A paladin and hero, slain but brought back from the dead, relentless in the pursuit of his vengeance. An experienced monster hunter, skilled at tracking and destroying supernatural threats, adding some magic to his martial arsenal. A canny inquisitive with an ear for deceit and an eye for detail, equally skilled at finding clues as she is finding weak spots in her enemies’ defenses. A reformed grave-robber who still refuses to give up on necromancy, willing to do horrible things for the one he loves – even if that means his love will hate him. Every Meet the Party article gives you an entire group of ready-to-play adventurers (maybe even some heroes) for your gaming needs for a variety of systems and settings. This time we’ve Unearthed some more Arcana for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, and we’ve found some Gothic Heroes that would be right at home in Ravenloft!
With Curse of Strahd being the latest published adventure for D&D, and with the setting having been added to the portfolio of the DM’s Guild, it’s not too surprising to see an Unearthed Arcana that strongly leans towards supporting Ravenloft. Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Heroes includes a new subrace, and a new archetype each for Fighters and Rogues. The Revenant subrace has been brought back from the dead, quite literally, to finish some important task or claim vengeance against their own killer. The Monster Hunter Fighter is skilled at bringing supernatural threats to their end, having picked up extra skills and even a little bit of magic. The Inquisitive Rogue is extremely skilled at ferreting out the truth, whether that’s finding something hidden in the terrain or in the words of others, and uses her sharp eyes to finding weaknesses in her targets.
Going over this issue of UA, it looks like a pretty good one. Being a revenant offers some great story hooks and some powerful mechanical bonuses, balanced out by replacing a race’s subrace options (or slightly altering a race’s Ability Score Increases if they don’t have a subrace). Even if you don’t choose revenant at character creation, the subrace could be used to bring a slain character back to life, at least until they’ve completed their unfinished business. The Monster Hunter gives Fighters a potent option against things ranging from aberrations to the undead, as well as providing a build that has a few more skills and tricks to its name. The Inquisitive is perfect for the Rogue looking to uncover some mysteries, and lets the Rogue use their keen senses in place of Advantage to deal Sneak Attack damage.
While these types of characters are perfect for a Ravenloft campaign, I think it’s important to note that they’re pretty broadly useful in any setting. The Revenant is a little more unique, but so long as your campaign can support the idea of someone so stubborn as to not even let death stop them (or has gods who won’t let them stop), the subrace has a place. Monster Hunters are useful throughout the multiverse, and many a campaign has mysteries for an Inquisitive to solve. Fans of the Eberron campaign setting will likely perk up at the word ‘Inquisitive’ as well; the Inquisitive below would not look out of place as a dragonmarked member of House Medani.
So, now that we’ve gone over the article from whence they came, let’s see what our Gothic Heroes (and their Necromancer friend) can do!
Ander Brightwood, Revenant Human – Level 3 Paladin
HP: 28 AC: 16
Str: 16 Con: 14 Dex: 8 Int: 10 Wis: 12 Cha: 15
Racial/Class/Background Features: Relentless Nature, Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting, Spellcasting, Divine Smite, Divine Health, Sacred Oath: Oath of Vengeance, Channel Divinity, Background: Noble, Position of Privilege, Extra Language
Gear: Greatsword, Glaive, Javelins x5, Explorer’s Pack, Chain Mail, Holy Symbol, Fine Clothes, Signet Ring, Scroll of Pedigree, Purse with 25 GP, The Deed for a Parcel of Land in a Realm Unknown to You
Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Intimidation, History, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: Dragonchess
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Ander Brightwood is like many Oath of Vengeance Paladins: he focuses more on slaying evil before it can get to harm innocents, rather than helping said innocents directly. With his Channel Divinity options and his Great Weapon Fighting he is often going to have Advantage and be rolling well over the minimum amount of damage. But it is the fact that he is a revenant that makes him stand out, turning him from a dangerous foe into one that is nearly unstoppable. Relentless Nature means that he is assigned a goal, related in some way to his death. Until that goal is completed, Ander regains 1 HP at the start of every turn that he begins below half his maximum HP, and even if he dies again he just comes back to life a day later. He has a supernatural awareness of the direction to and distance from the target of his goal. Of course, the trade-off for these abilities (as well as the +1 to Constitution that all revenants receive) is that it has a timer; if Anders completes his assigned goal he will finally find peace in death, safely beyond any attempt at resurrection.
Varis Meliamne, Wood Elf – Level 3 Fighter
HP: 28 AC: 14 (16 with Shield)
Str: 10 Con: 14 Dex: 17 Int: 12 Wis: 14 Cha: 8
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Keen Senses, Fey Ancestry, Trance, Elf Weapon Training, Fleet of Foot, Mask of the Wild, Fighting Style: Archery, Second Wind, Action Surge, Martial Archetype: Monster Hunter, Bonus Proficiencies (Arcana, Nature), Combat Superiority, Hunter’s Mysticism, Background: Outlander, Wanderer, Extra Language
Gear: Leather Armor, Longbow with 20 Arrows, Rapier, Shield, Handaxes x2, Dungeoneer’s Pack, Staff, Hunting Trap, Trophy from an Animal You Killed, Traveler’s Clothes, Belt with 10 GP, A Rabbit’s Foot
Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Animal Handling, Insight, Arcana, Nature, Athletics, Survival
Tool Proficiencies: Lyre
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Varis Meliamne is a fighter trained as a monster hunter, capable of dealing with lycanthropes, undead, or whatever other sorts of horrors lurk in the shadows. He’s capable in both melee and ranged combat, although his Archery Fighting Style gives him deadly accuracy with his longbow. As a Monster Hunter he’s picked up some Bonus Proficiencies, expanding his skillset beyond that of most fighters to help him know more about his targets. Combat Superiority grants him 4d8 superiority dice which can be used to increase attack rolls, increase damage rolls, increase Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma saving throws, and increase certain Perception and Insight checks. He is thus more likely to strike down his enemies, and resistant to some of the mind-warping tricks that creatures like vampires might try. Hunter’s Mysticism grants him the use of detect magic and protection from evil and good, as well as making him fluent in either Abyssal, Celestial, or Infernal. As he grows in strength his superiority dice will increase in number and size, and he will eventually be able to use two dice at once on damage rolls, maximizing them if his target is an aberration, a fiend, a fey, or an undead.
Rowan Meliamne, Half-Elf – Level 3 Rogue
HP: 18 AC: 14
Str: 8 Con: 10 Dex: 16 Int: 14 Wis: 14 Cha: 14
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, Skill Versatility (Arobatics, Investigation), Expertise (Insight, Perception), Sneak Attack, Thieves’ Cant, Cunning Action, Rogueish Archetype: Inquisitive, Ear for Deceipt, Eye for Detail, Insightful Fighting, Background: Guild Artisan, Guild Membership
Gear: Rapier, Shortsword, Burglar’s Pack, Leather Armor, Daggers x2, Thieves’ Tools, Calligrapher’s Supplies, Letter of Introduction from the Inquisitives Guild, Traveler’s Clothes, Belt Pouch with 15 GP, A Silver Teardop Earring Made from a Real Teardrop
Skill Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Investigation, Perception, Deception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Insight, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: Thieves’ Tools, Calligrapher’s Supplies
Saving Throws: Dexterity, Intelligence
Rowan Meliamne is a member in good standing of an entire guild of Inquisitives, and it shows. She’s as deadly and sneaky as any other Rogue, with the usual allotment of abilities like Sneak Attack and Cunning Action. The archetype traits granted by Inquisitive all focus on improving her skills and noticing things others will miss. Ear for Deceit lets her use either her Insight roll or 8 + Wisdom mod + Proficiency, whichever is higher, to tell if someone is lying to her. This effectively means that she’ll never roll below an 8 on these Insight checks! Eye for Detail provides more uses for the bonus action provided by Cunning Action: Perception checks to spot hidden creatures or objects, Investigation to uncover and decipher clues, or Insightful Fighting. Insightful Fighting has Rowan make an Insight check opposed by her target’s Deception; if Rowan wins, she can use Sneak Attack against the target even if she doesn’t have Advantage or an ally supporting her. She can even use Sneak Attack when she has Disadvantage! This lasts 1 minute, or until she uses Insightful Fighting against a new target. As Rowan masters her trade she’ll become more adept at finding hidden things, be able to detect magical deception, and be able to add 2d6 to her Sneak Attack damage against Insightful Fighting targets.
Roondar ‘Cloak’ Nackle, Forest Gnome – Level 3 Wizard
HP: 20 AC: 12
Str: 8 Con: 14 Dex: 14 Int: 17 Wis: 10 Cha: 12
Racial/Class/Background Features: Darkvision, Gnome Cunning, Natural Illusionist, Speak With Small Beasts, Spellcasting, Arcane Recovery, Arcane Tradition: Necromancy, Necromancy Savant, Grim Harvest, Background: Criminal, Criminal Contact
Gear: Dagger, Arcane Focus, Scholar’s Pack, Spellbook, Crowbar, Dark Common Clothes including a Hood, Belt Pouch with 15 GP
Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Medicine, Deception, Stealth
Tool Proficiencies: Dragonchess, Thieves’ Tools
Saving Throws: Intelligence, Wisdom
Roondar ‘Cloak’ Nackle is a somewhat strange collection of abilities, most of which are alarming to some degree or another. He has the usual forest gnome abilities of Natural Illusionist and Speak with Small Beasts, both of which can be quite useful. Somewhat more nefariously, his Criminal Contact can provide him with some help that no other members of the party can access without kicking in a door. But what’s truly alarming is the fact that Roondar is a Necromancer. Like all wizards, Roondar learns the spells of his chosen tradition much faster than other spell types, further inclining him towards using necromantic spells. Grim Harvest provides an immediate reward for doing so, particularly in a party where the healing is coming from a revenant paladin: whenever Roondar kills a living target with a necromantic spell, he regains some hit points. As he deepens his understanding of life, death, and the ways he can fiddle around with both, Roondar will become something to truly be afraid of, with more and better undead at his beck and call.
Who They Are
Ander Brightwood was the poster boy for Paladin-hood, descended from a noble family with a long tradition of sending their sons and daughters off to fight the good fight in the name of light and justice. For a time, Ander followed proudly in the footsteps of his forebears, doing good deeds and slaying evil. Unfortunately, not every Paladin lives to get a happy ending, and Ander bravely went to his death in Barovia. While he did not want to die, he was willing to do so for the right cause, and took some comfort in the prospect of resting in the domain of his gods. This, perhaps, explains why has been taking his resurrection so poorly. While not opposed to resurrection in principle, the nature of what has happened to him is horrifying to Ander, made all the worse by who is partially responsible for it. Now he is a hungry thing, often internally conflicted, longing to finish his business and return to his rest.
Varis Meliamne spent most of his early life trying to keep his head down in a world of otherworldly monsters that could rend his flesh and warp his mind. This was a rather sane proposition, but didn’t prove very helpful when the monsters came to his village anyways. It was merely luck or perhaps the blessing of some god that a roving monster hunter happened to be following the beats, and intervened to save the life of Varis and his family. Even as the horrible bodies burned on the pyre, Varis went to the hunter and asked to learn his trade. For a time the hunter refused, but when Varis followed him out of the village anyways the man acquiesced. Now Varis is a monster hunter himself, hunting the worst Ravenloft has to offer for good pay, with a partner to help him ferret out secrets and weaknesses.
Rowan Meliamne grew up on stories of her older cousin (technically Varis is some sort of uncle, but the family tree is complicated). The world was full of terrors and mysteries, and the story of one elf trying to take them on inspired her. She trained with the rapier and dreamed of doing the same, but her sharp mind quickly considered the fact that the terrors in question weren’t always big and brutish. Sometimes they were tricky, and conniving, and prone to hiding themselves and other things if they didn’t have the advantage. Rowan decided to take a different path, then, finding that keeping a sharp eye out for monsters also helped keeping a sharp eye on people. She made a name for herself after joining a guild of inquisitives and investigating a series of murders, some of which led to targets more appropriate to Varis’s trade. Now she has a partner to help her finish the job against the nastier types, and this next one looks to be nasty indeed.
Roondar ‘Cloak’ Nackle was a grave-robber, but not for the riches, he swears! Granted whatever baubles he found helped pay the bills, but the true purpose of putting crowbar to coffin was sating his curiosity. Death fascinated Roondar, and the prospect of using magic to overcome and master it drew him in. Eventually, however, he met a Paladin. The Paladin in question did not oppose Roondar’s necromancy so long as it wasn’t used for evil, but he didn’t like the grave-robbing, so he hung around to keep an eye on the gnome. Eventually they got into a few adventures together, and then they started meeting for dragonchess games in their free time, and it didn’t take much longer for Roondar to figure out that he’d gone and fallen for Ander Brightwood. But then Ander died, and Roondar made some horrible deals and questionable invocations to help bring him back. He can’t fix what has happened to Ander, at least not yet, but there’s always the hope that further mastery of necromancy might hold the key . . .
How They Interact
Ander respects Varis, although the monster hunter is so brusque most of the time that it’s difficult to call him a friend. Still, Varis is willing to help Ander in his quest, and the Paladin sees the monster hunter trade as a sort of secular equivalent to his own calling. Rowan is off-putting in her day-to-day cheery demeanor, which seems utterly at odds with both her trade and the group’s current situation, but she has an undeniable talent that Ander is more than willing to trust. Ander is extremely conflicted about Roondar. Despite their differences in background and abilities, Ander thinks he was starting to feel something for the gnome. Then he went and got himself killed, and resurrected as a revenant, and Roondar confessed to being at least partially responsible for that (although Ander suspects some larger, more nefarious power is in play there). Ander doesn’t know whether to feel grateful for the chance at revenge or angry at being forced back to life in a miserable state of being, and often goes back and forth more than once a day. As for his feelings, they’re utterly muddled, made more so by the fact that he’ll die permanently if he accomplishes his goal.
Varis almost thinks of Ander as just another employer. The paladin approached Varis and Rowan, on Roondar’s recommendation, for help finding and eliminating his target. Granted a cut of all loot gathered over the course of the adventure, Varis has basically settled into a long-term contract. What makes it different is Ander’s . . . ‘state’. There’s something admirable about someone who got buried in a closed casket getting up and getting on with the job, even if it’s creepy. Rowan is the partner Varis never wanted, as he’d gotten used to traveling from village to town to city and back again on his own, master of his own fate. He also acknowledges that Rowan is the partner he always needed; his young cousin has a sharp mind and sharp eyes, both of which Varis’s mentor would refer to as deadly weapons in their own right. Roondar is a creepy little gnome, and Varis would much rather shoot any undead the necromancer creates, but he comes with the Paladin so there’s not much Varis can do about it. He tries to keep things at a safe professional distance, which just so happens to be a good distance for Varis to fire arrows from.
Rowan feels for Ander; even if she wasn’t getting a cut of all wealth found along the way, she might – might – have considered helping him out anyways. She’s also doing what she can to help him adjust and come to terms with what’s happened to him, but so far hasn’t had an awful lot of luck on that front. Varis was, without meaning to, the one to set Rowan on her current path. He’s a bit of a grouch, always has been, but she likes working with him all the same. They complement one another well in the field, and often spar with their rapiers to keep their skills up to grade. Roondar is actually how Varis and Rowan got the job; she and Roondar had met some time back during a murder investigation, and the necromancer gnome was willing to give Rowan some information that helped solve the case. After Roondar came to her with Ander, Rowan came to sympathize with the poor wizard. She’s seen a lot of people and creatures do terrible things for the ones they love; at least Roondar didn’t hurt anybody else to do it.
Roondar still loves Ander, and would do anything for him. He acknowledges that was what caused the problem in the first place, this time. He’s apologized for what he did, and has committed to helping Ander in his quest to finish what he couldn’t in life, but beyond that he is torn. He knows what happens to revenants that finish their business. He holds out some hope of finding some bit of necromancy that could prevent that, or even return Ander to full life, but even then is unsure if there is any hope that they can be together. Varis is a professional, and Roondar expects him to act like one. That’s about the length and breadth of their interaction, although Roondar has spent more than a little time worrying if he can trust the elf to not just shoot Ander as an ‘undead abomination’ if they don’t find enough coin along the way. Rowan, at least, is a friendly face. She doesn’t judge him for being a necromancer, and she was willing to use his knowledge for a good cause (something he appreciated, having known Ander for quite a while at that point). Now, at least, he has one friend on this journey towards one kind of death or another.
Ravenloft is a nasty place, and truly good endings can be hard to come by. Will Ander complete his goal and find the rest he seeks? Will he and Roondar comes to terms with what’s gone on between them, and will the gnome find some way to save his love? Will Varis and Rowan be able to see Ander to his end and continue their partnership, or is this the one job they won’t walk away from (alive, anyways)? That’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
A special thanks to Steve, who contributed the idea of our fourth character being a necromancer involved with the paladin’s return as a revenant! Obviously he has good ideas, so why not check out his latest, the Skyrim Boom Club?
Originally posted 4/15/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!