Friday, December 22, 2017

The Fur-Clad Fighter

"Look at this savage!" Harren hooted, pointing at the man in the thick furs. "Probably his first time seeing a city, eh? What do you wager, that he's broke and begging by the new moon?"

"I'd keep my tongue between my teeth, if I were you, lad," Vakar said.

"Why? Harren asked, turning to the older man. "It's not like he can understand me."

"Take another look at him," Vakar said. "And this time try to see more than how he's dressed."

Harren frowned, watching as the outlander passed. He saw the same thing he'd seen before; a barbarian in wolf hides, with scars on his face and the heavy, sunken knuckles of a lifelong brawler. He turned back to Vakar, frowning.

"What am I supposed to be seeing?" Harren asked.

"Did you see his sword?" Vakar asked.

"I did," Harren said. "What about it?"

"Or the ring mail he wore under the wolf pelt?" Vakar pressed.

"But what about-"

"Or that tattoo on the side of his neck?" Vakar asked.

Harren turned, and looked at the figure's departing back. He turned back to Vakar, who was watching other people in the crowd now. The older man spoke without looking at his young companion.

"That's the mark of the legion, boy," he said. "And whatever skin a man wears now, just beneath it is a legionnaire."

Also, beware any old person in a profession where you tend to die young.

The Fur-Clad Fighter

What assumptions do players make based on how a character presents themselves? If a big man with a thick beard, wearing a bear-skin cloak and heavy armbands, sporting prominent tattoos, and carrying a longsword on his hip greets the party with a mug of ale in one hand and a hearty laugh, what do you assume his class is? How about that green-cloaked archer who seems more at-ease in the forest than she does in the hustle and bustle of the big city? Or that spearman who is far more comfortable on the back of his shaggy pony than he is afoot with everyone else?

When you strip them down beneath the skin, all of them are fighters. All of them. That's the idea behind the fur-clad fighter. The character looks (and may even act) like the stereotype of the barbarian, the ranger, or another class, but is in fact a fighter.

Two Approaches To Get You Started

There are innumerable ways to execute this concept, but a lot of them will boil down to two basic approaches. The first is statting out someone from a "savage" background, and the second is taking the bear out of the woods.

So, let's start with the first. Take a character we typically assign the role of barbarian. You know, the big shaggy northman, the tribal hunter, or the desert dervish. Then examine this character in the context of the society they come from, and ask what kind of fighter that culture would produce. A raider? A longbowman? A great weapon fighter? Were you trained to utilize speed, or strength? View their society and culture as the default, and then build them from the ground up by following the character's training, role in society, and the sort of tasks they typically handled.

The second is taking the bear out of the woods, or what I call the foreign legion approach. Rather than using the fighter class as a group of abilities geared toward what the character did among his people, have them taken and trained elsewhere. Perhaps he was a foreign legionnaire, trained with heavy armor, sword, shield, spear, and ax who was taught to fight in formation. Maybe she was taken as a slave and trained as a gladiator in a ludus, where weapon variety and endurance were the order of the day. This second method is for players who are looking to assuage their cognitive dissonance about why someone who comes from a region where steel is rare would be proficient in heavy armor like plate mail, even if they have no intention of ever putting that proficiency to use.

These are far from the only approaches you can take for this concept, but they're good ways to get the wheels turning.

If you're looking for further inspiration, check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Fighters!

That's all for this Unusual Character Concepts entry. If you'd like more content from me, then check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I and other gamers put together skits, advice videos, and build the world of Evora. If you want to stay up-to-date on all my latest updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to lend your support so I can keep Improved Initiative going, consider heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. As little as $1 can be a big help, and it gets you some sweet gaming swag as a thank you.

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