My First Dragonborn character in D&D 5E – Harailt Bloodcloak

Before I ever played Dungeons and Dragons I was listening to Dungeons and Dragons podcasts such as Nerd Poker, Critical Hit, and Drunks and Dragons. I didn’t start playing D&D until October 2015. It was literally the same day as my first day of therapy, something I needed but had been avoiding, that I got a text message from a friend asking “Would you be interested in playing D&D? I’m getting a group together.” It may be a bit of revisionist history on my part but I’m pretty positive I send back a resounding hell yes.

We started with the 5th Edtion Starter Set – The Lost Mine of Phandelver and the pre-made characters that came with it. I was a dwarven cleric but after our first session, I was immediately hooked. I did a deep dive online about D&D 5E and next paycheck I headed to my favorite comic shop to buy my own dice in green, my favorite color, and a copy of the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook so I could make my own character, a dwarven ranger by the name of Bhruic Forgeworthy.

Then one of my players loosed an arrow at a green dragon and ended up getting the party wiped out. So, we started a new campaign, The Hoard of the Dragon Queen and so I wanted to make a new character. I had heard of Dragonborn from the Drunks and Dragons podcast with Thom the Dragonborn and to be quite honest, thought they looked cool. So they’re like humanoid Dragon people? That’s awesome! Plus I wanted to hit things so a chose barbarian. Harailt Bloodcloak was born, a silver Dragonborn Berzerker barbarian who was raised by copper Dragonborn. While they were simple farmers, Harailt began training with the greataxe until he joined a mercenary company that was slaughtered, leaving the cloak he was wearing bloody, hence the name.

Afterward, he joined the party as we headed to a burning town being besieged by Kobolds. I remember kobolds carrying something out but not noticing us. Harailt hated kobolds so naturally, I did something stupid.

“I shout out to those kobolds,” to the groan of everyone else.

“What do you say?” My DM asks. I had no idea so I said the first thing I could think of.

“Fuck off,” I shout.

“Roll for initiative.”

Harailt was brash and a loudmouth. That is as far as roleplaying him as I was good at. My greataxe was called Retort. The +1 fiery greataxe I eventually found I called Sunder. We defeated a white dragon deep within a castle of the Dragon Cultists. Then we transitioned to The Rise of Tiamat. I don’t remember it very well except for the ending. Tiamat was rising, three heads had emerged, and almost every party member was down. Harailt was the last one standing, and then he wasn’t. However, I forgot about an essential part of my level 16 barbarian, Relentless Rage

Starting at 11th level, if you are raging and you drop to 0 hit points and don’t die, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead. Each time you attempt this saving throw after the first, before completing a short rest or longrest, the DC increases by 5.

I managed it twice, passing both the DC 10 and DC 15 before Harailt was able to chop off the three emerged heads of Tiamat. I believe I still have the date saved in Google Calendar. Yes, March 16 – Harailt Bloodcloak chopped off Tiamat’s heads before she could rise.

In Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Harailt traveled with the bard Luken Songsteel, a paladin, and a rogue. In the Rise of Tiamat, he traveled with Gamdanf, the wizard who only said “I am Gamdanf,” a ranger named Frevor who at one point summoned twelve badgers to kill kobolds. Honestly, those campaigns were a bit of a blur now. I could play in those campaigns again and only have a vague recollection of what happened. There was a vampire we failed to kill. Luken Songsteel said he’d fire his rapier off his crossbow by mistake but he rolled for it and sure enough, he shot his rapier with his crossbow.

I’d probably play Harailt Bloodcloak completely different now, but I still think fondly of him looking back.

Here is his level 7 character sheet which I still have.

Harailt Bloodcloak – Barbarian

Writing A Novel Vs. Writing A D&D Campaign.

I’ve set a deadline for myself. By the time I turn 31 on April 23rd my novel will be finished. I am talking final draft, not the first draft, as I only have five chapters to finish editing.

At the same time, I’ve become the Dungeon Master for my D&D group. Writing and developing a D&D campaign, at least, I thought would be simple compared to writing a novel. I thought since worldbuilding is so much fun, that it would be a walk in a park. Oh ho, no. It is a very different beast entirely. I wouldn’t say it is more difficult but it is difficult because it is different.

Unless you plan a whole campaign before you start there are no second drafts i D&D. You write what you need and move on. Most of it is improvised anyway especially minor NPC (Non-Player Character) names like the merchant or regular at the tavern your players decide to get into a fight with.

With the characters in your novel, you have complete control over their actions, personalities, and decisions. In D&D, the players are the characters and you have little to no control over them unless you want to make a boring campaign. On the other hand, it takes a lot more pressure off you to write good protagonists. That’s up to the players.

The world of a novel, especially fantasy, can be more organic. The rules are looser. With D&D, there are so many rules. You have to keep track of them for your players, your NPC’s, and the monsters they fight.On the other hand, D&D is supposed to be fun. It doesn’t have to be this deep exploration of human nature. There are no inner

On the other hand, D&D is supposed to be fun. It doesn’t have to be this deep exploration of human nature. There are no inner monologues to worry about. A D&D campaign, in fact, can be a lot more vague since the Dungeon Master isn’t the sole storyteller. The players can and will change the story. This can be both frustrating and freeing.

With a novel, though, unless you are a published author, it’s all on you. You have to sit down and write your story first draft then second draft then third draft then final draft. A D&D campaign is vaguer. You have to take into account how long a session takes, everyone’s plans for the week, what level the characters are at, and where they may want to go.

If the main villain of your novel is in a certain building of course your protagonist is going to wind up confronting him. Not necessarily so in D&D. The players might decide to burn that building down, as we decided to do in my friend’s campaign, instead of confronting the main baddie of that particular storyline who had story beats for us to follow.

It’s much easier, at least for me, to communicate through writing then it is through speaking. Therefore, theater of the mind is much more difficult to work with. I don’t need extensive maps for my novel because I can convey a scene with as many words as I need but with D&D, if they’re going into a dungeon I am definitely going to need a map because there is a lot to remember.On the subject of dungeons, if my protagonist in a novel is in one I can glaze over

On the subject of dungeons, if my protagonist in a novel is in one I can glaze over certain room if they’re not important to the story. Not so with D&D. My player may end up exploring every room of a castle and I need some kind of description, however short, for all of them.

The antagonists has to be one of the most difficult parts. Well, really, anything that involves balancing the game versus telling a good story is what is so difficult. A villain can’t be so overpowered that it is an obvious party kill but he can’t be so underpowered that any threat he makes, plot-wise, goes unappreciated or unconcerned. Same goes for just about any encounter or plot element of your campaign.

However, a D&D is more accepting of aspects you try to eliminate from your writing when it comes to a novel. Your players are inhabiting archetypes, so giving their characters typical archetypal stories is fine. Tropes, cliches, and parody is welcomed rather then eliminated in later drafts.

Plus, though novels don’t have to do this either, a D&D campaign can be silly and less serious. If you tell a good story in your campaign, you get validation every session by the joy your players are having A novel takes much longer to get that validation.

A friend, fellow writer, and former Dungeon Master himself tells me being a DM will likely make me a better writer. I can see where that stems from but what I get out of it now is combining my love for storytelling and worldbuilding with friends who I love to be around.