B is for Bjarn, Borris, and Baerd, Dwarven Dwarves

Name: Bjarn, Borris, and Baerd
Campaign: The Great Tower of Oldechi

We’re only at B and I’m already cheating, but I felt I really needed to discuss all of these characters together. All three of these characters were dwarves in the same campaign, run by the same player:

  • Bjarn, dwarven fighter. Those three words tell you most of what you need to known about the character. He didn’t last long enough to really leave his mark on the campaign.
  • Baerd, dwarven fighter/runepriest. Beard was amazing at getting into trouble willingly and surviving it, usually through steady and high but not massive damage. His character life has a defined beginning and end as he only existed during the gaiden, but considering how he complained about his build at every opportunity I don’t think he minded.
  • Borris, dwarven ???. Borris started off as a warlock, but changed powers and classes pretty much every level. This wasn’t a simple retraining as allowed by 4E. This was a completely new build, often with different reskinning, just about every time he could get away with it. When I asked his player about it, he said it was a test to see if the other players paid enough attention to the character to notice any changes. This went over as well as expected.

Obviously I had some trouble with the dwarves; I don’t subscribe to the same power-first style of play, I don’t like players keeping things hidden from the DM, and I don’t like dwarves at all really. But all three of them had backstory and personality in a way most of the characters in the beginning of the campaign didn’t, and they contributed to the group instead of trying to make the game all about them. Their worldviews were consistent, they solved problems for other characters instead of creating them, and they functioned correctly in a system the rest of the table was still figuring out.

Borris most affected my gaming style, in that he (along with Barl, who was also on the shortlist for this letter) finally convinced me that players keeping secrets from each other was a bad idea. Characters keeping secrets is fine depending on the purpose and the campaign tone, but now I ask that players be up front with each other. When a player tries to hide something from another player, there’s competition in an ostensibly cooperative game. When the players are both in on it, they can tell a much more interesting story around making sure it stays a secret.

None of the dwarves had satisfying conclusions to their arcs because Bjarn and Borris both left the party well before the campaign ended. I assume they died offscreen. Beard did complete his quest and survive, so I suppose he had one of those “and the adventure continues” endings and went on to have many exciting encounters, griping about how his healing powers didn’t contribute to his damage.

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