In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:
- This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
- This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
- While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
- The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic
When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.
Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.
In this, a Dreadful Month, maybe you need a radiant light. Maybe you need something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and happy in this time of long nights. In which case, let’s look to the most successful Monsters Inc fanfiction anime there is, and look at the magical girls from Puella Magi Madoka Magica as we ask what it would take to Become Meguca.
Spoiler Policy: I don’t intend to spoil much of the actual story of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Instead, I intend to approach this exercise looking at the characters as they present, with minimal explanation of the actual narrative of their native series, though there will be some discussion in a broad sense of what characters’ powers are.
This is in part because these characters have very strong vibes to use as basis for a character but also because it’s much funnier.
What Is It, To Be A Meguca
A Meguca is a magical girl as presented in the 2011 series Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a series about Magical Girls where the packaging indicates you have five cool magical girls and their adorable weirdo mascot animal called Kyubey that are doing magical girl things. It’s about fighting witches! Then there are a number of movies that expand the story in ways that I’m sure make complete sense.
In setting, the deal is that you get offered a wish, and then your wish comes true and you become a magical girl to work to protect the world that you have now changed. This magical girl change takes on some traits of your personality and has kind of a single cool ability that represents your you-ness. Then you find Witches and you fight them.
Easy start then; Meguca are altruistic, they are magical, they transform, their personalities inform their powers, they fight evil.
Essence of Girl: Being A Meguca
Let me tell you, I am not going to offer you any help in actually becoming a thing that’s actually in the story of Puella Madoka Magica. This is in part because it’s basically impossible outside of a game system made for Lovecraftian cosmic horror, but also in part because I don’t think you want that anyway. What you want is a mechanical package that lets you take the image of a character from this anime you like and say ‘let’s play that.’
You’ll be able to bring the spiralling despair and inevitable failure you think is appropriate from there.
Also, these aren’t characters who are visibly strong or intimidating. In this genre, mere physical force isn’t a thing that matters, so it’s almost entirely about emotional power rather than physical power. Because of that, I’m going to look at each of these characters in terms of trying to present a Charisma-driven version of what they offer.
Also, for these characters, to be magical magical girls, I’d look to pick up the feat Ritual Caster, so I could pick up some rituals to represent Powerful Magical Girling.
Particularly, all of these builds are lightly armoured; this is to ensure you get hit as much as possible, because being a meguca is suffering. Also, these characters seem to be dressed in, like, clothes, so it’s probably not time for heavy armour.
Whatever You Wish: The Megucas
Fact is, how good or how often these characters fight isn’t that important. It’s more a story about paying attention to their suffering. Instead then of looking at them in multiple forms, I’d like to suggest these simple, crash-course builds and targets to help you represent the interesting mechanical feelings of the five core characters, Sayaka, Kyoko, Mami, Homura, and Madoka.
First up we have Sayaka. She uses a sword, but keeps her other hand empty, which implies some mix of magical weapons and implements. For this character, my first and main idea is either a Charisma-based Paladin, or a Skald.
The Skald is a bard variant that gets the ability to make a healing space where people can heal themselves and where your special abilities all trigger off you making basic attacks; this means that most turns are going to feature some combination of a move and an attack, which means that even as a supporter, you’re pushing an offense.
This is to try and capture the feeling of a character who sees every engagement as an act of violence.
Next up we have Kyoko, who wields a chain weapon that doesn’t fit neatly in the square frame I picked for this exercise but so be it. Kyoko’s main thing is a self-reliance, which makes me think of a defender class; she’s smart (comparatively), but she needs to rely on a weapon. The Paladin stands by as a reliable option here, with its Charisma-based weapon powersets, but the Paladin doesn’t get a lot out of Dexterity or Intelligence (which are the more important stats for being a lightly-armoured Paladin).
Now, the Charisma Paladin is a pretty strong package, but it doesn’t have a lot of reason to get a big chunky reach weapon unless you’re planning on doing something with it. This would be a great build to pick up the Mark Of Storms and a lightning weapon and use that to huck people around the battlefield.
Ah, Mami, a ranged attacker who uses a weapon. What I wouldn’t give to have her pick up the Shaman ranged weapon mode, but alas, no matter how you build her, she’s not the kind of character who plants down a pet somewhere and just lets everyone attack that.
Instead for Mami, I’d suggest looking at the Artificer. The Artificer has a pseudo-tech feeling already, it can use crossbows (a perfecltly good ‘rifle’ power), can do a lot to defensively protect your teammates and best of all, thanks to the immense power of Magic Weapon, everything you ever do, you’re going to see by episode 2!
And okay, Homura is ‘Magical Girl (w/a gun),’ and I’m afraid D&D 4e isn’t well endowed for a character best seen through the lens of Modern Day Gunhaver (who Has Gun). But when we see her do extensive fighting, the guns tend to be about overwhelming force brought to bear on enemies, and there’s a lot of things she can do with – for lack of a better word – amazing utility. I’d recommend looking at her in terms of a high-control Warlock, and have the gun be a, like, extension of her soul, or a way to shape her eldritch blasts.
Thing is, who else is going to fit a spell called Hurl Through Hell better?
Now, I couldn’t suggest my personal first-choice option of the Druid, because none of the Megucas change shape (except for Sayaka), but there are still some alternative ideas that keep the general vibe of a magical girl that maintains the ‘mode shift’ style. Particularly, you could talk to your DM about the werewolf and werebear options (haha, yes, I know, but still), and ask them if you can treat the alternate beast form as your magical girl transformation.
Anyway, there’s spoilers in this video but posting it is traditional, content warning drugs.
Maybe we could make stories about cool magical girls breaking the rules and changing the world so they don’t have to suffer that don’t just play into the same protestant idea of self-sacrifice but I dunno, liberal centrism ‘nothing can get better in a way you’ll ever see it and the status quo slightly less bad is just good enough’ is probably okay too okay byeeeeeeeeeeee.