two cantrips of your choice from the sorcerer spell list.
Sorcerous Origin: Choose a sorcerous origin. You do not gain any benefits until you reach 1st level.

Equipment
–          (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts (if proficient) or (b) any simple weapon you are proficient with
–          (a) a component pouch or (b) an arcane focus
–          (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
–          Two daggers

Warlock

Proficiencies
Armor: None
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Wisdom OR Charisma
Skills: Choose one from Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion

Cantrips: You know one cantrip of your choice from the warlock spell list.
Otherworldly Patron: Choose an otherworldly patron. You do not gain any benefits until your reach 1st level.

Equipment
–          (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) any simple weapon
–          (a) a component pouch or (b) an arcane focus
–          (a) a scholar’s pack or (b) a dungeoneer’s pack
–          Any simple weapon and two daggers

Wizard

Proficiencies
Armor: None
Weapons: Daggers, any one from the following: darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows
Tools: None

Saving Throws: Intelligence OR Wisdom
Skills: Choose one from Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion

Cantrips: You know two cantrips of your choice from the wizard spell list.
Spellbook: As 1st level, except you only have 3 1st-level spells in the book. You should work with your GM to learn the other 3 before reaching 1st level.

Equipment
–          (a) a quarterstaff (if proficient) or (b) a dagger
–          (a) a component pouch or (b) an arcane focus
–          (a) a scholar’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
–          A spellbook

We’ll finish this small exercise off with some characters next week that can be used to kick start a game like this, showing off what they would actually look like in regards to their 1st level versions.

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Ben Erickson

Ben Erickson

Contributing Writer for d20 Radio
A long time gamer and even longer time 'designer,' Ben has been doing system tinkering and creation since grade school. He was introduced to the world of gaming through the boxed introductory set of West End Games Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Apart from game writing, he enjoys dabbling in other forms of writing, from short stories and poetry to (more recently) song lyrics. You can also find him trying to keep up on the latest books, movies, and television shows (a task that grows more and more daunting each year).
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