Hey all, sorry for the recent lack of frequent Dungeon Delvings, but holidays are as ever, insane to schedule around. Hoping to churn them out more regularly in the new year. For this entry though, I’m going to do something a little different.
First of all, you know how I shamelessly steal character art from around the web? [Note; if you see anything that belongs to you on here ever, please contact me and I’d be happy to take it down/pay you if I can manage.] Well all (ok, most) of the artwork in this entry is mine! That’s right, I watched a lot of Drawfee and convinced myself I knew how drawing works.
So this time, for just a quick little one-off (since my usual posts take forever), here’s a run-down of all of my D&D characters from various current/past games.
Without any further ado…
MXLII was my first character in a local Cleveland-area game with real people– i.e. the tabletop we were playing on was an actual tabletop and not online. It started online, with the 7 of us meeting on a local D&D forum and arranging all the deets before meeting up, but it evolved into a fun little mostly-weekly game for a couple months.
As some of the more hardcore might recognize, MXLII is a Warforged, a character race originally from the Eberron campaign setting. The less hardcore among my readers might recognize from my drawing (or maybe not, I never promised the drawing would be good), this guy is no elf, dwarf, or other. Warforged are basically robots, but in a fantasy sort-of steampunk sense. They’re artificial constructs composed of metal, stone, and wood (tight wooden chords serve as their muscles) that were developed to fight in the setting’s Last War, before they gained sentience and fought for their own freedom. The Eberron lore is a little more sticky than that, but I had actually already baked them into the campaign setting for my game, so that was the interpretation I went with.
In my world, the Warforged were created in the Gnomish nation of Delvrith to combat a near-unending conflict they’d been having with some desert knolls from the West. They started out as mindless drones, but the gnomish creators kept asking more and more complex tasks of them, causing them to have to be able to learn from the complexity of their tasks. That, coupled with the constant adjustments in their make, sentience slowly dawned on these mechanical drones. Each Warforged, at some point, experienced an Awakening– the moment when they went from being machines to when they could be argued to be functionally alive. The Awakening might come at different times for different units, the squad commanders being first while your bog-standard brutes would take some extra time to acquire enough experience to piece together into a life. You can see how this would’ve worked itself out, long story short, the Warforged exiled themselves from Delvrith after a brief conflict with their makers, searching for a new place for themselves to figure this whole life thing out. The campaign in question was actually set in the Forgotten Realms, but a quick email with the DM basically just transplanted that story I was already using in my campaign into the FR.
MXLII, whose name is more of a designation (#1042 in Roman– *cough* Gnoman numerals), was one of these second kinds of Warforged. In the war, they were the lowest on the intellectual totem pole, designed for only one thing: smashing and slashing. They experienced their Awakening shortly before the end of the Warforged’s conflict with their makers, and was therefore left with a few brief, confusing memories of war and home before being thrown into the big bad world.
This left poor MXLII with a mental state not commonly found in organic beings outside of child soldiers– still haunted by the memories of a lifetime of war before their Awakening, mixed with the innocent confusion and wonder at being a, well, being. They separated from the other Warforged, as many others were doing at the time anyways, unfamiliar at the time of the concept of “family” which some of the older, smarter models had adopted from their gnomish makers. MXLII wandered into the wilderness and promptly got lost. Rather than panic, they simply made a life for a long time of simply wandering. They were largely left alone– at 8 feet tall and carrying their massive service-issue greatsword, not many who saw them felt like messing with the “metal man.” Eventually they did come across some vestige of society. Remembering the skills of language, MXLII enjoyed helping out the people of the village, and found themself very well-suited to the menial work they heaped upon them. Paid in nothing but the smiles and reassurances of the village people, MXLII hauled water, dug trenches, plowed fields, etc, none the wiser that they were being taken advantage of.
One day however, bandits struck the town. Being perceived as the town’s most valuable possession, the bandit gang demanded the metal man for their own slave, which the townspeople felt was a fair price for their own necks. They told MXLII to go along with the nice bandits and do whatever was asked of them. While in truth, MXLII didn’t want to go, they felt they had to, if they wanted to make the villagers happy. Not to mention, MXLII was not naive in matters of war. They knew they would have to fight the bandits to escape, but there were simply too many of them.
They lived in the bandit camp for some time, spending days chained to grindstones and lugging gear to and from their camp, thoroughly unhappy, until the day an adventurer, an elven sorceress sought out the bandits due to an unrelated feud. She and her party dispatched them quickly and, upon meeting the curious metal figure and learning MXLII’s story, the sorceress gave them some parting wisdom. She told them that their life with the bandits and with the villagers were not dissimilar, as MXLII was living their days with both performing menial work for people with little regard for them. Friends, she explained, were people who stuck around because they loved you back, and wouldn’t ask anything of you they would not gladly do for you in your place. MXLII, still not the brightest of minds, would spend many a night contemplating the complicated meaning of her words, but that isn’t to say there was no immediate impact… MXLII learned that day that what they wanted, what they really wanted, was to be an adventurer. A hero.
That was MXLII’s origin, and they were a really fun character to play. I’m a person who loves to do different kinds of accents for my characters– my first ever D&D character in college was a foul-mouthed Scottish gnome wizard by the name of Hamish “Haggis” MacSweeny– but with MXLII (pronounced Mixley, if you’ve been wondering) I tried a different little challenge. I tried to speak as synthetically as possible, in a sense trying to auto-tune myself. I ended up somewhere between Commander Data and GLAdos, so like, success? Nitty-gritty-wise, MXLII was a fighter with the Eldritch Knight subclass. I figured once realizing their own freedom and such, MXLII would want to learn magic as a way of learning something they weren’t made to do. Their magic was clumsy at first as I still had to get the intelligence stat where it needed to be, but I liked that there was a learning curve. It fit with the narrative of a construct choosing how they wanted to live rather than go totally with their natural affinities. As we played the campaign, I tried to develop MXLII’s character further along those lines. MXLII would constantly seek to learn new skills, ones that they specifically were not made to perform. My favorite was when I decided, as our party was staying for a couple weeks in Silverymoon, that in their downtime MXLII was going to learn to bake. Warforged don’t need to eat, but I just loved the idea of MXLII finding cupcakes really pretty, and loving the look on peoples’ faces when they ate them.
Their alignment was lawful neutral, which I did in an attempt to find an interesting way to play a lawful neutral character. My reasoning was that to MXLII, “law” as a concept didn’t hold as much a place of importance in their mind, but social dynamics were very important. MXLII’s primary goal, like any adolescent, is to be liked. Like a child then, MXLII would conform to the social dynamics of whoever they were with. Even if they did things occasionally against the law, MXLII would always follow along with whatever the unwritten laws of the group were above all. This worked as a combination of a flaw as well as character bond. It had potential to be a positive influence on them if the characters around them were. I generally don’t pay too much attention to alignment unless I put effort into thinking of examples of stories I could tell with different alignment pairings could be. Before MXLII, I would’ve said lawful neutral was possibly the most boring alignment combo you could do, but that just goes to show what you can make from seemingly nothing when you put your mind to it.
Cassius was another lawful neutral character. I guess I kinda got carried away along that train of thought. He’s not LN like MXLII was though, so I’ll get to that later.
Cassius was an Inquisitive Rogue, and while I could definitely say I had some of my inspiration from Sherlock Holmes when creating my detective character (specifically the Guy Ritchie, Robert Downy Jr. Sherlock), I think I had more something along the lines of Matt Murdock from Daredevil. He was an inheritor of an unwanted legacy, someone in a cushy job who had a scrappy edge to them, and someone who could easily have used their considerable gifts for their own ends but would rather ultimately use them to help those most vulnerable in their community.
This is actually a fun bit, and something that I actually kept secret from the other players in this particular group (which sadly I couldn’t stay with due to scheduling reasons, so aside from the DM, they still don’t know), Cassius was an Aasimar, who pretended to live as a human to avoid engendering any pre-conceived notions among those around him. Now, for those not in the know, an Aasimar is essentially a reverse Teifling. Where a Teifling is a mortal with devilish or fiendish ancestry, Aasimar are mortals with celestial, even angelic ancestry.
It might seems like a strange thing to hide, but Cassius had some very specific reasons for doing so. This is where it gets back into him being lawful neutral. I decided it would be fun to take the “Oh, but I’m a good Teifling character” motif cock it to the side a bit. Cassius isn’t a bad Aasimar (bad-aas? I’m sorry haha) per se, but rather he simply doesn’t believe concepts such as “good” or “evil” carry any inherent merit on their own. They’re both sides, and the way he sees it, while the forces of evil try to entice mortals into the Nine Hells for their own ends, the gods and angels countering them don’t necessarily give any more regard to the pieces on the game board as their evil counterparts. His celestial legacy would have him do good for good’s own sake, rather than for the sake of people being hurt that don’t deserve to be, being killed who don’t deserve to be, being down-trodden who don’t deserve to be. Cassius’s perfect ideal then, is in the Law, as law is a social contracts that mortals have chosen for themselves, rather than a set of often-times arbitrary rulings on what was the best way to live. Hence, he hides his lineage, wears sunglasses to cover up his glowing silver eyes, and rarely uses us Protector Aasimar abilities unless his or others’ lives are in danger. Not to mention, when you’re a detective and routinely have to mingle with the criminal classes of the city, it pays not to be seen as any more of a goody-twoshoes than they already see you as.
The community around him does seem to sense however that he is hiding something. They note that he’s often cooped up in his office during the day, active at night, rarely seen in the society of others, and always hiding his eyes behind those dark shades of his. It’s ironically given him a touch of infamy, the cautious thinking he must be hiding some dark motives or secrets, while some sensationalists speculating that they have a vampire living in their midst. For this reason, people rarely enlist his services unless they have nowhere else to go.
Wick was a character that I’d wanted to play for a long time, and initially planned on playing in MXLII’s campaign before the DM vetoed my plan to play the Artificer class due to what he insisted were unbalanced mechanics. The concept behind Wick though, which was partially salvaged into MXLII’s character, was the concept of how it would be fun to play a young character, younger than is typically in your average adventuring party. Playing an adolescent seemed like a fun idea because it would really let you play off your party members in interesting ways, whether they’re people your character looks up to, whether they’re seen as authority figures that force a young headstrong character to make some realizations about the world, and just generally see a character grow during the time of their life when typically the most growing is done.
Backstory-wise, Wick is a 17 year old Fire Genasi Artificer of the Alchemist subclass. He grew up to two Genasi parents who lived in a poor community and struggled to support him. However, as he grew, he showed himself to have a special knack for invention, mechanical and alchemical. Seeing this potential for perhaps his best chance of living what they saw as a full and happy life, they sent young away from them to live under the tutelage of the Artisan’s Guild. There he honed his skills as a craftsman beyond what they had the ability to teach him. Unable to channel magic outside of his natural connection to fire, he learned to create magical conversion matrices within various devises which would take in his flame magic and use it as fuel for other types. Quickly developing and self-teaching himself this practice of “technomancy,” (this is basically all done for flavor. Artificers can cast spells the same as any casting class, I just thought it would be cool if all Wick’s spells were cast through the use of these jury-rigged wind-up devices.) Wick set out to become an adventurer, leaving the Guild when they could offer him nothing more interesting than the usual day to day.
His motive for going out and seeking adventure are some half-baked notion of earning a name for himself and ending up rich and famous, as most childish fantasies involve. I think deeper down though, something he himself hasn’t realized yet, is that he wants to bring back enough to support his parents, recognizing the sacrifice they made of giving him up in the first place so he could have a life.
Right now though, Wick is a hot-headed throw-exploding-potions-first-ask-questions-never kind of guy who is part of an active campaign I’m still playing with a party of 7 plus his robot allosaurus pet invention, Shelia.
Oh yeah, he’s Australian. Let’s call this one what it is, I like doing accents and saw some similarities between him and Junkrat from Overwatch.
Ander was a fun character to play, and I’m almost waiting for one of my characters in either of the two ongoing campaign’s I’m playing in to die so I get a chance to again, that’s how much I missed playing a wizard! My group I played Cassius with had another campaign we’d do when not everyone could make it, but by some quirks of fate we ended up playing this alternate campaign more often than the main one, so Ander saw a bit more action than poor Cassius. He was a 7th level human wizard of the Divination School, which is in my opinion, the most fun magic school out there, when you can say “My character does this and… what’s that? I see something in your future… you roll a 3 on your saving throw!” with your Portent ability. Seriously look that shit up because I love it.
I thought of Ander originally as being kind of a disgraced academic, an outcast by the respectable wizardry communuty, hence his tendency to gravitate towards the fringes of society. He prefers to do his own dirty work and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty either. He used to teach at a university (I wasn’t familiar enough with the setting to say exactly which one and we never delved that deep in the limited time I was able to play with that group) but his impatience with academic politics and secret-keeping caused a rift between him and his colleagues. He’s a firm believer in democratization of information and believes all knowledge should be public. He was kicked out from this institution when it came out just how dedicated to this cause he was when he broke into the head professor’s private researches and used them to look into what the University deemed “forbidden knowledge.” Ander’s ultimate goal, and people often have questioned his sanity on learning this, is to know everything. He finds the limited condition of the mortal mind an unacceptable constraint, and is dedicated to find away around it, seeing knowledge as freedom and therefore omniscience as ultimate freedom. However he does have limits. He’s not an evil man and primarily looks for ways to accomplish his goal not at the expense of others. He stays away from undeath or lichdom, finding them distasteful.
I’d be lying if I told you that Ander wasn’t at least 60% based off of Caleb from Critical Role, but hey, I didn’t have much time for originality when I went to D&D one day and was told “Oh, so-and-so can’t make it so we’re doing another campaign, do you have a level 7 character on you?” Luckily I had a level 5 Ander on me from a one shot I’d played at a bar (look up The Side Quest for all you Cleveland-area peeps, you’ve probably already heard of it, but it’s great).
I decided that Ander, being somewhat of a transient wizard, would have a stand-offish, kind of abrasive personality. Not quite as bad as Haggis from college, but still someone who assumed he knew more than most at any given time. The types of spells I took when playing him were less of the overt damaging kind and more about control of the battlefield, which I had a lot of fun with. Most notably in his first session with the group, after being discovered in the brig of the airship they had just commandeered and freed getting his gear and wand back (I insisted on the wand instead of a staff, as Ander would look at an arcane focus as a tool, something that could be wielded with precision, unlike unwieldy staves or imprecise crystals– not to mention I like to think of him pointing it around everywhere sensing stuff like a sonic screwdriver), three manticores attacked the ship. With one successful Slow spell, he was able to essentially render two of the three manticores relatively harmless. They were dispatched easily while the third was driven off, carrying off a crew member with it. He’s also had similar successes with Evard’s Black Tentacles, which does exactly what it sounds like it does.
And for anyone who still cares about what accents everyone is, I did my best Northern Irish James Nesbitt, thank you very much. It’s a difficult one to do and in the future I might dip more into my Glaswegian Scottish accent, which I do slightly better from all my years of mimicking Peter Capaldi.
Sinks-In-Water was the very first character I wanted to do when I first read Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and saw that one of my favorite kung-fu movies ever, Legend of the Drunken Master, was emulated into one of the monk subclasses. Thus was born Sinks-In-Water, or just “Sinks” to anyone who doesn’t have time for that mouthful every time, the acrobatic circus-performing functional alcoholic Tabaxi monk.
I play Sinks in my brother’s (Beleg, to you regular readers) Plane Shift Zendikar campaign. Sinks-In-Water began life living with his family in a remote jungle tribe of Tabaxi, where each of the large cat-people would specialize in their own martial discipline in order to better defend from the outside world. Always the curious soul however, Sinks-In-Water was something of an outcast. His attention span was too short for the hours of study and repetition it took to be a warrior in his home. One day however he was on the prowl on the outskirts of their area of the jungle when he saw a wagon train cutting through the underbrush in an area he’d never been to. The canvas on the wagons was extravagant, brightly colored, vibrant, everything you didn’t see in the jungle where visibility usually meant something could more easily hunt you. Sinks-In-Water fell instantly in love with the noise, the color, and the people who while riding through would demonstrate such weird talents and oddities that entranced him. Emblazoned on the side of the lead carriage of the wagon train were the words “MURGO’S MAGNIFICENT TRAVELLING CIRCUS.” Without a second thought of reporting back to the tribe, Sinks-In-Water abandoned his post and went out to meet these strange outsiders, following them for a ways talking and learning who they were and what it meant to be part of a “Circus.” By the time they reached the jungle’s edge, they were surprised to find this errant cat-man still following them, but Sinks-In-Water had made up his mind at first sight, this was where he belonged.
They took him in originally to serve as a bouncer with his tall stature and imposing claws. Because Tabaxi themselves were a rarity however, they eventually taught him enough for him to make his own act in the tent. He trained with the acrobats and tumblers to use his natural feline agility to perform magnificently nimble feats and daring flips, cartwheels, and handstands. He had no problems taking the time to learn as he did back home as the learning process was a game, the performances were a game, everything was a game! And he loved the game. They worked hard and after each show, they played their hardest. It was at these such nightly celebrations that Sinks-In-Water came across the second-most important revelation of his life when one of his mentors pushed a tankard of something brown, bitter, and lovely across the table towards him. As it happened, his big-cat’s liver could handle more than the usual amount of liquor and it had a delightful effect on his equilibrium. He could move with a sort of drunkard’s grace that made him almost more at home in his own fur when at least slightly intoxicated. His movements were more unpredictable which kept a crowd on its collective toes, and when his bouncing duties did eventually call for him to get into a fight, his unfortunate opponent suffered the dual disadvantage of underestimating their opponent and never being able to tell where the next hit was going to come from.
Back home, as I mentioned, every Tabaxi in his tribe was required to create their own unique fighting discipline. Sinks-In-Water got there in the end through his easy-going, fun-loving style, and I’m sure if they knew where he was now, his family would feel equal measures of pride and embarrassment at his exploits. However, it remains to be seen how much Sinks-In-Water has taken to heart the warning his parents gave him on the day he was named, that “A ship can float in water, but it can also sink in it.”
If we still care about accents, Sinks-In-Water is a bit of a doozy. I try my best to do the Khajiit accent commonly found in the Elder Scrolls canon, somewhat of a mix seemingly between something Middle-Eastern, Spanish, and a dash of Eastern European. Sometimes I can really make it work, other times he comes out sounding like a very raspy-sounding Russian. Sometimes I actually think he sounds a bit like the male equivalent of Laura Bailey’s Jester voice (also from Critical Role, as you can tell a good source of inspiration). Sometimes at the end of a session my throat hurts a little doing this voice, so I take care and pull a leaf out of Sinks-In-Water’s book and have a few drinks during the game for lubrication.
That’s all my current or recently played characters for now, but maybe next time we hit a Dungeon Delving lull I’ll bust out any new characters I have by then, or future character concepts. Because if there’s any one constant in D&D, it is that no matter how many characters you play, you will always come up with 90 more in your head that you want to.