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.
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
March 23, 2014
Attaching a character sheet I drew up in Excel. It loosely mirrors the character sheet you sent me, but I didn’t want to start filling that in until you took a look.
I extrapolated from the item pricing that a +1 shield would be 500gp (in line with a weapon.) If this is incorrect, I will adjust accordingly.
Everything else should follow either the playtest docs or your houserules, based on what we discussed. I changed my background to “Thrane Soldier,” which is identical to the published Soldier background, except that I’ve swapped out the Athletics (STR) skill proficiency for Religion (INT), since Thrane is a theocracy. That allowed me to take Persuasion, Insight, and Intimidation, all of which seem like natural skills for an Inquisitor. I’d like to get Deception, too, but I’m not sure it makes sense in place of Survival for a Soldier > Paladin > Cleric.
Please make sure I’ve done the Prepared Spells correctly. Note that I didn’t prepare any spells unique to the Paladin list, so I can cast all of them as cleric spells with Wisdom, right? The reasoning was twofold: First, I want to make sure I’m differentiated from the party Paladin. Second, I have enough DD/AoE from domain spells that there wasn’t a lot of utility in beefing up my melee. Also, I took Aid (2nd level) over Mass Healing Word (3rd) because Aid guarantees 5 HP to targets while MHW only averages 6.5, Aid can be cast in preparation for combat, and my character has been adventuring alone to this point; it wouldn’t make sense to have a party-heal spell prepared. I’m open to switching it out in the future if I’m wrong. Also, on that note, I should probably have Death Ward (4th level) already cast (and the effect worn off?) Even if I was taken completely by surprise and still have the rest of my spells, since I’m out alone in foreign lands, I would cast Death Ward on myself every morning.
As part of the soldier kit, I gained a Lucky Charm, which I have indicated are dice made of obsidian; I took the Lucky feat, as well, so a gambling accessory fits. I also have a rank insignia, which I imagine for Thrane’s army is some type of badge that can be affixed to armor indicating I’m a lieutenant. Don’t know what that would look like. Finally, it includes a souvenir from a military campaign, which I would like to be a scar slashed across my face, giving me a kind of gruesome visage (so… definitely on the “initimidating” end of my Charisma score, not the attractive end).
Let me know if everything looks to be in order, and I’ll transfer to my character sheet.
Class: Pal 2/Cler 6
Hair: Balding and shaved
Ability Scores: STR 16, DEX 10, CON 12, INT 12, WIS 18, CHA 14
Languages: Common, Dwarven, Orcish (Bonus)
Hit Dice: 2d10, 6d8
Background: Thrane Soldier
Saving Throws: CON, WIS, CHA
Tools: Mounts (land), Healer’s Kit, Gaming Set, Vehicles (Land)
Weapons: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons
Armors: All Armors
Skills: Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS), Religion (INT), Intimidation (CHA), Survival (WIS)
- Trait: Military Rank (Thrane Army Lieutenant)
- Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, Divine Smite
- Fighting Style: Protection
- Spellcasting (Paladin), Spellcasting (Cleric)
- Divine Domain: Light
- Flare (Light Domain)
- Channel Divinity (2/rest): Radiance of the Dawn, Revelation of Truth
- Turn Undead
- Ability Score Improvement (+2 Wis)
Racial Traits: Ability Scores +1, Common + 1 language
- Cantrips: Guidance, Light, Resistance, Sacred Flame, Thaumaturgy
- Level 1: Cure Wounds (Pal), Bless (Pal), Burning Hands (Domain), Faerie Fire (Domain), Detect Good and Evil, Sanctuary
- Level 2: Flaming Sphere (Domain), Scorching Ray (Domain), Lesser Restoration, Aid
- Level 3: Daylight (Domain), Fireball (Domain), Dispel Magic, Protection from Energy
- Level 4: Death Ward
- Warhammer +1, Attack +4, Damage 1d8+4 Bludgeoning
- Javelin (rg 30/120), Attack +3, Damage 1d6 Piercing
- Ranged Spell Attack+3
Equipment: Warhammer +1, Shield +1, MW Plate, 4x Javelin, Pendant with Holy Symbol +1, Hat of Disguise, Adventurer’s Kit, Paper (50 sheets), Ink Pen, Lucky Charm (a pair of dice carved from obsidian), Thrane Army Lieutenant’s Badge, Potion of Healing, Flask of Holy Water
March 24, 2014
Looks great! Only a few minor issues.
So far, 5e doesn’t have shields with enhancement bonuses, so there are no +1 shields. There are magical shields with other properties, just not pluses. You can just switch the bonus over to your armor for the same cost. However, even with that I calculate an AC of 21: +1 MW Plate = 19 + 2 shield = 21. Am I missing another +1 AC from somewhere?
I could see Deception in place of Survival for an Inquisitor, since they’re trained to root out evil from within the ranks of the Church as well, or go undercover. Your call.
Prepared spells: this looks basically correct. You get to prepare 2 Paladin spells and 7 Cleric spells each day. However, they can all be of any level you can cast. So your distribution (four 1st level spells, two 2nd level spells, two 3rd level spells, one 4th level spell) is fine, but you’re not restricted to it. So both your prepared Paladin spells can be 4th level Paladin spells, if you really want. You can only actually cast one of them a day (and none of the 4th level Cleric spells you might have prepared at the same time), but you can do it. More realistically, you can just prepare whatever you think you might want that day, with little regard for each spell’s actual level.
Proficiency bonus also applies to attack rolls, so your attack bonus is +7 with your warhammer and +6 with your javelin.
During the War, your rank insignia would have been permanently seared into your armor with an Arcane Mark. Inquisitors need to be able to shed those markings, though, so now it’s likely a sash tied around your arm or a tabard you wear over your armor. The heraldry of Thrane is basically the same as that of the Silver Flame: a silver longsword, point down, underneath a stylized silver flame, all set on a silver arrowhead, also point down. As a Templar priest, followers of the Silver Flame also refer to you as “Sir.”
Backstory: feel free to fill in or change any particular points, and let me know if there’s anything else you want fleshed out.
For nearly seven centuries, the Flame has guided the hands of the righteous, and now it guides yours. Go forth, and cleanse evil from every land and every heart. The Flame is pure, so you are pure. The Flame is strong, so you are strong. The Flame never errs, so shall you never err.
— The Grand Confessor, upon the night of your vows to the Knights Inquisitive
You were born in 956 YK, in the midst of a continent-spanning war that had already raged for decades. After your conscription, your strength of arms and good judgment allowed you to rise quickly in the ranks. That Karrnathi skeleton troops tended to focus fire on officers also sped up promotions.
As a Hoof-Priest (a cavalry lieutenant), you drew the attention of the argent in command of your company, Andri Lukas. He cultivated your budding religious curiosity and eventually recommended you for admission to Kloijnir, the monastery on the outskirts of Flamekeep itself. After four long years of study and training, you emerged as Paladin of the Silver Flame, and Lukas revealed his true identity as a Prefect of the Inquisition.
Your personality profiles and temperament evaluations marked you a promising candidate, and you accepted his offer to join the Knights Inquisitive, to undertake whatever tasks the Flame required. On the night of your vows, after a masked homily before the Grand Confessor, you were introduced to the other member of your cell, a human woman named Lycia Velencor.
Over the next several years, you and Lycia, under the direction of Prefect Lukas, conducted dozens of missions, both prominent and covert, in the service of both the Flame and the war efforts of Thrane. Particularly difficult or important missions might see the addition of another Prefect, or even other cells.
On one such occasion, in early 994 YK, the three of you were joined by Prefect Nystrum Shadar, a fervently devout elf who seemed eager to prove himself. Your mission was to accompany the Legion of Perpetual Adoration to its assured victory over Karrnathi forces in northwestern Cyre. Thrane intelligence suspected that the argent in command of the legion’s 3rd flame, Kalion Adara, was planning to betray Thrane by delivering a secret peace proposal from Cyre to Karrnath, in an effort to unite two of Thrane’s greatest enemies.
Three armies met at Arjun Ford: the Cyrans in retreat, pursued by Karrns from the north; the Thranes closing from the west, hoping to crush both wounded forces. While surveying the chaos from a vantage point, Prefect Lukas was killed by an errant arrow, and Shadar took control of the operation.
When Captain Adara’s flame, a force of 300 men, likely all loyal to Thrane, pushed forward into the fray, Shadar ordered their backup to stand down and leave their flank exposed.
When met with objections from both you and Velencor, Shadar countered, “If Adara is a traitor to the Flame, then she dies before she can complete her mission. And if she is innocent, then the Flame will be strengthened by 300 souls this day.”
All 300 were killed. Once the soldiers realized they were doomed, they seemed to fight even harder, cutting their way through both enemy armies before falling under the weight of the carnage. The remaining soldiers of Thrane easily routed the surviving Cyrans and Karrns and established a new Eastern front for the Cyran Campaign.
Your mission complete, you, Velencor and Shadar returned to Flamekeep, where Shadar was hailed as a hero for both cleansing the army of an obvious traitor and spurring the legion to victory. The celebrations were short-lived, though. Three days after the Battle of Arjun Ford, the Day of Mourning obliterated the entire Legion of Perpetual Adoration, as well every other living soul within the borders of Cyre.
In hindsight, the Church disavowed Shadar’s actions, after outcries from the families of soldiers who might have come home before the Mourning had the Battle of Arjun Ford not been so successful. Bishop-Militant Delios Adara also excoriated the intelligence services for insinuating that his daughter could have been a traitor, and the charges were dropped posthumously.
Mad with guilt, Velencor fell on her sword shortly thereafter, and Shadar disappeared. As penance, you have been tasked with hunting him down and purifying him by any means necessary.
The year is 998 YK, two years after the Treaty of Thronehold, and four years after the Day of Mourning. You tracked Shadar across Khorvaire, and finally, he seemed to leave the continent, bound for the port of Stormreach, on Xen’drik.
You arrived in the tropical city on 20 Therendor and made your way to the small temple of the Silver Flame, and its priest, Minister Jirian Zayne. While he was not opposed to your mission, he carefully shepherds the resources of his tiny congregation, and he refused you aid.
Your search was hastened, however, when you were set upon during a late-night investigation.
You awoke to the face of Shadar, accompanied by a dragonmarked elf woman wearing a large bloodstone gem around her neck, and a dark, gaunt figure with mesmerizing eyes and pale fangs. You said your final prayers committing your soul to the Flame, but they did not kill you, and the vampire did not turn you.
Instead, your will was dominated, and you became the unwilling servant of your quarry. For the last five weeks you have been forced to cast spells to heal and aid the soldiers of the elven house of Uruvai, a branch of House Thuranni under the command of Lady Miravella. You could not act of your own accord, but you could see, and you could hear.
It is evident that Shadar is more than he appears. He aids both Miravella and the vampire, known simply as The Qabalrin. Each day, the vampire drinks from a goblet marked with the sign of the Blood of Vol, and his strength appears to grow. Shadar is often gone for days at a time, and when he returns, he is travel-stained and weary.
The conspirators are all preparing for some kind of complicated magical ritual that will take place soon, somewhere to the west. You are not privy to the specifics, but you have discerned that demon-binding is somehow involved.
In the evening of 2 Dravago, after weeks of torment and captivity, you awake to darkness. You are groggy and confused, but you are rested, and you have spells. And you are in control.
[I-Hsien’s note: The party had already met a recurring villain, Nystrum Shadar. They hated him (he blew up an airship while they were on it) and taunted them from the safety of the audience while they were fighting in the Stormreach arena. When Shane suggested his character was chasing a rogue inquisitor, Nystrum was the perfect choice. I had intended to bring back Lycia Velencor as part of the conspiracy later in the campaign, but I never got around to it, so ultimately, Nystrum was working alone.]
Backstory looks great. I’ll fill in some light details around where I was born, my parents (now dead), etc. I was envisioning my character in his early or mid 40s and wearing his age… In this low-life-expectancy kind of world, the kind of guy who’s old, but still sharp. Between a moderately successful military career, the years of training in the priesthood, and the time spent in the Inquisition, that seems reasonable; at any rate, even if conscription is at 1, I can’t see being any younger than mid-30s. It doesn’t seem immediately relevant, but it seems a silly detail to overlook.
I’m not sure where that extra +1 AC came from. I think I might have double-counted with the shield as a +3 AC, and then +1 enhancement bonus separate. At any rate, I’ll correct it and switch the enhancement bonus to armor. How much are the non-enhancement magical effects for shields? Is there anything appropriate that I’d be missing?
I’ll add Deception as a class skill in place of Survival.
Yeah, I’ve got my spells prepped roughly how I like them for versatility. I’ll skew them, of course, if we’re anticipating a threat. I definitely didn’t read the multiclass rules for Spells Known the same way… I wish they had used a Divine/Arcane caster example instead of the Bard/Mage example. I interpreted it as “you need to have individual class access to the spell in order to know it and prepare it, but you can share spells per day across classes.” So I can cast all 4 of my first level spells on spells prepared unique to the Paladin list (even though a Paladin 2 only gets 2 spells per day), but I need to be at least Paladin 5 before I can cast level 2 from the Paladin list. It’s largely academic in my case, as the Cleric list is much stronger for utility, and my Domain spells are generally stronger for damage (and not dependent on being in melee.)
We just made inverse mistakes on the attack rolls. I think I applied my proficiency (+3) to my attack rolls, but I forgot my STR bonus on melee (also +3.) I believe Warhammer should be +7 (+3 prof, +3 str, +1 enhancement), but Javelin is ranged, so it is correctly +3 (+3 prof, +0 dex, +0 enhancement.) For a Ranged Spell attack (such as Scorching Ray), do I get a +1 enhancement bonus to hit from my Implement? If so, I haven’t included that.
Looking forward to meeting everyone tomorrow evening.
Yeah, your sheet said he’s 42, which is fine. You can draw out the time spent soldiering, or training, or Inquiring to stretch it out, but I’d like the Battle of Arjun Ford to remain just a few days before the Mourning. You can also change any names you want, except for Nystrum.
For now, the official magic item list is pretty lackluster, so I’ve mocked up some extra items on the Magic Items page, but I haven’t gone full bore yet. That will likely wait until the official release, so there aren’t any shield bonuses available for purchase. You can always find a magic shield, though, or some way to enchant your shield in the future.
Multiclassing is specifically called out in other docs as a way to get access to Paladin or Bard spells much earlier than otherwise. Whether that will remain that way is something the designers are still mulling over before the final release, so I don’t plan to change it in the meantime, since there will likely be big changes in a few months anyway.
[I-Hsien’s note: Access to spells via multiclassing doesn’t work like this anymore.]
The javelin is a thrown weapon, so you use STR for ranged attacks. I’ve houseruled that magical implements add +1 to spell DC and +1 to spell attacks.
I plan to introduce your character as someone who has inside info on the undead cult. Hopefully the other characters will be more likely to trust a prisoner, and we can skip a lot of the tedious do-we-bring-him-along-or-kill-him debate. You might begin to “remember” more of your captivity if I decide I want the party to have more info tomorrow. And I expect you’ll be urging the party to pursue Nystrum and stop whatever he’s doing. Let me know if that’s not the case.
I hope we all like each other, because I really dig this character.
[I-Hsien’s note: And with that, the first iteration of Brand Talandro was complete. The party rescued him from the Uruvai and they pursued Nystrum into the interior of Xen’drik. They were captured by the drow queen, robbed of their gold, and left to the mercies of the Lord of Eyes, a daelkyr trapped in Khyber. The party defeated her and leapt through a portal to New Cyre. But Nystrum escaped with about a thousand dragonshards containing bound fiends.
In August, the 5e Player’s Handbook was finally released, along with the real character creation rules, so every player needed to rebuild with the new rules. They also had the opportunity to switch to a new character if they preferred. Shane, of course, split the difference. You can check out the rest of Brand’s evolution over the course of the Mourning Glory campaign, both mechanically and in-game, at the Total Party Thrill site.]
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.