Turning a TPK Lemon Into PC Lemonade

So, I killed a party.

We were running Curse of Strahd, and they stumbled into a vampire nest at 3rd level, and it was literally a bloodbath. Technically, it wasn’t a TPK; three PCs died and the other two fled. The point being, it was effectively a campaign ender. I walked away from the table frustrated and annoyed that I’d let my players down.

Except … my players didn’t want the campaign to end. They were enjoying Curse of Strahd and they wanted a chance to redeem themselves and conquer Castle Ravenloft. Two PCs were still alive. Couldn’t they gather a new group and continue on?

I was heartened by their desire to push forward, and so I eagerly agreed that they could. But this being Ravenloft, they couldn’t just head to the nearest tavern and hire on a few stalwart sword-swingers and spell-slingers to their cause. Where would they find fellow adventurers in the grim, soul-starved streets of Barovia?

This is where I decided to be creative. Honestly,  while I love the new edition of D&D, one thing I kind of miss from my days of 3.5/Pathfinder was the granular way each character could be made unique. As a DM, trying to keep track of all the player options and subraces and hybrid classes in Pathfinder can be a huge hassle; but as a player, it’s meant over the years that I could really craft a page of stats that made my character wholly my own and unlike any other.

D&D 5e is many things, but eminently flexible in its character customization isn’t really one of them. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for novelty. I decided that the best way to introduce novelty was with the Backgrounds system. I have always encouraged my PCs to eschew the premade backgrounds in favor of a’la carte backgrounds if they so desired; they simply had to pick two skills, a couple proficiencies and a background trait that would fit with their story and character. As a character-driven person myself, I love helping my players come up with unique traits. Background traits have a catch, though: they never, ever affect die rolls. But what if they did?

IMG_0583 (1)Since this was Curse of Strahd and since the module establishes that Strahd draws PCs into Barovia all the time, I decided that each new PC in the group would be, like the two remaining PCs, the sole survivor of a prior party killed in a nasty way by the horrors of Barovia. I then wrote out the “death story” for each PC — the moment where it all went wrong — and devised both a beneficial Trait and a hindering Flaw that each PC would have as a result of their harrowing experience.

Here, for example, is what I wrote for one of the two PCs who survived the encounter with the vampire nest.

You know the story. The problem wasn’t that your inexperienced party stumbled into a vampire nest that was beyond your skills to challenge; the problem was that you went back in expecting a different result. Now your friends are dead, and you are haunted nightly by the horrors you faced in that dark attic. The mere thought of facing another vampire sends waves of fear and revulsion shuddering up your spine, but you know that, if you ever want to free yourself and this land from the Mists, you will have to face them again eventually.

Sanguivoraphobia [flaw]: When facing Vampires, you must succeed at a WIS or CHA saving throw, DC 10 + the CR of the creature, or all attack rolls against that creature are at Disadvantage that combat. If you fail the saving throw, you may use your Action in any given round to try and shake off the Disadvantage (by making a second saving throw).

Revulsion (Vampires) [trait]: When facing Vampires, you make all Saving Throws against vampire abilities and spells, as well as all opposed Ability Checks, at Advantage. In addition, you add your Proficiency bonus to any Knowledge, Investigation, or Insight check concerning Vampires.

Here’s another example: one of the backgrounds I wrote for one of the new characters.

It was supposed to be a simple adventure: clear the abandoned church of its foul undead inhabitants … but then the floor gave way, dumping you all into the basement crypts and waking what lurked there. There were so many of them. The walls began to cave in as rotting undead pushed through, and the crypt seemed to hold an endless number of mindless, shambling, hungry things. Your party was overwhelmed by their grabbing claws, their fetid breath, their incessant moans.

Somehow, someone started a fire; you think it might have been the mage, and you’re almost certain you heard the rogue’s oil lantern shatter first. Unfortunately, not only did your companions not make it out alive, but the last zombies you saw as you pulled your way out of the basement and fled before the fire consumed them, was the face of your dearest friend, the one you’d adventured with the longest, staring up at you with hungry, lifeless eyes. You mercifully put a blade through their skull and watched as they dropped back into the flames.

To this day, the memory of their zombified face haunts your dreams. It has placed in your both a fear of death and a hatred for the mindless undead.

Thantaphobia [flaw]: During combat, if you drop below 10 hp, but are not yet at 0 hp, you must make a WIS Saving Throw [DC 20 minus remaining hit points]. If you fail the save, you gain the Frightened condition against all foes until you are healed to10 hp or above.

Horde Breaker [trait]: When facing mindless undead, you gain the Horde Breaker ability: Once on each of your turns when you make a weapon attack, you can make another attack with the same weapon against a different creature that is within 5 feet of the original target and within range of your weapon.

As you can see, these traits and flaws are a step above what a character background would normally allow, in that these all affect dice rolls — something the designers were careful to avoid with the PHB (and other officially released) backgrounds. But I like the idea of a traumatic incident in the PC’s past having a real effect on their ability to survive inside of Barovia. This being Ravenloft, I decided that using phobias was a fun way to give a nod to the old fear and horror checks of the original campaign setting.

I presented the backgrounds to my players at our first session post-party kill, and  so far the traits have been met with approval. They’ve slipped into role-playing, helped sway combat, and generally given the players one more thing to draw on as they navigate encounters. One thing I’ve been sure to do is to keep the backgrounds in mind as I plan the game; a trait like this is useless if it never comes up in the game, and so it has forced me to make sure I’m using a variety of encounter types that give each player their moments to shine (and to cower in fear).

All in all, I like the idea of traits and flaws in 5e. It’s a way to bring in a little of that Pathfinder flare without significantly unbalancing or rewriting the core classes. That is also encourages characterization is also cool; in fact, in the future, I may allow my players to select traits and flaws themselves … provided the can also come up with a cool background story to go with them.

Appendix A is Awesome!

I am starting a new campaign, and I am having too much fun with Appendix A in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. For those who don’t have the book, Appendix A is a series of tables that allow for the creation of a random dungeon. It’s not the first such tool to ever exist, but I am finding it to be a well-designed one that’s helping me create an excellent first dungeon for my PCs.

There’s an obscene amount of charts here, from structures (Passages, Doors, Chambers, etc.) to room purposes (Lair, Maze, Death Trap, etc.), to random dungeon obstacles, traps, and tricks. I’m not being a slave to the dice, but instead letting the rolls build a framework until I decide that, no, I want *this* or *that* to be *here* and to serve *this* purpose. It’s a great tool for a DM who needs inspiration.

With mostly random dice rolls, I’ve created an abandoned military dungeon area from it beneath a small ruined keep, complete with a large indoor training room, a jail area (non-random, I decided it needed it), command chambers, etc. The resulting dungeon is manageable in a session: eight rooms, a couple of them hidden, and a passage flow that makes some sort of logical sense if I task the rooms right, and two different entrances/exits to the surface.

Once my party goes through it I will have to post a version of it here, just in case anyone is curious.

The Official-ish Answer to the Sentinel Problem

What’s the best way to spend a Sunday morning? Annoying the designers of D&D. But I have an excuse: I reealllyy needed an answer to this one. I give you: The Official-ish answer to the Sentinel Problem.

The short version: Sentinel triggers after the triggering attack resolves. Which makes a lot of sense. I mean, if not, what is the Sentinel reacting to? He’s reacting to the swing of the weapon. Unless he’s faster than the attacker, how would his attack resolve first? So for my tables, it will be RAW from now on.

[Trans]Gen[der] Con

So, this is an interesting time to be an out and proud trans woman attending Gen Con.

For those of your not keeping up: there have been some incredibly gender progressive things happening in a couple of major game systems lately. First is the fantastically progressive gender entry in the new D&D Player’s Handbook. The key passage is this one:


Admittedly, it isn’t a perfect statement. For one thing, it’s under a heading called “Sex” instead of “Gender”. But for a game that in prior editions had almost nothing to say about gender, a game that tended to embrace Western Medieval fantasy stereotypes that cast men as heroes and women as damsels … this is a BFD. I checked the four editions of the Player’s Handbook that I have on-hand [4E, 3.5E, 3E, 2E] and found nothing like this in them. Mostly, they’re silent on the topic. “Sex” is a box on the character sheet that players get to put something into.

Here, the game is actually suggesting that players think about the impact of that choice and their gender role in the game world, and even suggest that a player might experiment with nonbinary expression of gender. Now, this already happens at the gaming table – my regular gaming group routinely features parties made up mostly of female PCs, despite the fact that there are only two female players at the table – but to see it in the rules as an “official” suggestion is pretty cool.

PZO1129-ShamanAnd then there’s Paizo. As if they wanted to one-up WotC in the realm of gender expressions, the publishers of Pathfinder announced recently that their new Advanced Class Guide, debuting at GenCon, would be featuring a transgender character. Named Shardra, she is the new iconic Shaman class character. [Wayne Reynolds’ awesome art is to the right.] Moreso than just having the character, though, is the great backstory they’ve given her. I’m so pleased with how her transgender nature is a part of her story but not the focus on it. She’s an interesting character irregardless of her gender identity.

Incidentally, here’s an utterly amazing interview with the Shardra’s creator, Crystal Frasier. You should read it.

Gaming has always been a counterculture sort of hobby. Gamers tend to be the freaks and geeks of their high schools, and so they’re often far more tolerant of a wider range of personalities, quirks, habits, and identities than the general population. In fact, before the comments come in — yes, I know that there are other games on the market by other manufacturers that have already made strides in recognizing the gender spectrum. But to have the two big names in RPGs, WotC and Paizo, take such open and forward-thinking steps is a big deal. It’s like in 2012 when the President and Vice-President came out in favor of gay marriage; they weren’t the first, but theirs was a particularly important endorsement. It carried authority.

So my first Gen Con “out” should be interesting. Large crowds tend to make me nervous; there’s just no telling when someone will react negatively or even violently to the presence of a trans person, even if said person has nothing to do with them. And while I’m not naive enough to think that I won’t experience microaggressions over the four days of the con (funny looks, snarky comments, misgendering, these never go away), I’m hoping they’ll be less than they might have been in years past, given that the two largest RPG systems on the market today have embraced the entire gender spectrum rather than the old gender binary.

[There is a companion article to this one posted to Ali Finds Her Self.]

Running the Starter Set

Last Wednesday I put my usual Pathfinder campaign on hold for a brief tour of the Starter Set. We will be playing through the Lost Mine of Phandelver for at least a month (until Gen Con).

I suspect we won’t carry the adventure to its final conclusion, mostly because of how limited the Basic Rules characters felt to the players. I have a seasoned group and they’re fond of creating their own PCs, so handing over pre-gens was a disappointing way to start. Some of them did tailor the PCs (like making the Folk Hero archer an elf), but I could see the eagerness to do more than the rules were allowing.

I think my group also needs time to warm up to the open flexibility of the new edition. Pathfinder is so prescribed; there’s a rule and a dice roll laid out for everything along with the chance to dig for more modifiers for success. Thus the idea of “If you want to do it, say it out loud and we’ll see if it can be done” wasn’t very evident this first week. Instead, it kind of got mocked — “Can I shoot him with an arrow and make him magically explode? What’s the roll for that?” and most combats were just exchanged hits. I chalk it up to unfamiliar rules (for now).

Play itself went okay, though again rules unfamiliarity and the expectations set by Pathfinder seemed to get in the way. For example, the players were caught off-guard by how tough goblins were! That 7 hp turned out to be quite an issue for the players, who always seemed to do 6 damage on a hit; and on a good roll a goblin could do 8 damage, enough to nearly take down a PC. I also got some pushback on the [SPOILER ALERT!] water trap in the goblin cave. The argument was that the PCs should have been able to hear the water coming the round before it swept over them and therefore should have been warned before it got there. There was debate about how fast the water was moving per round, etc. There’s that Pathfinder prescription again. Sigh 

All in all, not the most triumphant first week with the Starter Set. I think people had fun overall though, and once they get used to things I’m hoping they’ll embrace the rules more completely.

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (2014) Review

So, like many an eager gamer I was up late last night so that I could be there to pick up the shiny new Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set at midnight. This product is meant to be an introductory game for new players. Since it is also the first official look we’re getting at the finished, final D&D 5th Edition ruleset, I think that a lot of gamers are considering picking this up, even if they’ve been playing D&D for twenty years. Should they?

StarterSet02Note: What follows is my review of the product. It is not a review of the ruleset; I will do that with Basic D&D and the new Player’s Handbook.

The Starter Set comes with the following

  • 32-page Starter Set Rulebook
  • 64-page Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure
  • A set of 6 polyhedral dice [d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20]
  • 5 pregenerated characters
  • A blank one-page character sheet

The rulebook and the adventure book are both printed on glossy paper without a cardstock cover, just like Murder in Baldur’s Gate and the other print Sundering adventures. I do think that this makes them feel a little cheaper than it would if they had a sturdy cardstock cover. The printing is gorgeous, though, with bright colors and clear text. I’m not 100% sold on the new page look, but it could still grow on me.

The Starter Set Rulebook has four chapters and a one-page Conditions appendix. There’s a basic How to Play chapter, a chapter of basic combat rules, a chapter of non-combat rules (like resting and rewarding XP), and a chapter of Wizard and Cleric spells. As expected, there is no chapter on character creation, or race, or class, or feats, or backgrounds; any necessary information about those areas has been placed on the pregenerated PCs. If you’re playing with just the starter set, you’re playing with PCs provided or not at all.


I haven’t yet had a chance to read through all of Lost Mines of Philandear, but a quick skim reveals it to be a pretty standard D&D adventure. It takes place near Neverwinter in the Forgotten Realms, which is WotC’s new go-to city for the setting. The very first encounter [spoiler alert!] is a goblin ambush, which is probably one of the most common first encounters every new gamer faces their first time out (the other one being the kobold ambush, of course). From there, the PCs are given old ruins to explore, bandit camps to infiltrate, dungeons to delve and, yes, even a dragon to fight.

The dice set is of standard quality and is useful for anyone who doesn’t own a set of polyhedrals, but I think anyone who wants to play through the entire adventure campaign will quickly want to add to their collection. There’s only one of each die in the set, and no 10’s place percentile die. I am surprised that they didn’t at least choose to include two d20s, since advantage and disadvantage are such core concepts in the rules. I like the pearlized blue they chose, though.


The pre-generated PCs are on a nice, heavy paper that should withstand a few trips through the copy machine (because of course you’re not handing these originals over to the players). The blank sheet is limited in its usefulness if all you’re playing with is the Starter Set; it’s best for recopying characters as they level.

So, here’s the vital question: Should you by the Starter Set? Honestly, if you’re an experienced player or DM, there’s nothing here that’s really going to add to your 5th Edition experience. What is the Starter Set giving an experienced DM and a gaming group full of seasoned players? The Basic Set will have more, fuller rules. So what is the Starter Set giving a seasoned gaming group? Well, the Starter Adventure is interesting and it’s always good to have new written material, especially for a brand new edition. I highly doubt, however, that most DMs will ever actually RUN it, so it’s $20 reading material, nothing else.

I suppose you’d at least getting a new set of dice out of it (she says halfheartedly, looking at the giant jar of unused polyhedral dice on the shelf nearby).


This is  product made for new players, and it’s a very good product for new players. I bought it, and I am glad I did, because I have a few ten-year-olds whom I would like to introduce the game to and the Starter Set saves me a lot of time and gives them a much easier rulebook to navigate. I also know boys and girls that are about to have birthdays, turning ten or eleven or twelve, and I think this will be a gift I give some of them. That’s why it exists, and it’s well suited for that, and so I commend WotC on a fine first product for the next iteration of D&D.

Now, hurry up with the good stuff! August seems so far away …



Poking Around the Starter Set Wizard

At this point, we’re so close to the release of the Basic Rules, and so much has been leaked or previewed anyway, that this feels a little aimless. Still, I figured I’d round out my week by looking at the last previewed Starter Set PC to see what jumps out at me. Honestly, there’s little new here to comment on …

The wizard is proficient in swords and is wielding a short sword. Um, well, isn’t that interesting. I guess Gandalf finally made an impression on his wizard kin.

The universal proficiency bonus is still a surprising thing to me. A wizard and a fighter swinging a sword at first level are, essentially, equally good at hitting something? I’m still thrown by this one. But by combining combat and non-combat into a single Proficiency bonus, there’s really no other way to do it. The designers have said in the past that they wanted to emphasize leveling up by skills and powers and such, not by additions to hit rolls; that was their “bounded accuracy” philosophy and I guess they meant it.

The focus on evocation. One thing they’ve said repeatedly is that a selection of spell school would play a part in defining a wizard, and we see this here. Sculpt Spell at second level? Awesome. I can’t wait to see in what other ways schools function in the new edition.

Really, though, there’s not much left here to search out. The Basic Rules are nigh! One more week and we’ll all be seeing how these characters were made (and, I’m sure, making some of our own).

Poking Around the Starter Set Cleric

As I did recently with the Starter Set Fighter, I decided to take the newly previewed Starter Set Cleric and see how closely I could recreate it using the final playtest packet rules.

Something’s up with racial stat bonuses. With the Fighter I kind of ignored this element, as I had no reliable point of comparison. But now that we have two pre-gens, and assuming that the stat array from the final playtst packet is in play, we get this:

[table id=1 /]

Well, first of all: nothing higher than a 16? Clearly there were no power gamers on the design team.

Second, assuming the standard stat array from the playtest, it looks as though humans get … +1 to five stats? And hill dwarves get +1 to a couple, maybe? I will admit that I cheated a bit here and followed the discussion thread on this over at ENWorld, and to save some time I’ll note that the most likely explanation is that the standard array has been bumped down to 15/14/13/12/10/08, making the chart look like this:

[table id=2 /]

And there we have it, neat as can be, humans continue to get a +1 to every stat and Hill Dwarves get a +2/+1. Now, where these bonuses appear to manifest baffles me. In the last playtest packet a Hill Dwarf would have gotten +1 to CON and STR, whereas this fellow apparently got a +1 to WIS and a +2 to CON.  Perhaps they’ve done away with subracial bump specifics and just given all demihumans +2 to a characteristic stat and +1 to any other of their choosing? That would suit me just fine.

Dwarves are otherwise unchanged. That +1 hp per level is still there for hill dwarves, and this cleric is still sporting dwarven proficiencies, dwarven resilience, and Stonecutting as a racial skill. They also still move 25 ft. per round, though it’s possible that the “no penalty for wearing heavy armor” has been removed from them since, as the Noble Fighter hinted, heavy armor speed penalties may be gone altogether.

There’s that +2 Proficiency bonus again, with the bump to +3 at 5th level. I’m beginning to think that the bonus may be universal. At some level I could see it being something where a +2 Proficiency is given to, say, characters with Martial prowess but not to spellcasters; but then, why wouldn’t spellcasters not merit a +2 to their skills and INT saving throws? No, this seems like something standard. Given what we know about bounded accuracy as a core concept, this must mean that combat and DC math has been tweaked across the board.

Prepared spells have been improved. My cleric is able to prepare “a number of cleric spells equal to 1+  your cleric level” each day, plus domain spells. This character gets to prepare a number of spells equal to their level plus WIS modifier, plus domain spells. Prepared spells continue to be level agnostic — they could prep a single 1st level spell and eight 3rd level spells if they so chose (though that would probably not be wise). At 5th level that’s fifteen possible spells per day. Nice versatility!

Boom heal is still there, though they wisely (for the Starter Set) expressed it in terms of concrete numbers rather than math.

Turn Undead is different. First, CR is back as a factor in destroying as opposed to hit points. Second, Destroy Undead as an additional effect is separated out into its own ability at 4th level, implying that a 3rd level cleric couldn’t destroy even an undead mosquito with 1 hp and a 1/8 CR.

Did the Soldier Background swap out Survival for Medicine? It would be the easiest way to explain the lack of Survival and gaining of Medicine amongst his skill set, considering his Cleric skill is certainly Religion. Logically, I can see a soldier picking up some field dressing skills (Medicine) being a sensible swap for that background.

All in all, I like this Cleric. I would play this cleric, or at least one built using this set of Cleric class rules. They seem flexible and interesting, definitely combat capable and definitely not shoehorned into the party medic role.

Poking Around the Starter Set Fighter

I’m sure by now may of you have already seen the Starter Set Fighter preview that was released earlier this week. For fun, I decided to sit down and recreate the Fighter using the final Playtest rules we got last September, just to see where the differences were.

Here’s some of the things I noticed:

Fighters are beginning the game with a +2 Proficiency Bonus. I wonder if that’s an across the board bump or something to make Fighters more attractive.

They’re giving the Fighter a bump to +3 Proficiency at Level 5. Again, accross the board or unique to the martial prowess of the Fighter? Time will tell.

They’ve left intact the “no DEX bonus affects AC of heavy armor, neither positive nor negative” rule. Which I have to say that I really like. In’s interesting in that more or less allows certain fighters to treat DEX as a dump stat, which may encourage them to put points into more interesting places (like this Noble Fighter with the 14 CHA).

They’ve eliminated the Speed penalty for certain heavy armors. In the playtest,this Fighter would be moving 25 feet a round, not 30 feet. I wonder if this is an across the board cut, or just something removed from chainmail? Or could it be that they’ve finally invoked a rule that says high STR negates armor Speed penalties?

He has a proficiency in “playing cards.” That must be some specific invoking of the PT Noble’s gaming set proficiency.

They took away the Noble’s Retainers trait. Which is probably a good thing. I could see that getting really annoying really quickly in the hands of the wrong player.

They’ve tweaked the XP advancement chart. 2nd is at 300 instead of 250, 3rd is at 900 instead of 950, 4th is at 2,700 instead of 2,250, and 5th is at 6,500 instead of 4,750. At first glance it looks like a slowdown in advancement, though that will depend on how the XP rewards play out. If they just upped the XP of monsters, then this is just a cosmetic difference only.

Overall though, they haven’t changed a whole lot on the surface here. I was able to put together more or less the exact same build under the playtest rules. The Proficiency bump is the only real notable difference, and at first level that’s not a huge difference.

That doesn’t mean that the game hasn’t changed at all since the Playtest. The designers have said more than once that the character creation rules were an important part of the playtest and that the playtest ended in part because they were satisfied where those rules ended up. I’m eager to see what has changed under the hood, then, that might not be reflected here. And we only have a couple of weeks to wait until we find out!

Even Munchkins Can Have Souls

When it comes to making PCs, I am a character builder first and a stats munchkin second. I will sub-optimize my combat prowess for the sake of a good concept. A barbarian who eschews magic weapons in favor of her cherished but non-magical blade? Been there. A changeling sorcerer who goes around pretending she’s a cleric and hiding her dark ancestry? Done that. These are the kinds of PCs that drive my interest in the game.

However, sometimes I like to be a munchkin, too.Even when I do that, though, I like to take my munchkin’d PC and ask myself, “How did this character get this way?” And then I like to write up a character background that both adds flavor and justifies the min-maxing.

Case in point: my gaming group is starting up a new Pathfinder campaign, and I’ve decided to play an archer character. Building a viable archer is tricky — make the wrong choices early on and the PC will both lack great ranged prowess and also be mediocre in melee. Thus, playing against type, I went out and dug up this optimized fighter archer build that looked interesting. We’re starting at first level and so I have no reason to follow this build if I choose not to, but even at first level there are choices that seem a bit odd for a fighter to take — specifically, the Dangerously Curious trait stands out as unusual. So how is it that such a skilled archer, who’s not an elf, become the magic-dabbling arrow-slinger she is? As a twist, my DM also offered us the possibility of a free magic item, up to 2,500 gp value, so long as we could justify it with a character background. This gave the the perfect idea!

Here’s the background I cooked up, as an example of “giving a munchkin a soul”.

Kenna is a young human woman from a small village on the edges of the kingdom. Her father was a hedge wizard in the town, albeit not a very good one. Her father tended to be both gullible and absent-minded, two qualities that often made him the butt of jokes and the target of insults.  

As her father was a laughingstock in the neighborhood, Kenna was often picked on too by association. This has left her sensitive to danger and quick to react when she feels threatened (Reactionary trait). It has also created in her a deep dislike of those who oppress or bully others, and she will do whatever she feels is in the best interests of the innocent and underprivileged … even if it means occasionally breaking the law (Chaotic Good alignment).

Still, Kenna’s father could be a very skilled hedge wizard when he wanted to be, and the people who abused him during the day would often be the same ones knocking on his back door in the evening looking for potency potions or pregnancy-preventing poultices. Kenna never had the knack for wizardry that her father had, but she was eager to learn what she could and to help out in his shop (especially after her mother died from an illness). As his assistant, she picked up the odd bit of arcane knowledge here or there — enough to be able to use magic devices better than the average person (Knowledge: Arcana skill, Dangerously Curious trait). She still hopes to maybe learn the arcane craft, someday.

While Kenna never shared her father’s talents for magic, she showed an appreciable skill with martial weapons and particularly the bow. As a young teen she was well known around nearby towns for her ability to notch an arrow and let it fly with high accuracy. She discovered in herself a competitive nature, and so she worked to hone her skills to the utmost degree.  (Point-blank shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot). She has won many a village faire’s archery competition with her scarlet-fletched arrows.

Kenna’s start as an adventurer happened after the tragic loss of her father. Kenna’s village was beset by a marauding band of orcs. The orcs demanded that the village hand over half of their fall harvest, or the orcs would burn the village down. The villagers chose instead to try and fight the brigands, and they pressed every able-bodied person into the defense, including Kenna and her father.

The night before the battle, Kenna’s dad surprised her with a gift: a wand of gravity bow  he had crafted for her so that she might better defend herself and the village in battle. He advised her to tie the wand to her quiver and sheath it like an arrow, so that  so that she could grab it quickly, cast the spell, and then let it go quickly without losing it.

On the morning that the orcs returned, Kenna lined up next to her father, ready to fight. In battle, she found herself relishing the thrill of combat and the challenge of shooting at enemies faster than they could get to her on foot (Fighter class). The village won the day and routed the orcs. Sadly, her father was mortally wounded in the battle; an orc charged him faster than she could fire a shot, and it cut her father down in a single blow. She retaliated by putting a scarlet-fletched arrow into its eye. 

With her father gone, Kenna had no reason to stay in the village. She sold her father’s shop for what coin she could get, used that coin to buy herself some gear, and left her village armed with her favorite yew bow and a quiver full of scarlet-fletched arrows  Kenna walks the land with an extreme drive to protect the weak from the overbearing will of the strong. The wand remains tied to her quiver, not only because it has combat value but also for its sentimental value; it is likely that she will try to recharge it when it is drained, or just keep it as a memento of her dad.

For me, a min-maxed PC is only fun if it’s loaded up on stats AND personality. Even if Kenna follows the min-max path I have in mind for her, she’ll be a really fun character to role play as well as roll play. As a wise man once said, “personality goes a long way.”