Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Character Ideas" episode 3

Ideas for Future Characters
            A while back I wrote up some short biographies for characters I thought about using in a 5th edition game of Dungeons and Dragons.  While I ended up using only one of them and have since moved on to running a game rather than playing in one.  However, and let’s be honest here, the most fun there is in Dungeons and Dragons is making a character.
            Since I like doing it, I figured I would make a chart in Excel and start checking off class/background combinations, by the end of this writing exercise I will have 156 character ideas.  I have decided not to include races, sub races, sub classes, or the backgrounds from supplemental materials.  Just the Players Handbook… FOR NOW.


            For fun, I will also give a numerical rating for whether I think something is “Interesting”.  There are characters that are so common as to be arch typical or even cliché, but maybe there is a reason they are so common, because they are just that intriguing.  Feel free to disagree or offer your own suggestions and objections in the comments.
            If you would like to share some of your own unused character ideas, do so in the comments, maybe use this format (maybe get it to catch on, I like its simplicity) and try and keep to a shorter length, you don’t want people to “tldr” your stuff.
            One more thing worth mentioning, I will make an effort to include a variety of different fantasy races in my character creation.  I have written before that I could run an entire fantasy world with just humans and see most fantasy races as too bland to be seen as meaningfully different from humanity (elves, to me, are too often played as just tall humans with pointy ears).  I also know that this is not an opinion shared by most and I want to try and expand my own horizons.


What Have I Got?
            I recommend as a DM, that if you have the luxury of having your players making characters as a group, picking a theme of 1-5 words to serve as an inspiration seems like a good idea.  I decided that since I have a Cleric and Druid this week that a good theme would be, “Faith”.
(Originally, last episode’s Warlock was going to be included in these, but I took way too long to write these out).
I have found (while looking for an image that worked), Drow might be the most sexualized fantasy race ever.

Name: Sverre Ashe
Class: Cleric
Race: Dark Elf
Background: Entertainer
History: I recall the time of my youth, when I wandered in darkness.  The cold and wet and miserable dark.  Stalked by beasts not of the night, but of dark.  True darkness.
My family, my clan believed that darkness was not just all around us, but within us.  From skin to skeleton.  From skeleton to soul.  That our goddess ruled us with cruelty, and that we deserved such treatment.  We were of the dark, in the dark, and we deserved nothing better.
It was in a time of wandering the wet stone halls of the underdark that I met someone.  I can only describe them as “someone” for they were many things.  Like a candle flame flickers casting shadows fantastic and macabre, the features of this someone moved and shifted.  Being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away.
It was there in that murky endless gloom that Someone spoke at length to me about the nature of them and me.  About the cost of cruelty, about the pain of living.  And in a span of time that felt like forever, a time that felt like home, sitting all alone beside this One.  This one asked, “Have you heard the good news?”
Goals: I am no longer under the delusion that cruelty is a fact of life.  Cruelty is an abomination.  I am no longer under the misconception that suffering is somehow ennobling.  Suffering is untenable.
I wish to no longer be part and parcel with the darkness of the world and instead bring the good tidings of that Someone who led me out of the darkness.  To share with people the news that they are not alone, that walking with them in the darkest times of their lives is someone who wants to tell them how much they matter and to not lose hope.
            And to that end I put on my show.  Prostilatizing before the masses as eloquently as I can about my own story, and asking for whatever contributions they can spare to help spread the word.
Rating: 3/5
            I know I leaned much harder on the “Cleric” side of things more so than the “Entertainer”, but I think that most religious entertainers tend to downplay their role as entertainer in favor of the religious aspect of what they are doing.
            I chose a Drow because I think that their having a religious turn that leads them away from Lloth is always interesting.  There is a reason Drizzt Do’Urden (spelled it right on the first try) is so compelling, same as the X-Men, Angel from Buffy, or Finn from Star Wars.  Being a good guy when the whole world says you aren’t and doing it because you believe in a moral right that guides you… That’s nice.
            This actually started out much more cynical, a parody of Joel Osteen, and his strange (even creepy) affectation.  But I am in a less cynical mood these days, so I toned it down.


Though, it might just be elves in general.  It is hard to find an elf woman who is not stacked.

Name: Fínín
Class: Druid
Race: High Elf
Background: Guild Merchant
History: I have spent a lot more time among humans and dwarves, far more than the typical member of my race.  I think that most elves can never get past the earthy smell of the other civilized peoples.  But I think that aversion has robbed my kin of a valuable perspective on things.  And this has made elves, as a society, terrible at trade.
            Humans have an almost singular grasp of the concept, something I have studied with rapt attention for decades now.  Simply taking the time to tend an ancient hedge near a human town along a river has allowed me to see trade at work and it is dazzling.
Take two groups, one loaded down with butter, the other’s coffers bursting full of dry bread.  Each sees the other as possessing a treasure, and each trades heaps of their own stores for a pittance of the other’s, along comes hungry tailors burdened by too many pants and shirts, a naked candle maker, a tanner in need of light, a thirsty smith, and a brewer who wants a bit of each.  It is magical that they, with such short lives, find the time to sort thru all of the wants and needs in such a manner as trade.  It is a beautiful madness.
            And all of it facilitated by the movement of little bits of metal with the words, “Taken in Good Faith” stamped on them next to a crown or an eagle.  Money is perhaps the key to human nature?  Who’s to say?
Goals: You know what I like about money?  I can stack it on a table.  I can hold it in my hands.  But what humans and dwarves and other races often forget is this, “you can’t eat gold”.  Wealth, real material wealth comes not from hording shiny rocks but from the creation of materials that everyone wants, but that don’t last forever.  I have the patience for such things.
            Being a druid gives me access to growth.  To the bounty of the natural world.  I can make things people eat by the bushel.  And as an elf I will live long enough to see my investments mature.  To investments I shall sow coins like seeds in the fields, and they in turn shall grow into orchards of golden fruits.
Rating: 4/5
            Call me crazy, but the idea of an elf druid, two concepts that scream, “one with nature” would become so infatuated to the idea of money, a concept wholly of civilization, that they would seek to exploit their magical nature powers for material gain… That is a total subversion of both those things and fits entirely with the Merchant aspect of the character.
            Maybe I went to far with a blathering endorsement of the free market, but as I am playing this more like a parody, that might not be as “endorsing” as you initially think.

Can you spare a little something for the faith?
How about for an apple?  Wanna buy an apple?

Outro
            What do you all think?  Do you have a request for a class/background combo?  Did you play one of the combos I have featured and want to share your spin on it?  Post in the comments.
Listed below are the past episodes of this blog for your reading pleasure.  If you want to read more Dungeons and Dragons stuff from me, here is a 3-part diatribe on the Celestial Warlock from “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).  Otherwise, Have Fun.



 ______________________________
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Monday, December 25, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Celestial Warlock Patrons"

            LAST TIME, I ran down some of the numerous cultural influences I drew upon to create a list of Celestial Patrons for the Warlock class in 5e Dungeons and Dragons.
            Let’s face it, at this point my topic is so fucking niche I have no idea who in the world is reading this aside from me, so expect this rambling diatribe to self-indulgent as hell.
            Forgive me if this all skews extremely Western culture.  I am an American, I try to branch out, but this is still going to be highly informed by a Western world view.  Feel free to add Celestial forces that have a darker edge from around the world to them in the comments.
            Much like with the Undead Patrons, these are semi poetic.

Celestial Patrons
There is light.
Light can reveal.
Light can blind.
Within the light there is power.
You can have that power.
Just seal a pact.

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            Elohim is the council of Celestials.  They are both male and female, plural and singular, they are what they are and all that is.  To behold them is to see the span of time, the span of the cosmos, and to at once know the end and the beginning of all things as they are akin to oneself.  They are the celestial clockmakers whose gears grind the dust of the mortal races in the keeping of their time.  The Elohim bid you to not be afraid, for all is right and good.

"Was the mechanism designed or did it happen by accumulation of natural processes?"
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            Eistibus is the balance between the absolute stillness of order and the never-ending change of chaos.  Eistibus is the life that springs forth in the wasteland by the wisdom of the farmer, the city that is cut from stone by the knowledge of the mason, the child that is born from the love of living beings.  Eistibus is the power of chaos focused thru the systems of order.  Eistibus bids you to grasp firmly the reins of the world and tame it to your will.
 
“But goodness alone is never enough. A hard, cold wisdom is required for goodness to accomplish good. Goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil.”
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            Wrath is the pain, the destruction, the suffering brought upon those who would turn from the path of love and kindness.  Wrath is the self-inflicted hollow within one’s soul for turning from the light of Good.  Wrath is the righteous fury that must be visited upon those who would be wicked, to turn upon them the instruments of their tortures back on themselves.  Wrath is the eye for an eye, the tooth for a tooth.  Wrath bids you to cleanse yourself in the blood of the wicked.
 
“I heard absolute power corrupts absolutely. Does that mean God is corrupt?”
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The Sage is the seer of the future.  Possessing knowledge of a world that would fall to darkness he seeks champions fit to bear the tools of leadership, weapons, crowns, horses, falcons.  The Sage is the council of ages that great leaders seek to turn the tide of darkness and to make peace into glorious golden age.  The Sage, this wise old man bids you to take hold of your weapon, embrace who you are, and adhere to honor so as to guide the world to a greater age.

“We meet again, at the turn of the tide...”
“The future has taken root in the present...”
“It is important to fight... and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay though never quite eradicated...”
“If you define yourself by the power to take life, the desire to dominate, to possess…then you have nothing.”
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            Jubilation is the glorious joy of creation.  She sees in the world the suffering, the want, the need, the ignorance, and the evil and seeks a better world.  Follow the glory of her vision to banish from this world the darkness, the lame, the weak, to harness a stronger stock for the new world.  Once the weak elements have been striped from this world, turned back into the raw elements, the strong shall be guided into a new world of Jubilation’s architecture.  She bids you to burn away the weak so that the strong might live in her golden kingdom.
 
“Light.  Dark.  Mortal.  All the strife and struggle.  Reality wrapped up in a vortex of creation.”
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            The Sebayt are the watches, the teachers, the shepherds.   They are those who guide the flocks together toward a greater state of peace, a greater state of harmony.  They are unknowable, the greater unity and wisdom they seek is in service of some even greater goal.  They are not naïve, they know that they flock must be minded.  The Sebayt know the night is dark.  And to guard the future of the flock some, many, nearly all might have to be cast off and left all alone to the things in the night.  They bid you to forgive, to trust, to aid, and to fear the things in the dark.
 
“They are alone.  They are a dying people.  We should let them pass.”
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            Voulgata is the librarian, the keeper of knowledge, it is the Book of Exalted Deeds.  An Angel of Revelation turned material not as flesh but as parchment.  To allow a glance, a momentary ponderance of the glory of creation and the nobility of Goodness.  Good is not nice, polite, well-mannered, self-righteous, or naive, though good people may be some of these things.  There is only one good, Knowledge, and one evil, Ignorance.  Voulgata bids you to learn, to teach, and to persecute those who thrive in the darkness of ignorance and stupidity.

 “Good is the awesome holy energy that radiates from the celestial planes and crushes evil.
Good is selfless, just, hopeful, benevolent, and righteous.”
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            The Apostle was a mortal whom the Elohim placed so much trust that upon their death by torture they were granted a key role in the world, guardian of the faith.  It is they who holds the book of life on which the names of the worthy are recorded and for whom passage into the next life might be barred.  Thru the suffering they endured they gained knowledge of true fitness, true nobility, and it is thru trial and pain that the weakness of mortality can be striped from the spirit of mortals.  The Apostle bids you to endure the suffering of life and hold true to Goodness so as to pass into a more noble afterlife.
 
“There is no harm in patience, and no profit in lamentation.  Death is easier to bear than that which precedes it, and more severe than that which comes after it.  Remember the death of the Apostle, and your sorrow will be lessened.”
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            Azrael is the Angel of Death.  All mortal life passes like sand thru the hourglass or mist in light.  It is not the roll of the Heavens to preserve the temporary, it is not in the nature of the Celestial to guard the terrestrial.  Azrael is the unwinding of the thread of life, a divestment of the soul from the soft and dirty clay by which the mortal races toil in the endless suffering that is life.  Azrael is the power of Goodness to destroy evil, to destroy the unclean, to bring the light to the dark.  Azrael bids you to bring death to the world so as to cleanse it of the suffering that is life.

Blessed are the dead
And now you are among them
Delivered form this mortal coil

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In Conclusion
            Let me first say that I borrowed some of the images above from the Deviant art account of Pete Mohrbacher, in the same way everything on the internet ends up borrowed from someone without permission.  Please visit his deviant art is you like epic art of angels that perfectly captures much of what I was looking for when I started this.  The twisted and unknowable nature of these beings is captured by his truly creative depictions.  He has a Patreon as well.


            If you want to read more of my stuff talking about Dungeons and Dragons, click here.
            If you would like to see more of my Political side, click here.
            If you want to read a short story I cobbled together, click here and then here.
______________________________

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Celestial Warlock Mythos"

            LAST TIME, I wrote about the Celestial Warlock build that was introduced in “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything”.  Not one word was spoken about the mechanics of the class, just that I heartily dislike it from a story standpoint.  To that end I issued myself a challenge, “Fix it”.
            To do this I have to first look at some inspirations in pop culture and mythology.  I need to find angels and other celestial beings that are on the side of GOOD, but are not necessarily nice, and certainly fit the flavor of the Warlock class, being a small participant in a pact with powers beyond one’s keen.

Fixing the Celestial Warlock
            Contrary to popular belief thru most of human history gods, even the good ones, were pretty fickle.  Most of this had to do with how people saw the natural world.  To pre-science humans the weather was a chaotic and cruel mistress who would level a town, flash a flood, or bake your crops to uselessness… unless you lived in ancient Egypt, the Nile provided such consistent crop output that they perceived of all but a handful of their 100+ gods as good guys.
            But, let’s make like Phillip II of France and ignore Egypt’s importance, instead let’s construct a vision of Celestial that is more akin to the terrifying but still “good” beings of the ancient world.

While Jesus was a rather chill guy, the Old Testament is full of visions of an incredibly powerful, unyielding, and TERRIFYING vision of YAWEH.  His angels are not just sexy people with wings but multi-dimensional lovecraftian horrors.
 
"WHAT EVEN!?"
Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings.  Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.  I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.  Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.  Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.  Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.  You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you.  Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.
“Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me.  In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

            The Warlock who is participating with this celestial force is not so much asked or bargained with, but dictated to.  “Do not be afraid,” is repeated multiple times.  The scope of this being’s goals are massive, the resettlement of entire nations, the creation of new testaments, the defense of nations, and the breaking of its Dark Adversaries like Dagon, Bal, Moloch, and Mammon.
While the mortal races are important to this being’s view of the universe, loved like children, there is a larger picture whose scope shatters the minds of mortals, a cosmic view whose fate hangs in the balance.  A “deal” handed down by a bring like YAWEH would see the Warlock only as useful as it was obedient and much like the mana from heaven in Exodus, not trusting absolutely in YAWEH will result in not only his favor revoking, but his wrath coming down like stone tablets soon after.

            The DC Universe (more so than Marvel) has a magical quality to it and invests its most powerful beings with the mystique of Magic.  One of the best examples is Nabu, a Lord of Order and the supernatural entity which empowers the Helm of Fate.
            While the exact nature of the Helm of Fate changes based on which continuity it takes place I think the best is in “Young Justice”.  In that continuity the Helm is NABU, when worn it suppresses the personality of the wearer and Doctor Fate becomes the dominate personality.
Multiple times Fate is bargained with before ultimately taking on a permanent wearer, as the spirit was tired of being relegated away, only to be called upon in the most dire of circumstances.  Striking a deal with Nabu is very much a core aspect of it, but like all magic it has a deep cost.
 
"Fate Must Take a Hand!"


            Holding court in the Rock of Eternity, guarding the 7 deadly sins, and anointing champions to guard earth from supernatural threats the Wizard SHAZAM has seen champions fall to the dark side in eras past and has taken greater and greater care over the centuries to not see it happen again.
            To that end he searches for those pure enough at heart to restore the world to a truer state of good and right, rather than empowering those who would try to impose their own vision of true and right.  Captain Marvel has been one of his champions harnessing a variety of divine powers to save the world.
            SHAZAM is perhaps the closest to the idea of a benevolent celestial for the Warlock class.  That while he was once mortal, made mistakes, and is obviously functioning on another level, his motives appear to be on the level even if too many of the bad guys Captain Marvel fights are left overs from SHAZAM’s inability to keep a lid on supernatural evil.
 
"I ask too much."

The Spectre, Eclipso, and the Vengeance of God
            In the DC universe they wisely stay away from naming the Presence that serves as the supreme god of the whole shebang.  However, they do make its will felt thru the presence of various spirits and powerful beings.  The two that most fit the purpose of a Warlock-esc entity are Spectre and Eclipso.
            They are in effect two aspects of the same force, that of karmic punishment.  Eclipso represents a more primitive and brutal method of seeking vengeance which is why it was replaced by the Spectre, who is a Dante like dealer of ironic punishments, “What is justice without vengeance?... Simply a slap on the wrist, and an invitation for evil to continue… unabated.”

They may also bang occasionally.
I mean, they have a lot in common.
            The key difference in these beings has to do with how they are tied to Earth, via bonding with a mortal soul.  Eclipso possesses a living being whom it overrides.  Some can overpower the spirit, but they are usually powerful with magic.  Others can work in concert, but only if they are 9 kinds of ax-crazy.
Spectre in contrast bonds with a dead person but one that has the will and mindset to temper the Spectre’s wrath and keep it grounded, an excellent comic by J.M. Dematteis (JLA 1997 #35, Day of Judgement) illustrates how the Spectre’s wrath often makes it wish to strike at people because of what they MIGHT do.


            Again, from DC comics one of the oldest and most powerful species of humanoid in the universe are the little blue gnome wizards that created the Green Lantern Corp.  Their selection process is based entirely around willpower (courage) and so leads too often to members being kind of tyrannical, but they do have some standards.  They even have an Oath.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power--Green Lantern's light!
 
"Can you dig it?"
            Follow the rules.  Fight evil.  And in exchange you will be trusted with tremendous power.  It is important to note that the Guardians are also a cause of many-MANY issues that are left floating around the universe, caused by their quests for knowledge and control of a universe they perceived as their bailiwick.


Vorlons
The Vorlons are a race of ultra-powerful aliens that have been guiding the other intelligent races of the galaxy since the beginning of life.  They push for a system of unity (or at least live and let live) and via their powerful telepathy they can provide wisdom and insight to the other races.  They are also huge assholes, standing off to the side in times of crisis behind a condescending wall of riddles and mysterious acting.
            Touched by Vorlons, is a trope in fiction which is about as close to WARLOCK as it gets in science fiction (the Warlock class is referenced on the TVTropes page).  It refers to how telepaths in the series would get a tremendous boost from interacting with the aliens.  Turing them into agents of the Vorlon’s ultimate goals.



            Watch the show.  It is now on a free streaming service.


            The mythology of this game is dense and strange.  Its presentation is pervy in that uniquely Japanese sense.  That being said the protagonist of the game is unquestionably a Warlock by the standards of Dungeons and Dragons.  Bayonetta is a witch who made deals with the devil to hunt angels who are absolute bastards in their own right.

"I'm doing it for the thrill."
            The angels in this series care about the extermination of the witches and they act as such, leaving way too many people dead and too much of reality twisted in pursuit of their goal.  Modifying these guys to be the sponsors of Warlocks in Dungeons and Dragons would make sense.  They are the sort of capricious power source the class is all about.


            This franchise is goofy as hell, but its over the top nature gives birth to another instance of, “I will blow up the universe to accomplish my goal of GOOD”.  As if I haven’t made it clear by now that is the factor I am looking for.
I consider Darksiders the least “deep” of these options for what I consider to be obvious reasons.  That being said, there is a lot of stuff laid out.
            This game has a whole list of beings that could make for fitting patrons for Warlocks.  The Charred Council being perhaps the best, but Samael fits for a demonic patron, and Abaddon works for a Celestial.  You could plum the depths of this game’s maddeningly over the top goulash of names drawn from obscure Christian Mythology for an entire pantheon of powerful beings in DnD.

I Swear I Didn’t Mean for this to Happen
            I am going to have to make this a 3-part deal.  Looking over the list of pop culture things here I will whip together a list of Celestial Patrons for the Warlock class that I feel work better for the intended flavor of the class than the options presented in the core book.
            You might be asking, “uh… if you ran down all of these things here, why do I need to read the next entry?  Won’t it just be the rendered version of this?”
            To that I answer, I am going to try and put some more spins on the whole thing and add a few that aren’t in here, this was more a rundown of the IDEA, not a complete list.
Though I guess if you were satisfied with this feel free to stop.
It is your life.  Have Fun!


            If you want to read more of my stuff talking about Dungeons and Dragons, click here.
            If you would like to see more of my Political side, click here.
            If you want to read a short story I cobbled together, click here and then here.
______________________________

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Celestial Warlock Problems"

            When I covered the topic of the Undying Patron, a path for the Warlock class that included making a deal with a powerful undead in exchange for power, I mentioned a Warlock path that I found “… totally out of place that I want to complain about it too.”  Today I do just that.
            I rather consider it to be a complete betrayal of what Warlocks are supposed to be in the context of Dungeons and Dragons.  On another level it seems to not entirely grasp what “Goodness” is either.
            Without further prattle, I present this ball of wrongheadedness, the Celestial Warlock.
 
This is not the image of a Celestial Warlock from "Xanathar's".
Somehow that image is not online yet.
What is a Celestial Warlock?
            “Your patron is a powerful being of the Upper Planes. You have bound yourself to an ancient empyrean, solar, ki-rin, or unicorn or to another entity that resides in the planes of everlasting bliss. Your pact with that being allows you to experience the barest touch of the holy light that illuminates the multiverse.
Being connected to such power can cause changes in your behavior and beliefs. You might find yourself driven to annihilate the undead, to defeat fiends, and to protect the innocent. At times, your heart might also be filled with a longing for the celestial realm of your patron, a desire to wander that paradise for the rest of your days. But you know that your mission is among mortals for now and that your pact binds you to bring light to the dark places of the world.” -Unearthed Arcana: Revised Class Options, pg4

When reading this, and you might think I am crazy, I kept thinking of Jimmy Olsen.  Jimmy is a young reporter/photographer who is a protégé to Clark Kent and best pal of Superman.  Because of Jimmy’s good nature Superman has entrusted him with a signal watch that allows Jimmy to call the big blue boy-scout should the young journalist ever find himself in extreme danger.

The virtues that earn him the trust of Superman are always there to see.
Jimmy trusts Superman implicitly and was entrusted with the signal watch because Superman likes and trusts Jimmy.  They didn’t sign a deal, they didn’t make an arrangement, it was a gift from a powerful force for good to a normal person to better ensure the safety of that person against the indomitable forces of evil (at minute 19:00).
I do not like this sort of thing in the context of Dungeons and Dragons.


Why is it a betrayal of the Warlock class?
            The core of the Warlock, the very essence of the character, that thing that describes them completely can be summed up with two phrases, “I’m playing with fire,” and, “I have no idea what I am doing.”


            The character is built around having power they cannot completely control do not entirely understand.  This power is given to them by an entity of dubious motives in exchange for what might be only a trifling task.  That entity has an ultimate goal, and the Warlock either directly serves the patron’s goal (which would be bad) or they are trying to thwart that goal via being a clever hero pushing back against destiny.
            A Warlock is given power by something powerful that is a CORRUPTING force.  This entity might be evil, mercurial, unknowable, or just strange.  What it is not: a clear and present force for good and right.
            Now maybe this is just a predisposition of my Western Culture upbringing, but when you make deals to get power on the cheap to accomplish a goal, thwart catastrophe, or circumvent destiny, that shit always turns out badly for the mortal making the deal.
The drama of the situation is the hubris common people have that keeps them making such deals.  No matter how many times a person is told, “there are no short cuts” or, “there are no free lunches” the drive of humans to cut corners or somehow see themselves as the guy who beats the system wins out.  The Warlock type characters in fiction are all a metaphor for the human condition, trying to harness or break with natural laws for cheap power and ultimately being consumed by forces that will not be controlled.
This is true whether you are making a deal with the forces of the underworld (Orpheus), a powerful creature of the night (“Dracula Untold”), SATAN (“Faust”), malicious fey (Rumpelstiltskin, a good instance of the hero in the story managing to get out of the deal once getting all they need), a dragon (“Dragonheart”, which is actually one of the only inversions of the trope I could find where the Lawful Neutral/Good dragon gives his life force to a dying evil prince… and here is a good question, “Why the hell is Dragon Pact not a thing in Dungeons and Dragons?”), or an Old One (“Dormammu!  I’ve come to Bargain.”)

“The warnings come AFTER the spells.”

Why is it a misunderstanding of “Goodness”?
            As I mentioned earlier with my little blurb about Superman giving Jimmy Olsen the signal watch, they didn’t sign a deal, they didn’t make an arrangement, it was a gift from a powerful force for good to a normal person to better ensure the safety of that person against the indomitable forces of evil.
            To me, Goodness doesn’t haggle.
            Goodness does its best to trust that others are good and GIVES them aid.
Good begets good.
When I think of the act of being a good person in real life (even in conjunction with supernatural beings like a religion) you are not supposed to be good for a reward.  You are not supposed to be doing good deeds and minding your manners because you expect other people to give you stuff in return.  Maybe the phrase “Nice Guy” will give you an indication of what I am talking about.
TO ME, a person who would make a deal with an angel to be a good person in exchange for magical powers would be looked at by the angel as unworthy of such power.  The angel wouldn’t grant power to that guy, the one bargaining.  The angel would go look for someone who is doing right for its own sake and give that person power.
Good is Good because it is for its own sake.



Here is the retort I think I am hearing thru the internet, “What about Paladins?  They have a code they have to follow in order to keep their powers, isn’t that a deal?”
Let’s look at that then.  A Paladin’s code is the hard and fast guidelines that a person with great power must follow to make sure they keep a hold on the internal goodness that got them the power.
A paladin keeps a code because they know that the power they have been granted/amassed would tempt a person to do wrong.  It would tempt them to push at the boundaries to see what they could get away with… You know, like all the dickheads of the world who play Paladins, just so they can get into an argument with the DM that starts with the words, “Well, ACTUALLY, it wouldn’t be evil because…” and then proceed to rules lawyer a baseline code of ethics.
I am sure the Powers that Be, would have no issue with giving someone who is trying to skate the user agreement over the magical powers.  You know, because Gods have never smote anyone who seeks to use their boons toward malicious ends.
 
“Or!  I could just do and take whatever the fuck I can justify.” -Bad Guy
Paladins are good and thus receive power, they hold to a code (not only in word, but in spirit) so that they do not become corrupted by having so much power.  They hold themselves to a standard to avoid losing the thing that got them their success.


Well if you’re so smart, why don’t you fix it?


            I will continue talking about this topic in Part 2 of this (I did not intend this to take so long) as much like the Undead Patrons I put together I wanted to make a list of potential things from pop culture and adapt them to fit with the Feel of Dungeons and Dragons.
            This might end up being 3 entries.  We’ll see.

            (Writing this in the future, it ended up at three.)


            If you want to read more of my stuff talking about Dungeons and Dragons, click here.
            If you would like to see more of my Political side, click here.
            If you want to read a short story I cobbled together, click here and then here.
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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

New Word, "Pompodore"

            (I wrote this in my Facebook “Notes” section in 2010, back when I was using that as a blog.  I present it here, edited for better effect, because I want to reference it down the line in another blog.)

I invented another new word.
Pompodore: noun, someone who takes an exceptional amount of pride in a position of authority, so much pride that it becomes their defining feature and one that detracts from their skill in the position.
This is a combination of the two words Commodore, a high-ranking position having to do with commanding a large number of ships and Pompous, which means arrogant to a fault.  Essentially, someone who has not yet realized that they have become the latest photographical example of the “Peter Principle" at work.

Not a Commodore, but arguably the worst military commander of the US Civil War.
I suppose I should provide examples, but the truth is that outside of a workforce where in a manager or manager's toady who lords their position over others is present there are very few people who hold real power and take obnoxious levels of pride in that power.
However, while there are no examples of people with real power who are full of themselves, there are a huge host of people who have social and media related status that they have become infatuated with, Sean Hannity, Sean Penn, Bill Maher, Bernard Goldberg (a person I once respected, who went off the deep end), and Lou Dobbs.
So yeah, start using Pompodore in your own speech to describe a boss, a political official, or any other full of themselves jackass with power.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Character Ideas" episode 2

Ideas for Future Characters
            A while back I wrote up some short biographies for characters I thought about using in a 5th edition game of Dungeons and Dragons.  While I ended up using only one of them and have since moved on to running a game rather than playing in one.  However, and let’s be honest here, the most fun there is in Dungeons and Dragons is making a character.
            Since I like doing it, I figured I would make a chart in Excel and start checking off class/background combinations, by the end of this writing exercise I will have 156 character ideas.  I have decided not to include races, sub races, sub classes, or the backgrounds from supplemental materials.  Just the Players Handbook… FOR NOW.


            For fun, I will also give a numerical rating for whether I think something is “Interesting”.  There are characters that are so common as to be arch typical or even cliché, but maybe there is a reason they are so common, because they are just that intriguing.  Feel free to disagree or offer your own suggestions and objections in the comments.
            If you would like to share some of your own unused character ideas, do so in the comments, maybe use this format (maybe get it to catch on, I like its simplicity) and try and keep to a shorter length, you don’t want people to “tldr” your stuff.
            One more thing worth mentioning, I will make an effort to include a variety of different fantasy races in my character creation.  I have written before that I could run an entire fantasy world with just humans and see most fantasy races as too bland to be seen as meaningfully different from humanity (elves, to me, are too often played as just tall humans with pointy ears).  I also know that this is not an opinion shared by most and I want to try and expand my own horizons.


What Have I Got?
            Only one entry.  Originally, I was planning to take these things 4 at a time, but I got a job and would like to actually PLAY this game from time to time.  This week didn’t even get a theme because a theme tends to suggest a full roster of characters with something in common.

 
It is a little frustrating how much of this is on Pinterest.
It is hard to credit the creators, even though I am citing my source.


Name: Azmiyah Samie
Class: Warlock (Fey)
Race: Dragonborn (Metallic-Brass)
Background: Folk Hero
History: On the edge of the world, before the great waste know by the other races as, “The Land of Wind and Ghosts” the sheen of my Clan’s scales can be seen in heat of the beating sun.  The nearby halfling communities called us the “Horned Clan” after the lizards that would wander thru the scrubland we inhabited.  We were a good people.  Desperation does terrible things to a soul.
            Our resources ran out.  The druid leadership of our community could no longer make the crops grow or the game flourish.  The glass we had worked for trade became brittle to the touch.  Poverty and Hunger hung over us like the shade of cliffs promising a rock slide.  Then it came.
            I know it wasn’t a true Dragon.  Its form twisted as a mirage and it spoke a language none of use knew and we all understood.  Was it a Wind or Ghost from the desert?  Was it Madness called by our dying?  All I recall is it asking for favors in exchange for a crystal bottle filled with amber liquid that would sate all hunger.
            It would fill us up with itself.
            We were so hungry.

Goals: My Clan is known as the Desert Wind now.  Pushing out in every direction we swallowed territory, enslaved the other races, and with our new powers have begun work on sowing the “Seeds of Sands”.  All over the world there are key spots filled with verdant life that must be twisted to the whim of the Mirage that Sated our Hunger.
            I broke free.  Somehow, after walking thru a mental desert chasing awareness of myself, I found me.  I broke from the compulsion to swallow the world in sand.  I still have the power of the Mirage, but I also have my mind.  Thankfully my opposition to my people’s crusade has made me into a legend.  People see me as a source of hope.
            The key locations of verdant life must be protected.  My mental state must be protected from the Mirage.  My people must be freed from this compulsion.  The world cannot be plunged into the Age of Sand.

Rating: 4/5
            I think the big strength of this one is the Fey lord that the pact was made with.  The idea of a desert Fey Lord that takes the form of a mirage is pretty cool to me.  I also like the idea that this entire clan is now effectively warlocks under the sway of a Fey Lord that is seeking to spread its wasteland influence by destroying magical locations that is a good plot for the background of a campaign.
            The character itself is not a folk hero to their own people, but a hero to others because they managed to break free of their people’s influence.  The idea of having the metallic dragons be the ones drawn into this adds another layer as the metallic are traditionally the good guys.


Outro

            What do you all think?  Do you have a request for a class/background combo?  Did you play one of the combos I have featured and want to share your spin on it?  Post in the comments.



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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.