Recently I was invited to play in a budding Dungeons and Dragons game set in an Art Deco-inspired city called Bladewater, and part of the campaign generation process was for each potential player to come up with several unique character concepts that could conceivably fit into the world, from which the dungeon master would select several to become the adventuring party. I took some time to try and break out of the roles I normally play and came up with the following three individuals, who each represent very different aspects of life within the embattled city, and also very different aspects of playing D&D.
Note that in this setting, Magic is reserved for the rich and powerful, with lower-classes displaying arcane talents put to the sword. A recent power shift has occurred, orchestrated by the brutal and nearly tyrannical leader of the city’s organized militia.
Character Concept One: the Betrayer of Secrets
It’s one thing to be the life of the party, to try and brighten the day of an oppressed and scared citizenry. It’s quite another to use one’s gregarious and outgoing personality to ferret out the dirty and often subversive thoughts of those same citizens, trading their most private weaknesses for security and protection from the powers that be. Sylvus long ago resolved his own moral quandary with the selling out his fellow Bladewarian; what good are morals if they lead to one’s own death?
He maintains an uneasy truce with several members of the Bacchunalia, wherein which some of his more “problematic” exploits are overlooked in return for an ongoing flow of information about members of the citizenry. It’s not a one-sided relationship, as Sylvus’ dirt has helped his associates prove themselves valuable and insightful members of their House, and while there’s a decided power imbalance, both sides understand the value of the other.
Beyond mere survival, Sylvus dreams of becoming a power broker, a neutral party the high and the low both come to to try and ply with gifts to have his support. A far-off dream, but one that keeps him warmer than all the mediocre beer he drinks night to night.
[Race: Any, Class: Bard (College of Whispers), spells are subtle and secrecy-focused, Alignment: Neutral Evil]
Character Concept Two: the Reluctant Servant
Life at the bottom is difficult, particularly in times of great social upheaval and violent strife. A street urchin, Waif grew up knowing only fear—fear of strange prowlers in the shadows, fear of the guards looking to feel superior, and fear that she wouldn’t be able to find any more scraps of food. Even before Titian’s takeover of the city, life was a struggle.
Things seemed to look up for Waif after a particularly bad rainstorm which flooded the small storm drain offshoot she used as temporary shelter. Though her meager possessions had been destroyed, a rich cloak once belonging to a member of the Sunhaven School had found its way to her, washed into the sewers with the deluge. Worth more than anything she had ever owned, she knew she could trade it for weeks of security and relative comfort. “The waters always provide,” said a whisper rippling across her mind.
In time she grew to trust, and even rely, on the gifts that water always seemed to bring her … until the waters started making demands. At first it was little things, like a portion of her food or her cast-off clothing, but occasionally the water would ask for bigger tasks, things it seemed to know she was unwilling to give—the abduction and murder of a family pet, the memory of her father’s name, and other physical and esoteric demands. Each time she resisted, the waters would hold back their gifts and the voice would taunt, demean, and denigrate her until she relented. However, each time she gave in, she felt stronger, felt the water give her more resolve, more power.
It was a vicious cycle. The thing in her head—the thing in the water—seemed to like toying with her, but there was no doubt that its gifts were real, and palpable. More than once she hid from Bacchian raids through the slums through obscuring mists and steam vents that seemed to emerge in the nick of time. For whatever reason, the power that had wormed its way inside her wanted her alive; she dared not think it was only to see her suffer, but deep down she feared it.
Without ever revealing her gifts, she tried to learn as much about magic and the world beyond her physical senses as possible, and eventually set her sights on the Sunhaven School itself. She would have a lot to prove to rise above her beginnings, but with a little fame and a little luck—perhaps encouraged by her mysterious patron—she just might make it.
[Race: Any, Class: Warlock (Marid Genie), Alignment: Neutral Good]
Character Concept Three: Top of the World
Some people simply enjoy life. Whether its from a passion for their hobbies, a love of their job, or a taking comfort in their surroundings, it’s always possible to find someone who is making the most of a situation. Ribald, a nickname given to him early in life due to his sometimes inappropriately-chipper attitude, is one such individual. Always willing to test his mettle against others in physical contests, some say he’s too stupid to recognize that the world can be a dark and dangerous place, and that he possesses no greater plan than to have a good time.
In truth, Ribald knows exactly how dangerous and dark the world can be—and has the scars to prove it—but prefers to focus on what makes him happy, figuring he can’t control anyone else’s life so he may as well enjoy the one he has. There’s always work for someone willing to use their muscles, particularly one who specializes in unarmed, no-holds-barred combat, and though he doesn’t live glamorously or in the lap of luxury, he enjoys what he does—namely testing himself in ever situation, followed by a celebration of how far he’s come, or how far yet he has to go.
He has no doubt that over the years he’s been used as “dumb muscle” by the city’s various criminal organizations, likely just as often as he’s been hired on as extra protection by wealthy merchants who are unused to the ins and outs of life in Bladewater. To Ribald, the source of the coin doesn’t matter nearly as much as how much he thinks he’ll enjoy the job.
Though jovially content to waft through life from fight to fight, it may surprise him to discover that a deeper connection to a cause lies right around the corner for this happy-go-lucky pugilist…
[Race: Any, Fighter (Battle Master), Alignment: True Neutral]