It's time for another installment of Fantasy Fridays. Today, I'd like to discuss the concept of character themes. I believe I've mentioned them before, when discussing Background Abilities, although not necessarily by that name. From the interviews I've read regarding the seminars at DDXP last weekend, it seems that themes will potentially play a significant role in 5th Edition D&D (5E) character development, at least optionally so. Similar in concept to AD&D 2nd Edition's character kits, the theme provides certain abilities to a character based on its origin, background or affiliation.
Under 4E, themes provide the following benefits:
- You automatically gain the theme’s granted power.
- You can choose to take additional theme powers when you reach the appropriate level.
- You unlock feats or paragon paths that use the theme as a prerequisite.
Offered in comparison, the character kits of AD&D 2nd Edition offer the following potential benefits:
- You might gain access to bonus languages.
- You might have changes to forbidden or permissible weapons.
- You might gain bonus non-weapon proficiencies.
- You typically gain one or two special abilities.
- You might gain one or two hindrances.
Looking at the common elements, I'd guess that 5E character themes will likely grant the following:
- You automatically gain some bonus to skill checks or ability checks related to your theme.
- You may gain a special ability specific to your theme.
- You may gain access to special abilities as your character develops, which replace special abilities that you would normally get.
- You may also gain a special hindrance or two, depending on your theme.
Translating that to MyD20 Lite, a character theme would provide the following:
- You gain a bonus skill related to your theme.
- You gain a talent related to your theme at 1st level.
- You gain access to talents at higher levels that are reserved for the theme.
- You gain a special hindrance related to your theme.
Note that in my version, a special hindrance is mandatory. I believe that character flaws enhance roleplaying. If I'm going to give away a free skill and a free talent, I feel it's only fair to promote character roleplay that emphasizes the nature of the character's theme, and a flaw is a good way to capture that, game mechanically.
I doubt that I'll do much in terms of exploring this concept in MyD20 Lite until I have a group that wants to play D20 again (as we are currently enjoying Savage Worlds. However, if I design a new MyD20 Lite campaign setting, I'll definitely explore the concept. I may decide in the end not to do anything with it, but I'll at least put some cycles to the concept.
What are your thoughts regarding character themes?