This pandemic has everyone social distancing (if you’re not, you should be), which means sitting around a gaming table has been a thing of the past lately. Ironically, it has contributed to me playing MORE games than usual, especially RPGs. As some of you may know, I have managed to run several legs of a Star Trek Adventures campaign this year over Discord, pretty much weekly. It went well, and the write-ups of the sessions start here, if anyone’s interested. I have yet to post the conclusion, but that’s coming soon. I’ve been busy with Monster May(hem), real life, and now Forgotten Heroes…but rest assured I haven’t forgotten about the crew of the U.S.S. Adventure.
That being said, tonight I get to play in a game rather than run it. We’ll be playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, which is new to me. The version I last played was 3.5, and that was years ago. (I skipped 4th Edition altogether, which most folks agree was a good thing.)
Anyway, by far, one of my favorite things to do in any RPG setting is create a character. I figured I’d document the creation of my first 5th Edition character here: Lirhanir. (I’m going to jump around a lot and not necessarily go in order, as it makes more narrative sense. Don’t worry…it’ll all make sense in the end.)
Class and Race: I decided I want to play a paladin, which is a class I have never found particularly interesting. (In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever played a paladin in all my years of roleplaying.) I’m not at all interested in playing a stereotypical “holy knight”; someone who fights with anyone who doesn’t adhere to the same code he does, even his own party members. That evangelical bullshit is depressing enough in the real world. Lucky for me, in 5th edition I don’t have to.
My Dungeon Master is setting the game in his own world, and he’s starting us out at level 3. Humans are the dominant race, and demihumans are relatively uncommon. I decided I want to be a half-elf, which in this setting is considered a second-class citizen almost everywhere. Elves consider them an abomination, and humans generally ignore or ostracize them.
So, being a half-elf and a paladin (plus some additional perks my DM has granted) gives Lirhanir familiarity with all weapons, armor and shield types, as well as proficiency in the following things: Athletics, Insight, Perception, Persuasion, Performance and Deception. Lirhanir can play the lute fairly well, although he’s no bard. He does this to make others happy, and chase away the darkness (see below). It also gives him a bunch of paladin abilities, none of which are really worth getting into here.
Background: In 5th Edition, you choose a background for your character which gives them proficiency in skills they would have learned during their upbringing. I don’t envision Lirhanir had much of an upbringing, so I chose urchin. Lirhanir grew up on the streets of a city, Riften, scrounging and surviving however he could. (This is in-line with being a member of a disadvantaged class.) It also gave him proficiency in Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Thieve’s Tools, and Disguise. Not exactly on the path to paladinhood from the start, but it sure explains why he is also skilled in Deception. It also confers the feature “City Secrets”, which gives Lirhanir an instinctive familiarity with all urban environments that allows him to move at twice the normal travel rate between two points in any city (he knows which alleys and rooftops to traverse to get from point A to point B fastest).
My DM has also made half-elves in his world “prodigies”, which gives him expertise in one skill, as well as another language. His languages are Common, Elvish, Goblinoid, and Sylvan (the language of fey creatures); not bad for a guy with average intelligence. I chose Insight to be the skill in which he has expert proficiency; growing up on the streets, you get a feel for people pretty quick.
Attributes: In 5th edition, you have the option to either roll dice or buy your attribute scores with points. We opted for point buy. My attribute scores (including racial bonuses) are as follows: Strength 16 (very strong), Dexterity 12 (above average), Constitution 12 (above average), Intelligence 10 (average), Wisdom 13 (above average), and Charisma 14 (significantly above average). This means Lirhanir will usually have attribute bonuses in addition to proficiency bonuses for most of his skills.
Oath: In 5th edition, paladins can take various oaths to better fit their concept. (The stereotypical paladin takes the Oath of Devotion, but he’s not that kind of paladin.) I chose the Oath of the Ancients instead, which essentially means Lirhanir reveres life and goodness and strives against darkness and evil. He holds good to be paramount, far more important than any concern of law or chaos. This gives him spell lists and abilities more in line with a traditional ranger or druid, not really a former street urchin; but…it’s going to work out. Trust me.
Equipment: Paladins start with chain mail armor and a shield, but neither one fits my character concept. Instead, Lirhanir wears a chain shirt under his tunic. It provides less protection than a full suit, but also doesn’t hamper his movement at all. To compensate somewhat for not using a shield, he specializes in a defensive style of fighting. He is adept at using a quarterstaff, but carries two short swords as his primary weapons. He also wears a hood most of the time to hide his half-elven heritage from the assholes of the world. Finally, he carries a smooth river rock; the holy symbol of his patron, a water spirit named Nauhrel. He only uses it when he is Turning the Faithless (be they fiends or fey creatures).
Almost done. I had to pick his personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws. For Personality, I chose Speak when you have something to say. Speak up for others who cannot, or will not, speak for themselves. For an Ideal, I chose Always be of service. For a Bond, I chose I owe my survival to Odger Tucca, the Halfling who cared for me when I had nothing. For a flaw, I chose I am most afraid of being helpless. These traits pretty well sum up his values and outlook, and guide how I will roleplay him.
How did a street urchin become a champion of the light? Lirhanir was special from the start. As a street urchin, he did whatever he had to to survive; but he always managed to avoid hurting others in the process, at least others who didn’t deserve it. Despite enduring hunger, cold, neglect and abuse, he always sought to help those less fortunate than he. That made him a good person.
Once he stopped an unscrupulous alchemist from dumping his poisonous slurries into the city’s water supply, because he saw that it was making poor people sick (the rich lived upstream; their water wasn’t affected). In fact, it was also making a water spirit sick. This spirit, Nauhrel, was close to death, and would have died if not for Lirhanir’s actions. She became his patron, a spiritual force for goodness that recognized in Lirhanir a Champion of the Light.
Finally, Lirhanir is Chaotic Good, the alignment that best suits his outlook. Above all things, he tries to do the most good and thwart the most evil, but he’s not all that concerned about how he gets those things done. Laws are fine when they work. When they don’t, you don’t blindly follow them anyway. Lirhanir is not above lying or stealing, if it’s for the greater good (he won’t steal a coin purse to make a buck, but he would absolutely steal food if he needed it to help someone, and didn’t have the money). Again, about as far from a typical paladin as you can get.
Lirhanir looks more like a rogue than a paladin, which is exactly what he would have been if he wasn’t chosen by Nauhrel. I envision him as a D&D version of Daredevil (kinda): urban protector of the downtrodden, lightly armed, skills and methods used in service of the greater good. Guess we’ll see if he survives his first session, which starts in about 3 hours!