Character Portrait – Aeduin

Cauldron

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.

Sacrifice
Occipitus
Occipitus

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.

Character Portrait – Rem

Cthulhu by dano_h

image credit: Cthulhu, by dano-h on DeviantArt

One of my many clerics was Noremus Toffli. Rem was a human cleric of Pelor tasked with finding a cure for a mind plague afflicting the people of Stormport. Little did he know when he joined the heroes that his quest would take him far from home, to the very stars themselves. Rem’s story is tightly coupled with that of my paladin of Helm, Terun.

Terun and the heroes of Silverhall had traveled to the Moonsea city of Stormport. There, they found a people under the influence of a band of insidious mind flayers. Through much tribulation, and a couple of misunderstandings, the party freed the city. Unfortunately, it became clear that this group of heroes had some deeply rooted failings, in that they were unwilling to do whatever it took to uphold the glory of Helm and Terun parted ways with them to seek out worthier companions.

In stepped Rem. A cleric of the temple of Pelor in Stormport, he saw that many in the city were still afflicted by a mysterious brain disease that had come upon them during the  Illithids’ reign. While his brothers and sisters remained to treat the sick as best their abilities could, Rem traveled in pursuit of the band of heroes. Catching up with them, he joined with them as they eventually found their way aboard an Illithid sky ship. 

The party traveled aboard the fell contraption to the mind flayers’ home world of Penumbra. There, the heroes faced off against many of the mind masters, their slave minions, and their elder brain master. Through great battles and at great cost, the heroes defeated the creatures. Carrying what remained of their wizard companion, the party were able to find their way back to Faerun.

Rem, having gained the cure for the brain disease, was last seen traveling east from Waterdeep towards home. Perhaps we have not seen the last of this young adventurer…

 

Character Portrait – Gogun

Photo by Prasanth Dasari

Gogun Elfcrusher, aka “The Gogun”, was my cleric of Silvanus. He was from our 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons era. He ventured north with a group of dwarves, led by King Tadom Trollslayer, seeking to return to their ancient home in the Vast. It was a nameless city north of Raven’s Bluff. I created him to join the campaign after my paladin of Helm, Terun, left over a religious disagreement with another paladin.

Gogun served the Trollslayer as a scout for his armies. The name Elfcrusher came from one of his scouting missions. They were exploring some caves and he came across a party of drow. The dark elves had apparently killed each other in some argument. He was examining the bodies when one of the other scouts came across his position. The story soon spread that Gogun had slain the drow by himself. Despite his attempts to refute the story, it stuck to him.

Gogun was reporting to the king and attempting to set the story straight when the party arrived in Yhaunn, where King Tadom was in exile. The party was on a mission from the Silver Queen to do a favor for King Tadom. This led the party to the nameless dwarven city in the Vast. After their return, Gogun remained with his people as the adventurers departed for Silverhall. Gogun again attempted to set the story straight with King Tadom, who had been making him into a hero in his absence. Feeling that this was a sign of ingratitude and an insult to him, the Trollslayer exiled Gogun from his presence. Seeing no other options, Gogun followed the adventurers to Silverhall.

Once at Silverhall, Gogun joined the party and followed them on their quests through Firestorm Peak and the Return to White Plume Mountain. It was in White Plume Mountain, ancient Greyhawk fortress of the mighty wizard Keraptis, that Gogun found his destiny. First, from an ancient scroll of magic he gained the power to cast Fireballs. Thrilled at his new found abilities, which should have been beyond a cleric’s reach, he pushed deeper into these arcane mysteries. Eventually, the party happened across a Deck of Many Things. Following an irresistible urge, Gogun drew several cards from the deck. He ended up a twisted, deformed mutation of his former self.

The Gogun

Here stood this 6 foot tall dwarven cleric, with incredible strength and extra eye on the back of his neck. Add upon that his newfound arcane abilities such as casting fireball spells. And with each passing hour, he fell more and more into the belief that HE was the only true Keraptis. Eventually he would succumb to the powers and influence of Keraptis, fleeing the party. At a crucial point, when lava was exploding into a room he threw himself into the ethereal plane.

There he stayed for a time, barely conscious. When the true Keraptis was reborn and all the pretenders should have died, he survived because he was still in the ethereal plane. Then, when Thomisan cast the limited wish spell, he was dragged back into the Forgotten Realms. In this act he lost the last few vestiges of his original personality and became once and for all Keraptis.

Even so, he knew that in Silverhall there remained a part of himself that he must free. So in the night, while the chaos of a battle raged through the halls of Silverhall, he came. Gogun strode through the chaos and stole away the child Keraptis and the hammer Whelm. He did not understand how, but he knew that the child was a part of him and he a part of it.

So now, in the darkness of night, around campfires, and anywhere else is told tales of fright and horror, is told the tale of the Gogun. Children run in panic or cower in their beds. The hearts of even the bravest of warriors are chilled at the tale. But those who knew him, who know the truth behind the stories and what really happened, also know this: When the time comes and the child Keraptis comes of age, they will once more come face to face with…. The Gogun!

Character Portrait – Nignus

Scroll of Knowledge

Nignus was my dwarven cleric of Oghma. A traditional gold dwarf of Faerun from the Great Rift, he made his journey north where he joined the companions to explore the dark heart of Nightfang Spire. His goal was to seek tomes of wisdom and knowledge to add to the Temple of Oghma’s great library in the Rift. 

Sadly, the journey of Nignus was a short one. Not long after he entered the domain of the vampire Gulthias, the fell to a monstrosity of magic, a construct made of flesh. 

Character Portrait – Chojen

Warrior Monk

Alas, poor Chojen Morg. After Thelisn the bodak fell to the servants of Gulthias within the Heart of Nightfang Spire, I brought in Chojen. He was human, a former thief and rogue who had repented of his ways and taken up a life of service to the gods. Serving in a monastary near Daggerdale, the companions of Silverhall rescued Chojen when he and others had been taken by an evil cult.

To repay the debt, he offered his service to them. That service was sadly all to short. Soon after the companions re-entered Nightfang Spire, he fell victim to an undiscovered trap in the floor, sliding him down over a sharp blade and then flinging him out the side of the tower. Having no ranks in fly, he plummeted to his death at the base of the Spire. 

I was sad to lose Chojen, especially so shortly after losing Thelisn (twice). The character concept of a thief-monk multi-class was one that really appealed to me. I’m bummed I never got a chance to really explore what he was capable of. At some  point I would like to run a new character that’s similar in concept. We’ll see.

Character Portrait – Venjor, Cleric of Pelor

Venjor

Venjor Carix was a cleric of Pelor. I brought him in for a module that Andy ran a few years back. This was a bit after I had run the Speaker in Dreams module, set in the town of Brindinford. In the Wyrmfang Chronicles, I placed Brindinford in the region west of Cormyr, just the other side of the Stormhorns.

Venjor was a background NPC during the Speaker in Dreams (Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Module). He was a minor cleric in the temple of Pelor. At that time in the Wyrmfang Chronicles campaign world, the Black Talons had supplanted the Purple Dragons as the soldier force of Cormyr. The surviving Purple Dragons who would not covert and hadn’t already been imprisoned fled the land. Some fled east to Silverhall. Others fled west to Brindinford. 

Those who fled to Brindinford learned the Black Talons were mounting another force to come west. The goal was to take their city and recapture the escaped Dragons. Seeking help, emissaries were sent to neighboring lands to seek aid in defending against. Venjor travelled south to the city of Westmarch, where Andy’s module was based, hoping to find aid. Instead he found that Westmarch was facing troubles of it’s own. 

My memory is a bit hazy on Venjor’s fate. It was about 15 years ago now, but I believe he did survive to return to Brindinford, though I cannot say if he succeeded in bringing any aid with him. And we have not revisited that part of the world since. Perhaps someday we might return. But who can say?

Side note: Venjor was often mistyped as Vejnor. Also, the pronounciation is ‘Vey-nor’, not ‘Ven-ger’. 

D&December 2017 – Rapid Fire: W4D4-Trinkets/Treasures, W4D6-Forbidden Knowledge, W4D7-Spell/Item

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Nothing like waiting til the last minute for the last three topics I didn’t get done. So here we go in rapid fire succession. Trinkets & Treasures, Forbidden Knowledge and Favorite Spell/Item. 

Favorite Trinkets & Treasures

As a DM, my favorite treasure items are those that have a bit of a cursed trait to them. Or at least some significant downside anyway. Any adventure I run has to have a couple of cursed items. Well, during my first foray as DM it was a LOT of cursed items. Don’t worry, I’ve toned it way down since then. Now, in cursed items, I’m including any item that has a significant downside to it, not just those specifically defined as cursed. For instance, it may be a long sword +2, but it might also be an intelligent sword. And that sword is prone to lecturing the player in a condescending tone on their fighting techniques the entire time it is wielded. This would force the player to make a save every round or have a penalty to hit that round. I find those kinds of items to be far more fun than a straight up cursed item.

Forbidden Knowledge

My character Delban is an expert on forbidden knowledge. During their adventure in Ravenloft, Delban stole a Tome of Evil from Lord Soth’s castle, using it’s knowledge to advance his skills. The end result was that he left the party and became an NPC for a few years, serving as one of the bad guys when I ran the Speaker in Dreams adventure. He later found that Soth wasn’t too happy with the theft and tracked Delban down to his tower outside of Brindonford. The knowledge and power of the Tome was ripped from him and Delban was forced to flee into PC status for the City of the Spider Queen campaign.

There’s a reason that forbidden knowledge is forbidden. Leave it there. So says Delban. Learn from Delban. Don’t be like Delban.

Favorite Spell or Item

I’ve already discussed my favorite spell in a previous post. So this time I’ll talk about two of my favorite items, one magical and the other not.

First, my favorite magic item is the Deck of Many Things. This is a classic D&D item. You find a deck of strange cards. Drawing a card at random provides a magical effect of some sort, as often bad as good. There are many variations on the Deck and each DM tends to create their own version when called upon. When I was running my dwarven cleric Gogun Elfcrusher, he drew several times from the Deck we found in White Plume Mountain. Among the effects was he grew to about 6′ tall and grew a third eye on the back of his neck. Everyone started calling him “The Gogun”.

Of course, he was also the one that found one of the Keraptis scrolls and learned how to cast fireballs. A minor secondary effect was that he eventually come to believe he was Keraptis. He was last seen vanishing into the night from Silverhall, taking Whelm and the Keraptis reborn baby with him into the forests of the Dalelands.

My favorite mundane item is rope. What’s not to like about rope? It’s the handiest and most useful non-magical item in the game. Everything from descending into pits to tying up wizards so that the barbarian can cut their head off when we tell him to “bag the wizard”. Every character I’ve ever created carries 50′ or 100′ of silk rope. It’s always the first thing I buy when I create them.

 

So there you have it. My rapid fire coverage of the last three topics for DnDecember 2017. Hope you enjoyed it. Time to get back to some other things.

D&December 2017 – W4D5 – Divine Magic – Fixing the Cleric Class

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Divine magic is a part of Dungeons & Dragons that I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with. Running a cleric in an adventure can be both the most enjoyable and the most frustrating thing, sometimes at the same time.

Clerics have an interesting feature set associated with them. They are the primary healers of the party. They excel in defending against undead creatures. They also have decent capabilities in melee combat.

But it’s their capacity for divine magic that is the most frustrating and awesome characteristic of the class. The cleric has some amazing offensive and general purpose spells. Few things are as satisfying as a well placed Flame Strike spell. And their buff and defensive spells are often the difference between a brutal combat and a survivable one.

Oh Mighty Vending Machine
Oh Cleric, Mighty Vending Machine of Healing
Oh Cleric, Mighty Vending Machine of Healing

Unfortunately, during combat the cleric is all too often relegated to the role of healing vending machine. Most rounds they have to devote their energies to healing bursts or converting their other prepared spells into cure spells for the warrior or paladin or bard who are flinging themselves wildly at the enemies.

It can be a frustrating place for a player who wants to have a more active role in combat encounters. You know that if you don’t keep your companions on their feet, they will die. And then you will die.

You want to toss out that Spiritual Weapon, or lay down that Flame Strike. But then the raging barbarian or the paladin get cut down. You feel the need to let loose a Searing Light or a Smite, but your four companions felt the need to stand in a row for the enemy wizard’s Lightning Bolt. And once more you’re relegated to the role of Healing Vending Machine. 

What’s A Cleric To Do?

I haven’t done much with 5e yet, but it doesn’t seem to address this basic issue that has been around since the original Basic rules set. It’s a fact that the purveyor of divine magic is a support role. And it seems most players don’t want to be the support.

So here’s what I would propose. Make most of the cleric, paladin and druid’s healing abilities swift actions. This should include healing bursts, channels, “cure” and “heal” spells, lay on hands, and anything similar. This would not include things like neutralize poison, break enchantment, restoration and so forth. Only straight “give my team some hit points back” kind of abilities and spells.

The effect would not, in my opinion, break the balance of the game and would give the healer one free shot per round to heal up one or more team mates (or themselves). That satisfies their support role, while at the same time giving them the chance to make a more hands on contribution each round of combat. 

I think it would go a long way towards eliminating the antipathy many feel towards being the cleric of the party.

D&December 2017 – W4D3 – Wizards

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wizard

Wizards have got to be my favorite class in Dungeons & Dragons. Being the smartest person in the party and using their gift to call forth the powers of the universe to alter reality itself is a fun-factor that’s hard to deny. All things being equal, I would probably rather play the wizard. That’s a bit odd considering I’ve only run two wizards in the Wyrmfang Chronicles, and one of them was a multi-class fighter/wizard. That was Storin, the first character I played in the Wyrmfang Chronicles. He met a most unpleasant end that I’ve mentioned previously

The second character I ran in the Wyrmfang Chronicles was my wizard Endeleban Losteast, or Delban for short. He was an Aes Saidarr from Cormyr tasked with tracking down a bard named Thomison for one reason or another. On finding Tomasin, Delban and his warrior escort Yoshi, were sucked into Ravenloft along with the bard. Adventuring in Soth’s castle in Ravenloft left Delban a changed wizard. He wandered off into NPC land after that. While Delban did make a return to PC status for City of the Spider Queen a couple years ago, not one of my other characters has been a wizard. 

I’m not sure what to attribute that to, except that I’m also one who doesn’t mind sharing the fun. So if someone else wants to be the arcanist, I’m willing to let them. Maybe I’ll have to call dibs on wizard right now for whatever we do next. But that’s a ways off into the future. We’ve still got a year or two to go in the deserts of Golarion before we think about what’s next.

I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes wizards so appealing to me. Certainly, they have the brains and they can blow stuff up from 400 yards away. I’ve also had great love for wizards in literature: Gandalf, Raistlin, Elminster, Merlin, Dr Strange, Harry Dresden. And don’t you dare lump Harry Potter in with those greats. Compared to the others, the Potter books are complete drivel and garbage. I’ve never been able to read an entire Potter book or watch one of the movies all the way through. I did sit through most of Fantastic Beasts, though it made me a bit nauseous. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Great wizards of literature inspired me. 🙂 But whatever the reason, wizards just seem to be the most fun to play. 

They do have their downsides. Keeping track of everything can be a big pain and they die pretty easily if dragged into melee. But when I can toss a fireball or lightning bolt down upon groups of enemies, it’s more than worth it.

D&December 2017 – W4D2 – Traps

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Since I’ve talked about talked about Boxey before, I’ll talk about traps. Oh, how i hate traps. Well, as a player I hate traps. I’ve had several characters die as a result of traps over the years. The most memorable was my monk, Chojen Morg. He died within Nightfang Spire. A trap door opened, he slid down over several blades and was flung out into open space halfway up the tower. He didn’t have feather fall ring… or even feathers. And so he died. He had a rather short life. Not even a few months.

As a DM, i’m neither hot nor cold about traps. I guess they serve a purpose, like killing off characters. But I don’t really like to use them. When I am the DM, I use them rather sparingly. They seem to be more annoyance to keep track of and work through. 

It’s the mechanics of traps that I think annoys me the most. When traps are randomly placed, the adventurers must spend endless amounts of time searching. Move 10′, search, move 10′ search, move 10′ search. And it goes on and on and on. It gets very tiresome. But if you only make them search when a trap is nearby, then it gives away that the trap is there. 

There are times when traps are useful and acceptable. Protecting specific items, rooms, and so forth have great uses. But it is offset, in my mind, by all the other times of random and fruitless trap searching. 

There is one other time when traps come in handy: when it’s amusing. When I was running the Speaker in Dreams campaign, there was a bell tower in the center of town. It was square in shape and had a staircase that ran around the interior of the walls. At each landing I put a trap, not on the landing, but on the step just below it. It didn’t take long for the party to figure it out, but it was rather amusing nonetheless.

In short, well thought out traps have their place, but random traps don’t. At least, that’s how I see it.