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
Sketch of Brand Talandro
March 18, 2014
Hmm, so after reading through those PDFs, I think that might be a bit of a stretch. Now that I have a better understanding of how the Church is structured, and reading page 12 of the larger PDF, I might have a more workable backstory. It wasn’t clear to me, but I get the impression that Thrane must have a standing (secular-ish) army, as well as the Church’s Templars, and that during the Last War, most boys who didn’t enter the priesthood would be drafted to serve in the Thrane Army. So based on that:
I was born in Thrane (probably a small village) and raised a devout member of the Church. Like all boys, I was drafted into the Thrane army to fight in the Last War, where I became a Cleric of the Silver Flame (and possibly a multiclass, not sure) and rose to Lieutenant (basically, the lowest officer rank) in the [XXXX Campaign, preferably something pretty prolonged and bloody], where I also became a petitioner under a priest named XXXXX who traveled with the Thrane army. XXXXXX entered me into a seminary in [wherever I was for the campaign], and after four years, XXXXXX returned to the seminary and revealed that he was actually a Prefect Inquisitor and invited me into the Inquisition (“The Knights Inquisitive”). Prefect XXXXX taught me all about the role of the Order of Templars and the Inquisition, and taught me how to root out evil within communities and even our own ranks.
The Church also used the The Knights Inquisitive to carry out sensitive missions throughout the war, embedded within the Thrane armies as any other priests would be. On one of these missions, in the course of duty, Prefect XXXXX was killed, and a new Prefect, YYYYY, took over the mission. Long story short, YYYYY proved much more willing to justify questionable acts with “the greater good.” Anyways, YYYYY led me and [pick a number: two?] other Inquisitors to commit a [Particularly big, famous atrocity, which maybe directly impacted another PC or a future NPC who hates the Church], close to the end of the War.
Since the Last War’s conclusion, those three Inquisitors have disappeared, left to pursue different tasks. To atone for the act, I have taken it upon myself to hunt them down and bring them to justice. Shortly thereafter, one of the errant Inquisitor priests died in battle, but one Priest and Prefect YYYYY are still at large. I’ve come to Stormreach to follow a lead on the Priest (who will also need a name), hoping to learn what he is chasing, and see if he, too, can atone for the sins he committed during the Last War. If I cannot make him see the error of his ways and to atone, I’ll have to return his soul to the Silver Flame.
Let me know what you think; there are some details to fill in (names, details on the lead that brought me to Stormreach, the horrible atrocity I committed, etc) that I’ll just need you to define for me.
March 19, 2014
Yeah, this is great. I’ll come up with names and specifics soon.
Who in the Church hierarchy knows about your transgression, and/or your mission?
As for character creation, standard point-buy. Everything you’ll need is listed in the Character Creation document, but a few highlights to note:
- Start at Level 8
- Free feat at 1st level, which may not be used for an Ability Score Increase
- No attribute requirements for multiclassing
- Cure Wounds and Healing Word are rolled into a single spell
- You have 3,000 gold pieces to use for equipment, spell scrolls, etc. This reflects what you were given by the Church and what you’ve accumulated from adventuring, so you can use it to buy anything in the Equipment document or on the Magic Items page of the wiki. You can also take a look at what the party has already accumulated.
- Start with free nonmagical armor. In your case, it was likely provided by the Church. It can be upgraded to magical armor for the price listed on the Magic Items page (minus the cost of the armor itself)
- Let me know if you have any questions or to request any special considerations.
[I-Hsien’s note: At this point, there weren’t any rules for magic items. One of the defining features of Eberron is the relative abundance of low-level magic items, so I had cobbled together a list of arms and armor with abilities and prices.]
Who knows about the transgression? I was imagining something on the scale of “an entire village wiped out to cleanse an evil that really wasn’t that big of a deal,” maybe with an element of suspected personal retribution for the Inquisitor Prefect (someone in the village wronged him, so he burned it to the ground kind of thing and trumped up the justification, and I was naive enough to believe it so I went along, and then put the pieces together after the fact and realized what we had done.) So I would think that anyone from the region (or maybe country) knows about the event and believes it was perpetrated by the Church, but very few people outside of the Church know the truth of what happened, and even fewer people inside the Church know the Inquisitor Prefect’s true motive.
I wasn’t thinking of a 9/11, shot-heard-round-the-world kind of event. More like a particularly devastating suicide bomber in Afghanistan… Something that the local area would never forget, but outsiders to the country would chalk up as just another Bad Thing amongst a long list of Bad Things that the Church did during the war.
Who knows about my mission? This is kind of up to you, and how you imagine the Inquisition is structured (the materials you sent suggest the Inquisition is a loose affiliation, but if it’s effectively the Church/Thrane’s intelligence agency… they WOULD want everyone to think that.)
Here is one way it could have gone down: Guiltily, I brought up my concerns to a different Prefect/Prefects within the Inquisition, seeking atonement. The Inquisition confronted the Inquisitor Prefect and the other Priest, who denied my charges. The Inquisition moved to formally excommunicate and punish the Inquisitor Prefect and the other Priest (atonement or death?), but in order to avoid the political ramifications of publicly acknowledging wrongdoing, kept the proceedings quiet. Seeing this, the Prefect and Priest took off, denouncing the Church (but not the Silver Flame–they are probably still devout.) I’ve been dispatched to either bring them in for atonement or, if they accept their wickedness and will not atone, purify them in death. So the mission is recognized within the Inquisition by at least senior Prefects, but it’s not public within the Church, and certainly not acknowledged to any outsiders.
Alternatively: When I brought up their misdeeds, the Church, under Keeper Daran, acknowledged the misdeeds of Inquisitor Prefect and publicly condemned and excommunicated him and the surviving Priest. They both fled, and, as someone who worked with them extensively, I have been tasked with bringing them to either atonement or death. Since the Church has acknowledged it publicly, anyone could know about the Inquisitor Prefect and Priest, and thus about the mission to find them, but they wouldn’t know it was me personally assigned the task. However, if I revealed that to loyal members of the Church, I should receive aid and support or whatever (obviously doesn’t apply in Stormreach or with splintered sects of the Church.)’
I’ll leave that to you as to which is better for your game… I don’t want to drop in with a diva character. Maybe I’m in Stormreach without anything more than a hunch (“If I were an excommunicated priest on the run, where would I go? I would start with Stormreach, so lets see if they did, too”) so I’m free to pursue sidequests as a cover story.
I took a look again at the multiclass possibilities, and I think I want to go with a Paladin 2/Cleric 6. I like the idea that I was following the path of a Paladin while in the Thrane Army, but my mentor from the Church trained me as a cleric and encouraged me to be more devout in my faith than zealous in its display. I also like that I would be a Paladin who is un-Oathed (literally… the Oath class feature is level 3), so I’m not “fully” a Paladin. And practically speaking, I’m only giving up one caster level.
Some additional 5e questions for you:
1. Ability score increases for multiclass: do they only occur when you achieve 4th level in a class, or 4th level of any class? It looks like Paladin 2/Cleric 2 would not get a score increase, but Paladin 2/Cleric 4 would?
2. Are feats or ability scores generally favored? I’m leaning towards Lucky or the Magic Adept tree, but I could just bump Wisdom.
3. Is INT kind of a throwaway stat for non-Arcane classes? It doesn’t power much in the way of skills (especially compared to 3.5) and INT saves look pretty rare on the spell list. I’m planning to go Human with +1 to all stats for final stats of 16 Str/10 Dex/12 Con/12 Int/16 Wis/14 Cha. I feel like a 12 Dex/10 Int build would be a lot stronger because of Dex saves and ranged attack rolls (I think spells still have these, right?), but I’d rather roleplay a smarter character. Disappointing that there’s no mechanical benefit to INT.
4. For your house rule with armor, does the “best available” include Masterwork, or would I need to pay for that upgrade? And it looks like “Masterwork” is no longer a trait for weapons? So any weapon can be made magical?
Thanks for the help,
[Shane’s note: Still a dump stat!]
March 20, 2014
First off, the final release of 5e will be out in mid-August. Everyone will have a chance to rebuild with the real rules, so don’t sweat it too much.
1. Currently, every class gets feats/ASIs at different levels, and in different amounts over the course of 20 levels. Multiclassing usually ends up delaying them, though certain multiclass combos earn them back at later levels. Paladin 2/Cleric 2 gets no ASIs, but Paladin 2/Cleric 4 does.
2. Depends on the build, but most characters should take ASIs early on, then switch to feats, unless a particular feat is integral to the build. That’s one of the reasons I’m giving a free feat (and not an ASI) at 1st level. Remember that ability scores max out at 20, so once your primary (and maybe secondary) scores are at 20, feats are probably a better choice. Magic Adept is generally seen as a mechanically weak choice, especially in Eberron, where you can buy scrolls or wands to increase your spell repertoire. If you want real spell-like abilities, I recommend taking a Dragonmark, though that comes with RP baggage (assuming the House knows of your existence). No one’s taken Lucky yet, but it seems pretty useful.
3. INT is basically a dump stat for a Paladin/Cleric, unfortunately. However, you can shore up your low INT with good skill picks since you can take whatever you want (remember you can make your own background), and new skills are fairly cheap, with either a feat or a single-level multiclass dip. Alternatively, take the lower DEX and shore it up with a multiclass that gives proficiency in DEX saving throws, or just pump your HP, since many DEX saves will be to prevent spell damage.
4. “Best available” includes masterwork, so you get anything on the armor table. Any weapon can be magical or made magical. Weapons are much cheaper than armor, so a +1 weapon is a flat 500gp. They can be bought in any city of decent size.
I’m a little concerned that a Cleric of Light with a splash of Paladin will step on the toes of our Paladin/fire Mage who channels all his spells into smites, since they’re both fire-heavy religious warriors, but we can make it work. But consider a few unorthodox options:
Cleric 7/Fighter 1: Still gets you heavy armor and martial weapons, plus proficiency in STR and CON saves. Only loses 1 spellcasting level, so you still get a 4th level spell. Fighter features at 1st level are also great. You started as devout warrior with a more martial bent before focusing on the Silver Flame.
Cleric 7/Ranger 1 or Cleric 6/Ranger 2: Ranger nets you martial weapons, DEX saving throws and three skills. Also gets Tracking, for locating your fellow transgressors, though the party already has a strong tracker. Take 2 Ranger levels to get some good combat bonuses. You started as a scout or a cavalry officer (take Animal Handling) before taking your vows.
Cleric 7/Rogue 1: 4th level spells, a few more weapons, thieves’ tools, DEX saving throws, four skills and Expertise (which I’m happy to let you retrain to any of your Cleric skills). You do sacrifice a few HP, though. Before being drafted, you were a street-smart wayward youth.
I completely missed the Saving Throw proficiencies. That’s embarrassing on my part but it makes sense.
In terms of roles in combat, I see my character acting as a cleric: casting buffs and heals, but having direct damage to compliment debuffs, especially since the primary Mage is an Enchanter. If there’s a risk of stepping on a current players’ toes, then I’d prefer to take Cleric straight rather than multiclass to Fighter or Ranger. The build might be a little weaker (and, I see now, certainly weaker than Paladin/Cleric), but it feels more right from a character perspective.
If the concern is more on the RP/”fun for the players” side, I’d rather go in a new direction, because I don’t know if there’s a way to avoid the “we are both champions of our gods” angle. I worry that the character history is so complicated already, maybe I’d be better playing something a simpler character without religious dictations on his actions and all the personal mission and intrigue that would eventually place demands on the party as a whole: a ranger-type who came to hunt evil, or a barbarian-type seeking glory for his tribe.
The “two holy warriors” angle works really well, I think, especially since you’ll both be worshipping different deities. My only concern with overlap is that his playstyle is heavily armored, charge into the fray, burn spell slots to drop a huge fire-based smite.
If you go Cleric of Light 6/Paladin 2, it will be hard for you to avoid that playstyle. You’ve got heavy armor, a nice weapon in hand, and fire-based spells on call. You could keep yourself from dropping smites too often or rushing into battle, but if you hold back and drop divine magic from behind the front lines, you’re not really getting anything from Paladin, and I don’t want you to have to pull your punches.
If you go straight Cleric, I would suggest going with War (since you’re dedicated to the Silver Flame no matter what, the selection of Domain is more mechanical than flavor). You get some nice party buffs, heavy armor and shields, and you’re not tempted to burn your slots on smites. The only thing extra that Paladin would give you is CON saves, but you won’t lose a caster level.
Life would also be a good option, if, after causing so much death, you decide to focus on healing (though you should know I’m considering nerfing Raise Dead, though we’ll see.)
Or you can stick with Light, but make yourself more of a ranged “Laser” cleric, with fire-based AoE and strong single-target damage.
Also, there will be a lot more Domain options come August when we get the final rules.
Feel free to nerf Raise Dead all you want, lol. As a worshiper of the Silver Flame, I can’t use any spell that returns the dead to life. Raise Dead, Wish, Resurrection, etc. That would either be an evil act to raise an evil soul, or would be stealing a good and virtuous soul away from its communion with the Flame, ultimately denying the Flame the strength of that soul. 🙂
Not that I considered it, but that makes Life Domain extra weak for the Purified. By the way, who runs around with the 500gp diamond needed to cast Raise Dead on the fly? It’s a ritual spell! If you’ve got the materials and the chance to cast it, you’ve probably also got time to take a long rest and just prepare the spell for that day. That’s kind of a silly top-tier ability, IMO.
[I-Hsien’s note: That’s a pretty strict interpretation of Silver Flame doctrine, but a reasonable one.]
More to the point: I really don’t think I’m pulling punches if I focus on casting with Paladin/Light Domain. Having true direct damage and AoE spells (I mean, Fireball! As a cleric!) make me much more versatile as a caster hanging back. I’m picking up those damaging spells from Mage/Druid lists, as well as better buffs/debuffs/heals than the Paladin list. And I’ve got multiple options for my Channel Divinity, so the choice to blow it on a single huge Smite comes at a higher opportunity cost: a spell slot AND not being able to use one of my other Channel abilities.
I’m not saying I won’t ever need to use Smite, but I don’t think the combo is so strong that I’m pulling punches by not rushing to the front lines to use it. I would feel like I was handicapping myself if it were a Paladin/War Domain or Paladin/Life Domain. Then the powered Smite would then be a more attractive option because it would be one of the only ways for me to really ramp up my damage output.
From an RP standpoint, my character is an Inquisitor who goes on dangerous missions to cleanse not just evil foes, but beings MADE of pure evil like fiends, devils, and undead, and obviously sometimes gets sent alone. He’s not the best melee and he’s not the best caster, but he is very decent at both and can use healing and buffs to endure and outlast his foes.
[Shane’s note: That last paragraph really sums up Brand as a character concept: self-reliant holy warrior.]
Ok, sound reasoning. I like it. And the party could use a good healer.
I’m going to dig through the source material more thoroughly to come up with background specifics for you, and you can change them as you see fit.
Great, I’ll get you a draft character sheet with everything but that over the weekend.
[I-Hsien’s note: And we’ll see Brand’s very first character sheet and his completed backstory…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.