Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On the Table with 5th edition D&D: The Return of the King

For the past few weeks I've been a player in a 5th edition D&D game run by friend, colleague and designer, Doug Easterly. The game takes place in his fictional city of Estarion. The game is centered around a rat cult rising in a city that has been run by invading "Romans", known as the Aquilans, for nearly 100 years.

I wanted to play around with the new 5th ed system, but couldn't decide what PC to play. It's a rare occasion that someone else runs games in my group, so I wanted to make this PC worth the time. Of course, my friends joked I should play Aquaman (because I'm one of the 5 people in the world who freakin' loves him), so I set out to make that happen.

No way I could pass up the chance to wear armor like this!

I considered Arthur's combat abilities, leadership skills and magic (particularly his current incarnation with the Trident of Poseidon). The final battle came between Paladin and Cleric, but I finally settled on Cleric. The only oceanic/storm-based domain (Tempest) was far more Thor than King of the Seven Seas, so I tweaked it a bit [New Oceanic Domain]. Since Clerics only have access to simple weapons and I didn't feel a need to fold martial proficiency into the class, I asked Doug if it would be okay if my "spear" could be a "trident" since mechanically they are exactly the same, even though the latter is a martial weapon and the former simple. Of course he had no problem with that. I also made my trident my holy symbol/divine focus for my spells.

I chose Human, though I've decided to go with a racially-human son of a Selkie and a land-walking-human. I chose the "extra feat, extra skill" option as well.

Bonus Feat
I took Magic Initiate (Druid), giving him access to the cantrip Thorn Whip and a bonus 1st level spell, Thunderwave. I adapted Thorn Whip into Water Whip by changing the damage to bludgeoning from piercing. I also adapted the Cleric cantrip Sacred Fire to Sacred Lightning. The effect of the lightning strike ignoring cover works nicely.

Noble was my immediate thought, but I didn't want to limit the idea so I considered several others: orphan and outlander, specifically. When it came down to it, noble made more sense. I decided that he had been adopted by a local baron who couldn't have a male heir. No one knows he's adopted and not the heir to the throne. The deeper secret is, he actually is the baron's son from a love affair the baron had with a selkie. Even my character doesn't know that yet. All he knows is that he was found at a lighthouse and has an inexplicable draw to the ocean. This draw leads him to the temple of Poseidon.

One of my favorite new mechanics in 5th ed is the Background. Having a PC's background grant as many skills, tool proficiencies and languages as a class puts a brilliant emphasis on who the character is. For example, in the Noble background, Arthur was given proficiency in one gaming kit. I decided that he carries around a collapsable 3-tiered chess set with an aquatic theme. The bottom level is deep-sea creatures, the middle level open ocean beasts and the top level coastal and surface creatures. I'm so inspired by the idea that I'm considering making it IRL.

I could have gone with any of the good alignments, but finally settled on Lawful. More of a personal preference than anything. Arguments could be made for both Neutral and Chaotic without much fight from me. For some incarnations of Aquaman, especially the 90's and animated Justice League versions that have him more like Namor, any of the Neutral alignments could be argued as well.

Other choices were easy. He uses scalemail, shield and a trident. He has numerous skills and a high Wisdom, Strength and Charisma. Dexterity ended up being his dump-stat, hence the medium armor and shield.

Since the baron is of the Aquilan race, and the Aquilan's have Romanesque names, I chose: Arturious Curiosus (in the local dialect, Arthur Curry).

Future Plans

I'm looking at a couple of excellent feats to flesh out his defender-like fighting style and leadership abilities, as well as to compensate for his low Dexterity. Alert, Inspiring Leader, Martial Adept and Shield Master all play to his strengths as a character and his weakness in the Dexterity department. I'll need to take at least one level of Ability Score Improvement to up his Wisdom by 2 as well.

What about Mera?

Aquaman's wife, if you didn't know, is a powerful sorcerous who controls water. In 5th ed core, there aren't aquatic bloodlines for the sorcerer yet (though they'll be appearing on this site soon--ADDENDUM: And here they are!), so I decided to make her a Water-Bending Monk instead. This gives me a backup character should Arthur die at some point, or if we need to switch our party around.

From a storyline perspective, I chose to make Mera Arthur's Background Bond (In love with a woman of common blood), instead of his wife. They see each other when possible, but their love affair is a secret at this point in the story. Since we just lost our fighter (criminal background) character, I'm considering changing her background from Outlander to Criminal, and seeing where that takes me.

Final Build
(His XP is 3rd level as of last night, but I haven't had the chance to properly level him yet)

Since the PDF file I have doesn't allow me to save info, I decided to print up copies with permanent info typed up while leaving room for hand-written info that will likely change over time.

I did the same for spells. Though not all spells are represented here, the spells Arturious is most likely to select are listed.


  1. How did you get the permanent info printed onto the character sheet? I looks like an app.

    1. Nope. Typed it into Adobe and printed it. Unfortunately it wouldn't let me save the file so I had to find another way.

    2. I have a save able version of it so give me an email and I will send it to you.

  2. You need to update your Adobe Acrobat to XI, then you'll be able to save. I had the same problem. I had X, and it kept telling me that I had the "latest" version. You'll need to go to Adobe and download the new version manually.