Level Zero: The Backstory Level

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One of my peeves about 3e is the 4x skill points at first level based on your character's first level. This brings up the dramatic and oft-discussed differences between a Rogue1/Fighter1 and a Fighter1/Rogue1.

Of course, I realize that individual skill points are probably going away in 4e, and most likely other mechanics that encourage players to min/max dipping into classes for one level (for example for the +2 bonus to saves or other nifty abilities granted at 1st class level).

Nevertheless, one thing I would encourage WotC to consider is to create a "level zero" that encompasses a character's backstory and grants one or more "level zero only" background feats and/or skills, independent of what the character takes at 1st level. I'd like to see both "iconic" backgrounds (farmer, merchant, craftsman, aristocrat, etc.) as well as rules for creating balanced new ones.

Different backgrounds would have different combinations of starting skills, feats, contacts/allies, and possibly starting items or wealth.

Were this to be implemented in 3e, Level Zero might provide background skill points equal to 3 x (4 + Int Bonus), after which the character's 1st level skill points are calculated no differently than any other levels, i.e., a rogue gets 8 + Int Bonus. And suddenly, the Fighter1/Rogue1 and Rogue1/Fighter1 are exactly the same.

The majority of NPC's might never ascend beyond Level Zero, with competence bonuses awarded for time spent pursuing their professions without ever lifting a weapon.

It's just an idea. Thought I'd share. Feedback is welcome. Thanks for listening.
They might just let you designate X skills as class skills - those are meant to represent the skills you picked up both from your background and your class. :P
How does it go in saga? Does your number of trained skills depend on the class you choose for your first character level?
How does it go in saga? Does your number of trained skills depend on the class you choose for your first character level?

Yes, but it's easy to pick up new ones.

I don't like the idea of gimping a PC with a nonheroic level.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The thing that always got me, from 1st edition to 3.0, was the fact that a member of your race with no class levels had more HPs then an adventuring wizard with the same CON.

Rather then giving us 2X or 3X max HPs at start, give us level 0, 6 HP, 2 skills to be chosen from profession and craft skills. 0Level can be the background, it's what you learned before you started training to be an adventurer. Maybe allow for training in one weapon or one knowledge skill.

A real 0 level, where it helps new adventurers survive, and can be used for role-playing purposes, without forcing someone to choose between a skill their character would know based on the background and a skill the character would know based on the need to survive.
Goodman games uses a level zero. My gaming group liked it. It gave them a bit of a bump in HP. It did hurt rogues skill points, so I house ruled something. But overall, I'm all for a zero level, and if WOTC does not do it, maybe Goodman will recreate a version for 4th ed.

Cheers
My own preference in a 3.5 game would be to have racial HD for all creatures. It bothers me that gnolls have HD for being gnolls, but elves are physically composed purely of the classes that they take.

Notice that gnolls' initial bump to skills is all applied according to "gnoll class skills," strongly defining the type of character a low-level gnoll is. This approach would require "racial class skills" to be spelled out for the 1-HD creatures like humans and elves.

For instance, as an idea:
Elves would learn spellcraft, diplomacy, move silently, etc. easily.
Dwarves would learn concentration, disable device, detect motive, etc. easily.
Halflings would learn hide, move silently, bluff, etc. easily.
Humans can choose a certain number of skills to be their "racial class skills"

Thus rogues and sorcerers of each race would potentially excel early on at different niches.

Most likely, PCs begin play with their racial HD and a class level, so they are not quite so likely to drop dead after one hit.

And commoners, by definition are the people with only the one racial HD. No potential 15th-level commoners--the very concept is absurd.

Of course this whole idea seems lost on 4e, since they've announced a very different type of system. Oh well. I just hope that I am still able to add class levels to any monster if I want to; and to play as any monster if I'm willing to ignore balance issues. We'll have to see if I like 4e better than my idea.
My own preference in a 3.5 game would be to have racial HD for all creatures. It bothers me that gnolls have HD for being gnolls, but elves are physically composed purely of the classes that they take.

Notice that gnolls' initial bump to skills is all applied according to "gnoll class skills," strongly defining the type of character a low-level gnoll is. This approach would require "racial class skills" to be spelled out for the 1-HD creatures like humans and elves.

For instance, as an idea:
Elves would learn spellcraft, diplomacy, move silently, etc. easily.
Dwarves would learn concentration, disable device, detect motive, etc. easily.
Halflings would learn hide, move silently, bluff, etc. easily.
Humans can choose a certain number of skills to be their "racial class skills"

Thus rogues and sorcerers of each race would potentially excel early on at different niches.

Most likely, PCs begin play with their racial HD and a class level, so they are not quite so likely to drop dead after one hit.

And commoners, by definition are the people with only the one racial HD. No potential 15th-level commoners--the very concept is absurd.

Of course this whole idea seems lost on 4e, since they've announced a very different type of system. Oh well. I just hope that I am still able to add class levels to any monster if I want to; and to play as any monster if I'm willing to ignore balance issues. We'll have to see if I like 4e better than my idea.

Best idea yet. Stupid that in 3.5E, 1HD monsters drop that HD when they pick up a class level, but 2HD monsters don't. End result, an even bigger level difference when you add class levels, and it just doesn't make much sense.
I did half level characters based on the 3.0 apprentice levels from the DMG and my players loved it....except the warlock player. I got tired of PCs just starting out as already seasoned adventurers and decided to give them backstory and make them weak teenagers that are just learning magic, swordplay, and such. I'll admit the rogue's skill points did suffer but for 3 extra hit points he wasnt complaining.
It isn't the job of the rules to enforce role playing. Creating a background and picking your 1st level skills to go along with it is a role playing decision and should be handled by the DM and players, not by a o level rule.
That said, if you want to use a 0 level just give all new PCs a level of commoner.
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