One of my favorite things about Dungeons and Dragons is character creation and seeing how the character develops throughout that adventure. I’m not really into making the most powerful fighter or a wizard that is perfectly true to the archetype. I also don’t like planning out beyond the first level, I’d rather create an interesting character and just see how things go.

In some ways, I think this makes me a valuable member of a team. I don’t really care if I’m a rogue or fighter or magic user, which means I can fill the needed niche in my team. For example, my group is starting to discuss what they want to do be during the next campaign and it became clear that we are missing a strong fighter character that can take a lot of damage. Basically, we need a tank because the others are “squishy”. So I am filling that role.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to play a barbarian type character. Usually, barbarians are big, dumb brutes, but that feels pretty shallow to me so I am going to take a different route. This is my working story for my dwarf barbarian.

Thordak (working name) was born to a noble family of mountain dwarves that specialized in maintaining the written history of their people. They are competent fighters, but their specialization is really in the more intellectual pursuits. Thordak’s family is highly respected among the nobles of their people, but there is a tension between them and the more traditional dwarven craftsmen and fighters.

When Thordak was an adolescent he was deeply in love with a Dwarven princess named Krystara. His position as an apprentice historian allowed him regular access to the noble’s homes and as time went on his infatuation with Krystara grew. Then, one day, he got up the courage to write a love poem to her and he secretly slid it under the door to her room. Unfortunately, the poem was discovered not by Krystara, but by her twin brother Kildrik.

Kildrik, finding the poem humorous, gathered his friends together to confront Thordak. After a short search, they found Thordak in his room writing more poetry and they began to mock him. The sound of the laughter and teasing pushed Thordak over the edge and flew into a blind rage and attacked Kildrik. Despite being smaller and less well trained, Thordak beat Kildrik to the point of near death and it took four other Dwarves to pull him off.

Thordak was put on trial for assaulting a prince, a crime punishable by death. The Dwarven king showed some mercy (in part because of how important Thordak’s family is to the kingdom) and banished him instead of killing him. Thordak was stripped of his family name and told never to return to the kingdom.

Kildrik perceived this a too light of a punishment and followed Thordak as he left the kingdom. One evening, while Thordak was sleeping, Kildrik and his friends attacked him in the middle of the night. They pinned him down and used knives that had been enchanted with cold magic to cut off his beard and burn him with the freezing cold. They left Thordak, assuming he would die from his wounds, his face now covered in magical scars that would never heal and a beard that would never grow.

Thordak survived and continued to wander the land, an outcast among dwarves. Seeing the damage to his face, Thordak crafted a stone mask that he never takes off due to the hideousness of his face. He blames himself for all the harm that came that day and does all he can to keep his rage inside, but it is difficult to control. His dreams are haunted by evil creatures and the only way that he gets a good nights sleep is if he enters a rage and spills blood from time to time.

He has been wandering for over 100 years now. He has primarily been alone, but from time to time teams up with travelers or caravans and acts as a guard when they travel across the desert (his chosen home). He also occasionally goes into small communities to trade for food, water, writing materials, books, and other goods necessary for survival. He doesn’t have a permanent home, but throughout the desert he has many caves that are stocked with supplies and his writing. To date, he has written thousands of pages that are primarily poetry, journal entries about things he has done and seen, and detailed notes about the people he was met. His primary life purpose is to find a way to contain his rage and has spent much time studying religion, magic, meditation, medicine, and anything else that may bring him peace.

Character Sheet Details:
Name: Thordak
Class: Barbarian
Path: TBD (It depends on the story, but Path of Totem Warrior and Path of the Storm Herald are the most interesting to me right now)
Background: Hermit
Alignment: Neutral Good
Race: Dwarf (Mountain)
Sex: Male
Age: 165 years old
Height: 4’3″
Weight: 151 lbs

Strength: 14
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 9

Proficient Skills

Common, Dwarvish, Goblin

Tool Proficiencies
Herbalism Kit, Smith’s Tools

Handaxe (x2)

Other Items
Explorer’s Pack
Scroll case filled with paper
Herbalism Kit
5 gp


Triathlon For The Mind

Yesterday, while walking home from my weekly D&D game I was listening to a D&D podcast and the hosts used a phrase that I liked. The called D&D (and really, all role-playing games) a “triathlon for the mind”. These games are not just board games, the require use of both sides of the brain. You need to be logical, do a lot of math, and problem solve, and you also need to be creative, improvise, and communicate clearly. Dungeons & Dragons is practice for the real world because it involves practice in a created world, it is the opposite of our education system that tends to compartmentalize subjects.

D&D is perfect for artists of all types. It is an opportunity to work out your brain in a way that is rarely found outside of real life. It is a sandbox to play in with low real-world stakes. If you are an actor it is a chance to improvise, if you are an author you get to see how other people behave and think, if you are a visual artist you can gain an endless supply of inspiration for your paintings or drawings. It is an opportunity to peel back the masks of reality and see what is underneath, it is a chance to practice our craft in a new world and take those lessons into the real world. (There are even mental health professionals who are using role-playing games in their practice, and role-playing is one of the most common bedroom activities to bring in a little variety… considering I’m interested in becoming a therapist and sexual variety is important to me and my non-monogamous partner this really appeals to me)

Needless to say, I’m loving D&D but I’m not sure that I’m taking advantage of the opportunity. Part of it is the character I created, as a former soldier turned monk the character is a very close mirror to my life experience (soldier turned peace advocate). Due to the similarity between my character and myself I find myself falling into comfortable routines… a bit introverted and indifferent to decisions, but that may be beneficial. I am still learning the mechanics of the game and the personalities of the other players and their characters.

When we move on to a new game I plan on breaking out of my shell a little bit. I still find myself drawn to the well-established archetypes that aren’t particularly creative. But again, maybe that’s okay. This is a new experience for me and it seems like it is good to move slowly. You gotta crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Hopefully, as the months go on I will get more creative and create more nuanced and complicated characters, and as that happens I hope my creative writing and other artistic pursuits will benefit.