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).
I incorporated some fun bits into role-play, like Dale Cooper’s thumbs up-and-grin. I also made some Ghostbusters references after my group compared Fonken to Ray. one favorite was walking around the room with his “sniffer” (see below) as others were talking. At one point, Fonken walked up to an NPC, “sniffed” him with the machine, then poked him to see if he was real (an allusion to Egon in the movie). I had a lot of fun, and my group said it was my best character ever.
Here is his backstory:
Fonken Ningell was a rock gnome who grew up in X. A pious gnome, he attended worship services regularly for X, and planned to become a cleric. He found it hard to concentrate on the long prayers and rituals required for such a profession, however, as he was constantly distracted by new ideas or puzzling questions that arose. Recognizing his true path, the temple elders suggested he study the arcane arts.
Fonken entered the wizard academy and excelled in his studies. He focused especially on divination, eager to peer into the mysteries of this and other worlds. Fonken was usually absorbed in some research or spell memorization, and would wander the halls, absent-minded. His tendency to get absorbed in a book while dressing led to his nickname, “Oneshoe.”
After graduating, Fonken went to work at a great library, continuing his researches. He found ancient texts discussing a powerful being who crossed into the Shadowfell and created his own demi-plane there. Fonken, alarmed, found repeated reports over the years of this demi-plane intersecting with ours; those who happened to encounter it disappeared, never to be heard of again.
He became obsessed with understanding these events. He researched all the lore he could on travelling to and existing in the Shadowfell, including whatever foul powers may exist there. He focused his arcane spell studies on countering threats from this demi-plane, memorizing spells he thought may be useful against its denizens. And he used his gnome skills to create a device, which he called a “sniffer,” to aid in this search; a hose attached to a box with lights and a squeezable ball, Fonken could use it to “sniff” the air and detect any traces of this demi-plane.
After he believed he’d progressed sufficiently in his studies, Fonken requested a leave of absence from the library. He gathered his spellbook, his sniffer, and his travelling clothes, and set out to investigate the latest report of an interaction with the shadow-plane, a place whose name he had recently learned: Barovia…
Tune in next time to learn how I created Fonken.