This month, we get to preview the barbarian, and anticipation is high. Folks have been clamoring for the barbarian since the Player's Handbook released. It was one of my favorite 3rd Edition classes -- especially for that sweet, sweet one-level dip (ah, broken 3E min-max multiclassing).
I don't think there's a better toy for the dedicated D&D player than a new class. What an excuse to hit the books and start character building -- one of my favorite away-from-the-game-table activities. You get to come up with a new character concept, plan out your first few levels (or if you're a freak like me, all 30), think about killer combos (both within your class and within your party), and make that all-important wish list of magic items that would be oh-so-perfect for your new PC. If I played a game for each character I've created, I honestly don't think I'd ever sleep again.
In many ways, unwrapping your new class and building that new character is a microcosm of what makes D&D so much fun in the first place. This is, at its heart, a game of discovery. You explore a new world, chock full of unknown dangers, guided by a story set in motion by your DM and carried to completion by you and your fellow players. But it all starts with creating your character, which is a voyage of discovery all its own. Each time you build a character, you're unveiling uncharted regions of the game. To me, it's almost like a unique type of solo adventure.
You start with your class -- in my optimal case, one that's entirely new. You've never been there before, and that's just like your character standing at the entrance to an unplumbed tomb, filled with danger and the unknown. There's a touch of anxiety about what lies ahead. But just as your character at the dungeon door shouldn't worry about the encounter four rooms ahead, don't think about which feats you'll take … yet. Class is the toughest choice, followed closely by your choice of race. This is your first crossroads in the dungeon. If you go in any direction, you'll certainly end up somewhere. But one way leads to the place where race and class intersect to give you the most possible fun. The important thing to remember is that your best choice might not be the most optimal from the perspective of the rules. Sometimes a choice the power gamer dubs "suboptimal" will be the most fun. For each player, the requirements differ.
From there, you're mostly on safe ground. If you make a bad choice or two along the way, no worries. Unlike a dungeon, where a poor choice might land you in hot water with the local denizens, you always have the option to re-spec your character.
The best part, to me at least, is the backstory. This is my chance to contribute in some unique, lasting way to the campaign. I always sit down with my DM here and pick his brain for little campaign details that haven't come up in play yet -- and you know DMs are itching to unload some of this stuff. Find out about the organizations you haven't interacted with yet, or the uncharted corners of the world your characters haven't explored, and see whether there's an angle there for your character. I like to tie my new creation directly to the world -- in effect, crossing the streams of character creation with world exploration -- thereby giving my DM incentive to populate the campaign with adventure hooks that will feel personal down the road.
All right, enough talk. Enjoy the barbarian, and all the other great content in this issue. Me? I'm off to reminisce about Uncas, the last pure barbarian I played. Then I'm going to roll up my brand-new barbarian. Hmmm … dwarf barbarian? Or maybe the warforged …