I interviewed I-Hsien and Shane from Total Party Thrill over a year ago and have been listening to the podcast since early 2016. I-Hsien reached out to me last week about teaming up with Tribality to help celebrate their 100th episode. I jumped at the idea and this is the first or a three-part series that will be released each Thursday.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three (Next Week)
To celebrate our 100th episode, the Total Party Thrill podcast is taking a look back at the origin and evolution of one of the party members in Mourning Glory, our D&D 5e Eberron campaign, which we recapped in the first 73 episodes of the podcast.
We’ve had many requests from listeners to see the character sheet for Shane’s PC Brand, but that’s tough, because there were several iterations of Brand over the course of the campaign, and his earliest version was created with the 5e playtest rules.
At the same time, we’ve also been wanting to demonstrate how a Game Master and a player might work out a character concept together, both during character creation and over the course of a campaign. So we figured, why not combine the two?
The chats Shane and Mourning Glory GM I-Hsien had about lore, background, and mechanics resulted in the creation of Brand Talandro, Silver Flame inquisitor and champion of the greater good. Here’s how it happened.
I-Hsien & Shane
[I-Hsien’s note: In early 2014, a player left our long-time RPG group, so as the GM of our playtest 5e D&D game, I looked for a replacement player. I found Shane through Reddit, and after very minor vetting, the group invited him to a game to see if there was chemistry. About a week before Shane’s first session, I sent him the link to the campaign wiki and filled him in on the party makeup. For an overview of the Eberron campaign setting, listen to Episode 33.]
March 17, 2014
Subject: 5e Playtest Docs
The campaign is set in Eberron, which is detailed pretty thoroughly on the wiki. Currently, the party consists of a traumatized human paladin/warmage, a half-elf rogue inquisitive of House Medani, a possibly insane human enchanter, a half-elf bard and a warforged monk.
Some of the party is Good-aligned, while others are merely pragmatic. They’ve been questing to prevent a reoccurrence of the Day of Mourning, which they strongly suspect was instigated by House Cannith, though they’ve recently discovered possible demonic and cultish links.
They’re currently in Stormreach, on Xen’drik.
Let me know what you’re potentially interested in playing (you won’t have to commit for a few sessions) and I can walk you through character creation.
I’ve never played Eberron, so I started reading through the Wiki last night. Based on a limited reading and looking through that party list, maybe a Thrane Cleric of the Silver Flame. I’d have to work out some of the class/race details once I get into the 5e rules, but I’m thinking a missionary would explain my presence far away from Thrane, and depending on the current party level, would explain my character level experience (I’ve been a missionary for a while!) or lack thereof (first time away from home!)
That would also be a pretty easy hook for the party… either the prevention of the Day of Mourning (I confess, I haven’t gotten to that entry in the Wiki yet) is an opportunity to serve and advance the Silver Flame after my missionary duties have been completed, or I can (rightfully or wrongfully) interpret the opportunity as divine will to abandon my assigned missionary duties and pursue this cause.
What would the typical Silver Flame Cleric do for alignment? I’m guessing LG or LN, so I’d probably stick out if I were Chaotic. Maybe a Neutral Good or True Neutral would fit well. Maybe a Cleric who respects Divine law to the utmost (and, thus, Thrane law within its borders), but doesn’t necessarily honor the secular laws of foreign lands… Someone who actively seeks out, attempts to interpret, and wishes to serve the will of his god, but isn’t confined to Lawful Stupid cliches of black and white morality.
Otherwise, based on the party, it looks like it could use a fighter/barbarian type. Let me know if that would be better, and I’ll start looking for an interesting backstory in the setting.
[Shane’s note: This was the first D&D game I had played in a few years, and I had been totally out of gaming by the time 4th Edition was announced. I had never played Eberron before, and I somehow mixed it up in my mind with Ravenloft. When I saw there was no cleric in the party, I figured that was an easy gap to fill that would be really useful in a setting crawling with undead, and I went looking for the most interesting cleric stories in the setting. A Silver Flame Inquisitor fit the bill for me. Of course, Eberron is neither Ravenloft nor crawling with undead, but c’est la vie.]
First off, let me warn you that in the course of DMing this campaign, I’ve become thoroughly immersed in Eberronian lore, so I might end up throwing a lot more at you than you need. Feel free to absorb what you need and minimize other details.
I like the cleric of Thrane idea a lot. That said, the Church of the Silver Flame is (by and large) a militantly expansionist religion, though of course as a PC you’re welcome to interpret its tenets as you see fit (subject to potential reprimand by the Church proper for any apostasy.) Cults and other enclaves of interpretation do exist, though.
I’m happy to work with intraparty tension, but I’d prefer to avoid intraparty conflict, so a LN, rigid adherent probably wouldn’t work for long. But if the mission is bent or redirected by his experiences, that’s a lot more party friendly.
A typical Flamer (yes, they’re actually called that) is LG, though I’m not strict about alignment. Different sects within the faith mirror militant Catholicism, the Inquisition, or evangelical Mormonism.
Thrane itself is a theocracy, and it was a major aggressor in the Last War, which ended only two years ago, so other PCs who fought for other sides may have issues with that. Still, some members of the party have already been dealing with that, so it’s not insurmountable.
If you decide you want to go with the Silver Flame, I’ll send you all the background info your character would know, which is likely a bit more than is on the wiki. No need to memorize; it’s just for your edification if you want.
As for what your character’s been doing so far, the party is Level 8. Eberron is a relatively low-power world, so most people are under Level 5. Famous warriors or mages might be Level 10-12, and the most powerful people on the planet are about Level 17. Your character would be experienced and capable of taking care of himself, but it’s a dangerous world, and help is always useful.
Currently, the party has uncovered a vampire cult among a branch of House Thuranni in Stormreach on Xen’drik. It might be easiest to introduce you as a prisoner of said cult (either of undead or demons). You could have been trapped in torpor and bled for sustenance, or your soul could have been put in a gem. Alternatively, you could have been turned to stone and used as an ornament, maybe even for hundreds of years. This introduces the possibility that either you never knew the War happened, and therefore you weren’t responsible for the atrocities of Thrane, or you might think the War is still on. Stormreach is a town of adventurers, and there is a Silver Flame outpost there, so almost any reason for your presence works.
Mechanically, you can go straight cleric, but the multiclass rules are basically the same as 3.5. Pick any other class at any level. Almost any kind of combination is viable.
If you decide on fighter or barbarian, there are plenty of options for backstory. The whole continent is full of fighters who fought for gold or honor during the War. Barbarians would most likely come from the Carrion Tribes or Ghash’kala in the Demon Wastes, the dragon-worshipping Seren tribes off the coast of Argonnessen, or the orc tribes of the Shadow Marches, but class =/= story, so a street tough with a temper could still be a barbarian.
[I-Hsien’s note: At this point, I wasn’t just trying to help a new player craft a character. I was acting as an Eberron evangelist.]
March 18, 2014
So maybe my backstory is more along the lines of: I served loyally as a Cleric on the front lines during the Last War, but as a result, I committed atrocities in the name of the Silver Flame for which I’m still trying to atone. Having seen the evils that can be done in the name of religion, I’m a supporter of Keeper Daran’s “compassionate ideals,” and perhaps came to Stormreach in order to spread that message to the Flamers there, before being interrupted by my capture (given that, I would also suspect I was betrayed by the still-militant Flamers in Stormreach.)
Not sure about classes… a military career might suggest I multiclassed to Fighter (more effective in combat?) or Paladin (maybe started as a Paladin and then became more devout than zealous), but I am still liking the idea of a pure Cleric. I think a Soldier background makes sense (versus Priest), and the Light domain would make more sense than War… I’m thinking of a cleric of the Silver Flame who did his duty in serving in the Last War, rather than a cleric who was trained for and devoted to warfare.
I think that would be a good middle ground between “make a character super-unique just to allow for the party to accept you” and “make a character unique enough that there’s opportunity for character development.” I guess we’d have to figure out how my military rank, my “mission” to spread compassionate ideals, and my relationship to Keeper Daran and the Cardinals are related. I don’t want to be on a “Top Secret Mission From Keeper Daran,” but if 8th level is a pretty respectable level, then my military rank should be decent, and would have some sort of authority. Perhaps the local Silver Flames outpost in Stormreach has a commander that outranks me, who disagrees with Keeper Daran’s “softer” religious message, and is preventing me from using my rank to my advantage in Stormreach (and possibly betrayed me?)
I’m intrigued by the Silver Flame, but the two things I don’t want to play are the “So Good He’s Almost Willing to Do Evil Inquisitor Cleric” and the “Blindly Religious Zealot Cleric.” I like the idea of a priest-type who struggles to live up to his own ideals because he has seen how the world works outside of a temple, deals with violence because the world is violent, and sometimes struggles with his own faith (which, if I understand Eberron, is warranted because deities don’t really act directly the way they do in, say, Forgotten Realms.)
[Shane’s note: The great irony of this email is that at different points in the story, Brand would be both the “Blindly Religious Zealot” and the “So Good He’s Almost Willing to Do Evil” Inquisitor. He had a long road.]
Also, as an aside, you’ve got experience playing through this edition, so tell me if I’m off-base with my reading. One thing that strikes me from a system perspective is that classes seem weak before level 3. I guess this eliminates the “splash class” builds of 3/3.5 where the first levels were very ability-rich, but I worry that taking one or two levels of a different class for character flavor is going to leave the character underpowered with 5E rules; not to mention, getting the “full” class features of third level in Paladin or Fighter would make my “cleric” barely more than half cleric. Not that it would apply here, but I can’t imagine getting to third level in a class, and then multiclassing to a super-weak first level for another. You’ve got the XP of a 4th level character and the capability of a 3.25 level character. That must be very difficult to balance over the course of a real campaign.
[I-Hsien’s note: At this point, we were using one of the 5e playtest packets, and multiclassing worked differently than the final 5e rules (it gave all the proficiences of the new class, for example). So Brand’s first character sheet will look a little wonky to current players.]
I like it. I’ve attached a bunch of Silver Flame-specific info that your character would likely know or at least have access to. There’s some good stuff on church hierarchy and variant sects that might be helpful, as well as the day-to-day life of the average Purified.
The Church in Stormreach had a schism with the Church proper during the Last War, and they don’t recognize the authority of the Keeper. That would explain why they wouldn’t listen to you. By all accounts, however, they are devout. Whether they betrayed you or were just unable to prevent your kidnapping by an undead cult is up to you.
Character power levels are a lot more tightly grouped than in 3.5, and the consensus is that multiclassing is actually a little overpowered. We do have a Paladin/Mage who channels all his spell slots into big smites, but other than that, no Cleric combo you can come up with would step on anyone’s toes.
Attachments: Copies of Chapter 3 of the 3.5 book Faiths of Eberron and page 79 of City of Stormreach.
[I-Hsien’s note: And we’ll find out how Brand’s backstory comes together…next week.]
About Total Party Thrill
Total Party Thrill is a podcast for GMs and players where we discuss our campaigns in order to inspire yours. Hosts I-Hsien and Shane draw heavily from a 3-year, level 1-20 D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) 5th Edition Eberron campaign and an ongoing Rogue Trader game set in the Warhammer 40k universe. Each episode covers a particular aspect of game planning and playing, and we share tips and advice drawn from our own experience. Then follow us into the Character Creation Forge, where we build iconic character archetypes from outside traditional D&D using the D&D 5E rules.