Five TTRPG Characters I’ve Played

Twitter users, myself included, really like five-item lists. They can fit pretty comfortably in the character limit, are very shareable, and are just plain fun. This was especially true of one specific to TTRPGs that’s been floating around, where users created a list of five characters they’ve played before and offered very brief descriptions of them.

It then occurred to me that, at the time of posting and not including NPCs in games that I’ve tried to run before, I have only ever played five tabletop RPG characters. I sort of thought it would be fun to expand on the meme and give all five of these fictional people short profiles. So, without further ado, here are the five characters I’ve played before, in roughly chronological order.

Janella Kulenov, Human Paladin

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition

I’ve talked about Janella and Out of the Abyss quite a bit on the blog already, so I’ll try to keep this to just the basics. Janella was a young human woman who grew up in an otherwise ordinary home environment and got called by her deity to protect everything good in the world. Thinking that she needed to learn how to be a soldier to protect and fight for those things, she left home to go train in a nearby city, focusing less on her divine calling and more on proving herself to the mortals around her. It would take her being kidnapped and dragged into the Underdark of Faerûn for her to finally grasp what she was supposed to do and start truly bringing light into dark places.

If she sounds like a very typical “first RPG character,” that’s because she definitely was. That I was going to play D&D at all was kind of a surprise to me, and I wasn’t actually sure that I would stick with the hobby for very long. I was leaning toward paladin because, as a first-time player, I was gently discouraged from building a dedicated spellcaster and our group needed a dedicated healer and tank. What sold me on paladin in particular was this sentence:

“Your oath and alignment might be in harmony, or your oath might represent standards of behavior that you have not yet attained.”

Player’s Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons), page 83. Emphasis mine.

Her character came together more or less the moment I read that. I liked the idea of a divinely chosen warrior who was in over her head and needed to grow into the role, with the oath acting as an aspirational framework. I’m not sure whether I’d play paladin again, and while I would have done a lot of things differently had I known what I know now, I have very few serious regrets about my choices and am glad she was my introduction to the hobby.

Baudira Shun-Talahadar, Drow Bard

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition

Baudira was a singer and satirist that lived in the Underdark. But, despite knowing that everything and everyone in the Underdark is generally out to get you, she satirized the wrong person and paid for it with one of her eyes, her home, and very nearly her life. With nothing better to do and no real other choices after being stuck on the surface, she taught herself bardic magic, performed at the fantasy equivalent of dive bars, became a member of a local city guard for a day job, and grudgingly tolerated her teammates for their occasionally competent actions.

Baudira made her debut during a roughly month-long break from Out of the Abyss. My goal with her was, on the surface, pretty simple: play Janella’s opposite number. I wanted to experiment with other things in the game, so everything from her alignment to her role in terms of party balance was designed to be the logical opposite of “lawful goody two-shoes tanky paladin.”

However, it turns out that I’m not very good at playing mean, let alone evil, characters. I can do sarcastic, but extreme arrogance and delighting in pushing other people’s buttons just didn’t come naturally to me. While I liked bard mechanically and would be happy to play one again, and I could play a drow as long as I could drop the tropes and associated baggage, Baudira herself was intensely uncomfortable, and I was extremely glad to leave her behind.

Keth Bloodskull-Khalid, Half-Orc Fighter

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition

Keth grew up in a divided home, spending an equal amount of time at his human father’s wizard college and his orc mother’s barbarian war camps. He attended wizard college and wrote his thesis on the physiology and ecology of magical creatures in zones of dead magic and whether this would have practical applications. He got a job as an elite monster hunter and aspired to a leadership position, which would allow him to more effectively implement his research.

The inspiration for Keth was honestly kind of a gimmick—I just really wanted to play against type by being a spellcasting orc, and eldritch knight fighter was the way to make it viable mechanically in a monster-hunting campaign. This was on another break from Out of the Abyss, and I wanted to try another character that blended magic and melee without being a paladin: I liked how paladin functioned mechanically, but around this time I started to find the aspect of the oath a little suffocating and wanted to see if I could fill a similar role without the responsibility.

Honestly, I didn’t spend enough time with Keth to decide if I liked him, half-orcs, eldritch knights, or fighters—the campaign ended up being two sessions because we solved the mystery pretty quickly and I didn’t really get to play around with everything he had to offer. I will say that playing a very “book-smart” character was a nice change, though.

Delilah Jacobi, The Transformed

Masks

Delilah had everything—billionaire parents, beauty, popularity, athleticism, an elite private school education, a guaranteed future career at the helm of Jacobi Enterprises, and anything that money could buy. What money couldn’t buy, though, was a treatment for the sarcoma that was weeks from killing her when her parents desperately agreed to allow doctors to test an experimental treatment option. The treatment saved her life, but transformed her into a tree-like, monstrous-looking humanoid that couldn’t be recognized as her former self. Her parents, worried about a PR disaster and trying to give their daughter time to adjust, hid her at home and put out a cover story to explain her absence, which led her to believe that they didn’t want to be associated with her. After a few months of being cooped up, she left home and began operating as a vigilante crime-fighter in Halcyon City, where she became one of the founding members of an up-and-coming teenage superhero team.

On another break from Out of the Abyss, a group member wanted to try Masks. Back when we were still in the hypothetical stages of thinking about the campaign, the playbook for The Transformed struck me. I’ve been fascinated with transformation as a motif for a while, so it was inevitable that I was going to end up playing the “mutated by science” superhero. One of the suggested abilities for The Transformed was “plant affinity,” and Delilah’s entire concept came together after that.

I’ll never have anything in common with billionaires (and it was originally not even my character choice—it was suggested by the GM, and while I was hesitant to roll with it I’m glad I did because it added another layer of drama that couldn’t have existed otherwise), but outside of that, Delilah is without a doubt the character that hit closest to home for me. While I never had cancer and don’t discount that cancer, especially in young people, is a horrible disease, I was a sick teenager that grew into a chronically ill adult that went through several transformations of my own. The details deserve their own blog post, but needless to say that cathartically rewriting that set of life experiences under the watchful eye of a profoundly sensitive GM was an incredible experience.

Co’Ryn “Corrie” Nailo, Air Genasi Monk

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition

Corrie recently graduated from Fantasy State University and is a little lost about what to do with her life. Without the structure of her university lifestyle or the continuous support of the sisters of the Chi Iota martial arts sorority, she’s been kind of directionless. She moved to the city of Alsagar, sharing a flat over a tavern with four other eccentric personalities, while she tries to figure it out. The presence of a new gang disrupting the power balance of the criminal underground in the city might be the exact thing she needs.

Corrie is different from my other characters in that she’s funny. If she were in a campaign that wasn’t a Terry Pratchett-esque, trope-tastic, self-aware romp, or if she were surrounded by darker and more serious personalities, she would be the comic relief. Considering that my local claim to fame is crying on command, this was kind of a pivot for me, but also really refreshing because it turns out that it’s fun to be funny. She’s also an exercise in being unashamedly girly. I’ve had a pretty significant internalized misogyny problem for a lot of my life: femininity and women were looked down on, so I went out of my way to prove that I “wasn’t like other girls,” which is something I regret.

If Corrie existed in the real world, she would be considered “basic”: she’s a leggings-wearing, yoga-class-going, pumpkin spice-drinking, brunch-having, inspirational quote-touting kind of feminine that’s especially prone to derision, and I’m leaning into it. I picked drunken master for her monk archetype because I liked the flavor of being kind of silly or superficial on the surface while actually being extremely competent and even dangerous. This is not to say that the femininity is a mask or not who she really is, but that it’s an integral part of what makes her successful as an adventurer. She’s fun and girly, and not only does that not keep her from punching the lights out of anyone that messes with her besties, but it’s the reason she does it, and her opponents can underestimate her at their own peril.

What characters have you played? Did you enjoy these little profiles—and would you want to see more for future characters? Leave a comment!

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