Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Playing Prebuilts in the 5e Starter Set

Lady Sarafina of Corlinn Hill
(actually, Joan of Arc from some Japanese computer game, but it will do)
I've never played prebuilt characters that I can recall, except at conventions or game demos, so when we began the D&D Starter Set, I figured my prebuilt fighter/noble would be a short-lived affair and I'd quickly move on to a character I crafted myself.

That was not to be.

The character's noble background, with it's traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws really brought the character to life in my mind, and Lady Sarafina of Corlinn Hill was born.  She's a short little 4' "11 blonde lawful neutral lady with the built in goal to CIVILIZE the area.  Throw in the fact that she feels responsible for the common people and she's greedy at the same time, and well, you get he cutest little megalomaniac you ever did see.  Her battle cry is 'I AM THE LAW!'

Burning Mountain Adventuring Company graffiti
While going through the first dungeon, I began to feel that Lady Sarafina would start to worry about the state of the caves afterwards.  Eventually, it might be repopulated with monsters again.  But even barring that, should some adventurer come through at a later date and see the butchery of evil that had occurred - would they ever know WHO had cleaned the caves?  Marking the caves in some way - tagging them - was essential.  She could mark them with her own heraldic symbols, sure, but others did help, so perhaps something else was needed.  Thus the Burning Mountain Adventuring Company was born.  She came up with an icon that symbolized her history and the history of the area since the eruption of Mount Hotenow and began tagging every dungeon, castle, and cave they cleaned out.

As the area became reasonably secure, in her downtime she joined the Lord's Alliance, began building and training a militia in Phandalin, set a bounty on trees and bushes that could create ambush points on any roads a day's travel from the village, started building watch towers, set up a company to build a saw mill and organize a construction labor exchange, organized prisoner work gangs to repair existing buildings, and organized the non-productive children in Phadalin into 'beautification squads' that painted the buildings in-town while she used her paint supplies proficiency to detail each of the buildings in glorious colors and shapes, working in her coat of arms and the symbols of her patron deity, Lady Siamorphe, into all of the designs.  She arranged for the rebuilding of Trendesar Manor as well, involving herself into some legal, but probably very unethical, business dealings that ensured her ownership of the land.  She digs into the town master's accounting books every time she can, looking for irregularities and questioning him on every single line item in an attempt to root out corruption.

She didn't ask anyone for permission.  She didn't ask what color anyone wanted their house.  She just did it.

Lady Sarafina is a tornado of law and order, spewing out justice and evenly ordered white picket fences in her wake.  The rest of the party just sits and watches the Type 'A' little lady like she's crazy.

Now that Lady Sarafina is third level, she believes she is ready to expand and forge her empire, so she is penning this note to the Lord's Alliance:

To My Fellow Members of the Lords' Alliance

Announcement of Intent

I am writing to inform this Honored Body of my claim of authority over all lands fifty miles in all directions from the town of Phandalin, in a bounding box from the Sword Coast and the High Road in the west to the Starmetal Hills in the east, and the Neverwinter River in the north to the Sword Mountains and the Kryptgarden Forest in the South.  This includes The towns of Phandalin, Thundertree, Leilon, Conyberry, Wyvern Tor, Cragmaw Castle, but does not include the city of Neverwinter or its environs.

Nefarious organization such as The Zhentarim and the Red Wizards of Thay are at work here, and their plans must be thwarted.  I intend to bring law and order to these lands and prosperity to its people and rule within the regulations, bylaws, and ideals of the Council of Lords.  Any military and financial assistance from the Lords' Alliance in furthering the cause of civilization would be welcome.

Should areas within my territory have a previous claim on them by a living, active authority recognized by the Council of Lords, I will hear and consider them, then adjust my sphere of control accordingly.

In The Lady Siamorphe's Holy Name,
Lady Sarafina
Daughter of Count Lander and Countess Olga of Waterdeep
Heir to the House of Corlinn Hill
Liberator of Castle Cragmaw
Mistress of the Resurrected Tresendar Manor
Protector of the Fair Town of Phandalin on the Sword Coast of Faerûn

I think our DM is laughing right now, ready to smack Lady Sarafina with a giant legal hammer soon - but hopefully not belore she marches with the folk hero/fighter my son is playing on the evil infested ruins of Thundertree.

Playing her while adventuring is just as fun.  She's the tank and races as fast as she can to the front lines.  Sarafina, when angered, will attempt to climb an enemy combatant and force his face into the ground. And when confronted by a charging owlbear - she will charge right back and attempt to grapple it.  This tends to leave her clutching an angry owlbear that is rushing through the woods, but that's just an occupational hazard. 

Her biggest problem is people that she knows NEED death, but she hasn't seen them do anything illegal or evil.  This gnaws on her greatly, and keeps her up at night imploring the goddess Siamorphe for guidance.  Well, she's just looking for a green light for wholesale slaughter, really.  Lady Sarafina isn't exactly a nice person.

Below is her current character sheet.  I took her away from her prescribed advancement path on the prebuilt sheet.  At 3rd level, she did not follow the Champion Archetype, but rather, followed the way of the Battle Master.  The maneuvers I selected under Battle Master makes her similar to a 4e Warlord in battlefield control.  When she hits 4th level, she'll go for the Sentinel feat, which further solidifies her control of the battlefield - front line especially.

I still love the way WOTC set that up.  You can pick Champion as a fighter and a stat increase at 4th level and go as an uncomplicated, but very effective old D&D style fighter, or go Battle Master with feats and have a 3e/4e feel and replicate a variety of martial combatants.  Or do a mixture of the two.  Your character can be shaped to fit your play style.

Be sure to click to embiggen . . .

Feel free to include Lady Sarafina as the crazed megalomaniac of Phandalin if it fits your Forgotten Realms campaign.  I think if you are forgoing the Starter Set, but are running Horde of the Dragon Queen, she'd fit quite nicely as someone to hear news about. Until she gets eaten by the dragon on the front of the box, that is. :)

All of the pregens in the box are pretty cool.  Well, except that rogue.  There is something wrong with a rogue that has a lower perception that EVERYONE ELSE IN THE PARTY.  But all of them have tons of potential personality to play with - so don't be afraid to pick one up and play.

- Ark


  1. The rogue in my 13th Age game is rubbish at perception, but then so is the rest of the party as they all made Wisdom their dump stat. All except the tiefling barbarian. So they creep along corridors with the barbarian at the front until they run into a trap, then they shuffle around so the thief can disarm it.

    It took them a while to get there. For ages they had the thief at the front and he was disarming traps by blundering into them.

    1. Blundering is a fine way of finding traps - but best done by wildly swinging a ten foot pole in front of you in all directions. :)

      - Ark

    2. Yeah... they weren't that clever.

  2. Nice! I think your character would make a great NPC for any Sword Coast game.

  3. That's a lot of meat to wrap around a pretty boring bone. Very impressed. Ever since you first mentioned your short stack fighter, she has stuck in my head.

    1. Scott - boring bones make for some awesome soup stock - you just need to boil em for a while. :)

      - Ark

  4. so where did the campaign go from there (to years from now and people still wanna know)