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 […]
I debated what direction I wanted to go. Did I want to go across the top and do all of the good ones, or down the side and do all the lawful ones, or be chaotic and just randomly pick the next one to do. Eventually I decided that I’d take the lawful route and go through all the lawful options and then go to the neutral options and then the chaotic options. I think with lawful to chaotic versus good to evil, you have more interesting things to talk about.
Lawful Neutral is pretty straight forward. You don’t have that particular bent towards good or evil. Instead, you are going to take things more at face value and make a judgement on it based off of more the cultural norm. You also don’t feel the need to jump out there on some righteous quest. You’re really getting your desire to adventure more from the lawful side of things, which I’ll get to. Being neutral doesn’t mean that you’re going not have opinions on things. Thinking more about it as a drive or focus, you aren’t going to be driven to do something good, because you are a character who has focused their life on being good, or the opposite for evil.
But I think the lawful aspect is really what is going to drive this character to adventure. They are going to be very tied to following the laws of the land. While a lawful good person might make a judgement on laws of the land that they don’t consider to be just, a lawful neutral might realize that it isn’t just, but it’s the law of the land so they are going to uphold it. For that reason, when something bad comes to the land, like a large raid of bandits, and evil wizard who wants to take over and is breaking the rules of the land, this character is going to get up in arms about that.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if the laws of the land are all unjust and in favor of a tyrant that they going to go along with them. The laws of the land do generally need to be just. The lawful neutral character is going to consider what is for the greater good in this situation. They are going to try and depose a tyrant to set-up a just ruler and someone who will put in rules that they can follow, and they might even see themselves as that person. I think that’s something that might trip up a lawful neutral player. If a law is unjust and only helps the few, they probably won’t uphold it or see it as a fair law. Though, if there’s only a law like that, they’ll see the whole system as the greater good, it’s when that starts to be the focus of the system that the lawful neutral character will attempt to depose or to change the system.
So, what classes work well for a lawful neutral character? A fighter, especially with soldier background would make a lot of sense in that role. They are trained to follow orders and follow the rules in place and they know the consequences if order isn’t followed. A wizard would make a lot of sense as well with their magic coming from study. I do think that almost any of the classes can be lawful neutral, something like warlock or rogue lean away from that, but I think that all of them do make sense. The warlock would see the rules of their patron as being part of the rules of the land that doen’t have to be good or evil in those rules being given for the power. For the rogue, I think of the government sanctioned assassin who is dealing with NPC’s who are too hard to get to in a completely normal legal method, so the rogue has been sanctioned to be a part of the legal system when someone is too well protected to get to otherwise. I always like to find ways to play against type that way. I said for lawful good that Paladin and Cleric were in their sweet spot there, but they can be lawful neutral as well, I think following a deity of justice that helps uphold the laws of the land would make a lot of sense.
As a DM, I think that you can use a lawful neutral characters alignment to ask them questions about how much they will follow the rules of the land. If something seems like it is fair and just and legal, are they going to do this? It isn’t an alignment though that I see getting a ton of play. Mainly because it doesn’t allow you to be a murder hobo because you’d have to deal with yourself as a character who oversteps your bounds. However, this is something that you can make into a role playing point as well if you want, as a DM.
Have you played a lawful neutral character? What traits did you lean into? Have you played against type with your class?
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Final character race in the Player Handbook. There are plenty more in other books like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything or Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. I’ll let you explore those as I haven’t explored all of them yet either. Half Elves fall into the category of […]
And after a week of Avengers: Endgame (no spoilers in this post), we’re finally getting back to some D&D. This time we’re looking at the Character Race of Dragonborn. Dragonborn, are a bit like tieflings or other races where they get some heritage from something […]
Now we’re getting towards the edges of the races you can play in Dungeons and Dragons from the main Players Handbook. There are additional races or race options in other books. I’m going to call out some Tiefling things are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.
Tieflings, for those not familiar, are tainted in their bloodline somehow by demons. Mainly, the lord of the nine hells. In the players handbook you get the rules for creating a character who has some influence of Asmodeus in their bloodline. In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, you get it for the rest of the Lords and Ladies of the nine hells. All Tieflings are generally charismatic as they all get an improvement to that stat, that generally makes them good at being Warlocks which makes a ton of sense. However, Bard and Sorcerer are also Charisma casting races. Most interestingly, the Paladin is also Charisma based, so that could make a really interesting role playing experience. As you’d expect, the main feature for a Tiefling is that they are resistant to fire.
Now, how that infernal influence gets into your bloodline is going to be up to you as a player. You could have had a relative that screwed one of the Lord of Hell, but that isn’t the only way. If your family worshiped one of the Lords of Ladies of Hell for a long time, it’s possible that they just became tainted through that and spawned the PC. I think that either of them provide some interesting role playing opportunities, but the biggest thing that the Tiefling provides for role playing is the fact you look different and that tells people that somehow your family consorted with someone evil.
Tieflings, themselves, don’t have to be evil, but might lean towards that alignment. And even if you don’t, again, people aren’t going to trust you, because you are very different. In the PHB (players handbook), you feel like most likely a Tiefling came from a human line, but there is no reason that your Tiefling couldn’t be based size wise off of some other race. But, back to my main point, the distrust of your character is going to be something that you are going to have to role play out with your DM. Maybe even your party doesn’t fully trust you because you are a Tiefling, and I find this interesting, because as a charismatic humanoid, you are not just naturally magnetic. It’s more of a situation that you can just sit down and win people over if they give you the time and aren’t running screaming when they see your horns and tail.
So what are some backstory ideas for playing a Tiefling?
When you were born, there was a lot of shock in your community, and you were tossed aside and left to die. However, the old Priestess in your town wouldn’t allow that to happen and went and took you from the woods where you had been left. She, in secret for several years, raised you and taught you the ways of the church. When you reached the age of ten, a new priest came to town as the priestess was getting old and frail. He didn’t treat you as well, but he promised the priestess he wouldn’t kick you out or abandon you. When you were old enough, he told you it was time to go on a mission and spread the word of your god to others and help where you could. So you went out and found a group that seemed to be doing good.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Note: I would play some into the tension between the infernal and the divine.
Your parents told you that the village you had been born in burned when you were young, and that’s why you lived all alone with only a few close family friends who had been able to survive. You found out later that might have been the case. As you grew to know more, you found out that your parents and their friends were worshiping a devil. And it turned out, as you overheard, that the village had burned because the village hadn’t wanted your family there when you were born, and your family and their friends had burned it to the ground while everyone was trapped in the temple. That didn’t sit well with you, so when you were a teen, you escaped and started wandering the woods, hunting and gathering as you needed. Then, one day, there was a tug on your heart and you went into a village, in disguise to see the humans as thralls and your family and their friends controlling them. You knew they had to be stopped.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Being a Tiefling is generally looked down upon, but you were bred to be that way. Your kingdom is very pragmatic living in the shadows of a Red Dragon. Tieflings really make good firefighters being able to handle the heat and flames better than any humans. So each generation, a few women are selected to be part of the ritual and give birth to Tiefling children. However, your mother had told you that when she was carrying you a seer had told her that you were going to be important at a time when the world was in flames and that you could bring on the end of the world. You didn’t want to do that, but as compared to other Tieflings, it quickly became obvious that you had more power and that whichever Lord of the Nine Hells had sired you was helping keep you alive. Now you’re running, hoping that will protect you from what the seer foretold.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Note: What I like about this idea is that your character has a different feeling Warlock patron because they were given it as a way to defend themselves and stay alive, not because they made a deal, could offer some interesting role playing options.
So, what about you? Have you played a Tiefling before? How easy are they to play in your opinion? How hard are they to fit into the group?
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I’ve talked with Dwarves and Elves about how they were inspired by Lord of the Rings. But there aren’t any Halflings in Lord of the Rings. There are Hobbits, obviously. So how close are Hobbits to Halflings? Very close, Halflings are the fun loving, food […]
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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