This is a fun game we played last night.

We were over at a my friend Dave's, who had a whole lot of D&D 3 books around and a bunch of people were there who had never played an RPG. I like the art in a lot of 3e books, so I told everybody to find a book they liked and pick some picture of a vaguely humanoid dude they liked. Everybody did, except for Patrick who found a picture of a Neogi and was really adamant about playing a Neogi and I said fine except that he would have to be about the size of a guinea pig and he was fine with that.

Then everybody took a sheet of paper and I said to write down three sorta-specific things that they thought their character would be good at, and three sorta-specific things that they thought their character would be bad at. I then told them to write a little +1 next to two of the good things, and a +2 next to the other, and a little -1 next to two of the bad things, and a big -2 next to the other.

While they did this, I pulled up Untimately's random dungeon gear chart and my own list of random first level spells. I assigned everybody gear, then I rolled a 20% chance to see if each character had magic. If they did, I gave them a random spell from the magic list, which they could cast once. I just had them roll 2d6 for HP and for attacks we just rolled a d20 (with a bonus +1 if they mentioned something about fighting in their description). There were adjustments allowed for weapons to fit their description, and I pointed out that being good with a bow doesn't make you necessarily good with an axe, etc., and we were ready to go!

On Paladins

I've never liked Paladins. Many people don't; it's no big deal. But they've been around since at least the Greyhawk supplement, so it seems that those of us who don't care for them ought to make some kind of peace with the class. I know plenty of DMs that don't use them, usually because they don't like alignment and so much of what Paladins are up to has to do with alignment restrictions and the power they get in exchange. Other guys just don't like the idea of Lawful Good hero-types in a party full of murderhobos. I decided to sit down and come up with some ways to make the class a little more meaningful to me in my own games.

Of course, the main reason I'm thinking about Paladins is Gorgonmilk's badass Greyhawk cover.

The main features of the Paladin in the older editions are usually:
Detect Evil
Badass Saves & Disease Free For Life
1 Weapon, 1 Suit of Armor, etc.
A Tithe & a Code of Conduct
Lay on Hands
A Horse, usually the Epic Magical Kind

Later editions added Smite Evil, which I dig.

Now the main question about the Paladin is: Whom do they serve? Which god or demigod or monster or whatever does the Paladin do his thing for?

Some people say you can't divorce the Paladin from the Lawful Good side of things. I am not those people. But it is not enough to determine what alignment your Paladin is. To make playing a Paladin interesting, you have to make decisions about what sort of things a god wants your Paladin to do. What does the bug-god or the fire-god or the poetry-god want from its Paladin?

Try this:

Instead of Detect Evil, go with Detect Alignment or Detect Deity or Detect Opposite Alignment.

As for the Tithe, who do you pay it to? Maybe one god wants you to give it straight to the poor, and the other wants you to toss it all into a sacred lake.

Lay on Hands might have very different applications for different gods. One god gives you the ability to communicate disease, another a version of Burning Hands that still heals your bros, another a Mind Meld.

As for the Code of Conduct, the most interesting way to handle this is to split the difference between player and DM work. One could create an elaborate religious code for a player to follow (which could be neat and atmospheric, but give the player zero input or control) OR you could try this method:

Once per level, there is a chance for the player to declare that an activity is against the Paladin's code. Depending on the severity of the restriction, the DM awards an XP bonus to the player. The bonus is a one-time deal, but as the player goes up in level, the number of restrictions grows (as the power the Paladin recieves from his god grows and develops) and the player has an opportunity to really engage with his Paladin's code in a game-affecting way.

I don't care for magic horses, so I can't come up with anything there. Maybe your Paladin gets a dinosaur or a Giant Riding Beetle or something cool, not just a lame Shadowfax redux.

Random Races: The Sicani

Things about the Sicani:

They are ratmen the size of very short humans
They are known for their architecture and sense of design
They are fascinated by inscriptions, which are common as gifts and decoration
They make excellent sailors and jewelers
They tend to prefer democracy, but their clans are run like the Mafia
They revere ancestors and prophecies of all kinds, and tend to know about Necromancy and Divination (+1 to checks)
They are good with whips, knots, and any sort of hook (+1 to attacks and checks)
They are small and fit into tight spaces easily by dislocating their shoulders
They are adept at traking by scent (+1 to track)
They are quick, clever and weak (+1 DEX/WIS, −2 STR)

Random Races: The Kayyil

Things about the Kayyil:

They are jackalmen who come in many varieties
They worship the Egyptian gods, especially Set, and persecute sun-worshipping monotheists 
They are excellent traders and negotiators
They love coffee and pork, and are known for their fastidiousness
They are highly superstitious and believe in spirits such as djinn and pangool
They revere insects and often keep crickets as pets
They always test potential friends for loyalty, and always honor their oaths
They have a natural flair for languages (+1 language)
They are charismatic and lean (+1 CHA, −1 CON)
They are excellent swordsmen and archers (+1 to attack) 

Random Races: The Obraski

Things about the Obraski:

They are rotund hippopeople
They care very much about pecking order and decorum
They fight endlessly over obscure matters of personal honor
They are quick to anger, but boistrously joyful
They are excellent at matters of fine detail
They worship a god called Behemoth, alongside various demigod heroes
They believe a man must pay his debts in order to enter the afterlife
They are good with polearms and flails (+1 to attack) 
They require special armor (gp value of armor x2) but have thick hides (+1 to AC)
They are strong, tough, and tend toward narrow-mindedness (+1 STR & CON, −1 DEX, −1 WIS)