I’ve been interspersing my RPG posts with a walkthrough of a game of Crusader Kings 2 in which I started as William the Conqueror. Richard IV was overthrown by his uncle, Odo, and died attempting to regain his throne. His titles passed to his brother, the Duke of Connacht who, unfortunately, had just been overthrown by an Irish rebel [it was pretty cool timing]
The overthrown Duke died in jail. While he never actually got to rule Wessex, the lands passed to his eldest son, Mark, in 1221.
England continued to face unrest, due to frequent rebellions against the king and draining wars in Scandinavia. Eventually, one of the Scandinavian de Normandies ovethrew Odo.
I have a couple of regular columns here on this blog. There’s “walkthroughs,” posts in which I relay what happened during a RPG adventure, in order to give you a sense for how a game or module plays but also to tell some cool stories. There’s also “origin stories,” in which I talk about the backstory and mechanics of a character I created. I also have my running Crusader Kings 2 storylines, in which I present the results of my games in narrative form. I thought I’d add a new on, “Why not try…” in which I talk about interesting sub-classes that may not get much attention.
There are lot of possibilities in D&D 5e. There are 12 classes, each of which has at least three sub-classes (with more being added in sourcebooks like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything). Gaming systems like Star Wars have multiple “careers,” each of which has at least three “specializations.” Systems like Firefly are more customizable, with a multitude of options. So there’s a good chance some combinations never get used. Most D&D players with rogue PCs probably gravitate to the assassin or arcane trickster; I bet the fascinating mastermind sub-class gets a lot less use. So I wanted to raise interesting combinations to encourage players to branch out a bit.
Today I’m discussing the knowledge domain cleric in D&D 5e. Here’s the flavor text:
The gods of knowledge – including Oghma, Boccob, Gilean, Aureon, and Thoth – value learning and understanding above all. Some teach that knowledge is to be gathered and shared in libraries and universities, or promote the practical knowledge of craft and invention. Some deities hoard knowledge and keep its secrets to themselves. And some promise their followers that they will gain tremendous power if they unlock the secrets of the multiverse. Followers of these gods study esoteric lore, collect old tomes, delve into the secret places of the earth, and learn all they can. Some gods of knowledge promote the practical knowledge of craft and invention, including smith deities like Gond, Reorx, Onatar, Moradin, Hephaestus, and Goibhniu.
This cleric domain gets the usual cleric spells and turn undead power but has some interesting wrinkles. They gain knowledge-related domain spells (like augury and identify). They learn extra languages and double proficiency for a few skills. At higher levels they’re able to read thoughts and acquire visions of past events.
It doesn’t seem to fit the usual idea of a cleric, though. The “classic” cleric would be the light or life domain, destroying undead and healing grievous wounds. Knowledge domain sounds almost like a wizard or sage.
But it’s always intrigued me. I’m a big fan of both wizardly and spiritual characters. Sometimes I’ve combined these into a pious wizard (like my gnome Fonken), but this is another option.
I’m playing my knowledge cleric, Andreth Blackstar, in a “play by post” online game. So far it’s interesting. He functions as the group’s technical expert, but I’m also able to hold my own in melee (unlike a wizard) and of course heal.
I’d encourage others to try out a knowledge cleric, especially if your group is light on intelligent characters but still needs a cleric. Let me know how it goes.
Last time, the squad of Alderaanian Refugees travelled to the planet Kwenn to retrieve stolen Imperial circuit boards for use by the Rebellion. They made contact with a helpful criminal gang, and started formulating plans to get the items, held by a rival gang. The group was made up of Cass (human engineer), Aiden (human slicer) and Jak (human doctor). They were accompanied by HK3P0 (a reprogrammed 3P0 droid serving a combat role) and their Rebel handler, Lt. Kheed (waiting for them back on the ship).
The group decided to hijack a Black Vulkar (the rival gang) truck, and use that to get access to their warehouse. Their plan: have one person fall in front of the truck as it wound through the crowded streets, then grab the drivers as they got out to check. [This could have gone really badly, but it worked out-they rolled well on acrobatics and deception]. After getting control of the truck, they tried to forge the manifest on the drivers’ datapad to indicate they were supposed to pick up the circuitboards. They couldn’t pull this off [failed computers check] but did manage to make it appear broken, hopefully fooling the warehouse guards. They made the guards promise to keep quiet, then let them go and headed out.
I ran an introductory session for Star Wars: Age of Rebellion featuring a team of Rebel operatives. After that initial session, a few of the players who wanted to continue and I held a session 0. We decided to make the crew a group of Alderaanian refugees who escaped the destruction of their planet by stealing an Imperial shuttle. They connected with the Rebel Alliance, who took them in. They assigned them and their shuttle–christened the Alderaan’s Revenge–to a Corellian Corvette, the Bayonette. Along with their Rebel minder, Lt. Kheed, a modified 3P0 unit for combat assistance, HK3P0 [added because the group was light on combat skills and based on HK47 from KOTOR], they travelled on the Bayonette, deploying to conduct missions in support of the fleet.
The group consisted of Aiden, a slicer, Cass, an engineer, and Jak a scientist (all human).
I gave the group a mission briefing and cinematic opening scroll to start off the mission. Here was the first one:
Last time I talked about the backstory for Fonken, my paranormal-investigating gnome wizard. Now I’ll talk about how I put him together.
When I decided to run a wizard I settled on rock gnome as the race. This was purely a min-max decision. Gnomes get a +2 on intelligence and useful talents like darkvision and advantage on magic-related saving throws. Also, rock gnomes get a +1 on Constitution, which would help with Concentration saving throws. They also get artificer’s lore, which provides a bonus on history checks about magic items and technology. Finally, they get the “tinker” ability, allowing them to make small items. I discussed with my DM the “sniffer” idea, which he let me create (it was primarily flavor, so didn’t really give me an advantage).
I haven’t done an origin stories post in awhile, so I thought I’d get back into it with my favorite character ever. In these posts, I discuss a character I created, going over their backstory and the mechanics behind their creation. This can serve as a guide for new players and inspiration for your own characters; it’s also kind of fun.
Today we’ll learn about Fonken “Oneshoe,” a lawful neutral gnome wizard I used in the D&D 5e campaign “Curse of Strahd.” For the first few seasons of 5e I had played a front-line character–a melee cleric, a paladin, a blade pact warlock, etc. As my group prepared for Curse of Strahd, I wanted to try something different, and asked if I could be the group’s wizard. I pictured a pious, noble, but slightly eccentric investigator intrigued by the mysteries of Barovia. I imagined him a bit like Dale Cooper (from Twin Peaks), although the other players were reminded of Ray Stantz, from Ghostbusters (I could live with that).
Last time, another of the party became possessed by the Trickster gods, and the group ventured deeper into the dungeon. The party is Roland (Aasimar sorcerer), Orga (half-orc cleric), Ergul (dwarf barbarian), Sidora (human ranger), Dri (dragonborn barbarian) and Kespin (human bard).
Exploring further into the dungeon, they came onto a room with a golem, and four dwarf wights. The creatures attacked. Sidora, Ergul and Dri rushed to engage them, while Orga cast spirit guardians. Roland began firing away, and cast minor illusion on the golem so it thought its view was obscured by a fog. After a tough fight, the group rested.
Moving deeper into the dungeon, they came to a study. Inside was an old man in wizard’s robes. Nearby was a creepy undead bird, and disembodied hands crawling around. The group tried to engage with the man, but he was evasive. Roland suspected he was evil, and demanded he come clean [successful insight check]. The man said something about serving Acererak and his “servant” Raj-Nesee, then attacked. He cast a lightning bolt at Roland, knocking him to the ground. Sidora fired an arrow at the wizard, wounding him. He then tried to cast wall of fire but Roland managed to stop him with counterspell [I love that spell].
Meanwhile, the undead hands charged them. Orga cast word of radiance to disperse the hands, and Ergul and Dri killed the old man.
Searching the room, Roland found an amulet the man had been wearing. He picked it up…and was immediately shrunk to halfling size. Roland was irritated, but didn’t know how to reverse this, so they pressed on.
The came to a room with a font that seemed to do nothing. As they searched the room, Sidora found a locked secret door. The group had no way of opening it, so Roland asked Starfallen if she would squeeze through the crack to investigate. She agreed, and said the wall was thin, but there was no mechanism she could see. Ergul, using his dwarven ingenuity, figured out a way to carve through the wall. Inside, the found a golem, which they quickly defeated.
Moving on, they saw another skeleton [we’ve encountered a few, but I can’t remember if I marked all of them down]. Killing it, they took the skull key and added it to their collection.
They came upon a room with a demon mouth in the floor. The group wanted to investigate, so Roland volunteered to be lowered down [this could have gone very badly]. He came through the ceiling of a room with a chest in the center, a skeleton walking around, and tiles with strange markings on them. He called up to pass this information on, and asked to be lowered onto the platform with the chest.
On the way down he killed the skeleton with his spells and took the key. Roland couldn’t find any way to get the chest open, and neither could Sidora, who joined him. She noticed a skeleton with some gear on it on the tiles, however, and decided to investigate. As she stepped onto the tiles, she was hit with a swarm of locusts. Roland tried to help, and was hit too. They experimented with different types of tile symbols, to see if any were safe, but kept getting hit with locusts. Before they succumbed to their wounds, they gave up (not before Sidora retrieved some treasure from the fallen skeleton), and asked to be pulled back up.
The group took another rest, despairing of ever making their way through the dungeon. Tune in next time to see if they do…
Last time, the group realized the traps in the dungeon are no joke…’nuff said. The party included Roland (Aasimar Sorcerer), Sidora (human ranger), Orga (half-orc cleric), Ergul (dwarf barbarian), Dri (dragonborn barbarian), and Kespin (human bard).
The group woke up after resting, with their newly female dragonborn barbarian. They resumed exploring the dungeon, and came to a room with a sarcaphogus, a glass wall and corpses on thrones. As they entered the room, the corpses rose up; Sidora recognized them as wights. The group retreated down the hallway as the wights advanced. Roland cast tidal wave knocking several of them back down the hallway. Then Ergul and Sidora charged; Sidora killed one with her sun blade and Ergul chopped up another. Dri followed them, swinging her greatsword. Kespin, Volens and Roland cast spells from the rear of the group, finishing them off, but not after Ergul had his hit points reduced from hits he took by the wights.
The group explored the room, finding nothing besides the sarcaphogus. They opened it, and a ghostly form appeared and and lunged at Sidora. The group realized she had been possessed by one of the trickster gods. After talking to it for awhile, it seemed like it didn’t mean any immediate harm (not that they could really trust it) so they proceeded further into the dungeon with their possessed friend following along.
They came to a room with a giant skull as an entryway. Ergul and Dri walked in, causing two ghostly lights in the skull to go out. Ergul walked out, and a light reignited; he then returned to the room. Roland walked through the skull…and it clamped shut on him, nearly killing him [I figured this was what would happen, but I wanted to get inside].
Once Roland was free, they investigated the room and found a sarcaphogus and a skull floating in a sealed lid. The three heard the voice of a girl calling for help. The group was unable to make any progress talking with the disembodied voice, so they tried to open the sarcaphogus. As they did, a fireball went off. Thankfully everyone was able to dodge, so they were only mildly injured…but a flame skull appeared.
The rest of the group rushed into the room to help. The flame skull fired beams from its eyes, hitting Kespin. Sidora let loose with her bow, nearly knocking the monster to the ground. It fired again, hitting Roland, who was nearly unconscious by this point. Roland then cast a chromatic orb at the skull, and it fell to the ground, shattering.
Inside the sarcaphogus, they found a staff of the python, which Orga–who could use it as a cleric–took.
They ventured furhter. They came to a hallway with a turbine halfway down the hall. Becoming more aware of traps, the group investigated the floor. They found a pressure plate, and figured out it would activate the turbine, likely sucking them in. Roland jammed the turbine shut with the immovable rod and they proceeded past the turbine.
In the next room, they came across a sarcaphogus and three boxes. There was no clear way to open the sarcaphogus. They also found a lantern with strange glowing lights inside. When Roland picked it up, it began talking to him, revealing itself as the spirit of an elf. Roland tried to help release the spirit, but couldn’t figure out a way to open it. In the process of doing so, however, they developed a rapport and the spirit offered to help them [this was a ghost lantern, which functions like mage hand]
Ergul, acting on a hunch, climbs into one and locks it. He is hit with a magnetic force (that would have destroyed any metal on him if he’d been wearing any) and something clicked in the sarcaphogus. Roland and Kespin climbed into the other ones. Kespin was hit with cold damage, but emerged safely. Roland was hit with immense force damage; even though he resisted its effects [succeeded on his save] it still knocked him unconscious and nearly killed him [almost took me to negative my max hit points]. Before the group could revive Roland the sarcaphogus popped open and a mummy climbed out, attacking them. They destroyed the creature, and then healed Roland.
Inside, they found a sinister looking mace. The lantern–who identified herself as Starfallen–warned them against using it. As Kespin was leaning over to look at it, a ghostly form emerged from the sarcaphogus and leapt at him. Despite his attempts to hide it, the group realized he had been possessed by one of the deranged trickster gods. Kespin suggested he be given the mace, but the others (wisely) handed it to Dri.
They rested, warily, keeping an eye on their two possessed friends.
Tune in next time for more adventures in the Tomb of Annihilation…
I love Christmas. After Thanksgiving we put up the tree, play Christmas music, and start watching Christmas movies. We observe Advent (the often-forgotten pre-Christmas season), an anxious waiting in darkness for deliverance. And I try to read some Christmas stories. I of course always read A Christmas Carol, and have read some of Dickens’ other Christmas stories (which aren’t as great). But I wanted to find some other options this year.
Scanning my bookshelf, I noticed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This long Middle English poem tells a tale of King Arthur’s Round Table. A monstrous Green Man appears during a feast, challenging a knight to chop off his head; he’ll do the same to whoever accepts the challenge in one year. Everyone is nervous, prompting derision from the knight. Finally, Gawain steps up to the challenge. He chops off the Green Knight’s head…and the knight then picks up his head and leaves.
One year later, Gawain sets out to find the Green Knight’s castle. He has many adventures, which are not discussed in detail, and eventually comes to a beautiful castle after crossing a moat. Inside he finds a noble lord and his sultry wife. The lord asks Gawain to stay with him for a few days, and suggests a deal; the lord will go out hunting and share whatever he finds with Gawain, and Gawain will stay in his house and do likewise. Each day, after the men leave, the wife sneaks into Gawain’s room and tries to seduce him; he resists, but she gives him a kiss. At the end of each day, Gawain gets some of the fine game the lord caught, and the lord gets a kiss. On the last day, the wife gives Gawain a sash that will keep him safe; he does not give this to the lord.
Gawain then heads to the “Green Chapel.” His arrival includes a great scene in which he hears the Greek Knight sharpening his axe ominously. The Knight has Gawain lay his head down. He swings once and misses, swings again and misses, then on the third swing knicks Gawain’s neck. Gawain gets ready to fight and the Green Knight says he was actually the lord, and this was all a set-up by Morgan Le Fay. His wife was testing Gawain, and he nearly passed, but saved the sash. Gawain then returns to Camelot, feeling despondent, but they treat him as a hero, venerating the sash he brought back.
This all took place during “Christmas season,” the time between Christmas day and Epiphany (January 6th for the Western church). The actual story began on New Year’s Day.
So I thought this could be a great setting for a holiday D&D session. There could be some nice role-playing in the feast, someone would have to accept the Knght’s challenge (maybe through a Constitution or Wisdom save to overcome fear), and there would be some random wilderness adventures as they traveled to the Knight’s realm.
The time in the castle could be tricky. Adding a seductress could make some players uncomfortable. But the time in the castle could include some exploration and puzzles, trying to find more about this knight. And then the final “battle” with the knight could involve a test of wills, with a chance for the players to realize what was going on based on their explorations in the castle.
Any thoughts? Would this work?