Welcome back to the First, Best, and Worst Character series. This series is all about our first characters. Was your first character a human, an elf, a Tiefling? Last week, I talked about my first character, a Tiefling named Anakis. We asked the questions: What was she like? How did she come to be? What did the player do right and what mistake will they never make again?
This week, we ask those same questions about a character belonging to a young man named Bryan. Bryan first got into Dungeons and Dragons because his sister’s D&D group needed another player. At the time, he mistakenly thought the game would take a couple of days and then be over. Thus, his knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons came from basic information given to him by group members, and depictions of races in movies and video games. For this week’s article, we explore the creation of Bryan’s first character, Bruenor Frostbeard.
The Dwarf Named Bruenor
As you may have guessed, Bruenor Frostbeard is a dwarf. Some of you might also have noticed that Bruenor is the named used by the sample character in the Step-By-Step Character chapter of the Player’s Handbook. While this may seem like an unlikely coincidence, Bruenor was not actually Bryan’s first choice of name. He preferred the name Baern originally, but wasn’t sure how to pronounce Baern. Instead, he picked Bruenor, unaware that he was using the same name as the example in the book.
For those of us who know him, it came as no surprise that Bryan chose to create a dwarf character for his D&D game. In fact, Bryan might actually be a dwarf in disguise. Here we see an interesting comparison. Last week’s character was demonic and chaotic, representing what the player wanted to be in games, but hopefully not in real life. Bruenor, however, is like an imitation of his player’s true self.
In understanding this character, the first thing you need to know about Bryan is that he loves history. What better character could he create than one who has actually lived through much of recent history? He had initially considered the possibility of an elf character for this reason, but he did not like the elves’ tendencies toward chaotic alignment. A good character with respect for tradition seemed perfect to him. He also loved the idea of an older character who could recall historic events that other PCs in the group weren’t yet alive for. Thus, he created a dwarf who was already more than three centuries old.
A Straight and Narrow Fighter
Once the race was decided, Bryan had to choose a class. In deciding this, he first considered the makeup of the group. At the time, we had a rogue and a sorcerer playing. This meant that none of our characters had very long ranged weapons, with the best being a shortbow with 80/320 range. As a fighter, he would gain a longbow as part of his starting equipment, along with proficiency in it. Another consideration was hit points. The pool of hit points available to the sorcerer and rogue classes are rather small, particularly at first level. When all your PCs have less than 10 hit points, you know you need a tank character. Thus, the fighter class made perfect sense. Above and beyond these considerations, a dwarf fighter has a nice ring to it.
When selecting a background, Bryan was focused on the abilities of his character rather than creating a realistic backstory. In fact, he didn’t create a backstory initially, instead making up stories as he went along. This contrasts with Anakis, the player character I wrote about last week. Anakis was designed to be interesting and fun, with a complex backstory and relationships. However, her creator showed little consideration for what made her a powerful character. For Bruenor, Bryan chose the Outlander background because he gained proficiency in survival and athletics. He did not select these proficiencies as part of his fighter abilities, but they are useful skills for a fighter to have.
Bruenor’s Rough Beginning
Now it was time to play Bruenor. He began as a student in a beginner’s module, and studied with some shady characters: a bounty hunter with a grudge, a rogue who stole everything that wasn’t nailed down, and a master who drank far too much. Making the most of the situation, he reminisced about old times with his battle-scarred master, defended the more reputable students, and tried to ignore the bounty hunter and rogue. By chance, he rolled high character stats, with 19 Constitution and 20 Strength, and 16 Dexterity. His one low score was Charisma, and let us just say he wasn’t the most likable character.
Ironically, these high stats didn’t help him when he broke not one but three weapons during a battle with some orcs. By the end of the fight, the other players were all but begging him to stay out of it before he injured someone. Nonetheless, he was a great companion to have in a sticky situation, as long as it called for fighting and not negotiating.
When asked what mistakes Bryan made in the formation of the Bruenor Frostbeard, he had two regrets. He wished he had looked up the rules himself, since his group members didn’t know the rules as well as he had thought they did. The 300 pages of the Player’s Handbook may seem like a lot, but it is worth every minute spent reading it.
Bryan also came to regret the age of his character. Having an old character may be well and good for remembering historical events and showing off knowledge to younger players, but it has its disadvantages. In this case, Bryan didn’t expect his campaign to last long enough for his character to die of old age. However, when paging through the Monster Manual, he came across something frightening: ghosts. Ghosts in D&D have the ability to age characters with their Horrifying Visage ability. This means that his character could die of old age if he met a ghost, and is his greatest regret about the way he made Bruenor.
Versatility is Key
Bruenor turned out to be a well-formed and useful character, so much so that it seems redundant to talk about what went right when creating this PC. He functions as both a tank and an archer, and has limited spellcasting abilities with his Eldritch Knight Archetype. He can give and take a lot of damage, from far away or close up. His main weakness is his low Charisma, with a -2 modifier. This means that he relies on the group’s charismatic characters to help him out in some situations. In a campaign focused more on battles than diplomacy, he is a powerful force, and will likely continue to be.