Unusual Character Concepts

Back in May I decided to try an experiment over in the Table Talk section, discussing unusual character concepts. The ideas were received so well that I thought I'd give them their own section. The Fourth major weekly installment, this page will be home to all my unusual character concepts. If you see something you like then please, take it and run with it!

Also, if you're looking for inspiration and advice, I've put together my 5 Tips Archive that covers dozens of base classes, fantasy races, and several other aspects of the game. Check it out, if you're of a mind!

July 4, 2020 The Drill Sergeant Bard
Bards are often thought of as weak, squishy, and totally out of their depth when it comes to danger in the field. However, bards can also be hard, steely-eyed and leather-lunged... and if you want to try that character style out, I highly recommend something I've come to call the drill sergeant bard.

June 6, 2020 The Righteous Barbarian
Often barbarians are thought of as warriors who rely only on their own strength, eschewing the higher powers of the world. The Righteous Barbarian, though, serves those powers... and may draw some of their strength from them!

May 9, 2020 Examining The "Doubting Thomas" Character Archetype in Fantasy RPGs
The "Doubting Thomas" character archetype is really common for a lot of players, but when you do it poorly it comes across more like a fantasy flat earther than an interesting character. Here's some thoughts on how to adjust accordingly.

April 11, 2020 The Antipaladin of Pride
Antipaladins are often thought of as arch archetypes, but there are many shades and veins within the realms of corruption that one can follow. Pride, and what ends it can drive one to follow, is one of those examples.

March 14, 2020 Making The Lone Evil Character in a Good Party Work
This month's post is a little unusual, and quite a bit broader than most, but it's a concept I've seen a lot of folks say can't be done. So, here's how I'd advise doing it.

February 17, 2020 The Field Commander Conjurer
Most wizards are thought of as aging scholars or seekers of knowledge. Some conjurers, though, take their command of strategy and summoning into the field of war, calling upon troops the likes of which no one else could field.

January 19, 2020 The Champion Barbarian
All barbarians can fight, but many of them take up arms in the service of causes, faiths, and organizations. Many of these champions even manifest powers derived from this service, shaping their Rage to better suit them toward their role and responsibilities. These are the champion barbarians.


December 21, 2019 The Taskmaster Necromancer
Necromancers are often seen as callous or cruel, taking the bodies of the dead and treating them as tools. For the Taskmaster, though, sacrifices must be made, and appropriate compensation offered their servants.

November 23, 2019 The God Squad (Party Concept)
It's been said that every party should have a cleric, but what about an entire party made up of divinely backed warriors and adventurers? That's where things can get dangerous... particularly for all the demons out there.

October 26, 2019 The Magic Item Collector
Collectors are obsessive over the subjects of their interest... and someone who knows the ins and outs of magic items new and old alike can be an invaluable ally on any dungeon delve.

September 28, 2019 The Living Weapon
This character archetype is one we've seen time and time again in pop culture, but bringing it to life at your gaming table can be tough. Here's some advice for how to make it work in your next campaign!

August 31, 2019 The Self-Taught Wizard
If you've been looking for a new twist on this traditional arcane caster, then why not get rid of the university and see what happens?

August 3, 2019 The Returned
Death has a tighter hold over some than it does others. The Returned are individuals who have slipped through the Reaper's fingers, often with a little help from outside forces. What did you see on the other side of death, and what did it turn you into?

July 14, 2019 5 Barbarian Multiclass Concepts Your Table Won't See Coming
People have this image of the barbarian as a very specific archetype. However, there are all sorts of ways you can mix that character up, and add in some unexpected abilities to really change up the game.

July 6, 2019 The Plague: An Antipaladin Concept
Antipaladins are known for using dishonorable methods and brutal tactics... but some few have weaponized disease on a scale that makes them a threat to any civilized place. They are the Plague.

June 7, 2019 The Fallen Hero
Some of our characters used to be great heroes... then something happened. Getting back up isn't easy... but it's what heroes do!

May 13, 2019 The Mutant Sorcerer
Sorcerers are often thought of as the children of powerful bloodlines... but what if you are the first of your line, changed by strange events or exposure to potent essences that have altered who and what you are? Mutated you, in other words.

April 13, 2019 Have Spells, Will Travel (The Spellslinger)
Masters of the magic arts are often thought of as high-minded practitioners with convoluted goals. The spellslinger, though, is a down-and-dirty magic user whose goals are much more down-to-earth.

March 15, 2019 The Veterinarian Necromancer
Violating the bodily autonomy of sentient creatures is one reason necromancers are often loathed... but that line may seem blurry when they are served by beasts of burden. Especially if the necromancer also cares for the beasts while they're living, before raising them from the dead.

February 18, 2019 The Frat Boy Wizard
If your wizard wen to college, did they join a fraternity or a sorority? And if so, what adventures did they have, and what lessons did they learn?

January 19, 2019 The Bearer of Legacy
We've all seen legacy characters before... but there are certain elements that really make them pop. Here are some tips for really making them memorable.


December 21, 2018 The Reluctant Barbarian
Some barbarians will let loose their fury at the slightest provocation. Others, though, will hold it tightly as long as they can. This is about the latter kind.

November 25, 2018 The Toothpick Rogue
How many characters are so feared, so dangerous, that you're afraid to give them anything, lest they kill you with it? That is the basis of the Toothpick Rogue.

October 28, 2018 The Aging Badass
If you're sick of playing farm boys just off the harvest season, or wizard's apprentices so green their robes crinkle, here's a concept you can really sink your teeth into. Someone who's seen it all, done a lot of it twice, and who isn't afraid to bust heads despite their arthritis.

September 28, 2018 The Sudden Wizard
Some wizards take years of concentrated study to unlock the secrets of magic. Others, though, may find that a single event opens their minds, and makes them receptive to things they would never have grasped before.

September 1, 2018 The Noble Druid
Most of us think of druids as filthy holy men in ragged bearskins... but they could just as easily be the Lord of Lady of the manor with a little adjustment to your concept.

August 3, 2018 The Noir Investigator
Lots of people look at the investigator and think of Sherlock Holmes... but there's just as much potential for Sam Spade and Phil Marlowe in there, too.

July 7, 2018 The False Noble
Noble characters aren't all that unusual... but someone lying about being noble born? Well, that's a balancing act all on its own, isn't it?

June 9, 2017 Alistair "Lefty" Rockhammer
I get the urge once a year or so to write up a specific character. So here's a dwarven conjurer with the mind of a grifter, and an acid-green rabbit that has a colossal chip on its shoulder.

May 11, 2018 The Failed Wizard's Apprentice
Wizards may take on a number of apprentices, and even those who can't hack it as wizards still take away knowledge and skill. What do they do with it, and what does it make them into?

April 18, 2018 The Fossegrim Bard
We tend to think of bards as people who just woke up one day to find that magic had blossomed inside them... but what about characters who weren't born with that music? Who, or what, did they have to go to in order to master that gift?

March 17, 2018 The Reluctant Cleric
Clerics tend to be priests, but even when they're not we tend to think of them as persons of faith. However, what happens when the cleric might be the best person to wield this power... they just wish they didn't have to?

February 19, 2018 The Unexpected Ninja
Ninjas, and rogues as well, are known for stealth and guile. However, it takes truly masterful craft to live a lie long enough to get close, and do what has to be done.

January 21, 2018 The Draugr's Bastard (An Unexpected Dhampir)
No one knows how he came to be, but the legend of the Draugr's Bastard has teeth. Enough to bite, and enough that none enter the Broken Hills without a tithe to give, in case he finds them in the darkness.


December 22, 2107 The Fur-Clad Fighter
They say clothes make the man, but too often we see someone dressed in furs or leathers, and we immediately assume they're a barbarian. But their martial skill might be derived from the same long hours of practice that any other soldier has put in, even if they look different than your traditional image of a fighter.

November 25, 2017 The Big Name
Sometimes a big reputation comes with a lot of muscle to back it up. Other times, though, it's just an illusion. Illusions can be just as terrifying as the real thing, though... especially when your opponent can't tell which is which.

October 29, 2017 The Sacred Sorcerer
When you picture a priest, you tend to picture a servant of the divine. However, who's to say those born with power don't choose to serve as well... if in their own, unique capacity.

September 29, 2017 The Farmer Ranger
Most of the time we think of rangers as being, well, far-ranging. They don't have to be, though. In fact, a lot of them would be ideal for raising crops, animals, and kids right in your local community as friendly (or not so friendly) farmers.

September 1, 2017 The Avatar Summoner
Summoners are one of the most powerful masters of the arcane arts out there, but what about their eidolons? Are they growing with the summoner... or does the summoner's growth merely allow more of that entity to manifest on the material plane?

August 4, 2017 The Defending Blade
When most people think of a swordsman, they think of someone who rushes in and fights toe-to-toe. The defending blade, though, is concerned with protecting their allies. Even better, it's often possible for them to do it using nothing but their attacks of opportunity.

July 8, 2017 For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail, a horse was lamed. The lame horse prevented the knight from coming to the battle. The lost battle was key to the war. A lost war destroyed a throne. The Nail is a character who knows that, even if they aren't important, they're still necessary. And that shows in their outlook on life, and adventure.

June 10, 2017 The Artistic Wizard
We tend to think of wizards as old, stodgy, and with a set method of casting their magic. But as we know from looking at spells, magic is fluid. The language you use, the gestures you make, and how you focus your mind can vary from one wizard to another... so why not use art as a way to make magic happen?

May 14, 2017 The Heretic
We all associate clerics with churches... but nowhere does it say your cleric has to be a priest. Even if they used to be though, they can break off ties with the church, and worship their god in their own way. Doing so, though, might lead to repercussions on a purely mortal scale that present interesting story and RP opportunities.

April 16, 2017 Dweren Dragonsblood, The Goldsniffing Dwarf
And now, another specific concept for those looking for a clear direction. The Dragonsblood clan has a proud, and rich, tradition. No one embodies it more clearly that Dweren, and his ability to sniff out wealth.

March 17, 2017 The Lucky Bastard
Luck is a potent force in the world of Golarion, and some are able to tap into it... for good or ill. What would your character do if fate dealt them an especially lucky hand?

February 10, 2017 The Child Summoner
We tend to think of summoners as masters of the arcane, and learned in the art of conjuration. They have made a pact with a powerful outsider, and their power grows from that bond... but what if the outsider reached out to them? And what if it did so when the summoner was little more than a child in desperate need of help?

January 13, 2017 The Urbane Druid
Druids are always seen as fur-wearing nutbags, living out in the woods, or the tundra, or the desert. But where does it say you can't be a charming, witty urbanite there to protect the animals and the green? After all, nature really is everywhere.


December 17, 2016 The Half-Elf, Half-Orc Arcane Archer
Arcane archers have to be elves or half-elves, according to the prestige class... or do they? Because, with the right rules, you could add those levels onto a different race. And that's when the fun begins.

November 19, 2016 The Pill-Popping Paladin
Paladins are one of the most stereotyped classes in fantasy RPGs, and one thing they're never associated with is drug use. But since they're immune to disease (including drug addiction), and they can heal the damage done to their attributes with a few simple spells, they're one of the only classes who could seriously benefit from shooting up.

October 21, 2016 The Gearhead Fighter
Fighters, as a class, are one of the classes tied most closely to their gear. So why shouldn't some fighters obsess over their gear, discussing every aspect from the type of steel used, to the sort of methods used to care for it in the field?

September 23, 2016 Gaspar Dell'Amore, The Black Rose of Edme
Gaspar Dell'Amore is many things. A hero to some, and a nightmare to others, but his fists and his spirit are dedicated to making his country, and his city, a better place. One bare-knuckle brawl at a time.

September 19, 2016 5 Paladin Multiclass Characters That Your Table Will Never Expect
The paladin is an iconic character, but when you multiclass, you may unlock hitherto unforeseen powers and abilities. These five combinations are sure to surprise your table.

August 26, 2016 The Calistrian Dom
If you want to flip the script on the typical elven dominatrix, popularized by older editions of the Drow, then the Calistrian Dom is what you've been waiting for. This is a bard the likes of which no one will forget, if you play it just right.

July 22, 2016 The Escaped Slave Wizard
Former slaves populate the ranks of our games, but we tend to think of them as martial characters. What happens when a slave is given lessons on reading, writing, and the arts arcana, though?

June 25, 2016 The Academic Sorcerer
Sorcerers have a great deal of raw power coursing through their veins, but we often forget they tend to be highly-educated and greatly knowledgeable about specific subjects. After all, if you spend your life learning about where your powers came from, then you might be the leading expert on the planes, the undead, dragons, or any of a dozen other subjects. Why wouldn't you be a tenured professor, with that knowledge base?

May 28, 2016 The Single-Handed Swordsman
Always beware the one-handed swordsman, wise trainers tell their young cadets. Because if you've only got one hand, then that hand is apt to do some serious damage when it's filled with steel.

April 30, 2016 The Social Bruiser
The World of Darkness is a classless RPG setting, but that doesn't mean it's free from assumption and stereotype. If you've wanted to do something eye-catchingly different, may I suggest the Social Bruiser? Good for ANY WoD setting!

April 2, 2016 The Savage Wizard
Wizards wield great power, but we often expect them to all look the same. If you really want to throw your table for a loop, then bring someone draped in skins and carrying an ax, instead of an academy graduate with his class ring.

March 4, 2016 The Unexpected Barbarian
When you hear the word "barbarian," what do you think of? Chances are good it isn't the crown prince of the realm... but if he's anything like Alvin Dragonborn, you might just be facing down a nobleman with a few barbarian levels on his sheet.

January 29, 2016 The Compassionate Antipaladin
Antipaladins, blackguards, or whatever other name they bear in your campaign, are all inhuman monsters. But what if the thing that made them monsters wasn't their sins, but their attempts at virtue and selflessness?

January 3, 2016 The "Paladin In Name Only"
We all have a definite image that comes to mind when we think of paladins. So what's the proper reaction when you realize the holy warrior with a strict honor code and regular prayer schedule doesn't have any levels of the class he so seems to embody?


December 16, 2015 The Lawful Good Rogue
Because not all rogues are sneaky, skulky backstabbers. And even those who are might have a writ from the king, or a badge that gives them the authority to carry out their duties.

December 11, 2015 The Intimidating Wizard
Intimidate is usually thought of as something that fighters and barbarians, people with big swords and big muscles, rely on. But wizards can play that game, too. In fact, with the right mechanics, they might even be able to play it better.

November 8, 2015 The Military-Grade Evoker
Wizards are generally thought of as frail scholars, whose great power comes at the cost of physical robustness. However, what happens when an entire division of a nation's military is dedicated to creating war casters? And how devastating would they be as part of a party?

November 4, 2015 The Daredevil Paladin
For those who want to think outside the stompy, metal box that most people see when they think of paladins, here's an unusual way to play what many consider the most iconic (and boring) of classes. After all, who says paladins can't fight with a rapier and dueling cloak?

October 16, 2015 The Devil's Own
Tieflings and half-orcs struggle to find acceptance, and there are some who are able to rise above the prejudice that others put on them. Some, though, choose to take the fear they're regarded with and to turn it into a weapon.

October 10, 2015 The Chaplain (A Badass Bard You Might Mistake For A Cleric)
People always assume that clerics are automatically priests who are officially employed by a holy order. By the same token, they assume that anyone who is a priest must also have levels of cleric. The Chaplain defies those expectations, and gives you a new twist on the battle bard.

October 4, 2015: The Anti-Undead Necromancer
Not all necromancers wear black. If you want to cast a master of death magics as a hero, or even as a warrior who stands against the scourge of the undead, then here are some tips for realizing that concept. Pharasma approved!

September 14, 2015 The Swashbuckling Brute
Another unusual character concept, but this time published over at Kobold Quarterly. If you want a swashbuckler that's more of a heavy-shouldered thug like Porthos instead of Aramis, then this is the post you've been waiting for.

September 11, 2015 The Littlest Titan (Explaining Massive Weapons, and Massive Damage)
We've all had that itch to play the hulking brute who wields a greatsword like its weight barely matters. Here's an interesting way to take that concept, and inject some unexpected story into it.

August 14, 2015 The Barbarian Samurai
The third installment in my unusual character concept series is here. Should this become its own page, or should it remain a part of Table Talk?

July 4, 2015 The Risen Antipaladin (Or How You Can Play A Paladin In An Evil Campaign)
Sometimes you just want to go against the flow, and if your brain is being contrary why not take the challenge of playing a paladin in an evil campaign? This week's character concept is about how you can do just that, and make it compelling for everyone.

May 22, 2015 The Android Barbarian
This week I'm trying something different; throwing a character concept at you and seeing what you, the readers, think of it. We start with The Android Barbarian, and I explain how you can mechanically and thematically make it work... if you really want to.


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