How To Be: Some Jojo (in 4e D&D)

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.

And now, it’s time to engage with something that is a challenge on two axes: First, the challenge presented by unpicking what it even means to make it, and second, the challenge of dealing with the standard memetic conversation that unrolls when you bring it up.

We’ve been a Touhou. We’ve been an Ukyou. And it’s time, now finally, it’s time, to be a Jojo.

Examining Jojo Stuff

Alright, let’s get some bonafides out of the way.

I don’t watch the recent Jojos series. I haven’t read the recent Jojos manga. I’m not up to date on Stardust Ocean or Stone Express. This is because, back when I was a child, what I was doing, was downloading Japanese-language scans of Jojos Bizarre Adventure, and reading it along with plain-text translated files, and I was doing that on a Windows 95 machine because those translated scripts were already eight years old. I watched the original Jojos’ OAV. I played the first game in a physical arcade.

I haven’t gotten into Jojos these days because I was in and out of Jojo’s twenty years ago, and I don’t feel a particular need to get back into such a deliberately incoherent mess. This is not to say you shouldn’t love the series or whatever, but don’t let’s kid ourselves: This is a series that started in 1987 where a general vibe is more important than a specific detail. Like, if I talk about making a Jojos character, you already think about Stand users, and nothing to do with breathing technique vampire hunting HEMA. No, when people talk about ‘Jojos’ they usually mean basically four characters specific abilities and the jillions of different permutations of those ideas are kind of just, y’know, part of the HSQ of the series.

You’re not familiar with HSQ? It’s the Holy Shit Quotient, which measures the amount of time that you spend watching a series going ‘holy shit.’ Jojos is big on that. It’s big on making you think about powers that kind of literally only work as manga creations on a literal page – like it’s almost at the point where characters are doing things like reaching through panels to grab characters on a different part of the page.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is a series about the lineage of the Joestar family, which starts out in the 1800s where a tale of two ‘brothers’ who took up contrasting careers of obsessive super-horny vampire and boring out of ten martial artist vampire hunter, and how whacky that makes family reunions. It then starts to involve heavy metal references and an unfortunate ‘but the good Nazis’ phase, until it hits the bit people seem to think of as ‘Jojos’ – where there’s that one guy, with the cap, and the weird hair, and the Stand.

Stands in Jojos Bizarre Adventure express in something like a hundred and fifty ways. Not joking – there are about 168 stand users, and all of their abilities are some variety of ‘different,’ even if a bunch of them also get a baseline of ‘it’s a ghost that haunts you and punches people.’

There’s other stuff you can do with Stands, and we’ll get to it, but for now, examining the idea of making ‘a Jojo’ the question isn’t ‘how do I make people’s nerve endings into ribbons,’ but inevitably is, ‘how do I capture the feeling of being haunted by a ghost boyfriend.’

The Essential Jojo

We’re not going to do the weird ones, okay.

We’re just simply put not going to be able to do anything that looks like the really goofy stands. No, you won’t be able to punish enemies for the sound effects they use. You won’t be able to tie together people’s souls based on the position they have in the phone book. What you’re going to want to have in this game space is something that feels like a Stand, and we’re going to start with the stand most people mean when they say Stand:

We’re going to try and do something that’s like Star Platinum, at least a bit.

If you’re not familiar with Star Platinum, which is to say, you’re not familiar with anything in Jojos, then the basic gist is that Star Platinum is… a buff dude. He’s a big buff dude, and also a ghost, who hangs around near and next to Jotaro. Star Platinum can whoosh about two meters away, but that’s kind of the core of what it can do. In the context of the Jojos universe, Star Platinum does a bunch of things that kind of only make sense when you’ve already swallowed the idea of ‘haunted by a boyfriend ghost.’ Like, Star Platinum can give ridiculously detailed drawings of things that it literally can’t see, because it’s just ‘that good’ at perceiving things or behaving precisely. This is a ghost that can grab microbes.

Obviously, that’s silly.

Instead, what we want is the most rudimentary, obvious way of executing on the idea of having a ghost, a secondary thing that you can use to do your Stand Stuff. There isn’t a lot of common ground between the three, though, so we’re going to approach this doing our best to separate each build out and also, crucially, give you different jobs.

Option 1 — Shaman

First of all, the Shaman class works like a stand user pretty much straight out of the box. Every leader class has their own specific mechanic, but the Shaman gets to summon a spirit that occupies a square and can even block and tank for you. This is a great start to work with because the entire class works around this spirit and you can support it with a bunch of feats, with items, and so on. If your vision of a Stand user is someone who stands, with their hands in their pockets, while the spirit flits around and stabs and knifes and attacks things, then this is a good option.

The shaman can build itself around a few sort of micro-builds, that let your spirit take on a role that’s a bit like a ranged Striker, a bit like a melee Striker, or a bit like a Defender. There’s a lot to work with here, and thanks to its use of totems and the Spirit, your character is free to do a lot of different things, aesthetically.

This is a really interesting class that I guess is why I did this article in the first place. Because I can just point at it and say ‘it’s a Stand User.’

Oh and when does this build start to work like a stand user? Level 1.

Option 2 — Psion

The Psion, aka, the Dishearten Platform, Dear God, That Power Is An AOE? Has an option that we looked at back when we examined Sumireko from Touhou. What you want there is the Shaper discipline focus, which lets you manifest a copy of yourself on the battlefield, and use either one as the source of your powers.

The psion gets a whole range of already-interesting oddball powers, and it has a really reliable, you-always-want-it power that you can launch from your manifestation. Uh, the power in question is Dishearten. Dishearten is really good. If you have one always-good, always-reliable damage dealer power that also controls enemies, you can use the rest of your powers for more niche or specific powers.

When does this build start to feel Stand-y? Level 1.

Option 3 — Paladin

I’m not kidding! For a series about a bunch of dudes just managing to beat the hell out of each other in increasingly ridiculous, high-stakes long-form ways, there’s nonetheless a space for the character you’d consider to be a Paladin. And not a weird oddball build of the Paladin, but a player’s handbook, out-of-the-box, no-weird-feats required Paladin.

The biggest problem I have with the Paladin, and which numerous books after it managed to solve, was that the Paladin’s main form of mark-and-punishment in the core book is Divine Challenge. Divine Challenge is an attack you put on an opponent, and then if they evade you or attack someone else, they’re struck, by you, no matter the distance or reach of your weapons. This is the thing that feels, to me, like a melee character’s ‘stand’ use.

You have to back that up by pursuing people! And that can be a problem, a problem you can also address with powers and feats from the Divine Power expansions. But to start with, if you want to be able to strike someone from across the room if they dare to reject combat with you, the Paladin works from out of the box, without any thing strange.

And it starts working at level 1.

Junk Drawer

Glossary Note: Conventionally, the term used in D&D for this mechanical package is race. This is the typical term, and in most conversations about this game system, the term you’re going to wind up using is race. For backwards compatibility and searchability, I am including this passage here. The term I use for this player option is heritage.

Look, anything in this space can be made a Stand user. If I make a fighter and just say ‘oh, my sword, and armour, are ghosts that hang near my body and that’s how they look,’ that’s 4e design. Like, there’s – I mean hell, that ghost armour idea is sick. But here are just some other options that are really easy snap-ons to other builds:

  • A Shardmind is a less-commonly used heritage that has a teleport with a bunch of support on it. It’s really easy to use it as a sort of ‘mess up people here, then reform elsewhere,’ you can treat that as a meaty kind of stand power.
  • Eladrin are another heritage that you could easily retheme. After all, they have teleportation, which you can easily build around, and that could easily be treated as a form of time-stopping blinking-around.
  • The Elemental Priest theme from the Dark Sun book isn’t, to me, particularly exciting or powerful, but if you have a build that’s crammed for space and you want some way to Jojo-it-up, this does let you have a mechanically useful ghost you can summon.
  • For almost any melee damage dealing character in the paragon tier, a Greater Dancing weapon will let you ‘melee’ from a distance around yourself.

Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that this article is not about presenting stands, but is instead about reconciling the way the powers you want can be interpreted as a stand. It’s not like there’s hard rules for how Stands work and what they can do, after all.

The artwork in the book cover is by Samantha Gorel, and you can check out her work here.

Back to top