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

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One Word After Another: Wonder Woman, Fantasy, D&D, Game of Thrones S6.

My draft section on this blog has become mighty daunting. The problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to say, but it never felt like enough to fill how long I expect a post to be. So I decided to title this amalgamation of posts into posts called “One Word After Another” named after this Neil Gaiman quote:

“The process of writing can be magical. There are times when you step out of a upper floor window and you just walk across thin air and it’s absolute nutter happiness. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another. The process of writing can be magical. There are times when you step out of a upper floor window and you just walk across thin air and it’s absolute nutter happiness. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.” – Neil Gaiman, Nerdist Podcast.

I believe in my archives I titled posts of random links the same, but this is not the same.

Since my last post, Wonder Woman has premiered in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman Rebirth began with Greg Rucka back on writing duties, the trailer for Wonder Woman’s solo movie came out, a trailer of Justice League Action premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, and I read The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

I believe, thanks to my love of fantasy and my continuing adventuring playing and DMing Dungeons and Dragons, Wonder Woman has risen to #1 status as my favorite member of DC Comics’ Trinity. Don’t get me wrong, Green Lanter and the Flash can always count on me to have their back, and have no love loss for Bats and Supey but the ways of Wonder Woman have  swayed me. A complex female character taking on Greek gods and monsters balanced by her stranger in a strange land story is very appealing to me. In my head, she balances a lot of the qualities that I’ve always loved about Superman and Batman while also bringing new ideas to the table. Ideas of that delve into whether can be both the peacemaker and the warrior.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman‘s title, by Jill Lepore, should come with a caveat or written beneath in small letters it could say “‘s Creator,” since this book is barely about Wonder Woman but mostly about William Moulton Marston.  The question one is left after reading this book is what to think of her creator. Is he a con artist, by manipulating his students , his mistress, and his colleagues to boost his respect / standing in the academic community? I mean, at one point there is no denying he is a fraud with what he tries to pull with Gillette Razors and his Lie Detector test. Is he a feminist, an advocate for the women’s movement or is he a hypocrite for his lifestyle of a patriarchal figure to two women fathering children with both Olivia Byrne and Zadie Holloway plus a third woman involved.

The author does an excellent job balancing Marston’s good traits with his bad subjectively, not by offering her own opinion on the creator of Wonder Woman. At some points, Marston sounds like a strong advocate for women’s rights, and at others, he sounds like he’d prefer a harem of women if he were allowed. Question: How many women must there be to be considered a harem? Is three enough? In general, it isn’t a good sign when Joye Hummel is introduced as his co-writer for Diana and I wondered whether she was going to be Marston’s next mistress. However, the author made me admire Marston’s strong will to defend Wonder Woman’s agency, the agency of women in general, and the kink community that in his day-and-age was seen as a perversion. That be said, when I really thought about W.H. Marston I believe if I knew the man in real life his arrogance mixed with denial would make me want to punch him in the face.

Dungeons & Dragons have made me appreciate writers with a deadline and improvisers. Every week I’m left trying to write what’ll happen next in the campaign on a framework of a story that does not have enough time for a second draft. There are no second drafts of a campaign when you write while you’re playing each week nor if you did would it necessarily work. A common saying I hear from Dungeon Masters is “any preparation you make is destroyed upon contact with players.” It would be so easy for me to railroad my player characters but I want them to choose and sometimes that leads me down a road of making it up on the spot. Sometimes adding information to the canon of my world that I’m furiously writing down less I forget. It’s not easy, and I learned from reading The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney that this disconnect I feel between my thoughts and the words I speak versus the words I write is normal but sometimes it gets in the way when I am telling my story.

Rereading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin I am blown away by this book even more than I was the first time. It has been since 2012 since I read it, before season 2 of the show ever came out, and boy, it makes the show look bad in comparison. It isn’t the show’s fault, though, I have come to realize again, but the fault of the basic principals and foundation of creating a television show. There is all these little details missing from the show that makes it seem like the Sparknotes version of the books but that is because there are very real limitations. The show can only be so long, they can only spend so much money, they can only include so many characters, they can only hire so many actors, they only have so much time to fill it. The other problem is, the little changes in the show that seem idiotic, is due to this prevailing nature in films and television that pisses me off to no end. This idea that television and movie audiences are stupid, every little thing has to be explained (especially when it comes to magic), and nothing can be confusing for any single member of the audience in order to read a wider audience. That’s why Tyrion’s wife was cut from the show, it’s why Hodor’s real name isn’t Walder but Willis, and why Asha is now Yara because that’s too close to Osha. There is subtly to the books the show lacks, and it loses some of its sparkles because of that. After watching season six of the show I am even more excited to get my hands on The Winds of Winter because they built a pyre around subtly and burned it to the ground. All this being said, what kind of idiot reads A Dance with Dragons and goes “Hey, you know what part would be really cool to add to our show? The horrific rape scene! *Writer’s room cheering:* YEAH!” Real bad, fellas.

In two weeks time, I’ll be done proofreading my novel, having finished editing the story back in April. So far, the beta readers I’ve sent it out to have sent some very kind things. I’ll have to remember them when the rejection letter begins coming in when I send it out to literary agents.

You Should Read: A Crown of Cold Silver by Alex Marshall, Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

You Should Listen To: The British History Podcast, The Adventure Zone, Drunks and Dragons Podcast, My Brother, My Brother, & Me Podcast.

 

 

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.