We’re wrapping up our D&D alignments today with your most evil character as we look at Chaotic Evil. Now, I say most evil, but I don’t think that it has to be, I think that when people want to play that really evil character, though, […]
I figured I’d go next for playing Dungeons and Dragons and talk about playing the different races. Previously I’ve done series on classes and backgrounds, but there’s another piece to your character creation, and that is picking your race.
For this series, I’m going to be focusing on races from the PHB (Players Handbook) and not some of the extra places that might have more races like Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, or Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Those are extra things that are cool to pick up and add into your game, but you don’t need them, having the PHB is needed.
Elves will be the first race that we talk about, for no other reason than they popped into my head, and as I was reading Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, t here was a nice section on them that I remember fairly well.
Dungeons and Dragons, like most fantasy, pulls from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings when it gets its idea for elves. The elves are long lived, generally lean towards being stand offish and aloof, because they see the world in a different way than your average human would.
An elven adventurer is probably a couple hundred to five hundred years old and has had more of a chance to hone their craft. For elves, the reason that they do go adventuring, often, is because they want to leave their mark on the world. They have hundreds of years to do that, but that also means that their mark on the world is going to be more permanent. It also means that something that might be bad for a human, because it affects their short life, might not seem as pressing for a elf. If, for example, a goblin horde was threatening an area, it might be easier for an elf to just leave that area for a little bit and let the natural infighting and breakdown of goblin society happen through a couple of generations before returning, because the elves live so long, they can simply outlast the issue. Needless to say, that view might annoy your other party members.
That long view and ability to see the larger picture are useful in dealing with some situations, but it also is going to cause issues in other situations. You aren’t going to be able to relate as well to your shorter lived companions, and you might not become attached as easily. This is another reason that elves tend to be aloof. So think about that as you play as well, as you want to have a balance and not just be the outsider who is observing everything. It might also mean that you are more apt to overlook a more pressing issue as you’re paying attention to the expected longer term outcome.
Another thing to consider, based off of the age of your elven adventurer, is how they are treated in both elven and non-elven society. In a human society, an elves knowledge when they are one hundred is going to be considered impressive. In elven society, an elf who goes adventuring at one hundred is going to be considered an impetuous youth. So even though human society might treat them differently, an elf who is one hundred is still probably going to show respect and defer to the human elders.
Let’s talk a bit about the other thing that is often taken from Lord of the Rings, and that is the elf and dwarf rivalry and mistrust. This is something that still shows up fairly often in games, and is something that you want to handle fairly carefully. What you’re trying to avoid is the racist elf and dwarf interactions where they hate each other and just pick at each other. In Lord of the Rings, Legolas and Gimli don’t trust each other at the start, and it comes out in rivalry in battle, because they have a central focus they can both get behind. In your game, you can certainly play to that, and you can certainly have the characters poke fun at each other as well. But try to avoid open hostility or combat with another PC or even with dwarves in general, as that’s not something you really want to bog down a game with.
Finally, let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of an elf. Obviously, we’ve talked about their age, but there are a few other components. First, elves start out by getting dex bump. That means your elves are going to always make good rogues, monks, and rangers who focus on the light or dexterity based weapons. They also have darkvision (most races do), but they have a couple other big things. Fey Ancestry means that they can’t be magically put to sleep and they are harder to charm, aka they have advantage to being charmed. They also don’t sleep, elves trance. In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, they really go into what trance means for an elf, and why that happens, but what it means for mechanics in the game, it means that they only need four hours of rest to refresh each night, and are not as oblivious to their surroundings as someone who is asleep would be. They can’t be the lookout (or they’d be a bad one) while trancing, but it makes setting watch easier.
So let’s come up with some elven character concepts and backstories.
As a member of the royal household you thought that your position and life was going to be set and simple. You lived for a couple hundred years in the lap of luxury before your younger sibling decided that they wanted your spot. When your parents died, you prepared to take on added leadership and responsibility that was expected for you, however, you had missed that your sibling had been planting lies and distrust around you in the community. They decided that your sibling was more fit to rule and you were exiled from the tribe. After thirty years of living off of the land and plotting your revenge, you feel like you might have an idea, you just need a few things first.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
You were sent away by your parents to the wizarding school in a neighboring nobles lands. It was a great school, and since you’ve always had aptitude for learning, you dove into your studying. After fifteen years, you started teaching introductory classes, but you mainly did that so you could stay around and continue your own studies and have access to the library. Your teacher, who has other responsibilities than just teaching you, eventually got fed up with you after another ten years and told you that you were going to be kicked out of the tower and your library card suspended until you got some practical experience in your life and maybe had an adventure or two. You took the opportunity to visit another wizarding school, but your teacher was one step ahead of you, and they knew to send you on your way. Now you’re looking for an adventuring party to give you some simple experiences, just enough so you can get back into the school and to the library to learn some more.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Your family was a lesser known one in your elven community. People didn’t look down on you, but it had been generations since anyone in your family had done something that people really appreciated and remembered. Otherwise you were just kind of there. Your parents weren’t content with that, however, and they sought more for you. Eventually reaching out to an Archfey to see if they could help your family. Knowing fey creatures, that wasn’t that great an idea, but it did help their standing to have that connection. For you, when you were born, there was already a claim on you, and your parents didn’t treat your like your sibling, but you were kept separate. When you were seventy-five, you were sent off to work for the archfey as they had agreed upon before you were born. The work there was interesting, and they sent you out adventuring. In your mind, though, you feel slighted, you feel like you haven’t head the real life you were supposed to have, and you are looking for a way, and trying to hide the fact you’re looking, to get out of the deal that your parents made.
Alignment: Chaotic Good/Chaotic Neutral
Elves can really work for any class and background combination as they live such long lives they can study a lot of things and try a lot of different professions. I tried to come up with things that seemed particularly elf like for each of the backstories, but I think that, because of their long life, a lot of these stories also work for other races.
Have you played an elf before, do you lean into their age or their aloofness when you play them?
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You are part of a Mortal Kombat tournament of the ages. The King who runs it has been the champion for a long time and now you’re going to try to take the throne from him, if you can defeat him in the tournament.
Dice Throne is a 2 to 6 player game where you take on the rolls of different characters or classes, in a tournament style battle ranging from one vs one to three vs three. Each class has their own life tracker, combat point tracker, deck of cards, and player boards that let you know what your special powers are. Each player starts with a hand of four cards and two combat points (CP). The first player can play cards and then rolls dice for combat. You are trying to match certain number of symbol combinations to unleash an attack. Then the other player declares their defense and tries to stop the damage. You can augment your roll by spending CP and playing cards or you can improve your attacks by spending CP and upgrading what a small straight or some other attack might do for you.
Overall, it’s an an extremely complex game, and the characters aren’t all that hard to play. What makes this game really work is the characters, because each of them plays differently. I haven’t played two of them yet, the Paladin and the Barbarian, but in a match-up between the Shadow Thief and Monk was close, and the match-up between the Pyromancer and Moon Elf was close. So the characters feel really well balanced against each other, and it comes down to rolling dice a lot of the time. What works well is that the cards you can play while rolling the dice are generally pretty cheap CP wise so you can mitigate a really bad roll fairly often.
The characters also do really feel different. The Monk uses Chi to empower attacks or to prevent damage. The Shadow Thief can go into hiding to avoid damage, steals a lot of CP, and then can leap out of the shadows with a sneak attack. The Pyromancer is going to burn you, and the Moon Elf tries to entangle you and makes your attacks weaker. Their attacks make sense for what they do, and the tokens and conditions they can place on themselves or other characters makes sense as well. In their decks of cards there are some specific to them, but I haven’t gone through to see if the balance of utility cards is the same throughout the characters or if those general cards are the same for everyone.
It’s nice also because the game plays very fast with two players, and it keeps there from being too much down time for players. Even when the other person is attacking, you are figuring out with your defense what you are going to try and roll. So you are still engaged in the other players turns. And with fifty health, you feel as a player that your health is draining away a whole lot faster than you’d want it to. When you hit you’re generally doing five damage or more, and sometimes, if you hit your ultimate ability, you can be doing a whole lot more than that.
That’s another cool thing in the game, the ultimate ability is basically an attack that can’t be stopped, so really going into the Mortal Kombat style of game. However, you need to roll all sixes, so you end up being tempted to go for it, but generally not able to pull it off. If you can pull it off, it might just give you a come from behind victory. And each characters ultimate ability really uses the tokens and conditions that the character can inflict so even if you don’t finish off your opponent, it can set you up for future turns, or stop them for a turn.
This is a very fun and simple game. I highly recommend it for both gamers and non-gamers alike, because it’s a quick one to set-up and play. The fact it plays fast means that it’s also a good filler game. If every character felt the same, that would be an issue, but they really do feel different, and there’s been a season two which has even more characters – eight instead of six – which gives you a ton more combinations to play.
Overall Grade: A-
Gamer Grade: B-
Casual Grade: A+
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It’s been a bit, but I wanted to come back and finish off the players handbook backgrounds.The first one that we come back to is the Guild Artisan.
The Guild Artisan is an adventurer that has had a profession. They are or have been part of the cartographers guild, the blacksmith guild, or any other skilled trade that they might choose. This doesn’t include things like being a wilderness guild as the artisan guilds all focus on some sort of end product. Even if you are just doing calligraphy work, the people who are commissioning the work.
This background is also one of the few backgrounds that encourages you to have down time. Technically, to stay in good standing with the guild, you need to be paying in your guild dues, which aren’t cheap, and while you might make that back in your adventuring, you’re probably better off actually using your guild skill in some down time to use your trade and make more money that way. Because you are paying your dues, you end up getting the benefit of having connections in a lot of spots and a spot to stay with your guild. This is pretty standard for every class, they always have a spot to rest your head if you are willing to look for it, but with the Guild Artisan there is a chance that it can be taken away from you.
So how could you make interesting characters with this?
In your small coastal town you had a nice little shop. You wrote up the papers for the various shipping merchants that came through and kept track of the payments and which ships had come in. Life was peaceful until a new crew came into town. You got suspicious when their manifests for their shipments didn’t seem to match-up with what you would see in the warehouses. You decided that it was in your best interest to keep an eye on what they were doing and you started snooping around, however, they caught you looking at something you shouldn’t be. They gave you an option, act like nothing happened and help them create forged documents or swim with the fishes. You didn’t want to help them, but that was better than being killed, so you decided to help them. They brought you aboard their ship and you spent the next six years of your life sailing with them and creating documents for them as well and creating their actual business documents. Once they started to trust you, you were able to pick up some skills with the sword and when they had drunk too much at port one time, you took the Captain hostage and brought him to the guards. That got you your freedom, but now you have a black mark on your name. If you can crack a legendary code that hangs in the head quarters of your guild, you might be able to get back in their good graces and make a real living again. Fortunately you have a clue.
Class: Rogue – Swashbuckler
Alignment: Neutral Good
Ting, ting, ting, that was your life for a long time. You were known as one of the best armor makers in your clan, and in the city of Shinholm. You had grown to be quite well known and you had a ton of money, a nice house, and a happy life. Things were going well for you. Then one day the guards knocked down your door and dragged you out into the street. A grieving widow stood in the street and was screaming how you had killed her husband and it was your fault because of your shoddy armor that he had died.There was a trial, but the man had been a popular up and coming noble and while you could tell that the armor he had died in was a forgery of your own, you quickly realized that there were other things going on behind the scenes and that fact didn’t matter. You resigned yourself to your fate, and realized that the gods were looking down on you still when you weren’t hanged like you had suspected but instead were sent to fight on the front lines. There you made a name for yourself when you improved your shoddy armor and you got noticed by an Elven lord. However, you wanted to get back into the good graces of your own lands, you have a shot if you can catch the person who forged your armor as you’ve started to see forgeries floating around in the elven lords lands now. You just need help since you can be the muscle, but the finer details should be left to someone else.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Your leather work was known throughout the lands, the quality of the work that you did was always some of the best. But you had a secret, you didn’t love the work that you did, you just were good at it. Instead of making things with the leather and exotic hides that were brought in, you preferred to get those hides yourself. One day a woman came in looking to sell you some hides and with a story of a mythical beast whose hide would make the greatest leather armor ever. You became obsessed with this and looked up everything you could about it. Now you have a clue as to where this beast might be, but you know you need to hone your hunting skills before you’ll be able to take it on.
Filthy, stinking, rich, that is your goal in life, to become filthy stinking rich. You’ve done a pretty good job of getting some wealth, but it isn’t enough. You want more, and while your beer and wines are getting better, you needed to learn how to make even better wine and beer. There was a monastery up on the Higlanch Mountain range that was known for the greatest beers in the world, and that was your goal, to study under them, take what you learned, and then get filthy stinking rich. However, it wouldn’t be that easy, the monks only take in the best, and they can tell that you’re there for the money. They give you a way to prove yourself, and they expect you to train in their ways while you do. Now you’re using the rest of your money to get others to help you complete these quests from the monk, so that you can focus on your training and not end up dead, before you get, you know, filthy stinking rich.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
I debated for half a second if this character was evil, but I don’t think they are. They are certainly not good, but they are mainly focused on their single goal. But they aren’t trying to steal the recipe of the beer from the monks, they are just trying to find an easier way for themselves to get the recipe by having other people do the work for them. I feel like they would be the proud leader type of the group while not actually being able to lead.
Have you played a Guild Artisan before? What sort of trade did you have in your background, and did it come up in the game?
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