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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 10 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.

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I’m very torn about this. On one hand yes, this character is his baby. On the other hand he’s looking to play an vampire without the drawbacks of being an actual vampire. He’s min-maxing in ways that an inexperienced DM could have real problems with.

I’m all for neat character ideas, but sometimes the limits are there for good reasons. Player creativity can be inspired by working within limits just as much as unlimited freedom gives.

It absolutely can. I’ve found that constrained creativity projects are my most fruitful. Constrained writing, working from prompts, writing in forms. The same is certainly true for D&D.

I think part of dealing with this character will be finding out exactly what its goals are. Zach has told me it’s going to be a vampire-hunter, ala Blade. I’m toying with imposing Sunlight Sensitivity on him, if it looks like he won’t roleplay other vampiric restrictions on his own. I think he will, though.

And yeah, an inexperienced DM is probably best off saying “no” to this. Unfortunately, inexperienced DMs are also the least-likely to realize they need to say no, I think.

I had this issue with our current necromancer. I find the idea to be fully Evil due to obvious arguments. The player asked if it was okay, and I for once paused. Then turned to the group and said ‘does anyone have an issue with this?’. Answer was no. So I put my big dm pants on and am now dealing with a small necro army and four players and everyone is having a blast.

My first thought was, “Isn’t there a Dhampir race?” But no, I’m thinking of Pathfinder with that. A quick google does turn up plenty of homebrew race concepts for a 5e dhampir, however. Some of them are even balanced fairly well.

Agreed on the class build being clunky for what he wants, but I’m less familiar with the class variants in 5e.

I can definitely say that I’ve put together weirder concepts before, though.

I agree in large part about accepting primary source material, but I think adjudicating corner cases of how elements interact is part of why we have a DM and not a multiplayer video game.

For instance, if you’re banning all primary casters, that’s not DnD. Banning Elven Accuracy or the Healing Spirit spell, or even saying a life cleric’s ability doesn’t interact with Goodberry to get 40hp out of a 1st level spell can be considered curating in the former two cases and keeping a level playing field for the PCs in the latter.

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