Part 1 can be found here: Upping Your Game: RPG Characters as Writing Prompts Part 1
I want start off by reminding you that for the purpose of this prompt, I will be building a fantasy RPG character that could be used in D&D, Pathfinder, or any system that uses the same core ability stats: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
I chose to do this to make it easier to get the point across with a familiar system. I also randomly chose a familiar fantasy race. In this case: a Goblin. His name is Clot.
Clot, King among vermin
Clot’s Stats were rolled randomly and placed in the order they were rolled. After racial modifiers (D&D 5th ed) they are:
- Str: 14
- Dex: 12
- Con: 15
- Int: 10
- Wis: 10
- Cha: 11
Weird stats for a goblin. He could make a good thief, like most goblins, but that doesn’t lean into our prompt. We want to explore weaknesses, hardship and formative experiences. The strength and con are very high, so that is where we will start. Sometimes standing out is a weakness.
When Clot was born, he was nearly twice the size of the average goblin infant. When his mother bore no further children, the tribe determined Clot must have eaten his siblings to grow so big. His size was a strange omen, one that filled the small with awe, but drew the worried gaze of other.
We have now established a myth or rumor for our character. It is unlikely to be true, but its existence can create conflict which is what drives plots.
I don’t want to make Clot into a fighter and I want to lean into his weaknesses. So how do we make his strengths into a weakness to overcome? And what do we do with those middling metal attributes?
As Clot grew older, he soon towered over his kin. His physical prowess was feared, but did not inspire respect. In a fully goblin tribe, Clot would have been a king, but his people were a lesser caste. Those who ruled his class were Orc, and they saw in Clot a rival to be put down.
While Clot has incredible physical attributes for a goblin, he is average by Orc standards. Moreover, the fact that he could potentially overpower one of the upper caste means he was not only feared, he was disdained.
How could he hope to thrive, jeered and beaten by all those around him? The Orcs hated him for rivaling their power. The goblins attacked and spit on him to impress their betters. Clot was relegated to the lowest position in his clan. He slept each night, bleeding in the gutter among the filth and the other vermin.
This harsh treatment can help to explain his high constitution. His skin is scarred and thick. He has been hardened by his life.
But we want to make use of his mental stats too. They have room to grow. Clot’s life is a prison he cannot escape through strength of body.
Among the refuse, Clot found peers. The rats were like him: dirty, despised, discarded. But they were also strong. He saw in them the fire of survivors. That was something worth embracing.
Among the rot, Clot found friends. As he treated the rats with respect, they returned it. Food and warmth was shared. What started as respect grew to kinship. The rats grew to anticipate Clot’s needs, as if they could understand him.
Among the swarm, Clot found power. He was not imagining it, the rats listened to him. Clot soon realized he could hear them too. They started as many trembling voices. They shrieked in a chaotic choir. But they soon became one voice. His voice.
Clot found his way out.
One night, the orcs returned from a raid with a stockpile of food and keg after keg of ale. Clot was never invited to feast, but this was his opportunity. He waited until the leaders and their favorite sycophants were drunk, and then unleashed the rage of his swarm upon them.
This is another opportunity to build a lingering myth or rumor for Clot. We know a low level character and a rat swarm couldn’t wipe out a whole clan. But that doesn’t mean this story can’t be exaggerated.
The rats tore into the unsuspecting clan, aided by the strong hand of their king. In the low light, all the tribe could see was the glint of a thousand eyes and one bloody dagger. By morning, their bones were picked clean. The swarm was satiated – they had eaten well. So had Clot.
A grisly tale to inspire fear and respect. Whether it is true or not can be explored in the campaign.
As for his power, there are multiple ways to explain this. My choice is that Clot is a fledgling Druid. I know his wisdom is low, so his spell-casting potential is going to start off pretty weak, but this is another opportunity for good storytelling.
As Clot escaped to the wilderness, he found himself conflicted. The ways of nature were those of balance. But in his heart, he found little room for such thoughts. Peace was a concept beaten out of him. A cold flame burned in his chest. If he could tame it, he could build a kingdom. If he could not, he would burn his new kingdom to the ground.
If Clot can tame his hatred and anger, we can showcase this by putting all his ability modifiers into Wisdom as he levels. He may even go from being an objectively evil character to one with more of a neutral alignment. From a certain point of view, he could even become a hero.
If Clot gives into his rage, we will distribute his improvements more broadly. We can also express his inner turmoil through multi-classing. Maybe he adds some points to Charisma or Intelligence and takes a level or two of sorcerer or wizard to gain access to actual fire. Or maybe he dips into rogue or fighter and leans into the traits nature gave him. This would be followed by further improvements to his physical stats. In this way, he could augment his shape-shifting and relying on brute strength over spells.
Regardless of the direction we go in, Clot has a solid foundation. Moreover, we built it using the numbers we rolled for more than bonuses to hit rolls.
I hope this article inspires some awesome characters. If you use it and like the results, please leave a comment. I would love to see what you can come up with!