We are now 4 sessions into Dungeon of the Mad Mage. It’s a little slow paced but I’m hoping it will pickup as we get past this first level, which according to Enworld is named, “Dungeon Level.” As opposed to later parts with names like “Arcturiadoom.”
When we started these two books I resolved to make myself The Healer of our merry band. I really liked the Warlord-y flavor of the Mastermind/Knowledge Cleric in Tomb of Annihilation. In hindsight I probably would’ve liked playing The Leader roles in 4E if they were strapped to a big ole goddamn sneak attack instead of handing out Gatorade to the Strikers.
I like the character I have now. I’m playing a Triton Valor Bard. I’ve reflavored a longsword as a trident and I’m taking all the healing spells. We’re currently level 5 so I’m watching level 6 and extra attack like a poor orphan child with their nose pressed up against the window of a toy store at Christmas time. This is very close to the same character as my Triton Barbarian but we needed that Healer. I chose to name him Saaragar which sounds kind of like Saagar, the Hindi word for ocean. I like to think he’s spent less time on the surface than Nymeros so he is a bit more dismissive of non-tritons. I keep playing him a bit more tanky than I really should in combat. The Wizard actually has a higher AC with frequent Shields. The Moon Druid has more HP. But I didn’t roll this character to play like a chump. It’s the Valor Bard not the Hide-Behind-The-Wizard Bard. This has led to some near death experiences. In fact it’s led to being critted and dropped in one hit. Twice.
I’m feeling resigned to “I’m going to die at some point.” I hate the idea of intentionally leading my character to their death. But surely I can lie to myself enough to believe there’s no harm in making some backup characters (surely). Let’s discuss them.
Elhar C’Rintri Housename: Drow Scout/Samurai/Knowledge Cleric
This character is a bit more mechanically thought out than I tend to be. I usually don’t multiclass because I’m terrified of making a bad character. This character is based on Total Party Thrill’s “Rangerer” in their Character Creation Forge. The idea is that The 5E Ranger is not a great class compared to The Rogue, The Bard, or The Druid. These classes can all do the Nature-Themed Lightly-Armored Warrior-Spellcaster role better than the Ranger depending on how they’re built.
So how do you do the Ranger better than the Ranger? Well while you should totally listen to the episode and could do just fine playing a single class Rogue, Bard, or Druid their build goes further to soak up Ranger Flavor. The Scout Rogue gives you two extra expertises in Nature and Survival on top of the four the rogue already has. Then you add the Samurai Fighter which gives you InstaAdvantage 3 times per day. You also gain another skill. Then you have the base fighter which is going to give you Extra Attack, Action Surge, and Second Wind. Their build also includes Knowledge Cleric which gives two more expertise skills (8 total) and The Bless Spell. The idea is to go Rogue 13/Fighter 6/Cleric 1. Sure you could just play an Archer Bard or Rogue or Fighter and still be fine but this breadth of options appeals to me, the player who wants more stuff to play with. Admittedly this class doesn’t really come online until high (8+) levels but it seems like it would be a good bit of fun.
Since we’re doing Mad Mage I thought Drow would be a good idea. Plenty of underground darkness. This would be an amazing character to bring to Out of the Abyss. And I know it is impossible to say “Drow Ranger” without invoking Drizzt Do’Urden but I want to play a Lolth worshiping Drow. The Drow Ranger who rolls his eyes and makes a disgusted noise at that name. “Look, Drizzt has a lot of magic items, okay?” One reason to continue to play a martial character is that the party still needs a fighter/skill monkey more than a 4th caster Although this is more of an Archer. I envision Elhar kind of like Iron Bull from the Dragon Age series. Sure he’s an agent from a fascist military state that wants to conquer all other civilizations…but he’s not there right now.
Elhar is a name I used for my Dragon Age City Elf character and C’Rintri is a word I remember meaning Noble in Undercommon from way back in high school when I believed Darth Maul was the coolest shit ever. I figure he’d also have a family name of whatever Drow we might encounter in Undermountain or their hated rivals. I think that’s the key, he’s from a rival house taking them down. He’s not doing it for altruistic reasons but he’s not working against you…yet. Seriously though, I would never screw over the party in a serious betrayal sort of way. You want to play the fun game of Dungeons & Dragons with your friends right? Don’t do that. This is not the Dragon Age Video Game where you kill a party member after their shocking betrayal. If I did that it’d be really awkward as I got up from the table to leave then kind of just hung out for a while since I’m hosting the game.
None: Warforged War Cleric
So while I’d love to play Elhar he has a few drawbacks. It’s a higher level character that doesn’t really work until it has extra attack, a respectable (3d6+) sneak attack, and a level of cleric. Also our Mad Mage party needs a healer more than another ranged combatant. So what to do? That’s when I hit upon the idea of playing a War Cleric. I abandoned Savitri the Knowledge Cleric because we kept getting into fights in Dragon Heist and the character just wasn’t that fun to play. A War Cleric works better at lower levels. They wear armor and hit stuff. But what sort of War Cleric would I find interesting? I wouldn’t want to play “Dwarfy MacNostory,” Dwarf Cleric of Moradin. I thought about the challenges we’re likely to face in Undermountain and then it hit me. The Warforged Race, in Eberron’s Wayfinder’s Guide, does not need to eat, breathe, and it doesn’t wear armor, it is armor.
I would justify playing it on the grounds that we’ve already encountered one wacky Shield Guardian on the run. That’s how I’d flavor it, as a Shield Guardian person waiting in a closet somewhere if it ever came to that. I think the DM would go for that. I’m not doing it because it’s overpowered. It’s just a happy coincidence that Warforged make pretty good clerics.
For mechanics, as I’m playing a Healer I figured I would go with the “Envoy” Warforged as opposed to the Juggernaut or Skirmisher. The Envoy is supposed to be a “custom” Warforged so it gets a grab-bag of different abilities. You get +1 to two different stats so I can do +1 each to Str/Con/Wis. You also get a skill, a language, and a tool. And Expertise in one tool.
I figured this character was built by the Dwarves and then left somewhere in Undermountain. So I took Dwarven as my language then instead of learning any other languages like I usually do. In their place I took proficiency with Alchemist Tools and the Herbalism Kit. The Envoy Warforged gets expertise in one tool you’re proficient with and it’s flavored as built into you. I decided to go with Thieves’ Tools and flavor them as surgical tools. This is me being a filthy min-maxer. I wanted my expertise to be a tool that actually gets some use and in Undermountain it seems to me that Thieves’ Tools is a mechanically better choice. Again, filthy, dirty min-maxer.
The big attraction of the Warforged is that they add their proficiency to the AC. This means at level 5 with the heavy armor of the War Cleric and a Shield that character starts at 21 AC. Respectable! Add to all the other healing and buffing that the cleric can do I think it’ll work fine at the table. I don’t think this would feel underpowered at lower levels like the Knowledge Cleric does.
For portraying this character at the table I’d want to draw inspiration from Great Constructs in History. Most notably, Shale from Dragon Age. I like the way Shale refers to other people by physical description and “it” is the only pronoun Shale uses for anyone. I like the idea that this Warforged just doesn’t really do names. In keeping with that the name at the top of my character sheet is, “None.” I also like the idea (from the Wayfinder’s Guide) that this character doesn’t really have an interior monologue and voices its thoughts aloud as they occur. It’s also continuously analyzing potential threats and opportunities for healing.
I think this is the first character I would go with if something happened to Saaragar.