Happy weekend, all! Pity it’s back to the grind tomorrow.
Nick here, to talk about the sweet character I rolled for a friend’s campaign. You might recall that I have a player named Damon in Thicker than Wine. He is currently running a game of his own on Roll20, and invited me to join!
I inquired about the party composition (Ranger, Monk, Fighter) and made some decisions about what would help best compliment the party. After a bit of consideration, I opted to play a Druid. I’d never played one before, and figured it’d be a great time to learn about the class. I mean, it’s all about meditation, talking to trees, and turning into bears and shit, right?
Truth be told, I just wanted to run around as a bear for as long as possible.
… Boy, was in for a lesson. I did a lot of research about elves (first time playing a full-bloodied one!) and druids. I’m no expert by all means–but I did try to incorporate a bit of lore from the Elven backstory, from his experience as a Druid, and worked in some additional information from the setting of the campaign.
And so Varis Eleneth, the Druid, was born. I did a complete six-page backstory for Varis, detailing every last portion of his character. I chose the “Spy” background, so I worked in a part of his life spent as a spy. He was supposed to be an experienced adventurer, as this campaign starts at level 5, so I worked in a lot of adventure. I decided very early on that I wanted Varis to be a family man, so I made sure to incorporate that into his character story as well!
But who is Varis? At a basic level, I took some inspiration from some of my favorite characters: Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin and Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist. What better source material than your favorite characters?
Varis is an easy-going spirit, a peaceful man hailing from the Elven village of Sol’kehn who enjoys his time in nature (and wine… ohhhhh wine). He can be a bit of a joker at times, as he likes to make people laugh. He enjoys discussions, and is often seen communing with nature and spirits, but this friendly soul will talk to any of the common folk.
Of course, as he has become a father within the last 30-odd years Varis mostly just brags about his family: his strong-as-hell wife Redell and his daughter Tanye.
My daughter is already so amazing! Why, she has already bested many of the young Rangers in our home! She’s going to be just like her mother… beautiful, powerful, and resilient!
Now that’s not to say Varis is just some nice guy who likes everybody. Another big part of his personality is that he has the uncanny ability to go from carefree “dad joke” guy to serious badass at a moment’s notice. Also, being alive for 250+ years gives somebody a fair amount of experiences to draw from.
As an adventurer, he fought many evil forces that seek to harm innocents and destroy nature. One such enemy–a powerful sorcerer named Kaine–attempted a reverse invocation to absorb the powers of the god Myrkul. While they won that day, Varis knew Kaine would return one day to exact his revenge.
Varis also holds a disdain for the courts and nobility. He fought in the Great War, and became jaded by all of the death and suffering that he saw. He was commanded by the Council of Faer to use his Wild Shape and magical abilities to sneak into enemy camps and gather intel. He quickly became an asset due to his rare Druidic talents, but when Redell was injured one fateful day he ended up deserting his country, returning to his home of Sol’keihn within the Al’Teau Woods where he and Redell were raised.
This a very basic outline of the backstory I wrote for Varis. Each bit of this story tried to capture one aspect of the build I used. Varis has a variety of Wild Shapes (bear, giant toad, horse, mouse, cat, dire wolf) to use in a lot of occasion. I considered what kind of spells would best benefit the party as well.
I chose to be a Circle of the Moon Druid to augment my Wild Shape ability so that I could turn into stronger monsters than I’d regularly be able to. This allowed me to do a really versatile build: I could deal a fair amount of damage, tank, and still use my available magic to buff, heal, and support the party! I researched other builds (like Circle of the Land) that are really awesome for controlling the battlefield, and provide more support. But after a ton of consideration, I thought it would be more fun to support and wreck sh*t as a freaking bear.
Wild Shape provides a lot of utility with me being highly tanky due to the temporary HP. For example, I can shapeshift into a Dire Wolf to get 37 HP. So long as I don’t drop into negatives, this is literally bonus HP I get. I can take 36 damage, shift back as an Action, then use a Bonus Action to shift back and get another 37 HP. And I get Wild Shape uses back after a short rest, so this makes Varis a very effective tank for the group. You also maintain Concentration during a Wild Shape, so I can place a strong buff on an ally and Wild Shape to go in and wreck some bad guys.
Goodberry was a serious sleeper-hit of a spell for me. I’d never given it much consideration until I thought about more practical uses. 10 berries can effectively give 10 HP per cast for 24 hours. At a safe place before departure, you can expend all spell slots to give a bunch of berries, do a long rest to replenish your spells, and still have 16 hours to use available healing. This saved a lot of money on potions in the short-and-long term, and can also sustain the party for that day!
I packed his Repertoire with other spells like Poison Spray for standard damage, Guidance for support, Cure Wounds to heal, Detect Magic for utility, Conjure Animals for utility, Protection from Energy to support, and Druidcraft for some fun flavor.
All in all it was a lot of fun building Varis, and I’m excited for the first campaign to see him in action. It was also a great learning experience, as I now know far more about druids than I ever did before. What’s your favorite class to roll?
Until next time, happy gaming!