Character du Jour: Ethurielle Waystrider

“We left that rotten tomb in a worse shape than when we entered, but at least there was one less evil stalking the land. That mattered not to Ethurielle Waystrider though. She’d already shouldered her pack, fixed her eyes on a distant hill and started heading off. After a few hundred paces she turned and waved. ‘Be seeing you!’ she called out, and we heard her clear as if she were standing next to us. I knew we wouldn’t see her again though. That one’s not for settlin’ down with one group o’folks. Not now, not ever.”

Prelude: In preparation for D&D Lair Assault I am going to post a handful of 5th level 4e D&D characters which you’re welcome to print out and use. They are all generated to the full extent of 4e chargen with both a Theme and Background Option to round out their backstory. These are not optimised characters, but are designed to be optimally interesting. This is a far, far better thing, imho.

Some would say that Ethurielle Waystrider is cursed, but if that is true it’s a very good curse to have. She has the wanderlust – a rare trait in Elves who generally prefer to spend hundreds of years lurking around the same patch of forest. She cannot settle down in one place or stay with one group of people for more than a couple of days. She is first up and first to be out, urging her current companions to explore the next dungeon or climb the next hill.

Dirty little secret: Some whisper that Ethurielle is not wandering, but fleeing from a darkness that nips at her heels. Quite what that darkness is, or if it even exists, is something which Ethurielle is uncharacteristically silent about.

Download Ethurielle’s character sheet, right here.

Play Notes: Ethurielle, like most 4e Bards, is a premier jack-of-all-trades skill monkey. Along her many journeys she has endeavoured to learn something from everyone she meets, to the point where she is all but Trained in every single skill in the list (Skill Versatility, Bardic Knowledge and Bard of All Trades = +4 to +6 on most skills). She can inspire her companions to travel further than they believed possible (Traveller’s Chant, Light Step, lvl 5 Explorer Theme = +4 overland travel speed), and her Song of Rest gives the whole party +4 hp when they use a healing surge during a Short Rest.

None of this will likely come up during an organized play event, but it shows that it’s more than possible to create solid, well rounded characters with Fourth Edition D&D.

That’s not to say Ethurielle is a slouch in combat – far from it. Her abilities balance between both Melee and Ranged, with the Guiding Strike melee at-will imposing a -2 to one defense until the end of her next turn (“Look! Hit him just here! It’s a weak spot”), and the Vicious Mockery ranged at-will imposing a -2 penalty on attack rolls (“Your mother was a troll and your father was a forum post!”) as you annoy and distract from a distance. The Surefooted Stride movement encounter power (from her Explorer Theme) means she laughs in the face of difficult terrain, and can use it to gain Combat Advantage – perfect against those egomanic villains standing atop a pile of rubble. Her Compulsion daily is a terrific ability; she speaks enchanted words which toss her foe around like a ragdoll, sliding it up to 5 squares at the beginning or end of their turn until they make a save. Use it at the beginning of the climax battle and put the poor boss mook wherever you want him. The rest of Ethurielle’s abilities show her aiding and encouraging her allies. Majestic Word is her healing power (“Get off your ass and fight back!”), Song of the New Dawn gives them two changes to make a saving throw (useful against Solo monsters which could lock down a whole party), Stirring Shout drives the party on by giving them +4 hp every time they hit a foe for the entire encounter (another daily to use early in a major battle) and the Song of Courage daily gives a +1 to hit in a 5 square zone around you. It doesn’t stack with Inspiring Refrain, which is the encounter version of the same with a shorter duration. Use one or the other.

When is comes to equipment, Ethurielle is no fool. She is wearing Mithral Chainmail +1 (daily power to take half damage from one hit), Cape of the Mountebank +1 (daily power to Teleport as an immediate reaction if hit) and a Songblade Longsword +2 (usable as an implement for Bard powers). That’s her by-the-rules 4th, 5th, and 6th level items sorted, and I spend her 840gp allowance on a kickass Flameburst Longbow +1 (Burst 1 ongoing 5 fire damage? Yes please!) and a Potion of Water Walking, which always comes in handy.

As befits a 5th level character I added a few Rituals to her spellbook. There’s Animal Messenger, Traveller’s Chant, Endure Elephants Elements and the ever useful Lullaby. Job done.

Notes: I never did like Bards. Back in Third Edition they were a nowhere class which resided in the space between other classes, nothing more than a spellcasting rogue who carried a lute. Beyond a few lame-ass abilities (countersong? oh please) they didn’t have any special features or abilities that made them stand out from the crowd.

Then came the Fourth Edition Bards. And they are awesome.

One thing that Bards do is get right to the heart of what Hit Points are in 4e D&D. They’re not just “wound points” that represent the physical damage a creature can withstand before dying, but are much more than that. 4e Hit Points represent a monster’s (or PCs) ability to carry on. It’s their physical bulk, health, adrenalin, determination and grit, all wrapped up into one numeric value.

Bards don’t wound or injure a monster by cutting it with a blade, but by sapping it’s will to fight with taunts, tricks, jokes and tales. A foe down to 0hp and defeated by a Bard is as likely to be knelt on the floor sobbing or rolling around with laughter. He’s not dead – far from it – but he is every bit as defeated as one that has been pulped by a beardy dwarf with an axe.

Incidentally, this also explains a lot about Minions too. Minions are just as healthy as any other level-equivalent creature, but the fight’s just not in them. The first sign of real trouble (ie, they take one hit), and they’re out of action, fleeing or otherwise out of combat. This might well mean that they are dead, but that’s up to the DM and dramatic license.

And dramatic license, let’s face it, is what Bards are all about.

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