As promised, today I’m sharing my newest D&D character—the one I’m currently playing in Season 3 of Total Party Kill.* We’re playing “Dungeons and Dragons”, which I think is a dumb name—not the name itself, but the fact that Wizards of the Coast isn’t including an edition number. Like this is the be-all, end all of all D&D forever. We’re nerds. We like numbering things and putting them in order. Have they not read their own books? D&D is all about** minutiae like that!
Okay. Sorry. /rant
So yeah, we’re playing what everyone refers to as D&D 5e (or fifth edition). I quite like it so far. One of the things I like most is how much character building is involved in character building. If you follow the creation rules as laid out in the book, you have to come up with a good amount of backstory to support things like traits and flaws…but we’ll get to those, and sooner rather than later, as I think they provide the backbone for all the rest of the character info.
Our campaign setting is Dark Sun, which is set on a particularly hostile desert world called Athas, where water, metal, and wood are extremely scarce, magic is seen as a dangerous and terrible thing (though not by Elves), Halflings are bloodthirsty cannibals, and Elves tend to be near-xenophobic, nomadic traders who aren’t as long in life or short in stature as their usual D&D counterparts.
Note that the party I’m joining is 3rd level, so I’ve created my character at 3rd level. Not everything here applies to a brand-new, first-level character.
Name: Presta Shobogan***
Alignment: Neutral Good
I grew up with a tribe of traders and traveled the desert extensively from the time I was old enough to run. (Athasian Elves learn to run practically before we can walk.) Eventually I grew bored with trader life. I knew the trade routes and dangers of the desert well enough to give up the trading life and hire myself out as a guide. I know what to watch out for when traveling in the wild, I’m an adequate fighter, and I’m knowledgable in the ways of healing. Thus I’ve made a bit of a reputation for myself as a skilled guide. I’m uncomfortable in cities and have a powerful wanderlust. As an elf, I’m appropriately haughty towards those not of my kind. (Especially Thri-Kreen, who are basically the bogeyman to Athasian Elves. Elven flesh is a much-loved delicacy for Thri-Kreen palates, you see. An Elf traveling with a Thri-Kreen is a rare, rare thing. So of course, our party has both! Oh, the Drama!)
Instead of jumping in with a bunch of numbers, I’m going to start with Presta’s background. I think this makes for more interesting reading than all the math-based stuff. This 5e addition to character creation simply codifies some things experienced role players have done for years. It’s nice to have it as a formal part of character creation. Newer players (and, let’s face it, some older players) are forced to think beyond stats, and that’s always a good thing. I’ll include the nitpicky stuff at the end for you detail-hounds, but this background really forms Presta as a person.
The Outlander background is perfect, having grown up with a band of traveling trader Elves. It grants some specific benefits, though I made a couple of substitutions—I really like that minor substitutions are A-ok according to the rules. It’s more important to create the character you envision than it is to stay within the lines.
Personality Trait – I’m driven by a wanderlust that led me away from home.
Elves in Athas don’t live as long as Elves elsewhere, as such, they’re less likely to stay put for decades at a time. I certainly don’t like staying put. If I’ve been in one place too long, I’ll start looking for the nearest caravan that needs a guide/guard.
Ideal – Nature
My ideal stems from one amazing place I discovered in the desert many years ago. One night, I left the trader caravan to scout for raiders. I traveled farther afield than I strictly needed to (not unusual for me). This time, amongst the tumbled rocks of a particularly treacherous stretch of desert, I discovered a small sandy cave with, of all things, a tiny spring creating a pool of water at one side—not enough water to live off for long, but enough to be unutterably beautiful in the moonlight, surrounded by desert plants. The sight took my breath away, and though I’ve returned there many times, occasionally camping for several days, I’ve never told anyone of its existence. I’m convinced other such places exist in the desert, and I’m determined to find them, no matter how long it takes.
Bond – I protect [guide] those who can’t protect [guide] themselves. (substituted from Folk Hero)
I know as an Elf, I’m better than pretty much anyone else. For some reason, I feel compelled to protect those less-fortunate creatures from their own stupidity. I don’t particularly like this about myself, so I tend to cloak that assistance in disdain—especially when saving someone from a situation they were stupid to get into in the first place. Open disdain tends to inhibit my ability to find work, so I try to keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t always succeed.
Flaw – I’m not fond of cities (or any place many people congregate).
I spend time in Tyr and other cities when I need to find a job, but I’m much happier wandering the deserts. When I travel with a group, I occasionally take unwarranted nighttime jaunts (or daytime jaunts, as that’s often the rest period for desert travel). In part, these side-trips are to search for natural desert treasures, but they also provide solitary time. So far I’ve been lucky. None of my excursions have endangered the people I’m supposed to be guiding/guarding, but I still feel mildly guilty each time I do it. Of course, that doesn’t stop me the next time I feel I need to roam.
Skill Proficiencies: Survival and Medicine (substituted from Hermit)
Tool Proficiency: Musical instrument (Fipple flute, aka recorder/whistle)
Languages: One additional – Halfling
I can always recall the general layout of terrain, settlements, and other surroundings. I can also find food and water for myself and up to five others each day (provided the land offers such things—on Athas, this is anything but assured).
Because I’m an Elf, I get the following:°
Darkvision, which means I can see in dark and dim conditions. I can see in dim light within 60 feet, and in darkness as if it were dim light. I can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.
Keen Senses, which grants proficiency in Perception.
Fey Ancestry, which gives me advantage°° on saving throws vs being charmed. Also, magic can’t put me to sleep.
Languages: I can speak, read, and write Common and Elvish. (Actually, I’m not entirely sure about this. Literacy on Athas is extremely rare, so I’d have to check with my DM on this one. I can definitely speak them both though!)
Subrace: Athasian Elf
Athasian Elves are different from their brethren who live in more temperate climes. But as you might expect, hardship creates opportunities. Living on such a harsh world has caused the Elves of Athas to evolve some special features:
Dune Runner: When traveling on foot, either alone or in a group that’s all elves, I can perform actions as if I’m traveling five feet slower than I’m actually traveling. For example, while moving at a normal pace I could still use Stealth.
Fleet of Foot, which means my base land-speed 35 feet. I’m quick!
Mask of the Wild, which allows me to (attempt to) hide even when I’m only lightly obscured by foliage, sandstorms, siltstorms, and other natural phenomena. This being Athas, the foliage bit is rather unlikely.
My very first D&D character back in the late 90s was a ranger, and I don’t think I’ve played one since, so I’m excited to be going back to my roots. Of course, Presta is a very different character from stolid old Silva Lak.°°° Being a ranger imparts some neat stuff too:
Hit Dice: 1d10/level
Favored Enemy: Undead
I get advantage on Survival checks to track undead creatures, and on Intelligence checks to recall information about undead. I would also learn an extra language, but there’s no language associated with undead. At 6th level (if I live that long) I’ll get to choose an additional type. I’ll definitely choose something with a language next time!
Natural Explorer: Desert
I’m very familiar with desert settings. I get to double my proficiency bonus when making Intelligence or Wisdom checks related to the desert, as long as I’m proficient in the skill I’m using. Also, when I’m traveling in the desert for an hour or more, my group and I get a bunch of sweet benefits:
- Difficult terrain doesn’t slow us down.
- We can’t get lost except by magical means.
- I stay alert to danger even when doing something else (navigating, tracking, etc.).
- I can move stealthily at a normal pace when traveling alone.
- When I forage, I find twice as much food as normal.
- While tracking creatures, I learn their exact number, size, and how long ago they passed.
I get to choose an additional favored terrain type at 6th level as well. Seeing as this is Athas, I feel like that’ll be less than helpful.
Primeval Awareness: If I use an action and expend one ranger spell slot, for one minute per level I can sense whether certain creatures are present within 1 mile of me (or 6mi in favored terrain): aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. (I can’t tell their exact location or numbers though.)
Fighting Style: Archery
I get a +2 bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons.
Ranger Archetype: Hunter
As a Hunter, I place myself between civilization and the wilderness, which truly fits my character perfectly. As I’m 3rd level, I get one specific “Hunter’s Prey” feature:
Colossus Slayer: When I hit a creature with a weapon attack, I do an extra 1d8 damage if it’s below its HP max.
Stats and Spells and Such
Here’s my list of classic attributes. I rolled these up on my trusty d6es. Note that I included bonuses that are imparted by my race.
- Dex-16 (14 +2, Elf)
- Int-14 (13 +1, Athasian Elf)
These are the things I’m good at. I’ve included the source of the proficiencies for those who care about that level of detail.
- Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields (Ranger)
- Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons (Ranger)
- Saving Throws: Strength, Dexterity (Ranger)
- Skills: Athletics, Insight, Nature (Ranger), Perception (Elf), Medicine, Survival (Outlander background)
- Alarm: I can set a magical alarm against intrusion for 8 hours in an area no larger than a 20-foot cube. If a Tiny or larger creature enters, I’ll be alerted either audibly or mentally.
- Cure Wounds: I can touch a creature to restore 1d8 HP + my wisdom bonus (4).
- Goodberry: I can create up to 10 magic berries which each restore 1 HP and nourish a creature for one day. (They lose potency after 24 hours.)
And for the really really detail-oriented folk, here’s what I started with! Playing in Dark Sun is neat because the lack of metal and wood changes the things that you can realistically find/own/carry.
Starting Wealth: 110gpˆ
Armor: Studded leather (the studs are obsidian)
- Longbow (made of bone) and Quiver
- Scimitar +1 (made of crystal)
- Daggers (3, made of bone)
- Explorer’s pack (contains a backpack, bedroll, mess kit, waterskin, tinderbox, 10 torches, 10 days of rations)
- Extra waterskin
- Candles (5)
- Chalk (3 pcs)
- Component pouch
- Flask of oil
- Fipple flute
Someday I might write a whole post about what it’s like to play Presta. After two gaming sessions, I’m quite enjoying her. It’s a bit tricky playing a taciturn character, as I mentioned in my previous post, so I’m still kinda trying to find my way in. I think I’m managing alright, but who knows? Have you listened/watched yet? Let me know what you think!
*If you like D&D and podcasts (either video or audio—we have both!), I highly recommend you check it out. This season has been the funniest yet, in my opinion. As I write this, the most recent episode is titled “A Night on the Caravan” because it went so far off the rails it’s practically a Marx Brothers movie. In fact, I might argue that a Marx Brothers movie has more sense/plot/coherence.
**D&D is emphatically NOT all about minutiae like that—or at least it doesn’t have to be. The story and characters are every bit (and usually far more) important, but I was in the middle of a good rant there, and it seemed to fit.
°Note that I haven’t included Trance here. (Elves with Trance don’t need to sleep normally, they just have to go into a trance for about 4 hours a day.) Apparently Athasian elves don’t get that. So I have to sleep through the night—like a sucker.
°°Advantage is a new 5e thing. It means I get to roll two d20 and keep whichever roll is higher. As you might guess, Disadvantage is a thing too. It means you roll 2d20 and keep the lowest.
°°° Sadly, to this day, Silva, her mischievous weasels (Sid and Nancy), her semi-sentient scimitar (“the Silvatar”), and her talking flame sword (Moltar—who’s more intelligent than Silva) are stuck ~one gaming session away from completing Tomb of Horrors. Alas!
ˆThis amount has now decreased by 40, for reasons you may have already seen. Blackmail’s a bitch!