It’s Thursday book bees, and you know what that means? Another installment of my Dungeons and Dragons series! Following my previous posts about creating characters and the importance of their backstories, I thought it might be smart to give an example of a character created and played for those that learn by example. Okay, so this is also an exercise in self indulgence that lets me talk about one of my favorite D&D characters. Nevertheless, I do think examples are helpful when diving into the world of Dungeons and Dragons roleplay.
So let me introduce you to my character of choice: Annamaria Riverend. I built Annamaria for my husband’s first campaign as a DM, so her background is based in a homebrew world. This means that locations and social norms, among other factors, conform to the rules of his world rather than the worlds of official D&D canon that inform the character build guidelines. This largely only effects the racial part of her backstory, meaning that as a half-elf she does not feel the divide between elven and human worlds the way the description of the half-elf in the Player’s Handbook recommends.
Annamaria was born to a human father and an elven mother. Her father, a bit of a playboy, had wandered the Empire of his birth for a while, interacting with many different people. This left a few half-siblings roaming about in the world before Annamaria’s family took form. Annamaria didn’t live with her full family for long, though. Her younger brother tragically died of illness and the family broke apart, her father going off to wander some more and her mother jumping straight into a second, more stable marriage. Stability could only last so long, though, and another sibling tragically died. Her mother disappeared and was unable to be contacted, leaving her stepfather to watch over Annamaria and her older sister, as well as his own child and her half sister. The area they lived in deemed that her stepfather had insufficient funds to care for three children and chose Annamaria to be rehomed. She was adopted by a couple, both elves, who worked as a jeweler and a liason to a local farming community where she was raised with three other adopted siblings.
Annamaria was emotionally stunted by the turmoil in her early life and rather rebellious. She was also left with an unusual gift: she could see spirits. Her adoptive mothers sent her to a local druid commune in hopes that they would be able to guide her to the right path as well as help her with her strange gift, but things didn’t turn out how they expected. Annamaria, irritated with the hippy nature of the commune, stole some underutilized treasure and used it to fund a new identity. She forged paperwork, bought a wig and a new wardrobe, and posed as a long lost member of a diminished noble family, making friends with some wealthy folk and spending half her year with them as a down on her luck noble girl. The other half of the year she spent working at various jobs to fund her extravagant second life.
At the time that the campaign began, Annamaria had unwillingly acquired a druidic mentor. Appearing only as a mysterious shadow with a distorted voice, her mentor was trapped in a bronze orb she’d stolen from the druids and been unable to sell off. The shadowy mentor showed her druidic magic and attempted to guide her to a more straight and narrow path in life, largely unsuccessful until the campaign took off and Annamaria had to set aside her second life in order to adventure.
Development of Character
In the course of the campaign a lot of fun stuff happened to help me grow my character. Of course, we had a lot going on outside of the campaign that affected things, namely a lot of players rotating in and out so that by the end our party composition was small and much changed from how we began. I was the only person who started and ended the campaign only missing one session while I was away for my master’s research. As a result, I think Annamaria received the most character growth and resolution by the end of things. Granted, we didn’t really get to establish how our characters ended the campaign due to time constraints but we jokingly said that she retired to one of her properties in the North and married someone that was a consistent love interest for her.
At the beginning of the campaign, Annamaria was a Chaotic Neutral alignment. This means that she was largely looking out for herself, and did so in whatever manner made most sense at the time despite what chaos or harm that might cause. She made decisions such as refusing to partake in battles that didn’t seem to concern her, and making slightly less strategic choices in battle. By the end of the campaign she was Chaotic Good due to her loyalty, her altruism, and her choices to put others first and save people even when she was told she wouldn’t be able to.
Throughout the campaign, I got to explore a morally grey character with a tiny desire to see good and change the world. Annamaria went from being unwilling to put herself into a fight to protecting her friends, and from wanting wealth and riches to giving things away to those in need. She found her new family and healed from the trauma of losing her first one piece by piece. By forming bonds with the other members of her party, Annamaria grew as a person and found her moral center.
The Practical Stuff
Beyond the backstory and character development, Annamaria was a Circle of the Shepherd Druid. Her background was Charlatan, and she primarily utilized her Wild Shape and conjuration magic during combat. The Druid class is a magic casting class that focuses on natural and animism spells, and comes with the ability to shapeshift a limited amount of times into animal forms that yourself and your DM work out. At various times, my DM presented me with new animal shapes with custom stats that were outside the traditional stats within the DMG and PHB. As a Druid, players select a Druidic Circle that determines a bit more of a specialty. The Circle of the Shepherd is featured in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything as an expanded option for Druids. This Circle focuses on spells regarding the spirits of animals which played on her ability to see spirits.
As a result, Annamaria’s magic talents largely lied in conjuring large amounts of fey creatures that could provide assistance in combat. Generally in a long enough session of combat, I played Annamaria as utilizing her magic more than her Wild Shape since I often used Wild Shape forms to do other important things such as sneaking into prisons, eavesdropping, and other tasks that required stealth. Generally using her Circle of the Shepherd features, Annamaria could provide strength and healing to the party in an area of the combat, while also using long distance spells and close up attacks to beat back combatants. If the party was smaller (missing players or just out numbered) she could summon up an amount of animals to act as a buffer zone and attack the enemies.
So yes, there you have an example of a character played from beginning to end with character development and changes to motivation. Ultimately, you don’t want to find yourself playing the exact same character at the end of a D&D campaign. You want your character to grow, mature, and change just like a real person. It takes a talented DM, commitment from yourself as a player, and a pleasant and comfortable group of fellow players to achieve character growth though. Sometimes, your group just doesn’t have the time or energy to follow through with a complex campaign and so the changes to your character may be small, only really resolving facts from their backstories rather than pushing forward new character growth. But still, as long as you feel that your character’s development was rewarding, that’s the important thing!