Over a year ago, I created my first ever Dungeons & Dragons character, a Half-Orc Barbarian named Hadak. We are nearing the end of our campaign so I wanted to do a retrospective about the experience.
Hadak doesn’t have a complicated backstory. I only chose such a basic character because originally I thought we were only going to play a few sessions. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend are both big fans, and when he wanted to try being a Dungeon Master for the first time, Diane and I volunteered to play. I didn’t realize we were committing to a full campaign or that it would take nearly a year and a half to reach a conclusion.
Playing Hadak has been an experience. Like most Half-Orc Barbarians, he’s not the most intelligent person but he packs a punch. I gave him the Entertainer (Gladiator variant) background, so he does have an ego and charisma. I play him like your typical over-the-top, happy to fight Barbarian, but having an open-minded DM has let me take him down some interesting paths, especially as my interest has waned in being a dumb meat shield.
A few months into playing, Hadak purchased a cursed version of the Headband of Intellect. Rather than automatically setting his intelligence to 19 and making him super smart, the headband would randomize my intellect score each day. I had a ton of fun roleplaying a character who, although typically dumb, could wake up dumber, smarter, or at a genius level. The party Rogue is Hadak’s spokesperson and “manager”, so there were some great interactions when he suddenly knew how to count and manage his own money (including her usually larger cut).
I also used the high intelligence days to try and explore a darker side of the character. Hadak is far from being Good (I tend toward Chaotic Neutral with him), but he prefers challenge and competition over murder and mayhem. Yet, because he is dumb and Half-Orcs aren’t the most popular, intelligent Hadak is aware of others and their opinions of him in a way that his dumber self either fails to understand or can’t be bothered with.
The most obvious example of this is his nakedness. I never let Hadak wear more than a cloak and a thong (lovingly referred to as my ‘dick pocket’ since I somehow store a ton of weapons, potions, provisions, and other items there). On the days he would wake up intelligent, the first thing he wanted to do was cover himself up. Furthermore, whereas regular Hadak was brash, gregarious, and outgoing, intelligent Hadak was reclusive, quiet, and unwilling to trust even his party mates.
Over time, the magic of the cursed headband fused with Hadak’s psyche. Instead of a random intelligence score each day, if Hadak meditated long enough, his intelligence would go to a set number but he’d revert to being even dumb if he ever raged.
Given the opportunity, this allowed me to roleplay him more as a split-personality character. He began talking to himself more. The way I saw it, both entities now existed separately but are trapped in the same body. I found it challenging to get Hadak to meditate though, so after this change, the whole secondary character faded a way as Hadak spent the majority of his time in rage or just coming out of it.
I had intended to work with the DM to do a slow burn toward the secondary character coming to life and ‘exiting’ from Hadak’s body entirely. I had thought of a background to the item where the mind of a powerful Wizard had actually been trapped, and that it was really this Wizard struggling to reign in the chaotic mind of Hadak and not a different aspect of Hadak at all. This idea got pushed out as we moved in a different direction, but after nearly dying for good in a recent campaign, smarter Hadak has finally returned.
In a previous session, my character was bit by a vampire but showed no reaction. The DM asked me in private if I wanted to be a vampire and I declined at the moment. He pocketed the idea until a near death where he could bring it up again. Upon my resurrection, I returned as a pseudo-vampire. I also asked if I could count my time dead as meditating to which he agreed.
I am now in control of a Half-Orc Barbarian Vampire with incredible strength, dexterity, and intellect. Dropping the Wizard idea altogether, I think it is time for the meaner side of Hadak to run the show for a while. I think from here on, he will be aware that if he loses composure and rages that he may never be in power over his own body again. It’s kind of like a Bruce Banner/Hulk situation, except Bruce Banner is mean and doesn’t care for anyone but himself and the Hulk, well, he’s still a crazy monster but at least he understands loyalty.
We’ll see where it goes from here. I am ready to move onto something new, but I think this is a pretty fitting and interesting end for my first ever character. I will let you know what happens next!