So, I’m going to do what I did with Frosthaven when that was announced and talked about on videos, I’m doing a video breakdown. This Fantasy Flight In-Flight report is normally a big deal, kind of a kick-off for Gencon to find out what Fantasy …
We were back at it again last night with the third session of Tower of the Gods. Previously, our “heroes” Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain had gone through the test of the Tower with Steve as their fourth, unfortunately, Steve didn’t make it. Upon exiting the …
Two weeks ago, I ran my first session in the Tower of the God’s campaign. We got back to it again this past Thursday where our main character, Barrai, Thrain, and Bokken have completed the trial of the tower. For more information on that part of the story, you can find it in the original post, Friday Night D&D – Tower of the Gods (Part 1). Last night, they needed to do some shopping and figure out where they wanted to go.. to school, for their new skills.
Quick reminder of our characters:
Thrain the Hill Dwarf who became a Hexblade Warlock
Bokken the War Forged who was granted the ability to become a great Fighter (Samurai)
Barrai the Tiefling who now gets to use their musical and story telling skills as a Bard (sub-class to be determined)
At this point in time, they are all level 1.
Upon leaving the tower they were given what basically was an exit interview to gather what their powers they had been granted. A runner took all of their skills around to the various schools, but the characters (players) were given a free choice of what school they wanted to pick as a group.
There were eight different schools:
School of Spying and Espionage
School of War and Combat
School of Charm and Seduction
School of Wisdom
School of Business and Money
School of Order and Government
School of Nature and Raw Emotion
School of Dark Arts and Assassination
They went with the last one, though they did debate for a little while around some other the other ones, The School of War and Combat made sense and they were also interested in Nature and Raw Emotion. At that booth they spoke to Tormin, a recruiter and one of the teachers at the School of Dark Arts and Assassination and had to explain why they wanted to go and what skills they had that would be useful for the Strawhog – Ye Old School of Darkness and Magic. Tormin told them that they’d be in a barracks, bunk house, type set-up with another person who had gone through the trial of the Tower at the same time as them, a Gnome named Dorin.
Then I gave them two weeks of time to do whatever they wanted, Barrai practiced the harpsichord, Bokken picked up work at a warehouse and made a bunch of money moving boxes non-stop for that time. Thrain went to brush on his fighting and sparring at a local combat focused gym.
Showing up at the school, Strawgoh, they met Dorin. He was a pompous little gnome who clearly had a chip on his shoulder and was trying to be important. Barrai made friends with him by bribing him with a gold piece, but Bokken really didn’t acknowledge him, and Thrain constantly referred to him as a halfling, as a goof, though the best part was when the player, not the character, forgot that it wasn’t a halfling. They dropped their stuff off in the barracks and then joined the other nine students for their introduction to the school.
Head Mistress Assandial told them about the school, about how hard it was going to be, about how they still might die, even in the school and if anyone wanted to leave now they could. But everyone stuck it out. She then told them what became the focus of the rest of the session, there were two spies in their midst, two of the people had been recruited prior to the test of the Tower and already had some training. Those two would get extra credit if they could stay hidden for the year. But if someone correctly figured out who they were, they could get those extra credit points. But wrong guesses, there was a consequence for that.
Bokken immediately began investigating and looked for the people who stood out the most, the richest, the prettiest, whatever caught his eye. He spotted a halfling who looked rich and spoke to Narius. While Narius was a bit of a pompous jerk, Bokken didn’t get the feeling that Narius was likely a spy at that time and decided to offer to work for him if he had a job. Which, Narius said he would consider it once they graduate and he started his own assassin’s guild.
They talked to a bunch of other of their classmates, Domon a Tiefling Warlock who wasn’t that smart. Thrain interjected himself into a conversation between Cordin a Dragonborn Wizard and Sadran the Aasimar Wizard who Bokken had noticed earlier. Sadran was nice enough, but Cordin treated Thrain fairly rudely. They talked to Addruss a Human Fighter who had gone through the Trial of the Tower with Castilla a Wood Elf Rogue.
Barrai used his ability to cast the message spell to get information from Domon that he’d gone through the tower trial with the Aasimar, Sadran, and an Elf whom the players haven’t talked to yet.
At one point, Dorin, appointing himself, or trying to appoint himself, leader of the barracks decided to confront the party and see if they’d just tell them that they were spies. However, the party turned it on him pointing out that he was the only to survive the group of four, which seemed fairly suspicious to them.
Finally, the party talked to Edzial, a Dwarf whom they don’t know what class she has yet. However, she says that she went through the trial with Domon, Sadran, and the elf that they didn’t talk to. And the characters call her out on that. She gives a reason that they is investigating to see how much they know, but the players note that she, like Dorin, is the only one who didn’t have party survive the trial of the tower.
The players, since they decided that they could trust Castilla, spoke with her about their suspicions as to who might be the spies, but they really didn’t have all that much proof and they didn’t want a wrong accusation on their record. Barrai, since he is also a Tiefling and Domon had made a big deal out of that earlier, leveraged that friendship to convince Domon, not the brightest character, that he should go and accuse Dorin for them.
And that’s where I ended the session with Domon off to do that.
The DM Notes portion, if you don’t want to see behind the screen don’t read further.
There were only a handful of rolls in this session, once they started talking to people, they rolled for several insight checks but that was about it. I’ve run sessions like this before with little rolling but it wasn’t planned.
So about the planning itself, I had all 8 schools determined and I had the cast of characters, teachers and students whom they’d meet at whatever school they went to. Would they have always been paired with Dorin, no, Barrai asked early who they were going to be paired with, and I had him roll a D10 to determine which out of 11 students they’d be paired with, yes the math doesn’t work.
Also, for preparing for something like this, don’t come up with a new batch of teachers and students for each school, my four teachers (two of them met so far), and nine students were going to have the same names no matter what. Now, the fact that Dorin is a Gnome Rogue and Castilla is a Wood Elf Rogue, those things could have changed.
I was also potentially prepared for combat in this scenario. Only because they went to the school of Dark Arts and Assassination did they end up being a test and students. It was going to be a school who was going to send in some spies that the players would have had to have fought and figured out what they were after instead. But it worked well this way for the school.
Strawgoh is Hogwarts backwards and because of that Bokken now has a commanding officer, mentor named Rettop Yrrah as well, Harry Potter backwards.
This session went really well and I had a lot of fun with it, even though it wasn’t dice chucking combat or an epic set piece of massive story, it was a bunch of different smaller social interactions, some funny, some normal that the players had. Even with the funny ones probably being the most entertaining, the players have already gravitated and made Castilla someone who is going to be important later because they trust her, you never know who they will pick.
Feel free to steal ideas from this for your own game and let me know, what would you have picked for a school in the players shoes? Do you think they are right and Dorin is a spy (I should say, spies were set before they got Dorin as a bunk mate)?
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Here’s a hot take, I don’t like Chaotic Neutral, and I don’t think most people who play a Chaotic Neutral actually play a chaotic neutral character.
Now, time to explain myself, and explain how you can play it better.
My issue with Chaotic Neutral is that most people who play it really want to be a murder hobo and not get into any trouble for it. So if they say they aren’t evil, that means that people are going to be nicer to them when they do Chaotic Evil things. It also means that the Paladin is less likely to smite them or pay as much attention to them doing bad things, because they are neutral technically.
So, really, most people who play chaotic neutral are actually playing chaotic evil, they just don’t want to be an evil character. Now, that being said, it also happens on the flip side as well. I would say that rogues or warlocks most commonly do it the other way. A rogue might be a thief, but everything that they do is good, but because they had a criminal background, they think they need to be Chaotic Neutral, and a similar thing with warlock. But really they are playing a Chaotic Good character. But it is much more playing Chaotic Evil, but pretending that you are Neutral instead of evil that causes issues in a game.
How do you play Chaotic Neutral?
This is where it gets tricky, as I feel like with chaotic, having either good or evil is very defining ,and chaotic neutral can just be chaos for chaos sake, but often times that leans into chaotic evil. I’m trying to come up with a good example of a chaotic neutral character, I would say that Loki, at his best, when he’s not trying to kill Thor, is probably Chaotic Neutral. But he walks that line of being Evil at times as well. Though, I’d argue when he is Evil he’s either Neutral Evil or Lawful Evil, not Chaotic Evil. After a quick google search, I came up with a couple more examples.
The first is Deadpool, which I think makes sense to me. He’s chaotic in that he’s fourth wall breaking, but also that his methods are extreme and sometimes random in dealing with the bad guys. He doesn’t have a plan, and he’s willing to terminate with extreme prejudice, versus bring anyone in, not because it’s letter of the law, but it’s because that’s what he does. When Venom is good, he does a similar thing. The other is Homer Simpson. Now, this is much more benign than Deadpool, but you never really know what Homer is going to do. He might do the right thing, he might do the wrong thing, but he’s never really trying to do the wrong thing, he just doesn’t think things through.
So, I think there’s a few things we can take away for playing all a Chaotic Neutral character from these character examples. First, these characters are not murder hobos. While Deadpool kills, he kills bad guys, and people that he knows are bad guys, not people he might just guess are bad guys. But even with bad guys, they don’t have to kill them, and they might not kill one of them for an odd reason. Thus, they also tend to be hard to predict. They would be a nightmare for a lawful evil villain or a lawful good paladin, because they can’t predict what they are going to do.
What classes then make a good chaotic neutral character. I have mentioned Warlock and Rogue, both of those make a lot of sense, and same with Sorcerer. But I think one that I haven’t mentioned yet is bard. Bards are entertainers based off of their class, and have a built in desire for being entertained, so while they don’t do the predictable thing, they do the thing that will entertain themselves and others the most. I think that Paladin and Cleric are going to be the hardest to go with in a Chaotic alignment, especially Paladin, but there are Chaotic deities out there that they can follow if you are using the D&D deities for Forgotten Realms.
A Chaotic Neutral character is also likely to be an adventurer because they are bored with what they’ve been doing. I actually like the Noble background for this reason. Tate was a Chaotic Neutral Noble Bard in the Dungeons and Flagons game, and it worked well, because he hadn’t received training to live in a hard world, he just had learned fluffier skills as a noble, so reading, song, etc. I think that a reformed Criminal would also make sense or a Charlatan. But as a player, you are going to have to find a reason that they would keep adventuring and not just bail when things get too hard or dangerous.
So, now I’ve given reasons how you can play it well. I still stand by what I’ve said, I do think that playing a Chaotic Neutral character is too often just a reason to play a Chaotic Evil character, but not have the Paladin smite you to death. There are ways that you can play it well though, so please, for the sake of your DM, try and lean into those aspects.
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We’re onto the last column of alignments, and we’re looking at those chaotic characters. I think, and on the Total Party Thrill podcast they talk about this, chaotic good should be the default position for most adventurers. When you think about it, most adventurers don’t …