Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Hey, look, a Dungeons and Dragons ride!"

Presto the Magician, Eric the Cavalier, Sheila the Thief, Diana the Acrobat, Bobby the Barbarian, and Hank the Ranger

Back in the 1980s, there was an animated TV series about a group of six children from our world who were magically transported to "the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons." Armed with potent magic weapons given to them by the Dungeon Master, these shanghaied heroes wandered the land in search of a way home. Along the way, they faced many challenges--including frequent clashes with the arch-villain Venger, and occasional appearances by the five-headed dragon Tiamat--and eventually became confident, powerful heroes in their own right. The show was pretty corny, both in premise and in execution, though later seasons featured more serious, mature stories by writers such as Michael Reaves.

The complete series was released on DVD in 2009, in a boxed set that included a D&D v.3.5 adventure based on one of the show's episodes. Stat blocks were provided for the six children as 7th-level characters, with gear appropriate to their level. This equipment included a number of minor magic items, because Third Edition assumed the accumulation of such gear as part of its advancement and Challenge Rating system. The wealth system also limited the value of a character's most powerful item, which puts a serious crimp in just how awesome the series' signature weapons could be. These quirks of the wealth rules make the stat blocks read like reasonably effective and competent D&D characters, but they bore very little resemblance to their namesakes from the TV series.

D&D Fifth Edition provides a simpler rules set that can more easily model the TV series' characters. I haven't worked out the full stats for each character (yet), but will make a first stab at establishing them here. I chose to build them as 3rd-level characters to start with, because that allows all of them to have chosen their subclasses. I decided to use the optional human traits rules, preferring to give them each a feat at 1st level instead of raising all of their ability scores. (They are only teenagers, after all--or younger, in Bobby's case.) I used the array option for ability scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) except for Hank and Diana (neither of whom seem to merit an 8 in any score).

Each hero has been gifted with a single very rare or legendary "Weapon of Power" by the Dungeon Master. These powerful magic items allow them to face challenges that would normally be deadly dangerous for characters of their level--but also makes them targets for villains who want that power for themselves, such as Venger. However, unlike other high-magic campaigns, these characters can never expect to acquire other magic items, except briefly in order to fulfill a specific quest. The Weapons of Power represent the whole of their wealth for their entire career, which can pose unique challenges for both players and DMs, because it works directly against the assumed magic item economy of the game. Fortunately, this is less game-breaking in Fifth Edition than Third.

Overall, this party is neutral good in alignment. Hank, as the conscientious leader, is lawful good; Bobby, always impulsive, is chaotic good; and Eric, the most selfish member of the gang, is neutral (though by the end of the series, he is more solidly neutral good).

Hank the Ranger
3rd-level Human Ranger (Hunter archetype, Folk Hero background), LG
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14
Feat: Sharpshooter
Skills: Animal Handling +3, Athletics +2, Perception +3, Stealth +5, Survival +3
Tools/Languages: one type of artisan's tools, vehicles (land); one language (Orc)
Saves: Str +2, Dex +5
AC 15 (studded leather, Dex); longbow +5 (1d8+3 piercing)
HP 25 (3d10+3)
Class Features: Favored Enemy (orcs), Fighting Style (Archery), Hunter's Prey (Horde Breaker), Natural Explorer, Primeval Awareness
Spellcasting: Spell Slots 1st (2); Save DC 11; Spell Attack +3
Spells Known (2): 1st--ensnaring strike, hail of thorns, hunter's mark

Bow of the Ranger: This +2 longbow deals radiant damage and sheds light as if it were a sun blade (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 205). Instead of producing a luminous blade, it produces a glowing bowstring and arrow. While activated, the bow produces an endless supply of ammunition, but all such arrows vanish after either hitting or missing their targets, and cannot be given to another character.

Hank is the acknowledged leader of the group, and takes that job completely seriously. He coordinates tactics in battle, mediates arguments between his friends, and pays close attention to everyone's safety and morale.

I have given him the Sharpshooter feat at 1st level, and he should take the Inspiring Leader feat at 4th level. The Folk Hero background represents the general populace's inclination to react well to both needy children and to Dungeon Master's chosen pupils, particularly with the humble, honest Hank as their spokesman.

Rangers gain spellcasting at 2nd level, but Hank never exhibits any skill with magic, except for certain stunts he can perform using his bow's energy bolts. For that reason I've chosen ensnaring strike (which manifests as bands of energy binding his target), hail of thorns (a blast of light), and hunter's mark for his spells known.

Sheila the Thief
3rd-level Human Rogue (Thief archetype, Urchin background), NG
Str 8, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 12
Feat: Skulker
Skills: Acrobatics +5, Deception +3, Insight +4, Investigation +4, Perception +6, Sleight of Hand +5, Stealth +7
Tools/Languages: disguise kit, thieves' tools, one other tool or language
Saves: Dex +5, Int +4
AC 14 (leather, Dex); unarmed +5 (1)
HP 18 (3d8)
Class Features: Cunning Action, Expertise (Perception, Stealth), Fast Hands, Second-Story Work, Sneak Attack (2d6), Thieves' Cant

Cloak of the Thief: This item is a standard cloak of invisibility (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 158).

In the series, Sheila is referred to as a "thief" only once, when Dungeon Master first bestows the cloak of invisibility upon her. As a highly sensitive and empathetic youth, she is the least likely member of the party to abuse her power, using her rogue skills solely for reconnaissance, rescue missions, and sowing confusion among her opponents.

The TV series never explicitly says so, but often implies that Sheila and Hank are romantically involved--or are very close to being so. She clearly admires him, and trusts him implicitly, even more so than the others do.

Bobby the Barbarian
3rd-level Human Barbarian (Berserker path, Outlander background), CG
Str 14, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10
Feat: Charger
Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival
Tools/Languages: one musical instrument, one language (Sylvan)
Saves: Str +4, Con +5
AC 15 (Dex, Con); greatclub +4 (1d8+3 bludgeoning)
HP 35 (3d12+9)
Class Features: Danger Sense, Frenzy, Rage (3/day, +2), Reckless Attack, Unarmed Defense

Club of the Barbarian: This magic greatclub grants a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls. It also holds 6 charges, which can be used to cast thunderous smite or thunderwave at the cost of 1 charge. It regains 1d6 expended charges daily at dawn.

Bobby is a tough, headstrong kid who still has much to learn about controlling his emotions. He is the only party member who welcomes a close-quarters fight, typically changing into battle with a furious scream.

Bobby is very loyal to his friends, especially his big sister Sheila and his best friend "Uni," a young unicorn filly who he met mere moments after first landing in the Realm. His Sylvan language represents his ability to converse meaningfully with Uni.

Uni is a very young unicorn who has not yet learned how to use any of her innate spellcasting, healing, telepathy, or teleport powers. In combat, she can be represented as a pony with the celestial creature type, AC 12, a horn attack (as hooves, but does piercing damage), and the Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and immunities of a unicorn. She understands but cannot speak Common.

Presto the Magician
3rd-level Human Sorcerer (Wild Magic origin, Sage background), NG
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 10
Feat: Lucky
Skills: Arcana +5, History +5, Insight +4, Investigation +5, Sleight of Hand +4
Tools: --
Saves: Con +3, Cha +2
AC 12 (Dex); unarmed +4 (1)
HP 17 (3d6+3)
Class Features: Font of Magic (3 Sorcery Points), Metamagic, Tides of Chaos, Wild Magic Surge
Spellcasting: Spell Slots 1st (4), 2nd (2); Save DC 13; Spell Attack +5
Cantrips Known (4): light, mage hand, minor illusion, prestidigitation
Spells Known (4): 1st--expeditious retreat, fog cloud; 2nd--gust of wind, web

Hat of the Magician: This conical wizard's hat functions like a wand of wonder, but has no chance of being destroyed if its last charge is expended.

The Wild Magic sorcerous origin seems to fit the extremely fickle nature of Presto's magic more than any wizard tradition does. In the TV series, he is rarely shown using direct-damage spells; he is a kind, gentle soul who abhors fighting. He favors spells that mislead or inconvenience his foes long enough to allow him and his friends to escape danger. Presto has the Sleight of Hand skill to represent his mundane skills with stage magic, which are often more reliable than any of his spells.

Eric the Cavalier
3rd-level Human Fighter (Cavalier archetype*, Noble background), N
Str 16, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 8
Feat: Shield Master
Skills: Acrobatics +2, Animal Handling +3, History +4, Insight +3, Nature +4, Persuasion +1, Survival +3
Tools/Languages: one gaming set, one language
Saves: Str +5, Con +4
AC 18 (chainmail, shield), 20 vs. ranged; shield bash (improvised weapon) +5 (1d6+3 bludgeoning)
HP 28 (3d10+6)
Class Features: Action Surge (one use), Born to the Saddle*, Combat Superiority* (four, d8), Fighting Style (Protection), Second Wind

Shield of the Cavalier: This magic shield acts as an arrow-catching shield (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 152). It can also be raised above the user's head as a reaction to cast a hemispherical wall of force once per day.

Eric uses the cavalier archetype presented in "Unearthed Arcana: Kits of Old," despite the fact that he rarely has any mount available to use. In the TV series, Eric very rarely bears any offensive weapon, but his shield can be wielded as an improvised weapon roughly equivalent to a mace.

Eric is selfish, sarcastic, and abrasive, which in truth is a defensive mechanism against getting hurt when people inevitably disappoint him. His fellow party members are the only true friends he has--and he is more grateful for that than he would ever willingly admit.

Diana the Acrobat
3rd-level Human Monk (Way of the Open Hand tradition, Entertainer background), NG
Str 13, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10
Feat: Athlete
Skills: Acrobatics +5, Athletics +3, Insight +4, Perception +4, Performance +2
Tools: disguise kit, one musical instrument, navigator's tools
Saves: Str +3, Dex +5
AC 14 (Dex, Wis); quarterstaff +5 (1d6+3 bludgeoning), unarmed strike +5 (1d4+3 bludgeoning)
HP 21 (HD 3d8+3)
Class Features: Martial Arts (1d4), Open Hand Technique, Ki Points (3), Unarmored Defense, Unarmored Movement (+10 ft.)

Staff of the Acrobat: Upon command, this short magical rod can extend to the length of a quarterstaff, in which form it functions as a staff of striking (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 203) except that it is never destroyed if the last charge is expended. A user trained in Athletics can use the staff of the acrobat as a vaulting pole to gain advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks made to jump, and can retain hold of the staff after using it in this way.

Diana is a highly competent gymnast, but her competitive streak is balanced by an easy-going, cheerful personality that takes everything in stride. Even Eric's endless grousing rarely elicits more complaint from her than a bit of gentle teasing.

Diana's proficiency with navigator's tools represent her knowledge of astronomy, which her parents teach.

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