Dungeons and Dragons: TSW Campaign Complete + EVEN MORE CHARACTERS

After a few delays due to illness, my homebrew D&D mini-campaign based on The Secret World setting has wrapped up. Over the course of four sessions, my friends embarked on a twisted journey from a northern Ontario town (complete with a boss fight in a Tim Horton’s), to the haunted ruins of the Third Age, to the surreal realm of the Dreaming Prison.

One of the maps for TSW homebrew campaign for Dungeons and DragonsMostly I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Everyone seemed to have fun. I do think I could have done a better job describing locations and selling the ambiance of the setting. My performance anxiety holds me back a lot.

Also, while it could have been far worse given my inexperience, game balance was an issue. The new warlock subclass I designed turned out to be OMGWTFBBQ overpowered, and my version of Exquisite Corpse turned out to be pretty overtuned, too. Conversely the monsters I designed ended up being fairly wimpy. It took me until the end to finally start getting the balance right.

On the plus side, the last boss fight went pretty well. I didn’t manage to kill anyone, but our Enforcer went insane and tried to murder the rest of the party, so that’s something.

I do plan to publish all of my homebrew at some point in case anyone else wants to try D&D in the Secret World setting, but first I need to polish it up a bit more (and finish nerfing Backer warlocks).

I’m not sure if I’ll do anything like this again. Some of my friends have expressed an interest in returning to TSW at some point, and I obviously have great love for the setting, but if I’m being honest, I didn’t love being a DM. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

The epic conclusion of my TSW homebrew campaignThe thing is it’s just really mentally exhausting. As much as it can be frustrating to wait for your turn as a player, that wait time gives you the opportunity to chat with friends or otherwise rest your mind. You don’t get that as a DM. Since I’m talking about these things now, I’ll just say: It’s rough on my burnout issues from being on the spectrum. My brain can’t handle that much input for that long.

Also, somewhat ironically considering I wrote the whole campaign, I don’t feel like I’m expressing my creativity as much as when I’m a player. I miss the experience of designing a character and role-playing.

At least I got to role-play as the Black Signal. I enjoyed that. There’s something cathartic about playing a truly awful villain.

For now, I return to life as a player.

On that front, my addiction to creating characters continues to balloon out of control. Mere weeks after posting an extensive list of my current roster, the cast has already increased.

Some of my friends (who somehow seem to have gone even more D&D crazy than I) have started running drop-in AL games every week. I’ve used this as an opportunity to import my Dwarf warrior, Davri, from WoW, as I discussed doing previously.

My Dwarf warrior receives the hidden artifact appearance for Strom'kar, the Warbreaker in World of WarcraftThe prospect of being a straight fighter bored me, but I finally found a good fit for her: a War Domain cleric. Ironically I’ve since multi-classed her, and she’s now more fighter than cleric, but mostly that’s just so I can get Extra Attack. Once I have that, I’m going back to focus on cleric levels (if I play this character long enough).

I’m quite enjoying her. She’s fun to role-play. She’s a distant scion of a royal house, and she takes herself very seriously, in both good and bad ways. She can be a bit haughty and joyless, but she takes her duty seriously and is very earnest about defending the innocent and making the world a better place. I also enjoy how she’s almost the total opposite of the usual Dwarf stereotype: cultured, refined, effeminate.

Mechanically, she’s wound up as the party’s main tank in most sessions so far. Though I haven’t loved melee in D&D previously, I’ve had fun with it on her so far. It’s incredible the amount of punishment she can soak up.

And I’m already considering yet more character concepts. I pitched the DM of our regular campaign on the idea of at some point doing a Mirror Universe one-shot — our regular party, but evil — and I feel like evil Mai would be the perfect opportunity to finally play a Great Old One warlock like I’ve wanted to forever. A nihilistic death cultist is the perfect antithesis of a life-preserving paladin.

I’m also toying with the idea of a Bladedancer (raise your hand if you’re surprised I took an interest in the Elf-only spec). That I want to play outside of Adventurers’ League, if I play it at all. To my eye, Bladedancers seem a little underpowered, so I may wish to tweak the mechanics a bit, and I’m also thinking of homebrewing a race for them.

See, for some reason I got it in my head that I wanted the character to have an Eastern flair, so I delved into the lore to see if Forgotten Realms has an East Asia analogue. It does: the distant continent of Kara-Tur. Kara-Tur is largely lacking in Elves, but there is some mention of a very obscure and nearly extinct Elven subrace called the Maraloi. So now I kinda want to homebrew new racials for a Maraloi.

The madness continues.

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Dungeons and Dragons: Meet My Characters

As tabletop role-playing continues to take over my life, I have of course rapidly built up a sizable stable of characters. I thought it might be interesting to do a rundown of them all, and what I enjoy about each one.

The official logo for Dungeons and Dragons, fifth editionMaigraith Numin:

Race: High Elf

Alignment: Neutral good

Classes: Paladin 5, cleric 1

Sub-classes: Oath of the Ancients, Life Domain

Backstory: In her youth, she was a warrior. She served as a mercenary, an adventurer, a hired bodyguard, and much more. At first, it was wanderlust that drove her. Then, she simply knew no other life.

The centuries of bloodshed wore her down. She came to hate her life of violence, and her role in it. In the end, she could take no more. She spurned the mercenary life, and swore an oath to use her skills only to defend and preserve life.

She follows no gods. She believes in none. Her faith is only in herself, and the belief that there is still good in this world that is worth preserving.

Mai is my “main.” I played her in the short-lived Storm King’s Thunder campaign that began my D&D career, and after a while I imported her to our current campaign, where she replaced Rabican.

I love this character. I love her role-play, her backstory, and her mechanics. We tweaked some of the paladin rules (as previously discussed) to make her work as a ranged character, as I really wanted to make her an archer. She’s since become firmly established as our party’s main healer/support, while also putting out some pretty respectable damage.

Her only weakness is that she’s very squishy for a paladin. Her AC isn’t bad (16), but she has a -1 constitution modifier, so her health pool is pitiful. It’s become a running gag in our group. A stiff wind could knock her over.

Mai is heavily inspired by a couple of my WoW characters. Her backstory and personality are a mixed of my paladin and my shaman, though ironically she’s closer to the shaman than the paladin.

Rabican:

Race: Tiefling

Alignment: Chaotic good

Classes: Monk 3, bard 1

Sub-class: Way of Shadows

Backstory: Those who dare the slums of Baldur’s Gate may see Tieflings dance the Firefoot. What few outsiders understand is that the Firefoot’s acrobatic leaps and graceful kicks actually form the basis of a deadly martial art, developed to allow the downtrodden to defend themselves from all who might exploit them.

One of the Firefoot’s more accomplished practitioners is the man named Rabican. He travels between inns and taverns, performing his dances for the crowds… and if the crowd should get too rowdy, he knows just how to deal with that.

Rabican has little trust of outsiders or the “proper” authorities, but he would do anything for his friends and neighbours, and when trouble comes calling, the residents of the slums always know who to turn to.

Rabican was my initial character for our main campaign. He was inspired by the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, which was designed by African slaves and disguised as a dance to give them a way to train without arousing suspicion. Given Tieflings are a bit of an underclass in D&D lore, it made sense for to me for them to develop a similar martial art.

There’s a lot I like about Rabican. Whereas most of my characters are cautious and thoughtful, Rabican prefers to rush in and let his fists do the talking, which can be pretty fun. His combination of monk and bard abilities also make him very versatile and well-rounded, which I enjoy.

However, I came to realize that I don’t like playing melee very much in this game. Also, as fun as Rabican is, I do like Mai better as a character. She’s more “me.”

I may still play him again at some point. No specific plans have been made, but I’ve discussed the possibility of swapping back to him for a session or two with our DM.

Dorotea Senjak:

Race: Drow

Alignment: Chaotic good

Class: Sorcerer

Sub-class: Draconic Bloodline*

*(I’m using the mechanics of the Draconic Bloodline origin, but RP-wise, I explain her abilities as the result of demonic heritage.)

Backstory: Even by the standards of the Drow, House Senjak was among the worst. Dorotea does not remember what sparked the house’s demons to run amok. She remembers only that they killed everyone she had ever known, and that she would have died too if dark power had not erupted from her, slaying her attacker — and revealing that she too carries the blood of the Abyss.

Hating what she is and where she came from, Dorotea retreated to the surface, where she ekes out an existence as a vagrant.

So far, I’ve only played this character once, but after months of break, there are some more sessions for her campaign coming up this week. This campaign uses Adventurers’ League rules, which I’m not overly fond of. I would have preferred to give Dorotea one of the Unearthed Arcana subclasses (likely Phoenix Sorcery), but I had to make do.

That said, she’s still a character I quite enjoy. She’s sort of halfway between Mai’s utter stoicism and Rabican’s wild ways. She’s cautious, but she has a harsh edge.

Mechanically, unlike all my other characters, I have not chosen to hybridize her or give her any support abilities. Instead, she’s pure “burn the world down” damage. If a spell involves fire, she probably knows it.

Dorotea is a significantly modified adaptation of my ranger character from Neverwinter. The stuff with demons is new, but both are exiled Drow princesses who’ve come to hate their own people.

Myrdred:

Race: Shadar-kai

Alignment: True neutral

Class: Druid

Sub-class: Circle of Twilight

Backstory: Dispatched into the material plane by the Raven Queen, it is Myrdred’s duty to hunt undead and maintain the balance of nature by ensuring nothing escapes its fated end.

Knowledgeable, curious, and patient, those whose goals align with his will find him an amiable, if inscrutable, companion.

What others are unlikely to ever see is the desperate fear in Myrdred’s heart, for he has come to love the warmth of the living world, and he dreads completing his mission and being drawn back into the cold embrace of the Shadowfell…

I created this character for a couple of side-sessions we did in the Ravenloft setting, and I really enjoyed playing him. I love the idea of the Circle of Twilight spec — a dark, necromantic druid wielding the powers of death to hunt undead — and it felt like a perfect match for the anti-undead attitudes of the Raven Queen and her Shadar-kai.

There’s obviously a strong inspiration from Diablo’s necromancers, as well, with the concept of maintaining balance.

Also, as my only character who isn’t good-aligned, he’s a bit of a change of pace RP-wise. I love playing goody two-shoes types, but Mydred’s detached perspective is refreshingly different.

Like Mai, he’s a mix of support and ranged damage abilities, leaning perhaps a bit more toward damage than Mai.

Merrill:

Race: Half-Elf

Alignment: Neutral good

Class: Ranger

Sub-class: Hunter

Backstory: Abandoned at birth, Merrill was raised in an orphanage by a kindly Halfling couple. When her Aberrant Dragonmark manifested, it became too dangerous for her to remain at the orphanage, and she took to living on the streets.

In House Tarkanan, she has found allies who accept her, but while she’s grateful for their assistance, she doesn’t entirely trust them, and has refused full membership in the House as a result.

I made this character for a one-shot we played in the Eberron setting a few months back. Yes, she’s named after the Dragon Age character, and while it wasn’t my plan, as the session went on I increasingly began to role-play her as Dragon Age Merrill. I even started doing the accent a little bit after a while.

I love her personality, but to be honest ranger is probably the least fun class I’ve played in D&D so far. It feels like a class that only works in a very realistic campaign with a lot of survival mechanics, which is not how we play. With all of their abilities focused on exploration and survival, in combat all you can do is plink arrows at people. It’s super one-dimensional.

Macro:

Format: Guardian

Alignment: Chaotic good

Backstory: Armed with his trusty KeyTool, Micro, Macro has spent many long minutes of his life patrolling the seedy lower wards of the Super Computer. In that time, he’s developed a deep contempt for viruses and those who aid them, and a casual disregard for the regulations of the Guardian Code.

This character was for our DM’s experimental one-shot in the Reboot setting. I didn’t take him at all seriously. I just went full cheeseball with him. He’s a growly, hardboiled, loose cannon detective who plays by his own rules. It was fun. Not sure he’d hold up over a long campaign, but I wouldn’t mind playing him again once or twice.

Future concepts:

Of course that still isn’t enough to satisfy my alt lust. I’ve toyed with the idea of rolling a warlock for a long time, though I’m having trouble nailing down a good backstory for one. I really want to go with the Great Old One patron, but it’s hard to come up with a character who fits that but isn’t the stereotypical power hungry lunatic or nihilistic cultist.

I’m also tempted to import my warrior from WoW (the Dwarf), as I really like her personality, but fighter holds little appeal to me mechanically, so I’m not sure if I’ll do that.

I don’t expect I’ll ever play my TSW homebrew as anything but a DM, but if I did manage to make it work as a player, I’d probably be a Dragon (of course). Either a blood hunter replicating my old main from the MMO, or a druid with the new subclass I designed for it.

Then again, a Council of Venice character is also tempting. Perhaps that new Way of Gun monk subclass I designed…