So, we had a player out this week, so the Hollow Earth Expedition campaign was on hold for a week. (Actually, I had a way to explain the character’s absence, but…) The rest of us decided to do some character generation for my Dungeons & Dragons game set during the fall of the Roman Empire.

I picked the rough date of 376AD (or 1128 ab urbe condita, according to the Roman calendar of the time), a few years before the disastrous Battle of Adrianople sets the Empire to go into the ground like a lawn dart. The setting, at least to start, is in Germania Superior — along the upper reaches of the Rhine, but will eventually take them to Augusta Treverorum (if they make it.)

One of the players jumped to an idea almost immediately — a human cleric from Mauritania: Aurelius Augustinus of Hippo (or as we know him, Saint Augustine.) He’s about 22 at the start of the campaign, and has left Carthage and his religious studies because of a tricky situation with the daughter of a wealthy man. A curious, well-read, and intelligent man with an interest in different religions, he has set out to explore the world and find some kind of truth to it. In game terms, he’s a cleric with a focus on Knowledge, with Apollo and Minerva as his preferred gods of the pantheon. His spells are primarily healing and mending ones. He has a crossbow…hopefully, he won’t shoot himself or a fellow with it by accident. He’s average on the physical stats, but high on mentals with an 18 Wisdom.

Come on…the guy’s playing Saint Augustine in an alternate reality where the Roman gods exist. How cool does that sound?

The other player went for party balance and — assuming the missing player would most likely go for a wizardy/bardy type — went with a human fighter with a street urchin background for some thieving talents. He’s a former legionnaire, having served his 20 years in relative quiet on the frontiers of the Empire (Britannia, maybe northwestern Gaul, but a relatively quiet post to explain his level 1 rank.) Capable of reading, he had risen to the rank of optio, a sergeant or deputy to his centurion. His character is packing a 16 Strength and 15 Dexterity, and has all his old service gear, so gladius, scutum, chain shirt, etc. With his discharge and citizenship papers safely on his person, he’s currently working as a bodyguard for whoever will hire him.

Character creation for D&D 5th edition is fairly easy. We had to do a bit of flipping around the book, which has a font color and size that is a bitch and a half for my LASIK improved eyes, but we sailed through the basic bits — race, class, abilities. We had to do a bit of hunting to figure out how the skills and save throws worked. It would have gone faster but Wizards of the Coast thought it would be fun to do the glossary in a font that is readable only with electron microscopes. Background packages add a nice bit of fluff to character creation ideals, and other character bits. That the classes and backgrounds start you with some gear is a nice touch.

Overall, due to a lack of familiarity and bad friggin’ fonts, we were able to knock out two characters in the space of just under two hours, including taking our time to discuss some of the basics of the setting — like which races were playable, where they’re often found, etc.

The basic mechanic are on hand to see when you look at a character sheet. d20+proficiency+ability or skill mod. Hit a DC or difficulty check, and roll on. It feels like someone took Advanced Dungeons & Dragons from my youth, cleaned up the rules and added some bits to make it more a roleplaying and less a combat simulation game. From what I can see, it seems a much more logical descendent of AD&D than 3rd and 4th editions ever did.

We still have to get one character statted up, then we’ll probably have a play test session sometime in the next few weeks.