Monday, August 7, 2017

Dragon Warriors RPG, Part 2: Building a Character for Play (Barbarians and Knights Only)

Building a character in Dragon Warriors begins in a familiar fashion to Dungeons & Dragons players, but then it quickly deviates as the game begins to assert its own sensibilities. This game is attempting early on to differentiate itself as a quicker, more deadly version of Dungeons & Dragons. Let's go through the steps

Step 1

Like many other role-playing games Dragon Warriors has the players rolling their abilities using 3d6 for five characteristics that will define what the character is capable of doing in the game. Where Dungeons & Dragons had the players defining Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma Dragon Warriors instead has the players defining Strength, Reflexes, Intelligence, Psychic Talent, and Looks. Of note here is that once these characteristics are rolled they will not advance or deteriorate unless the character is affected by some disease or magical spell. This is a huge difference from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e game I'm used to and I kind of dig it.

Now when I first noticed the truncated characteristic pool that Dragon Warriors was using I assumed: that Strength and Reflexes would be the same as in Dungeons & Dragons; that Intelligence would be a combination of Dungeon & Dragons Intelligence and Wisdom; that Looks was as meaningless as Charisma; and I had a vague notion that Psychic Talent had something to with psionics. On the first four abilities I was largely correct, but on Psychic Talent I was off slightly. In Dragon Warriors Psychic Talent is defined as the ". . . basic ability to resist (and in some cases use) magic . . ." (Morris, 22). When I first read that Psychic Talent was actually a character's magical aptitude I was rather befuddled by the terminology. It would have been nothing for the authors to describe magical aptitude as Mystic Talent or some other such direct terminology, but to call it Psychic Talent implies that magic in this world is more than some arcane art as you find in other role-playing games. I suspect that we'll find a clarification on this in the second book, The Way of Wizardry.

Step 2

At this point the book begins to discuss the Professions (or as a Dungeons & Dragons player might address them, classes) available to the player of which there are four presented in the first two books (the Knight, Barbarian, Mystic, and Sorcerer) with an additional two presented in later books (Elementalist and Assassin). If I had been purchasing this game at the time it released the discovery that I would need to buy four of the game's six books just to be able to play the game's only available classes would have chapped my ass. Luckily the version released by Serpent King Games allows me to have all of the books in a single location instead of having to buy it across a series of books. The frugal bastard at my core can indulge in that. 

Moving on.

Step 3

Health Points (HP) are to be derived at this point. All characters use a d6 to determine the random number that will be their base score and then add an additional, static bonus that is the same regardless of their characteristic scores. This static bonus is derived from the character's class with Barbarians having the highest bonus presented in this book. It's a simplified system that speeds up character creation in a slight manner as compared to Dungeons & Dragons modifier system. It's not necessarily better or worse but it has a simple format that I rather like.

Step 4

From this point forward there will be no more dice rolling in the character creation process which is an interesting choice when compared to Dungeons & Dragons where you're rolling throughout the majority of the character creation process. Instead you're going to be denoting your character's basic scores and then modifying them according to a series of charts. 

It's here in this step that we really begin to see hints of the hard shift away from Dungeons & Dragons shadow and see the potential for where Dragon Warriors will be leading us as players throughout our learning of this game. We've moved to a passive role, and as you'll see in upcoming sections, it won't be the last time either.

In step four we're determining a character's Attack score and Defense score. For combat characters, the Knight and Barbarian, your Attack score and Defense score will be everything to you. You will need to make sure that your Strength, Reflexes, and Intelligence are your highest characteristics. We'll discuss this more fully in the next part of the Dungeon Warriors series, The Rules of Combat, but for right now it's enough to know that higher abilities in these areas will provide your character with better chances in combat. Your score modifiers will be found on pg. 25 in the first table.

Step 5

As with determining your Attack and Defensive scores in the previous part now you will now be determining your Magical Attack and Magical Defensive scores from the second table on pg. 25. Higher is again better than lower and I suspect that for many melee characters that they will want to focus their fourth highest stat in Psychic Talent as it provides them with the greatest opportunity for a bonus to their Magical Defense - a facet of their defense that they will need help in shoring up.

Step 6 

In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of rules and saves that are used to take care of things that occur outside of your normal combat situations. In earlier editions you had things like Save vs Dragon Breath and Save vs Magic Wand; Third Edition introduced the Reflex, Fortitude, and Will Saves as a way to handle those earlier complex situations. In Dragon Warriors there is Dodging which allows a character to evade those sorts of situations. It's based on your Reflexes characteristic that determines your bonuses for this ability. You will find the modifiers for this on pg. 26.

Step 7 

In this step, Initial Equipment, the player has again taken a largely passive role in the character creation process. Knights and Barbarians are presented with a list of their starting equipment and money (it should be noted that the Barbarian is the only one of the two who actually rolls for their starting cash). They may purchase additional equipment if they have the money but largely they're done with equipment after this point.

My initial reaction to this step was a bit of shock because I tend to enjoy spending a lot of time purchasing my equipment and preparing my characters for the sort of adventures that I envision them going on when I bring them to the table; but the quickness with which this dispenses with that step would significantly speed up my ability to bring a character to the game. And that brings me to an aspect of this game that I'm already falling in love with: speed. After working my way through the character creation process I can honestly tell you that I'm able to bring a Barbarian or Knight character into a Dragon Warriors in less than ten minutes - and that's with me taking my time, hand drawing my character sheet and making it look just the way I want it. 

I love that speed and it's something I suspect we'll be seeing more of when we move into combat in the next part. 

Step 8

This is the final step in the character creation process and it's here that you are given your rank, or as Dungeons & Dragons players would call it, your level. You start play at level 1 in this book though I'm sure that there are rules out there to allow you to start at higher levels if you're so inclined. 

And that's it, our character is made. at least as far as the Barbarian and Knight are concerned. The process is a streamlined affair that allows the player to get quickly to the table and actually play the game. Comparing this process to my beloved Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons' character creation process is a no contest: Dragon Warriors is, far and away, simpler and faster. 

I'm excited to see where this game takes us as we move on to the way that combat is handled. I hope you'll be joining me for part 3.

Dragon Warriors Index
Part 2: Building a Character for Play (Barbarians and Knights Only)
Part 3: Combat

Works Cited

Morris, Dave, Dragon Warriors Book One, Dragon Warriors. Corgi Books, UK. 1985. pg 22 


  1. Book Six contains the Warlock profession, which was pretty cool from what I remember...

    1. Thank you for letting me know about it. I skipped ahead and noticed that there was also an Assassin class. I'm looking forward to getting to both of them as I work my way through the game.

  2. Good to see someone else enjoying my favourite game. :)

  3. As has been mentioned, there is a Warlock profession in Book 6 as well.

    It's worth knowing that the game as originally released only consisted of three books containing the Knight and Barbarian in Book 1 and the Sorcerer and Mystic in Book 2 (Book 3 was *mostly* just one long adventure). So the first three books were the complete game as far as those of us who were playing back in the mid 1980s were concerned. So when Books 4, 5, and 6 appeared gradually, it was probably seen as a bonus by most of us, rather than us feeling something nefarious had been done by only releasing the professions gradually.

    Back then, pre-internet, a lot of us probably didn't even know there were books beyond the third, so they took us by surprise. I actually saw Book 6 before I ever saw 4 or 5 (getting Book 5 actually proved very difficult - it took years to get my own copy, although I kept borrowing a copy from a local library over and over again (possibly preventing Damian May being able to borrow it!)

    1. Also on the issue of needing to buy multiple books, one thing to consider (and the main reason a lot of kids like me first played DW back then rather than D&D or AD&D) is that the books were *really* cheap. I can't directly comment on prices in the UK, where the game was originally released, but here in Australia, back then a single AD&D rulebook was around $30, and the D&D Basic Set was $20 then $20 for the Expert set, every module cost $10 or so...

      DW books were $3 each (eventually $4), which for a ten year old on $2 a week pocket money made them possible in a way other RPGs weren't. Even when all six books were out, the whole system would have cost less than a single AD&D book.

      I love DW as a game - but I know for a lot of younger gamers in the 1980s, it's huge virtue was that you could afford it!

    2. I had no idea that were so cheap! Thank you so much for letting me know that because that would have made a huge difference in my buying pattern!

  4. And should 10 minutes seem like an eternity to time-strapped gamers, there's an even faster way to create a Dragon Warriors character (although arguably less fun):

    I'm excited by this series, as it's rare to find Dragon Warriors get the love it deserves. I'm looking forward to more!

    1. I hope you enjoy it and I thank you for the link!


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