V is for Valitude, Insufferable Mirror Man

Name: Valitude
Campaign: Unnamed Monster Campaign

You know, I almost made it through a whole month without admitting I had a campaign name “Unnamed Monster Campaign”. I didn’t realize they were all at the back of the list.

Valitude was the monster campaign’s third arcane spellcaster, after the first died to a frost worm’s death throes and the second died to an incredibly overpowered arrow demon. He was a nerra, a race of mirror-people from the 3.25E Fiend Folio. He was in many ways a mirror of his player: laid-back, didn’t have a lot of relevant knowledge but didn’t need fancy thinking to do his job, reflective spell resistance, and so on. He didn’t guide the plot or even follow it as much as hitch a ride with it whenever it was going someplace.

Please understand that it’s a little hard for me to effectively describe Valitude without also discussing his player or degenerating into a fit of enraged spittle, both things I’ve tried hard not to do this month. I have never had a character or player so emotionally distant from the storyline, the other players, or the table mood, and I’ve run for characters named Fat Albert, Gloves Badidea, and “Richard, son of Ganon.”

Weirdly, Valitude is a contributor to, if not responsible for, one of that most important realizations I’ve had around my gaming style: the DM is a player too; as with any player, if he or she isn’t having fun there’s something wrong. Running for Valitude wasn’t fun. He liked save-or-die spells, which broke encounter balance and session timing. He responded the same way to everything, which broke emotional pacing. He had a racial ability, his reflective spell resistance, that hurt the cleric’s healing and buffing powers and thus broke one of her key roles. Once his player even played a full session without a character sheet, making up his numbers as he went. I don’t think I can properly describe the breadth of ways in which that stuck with me as a DM and as a player.

Rather than describe him in detail, I recommend you check out the beginning of the episode of I Podcast Magic Missile where we talk about him some years after the fact. It’s better for my blood pressure. Valitude’s ignominious death is also discussed there. Suffice it to say that while there are several characters where I’ve had to talk to their players and make significant changes, Valitude is the only character I’ve ever had to put down.

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