Greywulf’s Guide to 4e Character Generation by Hand

What began as a simple blogpost about how to generate a character using nothing more than a pencil, pad and copy of the PHB rapidly turned into a four and a half thousand word PDF detailing the hows, why and what-ifs of Character Generation taking you from initial concept to the final stages of checking the math. You can look at why Character Generation is better than Character Generation and provide a fully worked through example taking him from concept to final character sheet.

Here it is!


I’m posting this up as donationware. You’re free to download & read it and if it is of value to you (or you want me to post more things like this!) please hit the Donate button below and toss a couple of dollars into the pot. You will have my grateful thanks, and the promise of more to come.

With thanks to Doug, for prodding me to do this.

8 Comments on “Greywulf’s Guide to 4e Character Generation by Hand”

  1. Since I’m a Mac user, Character Builder has not been an option for me. I’ve been making 4e characters “by hand” for almost 2 years. Kudos for putting this resource up on the web.

  2. Interesting essay. Honestly, I think it would work better without the mechanical parts of it. The interesting stuff is the way you describe the joy of creating a character based on a concept and then pulling the numbers and choices together around that concept. That’s non-system-specific and would probably be interesting to people who play other games, too.

    As for the mechanics, that’s the part where I think the essay was a little weak, actually. The point of the mechanics section in your essay was, “See, this isn’t so hard! You don’t need some computer program to do it for you!”

    Now, I’m okay with the idea of sticking to the original Player’s Handbook and ignoring almost all errata. But I struggle a little with with your decision to create a fighter. It feels like cheating to make your simple character when you go with a simple class (the race isn’t as big a deal, since you do have to choose an extra feat and at-will power with the human).

    You say that power cards aren’t necessary, and with these particular powers I agree. However, I think there are powers from other classes that would probably take up more space on your character sheet (Cloud of Daggers, Sacred Flame, Riposte Strike, Furious Smash, etc.).

    Also, if you do want to stick with the mechanics, I’d suggest throwing at least Melee Basic Attack in there, especially for a fighter with Combat Challenge and Combat Superiority.

    Useful essay!

    1. I’m confused now. Did I put in too many mechanics, or not enough? :/

      I didn’t want to explicitly walk through “Add this number to your CON score to get your Hit Points”, etc because all that information is already covered in the PHB :D

      I purposefully chose a simple build to show exactly that – it’s simple to do. If I had picked a class requiring more detail (such as a Wizard), I’d just be repeating myself needlessly. the more “complex” Classes tend to only be complex in that they have more Powers to choose from in-play, that’s all.

      I don’t think there are many Powers which can’t be represented in one or two lines at most. I think we’re far too blinded by the idea of Power Cards and a layout which consumes acres of page space.

      To use your own examples (and completely making up the numbers along the way):

      Cloud of Daggers/w Area 1sq in 10,+4vRef, d6+4, plus 3 to creature that starts or ends turn there. Lasts to end of next turn

      Sacred Flame/w R5, +4vRef, d6+4 and 1 ally gains 4hp or makes a saving throw

      Riposte Strike/w +7vAC, d6+4. If attacks before start of next turn, +2vAC d6+4 as immediate interupt

      Furious Smash/w +6vAC, 4 dmg and 1 adjacent ally gets +3 to-hit and dmg against the target

      The key here is to write down only what you need on your sheet to be able to play the game. Definitions, etc can stay where they belong – in the rule book.

      Hope that helps!

  3. I thought that you covered the mechanics just right…

    If you play one 4 hour D&D session a week and peel off 2 encounters per session, you’ll need character builder once every 5 weeks if that.

    One rule I use to limit over optimization of characters is to limit the maximum stats of the character to 18, that keeps the players from pursuing one shot wonders.

    Very little of the errata addresses game damaging capabilities. Cleric – Righteous Brand comes to mind, and it was also one of the first powers to be errata’d.

    I LOVE the way Essentials makes the game more paper and pencil friendly. I think its key is in how its presented, and I really wish they had presented the power books the same way, even if it was just vertical lists of powers for say a Brawler fighter.

  4. Well, I’ll probably end up relying even more heavily now on the charop wiki on the wizards community site with the CB relegated to obsolescence.

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