In the D&D Adventurers League, I’ve been playing a dwarven cleric at my local game store. I have Bedek Hammerflame, a war cleric serving Moradin, as sort of an angry smiter of evil, bashing those into the ground with a war hammer when he must and purifying them with his god’s Sacred Flame when he can. He’s fun in that peculiarly dwarven fashion. I mean, he doesn’t love yelling in a terrible Scottish accent, pointing a hammer at someone, and setting them on fire?
What if I find another campaign to join, though? while the AL rules let me bring Bedek, it just doesn’t feel right to me from an in-character roleplay perspective. That would also give me the chance to play around with other classes and races. So the rest of this article just demonstrates my process and ends up with a character I’ll hopefully get to play in Expeditions or something.
I’ve wanted to play a “pure” caster for a bit, too (where my cleric can do a fair bit of damage with his hammer). I haven’t had the opportunity to roleplay a “dark” or “evil” character in years. For this particular case, then, I chose the Warlock because, well, Cthulhu. The Half-Elf race provides a +2 bonus to Charisma for min-maxing and a very different in-character perspective than my usual halflings and dwarves. Tieflings would also make a great choice here but that requires more research than I want to do right now.
I like to flesh out the character before ability scores, personally, because I need the full character concept in mind before moving onto the crunch. I already know I want “The Great Old One” choice for my Otherworldly Patron. Some time with a name generator yields one that I like: Omonac (from the Lovecraftian generator in this case). Bonus, it does not appear to have an actual meaning that Google knows about.
The choice for this character’s background has challenged me a little more because I can think of two interesting concepts. In one, the character has a Criminal (Blackmailer) background. I imagine that, at some point, they discovered a bit of telepathic ability which led to a mercifully brief glimpse of the terrifying reality of the cosmos. Drawing on this darkness and their own latent talent, they manipulates people slightly for their benefit or that of their faction. This would fit the Zhentarim quite nicely, actually, and give me a chance to play an anti-hero as opposed to my usual heroic characters (with the exception of one smuggler I played in SWG for a long time). Delicious villainy abounds.
Another option occurs to me, however, from Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms. (Seriously, couldn’t Wizards of the Coast have chosen a name that was less of a mouthful?) On pages 19 and 20:
Maps in the Realms are expensive works, being rare, easily damaged or destroyed, and more often inaccurate than not. LArge, detailed, good maps are usually owned by rulers, from mayors of cities who have sewer and street maps, up to kings who own large and varied collections of old and fanciful maps from everywhere. A fair number of maps are also owned by temples, guildmasters, and the families of mapmakers, explorers, and adventurers…
It follows that books of maps are very rare and precious things, sometimes part of the most secret treasure of a guild or a temple, perhaps part of a royal collection and kept in a closely guarded inner vault.
The Player’s Handbook talks a little about how a pact with a non-fiend patron might happen on page 105:
Warlocks are driven by an insatiable need for knowledge and power, which compels them into their pacts and shapes their lives. This thirst drives warlocks into their pacts and shapes their later careers as well.
Stories of warlocks binding themselves to fiends are widely known. But many warlocks serve patrons that are not fiendish… sometimes, while poring over tomes of forbidden lore, a brilliant but crazed student’s mind is opened to realities beyond the material world and to the alien beings that dwell in the outer void.
Once a pact is made, a warlock’s thirst for knowledge and power can’t be slaked with mere study and research. No one makes a pact with such a mighty patron if he or she doesn’t intend to use the power thus gained. Rather, the vast majority of warlocks spend their days in active pursuit of their goals, which typically means some kind of adventuring.
So a cartographer (with the Guild Artisan background) could easily run across some bit of eldritch lore in their research or explorations that led to a similar realization about the universe. From there, they’d want to learn more, and that might require going out into the field to document their geographic and cartographic research more extensively.
I will choose the cartographer and file away the blackmailer concept for an NPC since I run a couple of campaigns myself. Because I want to see what happens if some misogynist mouth-breather flips out (an unlikely but hilarious possibility), I will play Omonac as a female. As a half-elf, she would lean Chaotic anyway and thus I choose the Chaotic Neutral alignment.
The Guild Artisan background in the PHB gives Insight and Persuasion proficiencies, proficiency and equipment in one type of artisan’s tools (Cartographer for consistency here), an extra language, and 15gp. She belongs to a cartographer’s guild for which I can make up a name later in case it ever matters.
Personality Trait: I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right. I can’t help it – I’m a perfectionist. (Just a handle for me when interacting and making decisions.)
Ideal: Aspiration. I work hard to be the best there is at my craft. (Because women can kick ass too.)
Bond: I will get revenge on the evil forces that destroyed my place of business and ruined my livelihood. (I don’t know what this will mean yet but it feels like a good hook.)
Flaw: I’m horribly jealous of anyone who can outshine my handiwork. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by rivals. (This will also apply should she ever run into anyone else with a similar Patron.)
Back to the crunch, I’ll take the default ability scores and assign them from highest to lowest as Charisma, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, and Strength. She has a racial bonus to Charisma and I choose Intelligence and Wisdom for her other two abilities to increase.
She has proficiency in Insight & Persuasion from her Guild Artisan background, in Arcana & History from her Warlock class, and Perception & Investigation from her racial Skill Versatility feature. She speaks Common, Elvish, Dwarvish, and Undercommon. Apparently “Deep Speech” and “Undercommon” no longer mean the same thing. While I’d like Deep Speech rather than Dwarvish, I feel like I’d have a tougher time justifying that. (Right now, I cannot find any evidence for the connection between Cthulhu and Mind Flayers that I want to exist.) But she’s spent some time mapping the Underdark and that will do.
Before I decide on her Pact Magic, I should note that she is 2nd level due to DM rewards from running Adventurers League games. So she gets two cantrips and three 1st-level spells, plus two invocations. She will acquire Pact of the Tome at 3rd level but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Other than choosing an arcane focus – something navigation-related, maybe? – everything else at this point is just bookkeeping. So her stat block as an NPC would look something akin to:
Medium Half-elf Warlock, Chaotic Neutral
Armor Class 11 (Leather armor)
Hit Points 15 (2d8+2
Speed 30 ft
|8 (-1)||10 (0)||12 (+1)||15 (+2)||14 (+2)||17 (+3)|
Skills Arcana +4, History +4, Insight +4, Investigation +4, Perception +4, Persuasion +5
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages Common, Dwarvish, Elvish, Undercommon
Fey Ancestry. She has advantage on saving throws against being charmed and magic can’t put her to sleep.
Awakened Mind. She can communicate telepathically with any creature she can see within 30 feet of her. She doesn’t need to share a language with the creature for it to understand her telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.
Eyes of the Rune Keeper. She can read all writing.
Spellcasting. She is a 2nd-level spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). She regains all spell slots when she finishes a short or long rest. She has the following warlock spells prepared:
Cantrips (at will): Chilling Touch, Eldritch Blast (Agonizing Blast)
1st level (2 slots): Dissonant Whispers, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, Unseen Servant
Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60, one target. Hit: 1d4+1 piercing damage.
Light Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 1d8+1 piercing damage.
Quarterstaff. Melee Weapon Attack: +1 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d6-1 bludgeoning damage.