Tag: D&D

D&D 5e: Running My First Original Content

It finally happened. With all my character ideas, I finally managed to find the time and energy to turn those creative forces toward original content I could run myself. In doing so I recently ran my second ever one-shot as a Dungeon Master only this time it was wholly original content.

I had the idea to do a murder mystery/game of Clue when I was discussing potential werewolf lore. The idea was that in a world where hospitality (socially/culturally/legally) matters, there’s also a prevailing believe that you become a werewolf by harboring their kind and giving them aid, whether you know the person to be a werewolf or not.

In this scenario, my three players arrived individually at an inn outside a backwater in an area once rumored to have werewolves. The nearby villagers are your typical superstitious type, but they support the presence of the inn because it keeps strangers from knocking on their doors seeking shelter which they would be obligated to give.

I have always been fascinated with secrets in games. For example, there’s a variant of the board game Risk called Secret Mission where players have secret missions that they must fulfill to win. Having these built-in secrets makes it harder to forge lasting alliances with other players since, unlike with a regular game where everyone is striving openly to dominate the entire board, there’s always the unease of accidentally helping another player win at your expense.

Secrets are difficult to do in a game of D&D since everything happens out in the open for all the players to hear even if their characters aren’t in earshot. Since I wanted that Clue feel, and I didn’t want my players to accidentally metagame, I needed a way to make all my NPCs and my players wary of one another. To this end, I requested my players each have a secret that they wouldn’t want shared with anyone else. My NPCs also had secrets of their own. My intent was to use all these hidden motives and concerns as a wedge to keep everyone pitted against one another and to keep my players from teaming up so quickly that my murder mystery was trivialized.

I think it worked great. Some of their secrets were more trivial than others, but since they were roleplaying them honestly, it really helped to give me another tool to sow chaos and maintain disorder. The entire session was a rapid series of scene changes from one area of the inn to the next as the three players and eight NPCs fell upon one another.

I also feel like the chaos I was able to employ helped make the mystery more interesting. I wasn’t planning to surprise anyone with a particularly well-written or surprising plot. To be honest, I didn’t think I needed anything more than a bare-bones Scooby Doo plot. My goal was always to keep everyone pointing fingers at one another or doubting one another that any inadequacies in the story were made up by the journey to its conclusion. And they did just that.

Coming into this one-shot, I was nervous. I am not a master of D&D 5e rules and I am brand new to running a game. Adding in the anxiety of running something I created, I was worried that I would waste everyone’s evening. But it went well, and I am all the better for it. My sister-in-law’s character was an agent of chaos in her own right, but I managed to stay on my toes and use her character’s blunt actions to further the plot and keep to my overall structure. It is hard to get that kind of experience anywhere other than playing the game with other people. I am even more exciting to work on more original work and hopefully DM again in the future.

More D&D Character Ideas

We still haven’t started a new D&D campaign. I continue to spend the time thinking of new characters to potentially play. Here are a few more:

The Psychopomp

A psychopomp is a type of spiritual guide. I have always liked the idea, so I wanted to try and create a playable character equivalent. Without making things too original, I decided to use established D&D lore for the Shadowfell or the Plane of Shadows. I also wanted to use the Raven Queen, a mysterious deity often associated with memories and death.

Since I am still learning about these elements myself and you, dear reader, may not be anymore knowledgeable than I (or are more so and I risk embarrassing myself), let’s ignore further defining these elements for now.

Here’s my short background to introduce the character:

Not all souls are chosen to walk in the plane most suited to their spiritual alignment. There are a number who go unclaimed. Of them, many fiercely cling to the virtues and vices of their living days, no longer able to satiate their mortal desires or move on to immortal oblivion. Thankfully, there is a place for these souls to find help.

Deep in the Shadowfell, there is a large grove that attracts the unclaimed dead. Called the Shadewalk by the Shadar-Kai who live there, they serve the Raven Queen by helping strip these lost souls of the memories that bind them to a material world they can no longer return to and help them move on to eternal nothingness.

Pomp, youngest of the order and most naive, ventured out of the Shadewalk and the Shadowfell altogether. He journeyed to the material plane, land of mortals, a place he had never been before. He figured why wait for the souls of the living to come to him. He could teach them his order’s ways long before their deaths: the self-destruction of the self, rising beyond pain and pleasure to a state of boundless bliss, unencumbered by want or need. Better educated, the living would have no need of him when they die.

He was ill prepared for the vices and virtues of the world himself. Try as he might to serve the Raven Queen, every attempt to aid those in the mortal realm pulls him one step closer from the grey thoughts formed in his grey head born of his grey world resplendent in all its grey glory.

Will he be the teacher or will he be the student?

In summary, he is a person from a place of limited emotion and almost no enjoyment whose only purpose in life has been detethering wayward souls from whatever keeps them from moving on from their lives into the planes beyond. I am a sucker for a good fish out of water story and I love the idea of a Buddhist monk in reverse (going from what is essentially a variation of a state or nirvana to absolute hedonism).

He will be a Warlock, of course.

The Atheist

More often than not, Druids are not Humans. Fantasy tends to depict humanity at its worst. Humans are shortsighted, cruel, and selfish. Rarely is Human civilization depicted in fantasy as an ideal. Similarly, Druids are often depicted as purer for their love of nature and frequently get stuck with Elves since Elves tend to be purer as well. Obviously, I wanted to make a Human Druid.

At the same time, I wanted a more militant Druid that wasn’t just a Progressive Liberal driving their electric vehicle to rallies and protests nationwide. When I decided wanted to try an atheist character in a world where gods are known and knowable, the Druid seemed like a perfect fit.

For this character, I don’t have a background written up, but here’s a quick and dirty version of what’s in my head:

Character born in small village. Village is very religious. He is bullied at a young age by the son of the church leader. While being bullied out in the woods one day, the bully is attacked by a wild animal. The character hesitates to stop the animal, not out of fear, but because he is really tired of the bullying. A woodsman spots them and comes to the rescue, but the bully is nearly dead. When both children are brought back to the village, the church leader pleads with the village god to save his child and the god does. Character then begins his journey to forsaking all gods and religion, running away when his parents punish him for his thoughts, and joining a druid clan.

He is an atheist not because he denies the existence of gods, but because he denies their sovereignty over the natural world. He believes in survival of the fittest, but believes gods to be an alien corruption who defy the natural order to inflict their will on the world, which is sacred and pure ot him. Regardless of the gods alignment, he is vehemently opposed to the spread of any ideals foreign to nature. He’s a cosmic libertarian/materialist.

The Chaser

Finally, my last character, like the first, grew up in a different plane. In this case, he grew up in the Feywild. If you are unfamiliar, imagine every story about evil fairies, good elves, will-o-the-wisps, fae, etc., were true and all of these creatures – good or bad – arose from and lived in one place. That place would be the Feywild.

As a huge fan of the game Planescape: Torment, I am also a big fan of the Lady of Pain character. Her creation was inspired by the poem “Dolores” by Algernon Charles Swinburne. Not that I am talented enough to create the Lady of Pain, but as the game made me a fan of the character and the character made me an even bigger fan of the poem, I decided to revisit it for inspiration.

In the poem, one of my favorite parts is:

O garment not golden but gilded,
O garden where all men may dwell,
O tower not of ivory, but builded
By hands that reach heaven from hell;
O mystical rose of the mire,
O house not of gold but of gain,
O house of unquenchable fire,
Our Lady of Pain!

I have long had the idea for a petulant, overly romantic elf character who falls into an unrequited love with a chaotic force that decides to take advantage of the situation. I wanted to play on that idea in fantasy of the perfectly faithful hero figure whose one true love is waiting for him though he has to prove himself for her or her father or to his own self so he knows he is worthy.

Rather than a princess in a castle, my elf character stumbles upon a beautiful woman trapped in an unbreakable magic prison at the heart of a swamp. The two fall instantly in love with one another. He yearns to break her free of her bondage so they can be together. She’s perfect, she’s virginic, the only name she can recall for herself is “The Mire Rose”, and she is horribly, terribly evil.

At first, she sends him on trivial errands. She has been stuck in her prison for many years and no suitor yet has come close to surviving what she believes she needs to break free. She’s grown fond over that time of seeing would-be heroes never return or return altered or scarred by the trials and tribulations she gives them for her own amusement.

In this character’s case, he is more talented and more persistent than the rest. He manages to survive and she decides to give him tasks in earnest in hopes they will free her. All the while, she flirts and promises a happy ending.

He isn’t completely hopeless. He has doubts and suspects their may be foul play, but gets himself in too deep to abandon the quest. That’s the arc of the character though, so seeing him start off as a sappy romantic who asks birds to send his Mire Rose tidings of his love or bring her tokens of his affection and grow bitter/concerned over time will be part of the fun.

D&D Character Idea #247: Lizardfolk Warlock

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


Since we are still between campaigns, I am still debating the next major character to play. Most recent, I am considering a Lizardfolk Warlock with an Archfey Patron.

Here are the key roleplaying aspects of the character:

  • Hermit background, so even for Lizardfolk, he has lived a fairly isolated existence in the swamp.
  • Lizardfolk are described as seeing the things only in terms of its utility. They are fairly limited in emotional range. Art and beauty have no value to them.
  • In contrast, Archfey are demigods associated with the Feywild (or the Plane of Faerie) and are like more intense versions of faeries or similar creatures in popular myths.
  • After happening upon him, his future Archfey patron is amazed that he doesn’t know how to laugh or how to really express any kind of emotion other than hunger.
  • Without fully understanding, the Lizardfolk strikes a bargain with the Archfey that he will travel the world and learn the value of emotions and how to truly experience them.
  • The Archfey sometimes joins in on these travels, often offering unhelpful advice or intentionally leading him astray as to force him to feel the opposite emotion intended.

Obviously very rough at this time, but I am considering going pure Warlock, relying on Eldritch Blast for my damage needs, and loading up a ton of utility/face of the party spells. I like the idea of having an at-will disguise self spell, especially if it leads to a lot of bad/embarrassing attempts at pretending to be other races whose culture, dialects, and emotional vocabulary are entirely alien to me.

I am also mulling over going with Whispers of the Grave (at-will speak with the dead) or Gaze of Two Minds (a touch-based ability where I can touch a willing humanoid and experience their senses).

The first comes from an idea someone had of carrying around a collection of skulls to talk to for additional information. Lizardfolk getting Cunning Artisan which allows them to craft basic weaponry from fallen enemies. I figure pocketing a skull or two (and some snacking fingers/toes) from my enemies would be in-character and a great way to learn more about other cultures/emotions/etc.

The latter would be an easy way for me to roleplay learning about other races through their own eyes in a manner that would be less disturbing to potential good-aligned party members. I think it is less flavorful overall, but I am not looking to make an evil character or one that would be perceived as such.

All in all, it is a rough sketch of a character, but definitely one worth adding to the overall pile.

Roleplaying An Alien in D&D

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


I enjoy imagining new D&D characters to try. Recently, I have wanted to try the Horizon Walker subclass for the Ranger in 5th Edition’s Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I have always loved the planes, so multiverse Legolas sounds fantastic.

From the guide:

Horizon Walkers guard the world against threats that originate from other planes or that seek to ravage the mortal realm with otherworldly magic. They seek out planar portals and keep watch over them, venturing to the Inner Planes and the Outer Planes as needed to pursue their foes. These rangers are also friends to any forces in the multiverse — especially benevolent dragons, fey, and elementals — that work to preserve life and the order of the planes.

We aren’t starting a plane-based campaign anytime soon, so all the characters I have been thinking of lately have to have local reasons for taking local actions. However, that does not mean they have to be local characters.

I am imagining a faction of Horizon Walkers that operate primarily in the planes themselves, only visiting mortal realms to infiltrate various cults before they can open up portals or rifts. Sort of like a team of Doctor Whos or time cops, though maybe with a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy thrown in to the mix too.

Our next campaign will take place in the Forgotten Realms, but I thought this faction would be a wonderful excuse to play a Changeling, a race native and limited to the Eberron setting, in the Forgotten Realms. Changelings are known for having to the ability to change their appearance to other humanoids and their base form looks like a fantasy version of a stereotypical science fiction alien.

At an early age, this faction (I am calling them the Greeters until I think of something else), stopped a breach in Eberron, found an orphaned Changeling, and thought they could train him up to be their master spy for infiltrating cults on other worlds.

Unfortunately, despite having an amazing ability to mimic others, my Changeling is terrible at roleplaying. Unless given an exact script, he doesn’t do well with improving his way through a cult to actually function as a spy.

Still, he is a decent soldier.

He was recently left abandoned in the Forgotten Realms along with another rookie to infiltrate a cult. It was intended to be a training exercise for the two younger members. Unfortunately, it goes south quickly and he ends up losing his partner and is limited/too rage blind to find a way to inform or request the assistance of the other Greeters still off-world.*

*This origin is subject to revision depending on campaign specific details.

Stuck in a world he barely knows or understands, he is about as alien as it is possible to be in a fantasy setting. Better yet, people do not believe he is an alien since his strange appearance, strange customs, and strange knowledge seem acceptable in a world filled with so much magic and mystery already.

It plays loose and fast with D&D metaphysics and is a bit meta (I am not that great at roleplaying either), but there are a lot of great alien tropes in science fiction that I think would be enjoyable to adapt to a strictly fantasy setting, especially when you are unique yet cannot convince anyone else of that fact.

If I do end up playing this character, then maybe I could do a series of “Mission Log” blog posts summarizing our adventures!

Dungeon Mastering, My First Time

I have always been curious about dungeon mastering, but I only just recently had the opportunity to try it in a safe environment. That sort of thing makes me nervous. I worry about fucking up a rule or not being able to respond to some off-the-rails departure in a timely manner. I worry about maintaining the voices or really any kind of consistency. I should have worried less because it went well.

For my first ever experience as a dungeon master, I chose the one-shot “Wild Sheep Chase” by Richard Jansen-Parkes. I found it after googling to find a good “first ever” adventure for fledgling DMs. One of my players had already done the adventure, but I have never been the sort to do things exactly as written so I was less worried about that and more worried about what kind of characters the group wanted to throw at me.

They chose Team Rocket from Pokémon and it was kind of a perfect fit.

The premise for “Wild Sheep Chase” follows a wizard who has been true polymorphed for the last two years by his apprentice. His apprentice stole his wand of true polymorph and has been using it on mercenaries to guard the sheep wizard. It doesn’t make total sense, but it is a great excuse to have some fairly easy animal-based encounters with a moral dilemma at the end.

I started improvising almost immediately. For starters, I let my three players roll up level 5 characters, so a bunch of wolves were really no threat to them. I had a cool entrance for the animals though.

The players began in an inn and after the sheep exposited the plot, a half-orc, and local gang leader, summoned his animal friends to capture the sheep-wizard for his Mistress (I changed the apprentice to a lady for some romance angles). Bacon, a boar, jumped through a window behind the players before Meowth fried him in one hit with Booming Blade. Peeps the hawk came in through a young woman’s bedroom before being stabbed by James’s rapier. The wolf, Dagger, swallowed the knife he had in his mouth after Jessie blasted him for more than his HP.

The other wolf, Scarf, had a brilliant moment where he and James posed off and tried to look more glamorous than the other. Scarf felt like he had won, especially with the crosswind animating his scarf and the light reflecting perfectly on his eyes, and he left. This forced Guz to summon his backups, sibling bears named Ginger and Freckles. Similar to Bacon, Freckles exploded after a couple of rounds and another Booming Blade. One of those rounds included a critical stealth check by Meowth which resulted in him taking the perfect form of a chair.

This enraged his brother Ginger who proceeded to sit atop Meowth after critically failing the grapple contest and slipping on a piece of Freckles.

While Meowth and Ginger were battling, Scarf slipped in the back window while the players were distracted. He used his magic scarf to entangle the sheep-wizard, but Jessie summoned earthen tendrils shaped like an ekans to restrain the wolf before he could escape with their new ally. James used this opportunity to gloriously unravel Scarf’s scarf with his rapier which was the only thing tying his wolf head to his wolf body.

Realizing he needed to warn the Mistress that the sheep-wizard had strong allies, the half-orc fled the scene. James used his charms to try and convince Ginger to give up fighting. Ginger just wanted to go home to his mother who he missed though he realized since she was not a bear that might be a problem. Jessie successfully convinced Ginger to join their party and promised to undo the spell on him so he could return home.

After more exposition where the sheep-wizard revealed he had come onto his apprentice and she had turned him into a sheep so he could experience what it was like to be the prey, the party arrived at the wizard’s tower just in time to spot the half-orc warning his mistress that they were coming.

Surprising both me and the villains, the party ran out of the woods “guns a-blazin’” as they did not try and roleplay their way through this situation at all (we were running out of time). I still wanted the encounter to be memorable though, so after getting off their surprise round, the Mistress used her stolen wand of true polymorph to turn the half-orc into an elephant which she later enlarged.

The party didn’t struggle too much with the elephant, but it was scary for a time. Meowth ran up a tree to hide from him but the elephant rammed him out of the tree all the same. Jessie got a fireball off on the Mistress, but she was polymorphed into a lowly garden snake. James finally got the kill on the Mistress and Meowth finished off the elephant after some kiting.

All in all, I had a real blast. It was a unique experience as I had to balance enforcing the rules while sometimes bending them. I always tried to tell a good story, but not at the expense of fun or pacing. I also had to think on the fly and come up with new challenges to react to the player’s behavior.

I could see myself doing it again!

Backstory: Dwarf Forge Cleric #DND

I haven’t committed to my next character yet, but one (of many) in the running is a Dwarf Cleric with the Forge domain. I’ve loved dwarfs and clerics for as long as I have been aware of D&D (mostly through reading the Dragonlance books), but I’ve never really put the two together. The Forge domain is thematically perfect for a Dwarf and a great excuse to build a dwarf tank steeped in his race’s culture and lore.

When working on this background, I wanted to get away from some of the more typical tropes, especially since Forge domain Dwarf Cleric isn’t exactly a unique idea. I’ve always loved the idea of ekphrasis which, borrowed from the Greek, typically means an overly dramatic description of a piece of art. I associate the term most with the Shield of Achilles from Homer’s Iliad where the god-made shield (Hephaestus) is described in elaborate, poetic language. Here, I wanted my character’s adventuring goal to be the gathering of materials (most dangerous) and crafting of a set of armor worthy of being described ekphrasticly.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Continue reading “Backstory: Dwarf Forge Cleric #DND”

Backstory Time #DND

Last week, I talked about the one-shot character Roldoon and I teased a story about Calibos, a Bugbear Monk. Calibos was a cali-bust (fun, but too many folks at the table to do anything important, though I did fly over the boss and whip him from the skies before helicoptering down via my twirling whips when the Bard’s concentration broke).

Instead, I thought I’d share a backstory I wrote a while back for a character concept I hope to use one day.

His name is Asariel and he is an Aasamir Warlock (The Celestial)/Sorcerer (Favorited Soul):


On my thirteenth birthday, my origins were revealed to me, though I had suspected them long before knowing, by a journeymen priest who let the words slip after too much wine. He said my mother was a virgin priestess and that the truth of both my conception and inception were a miracle.

I had suspected this because, from a very early age, I had a gift for healing. Simply by touch and eventually by sound once I was taught the words, a warmth from within me would spring forth toward the sick or infirm and soothe their pains. In time, even as a young boy, I was called to the bedside of the most stricken before some of the more trained and more experienced clerics.

Even before I knew the truth of my heritage, I noticed the priests, clerics, and acolytes treating me reverently. Other orphans were treated differently. I may have looked similar and had some similar duties to them, but I never belonged with that lot. They were more like servants of priests where as I was born to be a servant to the gods.

For the first thirteen years, the temple was my only home and my only refuge. The Brothers and Sisters who ran it were my mothers, fathers, and cousins. They clothed me and taught me all they knew. Despite their attempts at challenging me with their lessons, never were they too difficult to overcome. My fate was etched at my conception. I was like a fish and their baptism a pool of water for me to swim in.

As I grew out of boyhood, the Temple District itself became my playground. I loved to listen to the acolytes and observe the rituals of the city’s many religions. I learned everything there was to know about every kind of “man of the cloth.” I learned to bark and curse and cajole. I learned to beg and speak in tongues. I helped elicit donations for the poor, the sick, and the orphaned. I single-handedly, simply by my passion and my spirit, raised enough money to roof a leaky infirmary.

My reputation grew quickly, despite my age. People adored me for my abilities and my dedication. They respected my faith.

Not long after turning fifteen, my world moved beyond the Temple District to the rest of the city. In a chance encounter, I made friends with another boy, only slightly older than me, but far more aware of matters at court or within the city or even beyond its walls. He was a princeling, furthest from the throne, accompanying an older brother whose newborn son had fallen ill and needed tending. The brother came for me directly on my reputation alone, but it was the princeling who asked me to banquet after healing his nephew.

The banquet was lavish and ornate. Despite my natural beauty, my priestly robes were nothing compared to clothing of the court. I looked more a servant than an honored guest, but the princeling and I took to one another like kindling and spark. Soon, we were running all over the city on what he called ‘quests’ in favor of more romantic notions of knighthood. Truthfully, he had never met someone as provincial as me and he wanted to show me everything I had missed.

He taught me how to drink spirits stronger and viler than the watered wines of the Temple. He draped me in clothes more fitting my status as his friend and companion. He had me taste foods from places, cooked by people, I had never known to exist. He even procured for me my first woman, whom we shared and worshipped like the idol that she was.

You could describe the first fifteen or so years of my life as being dedicated to the elevation of my soul, but the year I spent with the princeling was equal in passion and entirely dedicated to the revelation of my body.

In time, he admitted his intimate love for me. We quieted away to the shadows to protect our reputations, but I soon moved onto prettier things. I cannot recall his name, but the lesson he helped me learn has not been forgotten.

He taught me to embrace life and myself. He revealed to me a larger world. A world that needed me as much as the Temple District still did. A world that wanted me and that I wanted in turn.

This revelation led me away from the only home I had ever known in pursuit of something more. Finally embracing my internal and external beauty, I took to the road to share my love. I never called upon one god, but I was happy to provide a blessing to all.

All the while, I chased temple virgins and dockside whores. I ate better than dukes and sometimes their kings. I reveled in adulation and adultery.

I was a saint, a miracle worker, and the greatest lover most women (and a few other men) ever had. I commanded crowds.

I was loved. Respected. Happy.

Then everyone who I knew loved me left me. My beauty began to leave me. My glory wilted and my passion subsided. The love, the respect, and the happiness that I had rightfully earned was gone.

And why, dare you ask, did such a creature as me fall so far from grace? Was it a grave mistake? Poor judgement? Did I sleep with the wrong man’s wife? Pride?

One night, in a drunken stupor, a voice called to me. It called to me with a warmth and familiarity I had never felt before. The voice named itself my Father and offered what it called a fitting opportunity. Accept my challenge and be eternally loved. Do you agree?

I would say only the gods know why I answered the way I did, but that statement is more truth than a cliche uttered by faithful man in desperate need.

I muttered through wine-coated lips, “Yes” and the voice replied, Heal the world. Do good works. Do it earnestly and without expectation and be revered. Do it dishonestly or for reward and be forgotten.

I awoke the next morning, not yet knowing the calamity to which I had agreed. My purse was empty from the previous night’s revelry dedicated to a local god whose name I never bothered to learn. Hungry, I sauntered to a busy intersection and began my song and dance like so many times before. I made promises. I proclaimed great truths. I offered salvation in the name of beautiful goddesses whose likenesses I used to whet the appetites of passing men, heavy with coin but lacking direction.

Then, a puddle of water in the street caught my eye. My reflection, normally golden and bright, looked white and aging. Fear overcame me until the voice’s words from the night before flashed across my mind.

Do it dishonestly or for reward and be forgotten.

Dear Father, whom I have never known, you bitchless son of the nether. May you fade into obscurity an unthanked god for this affliction you have placed upon me. The phrase ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ never struck as true as this day!

You want me to walk the straight and narrow in your name? Fuck you and all you stand for!

I will die or waste away before I do your bidding!

… But this world wants and needs my beauty, my passion, my providence. Force me with a curse you blaspheme by calling a blessing? I walk my own path and always have. I will do something so great that the world will know me before it ever knows you again. I will be so beloved that all the other gods resting atop your high mountain laugh at the Father who has been outshone by his mortal son.

It is but a whisper now. My name, echoed by all whom I have touched. Their love for me absolute.

Dear Father, listen, for soon it will be the only one our names that ever gets repeated again.

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