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Fullmetal Wizard: Building a D&D Basic Rules Character

With the release of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules (I recommend downloading the printer-friendly version), it is possible to create characters in the new edition of D&D and play from level 1 to 20 absolutely free. I downloaded the PDF as soon as it was available and read through it immediately. It did its job as a marketing tool so well that as soon as I finished, I drove to my friendly local game store and purchased the Starter Set.

One thing that caught my eye reading through the Basic Rules was this box on page 79:

Casting in Armor

Because of the mental focus and precise gestures required for spellcasting, you must be proficient with the armor you are wearing to cast a spell. You are otherwise too distracted and physically hampered by your armor for spellcasting.
Yes, that means that a wizard who somehow gets training in armor can cast spells without difficulty. Well, I had to know just how far I could take this.

It turns out, the only way a 1st-level wizard can get armor proficiency according to the Basic Rules is to be a mountain dwarf. This gives you proficiency in light and medium armor. Noting this, I set to rolling up just such a character.

My dwarf is named Harbek Ungart. Having chosen my race and class, I proceeded to roll abilities. After racial modifiers, I arrived at the following scores: Str 14, Dex 10, Con 17, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 9. Not bad. He's much stronger and tougher than a typical wizard at the expense of only a little smarts. And of course, he's typically gruff for a dwarf.

For background, I went with Soldier. This gives Harbek a few more physical skill proficiencies and some fun tools. I rolled on the provided tables to fill in Harbek’s personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw.

There aren’t a lot of decision points in the Basic Rules for the wizard. It’s just choosing spells. Since I knew Harbek could stand up in melee better than most wizards, I went with more close-range and combat-relevant spells.
Cantrips: mage hand, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
1st Level: detect magic, identify, magic missile, shield, sleep, thunderwave
To take advantage of his unusual proficiencies, I couldn’t just take the starting equipment suggested for wizard or soldier. Instead, I went with the random starting gold, and I rolled 110 gp. With that to spend, I gave Harbek the following equipment (including the spellbook every wizard gets):
spellbook; scale mail; battleaxe; explorer’s pack; arcane focus (crystal); playing card set; donkey; cart; pouch with 6 gp.
And that's it. All in all, it took about 10 minutes to figure all of that out. And it's not a bad-looking character. He has a decent AC, and he can bump it up by 5 for a round as a reaction with shield. He's well-rounded but not as good as a specialist in either fighting or spell casting. Mostly that comes down to mediocre die rolls (nothing above a 15). Still, I'd play this character.

Harbek Ungart (Level 1)

Medium humanoid (dwarf), Lawful Good
Armor Class 14
Hit Points 9 (1d6 HD)
Speed 25 ft.

Abilities: Str 14 (+2), Dex 10 (+0), Con 17 (+3), Int 15 (+2), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 9 (-1)
Proficiency: +2
Saving Throws: Str +2, Dex +0, Con +3, Int +4, Wis +2, Cha -1
Skills: Arcana, Athletics, Intimidation, Investigation

Attacks

Battleaxe: +4 attack, 1d8+2 damage (or 1d10+2 two-handed)
Spell: +4 attack, varies by spell, save DC 12

Racial Features

  • Darkvision: Harbek can see in dim light within 60 ft. as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. He can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Dwarven Resilience: Harbek has advantage on saving throws against poison and has resistance against poison damage.
  • Stonecunning: Whenever Harbek makes an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, he is considered proficient in the History skill and adds double his normal proficiency bonus to the check, instead of his normal proficiency bonus.
  • Languages: Common, Dwarven

Class Features

Spellbook (prepare 3 spells at a time)
Cantrips: mage hand, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
1st Level (2 slots): detect magic, identify, magic missile*, shield*, sleep, thunderwave*
* typically prepared
  • Arcane Recovery: Once per day when Harbek finishes a short rest, he can choose 1 expended spell slot to recover.
  • Ritual Casting: Harbek can cast a spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and he has the spell in his spellbook. He doesn’t need to have the spell prepared. (Both detect magic and identify have the ritual tag.)

Proficiencies

Weapons: battleaxe, dagger, dart, handaxe, light crossbow, sling, quarterstaff, throwing hammer, warhammer
Armor: light and medium armor
Tools: smith’s tools; playing card set; land vehicles

Equipment

spellbook; scale mail; battleaxe; explorer’s pack; arcane focus (crystal); playing card set; donkey; cart; pouch with 6 gp.

Background (Soldier)

  • Speciality: Infantry
  • Military Rank: Harbek has a military rank from his career as a soldier. Soldiers loyal to his former military organization still recognize his authority and influence, and they defer to him if they are lower rank. He can invoke his rank to exert influence over other soldiers and requisition simple equipment or horses for temporary use. He can also gain access to friendly military encampments and fortresses where his rank is recognized.
  • Personality Traits: I’m full of inspiring and cautionary tales from my military experience relevant to almost every combat situation. I can stare down a hellhound without flinching.
  • Ideal: In life as in war, the stronger force wins.
  • Bond: I’ll never forget the crushing defeat my company suffered or the enemies who dealt it.
  • Flaw: I have little respect for anyone who is not a proven warrior.

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