Saturday, June 13, 2009

DINO-PIRATES Characters: Chen

I've decided to begin an introduction to the rules and ideas behind the DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND game, so folks can see some of the design decisions getting made and have a notion of how it all works. To start with, I'm going to present some of the sample PC's available on the website, and talk about the choices that went into building them.

We start with stalwart Chen, former Imperial Marine gone pirate. As his description states:

Chen came to the islands as part of a punitive fleet expedition, but when he saw how the Empire oppressed the courageous islanders, his heart was forever turned against the vast nation that had spawned him. Now he saves his special hatred for the agents of the Empire that always seek to overrun the free islands.

All very stirring stuff, to be sure. Chen is a very basic sort of character, what passes for a front-line tank in DPoNI. That said, he's notably different from the sort of tank characters you might see in other games.

His Dexterity is pretty high, for example. In DPoNI Dexterity determines your attack bonus, so it's critical for front-line fighters. His Strength is higher, which gives him a brutal damage bonus (+6 for the battleaxe), meaning he'll very likely seriously injure his foes anytime he connects. The one point of Constitution is a little low for a tank, so Chen wears leather armour to help protect himself. But Chen has popped one point into Charisma, even dropping his Wisdom to do so. We'll look at the reasoning here below.

Chen's skill list is never going to be very broad. He opted for most of the fundamental Strength/Dexterity skills like Climb, Jump, Stealth and Swim. Missing is Acrobatics -- this is mostly just a concept thing. Chen as an Imperial Marine just isn't the sort of nimble swashbuckler that a character like Victoria needs to be. But he does get Concentration and Intimidate for free as an Imperial. Concentration, with his low Wisdom, is a bit of write-off (and not so useful for a fighter), but Intimidate is a great choice, and here's where Chen's point of Charisma helps out. A +5 on Intimidate means Chen can readily use this skill in combat, either using the feint action to startle his opponents with his menacing manner, or by using the provoke feature in Intimidate to protect his less combat-proof friends.

His feat selection is likewise unsurprising. Picking up Armor Training basically means getting a free Toughness bonus, and perhaps if he gets some wealth down the line he can get more effective armor than he currently has. It's a tradeoff though, with his physical skills since the Armor Check Penalty in DPoNI is so much more crippling -- and that effects not only the use of the skills but the ability to Stunt off them. He'd have a +2 Stunt Bonus from Climb, Jump and Stealth without the armor, so that Toughness bonus comes at a cost. Which ends up making the focus on Intimidation even more important.

Down the line Chen would want to look at putting some more focus into that battleaxe -- Attack Specialization to increase the damage, Intimidating Prowess would get him more use out of the Intimidate skill, and Parry Focus would build on his already-formidable Parry. Cleave is another good bet, and he'll want to take a Tough feat every few levels as the opponents get nastier. He'll continue to max out Intimidate, and then depending on the turn the campaign takes keep putting skill ranks into Climb, Jump or Stealth (or Swim if that seems appropriate).

So that's a quick look at a very simple DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND character, but hopefully it illustrates a few of the things that make this game unique. The revised skill rules and the Stunt bonus make a wide array of skill choices feasible even for such a basic character type.