If I’m remembering correctly, as the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons came to the public, our group was left with a dilemma. Like many, there were things about the 3/3.5e versions of D&D that we weren’t particularly happy with. Neither did we particularly like what we were seeing from 4e. It was too much like a card game or MMO and too little like D&D. While opinion varied a bit in our group, my view was that it wasn’t D&D at all. It was more like Magic: The D&D edition. Well, we eventually settled on a decision to move instead to Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG. Many referred to this rules set as D&D 3.75e. It cleaned up a lot of what was wrong with late 2e and 3/3.5e D&D. One of the first campaigns (might have actually been 1st) with the Pathfinder rules was the Shackled City Campaign Setting. For that campaign I played a bard/cleric name Aeduin Tharn.
“Now, wait,” I can hear you saying already. “Shackled City wasn’t Pathfinder rules! It was 3e/3.5e”. Yes, that’s true. And the fact that you know that off the top of your head means you really need to get out more. But that alone was a reason to pick Pathfinder over 4e. It also helps that anything written for 3/3.5e was extremely easy to convert to the Pathfinder rules and not easy to convert to 4e. That meant going in there was already a huge amount of material available. And most of us being fans of D&D from the very beginnings and 1st edition, we were among those that were not impressed with 4th edition. So on to Pathfinder we went.
The Problem with Aeduin
Shackled City was probably the first time we were planning on taking characters from 1st to 20th level. While we sometimes re-visited characters, none of them had yet to achieve the topmost levels of the game. For my part, I’d played pretty much every core character class in the game except barbarian and bard. For Aeduin, I chose bard. Mostly I made the choice because we already had a couple of tanks in the party and I was fine with either one.
As the campaign progressed Aeduin grew as a bard and I pushed him along. But I also grew more and more bored with playing the bard. There were a few reasons for this. First, I found myself with a “meh” attitude towards the skills and abilities that bards have in higher levels. It just seemed like more of the same and increasingly less useful to the party. Second, I wasn’t really happy with the interpersonal dynamics that my character had with the rest of the party. And third, bards are supposed to be exuberant, outgoing characters, the voice of the party. That is 100% the opposite of me and I found it very difficult to draw a sufficient amount of that attitude out of myself as a gamer.
There comes a moment in the campaign when the characters are on a plane of existence known as Occipitus. There they face several tests. The last test takes place around a pillar of flaming plasma. Kaurophon is attempting to gain control of Occipitus. Here, he must sacrifice a soul to the pillar to gain that control. During the battle, Kaurophon used his magic to lift up one of the party and begin shoving them towards the pillar. The party fought to prevent the sacrifice, but we were losing the battle. We had but a round or two remaining before our foe was victorious.
In a moment of decision, Aeduin determined to throw himself into the pillar and gain the control for the party. Despite the fact that I was unhappy with Aeduin, it was also not in my nature to just throw a character away. I just thought that here was an opportunity for him to make a difference, something that I didn’t feel he had done in quite a while. Mostly I was totally happy with Aeduin not coming back. I was already starting to plan a new character out in my head before the end of the session. But as we were packing up, our GM told me he had an idea.
Opportunity for Change
What I didn’t know at the time I made the sacrifice is that if a character sacrifices themselves instead of someone else, they are not killed. They instead gain the Sign of the Smoking Eye template and become the heir to the plane of Occipitus. Between my GM and myself, we came up with an additional change. Instead of just becoming the Smoke-Eye and heir to Occipitus, Aeduin would become a cleric of Occipitus. All of his existing levels of cleric were replaced with an equal number of levels of cleric of Occipitus. Aeduin found new purpose and I found it enjoyable to play him once again.
We eventually finished the campaign and Aeduin reached level 20. Having completed his original purpose in finding his missing father and restoring their family’s trade empire, he left Cauldron behind to return to Occipitus to begin molding it to his designs. Among his changes are taking ownership of the World Serpent Inn and giving it a permanent home.