Rise of the Runelords character creation guide lines


Rise of the Runelords


So I'm planning on starting RORL the beginning of next year at a local game store and created some guide lines for character creation. Please take a look at them and tell me what you guys think. As well as if I'm missing something important for character generation.
Thanks in advance

Rise of the Runelords
Character Creation Guide Lines
• Your Ability Scores: Arrange these stats 18, 16, 14, 13, 12, 10 before any modifiers.
• Race: Any core or featured race from The Advanced Race Guide is allowed.
• Classe: All Paizo classes are available
o Archetype: All Paizo Archetypes are available (optional)
• Hit Points: Characters start first level with max hit points and gain max hit point for every level up till 5th level after 5th level roll for hit points using this chart
o D6 Hp = 3+1d3
o D8 Hp = 4+1d4
o D10 Hp = 5+1d5
o D12 Hp = 6+1d6
• Character Traits: Characters get to select three traits (one Rise of the Runelords Campaign trait and two other) from any Paizo product.
o Drawbacks: Characters may select one drawback and gain an additional trait (optional)
• Background Skills: The background skill rules from Pathfinder Unchained will be in used. (see online resources)
• Starting Gold: Characters begin with 350 gold and may buy potions and scrolls as well as any other equipment.
• Backstory: Create a back story with some ties to Sandpoint and or Varisia
• Books in use: Paizo books only.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Why so generous? That stat array is like a 36-point build, which is way beyond the "epic" level described in the book. Raising hit points that way seems very extreme. The only thing I really like is using the background skills option.

With PCs being overpowered by stats and hit points, you will need to beef up all encounters, monsters and adversaries considerably. IIRC, RotRL was created for 4 PCs using 15-point buys and normal hit points.

In my current RotRL campaign, we used 25-point buy, max hit points for the 1st level (as normal) and choose to either roll the die or take average (rounded up) hit points for any given level. I figure it makes the PCs at least one level tougher than a standard RotRL party, and by keeping them mostly a level behind the recommended level for book 2 chapters, it has seemed about right.

So if you're asking for advice, mine is to be less generous with stats & hit points. But hey, it's your game.


I'm afraid I'm with Wheldrake - characters built like that are going to paste the encounters as written in the AP. Particularly powerful are the max hp for 5 levels and 3 or 4 traits (which I think of as half of a feat). Not far behind is the 350 starting gold and the option to buy potions and scrolls. FYI: it takes a while in the AP for the pc's to get to that amount of money so you may be setting your players up for disappointment. (Again, that's for the AP as written.)

How many pc's are you expecting? Wheldrake is correct, the baseline for the AP is 4 pc's with 15 point buy and standard starting money, etc. This is more my opinion, but the AP does NOT assume the pc's are well-optimized yet your creation rules are likely to attract people who know the rules well and will build optimized characters. Nothing wrong with optimized characters but they're a bit tougher and that will push the challenge level down as well.

I get the hp mechanism - rolling a 1 for hp always sucks - but why not implement that at 2nd level? Why max hp for 5 levels?


They are higher than normal. We typically use 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10. I would suggest dropping your 18 as invariably you will have people raise to 20 using racial bonus and you can easily get unbeatable save DCs.

I'm with you on hit points personally. More is better particularly at 1st level. Less demand on healing.

We run with HD + Con score instead of Con modifier. Level 2+ is normal. So a typical character has 14 to 24 hit points at first level. It takes away that squishy one hit kill effect at 1st and second level. I suspect both methods would result in a similar overall number you just spread that across > 5 levels.


My guys had a 20 point buy. 5 players. And they've been cruising through everything and- to be honest- they're idiots. Loveable idiots.


Agreed with Wheldrake and Latrecis that you're being too generous and it will only make extra work for you.

Things I would change:
Stat array: 16, 16, 14, 13, 11, 10. This is still incredibly generous, but also doesn't allow for anyone to start with a 20 in a stat which is how I balance it. It's very nice for MAD characters as they can succeed because they have 3 pretty solid stats, and it makes SAD characters more well rounded.
HP: Max at first, average afterwards (3.5 for a d6, 4.5 for a d8, 5.5 for a d10, and 6.5 for a d12). I normally round up on level 2 for average (4,5,6,7) and down on level 3 (3,4,5,6) and continue to alternate back and forth.
Character Traits: You get two, one must be from RotRL player's guide. You can get an extra by taking a drawback. Some traits are incredibly good, you shouldn't just give away lots of them. They are theoretically worth half a feat, but depending on the character build can be stronger than a feat.
Starting gold: Just use average for each class, e.g. a barbarian would receive 105 gp.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Regarding traits... if you throw out a couple of the cheesiest ones (Wayang metawanker, I'm looking at you!) it doesn't hurt to have an extra trait. It may encourage players to take something flavorful instead of raw power-ish.

In a recent Jade Regent campaign I began last spring as a player, we got the basic 2 traits, and I convinced the DM to let me take another one in exchange for a drawback. Then, when we showed up for the first session, he assigned us each a campaign trait based on our backstory and a few clever questions about what sort of person we saw our character as being.

Not all traits are worth half a feat. Heck, many *feats* aren't worth half a feat. Clever use by the DM of oft-neglected and underpowered traits or feats can make for good nonstandard advancement rewards, or even odd magic items.

Regading stat arrays, I wouldn't want to propose one that went beyond a 25-point buy. That's already VERY generous. Really. I did 25 point buy, nothing below 9 or above 17 before racial mods (IIRC). It made for fairly rounded characters, even if the fighter, barbarian and paladin all opted for max possible STR.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

+1 on the stat array being way too generous. I suggest one which mimics a 15-point build, particularly if the players are not new to the game. Maybe a 20-point array if you get a table full of new players.

Weigh carefully the consequences of making all classes and archetypes available. Define whether or not you are using the Unchained versions of the Barbarian, Monk, Rogue, and Summoner (plus any other options from that particular rulebook).

The hit points seem a bit generous for L 2 to 5.

I gave my players' characters only two free traits, one of which had to be a campaign trait for RotR (see the AE Player's Guide plus the Varisia Player Companion; I do NOT recommend the "Sandpoint" campaign traits at the back of the APG). I also enforced that the trait sources had to suit the individual characters. Therefore no wayang messiness, etc.

Background skills are a good idea, although a Bard can really get a boost from using those rules. (All the Perform skills are background skills, which as bearing on a Bard's Versatile Performance class abilities.)

For starting gold, I allowed the maximum for each individual class. There is still room for starting with more gold if the individual chooses the Rich Parents basic social trait.

I regret not saying that all the characters had to be from Sandpoint/Varisia.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

While I agree that the stats (and HP)are perhaps overly generous, I cannot advocate 15 point stat buys, the lower the point buy the more it favors single stat full casters, you can make a passable one on a 5 point build.

I use 20 which I feel gives non-casters tough choices but some flex, at 15 the full caster is STILL gonna put an 18(20 with racial) into their casting stat).

I'm an advocate of fixed HP gains, it makes HP bonuses from favored class and Toughness more meaningful, but I think what you have done is a bit strong. Max 1st + 4/5/6/7 beyond seems to work pretty good.

The Traits and Drawbacks works fine.

I'm not sure that the money is such a big deal, as long as you give them a no-more-than-half-on-one-item clause, and stipulate that they may only keep 5-10% as cash. A few low level potions or a suit of chainmail doesn't make that much of a difference in the long term.

It all really depends upon how much game bending shenanigans you expect the players to do. Trying to play a game of one upmanship with the DM should always be punished.


I Know that stats are better then most, I have found players enjoy having good stats and being able to create their character without worrying about MAD once in a while and it doesn't really effect my DMing that much because I use Hero Labs and Mod every encounter based on this Challenging Encounter Guide Book.

As for Hp the first 5 levels characters are so squishy and one good crit and they lose the character before it develops so they will just make a new character after 5th level most players are invested in their characters and will attempt to get them raised so I want the characters to have good survivability for the first few levels thats why I allow for Max Hp early and high HP though out.

I think as long as the things are made by Paizo yes they are breakable but are much more balanced then 3rd party products, I enjoy players making powerful characters it shows buyin from the players I rather have that then someone who is just playing standard character and just along for the ride.

Is there anything you guys think I forgot?

Thank you for all the imput


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Hey, it's your game. We gave you our advice, but you're going with this set-up despite all advice to the contrary. No problemo.

I certainly agree that players love having high stats. I played in a 5-year DD3.5 campaign where my highest stat was 15 and one of the other players had two 18s and nothing below 12. Rolling stats sucks eggs. At least with your system, everybody will have the same hyper-mega-mythic abilities. <g>


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I get where you're coming from on squishy low level characters and supporting MAD character concepts. Go for it, it'll be fine.

Rise doesn't have too much problem with squishiness of low level characters - the early enemies dont have mega damage output (you may want to adjust the Haunts at Misgivings a bit though)

As for things you may have forgotten or glossed over - I see:

Joey Virtue wrote:
• Backstory: Create a back story with some ties to Sandpoint and or Varisia

I'd be a bit more specific with this.

Some players need a little extra hand getting started with a back story, so ask them to answer some specific questions along with their backstory.

- Make the players tell you about why they should care about Sandpoint.
- Invite the players to invent NPCs who they know.
- Ask them about something their character is proud (or ashamed) of.

Things like that.


the Lorax wrote:


Joey Virtue wrote:
• Backstory: Create a back story with some ties to Sandpoint and or Varisia

I'd be a bit more specific with this.

Some players need a little extra hand getting started with a back story, so ask them to answer some specific questions along with their backstory.

- Make the players tell you about why they should care about Sandpoint.
- Invite the players to invent NPCs who they know.
- Ask them about something their character is proud (or ashamed) of.

Things like that.

So what would 5 Questions be?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

So you want 2 more beyond those three?

OK...how about:

- Tell me about 2 secrets, one that your character has, and one that involves your character but your character doesn't know.

- Tell me how the NPC you created is connected to one of your secrets or your pride/shame.

Don't ask the last one until they have answered the others.


If this was 1st or 2nd edition AD&D I'd say that stat set would be just fine, but it's a little over the top in Pathfinder. For preset adventures or AP's we go with 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, it works splendidly.


Rise of the Runelords was the first campaign in several years for my players and me, and the first one with the Pathfinder ruleset. Based on that layer of rust coating us all, I had my players roll their stats in a very generous fashion, added Hero Points and boosted hit points. Which I have regretted ever since.

They ended up with the equivalent of 35-40 point builds and proceeded to merrily ROFL-stomp all of the content. I've had to boost monster stats, DC's, number of opponents etc. constantly to make it challenging for them, and many times erring on the sides of too easy/too hard.

Now at the start of Sins of the Saviours I keep them around 1-2 levels below what the AP recommends, but still have to fiddle with encounter stats which is quite cumbersome (I'm more of a "story" DM than a "crunch" one), since they now have a very good grasp of the rules and how to use them (lots of item creation feats etc.) So a lesson learned for me.

Anyway, just my two cents.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I believe it has been said the RotRL was intended for a party of 4 PCs with 15-point builds.

My current campaign uses 25-point builds, and it means that PCs consistently perform as if they were at least one level higher than their current character level.

My fix? Try to keep them about one level behind the recommended level for any given episode. And liberally throw in a few additional minions anytime I feel like it. And make liberal use of tactical terrain advantages whenever possible.

So far, it's worked fine. We only had 2 character deaths in chapter one (one of which was retconned into a capture situation) and 2 character deaths in chapter two (in the final boss fight with Mme X). By this time the PCs were rich enough to afford raise dead and restorations on both KIAs.


One thing to consider is which characters, if any, are native to Sandpoint.

The original adventure had all PCs as newcomers there to visit the Swallowtail Festival. The Anniversary Edition adds some new campaign traits that make the PCs natives of Sandpoint.

What that means is that the PCs probably *saw* the events of the Late Unpleasantness going down.. they were present (possibly old enough, or almost old enough, to be involved, in some cases) for Chopper's Rampage, and for fire that destroyed the Sandpoint Chapel... and for the deaths of Nualia and Father Tobyn.

They probably felt keenly the loss of the angelic presence in the town (Nualia), who people had looked to as a sign and source of divine favor/aid. (Bastards of Golarion, "The Celebrity" background, seems to fit Nualia -- and I believe that's even her in the artwork).

So having some characters native to Sandpoint may make some of the encounters jarring (they'd know Shayliss Vinder, and Ven Vinder, for example...).


Having the characters come from Sandpoint itself, or the area around, is a great idea that I wish I had done.

I agree with the stats point that many others have brought up, though it depends on how many players you have too.

When I started running ROTRL (as a new GM), I only had 3 players, so I gave them 25 point builds to try and even the odds. And it worked ok for a while. But then new people kept joining, so now I have 7 players, at 25 point buy, and I've kept them a level back AND had to do a whole bunch of tweaking to make encounters that won't just be rolled through. But maybe that's something you're interested in. I enjoy mixing up tactics and creatures, personally. Some examples of tweaking I've done include changing tactics (Graul Farm, Fort Rannick, looking at you), liberal use of the Giantkin template in Book 3, and the Advanced template in other places, advancing a certain dragon to Young Adult from Juvenile, and adding a mythic tier to some of the BBEGs.

The thing that has worked for me instead of boosting HP is using Hero Points. I only decided to implent them just after book 2, though if I ran it again I'd have them from the start. My players tend to hoard their Hero Points to use in the event that they require an emergency Cheat Death, which takes them out of the combat, but doesn't kill off the character. They get used fairly frequently because fo the increased challenges, but effectively. It allows (my players, at least) to take bigger risks. The fighter who held off Black Maga solo while the remainder of the party evacuated the villagers? Yea, he deserves Hero points. Cleric who charged the ogre chieftan to get in between him and the magus, the archer that turned and went back by himself to rescue the sorceress from a dragon, all worthy. The magus who decided to cast Fireball while in melee with 3 ogres, and refused to cast defensively? Less worthy, but it was still a good laugh :P

I also allow retraining from the Ultimate Campain book, so if a player is concerned their HP is low, they can spend some time "exercising" to boost it up during downtime.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

There is one thing to remember: a 25 point build is effectively adding +1 to each stat for any enemy - human or otherwise. If you use a computer program like Hero Labs to keep track of things, it's not that hard to add that +1 and have stats adjusted.

I made the mistake of allowing rolled stats. And then rather than asking the uber-statted character to reduce stats, I just boosted stats of other characters to be at a similar level. So I'm adding +3 to each stat for the foes. ^^;;


For my two penneth, I would say that your generosity will remove much of the challenge. We are currently going through it (near the end of 2nd chapter) and seem to have it well balanced at 20 point build using CRB and APG with 2 traits and 2 hero points each. We've add no character deaths as of yet.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What are your rules on feats (item creation? leadership?)?

Are they allowed to use variant racial traits?

Silver Crusade

I'll just say I agree with everyone saying that you don't want the PCs to be TOO powerful, or you'll have to keep adjusting things to make the encounters tough enough to be worthwhile.

My group is 5 PCs at 20 point buy, 2 traits, and players who aren't uber-optimizers, though they aren't terribly built PCs, either. Mostly just using Core Rulebook and Advanced Players Guide, though I let them pull from other books if they ask, which they've occasionally done.

They pretty easily stomp most normal combat encounters, though the big bosses are usually still a challenge for them. We just finished book 4, and I've had 2 PC deaths so far, in the toughest fights of book 3 and book 4. Both of those were close, and they did win the fights eventually, despite being one character down. They were high enough level to get them raised from the dead pretty easily both times.


Dont worry about the stats guys I run every encounter through hero labs and I use the guide book on here for challenging encounters they will only curb stomp the encounters that I want them to curb stomp. Sometimes as PCs its fun to curb stomp an encounter here and there but dont worry there is the threat of death around every encounter LOL


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well, it is your campaign. Personally, I feel anything over 25 point buy is overpowered, and frankly, strains my suspension of disbelief. After all, what are the chances that these paragons of godliness all happen to live in/meet in the same remote fishing village?

I run five PCs with 15-point buy (all new players), and they are doing fine. They are challenged, but not overwhelmed. I run the encounters as written, and occasionally modify encounters to suit my whims.


I chose a 20 point buy, after almost going with a 25 point buy. I am very happy I did. It is a long campaign, and characters will have plenty of time to have vast treasure and power at their fingers before it's over. Personally, I found that by the time the group was level 10 + my 4 person group had a pretty good case of power creep (So much available to them at there finger tips, that every thing you throw at them a counter option could easily be found).

I was having to constantly adjust most of the encounters, by raising the strategy levels of the encounters, adding additional CR adjustments, and ensuring the players were kept somewhat in check gear wise. It made it tougher to walk the line as a DM between a great encounter, to over powered encounter or under-powered. Had I not been doing my best to contain it from the start, it would have been a lot less fun for all involved by Chapter 5.

One more item of note: I started off with restricting the books of play, to Core Rule Books and APG. But at level 8, I allowed additional books to be available to them. I feel it was a mistake. I simply feel once the rabbit hole was opened, so did my enjoyment of DM'ing it.

If I do run it again:
Core Rule Book, APG, and ROTRL players guide
15 point buy
2 Traits one they choose, and one I choose for them for Character building
A drawback can be traded for a trait if a background story for it is established.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Here's a small trick you can utilize if the players feel 15-point builds are underpowered.

A 25-point build is the equivalence of adding +1 to each stat for each monster, NPC, and other encounters.

A 37-point build is the equivalence of adding +2 to each stat as per above.

A 52-point build is the equivalence of adding +3 to each stat as per above.

The easiest thing is just doing the 25-point build as players feel it is a better build, and it doesn't tremendously alter the monsters and the like with rebuilds.


+1 advising against the stat array. Way too high - on top of that you're giving them high HP and bonus traits (RotRL prepared before traits even existed so even 1 would be a buff).

Your PC's are going to walk over every challenge unless you continuously devote time to update and revise. Sounds easy and fun, but in time you might find this constant stat revision a bit tedious which could motivate you to hit the reset button down the line as the group matures.

15 or 20 point buy, 2 traits plus an optional with a drawback, and max level hp at first and round-up average at each additional level is more than sufficient for the challenges, especially if they optimize.

It's your game, but you asked for advice and it sounds fairly consistent to me ... You may want to consider it.


In the past I have always used rolled stats, these are just more consistent then one player having the great luck and super high stats now everyone has good stats. And I already have the first three books the monsters bumped up and ready for higher stats characters.


Makes me wonder why you gave yourself the extra work...


I enjoy punching them into hero labs and I use a small guide book from a member of the boards about making challenging encounters.
It's something I enjoy as a GM I don't have time to home brew any more and Paizo writes better then anything I could ever come up with, but I can tweak monsters and encounters.

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