DnD-inspired, Story-rich PDQ# Characters

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Last time, I introduced the idea of running rules-light D&D-style campaigns using PDQ#. Here is how to easily transpose characters from 4e to PDQ#. If you’ve ever wanted to incorporate thrilling nautical, airship, or mass combat action in 4e, these are areas where PDQ# (as seen in Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies) truly shines. S7S’s ship rules are fast, interactive, and perhaps the best I’ve seen (not to mention seamlessly portable to fortresses, armies, or other paragon-appropriate elements). But that’s a topic for another post.

PDQ# Build Basics

PDQ# characters begin with 3 required Fortes at Good +2, (Past, Motivation, and Swashbuckling Forte) to which I added Race, and changed “Swashbuckling Forte” to “Heroic Forte.”

If using Race like we did, characters then choose 3 more Fortes (at Good +2) during character creation, 1 Foible, and 5 points for buying Techniques (which cost 1 pt when attached to the Heroic Forte, 2 pts attached to any other Forte, or 3 pts unattached). The extra Fortes can also upgrade existing Fortes one step from Good +2 to Expert +4, to a maximum of Master +6.

In my mind, Techniques are one of the more intriguing parts of PDQ#, and they cover most of the 4e conversion details below. In play they grant an additional die or a flat +1 to any roll that includes them. Techniques can be any of the following:

  • Idioms (style/flavor: acrobatically, calculating, fierce)
  • Maneuvers (Sneak Attack, Magic Missile, Twin Strike)
  • Locations/Situations (while mounted, while outnumbered, in bars/taverns, in the wilderness, in disguise, while injured, or while guarding the injured)
  • Foes (Vs. orcs, Vs. authority figures, Vs. rival Wilhelm Verhaust, Vs. whomever my Master names)
  • or Weapons/Tools (My Father’s sword, rope).

For a seamless 4e conversion, simply follow these 5 steps:

  1. Call the Heroic Forte “Class
  2. Choose a new Foible and Motivation for the character
  3. Use Backgrounds (or any fortes below) for the Past Forte
  4. Extra Fortes: You can derive great Fortes from the names of class builds,class features, and–later–Paragon Paths or Epic Destinies. Defining trainedskillsfeats (especially heritages or dragonmarks), or magic itemsalso work, but tend to be better as Techniques. The following all make great Fortes:
    1. BuildsFighter: (Brawler, Great Weapon: [X], Battlerager); Wizard: (Illusionist, Summoner); Rogue: (Aerialist, Trickster);
    2. Features: Ranger (Beastmaster: Sidekick) Fighter: (Combat Challenge, Great Weapon) Rogue: (Artful Dodger, Brutal Scoundrel, Cunning Sneak); Sorcerer: (Wild Magic, Storm Magic, Dragon Magic, Cosmic Magic); Druid: (Wildshape Predator/Guardian/Swarm); Barbarian (Rageblood Vigor, Whirling Slayer, Thunderborn Wrath); Warden (Font of Life, Earthstrength, Wildblood, Stormheart, Nature’s Wrath); Shaman (Companion Spirit/Sidekick); Avenger: (Armor of Faith, Oath of Enmity); Psion: (Telepathy, Telekenesis)
    3. Skills: Acrobatics, Perception, Insight, History, Diplomacy
    4. Feats: Arcane Familiar, Vampiric Heritage, Hunting Wolf Style, Snake blooded, Fast Runner, Sturdy Mind, Mark of Making
    5. Items: especially non-weapon items such as Wondrous Items, armor, or rings, hands, arms, feet, neck, and head slot items
  5. Techniques:
    1. Skills and feats make great Techniques, usually as idioms (athletically, insightfully, intimidatingly), situations, or maneuvers
    2. Racial features also make good Techniques, usually as idioms, foes (elves vs orcs, dwarves vs giants and large foes), or maneuvers (Fey Step, Stand your Ground, Infernal Wrath, Dragonbreath)
    3. If you haven’t used Items as Fortes, they make great Techniques (tool/weapon)
    4. Powers work best as maneuver Techniques attached to other Fortes, Especially skill powers attached to Skill Fortes.

I’ve put many examples here so you can get a sense how this could work, but the basic principle is simple: Whatever you find significant about a 4e character becomes either a Forte (if it matters a lot), or a Technique (if it matters, but not as much).

The PDQ# system excellently handles bringing all of these elements into play in story details, while ignoring the extra 4e rules attached to them, thus giving them more wiggle room. The Fighter’s Combat Challenge certainly softens up a target for the Rogue’s sneak attack in both systems. In PDQ# however, there may be cases where the fighter’s obvious superiority is enough to compel a wise combatant to give in rather than face the music. A 4e fighter’s mark could never do that.

An Example: Francois Jacques Joseph Sali

As an example, here is a character I played for a while last year (and here’s the amazing image by Grand_Anvil on DeviantArt that I used as his portrait). He’s a hybrid Bravura Warlord|Bard built to grant his allies attacks and buffs at his own expense (Harlequin Style with Brash Assault, with his other Powers including Vicious Mockery, Luring Focus, Fearless Rescue, Inspiring/Majestic Word and others). Mechanically, note that I traded the last two free Fortes for 2 Technique points each, and one of those Technique points bought Francois’ second Foible. Also I swapped Half-elf for Bard, treating it pretty much like Human.

Played in this PDQ# format, given the mechanical rewards of his Fortes, Techniques, and Foibles, he will behave pretty much the same as he would in the 4e format, since he’ll be mechanically rewarded for pursuing brash, flamboyant rescues, witty Shakespearean repartee, and defiant showiness and artistry in all he does.

On the other hand, he may behave even more in line with his personality or character concept in this format since the PDQ# format mechanically rewards playing to details that were simply background fluff  in 4e: his tarnished family name and his taste for fine paisley silks, perfumes, and wines. Also, although I had originally put a Songblade Rapier as his Other Forte since that’s what matters in 4e, I decided that highlighting his arcane lyre-skills might mean those Bard Rituals that sat quiet and unused on his character sheet might finally factor into the story in this format. Of course, mechanically leveraging these types of details is not for everyone. I happen to like the creativity it invites.

What would you like to see?

I plan to show examples of classic character concepts in the next post (along with how to convert NPCs and monsters), transposed directly from actual character sheets I have lying around, but I’m very curious what you make of this idea so far, especially if you’re a 4e fan. Is this an interesting direction, or is it iffy to you? What have been the most fascinating or off-the-wall 4e character you’ve come across? What did you enjoy
about them? Conversely, what characters would you have liked to see that never really fit within 4e options or expectations?

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.