L is for Lao, Laotzu, and Lao!ze, Adventurers with Pointy Bits

Name: Lao, Laotzu, Lao!ze
Campaign: The Great Tower of Oldechi

I’m going to cheat a little more here, and for the same reason. Lao, Laotzu, and Lao!ze were different characters, united in that they were run by the same player in the same campaign and shared a naming scheme that gives my spellcheck fits. They also all had racial powers that let them attack multiple enemies. I’m not saying their character design was “find a race with a minor action attack power, then pick a class that deals damage, then make a personality that works”, but I’m also not not saying that.

Lao was a bladeling wizard who was only around for the first five sessions of a 108-session campaign and so didn’t affect the story or grow that much. Laotzu was a dragonborn sorcerer obsessed primarily with gaining power through magic and secondarily with setting the party barbarian on fire. Lao!ze was a thri-kreen ranger who loved disruption and chaos, but also precision and accuracy somehow. All of them dealt damage (Lao was not terribly good at it), but in different ways for different reasons, and all of them taught me something about what I do and don’t like in characters.

Lao was easy. I knew I didn’t like flavorless bundles of numbers, and 4E exacerbated that. He might have had the potential to be interesting, but “potential” means he hadn’t done it by the time he left.

Laotzu was the most team-killing character I’ve ever seen, and I’ve played a character who killed a member of his team. He had a feat that gave him an accuracy bonus as long as one of his allies was in the blast radius and he used it mercilessly, usually on the barbarian, usually targeting the barbarian’s worst defense. He also picked up War Wizardry, which halved the damage he dealt to allies. This wasn’t an improvement; instead of mitigating his behavior it only justified it. War Wizardry and similar options became effectively banned from the campaign, which mattered when our next arcane striker tried to get it. It was, however, hilarious. Nobody actually died from it, and I got a good idea of exactly how much damage players will take for a joke.

Remember my less-than-glowing opinion on rangers from yesterday? Lao!ze is the character who formed them (though my time running Delve Night didn’t hurt). He did a staggering amount of damage on his turn, what with his tendency to hit on a 3 and turn critical hits into more attacks, and an upsetting amount of damage on my turn as well even when he wasn’t cartwheeling his way into making my monsters ineffectual. But I loved how he bonded with the party, slowly enough to be believable but solidly enough to be a campaign asset. He’s also the only character I’ve ever seen use d7s, and we made him a custom weapon so he could roll them more often. The joy he got from rolling damage taught me a powerful lesson: find out what makes your players happy, and they probably won’t murder you in an alley.

Since the campaign didn’t visit Lao after L3, we assume he’s either dead or still going through the tower. Laotzu left the party, formed his own group, became a campaign rival, went mad, ate his team, became a campaign villain (take a drink), and died. Lao!ze was part of the final party and thus ascended to godhood. I suppose in the end they came out about even.

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