Hack n' Slash
The first in Chimpan-A's pen and paper gaming editorial series...
Character ideas your DM will hate you for
I was over browsing the Wizards of the Coast
site (www.wizards.com) and one of their sections under D&D is "Character
Closeup". I was looking through there to see what kind of characters they came
up with when I happened upon the character Durj, an ettin. An ettin bard. That's
right, an ettin bard. I figured, if the boys at WotC can get away with that
kind of crap, maybe a few of my ideas (and the ideas my players have come up
with) might make it through as well. .
As long as we're on the subject of bards, how about an Illithid bard? He can play the harmonica with his mouth tentacles and play the banjo with his hands! A musical protégé who decided the traveling minstrel life was the one for him (as opposed to a life of mental prowess and brain eating). How's about the Halfling barbarian? Sure he's small, weak, and generally laughable, but when he screams out his blood upsetting yell (he hasn't quite reached blood curdling yet), you best watch out for your shins! Then there's the Dragonkin Spy-Master! He found from an early age that he was able to don funny wigs and assume other personalities easily. As he matured, he had a little trouble disguising the fact that he was nine feet tall with wings and a decidedly reptilian bent. Once he put on the appropriate makeup and concocted the perfect "Swamp Dwarf" story, though, he was set. Now he is a powerful spy for a rival kingdom, and no one suspects that the cheerful and overly large swamp dwarf they've come to trust is a powerful dragon kin. Of course, he lives in a town of morons…but that's beside the point.
Ooh, ooh, I've got one! The Hill Giant pickpocket! From an early age, she realized that she was an adept at sneaking about. She would often sneak about the caves, hiding under furs and snatching eggs from the owlbear cave guards. Then, sadly, a roving band of adventurers killed her parents and she was forced to move to the big city. Joining a mysterious underground thief's guild, she now makes her living as a street urchin and a pickpocket. Her amazing dexterity and ability to distract her mark have brought her far. "Hey look over there… Yoink!" Although reprimanded a few times for stealing the entire person instead of just the purse, she learned quickly to deal with such accidents. Now she just convinces them it was a stray breeze that picked them up, shook them upside down, rustled them about a bit, and then threw them thirty feet down that alley. Just a stray breeze…
All right, so maybe some of those are a little unworkable. I don't mean to be so sarcastic about creative character ideas (okay, I do mean to be sarcastic, but not about creative character ideas). Creative ideas for characters are the lifeblood of any campaign. Myself, I rarely play a plain human, unless they are going to be seriously altered later in life. My personal favorite playable races are dwarves and lizardfolk-though I've had some interesting characters in my day. A minotaur fighter/cleric. He was a member of a noble and shamanistic clan. If you remember your Dragonlance, not all minotaurs are evil. Anyway, he was a nature priest, of low level, just enough to know some orisons, etc. When my players were looking to hire a mage to make them magical items (I was a little stingy with the items in that game, but I gave other powers to compensate), along came Kadl Bootbottom. Kobold Sorcerer with a ferret for a familiar. The ferret knew several tricks, such as fetching vials, how to write, and doing handstands. To this day, the debate rages as to whether the kobold or the ferret was the actual mage. Regardless, they loved him and he provided them with a few magical items before the end of the game.
The ability for a member of any race to take any class he chooses has opened a lot of doors and was a brilliant move from the developers. No longer are we subjected to the oft-ignored level limits for demi-humans, etc. However, just because you can do something does not mean you should do something. If your DM is running a "Ridiculous" campaign, then you go ahead and break out that illithid bard. Otherwise, There are so many cooler ideas. For the adventurers in the Forgotten Realms, why not a Flame Genasi Drunken Master? A flame genasi entered into a monastic order, who's fiery personality got him into a lot of fights. Found by the local Drunken Master contingent, he went on to become a drinking fiend! Sorcerer actually is the favored class of kobolds and most people underestimate them to boot. Since they have no level penalties, but do get charisma bonuses, they can make mighty powerful sorcerers. Even relatively normal characters can be made cool with the right background. What about playing a paladin whom believes himself to be a reincarnated God? He travels about trying to convert followers to himself, smiting his enemies with semi divine wrath. As he gains in levels, he believes he's gaining power. Think about a sorcerer who grew up in a wizard's library. He thinks he learns his spells from the books around him, but in actuality it comes from a mysterious power within him. Take classes, and make variants on their normal roles. Try a bard who writes, rather than sings. Maybe he acts to cast his spells. It's all performance, after all. The Urban Ranger, master of the sub-city, is a great example of this kind of thinking.
In the end, remember that creativity is what will make your campaign and your game enjoyable. Half the fun of gaming is to see what you can do with that characters background and personality, and while you may not want other players busting up every time they think of your character, a rich and original background can certainly go a long ways to making the game memorable.
*A note to those who haven't picked up the class handbooks
Spy Master is from Song and Silence
Drunken Master is from Sword and Fist
The Urban Ranger variant is from Masters of the Wild.