I thought, why not?
My list reflects my unfortunate tendency to end up behind the GM screen for anything that’s not Dungeons & Dragons. Actually running a character for something else is rare for me, and the most common situation is a World of Darkness game, in any edition, that folds two sessions into the campaign. There have also been Shadowrun games that folded before the game ever started, and a Heavy Gear game that folded two sessions in. Aaaaanyway, without further ado, My Top Five Characters of All Time:
1. Caldour Dalaith: A half-elf bard from the old FaerunMUD, which I’ve mentioned before. It was a Forgotten Realms -based MUD, using an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition ruleset. I think Caldour was the first character I actually roleplayed well, got immersed in. He was a bit of a scoundrel, did not always do the right thing, and preferred to sit in a bar and sip lattes or perform poetry rather than go into the woods to hunt ogres. Caldour’s repertoire of songs, poems and stories consisted of a few poems and songs from different Volo’s Guides (“Jonstan the Rover” from Volo’s Guide to the Dalelands, among others), the tale of Lafarallinn from Monster Mythology and a handful of things I composed myself and cannot bear to look at anymore. While he wasn’t a great adventurer, he was a joy to roleplay.
One time, Caldour accompanied a pair of wizardesses of questionable moral fibre (and not in the cool way, either) to a distant village in the Dalelands. The road was cut by monsters, and Cal, being a bard, was unable to make the trip on his own. I do not recall anymore why we were going to that flea-speck of a hamlet, but it is not relevant. What is relevant is that in the end, they up and left and abandoned Caldour in the village.
While he eventually did make his way back from the backwoods before they taught him to play the banjo, by a mixture of sneaking and running for his sweet life, he was thoroughly annoyed. Within a few weeks, all inn noticeboards from Waterdeep to Dalelands were festooned with a fresh poem from an anonymous quill, which, while naming no names, had some quite recognisable characters, and a satirical note, embellishing their character flaws. I do not recall their reaction, though. I do still have a copy of the poem, though I refuse to post it here. Suffice to say that I was around fourteen at the time, and it contains the rhyme “incants – splats”.
2. Varl Kadek: Varl was another scoundrelly sort of character, except that he was a pure fighter, wielding a falchion, and did in fact possess a functional moral compass. It did not always agree with the party’s paladin, Silas, but he thought not wearing a hair shirt was a sin, so what could he know?
Varl was one of my characters from a number of Scarred Lands campaigns I played online, with the enthusiastic fan Nightfall as the GM. Nightfall had quite a forum presence at the time, and eventually the SL line developers wrote him in as an NPC in the Shelzar: City of Sins sourcebook. Some others were the gnoll ranger Khamut, prophesied to unite his people, and the dwarven battle priest Benkk Axecleft.
Varl, though, was the first. In the campaign called The Irregulars of Hollowfaust, he, Sir Silas, an elven ranger called Ban, a bishounen necromancer and a cavalcade of one-hit wonder clerics who got killed by the dozen (a continuous theme in Nightfall’s campaigns) ventured into a desolated area within the city of Hollowfaust, where free-willed and malevolent undead roamed. The first cleric of the party to die was Ophelia, killed by a powerful undead sutak sorcerer. Sutaks were the Scarred Land donkey folk. Don’t ask.
The sorcerer initially forced us to retreat, but we rested, recouped, and came back with our second cleric, Hannah, who didn’t die until later. We tracked down the sutak and, after destroying his pet vilewight, Varl and Silas charged their adversary, with the warcry “Your ass is mine!”
Not satisfied with just killing the monster, Varl then dragged its body back to the city proper and sold it to the necromantic academy for a few thousand gold pieces.
3. Dar: While, in all honesty, any of my Living Greyhawk characters would qualify for this list, I choose Dar. Dar is a scout/ranger of Suloise extraction, and formerly a soldier of the Scarlet Brotherhood, who managed to successfully evade capture by the Ahlissan liberators and actually joined their army for a time, until he disobeyed a direct order from a superior officer. Said order was to track whoever it was that eviscerated these two guards thirty feet from the camp, in torchlight, without making a sound or alerting anyone. (Said whoever, in turn, was Krrnkar Ga’ruth, a half-orc barbarian under the effect of every buff spell the party could muster, including invisibility and silence.) So, Dar was sentenced to the Calling Mines and later liberated, and then began his career as my player character.
While the indoctrination of the dogma of racial purity didn’t last too long when exposed to other cultures, Dar’s take on it was not that even other cultures can be equal to the Scarlet Brotherhood’s, but that even the Scarlet Brotherhood is ruled by morons, just like every other state. He’s a freelance adventurer, now, with nominal loyalty to other ex-Scarlet Brotherhood veterans. Dar is nothing if not adaptable, but he does not suffer fools gladly and worships Wee Jas, the goddess of death.
4. Kílt Bucchert: A Flan fighter from Saltmarsh, who adventured in a Shackled City game before I had to move. His primary function in the game was to hit things with his greataxe until they stopped hitting back, which he performed adequately. His secondary function was to land the party in a number of messes.
In the last session that I played, we were wrapping up the fourth module of the series, “Zenith Trajectory,” where we were tasked to retrieve a dwarf named Zenith from a kuo-toa outpost deep in the Underdark. However, the kuo-toa were worshipping him as some sort of god in flesh, and he had a bad case of Stockholm syndrome. Well, we killed most of the kuo-toa and then somehow managed to convince Zenith that his army was waiting near the surface for him to lead them in battle against the city of Cauldron. However, a number of his bodyguards tagged along, which posed a problem. We wanted to get rid of them, but couldn’t attack them openly or Zenith would attack us, and he was a tough hombre. We were not sure who’d win in a fight, especially since our cleric was out in the jungle, sampling mushrooms.
So, Kílt hit upon a plan. As the party marched up the tunnels of the Underdark, he raised his voice in a Keoish marching song. This, according to the rules, increased our chances for a random encounter tenfold. In the second day of our journey, we got one. The DM gave me the dice, since it was my encounter. He told me not to roll a three or less, or we’d be screwed. I rolled 02, on a d100. The result was a behir.
A behir, for those of you not in the know, is a lightning-spitting lizard the size of a Mack truck, with a hundred legs and a bad attitude. However, they are not unintelligent, and while the kuo-toa were still recovering from the surprise, Kílt managed to parley the behir into only eating the fishmen and beating up the dwarf, in exchange for some of our heavier loot. Fortunately, behirs aren’t evil, or it might not have worked.
5. Endivar: Finally, there’s Endivar, who was a great character to play not because of what he did but because of how he was played. His character class was binder, from Tome of Magic. They’re a class that specialises in the Faustian bargain, where they bind a vestige, a loose spirit that’s slipped through the cracks of reality, to themselves, letting it ride their mind and exert some control over their actions in exchange for power. The powers are wildly varying and depend on the vestige being bound. Skill bonuses, weapon proficiencies and virtual feats are common, and most of them also have some really weird stuff, like a ram attack given by Amon’s horns, or the ability light yourself on fire without hurting, or Leraje’s trick shot that allows you to hit two enemies with the same arrow.
Now, binders are often confused with all sorts of demon worshippers and other unsavoury types, and not wanting to end up the main attraction at a barbeque party, Endivar pretended to be a priest. His character sheet read “archivist”. The DM, of course, was in on this. To avoid tipping off other players about what Endivar could do, I typed up reference sheets of his powers so I wouldn’t need to bring the Tome of Magic with me to games.
I think some of the group eventually figured out what he was, but not all.
One of the stunts he pulled in his first session was walking on the deck of a ship known to harbour werewolves, with a lit torch. Then he turned to the other characters, said “Let me handle this,” and lit himself on fire with the torch. He then proceeded to slap werewolves silly. One of them eventually bit him and he dropped, but so did the attacker.