Monday, February 11, 2019

Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

A couple of days ago I asked the question, How do you know who your character is before they show you through actual play?  A backstory is fun to write but what happens when it collides with the "reality" of actual D&D table play? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

And sometimes your man ends up dead and you wasted a perfectly good backstory.

I admit it: I fall in love with a new character about once per story arc. In any group I tend to run through player characters with abandon. It bothered my DM for a while because he has A Story To Tell and he wants to make sure each of our PCs has a chance to shine in His Story. So if he writes a part for my pawn and then my pawn dies, that crimps his style.

But he's finally got the picture that my guys are going to come and go. 

My first guy was a gnome fighter with 2 hit points. He was fearless. Eventually he got half eaten and burned over most of his body while fighting a wight, but he lived. Being a level 1 guy who got level drained back to 0, he left to do penance and pay off the clerics who saved him. 

Yaspar the Lone Wolf

My next guy was a druid who was obsessed with gaining noble title and some land of his own so he could tell other people to leave him and his woodlands alone. He had a longstanding goblin henchman. He died as a cross-dressing amnesiac after the party leader playfully punted him in the skull.

Aeldlin the Russett

My next guy was a dwarf fighter who was on the trail of the same mystery as the party. They saved him from getting eaten by a dinosaur in the swamp, and he joined them. Little did they know he was chaotic evil. Anyway, he got eaten by a giant mantis and cursed them all out with his dying breath.

Hammod Blayscarats

For a little while I took over an NPC that was traveling with our party. We had hired him to smuggle us somewhere and then we got his ship sunk by the guys chasing us, so he stuck around and demanded we get him a new ship. After 2 adventures of that he gave up and decided to part ways and steal a ship himself, since we weren't about to pay him back for the ship we broke. That guy was a cavalier bard (a bizarre and counterintuitive gish if there ever was one) with a bottomless bag of tricks to draw upon and stats through the stratosphere. 

San Holo, who I didn't name.

After that, my current man is a cleric. This was the first character I metagamed. 

Here is the issue: our party leader is a cleric to Odin. He is very good at sucking up damage so he fights on the front line with one of our fighters, despite having another fighter and a ranger. But he's the only cleric. So if he goes down, we're out of restorative magic. While cleric = healbot is kind of lame, that's what happens when you're in the Wilderlands for a long stretch without potion and only the one cleric.

So I told the DM we need a second cleric and I would play one. Not a front-line fighter; a support type. So he introduces the guy as a foreshadow as a cleric tending to the people in a refugee camp near the town we were in. He just says in passing that he's doling out spells and digging latrines, because his job in his church is to make things clean and tidy. 

He is literally the clerical latrine digger.

Okay, that I can work with.

So we finish with the one heist where we finally score some loot, and the guy I'm playing departs (with his loot!) and pick up this other guy. In the interim, I rolled him up and wrote him up and cleared him with my DM.

I named him Bluetooth and made him Lawful Neutral. He is tall and bald with medium-length grey hair and a wavy beard. I gave him a footman's flail, which is a nice peasant-style weapon with the possibility of reaching and tripping in the right situations, DM willing. I made him a cleric to Frigga, who is like the Hera and Hestia of the Norse pantheon. She's both the  queen and the master of the home and hearth. That seems like a neat-and-tidy kind of god. 

I put him in regular plate mail with a clerical vestment over the top. I described it to the other players that he is dressed kind of like jedis in the Old Republic, who wear a robe over their clone armor. Something like that. The footman's flail is a two-handed weapon so he doesn't carry a shield. It means he can grab his holy symbol when he needs it.

Robert Bluetooth. Something like this. Sort of.

And so he's a level 4. I made him level 4 so he would be just right behind the lowest-level PCs who are about halfway to 6.  I gave him a couple of minor magic items, a mule, a riding horse, and a lackey retainer. The lackey's name is Smudge. Smudge sweats profusely, licks his fingers, touches everything, and obsesses about death. So you have this sort of forthright and immaculate cleric and his disgusting dingy lackey. 

But what nobody knows except for the DM is that Smudge is actually a magic user. Not the kind that shoots off fireballs; he's the kind that casts Comprehend Languages, Knock, and Hold Portal. A utility guy. We made it through the first game night without having Smudge reveal he's a wizard, even though there were two fights and a dragon was chasing us at one point. So it's a little fun secret just between my DM and me... and all of you of course. I think Smudge looks like a slim Ignatius Reilly in dark sackcloth.

Anyway. I'm thinking about Bluetooth as a back-line guy who doesn't do a lot of fighting. So I take multiple Cure Light Wounds of course and then Hold Person spells. Almost immediately he and the party leading cleric get into a brawl with two assassins who just killed Bluetooth's peasant acolyte, so I had to fight with him, and he did very well.

But the Hold Person spell... it truly made him who he will be. I ended up using that spell several times during the course of the two fights over the night's adventuring. 

And in the second fight, he used it to hold two enemy soldiers. All the rest of the soldiers and the leaders either got killed or escaped. It was just these two left. We were going to take them prisoner and deliver them to the Tabernacle of Freya, where the forces of good were marshaling for a coming battle. But along the way, Bluetooth talked to them and offered to hire them as his soldiers. They are level 2 fighters - not nearly at the level of our party who are all level 5-7 (Plus Bluetooth), but if they turn out to be good soldiers, maybe they can be NPC sergeants or lieutenants in the army we're amassing. It should at least be a good opportunity for RP.

Hold Person has made Bluetooth who he will be. No amount of backstory could have predicted "latrine digger" turning into the rich personality and character he became after only a few hours' of table time.

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