Showing posts with label characters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label characters. Show all posts

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Daggerheart Open Playtest Beta: Intro and Character Creation

 The minds behind Critical Role have come up with their new Fantasy RPG and honestly, it has some things going for it.

Daggerheart Fantasy Role-Playing is now in Open Beta Playtesting and you can grab a copy for free from DriveThruRPG or their website

Galapa by Jessica Nguyen
Galapa, one of the new Ancestries. Art by Jessica Nguyen

I began reviewing it yesterday and quickly decided to take the plunge to print out the entire 375+ page playtest document so my kids and I can try it out.

You can see the DNA of many systems and games here, which they acknowledge.  I have not read a bunch, but there is a very interesting world here and one I think many will like to play in.

I know most of my readers are "old-school D&D" so I'll say this. If there is something about D&D 5 you dislike chances are good it is here and turned up to 11. 

That all being said there is a really interesting game here. 

That's a lot of pages. Daggerheart playtest

Will this game be a "D&D Killer?" too early to say. I mean we didn't see Pathfinder taking D&D's throne when 4e was out, but then it happened. And when was the last time an RPG Playtest made the pages of Business Insider the day of release?  Do not underestimate the fanship of Critical Role, who, in their nine years, has only seen their popularity rise. Sooner or later, Hasbro will do something boneheaded again, like the OGL or maybe even AI art, and people will look for more options. 

One thing is for certain, the crew at Critical Role will make the game look great to play. Cases in point, they have already produced some videos for it. 

I am watching the One Shot now, and the game looks fun. The feel is a solid fantasy RPG. Their enthusiasm is infectious. 

Character Creation

I have gone through character creation. It will be faster once I know the system better, but it is still very fast. There are a lot of options. LOTS. If you are the type that looks at D&D 5's choices of species and shakes your head then this will not be the game for you.

Daggerheart is a Class and Level based system, so that will be familiar to most; especially what I perceive as their main target, D&D 5e players. 

Classes and Heritages

So, there are nine classes, each with two sub-classes (Foundations) and 18 ancestries. Like I said, there are lots of choices. Watching the "How to Make a Character" video is helpful here, but I just dove right in. That's how we did in the 1980s! The video shows Travis Willingham of Critical Role rebuilding one of his Campaign 3 characters, Bertrand Bell, in this game.  I can relate. 

Each class has two "Domains" and these overlap. These help decide what sorts of powers, abilities, and spells they can take. For example "Arcana" is magic and is the Domain of Druids and Sorcerers. But Sorcerers are also "Midnight" which is sneaky, shadowy stuff and also a Domain of Rogues. 

You choose a Class, then a Foundation (which gives you benefits), then your first-level powers/abilities.

Choose your Heritage (Ancestry and Community) which gives you yet more powers/abilities. There are nine Communities. Think of these as being like your background. 

So where are we? We have 9 classes, 2 foundations, 18 ancestries, and 9 communities. So 2,916 combinations at level 1. 

There are Traits, which line up more or less with d20/D&D abilities. 

Damage Thresholds are bit like HP, with a tracker. Damage gets deadly really fast.  Oh and damage to you also damages your armor. 

A note about Death. This game has a great rule that I might steal for my home games. 


I like the whole "Embrace Death and Go Out in a Blaze of Glory." You die and stay dead, but you do it with style. Oh, it also seems that coming back from the dead is rare and not at all easy. When a character does, they permanently lose one point of the Hope resource.  I have not talked about the Hope and Fear resources yet. But they are spent like Drama or Hero points depending on the situations. These use the oft-neglected d12.

You choose your abilities/powers/spells based on your Domains. The feel is similar to some of the choices for characters seen in D&D 4e.

There are Background questions. They are optional, but they are fun.

Experiences are fun. These are bits on your background that you can use a bonus to your Hope roll. These are figured out in Session 0 and work best if they complement (or aggravate!) the other characters.

Connections are similar. This has a solid Blue Rose feel to it. 

Character creation is fun and would work best during Session 0 with your group. 

Larina Nix in Daggerheart

Of course, I am going to try this with my Drosophila melanogaster of character creation experiments. There is no witch class here, so the first thing I need to do is figure out what her class is. 

While the playtest materials give me plenty to create a class (and the videos use them) there are other options. One is the Character builder at the Daggerheart Nexus at This is what I did for my witch Larina. 

Looking through my options here and with the playtest I am opting for Sorcerer over Wizard. Larina knows things, but they didn't all come from books (which she loves) plus I like the idea of the Midnight Domain for her, so she is a Sorcerer. For her Foundations (subclasses), I gave her Primal since her magic needs to feel a little old and a little wild. Her ancestry is human, and in this reality, she is Loreborn to tie into her connection to reading and books. 

Background I can skip over since this not with a group yet, but I do want to cover her Experiences here. For her +2 Experience I went with "I understand that! (Magical Scholar)" so she can spend a Hope die anytime something magical needs to be explained or figured out. For her +1 Experience, I went with "Wait, I need to read this (Seeker of Magical Secrets)" to cover that sometimes her curiosity overrules her common sense. So that +1 to her Hope die would be great in situations where she is trying to read a magical inscription on a tomb wall while avoiding getting hit by a mummy. 

For my Domain Cards (yes there are cards, but also slots on my sheet) I took one Arcana and one Midnight out of my choices of three each. I wanted to try a balance of the two. 

The effort was fast, really fast. And I am pleased with the results

Daggerheart Larina 1 of 3
Daggerheart Larina 2 of 3
Daggerheart Larina 3 of 3

Yeah, I am quite pleased with this character and character creation. But the proof is in the playing.

So now, after reading, making a character, watching some videos, and retweaking the character, I'll try my hand at making a character from the start again to see how long it takes. For this I will do my other active character Sinéad.  She is also a sorcerer, but I want to see how different two characters of the same class can be. Then I'll also try her as a multi-classed Bard.

Sinéad in Daggerheart

In D&D Sinéad is a half-elf Magic-user (Sorcerer)/Bard. Now her history is very, very much tied to the Forgotten Realms. So unlike Larina, her home is a very integral part of her. It will be interesting to see how that works in a game like Daggerheart.

Sinéad in Daggerheart

Ok, that took about 4 minutes. While I can get into the details, suffice it to say that this worked well for me and I was EASILY able to capture the concept here that this is character who can't control her magic and is working on figuring out how.  She isn't a bard yet. But that also fits in well with my starting concept of her.  For her item, Family Heirloom, I have it as her father's lute.

In Daggerheart, you can multi-class starting at the 5th level, so I am going to try that. When Multi-classing, you choose one of the two Domains of the second class. I rather like that. The Bard Domains are Grace and Codex. While Codex would be great for the added magic, concept-wise, Grace is a better fit.  She also chooses one of the Foundations (Subclasses). For Sinéad, I picked Troubador so she can get some game advantage from her lute.

Sinéad in DaggerheartSinéad in Daggerheart
Sinéad in Daggerheart
Sinéad in Daggerheart
Sinéad in Daggerheart

Level 0 to Level 5, plus making screenshots? 25 mins.  A PDF export would be nice here.

So, despite Larina and Sinéad both being Sorcerers in Daggerheart, they do look and feel different.

There is a lot to try out for this game and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New Witch Sheet

 I am not exactly sure why I didn't do this one already.

Witch Character Sheet

I was working on something else and needed an AD&D (Dragon #114) witch for it.  It then dawned on me that I didn't have a proper AD&D character sheet for a witch.  Well. I fixed that today.

Witch Character Sheet

I edited an existing PDF and ran some off on my printer. Proper Goldenrod, of course, but also salmon and blue since they came in those colors as well (NPC and permanent character records, respectively) and because I can come in purple. All my important witches have sheets in purple!

They are not perfect by any means. Just a quick edit job in Affinity Publisher, but I really like them. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

In Search Of Duchess and Candella

 I mentioned earlier in this year that my oldest son's group is running through ALL editions of D&D to celebrate 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons. They made characters, and they are taking them through each edition. They have done OD&D, Basic and they are now ready for 1st Edition Advanced.  The characters are now 2nd to 4th level, but there are only 5 of them. And they want me to run an AD&D game for them.

Last week I finally figured out what I am going to run.  They will go through the Orange version of module B3 Palace of the Silver Princess.

Palaces of the Silver Princess

I will explain its infamy to them and run it like it was 1981 for them. So, a mix of B/X and AD&D. Just like we did it.  I'll talk more about the adventure, but for now, I want to focus on a small side matter with the adventure(s). 

That is, who exactly are the thieves, Duchess and Candella?

Duchess and Candella
In Search of...Duchess and Candella

In both versions of the adventure, you encounter two thieves pretending to be Lady Maidservants. Well... not convincingly, since they know very little about what a maidservant does or where anything in the castle is.  But they are earnest and "very attractive" and ask to join the party. 

Now, I always thought that "Duchess" was the dark-haired one and "Candella" the light-haired one. Largely because I thought the dark-haired one looked like a Duchess and Candella is said to have a string of pearls on her. The orange version gives us their ages as 18 for Duchess and 20 for Candella. 

I always liked that art. You are catching two thieves almost red-handed, and the look of surprise on Candella's face and her hair flying about was just great. 

They became minor recurring NPCs in my games. Showing up, stealing something here and there, and then disappearing again. If the PCs were ever tossed into jail, then sure enough, Duchess and Candella were already there.

I had not thought about them much, and they certainly don't get the ink that the likes of Aleena or Morgan Ironwolf get, but they were/are fun NPCs, and I wanted to know more about them.  Turns out I am not the only one.

What does the Web Say?

There are a few links worth visiting and following up on. First is Greyhawk MusingsOn Duchess and Candella.  This is a great place to start due to its thoroughness. In fact, this blog is a treasure trove of information on them, and I respect David Leonard for that.  He speculates that the dark-haired woman thief in G3, The Hall of the Fire Giant King, is Duchess now 11th level. This begs the question, what happened to Candella? Side note: I used that very same thief as a recurring character when I ran G3, but for me, it was Evelyn the Princess Escalla. But I appreciate what he is doing here.  Like me, he equates Duchess with the dark-haired woman and Candella with the light-haired one. 

We learn from no less of a luminary himself, Frank Mentzer, that these two figures were not just Jean Well's characters; they were her favorite duo of characters. She also did the art of them in Polyhedron #4.  

Candella and Duchess in Polyhedron #4

Sadly, we can't ask Wells herself, as she passed away in 2012.

Greyhawk lore master Jason Zavoda made some similar observations and connections for Greyhawk.

I mentioned I was not the only one to find these two fun. They have appeared in more recent products as well. Or at least homages to them.

Candella, sans Duchess, appears on the cover of Blueholme.


She is the one getting the treasure. Wearing the same outfit as Candella at least.

In a minor cameo, but also a cover, no less, they are part of the new D&D Companion Project. I hope to have more on that soon. 

And as I mentioned above, the 11th-level thief from G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King might also be Duchess, without Candella.

Duchess and Candella in Other Adventures

B12 Queen's Harvest is another Basic-level adventure. This time though the "B" is from the BECMI flavor of Basic and not the BX one.

Very early on in this Carl Sargent-penned adventure from 1989, we are introduced to two thieves, Erren and Sarrah, on pages 6-7.  Their ages and appearances line up with Candella and Duchess, even if their stats don't quite match, though. It is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that Candella and Duchess also have other aliases. They are presented in an NPC Mini-Capsule, so they are important to the adventure, though no other details are given.

The fan module by Agathokles, The Dymrak Dread, makes this connection solid with Sarrah, now known as "the Duchess," and part of the Thieves Guild, and her friend Erren Candella. Here they are 5th and 6th level respectively.  This adventure also has Orcus and witches in it, so it is worth my coming back to.

Another adventure to feature them, and this time by name, is the Palace of the Golden Princess, an homage to the original (Orange) Palace of the Silver Princess and Jean Wells herself. There are 5e and OSE versions of the adventure, and they are tied to a comic series taking place in a land inspired by the map in the Original B3 Palace of the Silver Princess. There are even some allusions (in an oblique way) to the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands.

They also briefly appear in Mr. Welch's Mystara Player's Guide for 5e, notably under Mystara's Most Wanted.

Mystara Players Guide 5e - Most Wanted

Mystara Players Guide 5e - Most Wanted

Thought their biggest feature run has been in the various Folio Black Label adventures. Most notably in Folio: Black Label #10 and The Complete Folio Black Label

In The Complete Folio Black Label (covering Black Label 1-6 with extras), nearly every piece of art features our daring duo in all sorts of predicaments throughout all the adventures.  They are also rendered by various artists like Brian Brinlee, Peter Bradley, and Simon Adams, among others. Folio: Black Label #4  and Folio: Black Label #5 even feature them on the cover. Honestly, I bought a bunch of these just to see how much Candella and Duchess art there was in them.

Another artist whose work has been featured in the Folio: Black Label books is Domenico Neziti.  He has done so many pieces of Duchess and Candella that I am giving him his own space below.

Here are a few of his pieces from his Instagram page.

And another I could not find on his Instagram.

Duchess and Candella Demon Bait
Domenico Neziti "Demon Bait"

He clearly has these two down, with some more on his DeviantArt page.

With new books out like Folio: Black Label series it is easy to see how these two have had all sorts of adventures. I can see something akin to distaff versions of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, though maybe less magic. Likely a bit closer to The Rat Queens. When I used them in games I always made Candella closer to the Thief-Acrobat concept and Duchess maybe a little closer to a Thief-Assassin. But I don't get "evil" off of either of them, really. Plus, Duchess doesn't have the strength score to be an assassin. Maybe more fighter-thief.

Duchess and Candella in my Games

Duchess and Candella
Duchess and Candella, Sheets from Dark Wizard Games

I have used them in the past, as I mentioned, but never to the extent I have some other characters and certainly not to the level some other gamers have.

Given all the art out there, they have certainly had a lot of adventures, and some that look outright crazy. But these two seem like fun characters to have "madcap adventures."  I mean, is Morgan Ironwolf going to pretend to be half-naked bait for a demon? No, I don't see it.  I'd love to use these two in my Forgotten Realms adventures but honestly they are so Mystara/Oerth feeling for me I can't see moving them over any easier than I could move the B-modules over.

I have at least figured out how they met. This came up in an adventure before. They were both, independently trying to steal this ruby, from the local guild-mistress of thieves. They didn't know the other was also trying, nor did either know this was the guild mistress. They failed, and the guild mistress, Amara, impressed by their attempt or something else, took them in and made them work together. The two became good friends, and their careers began.  In my mind, Candella had been a tavern wench who had become tired of watching adventurers coming in with ill-gotten gains when she could have all that gold. Duchess' background is a bit darker. She was a servant girl working for a Baron and Baroness. The Baroness had accused her of stealing a necklace, but she had not. The Baron, who was broke, had sold it to cover some of his debts and suggested she could work off her guilt in his bed chamber. When she refused, he got violent, and she ran to escape him, and he fell down the stairs to his death. Knowing she would be blamed and likely executed, she ran. She thinks she is still wanted for the Baron's murder. She isn't; no one ever looked for her. In fact, the Baron's debt was so great that the local authorities had plenty of other suspects. The Baroness died soon after in the home of a relative.

I know, according to the art above, that Candella gains some Boots of Flying, and Duchess gets a huge magic sword. 

Since my oldest is running his group through all of the editions of D&D I'll also do versions of them for every edition. Say 2nd level for D&D Basic/Expert, 4th level for AD&D 1st, 8th level for AD&D 2nd Editon, 12th level for D&D 3.x, 16th level for D&D 4e Essentials (better Rogues), and 20th for D&D 5th Edition.  That should be fun, really.  Course I'll need some good prestige classes when I get to 3.x. I think I'll post them when I get around to stating them all up. 

While I will keep them at the same level, at any given time, Candella is about 600 XP ahead of Duchess. 

Candella and Duchess for BX
Candella and Duchess for B/X. Art by Brian Brinlee and Domenico Neziti, 
Vitruvian Character Sheets Blog of Exalted Deeds

While reading up on them, I saw one person online refer to them as a couple of "party girls." I mean, sure, that fits. The vibe I have always had with them was they were both adventuresses out for a bit of fun and hopefully score some treasure. Ok, a lot of treasure. Though at least one academic dissertation places them in the role of temptresses. I suppose that would work too, though not how I would play them. 

Have you used these two in your games? How did it work for you? What happened with them?


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Into the Forgotten Realms: Baldur's Gate 3 Characters (and HeroForge minis)

Into the Forgotten Realms
 For my personal foray into the Forgotten Realms, I will name this series exactly that: Into the Forgotten Realms. This is also appropriate because my very first recollection of the Forgotten Realms was not the "Grey Box" but rather an adventure in the pages of Dragon Magazine.

When Ed Greenwood was exploring the Realms in the pages of Dragon, he had a guide, the Sage of Shadowdale Elminster. Elminster told him stories of the Realms and was the intermediary between his world and ours. 

But Elminster, like Ed, was an expert on the Realms. I am not. I am not even good. I am an enthusiastic novice with no idea how much I am trying to bite off here.  So. I also need a guide. But my guide has to be as naïve as me so we can discover it together. 

Generally, for these explorations, I have characters on hand. When I was writing about vampires and undead it was my Paladin Johan. When it is magic, the occult or witches, it is my witch Larina. They are great characters, but neither is appropriate here. Neither has anything to do with the Realms for starters and I need a native.

So introducing (again) Sinéad. She is a half-elf from the Moonshae Isles and her elven mother claims to have ancestry from Evermeet. And...that is all I know. Fun right? Now to expand her out I used her as a character in Baldur's Gate 3 and of the many games I have played of it I liked her run the best.

As I progress through the material and books I am taking the literary license of having her tell me what she shows me as my guide, munch in the same way the Ed has Elminster. Plus it feels like a fun little nod to Ed and Elminster as well. 


What do I know about her? Well looking back at my 2nd Ed idea I know she is a magic-user of some sort and a Bard. Given some of the material I have read I also like idea she has wild magic, something she is not quite capable of controlling. This is why she leaves home. She needs a reason to go away from a loving family after all and I am not reverting to the trope of dead parents. 

This worked great in my run with her in Baldur's Gate. But I'll get to pencil and paper details in future posts.

Since I had such a great time with her and I'll be using her in tabletop games next year I couldn't help but get a new HeroForge mini of her as an early Christmas present to myself.

Sinéad from HeroForge

Not too bad really.  Here is how she looks on the HeroForge site AND in Baldur's Gate 3.

Sinéad Hero ForgeSinéad Baldur's Gate 3

I rather like how she came out.  Of course, I had to do two of my favorite characters from the game, Shadowheart and Karlach.

Shadowheart, Sinéad, and Karlach

Shadowheart and Karlach

I rather like how they all came out.





And Karlach




Yeah. If I am going to do this, then I will do it right.

I am also doing runs with Skylla and Kelek in BG3. Those have also been fun.