Aug 27 2020

Shady the Bard, Revisited

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The business end of Shade-Of-the-Candle
So I think I’ve talked myself into multiclassing Shady with bard instead of fighter. The question now becomes… when? My initial thought was that it would start at 11th level, because Reliable Talent is a broken class feature anyway, but I would miss the ability score bumps at 8 and 10, not to mention Evasion (which is amazing) and Panache (which is also amazing).

On the other hand… 11th level is really far away, if we even take it for granted that the game will get there. As players, we (admittedly, mostly me, but other players bought in to my reasoning) asked Inkblitz to slow levelling down when we hit sixth, and, well, it’s very rare for any D&D game to survive long past 10th. And since Bard Shady’s spells top out at 3rd level, if I wait for 11th to roll around, they’re going to be a lot more limited in application.

So I started thinking about what would happen if I made the switch immediately: what would I gain, and what would I lose? Since 9th level’s Panache and the 10th level ASI are sort of my benchmarks of pure rogue, I tried statting up Shady Rogue 10, and Shady Rogue 5/Bard 5, and this is what I got:

—–

SHADY: Rogue (Swashbuckler) 10
AC 17; hp 74
Speed: 30′, x2 w/ Feline Agility
Initiative: +8

Str 10, Dex 20, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 16
Saves: Dex +9, Int +4
Acrobatics +9, Animal Handling +1, Arcana +0, Athletics +8, Deception +3, History +0, Insight +1, Intimidation +7, Investigation +4, Medicine +1, Nature +0, Perception +9, Performance +3, Persuasion +11, Religion +0, Sleight of Hand +9, Stealth +13, Survival +1
Prof: Concertina, Dice Set, Thieves’ Tools

Cunning Action, Evasion, Fancy Footwork, Panache, Rakish Audacity, Sneak Attack +5d6, Uncanny Dodge

Crescent Moon: +10 to hit, 1d8+6 piercing (+5d6 sneak attack*)
Cutlass (off-hand): +9 to hit, 1d6 slashing
[average combined DPR 31.5]
Pistol: +9 to hit, 1d10+5 piercing (+5d6 sneak attack*) [average DPR 28]

*Sneak attack can only apply once per turn.

—–

SHADY: Rogue (Swashbuckler) 5/Bard (College of Swords) 5
AC 16 (+d8 Blade Flourish**); hp 74
Speed: 30′, 40′ w/ attack action (Blade Flourish), x2 w/ Feline Agility
Initiative: +9

Str 10, Dex 20, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14
Saves: Dex +9, Int +4
Acrobatics +9, Animal Handling +3, Arcana +2, Athletics +8, Deception +6, History +2, Insight +3, Intimidation +6, Investigation +4, Medicine +3, Nature +2, Perception +9, Performance +4, Persuasion +10, Religion +2, Sleight of Hand +9, Stealth +13, Survival +3
Prof: Concertina, Dice Set, Navigator’s Tools, Thieves’ Tools

Bardic Inspiration d8 (2/short or long rest), Blade Flourish, Cunning Action, Fancy Footwork, Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting), Jack of All Trades, Rakish Audacity, Sneak Attack +3d6, Song of Rest (d6), Uncanny Dodge

Spells: 0-level—Friendship, Mage Hand, Vicious Mockery; 1—level (4 slots)—Charm Person, Healing Word, Heroism, Longstrider, Sleep; 2-level (3 slots)—Blindness/Deafness, Enthrall; 3-level (2 slots)—Stinking Cloud

Crescent Moon: +10 to hit, 1d8+6 piercing (+3d6 sneak attack*, +d8 Blade Flourish**)
Cutlass (off-hand): +9 to hit, 1d6+5 slashing
[average combined DPR 34]
Pistol: +9 to hit, 1d10+5 piercing (+3d6 sneak attack*) [average DPR 21]

*Sneak attack can only apply once per turn.
**Blade Flourish cannot add to AC and weapon damage on the same turn, can only apply damage once per turn, and expends a use of Bardic Inspiration.

—–

CONCLUSIONS: Bard Shady’s swordsmanship suffers when not using blade flourishes, but is actually superior when she does use them. Unfortunately, she only has two per short rest. Her marksmanship drops noticeably, however. On the other hand, with Sleep, Stinking Cloud, and spammable Vicious Mockery, she has other options at range. She loses both Uncanny Dodge (ouch) and Panache (ouch), but gains a much more robust skill list, gets to plug a hole in her mariner skills w/ Navigator Tools, and becomes a better leader, with Bardic Inspiration, Healing Word, and Song of Rest available to bolster her crew.

If we assume that her “spells” are actually just items she’s carrying around in that utility belt, Mage Hand becomes her yoinking things from across the room with her grapple hook, Sleep can be sleeping powder or a sucker punch, and Blindness/Deafness and Stinking Cloud both become bags of stuff she lobs at her foes.

That running speed, tho. With Blade Flourish and Feline Agility, she can run 80′ on a turn and still attack someone—who then can’t hit her back when she’s running away thanks to Fancy Footwork. Add Longstrider to the mix and we’re looking at Sonic the Hedgehog. Bard Shady has a higher initiative than Rogue Shady despite having a lower Dex, but won’t be laughing off fireballs. She might just outrun them, tho. >.>

Ugh! It’s a tough choice! Bard Shady is better for the social pillar, Rogue Shady has more sustain in combat (at least against foes that don’t resist slashing and piercing), and the two of them bring different strengths to exploration.

At the end of the day, I think I need to pick the one that is most “in character” rather than being optimized. Given how much Shady loves to talk to people, pulls weird things out of her bag of tricks, wants to be a competent seafarer, and pokes her nose where it doesn’t belong, I suspect Bard Shady edges out Rogue Shady at the end of the day. But I’d love to hear opinions!

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Aug 19 2020

The Ridiculous Brokenness of Shady the Bard

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Shady and Raiwys bonding over shanties

A discussion w/ Inkblitz last night about levelling and suchlike prompted me to noodle around some more with 20th level Shade-Of-the-Candle builds. My general plan for her has been to stick with swashbuckler rogue through level 9 in order to get Panache and then… not sure? Maybe tack on some fighter, since she tends to like to get in and mix it up. Maybe stick to 10 to get the stat bump.

Weirdly, for all my cursing of dice, I don’t actually like the 11th level rogue ability Reliable Talent, which lets you treat any roll with which you’re proficient as if you’d rolled at least a 10. By the time you’re 11th level you’ve got expertise in four skills, a proficiency bonus of +4, and probably +2 to +4 stat bonuses on any skill you’re likely to use a lot, so you’re looking at rogues who are literally incapable of rolling below a 22 on Perception and Stealth (assuming that any rogue worth their salt has at least those two expertised up).

But then I started pfutzing around with bard and… holy crap. O.o Jack of All Trades doesn’t stack with Reliable Talent (thank goodness), but it DOES add to Initiative checks (which Swashbucklers get a bonus to) and, oh yeah, they get another skill proficiency to toss on the pile while they’re at it AND expertise with TWO MORE skills. Aheh. So for your pleasure, assuming no changes in equipment, please compare 20th level Shady as Rogue/Fighter vs. 20th level Shady as Rogue/Bard:

—–

SHADY: Rogue 15/Fighter (Champion) 5
AC 19, hp 169
Initiative: +8

Str 10 Dex 20 Con 16 Int 10 Wis 12 Cha 16
Saves: Dex +11, Int +6, Wis +7
Acrobatics +11 (min 21), Athletics +12 (min 22), Deception +3, Intimidation +9 (min 19), Investigation +12 (min 22), Perception +13 (min 23), Persuasion +15 (min 25), Sleight of Hand +11 (min 21), Stealth +11 (min 21)

Action Surge, Blindsense, Cunning Action, Dual Wielder, Elegant Maneuver, Evasion, Extra Attack, Fancy Footwork, Fighting Style (Mariner), Improved Critical, Panache, Rakish Audacity, Reliable Talent, Second Wind, Sneak Attack +8d6, Uncanny Dodge

Multiattack: Shady attacks twice with the Crescent Moon and can choose to attack with her cutlass as a bonus action
Crescent Moon: +12 to hit, crit 19-20, 1d8+6 piercing +8d6 sneak attack
Cutlass (off-hand): +11 to hit, crit 19-20, 1d6 slashing
Pistol: +11 to hit, crit 19-20, 1d10+5 piercing

—–

SHADY: Rogue 14/Bard (College of Swords) 6
AC 18, hp 164
Initiative: +11 (holy crap)

Str 10 Dex 20 Con 16 Int 10 Wis 12 Cha 16
Saves: Dex +11, Int +6
Acrobatics +17 (min 27), Athletics +12 (min 22), Deception +9 (min 19), Intimidation +9 (min 19), Investigation +12 (min 22), Perception +13 (min 23), Persuasion +15 (min 25), Sleight of Hand +11 (min 21), Stealth +17 (min 27), no skill bonus less than +3 thanks to Jack of All Trades

Bardic Inspiration d8 (3 uses/short rest), Blade Flourish, Blindsense, Countercharm, Cunning Action, Dual Wielder, Elegant Maneuver, Evasion, Extra Attack, Fancy Footwork, Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting), Jack of All Trades, Panache, Rakish Audacity, Reliable Talent, Sneak Attack +7d6, Song of Rest d6, Uncanny Dodge

Spells: 0-level—Friends, Mage Hand, Vicious Mockery; 1-level (4 slots)—Dissonant Whispers, Healing Word, Heroism, Longstrider, Sleep; 2-level (3 slots)—Blindness/Deafness, Calm Emotions, Enthrall; 3-level (3 slots)—Stinking Cloud

Multiattack: Shady attacks twice with the Crescent Moon and can choose to attack with her cutlass as a bonus action
Crescent Moon: +12 to hit, 1d8+6 piercing +7d6 sneak attack
Cutlass (off-hand): +11 to hit, 1d6+5 slashing
Pistol: +11 to hit, 1d10+5 piercing

—–

CONCLUSIONS:
Bard Shady is slightly squishier but not that much: the biggest defense she loses is proficiency with Wisdom saves (which she doesn’t get until Rogue 15 anyway). On the other hand, her initiative and skills are off the charts. She trades 1d6 of sneak attack for being able to add a reliable +5 to her off-hand attack, that’s kind of a wash in terms of combat numbers.

Blade Flourish and spells bring a LOT to the table, tho. All the spells I chose were things that I could convincingly reflavor into things Shady just does, rather than being actual spells—e.g., sleep becomes a sucker punch, blindness/deafness becomes blinding powder tossed into somebody’s face, etc. Mechanically, however, they add some exotic damage (particularly psychic) to her kit, in case they go up against something that just stabbing is less effective against. Blade Flourish can situationally make up for the AC and damage drop, while also opening up opportunities for mini-AoE damage or shoving targets around the field.

Finally, Bard Shady is a much better leader, with Bardic Inspiration, Song of Rest, Countercharm, Healing Word, Heroism, and Calm Emotions to rally the crew, vs. Fighter Shady, who is a gloryhound, more durable in a long fight and can get off SPECTACULAR CRITS a little more often.

Honestly, of the two, Bard Shady is much more interesting, but that Reliable Talent and +11 Initiative just break my brain.

-The Gneech

May 23 2020

Shady and the Tiger, Revisited

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Shade-Of-the-Candle and Silma on the discussion of not having sex.
Just a quickie story from the D&D game I play in, for your enjoyment. :)
I apologize for all the names being so similar; that’s just something that’s happened organically in the campaign as it’s progressed.

SHADY = Shade-Of-the-Candle, my tabaxi swashbuckler
SILMA = weretiger amazon who recently joined the party
SHANA = another player’s tiefling warlock

—–

“So this is the Laughing Axe Tavern, it’s the closest thing we have to a base of operations really,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle, holding the door open. The enormous weretiger Silma had to duck her head to clear the door coming in, drawing more than a few turned heads, which neither Shady nor Silma acknowledged. “Maybe not the Lady Patrician’s Manor, but it beats living in an alley,” the much smaller tabaxi said.

“More than adequate,” said Silma. “I’m used to life on the road.”

The group drifted off to various open seats in the crowded room; Rulita, Rai, and Shana ended up at one small table, while Leuco and Capsaicin went to the bar. Finding nowhere adequate to the task of seating her, Silma went to an apple barrel in the corner and climbed up onto it for a makeshift stool. As if taking a cue, Shade-Of-the-Candle hopped up and sat on the end of the bar next to her.

“Oy!” said the bartender, putting his fists on his sides and scowling at the tabaxi. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m ordering a round of drinks for me and my friends, that’s what,” said Shady, slapping a few gold coins down on the bar.

“Well put your butt on a stool, not on my bar.”

What stool?” demanded Shady. “The place is packed! Besides, I’m having a conversation with my friend here.” Turning to Silma, she said, “Whattya wanna drink, Simmie?”

The weretiger blinked. “Simmie?”

“Yeah?” said Shady. “Whattya wanna drink?”

“Wine and water will be fine,” said Silma.

“You heard her,” said Shady. “Same for me. Get a move on.”

The bartender frowned, but collected the coins and stepped away all the same.

Silma cocked her head at Shady. “Where did ‘Simmie’ come from?”

Shady shrugged. “I dunno. Easier to say than ‘Silma.’ I give people names. It’s just a thing I do.”

“Like ‘Sea-Legs’ and ‘Devil-Girl.’”

“You got it.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” said Silma. “You are a tabaxi, after all.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“I meant no offense,” said Silma.

“No, I mean seriously, what does that have to do with it?”

“Oh, just tabaxi, and their propensity for nicknames. I’ve always found it a charming quirk.”

“Tabaxi have a propensity for nicknames?”

Silma adjusted awkwardly on her barrel. “It’s just a stereotype, I suppose.” Looking around, still shifting uncomfortably, she asked, “Is it always this crowded?”

“Waxes and wanes,” said Shady. “There’s a big Thessalanian whaler in the harbor, probably half the people here are off of it.”

“I hope there’ll be somewhere to sleep.”

Shady blinked at her. “What, in the common room?”

“That was my plan,” said Silma.

“Oh. Uh.” Shady’s ears twitched. “I’ve got a whole room, upstairs.”

“All to yourself?” The weretiger gave a half-smirk as the bartender returned with her watered wine. “Being the owner of a ship has made you extravagant.”

“Hey, I’m a proper somebody now,” said Shady, grinning. “But what I’m getting at, is you don’t have to sleep in the common area. You can stay up in my room.”

Silma’s ears folded down, and she stood up from the barrel. “No thank you,” she said. “If you’ll excuse me.”

“Huh?” said Shady.

“I’ll find a room in one of the other taverns in town. You can find me through the Golden Compass Society when it’s time to continue our pursuit of Captain Aranthé.”

Shady jumped down to the floor after her. “What? Why?”

Silma glowered down at the tabaxi. “I don’t know what kind of person you are, but I don’t fall into bed with someone I’ve just met and I don’t appreciate—”

Shady’s ears shot up and her eyes widened. “Fall into bed? You mean—?” In a loud and confused voice that caused the weretiger to flinch and look around the room, Shady announced, “I don’t want to have sex with you!” A peculiar noise not far off may have been Leuco snorting into a mug of ale.

“Oh, please!” snarled Silma. “Ever since you first showed up in that cave you’ve been following me around, making eyes at me, acting like a show off—”

Shady’s own ears pinned down. “I have not!”

“And now you’re proposing that I share your room.”

“So what? I’d let any of my friends share my room if they asked!”

“But you didn’t invite any of them. Only me!”

Shady blinked at that, and stared at Silma for a beat. Finally she said, “Well… well yeah, okay, I have been coming on a little strong. But it wasn’t because I was hitting on you! I mean, I’m not not hitting on you, I guess, if you wanted to have sex I’m not against the idea, but it’s not… I mean… that wasn’t…”

“Well what, then?” demanded Silma.

“I just…!” said Shady. “I just, I just… you’re the only person I’ve ever met like me.”

Silma furrowed her brows. “Like you?”

Shady looked down. “Everkeep has humans, and elves, and dwarves… and we’re right by Humblewood, so there’s mouse people and fox people and bird people and squirrel people and who-knows-what-else. But I’ve never met my kind. Never another cat person. Never. Not once.” She turned her eyes up to Silma. “Until now.”

Silma’s ears tilted forward. “Not once? No parents or siblings? No—”

“Not. Once.” Shady snarled. “I can’t even speak or read my own language. I know what my name looks like, but I don’t know how to say it. You tell me tabaxi give people nicknames? That’s news to me.”

Silma smiled, gently. “I am not a tabaxi, Shade-Of-the-Candle.”

Shady looked away, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly. “No, I know you’re not. But… you’re more like… one of us… than one of… them.”

“Shady,” said Silma. Her voice had jumped up a full octave or more, and lost its gravelly sound, but it was unmistakably her.

Shady jerked her gaze back to see not a seven foot tall tiger woman, but a nearly-normal human before her, with a dark cast to her skin and black hair. Only the golden, slit pupils of her eyes hinted at the feline. The tabaxi’s ears drooped, and she somehow seemed to shrink.

“Shady,” said Silma again. “I am not ‘your kind’ in the way you think I am. I am as human as I am tiger. When you say ‘them’ you are also talking about me.”

Shady blinked, and looked down at her clawed hands. “You’re right,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“But you aren’t so alone. Soon you will have a ship. It can take you to Port Nyanzaru, to Setranophis, or even Payit, where tabaxi are plentiful. Maybe you have a family out there still, trying to find you.” Shifting back into her weretiger form, Silma put a massive paw on Shady’s shoulder. “When this business is done, perhaps we could go find some for you.”

“I’m sorry,” said Shady again. She slipped out from under Silma’s grasp, and walked away.

May 20 2020

Everything I Wanted: A Spoileriffic Discussion of She-Ra

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Everything I wanted.
Yeah. So. Spoilers. The title warned you.

The show that asked, “What if Star Wars was incredibly gay?” and then answers, “IT WOULD BE AWESOME AS FUCK!”

There’s so much for me to say about She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, I don’t even know where to begin. I already knew, when I was defending Catra as A Cinnamon Roll Who Wants to Kill You that this was a show I was going to be very heavily invested in. Catra literally feels to me like Noelle Stevenson plucked her right out of my brain and put her on the screen—to the point that I wrote to Ms. Stevenson directly and leveraged all of my comics/animation contacts into trying to find a way to get onto the writing team… without success, alas.

Catra would look at Leona Lioness or Tanya Regellan and say “Oh, you too?” She is also directly the inspiration for Shade-Of-the-Candle, whose own transition from snarling murdercat to laughing bandit has parallels to the arc Catra actually follows. As Emmet Asher-Perrin so aptly put it, “Catra was an instant favorite on the show among its fans. But there was something about it that nagged at me, something more specifically related to her type, and what that type said about me, and what it meant that I kept returning to it.”

And I’m not gonna lie, I was scared for Catra. With every season ending with her in a worse place than the last one, and knowing in very personal detail exactly the self-destructive cycles she was going through, I was terrified she was going to go down with the ship. Redemptive Suicide is such a terrible trope, but such a common one in fantasy and SF, that I was at least 65% convinced that was going to be her fate.

(Mere words cannot express how happy I am to read that Shadow Weaver’s final fate was intentionally written as an “Up yours!” at that specific trope.)

I stopped watching the show halfway through season four, because Double Trouble pushed too many of my buttons—I didn’t have it in me to watch these characters I was so fond of just unravel and tear each other apart, and after the end of season three I couldn’t bring myself to watch Catra do any more horrible things without some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. So I suspended my Netflix account and waited. There was no way I wouldn’t watch season five when it came out—but I couldn’t finish until I could actually finish, if that makes any sense.

So… where do I stand, now that the show’s over? Like the title says, it gave me everything I wanted. Catra to have a true redemption. A true, explicit and undeniable romantic relationship between Catra and Adora. Adventure, excitement, and really wild things. Strong characters, deep and compelling villains, beautiful animation. The first ever canonically and unambiguously queer protagonist in mainstream western animation. On some level, I must face that I resent that I couldn’t be part of it. When I knew getting involved in the show wasn’t going to happen, I created The Reclamation Project to redirect that energy, so good has still came of it, but for me She-Ra will never not be “one that got away.” It’s a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event, a revolution that I was only able to watch and not participate in. And there’s nothing I can do about that except get over it.

On the other hand, the sheer joy that S5 has filled me with blots out those dark thoughts. Scorpia going from doormat to utter badass. Entrapta—who I’ve historically been very down on—not just coming to grips with the difference between “people” and “things,” but also giving Catra one of the most understatedly but purely kind moments in Problem Cat’s whole life.

Wrong Hordak. Just freakin’ Wrong Hordak. He’s another character who feels like he was ripped out of my brain.

Catra’s sheer desperation for Adora in the final two episodes—and that Catra’s (requited!) love for Adora literally saved the universe.

I could do this all day. I’ll stop. If you’ve seen the show you know all these things.

What does it mean to me? I don’t know. I know that Suburban Jungle has touched lives—but not on the scale or sheer power that this show has. Is there still something useful for me to do? If so, what? And how do I do it? What can I bring to the table in a world that already has this in it?

I’ll find something.

Jan 12 2020

We Came, We Saw, We Kicked Its Tail

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Shady Runs From a Big Sneeze
I’ve been playing D&D for a long time and had some great moments on either side of the DM screen, but last night was probably the single most satisfying thing yet. Shade-Of-the-Candle and the rest of our party of scallywags faced down a dragon way above our pay grade and not only lived to talk about it, but came home conquering heroes weighed down with loot. I’m still riding the high this morning and probably will be for days, and here’s some of the reasons why…

  • A tough challenge, risen to! This dragon already one-punched the whole party in a previous battle, and could have done it again if we let it. Shady set up a battle plan that the rest of the team executed brilliantly, many of them adding their own flourishes, using their abilities to set each other up for success. From the monk helping the warlock leap across the 20′ deep pit, to the warlock gimping the dragon’s Strength checks and saves so that everyone else could lock it down, we operated in ways that highlighted and improved each others’ efforts, instead of just being a bunch of stumblebums swanning off in every direction.
  • Perfect expression of Shade-Of-the-Candle. She really did get to do a little of everything she’s built to do, in every pillar of play. Exploration: stealthily scouting, finding traps and then turning them against the monsters, assassinating enemy guards to infiltrate, check-check-check. Social: bringing the team together, being a giant misdirection at the badguy so the other members of the party could get into position, and then of course singing sea shanties all the way home, check-check-check. And combat: doing crazy stunts in the form of riding a dragon like a bucking bronco, laying down the occasional massive sneak attack, and annoyance-tanking, check-check-check. I am particularly pleased at how well Shady pulled off the “tell the truth in the most unbelievable way” trick when parleying with the dragon. Although she would have accepted the dragon’s surrender if the dragon had offered it, Shady’s real goal was to get in close to start the battle without being blasted at range. and provide cover for the rest of the team—both of which she accomplished! It was a classic “misdirection, not deception” moment.
  • A perfect storm of “character I have always wanted to play, doing awesome things.” I’ve mentioned before that I’ve specifically wanted to play a swashbuckler since high school; 1E/2E didn’t really have any way to support the archetype, and while I did get to participate in a very fun four-session “Three Musketeers” one-shot in college, that was over all too quickly. Obsidian occasionally flirted with swashbuckling when I could get away with it, but it was always working against the grain of that particular game. This campaign is built around a party of no-hopers, jokers, and rogues (as the song says) in a seaport full of skullduggery, and the 5E swashbuckler archetype is an amazing character kit. Add into that mix that Shady is a tabaxi and a red oni to boot and… well… I am in RP heaven.

So… yeah. I have no real point to make here, I’m just super-jazzed about last night’s game and wanted to seal the memory. Big thanks to Inkblitz for DMing, and to the rest of the players for going along with my harebrained scheme! :D

-The Gneech

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Jan 05 2020

From Snarling Murdercat to Laughing Bandit

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Shade-Of-the-Candle uses diplomacy.

Seven sessions in to Inkblitz’s D&D campaign, and I am loving Shade-Of-the-Candle more than ever, and I have been using her to some extent as a therapeutic vehicle for getting through some personal issues that I was barely even aware that I had.

Basically, I realized after the Acrobatics vs. Athletics incident that as a D&D player generally, I have been something of a pissy jerk. Like, since forever. For whatever reason, I don’t think I was ever called on it—or if I was, I didn’t register that was what was happening—and I don’t know if it’s something that’s gotten worse in the past few years as my personal stress levels have gone up. Whatever the facts of the case, when I realized it was happening, I immediately knew I had to correct it, for two important reasons.

First, nobody likes a pissy jerk. I have been blessed with patient co-players who had not yet booted me out or discovered they were just too busy to play on any night where I was there, but if I kept going down that road it would only be a matter of time. And second, because being a pissy jerk is actually not very much fun, and I was wasting precious and limited player time at the table making myself and the people around me unhappy.

So the first step I took, was to give Shady some catharsis. Her backstory had made her a bitter character, so I found a way to give her some closure on that. She’s still shaped by that backstory, it’s far from “finished,” but by giving her an in-character reason to lighten up, it made it much easier to transition my approach to playing her from a metagame standpoint. The second step was to sit down and figure out just how I wanted her to change. I went online and found a ton of YouTube videos on how to be a good player and a valued participant in the game, as well as sussing out a positive, team-oriented way of playing her that maintained and even enhanced her swashbuckling style, rather than sending her down the eye-rolling path of the lone wolf. I wrote all this up and printed it out so that I could look at it while we actually played, to remind myself.

Finally, I set myself goals for each game session based on Shady’s Player Credo. I have a checklist of things I want to attempt each session: talking to every other player in character at least once, performing at least one action that sets up another character for success instead of going for the glory myself, and making sure I ask for group input around big decisions. Interestingly, Shady has still had plenty of Big Damn Hero moments, even tho I have not been chasing them. Her badassery has been more or less accidental, but all the sweeter for it.

The last thing I did related to this was to tell the other DM in our group that I wanted to retire my drow bard Obsidian, which was a little harder but which I felt like I had to do. Obsidian’s whole premise was based on a famous post in the 3.x era about bards regarding the rest of the party as “their staff,” and having a character who was vain, self-important, and frankly bitchy was a fun schtick for a while, but it I felt like her presence in that campaign was actually doing more to foster a toxic environment than anything else. As much as I loved some of her earlier adventures, I hadn’t actually enjoyed playing Obsidian for a long time, and I just didn’t want to keep subjecting myself to that—or the rest of the group to who I turned into when I was playing her.

It’s been a long time since I got to be a player instead of the DM this much, and I am ridiculously grateful for it. Part of that gratitude is going to be making sure that I am as much fun to be around as I am having myself—which in my personal case means playing upbeat characters, and leaving the edgelording to someone else.

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