Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Serene Winterbloom, CG half-elven Beast Master:
The idea of this playthrough, when I started it a few days ago, was to see for myself how good or bad the Beast Master is as a kit. At this stage I can’t answer that question yet because Serene has shunned civilization and the many dangers that come with it, preferring instead to explore the wilderness areas of the Sword Coast and to befriend the many animals inhabiting the wilderness.
As to Serene’s personality, to be honest I haven’t given it as much thought as I’ve done with a number of other characters, but here’s a brief idea. She obviously adores animals and they adore her. Animals attack and kill for survival, and because they’re conditioned to do so, but at least they’re honest and reliable. On the other hand, (demi)humans, males apparently more so than females, hurt and kill for much darker purposes (profit, power, rancor, or sometimes even for fun). For that reason Serene’s very wary of (demi)humans, and shuns pretty much all contact with them, though she’ll always help someone in need. Due to her reticence she’s a bit insecure and shy when having to deal with people. She’s Chaotic in that she doesn’t generally stick to a fixed plan or abide by a personal code of conduct other than to be good to nature and its inhabitants, and kind to anyone that crosses her path. She worships Selûne the Moonmaiden, Goddess of many a female wanderer such as herself.
There’s one thing about this playthrough that I would like to draw your attention to. I’m playing with a component of the aTweaks mod that replaces Rangers’ rather weak Charm Animal ability with an ability called Animal Empathy. Every time the Ranger uses this ability, all animals on the map are either charmed for 5 rounds (after which they turn hostile), or become permanent friends of the Ranger. I think this ability is perfect for a Beast Master, and when I started this game I decided to use it as often as possible. The readme describes the component as follows:
"This component renames the Ranger's Charm Animal ability into Animal Empathy and adjusts it to more closely match its PnP counterpart. An animal attempting to resist this ability must now roll a saving throw vs. wands (with a −1 penalty) in order to avoid becoming charmed. The Ranger imposes an additional saving throw penalty for every three experience levels he has earned (i.e. −2 at 4th level, −3 at 7th level... etc.) up to a maximum of −6 at 16th level. Furthermore, if the animal fails its saving throw, it now becomes charmed for 5 rounds per level of the Ranger. Finally, being non-magical in nature, this ability now ignores any magic resistance of the target animal and can no longer be removed by Dispel Magic."
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I. All Alone in the Wide Open World
In Candlekeep I picked up my quarterstaff, bought a suit of studded leather armor, a helmet, and a composite longbow and quiver, and did a few chores before I set out with Gorion. His death at the hands of a mysterious warrior devastated me. Gorion had been one of very few people I knew were trustworthy, though even he had been less transparent than I would have liked about matters such as my background. My friend Imoen found me on the Candlekeep Coast Way. I traveled back to Candlekeep with her, arranged for Gorion’s burial in Candlekeep, said goodbye to Imoen, and left the citadel for the wilderness. I knew I could go to the Friendly Arm Inn where friends of Gorion were supposed to reside, or to Beregost, a nearby town, but I preferred to explore the wilderness beyond the close surroundings of Candlekeep that I had already been allowed to reconnoiter time and again when I still lived with Gorion.
I summoned Silver, my Faerie Dragon familiar, and had her cast Invisibility 15’ Radius on the both of us. Protected by invisibility we traveled south until we reached the High Hedge area. It was replete with Undead and Gnolls. We slipped by unnoticed and headed further south. It was interesting to see the landscape gradually transform from very plain, green and rich in vegetation into the sandier, rolling Red Canyons. It was there that I spotted a rabid she-wolf. It pained me to kill her but she would have infected others of her kind with her taint. In slaying her, I rescued a hen from certain death. Amazingly, the bird spoke to me in the human tongue. “He”, Melicamp was his name, told me that he’d been turned into a chicken as a result of some magical experiment. He begged me to bring him to his master Thalantyr at the High Hedge. I might have refused if I hadn’t heard positive stories by Gorion of Thalantyr. The wizard didn’t disappoint. How he did it is completely beyond me, but he restored Melicamp to his human form. I was glad to have been of help and asked for no reward when I left them. Outside, a pack of wild dogs I befriended helped me slay a few of the area’s many Gnolls.
I would have wanted to rest there and then, but even with my canine companions by my side I considered the area too dangerous, so I reluctantly traveled to Beregost. There I was invited into his home by Firebead Elvenhair, an old friend of Gorion and Tethoril. He asked me to acquire a book for him that he was after at Feldepost’s Inn, but before I could speak to the innkeeper I had to calm down an angry patron who seemed to hate adventurers ever since his son had died as a young adventurer. Fortunately the argument was settled with a round of ale even though I really don’t care for ale. As a thank you for my service Firebead gave me a book with a rather dark tale, The History of the Dead Three, and he offered me to rest at his place. I said my prayers to Selune and slept like a baby. The following morning I left the village, but not for long. On the southern outskirts I ran into two Ogrillons that attacked me. I had to run around a lot to keep my foes at a good distance for me to attack them with my bow. On one of the two monsters I found a letter for a woman named Mirianne. I returned to Firebead and asked him if he knew her. He directed me to her place. Mirianne was thankful and gave me an enchanted ring that should protect me against both physical and magical attacks.
I traveled south again, and made the mistake of sticking to the road for a while. Three Flaming Fist Officers accused me of banditry for some reason. I denied the accusation and told them to take me in so I could defend myself before a court of law. They would have nothing of it and attacked me! As with the Ogrillons, I had to run around a lot to keep them at bay so I could hit them with the occasional arrow. This strategy was tiresome but I dared not engage them in melee, clad as they were in their suits of plate mail. Our running around drew the attention of a number of Hobgoblins of the Marrow Sucker tribe. They were less resilient than the humans, so I downed them faster than the Flaming Fist Mercenaries. When battle was done I owned three suits of plate mail armor and a pair of enchanted boots that Taerom Fuiruim identified for me as Silent Whispers, very useful for sneaking.
I visited the Temple of Lathander on the eastern edge of town to find out what services the temple provided. The high priest Keldath Ormlyr told me of an evil Cleric somewhere to the west or south-west of Beregost who had been killing many people and animating their corpses, and of an equally malicious Wizard east of Beregost that had managed to dominate a group of Basilisks and used them to petrify people and animals. I shall keep an eye out for both wicked males.
My third attempt to get away from Beregost was more successful in that I got much further south. I traveled mostly hidden in shadows till I met a nobleman north of Nashkel. I thought he was lost and tentatively approached to help him, but he seemed to know his way better than I expected. He thanked me and gave me ring that would increase my presence and comeliness. Sigh, he must have noticed my timidity. I put on the ring. Hopefully it does what it says. In Nashkel I spoke with an Amnish soldier who told me about a missing guard captain and about troubles in the Nashkel Mines region. Berrun Ghastkill, the local mayor, confirmed the soldier’s words about the Mines, and asked me to investigate. When I entered the local inn I ran into trouble again. A Priestess attacked me, hoping to claim an apparent bounty on my head. This must have been an obvious misunderstanding, but there was no reasoning with the woman. I had to play hide and seek with her, running inside and outside the inn and the local store, to exhaust her spell repertoire. Meanwhile I attacked her with my bow. At one point she commanded me to lay down, but the brief duration of her Command wasn’t enough to hurt me. In the end a well-placed arrow felled her.
At the inn I rested but had a very vivid dream about overcoming Gorion’s loss. I also perceived an unknown and not necessarily pleasant masculine presence. In the morning I woke up with the ability to heal myself and my animal friends. Perhaps the Moonmaiden has had a hand in this, even though I never sensed Her presence. I decided to travel to the nearby Mines to investigate, as Ghastkill had requested me to. In an empty storehouse I encountered three beautiful, healthy war dogs that accompanied me while exploring the area.
They even defended me bravely when a bounty hunter spotted me near a sculptor who was working on an impressive rock carving. This time the bounty hunter wasn’t after me but after the sculptor, who was accused of having stolen a number of gems. I find bickering over such material things a complete waste of time, but apparently it was a very serious matter, at least to the bounty hunter. He suspected me of wanting to claim “his” bounty, and proceeded to attack. My hounds fought bravely while I kept pelting him with arrows. I felt a pang of remorse when all three war dogs fell to the bounty hunter’s mighty halberd. His death, shortly after that, didn’t do anything to console me. I could have at least tried to heal one of my companions. In the future I shall be more careful. My animal friends are just that: friends, not cannon fodder. The emerald thief died as well by the way, even though nothing had hit him as far as I know.
I traveled back to Nashkel so I could report the unfortunate event that had played itself out. I first arrived at the Nashkel Carnival where I perused some of the merchants’ wares in the hopes of finding any useful items. I bought an oil of speed, a potion of invisibility and a scroll of protection from petrification with which I would be able to take on the Basilisks that Keldath Ormlyr had told me about. In Nashkel I couldn’t find Berrun Ghastkill to tell him about the emerald thief, so I left him a message at the local Temple of Helm and traveled in a northeasterly direction, to the area where according to Ormlyr the Basilisks were to be found.
I scouted the area hidden in shadows and found a great number of Basilisks indeed. After I cast the scroll of protection from petrification they were defenseless against my arrows. Even though my animal affinity is mostly with mammals and birds rather than reptiles, and with Silver of course, I would have never attacked the giant lizards if they hadn’t been completely corrupted by the evil wizard. The area was replete with petrified people and animals. A Ghoul offered me to help and serve me. I would not normally ally myself with undead, but I accepted its offer. Silver cast Invisibility 15’ Radius on the three of us, and so we approached the wizard, a Gnome, and his last two remaining Basilisk pets undetected. I asked my ghoulish companion to try and hold the wizard, while I would be pelting the Basilisks with my arrows. This plan completely failed. The Ghoul never managed to even touch the Gnome and was annihilated soon after by the Wizard. The latter, alarmed by what had just transpired, went looking for other threats to rout. This left me the opportunity to appear from stealth and take down the Gnome’s last two Basilisks. When I was done, I hid in shadows again and soon tracked my foe a small distance to the south. A brown bear sensed my good intentions, and helped me take on the Gnome. The bear's vicious attacks hurt our foe more than once before I slew the evil Wizard with an arrow in the chest. The Mage managed to blind me before he fell, but with my brown bear by my side I had little reason to panic. The Gnome dropped a pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Power that I’m wearing at the moment. They increase my strength, if only slightly.
I traveled further to the north until I reached the Larswood. Unwillingly I got involved in a dispute between two Druids. They attacked me, one after the other. Both summoned dogs and bears to aid them, but the animals’ loyalty was with me, not with the Druids.
My next stop was the Friendly Arm Inn, where I was awaited and attacked by a Wizard who, like the Priestess in Nashkel hoped to claim the price on my head. This can’t be a coincidence. It has me worrying. Anyway, I frustrated most of his spell casting with my arrows, even though at one point he did hit me with a Magic Missile, and slew him.
At the Inn I finally met Gorion’s friends, Khalid and Jaheira. The former seemed affable enough. I could even imagine him as a traveling companion. His wife however was bossy and impatient. It was due to Jaheira’s personality that I declined their proposal of traveling to Nashkel together. Instead I spoke with a few of the guests, including a gnomish scholar I made happy by handing her a belt I had found on the corpse of a hostile Ogre that had crossed my path some time before, and also a gnomish Cleric I humored by clearing her Beregost home of a number of huge spiders for her.
West of the Friendly Arm Inn I ventured briefly into the Cloakwood. Besides natural creatures, the area housed many Tasloi and also huge spiders. Together with a Worg I bonded with I slew the many Tasloi and was rewarded with what Taerom Fuiruim would identify as a Cloak of Non-Detection.
Back in Nashkel, Berrun Ghastkill seemed to have little interest in the death of the emerald thief and the bounty hunter. His only concern was the situation in the Mines. I’m really reluctant to go in there though. I don’t even understand why he asks me. I’m one of the forest, at home under the open sky, with animals by my side. Perhaps in the future I could become the Ranger Protector of some place. I’m not accustomed to crawling through dark stuffy mines, and probably never will be. At any rate I decided to first explore the wilderness areas west of Nashkel. There I had various interesting encounters. First there was a hunting party whose leader tried to provoke me into a fight. I’m no friend of pleasure hunters, but I decided not to take the bait, and they wandered off. Not much later, two bandits wouldn’t part with me on such peaceful terms. I had to fight the both of them, one in melee because he was suspiciously eager to run from me in order to attack me with his darts. After he fell I discovered why: he had wanted to paralyze me with Darts of Stunning. The other bandit fell to my arrows. I also helped a little boy get his dog back. But what he had called his dog seemed more like a Dread Wolf to me, which was curious to say the least. I had no means of empathetic communication with the beast although it did follow me back to the child, possibly thanks to the scent of a chewed bone the boy had given me. When I wanted to ask the boy about his curious companion, he turned into a fiend and teleported away with his wolf before I could do anything. Further west I found a dead cat for a sobbing little girl. This time no fiendish shapeshifting or teleporting. The girl was genuinely thankful and told me her father would raise the cat. I told her to be very careful of her feline companion. They aren’t supposed to die all the time. I also protected a Dryad against two oafs that wanted to cut down her lifegiving tree for supposed treasure. In the end the oafs were the ones that got cut down. A mighty Dire Wolf helped me against the two louts .
Accompanied by the Dire Wolf I further explored the area until I ran into a Gnoll that spoke to me about a woman being captured in its former stronghold. The monster had been expelled from the stronghold for its desire to eat the woman.
I had to act swiftly. A woman’s life was at stake here. I traveled west following the Gnoll’s directions. It was a long trek until I spotted the Stronghold. A bridge leading to it was guarded by two Half-Ogres I had to dispatch. I scouted the area for different entrance routes and for animal companions but found only one entrance and no animals to bond with. Two or three of my arrows would normally suffice to slay one Gnoll. I didn’t have too much difficulty felling pretty much all Gnolls in the area. Their Chieftain, who looked sturdier than the others, I stunned with one of my Darts of Stunning before pelting it to death with my bow and arrows.
The captured woman was Dynaheir, a Sorceress from Rashemen. She wanted me to look with her for her protector Minsc, but she had no idea where. I guided her back to Beregost where I had some business with Taerom Fuiruim. The trip to Beregost wasn’t without dangers. Dynaheir nearly died in an ambush, but survived thanks to a healing potion I gave her.
We're currently in Beregost where I just picked up a suit of Ankheg armor that Faerom Tuiruim has made for me from an Ankheg shell I had left with him a tenday ago. The armor is much too restrictive to my taste though, and I notice myself struggling to hide in shadows when I wear it, so I just keep it in my Bag of Holding.
Dynaheir is polite, respectful, and of unquestionable moral integrity. Nevertheless I’m inclined to leave her. I wouldn’t want to expose her to the dangers of my adventuring life. Perhaps I’ll look for this Minsc and leave her with him, once we find him.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------YOUR VIEWS PLEASE:
I'm unsure how to proceed. Serene (currently level 6) is very much a loner, and at this point it would feel a bit out of character to me if I had her form a party of six. Another disadvantage of traveling with a (big) party would be that it would take away much of the incentive to be creative and optimally utilize Serene's skills, abilities and items, relying instead on the other NPCs' input (spells, arrows etc). Anyhow, the only NPCs I can imagine her with are:
- Kivan: a CG Ranger just like Serene, stealthy, sensitive, aloof, similar outlook on life,
- Khalid: very kind, humble and timid, much like Serene,
- Faldorn: more aggressive than Serene, but with an amazing connection to nature (more so than Jaheira in my imagination), something that Serene will surely appreciate,
- Coran: my first candidate. Coran could be the ideal partner both for the purpose of survival (Fighter/Thief
, traps/locks, stealth, deadly with his bow, and the already found Gauntlets of Ogre Power would allow him to be a good melee fighter), and also in terms of role-play (they're both comfortable in the wilderness, which makes Coran easier for Serene to relate with, there's a romance opion, and his sparkling personality could really help Serene grow as a character and become a bit more open and sociable herself).
- Dynaheir: kind, responsible in exercising her profession, self-confident but not arrogant.
What do you think? Should Serene continue to travel just by herself (and with Silver and her animal companions of course)? Would traveling with the above party of six make any sense to you RP-wise? (In terms of survivability I think it would be a great party of six.) Would other NPCs than the ones I mentioned make more sense? Would it be more fitting for Serene to just take one or maybe two companions with her? If yes, which NPCs would you consider most fitting?