Monday, August 13, 2012

The Council of Spiders, Part 1

I have been in the business of making pre-made character cards for Dungeons & Dragons: Encounters for quite some time. I never would have expected to need to make new pre-made characters but I quickly found that some players wanted to use the Encounters program as an opportunity to explore new character types and concepts without having to to go through the trouble of making the character. Adding novelty character "images" was something I was more than happy to do.

One of the biggest problems I had with the pre-made characters provided was that they were not always well implemented characters. In fact, I find that they often had a plethora of poor choices in the design process. While there is something to be said about providing something to be improved upon, the idea that these characters felt like they had been made by somebody who did not understand the game was disheartening. Further, when a new person arrives and plays with a group of "regulars" with their own characters, the deficiencies of the pre-made characters became quite apparent.

With the new season of Encounters, a new stock of pre-made characters have finally been included for players to choose from. As this new season centers around the Drow and their machinations, it only made sense that a set of Drow adventurers would be included with the adventure content. The biggest problem with these characters is that they are actually just the previous six characters with the race option switched to "Drow." Some of these characters are so poorly implemented as to beg the question: Why print them at all? In response to that, I decided to look at each one in turn and see how I would have better developed it.

For once, I have chosen to abide by all of the official rules. This character is developed entirely from standard Essentials content. He is a Drow Slayer Fighter and all of his choices come from those allowed in the Essentials core books.

Drow + Slayer? Not the standard combination.
It's amazing what a good feat choice can do.
Ryltar is the Slayer Fighter of the bunch. On first glance of the character card, I was already thoroughly convinced that the folks responsible for making this did not have a good working knowledge of the game. The original Ryltar was a Strength-based Slayer with a Constitution of 14 and a Dexterity (his secondary stat) of 12. None of this felt right. I looked at it and realized that I had already made a Dexterity based Slayer, so it did not take me long to come up with a quick fix for ol' Ryltar. Swapping out his "Toughness" feat for "Melee Training (Dexterity)," I shifted the 18 Strength to Dexterity (bumping it up to 20). Keeping the Constitution at 14, I put the rest of the points into Charisma (for effect, I suppose).

The net effect was astounding. This new Ryltar was better at hitting his opponents AND dealt more damage. I swapped out his hand axe for a dagger so his ranged attack became absurdly more effective. With a high Dexterity, he was able to wear lighter armor and benefit from the natural Dexterity modifier, making his speed higher and most of his armor-affected skill checks better.

Honestly, after making this Dexterity based Ryltar, I could not see a way in which the original was superior. My Ryltar, made only using the elements of the Essentials books, was simply a more finely crafted character. A new player who picked this character up would still be able to compete with Encounters participants who made overly-optimized "super characters." Although not perfect, I think it better fit the intent of the original character while retaining it's Drow-iness and Slayer-iness.

NOTE: The image for this character card was taken from scans of the official D&D Encounters character card. Due to that, it bears characteristics of the medium. Once high-resolution images of the Drow characters are available, it will be updated accordingly. This website apologizes for the quality issue.


  1. What did you use to make these sheets? And do you mind if I use your sheets as pregens for my dungeon delves at Fan Expo? I want to possibly convert an adventure into a Star Wars theme.

  2. I actually do all of these in Adobe Illustrator CS3 (I'm a little behind). I put them up here for people to use, so please feel free to print them out and use them as necessary.

    If you're running a convention/expo scenario, I recommend printing and laminating them so they can be easily reused. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about them, as well.

  3. I used Ryltar last night and had a great time. As long as he has a healer near by to keep him alive he's a lot of fun to play. Hopefully I can play him up to sixth level and turn him into a drider by summer.

    1. I used the version you created with the dexterity upgrade.

    2. It surprised me to see how effective Ryltar was after re-building him to be a Dex based Slayer Fighter. I feel like he's an example of an interesting but rarely done class/race combination. I regret that the Council of Spiders season of Encounters didn't see more weird race/class combinations getting pushed (given the Drow-centric nature of it).