PCs of the “Silver Age”

LAST YEAR, I talked about my past and current 1e AD&D campaigns, and how I refer to my latest stint as the “Silver Age” of my dungeon mastering career. Though it started in 2020, the campaign is still going strong (we play just about every week), though there have been some changes.

The player who suggested and drives this campaign, Dylan, recently whipped up some character portraits with AI, so I thought I’d share them with you, and tell you about the player characters.

The players are:

  • Dylan and Nate, brothers in their 20’s, who’ve lived across the street from me almost their whole lives;
  • Their dad, Andy, who is one of my best pals;
  • Our neighbor, Steve, who moved in a couple of years ago, and has really picked up the game;
  • Dylan’s friend, Blaine, who is currently at college in Ohio;
  • My wife, Joni (a veteran gamer); and,
  • Our nephew, Daniel, who is 13 but has played 5e D&D.

The “Crimson Dawn

The PCs call themselves the “Crimson Dawn,” (as you’ll see, they’re fond of goofy names), and as I mentioned in the previous post, they’re not exactly the most heroic bunch, more prone to burglarizing the homes of rich merchants than they are at taking on dragons.*

*They’ve encountered dragons four times in the campaign, and each time, they’ve, shall we say, strenuously declined to engage in hostilities. Gutless gits.

The group is very much reminiscent of the Guardians of the Galaxy from the Marvel movies: a pack of ne’er-do-wells bent solely on their next payday, who nevertheless sometimes rise to the occasion and manage to do the right thing.

Every so often, they actually devise and carry out plans that work, but usually, they just wing it, with varying results. They’re also not the most clever, so they frequently find themselves in messes of their own making. Most notably, they walked into an obvious trap set for them by an evil wizard, and found themselves transported thousands of miles away, literally dropped (from a great height) into a jungle full of dinosaurs and xenophobic lizard men.

And they make powerful enemies: the aforementioned evil wizard (the lich Keraptis); a witch named Skaenja Frostdagger, who worships Hela (and commands an army of the dead); the adventurer Robilar and his compatriots.

They are, however, the luckiest player characters I’ve ever had as a DM: the dice seemingly always go their way at crucial moments. In our most-recent game (as of this posting), the Big Bad Evil Guy they were fighting, who should have been able to drop one of them each round, failed to surprise any of them (despite being a assassin/fighter); rolled four 1’s in combat; and blew his own roll to be surprised, allowing the PC’s thief to kill him with a timely backstab that did 64 hit points of damage.

Our Heroes (Such As They Are)

Brynjolf (played by Dylan) is the leader of the group. Blessed with extraordinary stats (he has two 17’s, and the rest are 18’s, and yes, those rolls are legit), he started off as a paladin named “Galmar” in a previous (and short-lived) campaign I ran in 2015. When we started up the current campaign in 2020 (after Dylan came home from college during the lockdowns), Galmar had a crisis of identity and faith, changing his name, his alignment (from lawful good to chaotic neutral, later chaotic good), and his class (to thief).*

*As a dual-classed character, Brynjolf is also, technically, a 1st-level fighter, though he gave up that class and can no longer advance in it.

Brynjolf, chaotic good human male thief (10th level as of April 2024)

Brynjolf is a Confidence Artist (see this post about thieves in my campaign) who lucked out and drew the “Throne” card from a Deck of Many Things, granting him more bonuses to his already amazing (18) Charisma. Thus, Brynjolf is almost always able to talk others (including the party members) into doing what he wants–which is almost always something that benefits him.

A spendthrift, Brynjolf is openly self-centered, frequently indecisive, and motivated by taking the easiest and most lucrative way forward through any situation, especially if combat can be avoided or tipped heavily in the party’s favor. Still, he is well-liked and respected by the other player characters.

Brynjolf serves no god, and no one but his own whims. His greatest personal achievement is having defeated Death (a “minor Death” from the Deck of Many Things) in a one-on-one duel, and he is particularly fond of an orc flintlock pistol that he acquired.

Alkaois (played by Nate, Dylan’s older brother) is our campaign’s version of Kratos from the God of War games. A warrior from the far-off lands of Helles (my world’s version of ancient Greece), Alkaois is a berserker who charges first and thinks about it later–sometimes, this has gone poorly for him.

Alkaois, chaotic neutral human male fighter (9th level as of April 2024)

Alkaois fights with a battle axe in each hand (with which, he’s specialized), and he’s a skilled brawler. He worships and fears the god Ares. Alkaois has never revealed why he left his home, the militaristic city-state of Aranapolis (akin to ancient Sparta), but it can be inferred that his individualistic, rage-fueled fighting style was a poor fit with the city’s disciplined legions.

Ziah (played by my wife, Joni) is another foreign warrior, hailing from the distant sultanate of Qellizarr. Blessed with great Strength (18/57), Ziah is normally calm, confident, and reserved, but she is wary of magic and supernatural beings. Early in her adventuring career, she aged 10 years (and fled in terror) at the sight of a ghost; later, she was infected with lycanthropy, but was, fortunately, cured before she could harm others.

Ziah, neutral good human female fighter (8th level as of April 2024)

Ziah typically fights with a pair of scimitars (with which she is specialized), and has taken the Hordeslayer Fighting Feat, meaning that she can quickly cut through many bandits, orcs, hobgoblins, and similar rabble.

She worships Tefnut, the goddess of the sea, storms, and water; and wields the trident Wave, acquired from the dungeons beneath White Plume Mountain. Wave has often urged Ziah to return to Qellizarr and–with Wave’s power–take up a position as an officer in the Sultan’s fleet, but Ziah has deferred to remain with her friends.

Alphonse (played by Andy, Dylan and Nate’s dad), is a high elven priest of middle age, and despite often doubting his abilities, is the glue that holds the party together. In addition to his healing spells, he has many skills that support the group. He chafes at not being as effective in combat as the warriors, but has a wide variety of spells and magical items to bring to bear. He has a cruel, vicious streak towards enemies (particularly orcs) that he sometimes struggles to overcome, lest he fall out of favor with the gods.

Alphonse, chaotic good male high elf cleric (8th level as of April 2024)

Alphonse is a shaman, mediating between the elven people and their gods, and the latter have given him many “boons” to help him. The most frequently used is the one granted him by Erevan Ilsere (the god of mischief and change), where Alphonse can force his opponent to re-roll a successful attack or saving throw, or allow a friend (or Alphonse himself) to re-roll a failed attempt.

Alphonse also has a boon from Corellon Larethian (the god of battle, arts, poetry, and music) that allows Alphonse to use the fighter “to hit” table when using his longsword, and a similar boon from Solonor Thelandira (god of hunting and archery) when using his longbow. Alphonse can use one divine boon each round, as many times a day as desired.

Bocephus (usually shortened to “Bo,” also by played by Andy) is a relative newcomer to the party. A wood elf ranger, the laconic Bo doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but makes up for it in skill.

Bocephus, chaotic good male wood elf ranger (6th level as of April 2024)

Bo is specialized in the longbow, and has the Fighting Feats of Fast Shot (he fires one extra arrow per round), and Lightning Strike (he has a bonus on his initiative, so he’s usually pretty quick). He has 18/63 Strength (+2 “to hit,” +3 on damage), and as a 6th level ranger, he gets +6 points of damage against humanoids. Needless to say, he is a sniper extraordinaire.

Droppa Druce (or just “Druce,” played by our neighbor, Steve) is also a relative newcomer to the party (joining with Bo after the two of them adventured together in a short side campaign I ran for a while), but he has quickly gained in power and ability.

Druce, neutral male wood elf druid (9th level as of April 2024)

A wood elf druid, Druce collects animals and animal friends wherever he goes. He has a trained falcon, a hawk, and a sea eagle, as well as a trained monkey and a liger (whom he named “Bastet”). He also owns a donkey and a krait viper.

In combat, Druce is fond of turning into animals, often flying into battle (or to do reconnaissance) as a bird, then switching into a silverback gorilla in brutal melee. He is far more confident than Alphonse, almost to the point of recklessness.

“Dr. Thunder” (played by Dylan’s friend, Blaine) is currently on a leave of absence (Blaine is off at college), but is expected to return. “Dr. Thunder” (a nom de guerre) is a human male wizard who has chosen not to specialize in any particular form of spells.

“Dr. Thunder,” chaotic good (formerly lawful good) human male magic-user (8th level as of April 2024)

A former slave who escaped at the age of 15 (but was orphaned while doing so), “Dr. Thunder” is not from the current campaign world, but is from the World of Greyhawk. He is afraid of dogs and cannot swim, but none doubt his magical prowess. He has said that he is searching for his son (“Carlos”), but has not revealed how old the child is, or who was his mother.

“Dr. Thunder” also drew from the same Deck of Many Things that Brynjolf did, gaining the service of a player character who grew to become a powerful member of the party.

Ogie Ogiethorpe (first played by Andy, now by Steve) is a dwarven warrior and wizard from the World of Greyhawk (in my campaign, dwarves can be magic-users). The dweomer of the Deck brought him to this world and charged him to protect “Dr. Thunder” with his life, a vow that the steadfast Ogie upholds fearlessly.

Ogie Oglethorpe, lawful good male dwarven fighter/magic-user (7th level/7th level as of April 2024)

Ogie is incredibly strong (18/65 Strength) and tough (19 Constitution), and has the Fighting Feats of: Defender (he can step in front of another PC and take melee and missile attacks meant for them); Monsterslayer (+7 on damage vs humanoids); and Hordeslayer (extra attacks vs creatures of 2 HD and below).

In addition to a wide range of spells, Ogie has the intelligent and magical hammer Whelm, from White Plume Mountain, which often coaches Ogie in battle against large monsters (“The body, young buck, the body! Go for his ribs! Break them, and he can’t breathe! If he can’t breathe, he can’t fight!”).

He is also accompanied by his familiar, a brownie named Robin Mossywillow, who grants Ogie 18 Dexterity, prevents him from being surprised, and repairs damaged items by night.

Muhammed (played by Daniel, our nephew) is the newest member of the party. A human boy who just recently turned 17, Muhammed is from the far-northern country of Aqoba (similar to ancient Persia). A bard* who prefers the hand drum, Muhammed is just developing his skills, but has already proved his worth to the others.

*In my campaign, we use the bard class from Dragon Magazine issue #56

Muhammed, neutral male human bard (3rd level as of April 2024)

Eager to keep him safe, the party members gave Muhammed several magic protective items, and frequently intercede for him in combat. Muhammed uses his fledgling spells and bardic abilities to support them in battle, but rarely engages directly.

The Past, The Present, and The Future

Like any other long-running campaign, this one has seen player characters come and go. Previous PCs who are no longer active are:

  • Vladlena, a chaotic neutral female gnome illusionist (5th level), played by our daughter, Ally-Jane. When Ally-Jane went off to grad school at the University of Notre Dame, many miles from home, in South Bend, Indiana (which, btw, makes janky-ass Glen Burnie, MD look like Paris), Vladlena retired from adventuring to begin academic studies at the University of Ceolbyrr, the PC’s base city.
  • Scarlet Shiv, a chaotic neutral female half-elf assassin (7th level), played by our neighbor, Jade. Jade was there since the beginning, but has taken time away from the campaign before, for school, and is currently on another break. Whether she returns or not remains to be seen, but she’s a great player, and always welcome.
  • Tino, a neutral male half-elf thief (5th level), played by Jade’s boyfriend, John. John was a new player who often couldn’t attend due to conflicting work schedules. I haven’t seen John for a while, so I don’t know if he’s coming back.

The characters have traveled quite a bit over my homebrew campaign world, starting off in the seedy depths of the port city Northarbor (much like Fafhrd & Gray Mouser’s Lanhkmar), before going to the university town of Ceolbyrr (think medieval Heidelberg), then south into the Frostlands to battle Norse-type barbarians.

Along the way, they wrested the magic weapons Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor from the aforementioned White Plume Mountain (one of several old-school TSR elements that I include in my campaign), earning the enmity and curiosity of the lich Keraptis (though he eventually recovered Blackrazor from Alkaois by trickery).

The PCs had great fun competing in and winning a variety of physical contests and feats of skills in the annual SummersEnd Faire thrown by Duke Brangiff, ruler of Ceolbyrr and the surrounding lands. Ziah and Ogie made it into the finals of the crossbow shooting competition; and Alphonse and Scarlet made it to the archery finals. Brynjolf won the “Rogues Run” (an obstacle course for thieves); Ogie and “Dr. Thunder” won their weight classes in the mudpit wrestling. Alphonse somehow beat out the dwarven captain of Duke Brangiff’s guards to win the drinking contest.

At one point, the PCs had a small army (about 1000 men) of mercenaries at their command, but Keraptis killed all of them (with several Cloudkill spells), and spirited the party halfway across the world. While they were away, they clashed with Robilar and his “Marauders,” who were intent on gathering up the Rod of Seven Parts (though the party declined to pursue the artifact).

It took the PCs nine months to return–by sailing ship and after many adventures–to Ceolbyrr, only to find that a civil war was underway. As of this writing, the PCs are clearing out orcs from a keep that Brynjolf was granted by the Deck of Many Things (which they found in the Frostlands). Assuming they survive that, they intend to actively fight in the war on the Duke’s side.

All that remains to be seen, though, as at the beginning of May, Dylan is headed to Disney World for an 8-month stint working as a photographer. Steve and his wife are expected their second baby very soon, and I’m about half through writing my next fantasy novel (set, aptly enough, in my campaign world).

So, we might continue the campaign at a slower pace, perhaps once a month (instead of our usual weekly sessions), with Dylan and Blaine attending via FaceTime. Or we might take a break (my preference) until Dylan returns after New Year’s. We took long breaks when Dylan and Nate were away at college, so that would be nothing new. I’ll let you know what happens next.

Kenton Kilgore writes books for kids, young adults, and adults who are still young. Follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. You can also catch him on Instagram.

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