My eyes now turn to making a character for Dragon Heist.
A while back I played in a one shot game set in Ravenloft. I decided to play a Halfling Knowledge Cleric. I had a few reasons for this. One, I didn’t know these guys and no group has ever turned away a cleric. Two, going into a Ravenloft game with no real plan I decided my concept for the character would be the protagonist from HP Lovecraft’s “Shadow of Innsmouth.” He was basically a Miskatonic University professor who wandered into Ravenloft and was in way over his head. Which was basically how I felt driving an hour away to meet in-person a bunch of guys I only knew online.
A few months ago, we decided to play through a low-level adventure. I had Dungeon Master Reward XP set aside for a couple low level characters but I haven’t designed them yet. While I’m quite keen to play a warlock or bard for a long running game I decided to bring my Cleric back. My biggest problem with this is that I don’t really know the Forgotten Realms well enough to fit him into the world. He was just kind of this milksop Candlekeep sage without a lot of reason to be out adventuring.
Fortunately, the AL rules allow one to rebuild low level characters. Not that you really need permission. Just try something else if you hate the choice you made, don’t abuse this, and don’t call attention to it. This is supposed to be a fun hobby, guys.
So I began looking through the books. From a mechanical standpoint, getting to that 16 at first level really feels important for a spellcaster. It’s fun to be competent. I want to have a +1 to Wisdom. I thought about being a Ghostwise Halfling but it feels very gamey and I don’t really understand the race. I’d be doing it for the +1 Wisdom, not because I really want to play a Ghostwise Halfling. When I think of my other Halfling character, Tando, he is most definitely a Stout. I intend him to be Stout. He enjoys material comfort and urban living. Compared to other halflings he is not light of feet. Ghostwise would be pure mechanics and I don’t want to do that.
I don’t really want to be a Half-Elf because they are OP. Again, there isn’t a story there that I see, I just see the mechanics. At some point I want to play a warlock and Vaelis Suncedar is a half-elf warlock for a reason. With him I want to explore that Spock type child of two worlds angle.
My eyes settled on the Protector Aasimar. +1 Wisdom, +2 Charisma, and a grab bag of other light/angel themed features. It’s not overpowered. I used a Deva Avenger in 4th Edition and remember it fondly. Apparently if I select the Aasimar I am not allowed to choose the seven cleric spells in Xanathar’s Guide, which I do not agree with. If you’re saying that an Aasimar can’t perform the Ceremony spell and marry a Triton that’s bigotry and I do not allow bigotry at my D&D table.
We have a message thread where we discuss game stuff and players thought they might like to have strong connections between the party members. Like everyone is from the same village or family.
The other day one of the other players said something that kind of struck me, I described my Aasimar as a Guardian Angel for the party and they said that character sounded more like an NPC. I’ve been mulling this over and I think I agree with them but I’m not sure it is a problem. When I look at my other AL PCs, specifically Tando and Kellen, the diplomat and the journalist, they’re both very much followers for the party and aren’t really sure about this whole “professional adventurer” thing. In the backstory I envision, Tando used to hire adventurers until the Goddess Waukeen called upon him to take up the career. Kellen is a gonzo journalist chronicling the exploits of the party. Even my Triton, Nymeros, has been somewhat forced into the adventurer role by the Geas of Dawn’s Beacon. I haven’t really fleshed out his backstory as much as the others but the trend is still clear.
I think that as a kind of pseudo NPC is the only way to play in published adventures if you’re kind of a method actor/storyteller type player. In the longer hardcover adventures you have time and space to shape it to the goals of the players but like I mentioned in a previous post, it’s really after the hardcover ends that you have the space to really get into those character motivations. In a published adventure the characters desires are somewhat supplanted by the text. And I’m not complaining about that; it is the nature of the beast. You don’t stand in the front row of a rock concert and complain it’s too loud. Obviously a DM can work around this. Recall Dice Camera Action, how in Curse of Strahd, Chris Perkins changed the adventure so that Holly Conrad’s character, Strix, turned out to be the brother of Vallaki bad guy, Izek. In the proper adventure, his sister is Ireena Kolyana, Strahd’s target. He changes the adventure and that change is still paying off in just the recent episodes they’re doing two years after the start.
So let’s get back to Dragon Heist and my potential Aasimar Knowledge Cleric. When I look at Dragon Heist and the posts I see on Twitter, the natural inclination is to remake Tando. It’s an urban adventure, loads of NPCs, and Tando’s backstory is that he is a former courtier of Lord Neverember, a Realms NPC who apparently features prominently in the adventure. That character would be a natural fit in this adventure. But there are a few reasons not to.
- I did just play that character for almost 5 months in Tomb of Annihilation. As much as Tando the Rogue Mastermind is “my character” there is something to be said for the novelty factor that AL encourages. I usually gravitate to The Rogue but a push outside out one’s comfort zone can be good. You play more characters, learn more mechanics, become a better DM. One ought to try new things. More than that, the entire book goes to level 5. I’m not sure how long it will take, but my guess would be not very, especially not compared to the higher level stuff I’ve done like TOA or Curse of Strahd. We ought to be level 3 within 3 sessions from the way 5E works and the concept of Tando was that he is a higher level character. It would be strange to make him level 1 again just for the sake of playing him, it wouldn’t be Tando the Mastermind, it’d be…Jeff The Rogue
- The Team needs a Cleric. In AL, with each new Hardcover Adventure there is a new “season” of adventures. And the AL players start over with new PCs. So most AL players seem to have a stable of characters ready to rock that they’ve built over the course of the now 8 seasons. I don’t play often but even in the course of these few months I’ve built a few different characters. One of the ways I kind of amuse myself is thinking that all my AL characters know each other (since up until now, AL is FR only). And that together, they would form a functional adventuring party. I have a Rogue, a Barbarian, a Warlock, but the team needs a gotdamn healer.
- It’s someone else’s turn. This kind of goes with number one. We have one, maybe two people at our table completely new to D&D and the longtime DM is taking a well-deserved turn on the other side of the screen. If someone else wants to be The Rogue they should get a turn. The team will need a cleric, no one else has volunteered, so I feel I ought to. I’m not saying being the cleric is unpleasant or a chore but there is a work element to it that you need to manage health and buff the team. There is also a Druid, Paladin, and Bard in the party so we’ll have no lack of potential healing but by taking the Cleric I’m enabling the party to focus more on themselves and let me handle the paperwork.
- Masochism? Whatever possessed me to take the Diplomancer Rogue into Deathtrap Land is also compelling me to take The Sage into Charisma Check Land. It would be too simple to take Tando into this adventure that his concept is well-suited to.
So who is this character? To be honest, I’m not sure yet, at least not in the way I felt a strong sense of who my other characters are. Right now, I’m leaning heavily towards Aasimar. I have this idea that they are a cleric of Savras, one of the forgotten realms Knowledge deities. But rather than being a mortal servant, they are a vestige of the deity itself. I have this concept of Savras having many literal eyes throughout the multiverse seeing and experiencing everything. My character is one of these reincarnated spirits placed on Faerun to learn and die like Brainiac’s simulacrum or something. In that way, they lore hews much closer to the 4E Deva than the 5E Aasimar. Back then, the Deva were immortal servitors continuously reborn to fight the forces of evil. Their racial power back then was to add 1d6 to any roll, to simulate their “remembering” how to do something from a previous life. This makes a load of sense for the idea of a 5E Knowledge Cleric.
What I need to work on is The Big Why. Why is this being involved in The Great Waterdeep Caper? Doubtless that will come across in session zero. For the idea of “My Character” Tando putting together a party of adventurers, I think he would see the appeal in trying to find this being of pure curiosity that lives to learn and discover all things. At the end of the day though, the player needs to come up with a reason for why their character is signing up for the adventure beyond, “We play D&D on Thursdays.”
Assuming I stick with the Knowledge Cleric, I’ve decided to name her, “Savitri” after one of the Hindu gods of Knowledge. This sticks with the 4E Deva theme, they were somewhat Hindu flavored. Like my Triton, it creates a fish-out-water dynamic being from a less European culture. I also don’t have any She/They PCs in my AL stable and I would like to remedy that.
For now though, Aasimar Knowledge Cleric for the motherfucking WIN.