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Player Characters

Player characters are described, in game terms, by a set of statistics that define their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses in the game world.

Ability Scores

The basic physical and mental strengths and weaknesses of the character. There are 6 ability scores: Strength (abbreviated STR), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), and Charisma (CHA). A character is ranked in each ability score by a number between 3–18. (3 being the worst score possible and 18 the best.)


An adventuring profession to which the character belongs. A character’s class defines their main abilities. See Character Classes.


A character may be human or one of a number of demihuman species. Unless a demihuman class is selected, the character is assumed to be human.


The character’s experience as an adventurer is denoted by their experience level. Characters typically start play at 1st level (the lowest level of adventurer) and can increase in level through successful adventuring. As a character goes up in level, they gain more powerful abilities, as defined by their class.

Experience Points (XP)

The character’s advancement in the game is tracked by the accumulation of experience points. Experience points are awarded by the referee after a successful adventure. When the character has accumulated a certain number of experience points, the character’s level increases. Each class specifies the number of experience points required to achieve each experience level.

Prime Requisite

The ability score (or scores) that are the most important to the character’s class. The character’s score in these abilities can affect the rate at which the character accumulates experience points.


The character (and every other creature in the game world) is aligned with one of three cosmic principles: Law, Neutrality, or Chaos (see Alignment). This alignment determines how certain magic influences the character and should be used by the player as a guideline for role-playing the character.

Hit Points (hp)

The character’s ability to avoid dying. The character has a maximum hit point total and a current hit point total, which are tracked separately. When a character is harmed, their current hit point total is reduced. If this number reaches 0, the character is dead! Rest or healing can restore lost hit points, but never above the character’s maximum hit point total (this is only increased when the character increases in level).

Hit Dice (HD)

The number of dice used to determine the character’s maximum hit point total. The character’s level determines the number of Hit Dice and their class determines the type of dice rolled (i.e. d4, d6, d8). (Some classes also gain a flat bonus to hit points at certain levels.)

Armor Class (AC)

The character’s ability to avoid damage in combat. AC is determined by the character’s armor and their Dexterity score. Lower Armor Class scores are better, so bonuses decrease the character’s AC and penalties increase it.

Dual format: The equivalent ascending AC is listed in square brackets, for groups using the optional rule for Ascending AC. (e.g. AC 5 [14]—an AC of 5, or 14 if using the optional rule for Ascending AC.)

Unarmored AC: An Unarmored character has AC 9 [10].

Attack Roll “to Hit AC 0” (THAC0)

The character’s ability to hit foes in combat, determined by their class and level. The THAC0 score indicates which row of the attack matrix (p135) to use when attacking. Lower THAC0 scores are better.

Dual format: The equivalent attack bonus is listed in square brackets, for groups using the optional rule for Ascending AC. (e.g. THAC0 15 [+4]—a THAC0 of 15, or an attack bonus of +4 if using the optional rule for Ascending AC.)

Attacking: The procedure for making attack rolls is described in Combat.

Saving Throw Values

The character’s ability to avoid certain dangerous or detrimental effects. There are five saving throw categories: death (or poison), wands, paralysis (or petrification), breath attacks, spells (or magic rods or staves). The character’s saving throw values are determined by class and level. See Saving Throws for full details.

Movement Rate

The speed at which the character can move when exploring, traveling, or during combat. Every character has a base movement rate and an encounter movement rate (noted in parentheses). The encounter movement rate is one third of the base movement rate. The default movement rate for characters is 120’ (40’)—a base movement rate of 120’ and an encounter movement rate of 40’.

  • Overland: The number of miles a character can travel in a day in the wilderness is determined by dividing their base movement rate by five.
  • Exploration: When exploring unknown areas of a dungeon, characters can move their base movement rate in feet per turn (10 minutes).

Class Abilities

Finally, the character’s class denotes a set of special abilities that the character may use, including the ability to use certain types of armor and weapons and to speak one or more languages.

Optional Rule: Ascending AC

Some groups are more familiar with an Armor Class system where higher scores are better. This system is known as Ascending Armor Class (abbreviated AAC) and works as follows:

  • Armor Class: When using AAC, higher scores are better. Bonuses to Armor Class increase the AAC score and penalties decrease it.
  • Attack rolls: When using AAC, the procedure for resolving attack rolls involves the use of an attack bonus instead of a THAC0 score and attack matrix.

Note: Using Ascending Armor Class results in very slightly different attack probabilities than when using the traditional approach of descending AC with an attack matrix.

Creating a Character

To create a character, you’ll first need a character sheet—a sheet of paper on which to record all information about the new character.

A selection of different character sheet PDFs is available at necroticgnome.com. These may be downloaded and printed for use in your games.

1. Roll Ability Scores

Roll 3d6 for each of your character’s ability scores: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. See Ability Scores.

Sub-Par Characters

If you roll a character with very poor ability scores—for example an 8 or less in every score or an extremely low rating in one ability—the referee may allow you to discard the character and start again.

2. Choose a Class

Select one of the classes available (see Character Classes), bearing in mind the minimum ability score requirements of some classes. The chosen class determines your character’s race—unless a demihuman class is selected, the character is human.

3. Adjust Ability Scores

If you wish, you may raise your character’s prime requisite(s) by lowering other (non-prime requisite) ability scores. For every 2 points by which an ability score is lowered, 1 point may be added to a prime requisite. The following restrictions apply:

  • Only Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom may be lowered in this way.
  • No score may be lowered below 9.
  • Some character classes may have additional constraints.

4. Note Ability Score Modifiers

Now that your character’s ability scores are fixed, make a note of any associated bonuses or penalties (see overleaf).

5. Note Attack Values

The level progression chart for your character’s class lists your THAC0 score. This indicates your chance of hitting opponents in combat, as determined by the Attack Matrix.

For quick reference, it is convenient to look up the values in the attack matrix row for your character’s THAC0 (determined by class and level) and record them on your character sheet. 1st level characters have a THAC0 of 19 [0], resulting in the attack values shown below.

Optional Rule: Ascending AC

If using the optional rule for Ascending AC (p13), record your attack bonus on your character sheet, instead of the attack matrix quick reference.

1st Level PC Attack Values
Attack Roll 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
AC Hit 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

6. Note Saving Throws and Class Abilities

Record any special abilities possessed by your character as a result of their class, as well as your character’s saving throws. If your character has a spell book, ask your referee which spells are recorded in it. The referee may allow you to choose.

7. Roll Hit Points

Determine your character’s hit points by rolling the die type appropriate to the chosen class. Modifiers for high or low Constitution apply (see Ability Scores). Your character always starts with at least 1 hit point, regardless of CON modifier.

Optional Rule: Re-Rolling 1s and 2s

If your roll for hit points comes up 1 or 2 (before applying any CON modifier), the referee may allow you to re-roll. This is in order to increase the survivability of 1st level PCs.

8. Choose Alignment

Decide whether your character is Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic (see Alignment) and note this on your character sheet.

9. Note Known Languages

Your character’s class determines their native languages. This always includes the common tongue and the character’s alignment language—see Languages. Characters with high INT may also choose additional languages from the list of languages available in the setting.

10. Buy Equipment

Your character starts play with 3d6 × 10 gold pieces (see Wealth). You may spend as much of this money as you wish to equip your character for adventure, consulting the equipment lists under Equipment.

Remember: Your chosen class may restrict your use of some equipment (e.g. weapons and armor).

11. Note Armor Class

Your character’s Armor Class is determined by two factors:

  • Armor: The armor worn determines your character’s base AC. See the equipment lists under Equipment.
  • Dexterity: See Ability Scores.

Unarmored AC

If your character has no armor, their base AC is 9 [10].

12. Note Level and XP

Your character begins play at 1st level with 0 XP.

13. Name Character

Finally, choose a name for your character. You are now ready for adventure!

Ability Scores

A character’s score in each ability determines whether they have any bonuses or penalties associated with various actions in the game. The tables opposite list the modifiers associated with each ability score, with the effects described below.

Strength (STR)

  • Brawn, muscle, and physical power.
  • Melee: Is applied to attack and damage rolls with melee weapons.
  • Open doors: The chance of success with attempts to force open a stuck door.

Intelligence (INT)

  • Learning, memory, and reasoning.
  • Spoken languages: Denotes the number of languages the character can speak.
  • Literacy: Indicates the character’s ability to read and write their native languages.

Wisdom (WIS)

  • Willpower, common sense, perception, and intuition.
  • Magic saves: Is applied to saving throws versus magical effects. This does not normally include saves against breath attacks, but may apply to any other saving throw category.

Dexterity (DEX)

  • Agility, reflexes, speed, and balance.
  • AC: Modifies the character’s AC (a bonus lowers AC, a penalty raises it).
  • Missile: Applied to attack rolls (but not damage rolls) with ranged weapons.
  • Initiative: Modifies the character’s initiative roll, if the optional rule for individual initiative is used (see Combat).

Constitution (CON)

  • Health, stamina, and endurance.
  • Hit points: Applies when rolling a character’s hit points (i.e. at 1st level and every time a level is gained thereafter). A character always gains at least 1 hit point per Hit Die, regardless of CON modifier.

Charisma (CHA)

  • Force of personality, persuasiveness, personal magnetism, physical attractiveness, and ability to lead.
  • NPC reactions: Applies when hiring retainers and when interacting with monsters.
  • Max # of retainers: Determines the number of retainers a character may have at any one time.
  • Retainer loyalty: Determines retainers’ loyalty to the character.

Prime Requisite

Each character class has one or more prime requisites—ability scores of special importance to that class’ function. A character’s score in their prime requisites affects how quickly they gain XP.

XP modifier: Applied to all XP awarded to characters with a single prime requisite. The modifiers for classes with multiple prime requisites are noted in the class description.

Strength Modifiers
STR Melee Open Doors
3 –3 1-in-6
4–5 –2 1-in-6
6–8 –1 1-in-6
9–12 +0 2-in-6
13–15 +1 3-in-6
16–17 +2 4-in-6
18 +3 5-in-6
Intelligence Modifiers
INT Spoken Languages Literacy
3 Native (broken speech) Illiterate
4–5 Native Illiterate
6–8 Native Basic
9–12 Native Literate
13–15 Native + 1 additional Literate
16–17 Native + 2 additional Literate
18 Native + 3 additional Literate
Dexterity Modifiers
DEX AC Missile Initiative
3 –3 –3 –2
4–5 –2 –2 –1
6–8 –1 –1 –1
9–12 +0 +0 +0
13–15 +1 +1 +1
16–17 +2 +2 +1
18 +3 +3 +2
Wisdom Modifiers
WIS Magic Saves
3 –3
4–5 –2
6–8 –1
9–12 +0
13–15 +1
16–17 +2
18 +3
Charisma Modifiers
CHA NPC Reactions Max # Loyalty
3 –2 1 4
4–5 –1 2 5
6–8 –1 3 6
9–12 +0 4 7
13–15 +1 5 8
16–17 +1 6 9
18 +2 7 10
Constitution Modifiers
CON Hit Points
3 –3
4–5 –2
6–8 –1
9–12 +0
13–15 +1
16–17 +2
18 +3
Prime Requisite Modifiers
Prime Requisite XP Modifier
3–5 –20%
6–8 –10%
9–12 +0
13–15 +5%
16–18 +10%


All beings, whether PCs, NPCs, or monsters, adhere to one of three philosophies or spheres of behavior, known as alignments. These spheres are Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. A player must choose one of these paths when creating a character.

Law: Lawful beings believe in truth and justice. To this end, they will follow laws and believe all things must adhere to order. Lawful beings also believe in sacrifice to a greater good and will choose the good of a larger group over the good of an individual.

Neutrality: Neutral beings believe in a balance between the ideas of Law and Chaos and, in their actions, tend to do what will serve themselves. They might commit good or evil acts in order to further their own ends and generally will not put others’ needs ahead of their own.

Chaos: Chaotic beings are in direct opposition to Law. These beings should seldom be trusted, for they tend to act in “evil” ways and are utterly selfish. Chaotic characters believe in chance and that there is no innate order to life.

Revealing Alignment

The player must inform the referee of their character’s alignment, but does not have to tell other players.

Role-Playing Alignment

When determining the character’s actions, players should do their best to adhere to their chosen alignment. The referee will take note when a character’s behavior deviates too much from the norm of the chosen alignment and may assign a new alignment more appropriate to actual character actions. Deviation from alignment may also be penalized, as the referee sees fit.


The native languages spoken by a player character are determined by the character’s class. These typically include the common tongue and an alignment language. Characters with high INT may learn additional languages (see Ability Scores).

The Common Tongue

The common tongue (sometimes simply called Common) is a language which is widespread among intelligent species. All player character races—as well as many monsters—are able to speak Common.

In some settings, the referee may rule that different cultures in the campaign world have different languages, in which case a particular language must be chosen instead of Common.

Alignment Languages

All intelligent beings know a secret, unwritten language of gestures, signs, and code words associated with their alignment. This secret language allows beings of the same alignment to communicate. Beings of another alignment will recognize when an alignment language is being used, but will not understand. It is not possible to learn another alignment language except by changing alignment, in which case the former language is forgotten.

Other Languages

Many demihuman and intelligent monster species have their own language, which player characters may be able to learn. The following languages are common and may be chosen by player characters with high Intelligence (at the referee’s discretion).

Other Languages
d20 Language
1 Bugbear
2 Doppelgänger
3 Dragon
4 Dwarvish
5 Elvish
6 Gargoyle
7 Gnoll
8 Gnomish
9 Goblin
10 Halfling
11 Harpy
12 Hobgoblin
13 Kobold
14 Lizard man
15 Medusa
16 Minotaur
17 Ogre
18 Orcish
19 Pixie
20 Human dialect