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Zach’s Terrible Monkdruidpire, or “What to do with characters that break your setting.”

Zach’s Terrible Monkdruidpire, or “What to do with characters that break your setting.” published on 6 Comments on Zach’s Terrible Monkdruidpire, or “What to do with characters that break your setting.”

The Character

I have not seen a leveling progressing for the abomination I am about to describe. I only know that the character at beginning at fifth level.

The monstrosity’s name is Leba Gelosi, may Helm have mercy on its soul. It’s a Tiefling Variant with fangs, pale skin, and the request for a custom Tiefling bloodline. We shall call this bloodline the framing element of this section and end with it.

Its class consists of two levels of monk and three levels of druid. The character will be ignoring many of its druid-related powers, or reskinning them. The player is not asking for any special replacements.  The class levels, its creator Zach tells me, are representative of something other than training. Monk levels represent superhuman dexterity. The druid levels allow him to shapeshift into a bat or wolf. He has these levels in Monk / Druid, but really just wants to be level 5 of a custom class that has cherry-picked elements from two others.

His Tiefling bloodline represents this class: Leba was born of vampiric heritage.

why can’t you just remake Legolas like everyone else? why are you the way you are?

The Problem

Setting aside that there are so many homebrew and official ways to create a vampire, I resisted this character concept fairly hard for a lot of reasons. I’ll address my minor concerns first. By not swapping out spells and abilities for homebrew options, Zach has made a statement about my world that I never agreed to. Shillelagh is, I’m told, critical to the build’s combat functionality, as well as number of other iconic druid abilities and I suddenly have to adjust my world to account for vampires that have druid skills. Vampires exist in my setting, but they can’t heal people or cast Goodberry.

Additionally, while I don’t really mind power gaming, I am annoyed at the subtle attempt to get out of the malus of multi-classing – namely that ABIs / Feats typically come at the fourth class level and not the fourth character level.

Largely, though, the aesthetic bugs me, and it bugs me for the same reason that some DMs ban monks or psionics. We’re playing in Faerun and that’s just not how vampires work in Faerun. Classes are earned, not born into, and my myopia disallows me to see the monkness and these druidness of this character as intrinsic aspects of a unique Blade-esque character.

Also, Zach has openly admitted to wanting to roleplay as Bela Legosi.

Literally Zach’s Character

The Solution

Players love their creations as much as anyone else. There’s never a reason to stomp on it, even if they rub the wrong way against your setting. I look absurd in all sorts of real life settings and any setting that attempts even a hint of realism must eventually cope with players pushing at boundaries in the same way that Vermin Supreme and Donald Trump exist in the same universe as Emmanuel Macron and Elon Musk. This makes the primary solution to not to put puppet strings on your player’s creations. If they’re doing something inordinately dangerous, warn them and move on. People exist that other people disapprove of; people exist that rest of the world, that popularity, and that decency itself actively resist.

There need to be some negotiations about rules, but ABIs and Feats are ways to customize a character, not break a world, and there’s no reason to deny a multi-classer these things—once they earn them. Just because you say yes to a concept doesn’t mean you’re saying yes to it having Goku’s power-level. This might mean letting the player take monk powers or druid powers as they want and calling it a vampire. It might mean telling the player to choose monk or druid every level. And if you’re feeling really nice, it might mean giving out boons as the character plays that help actualize the image of playing as Bela Lugosi in clownshoes.

If the player isn’t interested in negotiating, but all choices they made have come official source material, or source material you already approved, suck it up. My objection to this character class was that, from my perspective, it colored the magical secrets of Druids and the training of Monks; it was abomination in the sense that it changed the fabric of my assumptions. But Zach never did this, and neither did Leba. I did it my head as easily as I undid it by saying, “this character is from some faraway land and does not reflect the shared reality of the background,” and solved my problem.

My problem. Not the player’s.

The Takeaway

Every DM is going to have this problem, eventually, I think. Banning Tiefling-druid-monkpire is just as game-breaking as banning monks. If Monks or Wizards don’t exist in your world, you’re not playing D&D anymore. You might be close enough that the rules of 5e still apply, but frankly, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are vetoing primary source material, it’s time to either swallow your pride and let everyone play the game you agreed to DM, or else it’s time to find new rulebooks.

Agree? Disagree? We wanna hear from you. Sound off in the comments, and consider supporting us on Patreon if you like our content and want more.

A few announcements

A few announcements published on No Comments on A few announcements

This is the final comic (or next to final; we haven’t quite decided) in Phoenix Down Part 5.

Both of our comics, Thieves Can’t & Ramen Empire, are going to a strip Format after this. Pages are labor intensive and comics aren’t a great return on labor, even if we adore making them. We’ll still be making page-format comics, but expect to see those as objects in print that you’re able to buy somewhere, or as PDFs that you download off our Gumroad site. On a related note, Thieves Can’t, Issue #1, is available on Gumroad right now and will soon be available for print over on Indy Planet. I have some longer-term plans to try to get Thieves Can’t into comic book stops, but that has not panned out the way I wanted. I’ve learned a lot, but didn’t quite get where I wanted with Issue #1.

Phoenix Down Part Six is not going to be in comic strip format. It will be in page format, and will close Skyler’s fire-curse story line and a few other loose ends.

In the meantime, we’re doing incidental comics about different characters, starting with Arty in her own strip titled Zounds! This was originally a paywall comic, but — well, see above. Strips are easier to give away than pages. And we genuinely think people are going to love this strip, so hiding it behind our Patreon seemed wrong.

Our rewards on Patreon are not good-seeming yet. We’re working on it. We’re open to ideas.

Back Online!

Back Online! published on No Comments on Back Online!

We were out of commission for about a day and a half. A PEBKAC error led me to realize I had some pretty bad security flaws. Changing servers was necessary, and my screwing up part of the wordpress install made it as good of a time as any to move.

The full story isn’t nearly so clean or well-mannered, but I don’t want to mar anyone’s reputation.

Shout outs to Lawrence, Mike, and Ryan for all of their technical support this week! None of them are paid enough.

Presenting: Zounds!

Presenting: Zounds! published on No Comments on Presenting: Zounds!

The Ramen Empire timeline extends out a bit further than you guys have seen just yet, but we introduced Arty (the yet-un-named little girl) in the main comic, and are itching to get the strip about her out and rolling.

In the spirit of Calvin & Hobbes, and very specifically Spaceman Spiff, Zach and I are ecstatic to present the first strip of Zounds!

Her situation within the world will make more sense after the hospital story line concludes, but that’s months away and we want to start sharing these with you guys.

Zounds will, for now, remain behind the Patreon paywall at the $3 marker, and I’m going to update the reward tiers to reflect this. The first comic can be read here, and they’ll always be under the Patreon tag “Zounds.