Thursday, 26 February 2015

How To Train A Goblin?

This is the goal for Droop, the once lowly goblin slave.
Artwork by Paul Abrams. 
I am the Warden!!

An interesting and unexpected development came up in last night's D&D 5e campaign. (And what unexpected development wouldn't be interesting, eh? But I digress...) In the very early days of this campaign when the party liberated the town of Phandelver from the punk-ass band of villains called the Redbrands, the heroes took in Droop, the lowly goblin slave whose sole job was to get smacked around by his hobgoblins masters. Cut to months later and Droop has become a welcome member of the party, a kind of Nodwick, if you will. While the heroes entered the Lost Mines to wipe out Black Spider, he patiently camped outside and waited for them to return. Now it seems those days of obedient sidekick are beneath Droop and the party wants to train him to become a full-fledged PC.

It's something I've thought about for a while and considering there are already two rogues in the party, he'd be best served as a ranger. (The very first attack roll Droop ever made with a short bow provided by the fighter that ended up killing a monster. And he's stuck with it ever since.) Emphasizing on ranged bow attacks with the Hide and Disengage bonus actions could still be very useful. Now that the party has unanimously decided this is indeed the best thing for Droop and the party, it's time to consider how to make this happen.

The Right Way To Create A 1st Level Character

There are two ways of doing this. One, simply pop on his 1st-level, do a little switch-a-roo in the racial stats for goblins and you've got yourself a stew goin'. Two, incorporate the training into the campaign and have the little fella learn on the road. I'm inclined to go with the second because it makes a lot more sense to me personally and because the first option demeans the character that's come before. To suddenly jump from slave to ranger in one session seems foolish.

The DMG is not much help - the only thing I can find is on page 131, Training To Gain Levels, but that only works from 2nd level and up. A character's first level is pretty much assumed to be a significant lifetime of training (like college in our world). I could look at this option and consider that a multi-classed character can technically apply the same principles to gaining a new class in just a few days, so there is that choice. Yet, meh. Something about it doesn't quite work for me and I suspect the group.

The hard part is figuring out how to do this. How much time do I demand for Droop to become 1st level? How much effort? It seems reasonable he should find a ranger to train under, but then it risks either land locking the campaign for a while just so a goblin can become a ranger or having him take a leave of absence as he tends to his studies while his masters/friends go off to save the world.

When the discussion first arose, each of the players made an excellent case for how each of them could provide a piece of Droop's training. The cleric could teach him the ways of meditation and divine magic, the fighter would train him to handle himself in battle, the rogues offering tricks of their trade... all of them sounded entirely reasonable to me and the fact they were all so on board with this idea makes it even cooler. I couldn't help but think of the scene from Fellowship of the Ring where Aragorn and Boromir teach the hobbits how to fight just enough to let them hold their own, a feat that pays off in dividends by the Return of the King. Based solely on teamwork and player enthusiasm, I'm going with the group teaching format instead of a wise and higher levelled ranger.

Leaving us with time. Or perhaps XP? An idea I've considered is to set a negative XP chart for Droop. Starting off at, say, -2,000 XP, he would unlock some of the basic features of a 1st-level ranger while gaining XP along with the other heroes. And when he finally reaches 0 XP, it's fireworks and fanfare!

Oh, but there's more to consider. The rest of the party just hit 5th-level. How long will it take a group of five (not including Droop) heroes to gain 2,000 XP a piece? Is that long enough, too soon, or far too much to indulge these training sessions and hands-on learning through adventuring? And how much can we assume Droop already knows versus a teenage human looking to become a ranger like his father before him? And should a ranger's true 1st-level benefits (favoured enemy, natural explorer) be the benefits of hitting that 1st level and not come from a lead-in? For example, other characters don't gradually gain their next level ability. They get it the moment they hit that next level. Therefore, it's safe to assume the only thing Droop needs to learn are proficiencies and the core values of being a ranger.

A Decision Is Made!

Based on these considerations, I'm going to have Droop start the next game at -2,000 XP (but with a 390 XP boost for fighting the last sesson's dragon, as he did take some unsuccessful pot shots at it). Until he reaches -1,000 XP, there are no benefits. Once he reaches -1,000 XP, Droop will gain half of his proficiencies (one armour, simple weapons, one saving throw, and one skill). At -500 XP, he'll complete his weapon and armour proficiency training and gain one additional skill. Finally, once he hits -250 XP, all proficiencies will be complete and everything will come full circle at 0 XP when he officially becomes a 1st level ranger.

What do you think?