Delver Evolution: Character Promotion

Last week on there was a thread about bringing D&D races and classes into the gamma world rules. The idea was to create a kind of “D&D-lite” that takes advantage of the more fast and loose style of gamma world.

This got me thinking of how character creation in earlier editions was a lot faster and easier. In fact, I believe that extra character creation investment is one reason PC death has been played down in later editions. It’s a lot easier to be amused by an innovative death trap when the actual cost in the player’s time and ability to participate is lower.

So is there a way to get to couple that fast character generation with the customization of later editions? Here’s one way you might handle it.

Evolving Characters

What if we started with quickly created characters and give the players to flesh them out during play? That means the longer a character is played, the more personalized it becomes. We could also tie this to survivability. That means the quick characters are easier to KO but easily replaced while characters you’ve invested more are harder to take out of play. Let’s look at an example of how this could be done.


Henchmen are basically player controlled mooks or red-shirts. They’re generic and highly expendable, but the party can use them to boost their number and help out with various tasks.

They also act as the raw material for replacement characters. If a player has no characters that can participate in an upcoming challenge or encounter, they can promote one of the party’s henchmen into a companion. This means henchmen can function as a kind of extra life resource for the players. If their character dies, they can pick a new one of the stack and keep playing.

In 4E terms, henchmen would probably be stated up as minions. Each one would use a standard stat block like monsters. For example, you’d have things like an elven archer stat block for the henchman to use. However, I’d give them the following traits.

Instinctive Action: When not controlled by a player, a henchmen will make a cautious retreat from the encounter. Treat this as moving toward the nearest safe area or the edge of the combat area, using shifts as needed to avoid attacks.

Guarded Retreat: When the henchmen uses their instinctive action to retreat, they can not be damaged until the start of their next turn. This ability can only be used if the character is within 20 squares of conscious, allied Companion or Hero.

That uncontrolled henchmen are relatively safe, but will not attack. They can be controlled to contribute to the battle, but doing so will put them at risk. They can also be killed if all allied Companions and Heroes are dropped.


Companions are more resilient party member that have yet to be fully fleshed out. To make a companion, simply copy over their henchman stat block and make the following changes.

  • Standard Character: Remove the minion property from the character and give them standard hit points for their role.
  • Instinctive Action: Instead of retreating like a henchman, an uncontrolled companion will take a full defense action and shift toward their nearest ally.
  • No Retreat: Companions lose the Guarded Retreat trait.
  • Bonus Breakdown: Halve the character’s level bonus and increase the level on their weapons, armor, and neck slot items up to their own level.

After each challenge or encounter, a companion can take a promotion. This promotion can be declared at any time before the start of the next challenge or encounter. Sample promotions include:

  • Ability Scores: randomize or buy the character ability scores, rather than using the standardized stat block values.
  • Feats: The character gains a feat selection, up to the maximum allow for their level.
  • Powers: The character can replace a stat block power or gain a new class power, up to the limits of their class.
  • Resilient: The character gain increased ability to resist death. In 4E terms, this would probably be where death saves comes in.

A fully promoted companion becomes a Hero.


A hero is simply a companion which has been fully upgraded. In game terms, they should be as flesh out as a fully customized character in 3E or 4E but will have reached that point during play. After reaching this status, customization slows down to normal levels.

Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 6:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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