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My character Daelric was an experiment for me; I had never played a bard before, nor had I played a male character as a PC before (for those of you who don't know, I am female). But truth be told, it felt like there was little choice in the matter. When I was asked to draw up a character, I realized that I'd already had one kicking around in the back of my head for a few days. He was almost fully formed, with a personality and a distinct appearance, and he seized my imagination. All I had to do was apply the game mechanics to the character in the best way I could. The bard class was closest to Daelric's temperment and was well suited to his starting concept as an all-around performer and people-person. I knew right away that he had a rare and powerful charisma and that he was fun, and out to have fun.
I had not really considered a bard's place in the workings of a group before I started playing, and that only complicated things once play began. My character was the only human in the group and was physically overshadowed by a bugbear fighter, a half-dragon barbarian, and an elven wererat rogue. To make matters worse, my character was also the only good-aligned character in the party. The bugbear and the half-dragon (whom my character dubbed "Muscles" and "Scales," so much that none of us ever called them by their actual names) were chaotic neutral and the rogue was chaotic evil with neutral tendencies. Our first adventure took us into a dangerous underground environment for an extended period where we weren't supposed to make much noise for fear of what might hear us. These were not the ideal conditions for a bard to begin making a contribution to the grouop. The other party members picked on Daelric for all of the reasons that he was different from them, and I didn't know what to do with him to make him effective. I couldn't take or deal the damage that the fighter or barbarian could, we already had a rogue, and I was frustrated at having so few spells to cast. It became maddening and I almost gave up.
I then made a concerted effort to make myself familiar with the bard's class abilities so that I knew what Daelric could do, rather than focusing on what he couldn't do. I had to admit to myself that I was jealous of the other characters because they all had the spotlight and I couldn't see how my character would ever be able to get his turn. All of my frustration wasn't helping and I knew that the DM was sick to death of hearing me complain, so I took it one step further: I made a deliberate effort to get out of the character's way.
So I let go...and Daelric took over. He began doing what a good bard does: communicating. When we encountered one troglodyte patrol too many, he talked them into going on their way. When we encountered a small black dragon that could nonetheless have eaten us, Daelric told it stories. (And rolled a natural 20, which meant that the dragon wanted to hear more, and more, and more.) I pieced together the tales (which weren't bad for being impromptu) and when Daelric was done, the dragon left them in peace. Once out of the underground situation, Daelric was able to roam Waterdeep and Skullport doing what bards do best: meeting and dealing with people, including the members of his party. He began to ingratiate himself to them and he was able to find the group reliable work.
Slowly and almost imperceptibly, Daelric started to win the party's trust, despite all resistance. His force of personality could be strong at times, but it could also be subtle. He had many different ways to appeal to others and somehow he was able to get people to agree to do things his way. This was important because his party started with an inclination to do fairly evil things, and along the way they started to do a lot of good. In fact, somewhere along the line Daelric became the unspoken party leader. (He knew it for sure the day that he gave the elven wererat rogue an order and she went to it without so much as a pause for argument.) He was the party's voice, face, and last-minute shield. When the bugbear was magically paralyzed during a very ugly battle, Daelric tumbled in front of him to hold enemies off. When the wererat was in a nasty situation, he was there to help. When the half-dragon's father (a dragon old enough to slaughter the party) came to see if he should eat his misbegotten progeny, Daelric started talking like he'd never talked before, and wouldn't stop talking until the half-dragon was off the hook. Daelric fought in his own way for his party, and although he was not "as proficient" as a fighter, he was able to defend them.
And the party changed in his presence. Around Daelric, the rogue became far less psychotic and cruel (although once back in her theives' guild those traits would begin to re-emerge). She also seemed a bit less evil, which was a feat in itself. At the end of the game, the bugbear's player said something to the effect of: "Now look what you made me do. Just look!" He'd gotten the DM's permission to change the bugbear's alignment to chaotic good, and he attributed the change in the bugbear's outlook to being with Daelric. That made me very happy, but I didn't feel that I could really take credit for it. I had felt like I was channeling a very vivid personality through me, letting a fictive character live its life on its own. If anything, Daelric taught me a great deal and I owe him.
So far, my recollections of Daelric have all been about the campaign he was in and not about the game mechanics behind him. I'll fill in those details now: Daelric was a 3.0 bard. We house-ruled that bards could affect themselves along with allies when using bardic music, since the book failed to specify and it only made sense (this was made canon in 3.5). We didn't use the arcane spell failure for his light armor (which was also set into the rules in 3.5). Daelric had a Charisma of 18 and a high Dexterity; he took the Weapon Finesse feat and used a rapier as his main weapon. He also carried a masterwork flute to aid in his Perform checks; a flute was small and hardy enough to survive in his possession. He had backup instruments as well.
Daelric used every skill at his disposal. He made a great many Perform checks for fun as well as for profit, and he used bardic music all the time without reaching his daily limit that often. He also found himself using Bluff, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive even though we roleplayed many outcomes without many dice rolls. Since he was aware of his reliatively fragile physical state, Daelric often used Tumble and strove to have maximum ranks in that skill. To that end, he also used Hide and Move Silently when he could and was able to hold his own with the rogue (which was difficult given her insane bonus to Dexterity from being a wererat).
Daelric was the only PC spellcaster, so when he used his spells, he made them count as much as possible. He relied on the following spells heavily during the game: dancing lights, detect magic, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance, cure light wounds, expeditious retreat, mage armor (3E), sleep, cure moderate wounds, blindness/deafness. Dancing lights made for some good distractions, since average, nonadventuring folk weren't sure what they're seeing. Detect magic was a must for any thieving activity. Prestidigitation came to the fore when the characters were on the road and didn't want to taste the same old stale food. Although the party had an NPC cleric, Daelric was able to provide much-needed healing. In combat, Daelric made prodigious use of expeditious retreat to get out of range of enemies or to speed to the aid of party members. He, like other casters, found sleep to be of use on groups of low-level creatures, and he was also incredibly lucky in his use of blindness.
Daelric relied on things he could throw. He favored caltrops, but he also always had acid, alchemist's fire, and a tanglefoot bag on him. I believe he also carried a thunderstone. He definitely needed full use of his masterwork potion belt and bandoleer, and both are great items in any game setting. He always wore a pair of blade boots in case he needed the extra bonus to escape artist checks. Likewise, Daelric always wore a pearl of power and he used it probably every day. He used to imagine himself in a doublet covered with pearls of power because he liked casting spells so much. Instead, he had a selection of scrolls and potions on hand at all times (since he could afford them, and a doublet studded with pearls of power was going to be out of reach for some time).
There were many things that came as a surprise to me while I was playing Daelric. Instead of struggling against the unexpected, I did my best to accept those elements that I had not planned because they were evidence of a growing and developing roleplaying personality.
In the beginning I thought that Daelric would recite poetry, mostly because of my own history with writing. I did make up some rhymes to go with his spellcasting but I only used them sporadically. It turned out that Daelric's performance of choice was musical, often in the form of songs. I found myself writing out songs quickly and more or less singing them to the group (carefully, so as not to offend their ears!). I was very surprised at how much they enjoyed it, and with time the DM started telling us that Daelric's songs were being relayed by other bards in the area. When he wasn't singing, Daelric was telling stories about all sorts of things: the past, his past, little legends. Through his stories sometimes I would come to understand where it was he had come from and what he'd been through.
One thing that surprised me was that Daelric turned out to be religious, in his own fashion. He believed in the gods wholeheartedly and knew many of their names and stories. He prayed sometimes and visited temples all the time. He was a regular at the temple of Sune, his patron deity and personal Goddess of the Golden TaTas, but he frequented other temples as well. He often rendered services to the temples he visited without asking for anything in return, or, if money was tight, for a modest fee. He was always calling on the gods, and he had some funny sayings that included various deities; he also called on the gods in his songs and poems. I really came to enjoy the way that Daelric had picked his goddess and shown me his enjoyment of consistent, if unorthodox, worship.
I had not understood what a Charisma of 18 could be until I played Daelric and saw how he influenced and even changed others. He could directly influence people through all sorts of avenues: words, music, deeds, and so on. But he also seemed to influence people indirectly, through sheer proximity and example. This was not difficult to see because he was always in the company of others, and he had more friends and acquaintances than you could shake a stick at. Sometimes he got unwanted attention and adoration, but most of the time he was busy trying to use his influence for the good. Even more importantly, Daelric became the glue that helped to bind the group together. The wererat Sinyalla was the brain, Muscles and Scales were the strong arms, but Daelric was undoubtedly the heart.
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