You sit staring at a blank character sheet, grieving for the loss of your first character. A first character is a special, irreplaceable personality that can never be forgotten. He is a precious snapshot of a moment in your life in which you thought a certain way and desired a certain thing. He was immortal, as you had no idea that his end might be so soon or abrupt. He was also a fledgling led my a blind parent, as you did not know the rules as well as you do now, and you made mistakes that you would not make now. The question is, who could possibly replace him?
This character must be slotted seamlessly into the campaign, arriving and integrating his or herself into the lives of the other group members so that they will accept him or her in place of their mourned companion, or the hated companion who left them gun-shy. The character must fit with the other personalities and requirements of the group, at least well enough that they will choose to adventure with him or her. Unlike the beginning of the adventure, when the characters were pushed together by the plot turnings of the DM or the design of the module, this introduction is reliant on the creativity of the character and guidance of their Dungeon Master.
Playing my Favorite Self
When I first sat to make my second real character, I was stunned and grieving the loss of my first character, Anakis (and her twin brother Akmenos), whose demise I had never truly anticipated. While Akmenos was a character made quickly to fit the campaign, essentially the clone of Anakis, this new character would be a personality in her own right. The question was, who would she be?
My first character was designed to be as evil as possible, since I truly love all things evil, chaotic, and demonic. My second character was designed to be like…me. I wanted each character to truly feel connected to me, and so wanted elements of her personality to resound with me on a personal level. It seemed like this would add intensity to the roleplay that might not exist if I were trying to play using characteristics that I didn’t love.
I knew that my party had just lost their full spellcaster, and that they had been in need of healing since the beginning. Having little experience still, I took my more experienced cousin’s advice, and made a druid who would have healing at first level. Since druids are nature-based, I thought about who I was in nature. With this in mind, I created a character who believed strongly in balance, and would enforce her beliefs with passion regardless of whether they aligned with others’ beliefs or even put her in danger. While the belief in balance may have been neutral in previous editions, the passion with which she enforced her morality convinced me to make her chaotic good.
Joining the Circle of Swords
A wood elf seemed like a natural choice for a druid, based on the ability score increase it provided. I have also always had a love for elves, and the wood elf felt more like the natural and chaotic character I wanted. The character that is at home roaming the forests was perfect for me. I spent much of my time wandering through the woods of my home, and never felt more at peace than I did surrounded by the life of the forest.
Since I knew very little about druids, I used the recommendation to create a hermit. I also loved the idea of a hermit and felt no need to choose a different background. Since I feel at home when I am solitary, I liked the idea that my character would also. This lent itself to a druid and to the Circle of the Moon. In Neverwinter, there was also a group called the Circle of Swords, which were typically part of the Circle of the moon. Thus, she was one of them, as well. We then had to consider how my character became a druid, and created the following backstory:
40 years ago, my village was wiped out by orcs. During the attack, a wolf tackled me and pinned me down throughout the battle. When the battle was over, he suddenly left. I stayed for a while and tried to heal the injured, but they were too grievously wounded. It was only then that I realized that the wolf had saved my life. I knew that my destiny was to become one with nature and to maintain the balance that allowed me to remain alive in such unlikely circumstances.
I came up with this idea directly from the Player’s Handbook, but customized it for myself. Wolves are my favorite animal, and I respect their intelligence, and so this character was approached by a wolf. I also made her relatively young, partially because I am young myself, but also because I liked the idea of having her near the beginning of her story, with much life ahead of her. As a druid, this woman would eventually get a Timeless Body ability that would allow her to age one year for every ten she lived. Thus, if she started very young, she might live as much as 7,000 years. This was also a consideration in choosing the long-lived elf race.
Aesesliu and Orcs
Since I was created in the middle of a campaign, and druids protect forests, I made my character a local who was protecting the forests of Neverwinter from the very orcs two party members had just been killed while fighting. I added the background piece where her characters was killed by orcs so that she would have a strong motivation for protecting the area. When she came across a gory scene outside an orc cave not long after the party killed the orc, she offered her assistance to these adventurers she now admired.
I created the name Aesesliu for my character, because I used a program called roll20 to create her character sheet, and the program randomly generated the name. I liked the name it created, so I made her Aesesliu Siamne, also known as Sael. She was young, only 85 years old and still a child by elf standards, but had primarily raised herself in the forest with animals. This meant she had limited social skills, so her one stat with a -2 modifier was placed in Charisma.
The Copper Elf With Wild Eyes
One of the elements I always spend some time on with my characters is the appearance. I think it is a part of their first impression, and strive to create an appearance that reflects their personality. Since wood elves can have copper skin, they are often depicted with a greenish cast. Instead, I chose a skin color that was a bright copper, with hair to match. This tanned elf with a coppery glow had green eyes that sparked with passion, and a fierce look to her.
The tall wood elf’s hair and skin shine an almost metallic hue. Her clothes are designed for fair weather, with brown shorts and a brown shirt cut off at the belly, barely visible beneath the leather armor she wears. She wears a large bone necklace, and looks at you with an almost feral expression. She is painted with white war paint and green tattoos swirl down her arms in a flowing pattern that evokes images of tree branches flowing outward from her center. Solid lines of the same green wrap around her legs, darkening and branching out to look like brown roots splayed across her feet and dwindling down to her toes.
I searched for a portrait that fit this description of my character, since I have no artistic skills or money to pay somebody to draw her, and found one online that had a bone totem on her neck. The portrait, shown here (https://www.gibberlings3.net/mods/npcs/tyris/), was exactly how I pictured her, so I borrowed the image and created a story to explain the totem. It was her spellcasting focus, made with the bones of the wolf that attacked her as a young woman.
This wild woman was everything I loved to be but in more extreme measures necessary to create a Dungeons and Dragons character. She was, of course, more capable than me, and lived in more dangerous times. She also gained magic from her affinity with the forest, a feat I have yet to achieve. In essence, she was who I would want to be if I were a Dungeons and Dragons character.
The Wild Elf
Sael’s most interesting moment was perhaps the one portion of her life that will live on in any tangible way. She had only a brief interaction with her group member, who considered her a friend but only knew her for less than a week. Thus, her grandest moment will in some ways be her arrival in the town of Phandelin. When she arrived in town, most of our group members were late, and so Sael was forced to take the lead. The group members were looking for a way to bring the recently killed characters to life, and so she began asking townsfolk if they had seen a druid. Druid magic was the only way she knew of to resurrect someone, and she was not powerful enough herself.
Later on, a priest in a small library received missive describing the strange occurrences in that town. Of three letters received by that priest, two referred to the party in which Sael traveled, and one referred to Sael herself. That letter described “strange sightings of a druid and a dragonborn breaking into houses in Neverwinter, then leaving without stealing anything.”
Sael had little concept of privacy, having lived in the wild away from humans and other humanoids. As a Circle of the Moon druid, she was more in tune with animals than humanoids, and had rarely even met other druids. Thus, her methods of finding information were worthy of note and made their way onto the middle shelf of the bookshelf in the private office of the head sage in the Library of the Traveler, dedicated to the messenger god, Hermes, in Parabor.
The Best Character: The Good and Bad
Sael was beyond a doubt my favorite character to date. She was wild, and knew little of human interactions. She did not hesitate to do the right thing, and was a powerful ally to any who fought with her. Her connection with animals allowed her to become animals using Wild Shape, choosing animals of greater power than druids of other circles. Had she survived, she would one day have lived as an animal rather than an elf.
There were but two mistakes made in creating and playing Sael. First, I did not give her the survival skill. Since she had spells to summon food and create water, I considered the skill unnecessary; however, I later realized that the lack of this skill meant she could not survive on her own in the wilds during downtime. This oversight would have interfered with my ability to play her as I would have liked. As it happens, she died before this became an issue.
Her death was the second mistake I made while playing this character. Unlike Anakis’ death, I fully admit that Aesesliu’s death was my fault. Since she had the highest Wisdom of the group, with 15 passive Perception, she was in front of the group. After listening at a door in a hideout, she over-confidently assumed that she would have heard anybody on the other side. Thus, she stepped inside and was ambushed, dying almost instantly. She should have let the tank go first.
This is the conclusion of the First, Best, and Worst Characters Series. You are free to submit more ideas, and the series may be revisited at some point. Next week, we begin the Tales of Ketchka Tsendsi, in which I recount the incredible historical events that occurred in the last great adventure based in that city.