Game Master Diaries #4: My Characters
The time has now come to share the characters I have brewed up with you. For each of them I will share the character concept, some notes about the process that went into designing the character, and a brief background sketch of that character. All good parties have a leader, and that is who we’re starting with today. Allow me to introduce you to Bartholomew Goodbarrow, the halfling paladin.
The character concepts for the game that I’m running all started off as interesting, somewhat counter-intuitive combinations of class and race. GURPS doesn’t technically have classes, but I tried to emulate D&D classes in the way I built the characters. When one of my players told me he wanted to be a “good guy,” I knew that he had to be the quintessential heroic good guy: the paladin. From there, I cast about until I found the most intriguing race to combine with the holy warrior archetype, which for me is halfling. Not normally considered to be great warriors, I thought it would be fun to have a halfling who defied the genre tropes and refused to be a stealth-based character like a rogue or a ranger, and instead throws himself into the fray to defend the defenseless.
The hardest part of coming up with the character design was how I could have him deal any appreciable damage, because what good is a paladin if he can’t smite any foes? I got around this problem by playing with how I represented the way his holy power in game terms. In GURPS there is a limitation that you can apply to certain advantages if you have to follow a strict code of conduct in order to keep them. This seemed in line with the classic paladin who, until recently, was restricted to a lawful good alignment. Since I was giving him this discount on his diving spell-casting and undead-turning abilities, it didn’t seem like too much of a stretch to give our little paladin a conditional boost to his strength stat, representing holy buffness that is only available to him as long as he abides by the paladin code. Once I had finished giving Bartholomew all the advantages, disadvantages, and skills required for me to really consider him a paladin, he was almost complete. I just had a few more things to add in order to make him stand out. I gave him a squire, because what good paladin doesn’t have a squire tagging along? I also made him afraid of the ocean, which is a nod to the general dislike of boats and water that Tolkien’s Hobbits evince in the Lord of the Rings. All in all, I’m happy with how Bartholomew turned out, and I hope that the player who gets him feels the same way. That’s enough technical mumbo-jumbo. Let’s get into who Bartholomew is, not just what numbers are on his sheet.
Bartholomew Goodbarrow is the son of Hampton and Theodora Goodbarrow, of the Goodbarrows of Barrowton Downs, a small halfling community in a mountain valley near the Al Azar pass. He is the first of his clan to leave the valley, driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to protect others. He found his way to the abbey of the Order of St. Alphonsus at Mirror Lake and there received a vision calling him to serve the Order as a paladin of the One True God. He trained hard with his fellow squires, and upon the completion of his training he took his vows and was baptized in the blessed waters of Mirror Lake. When he came out of the water, he was gleaming with a holy light and the whole Order knew that he had been accepted as a brother.
Bartholomew takes his duty very seriously, and his drive and zeal have earned him rapid advancement within the Order. He played a large role in the recent crackdown on bandit activity in the pass, and he recently received a squire of his own to train, a young man named Gregory Straum. When the head of the Order, Sister Bertha Davidson, asked Bartholomew to head up a new chapter of the International Protection League, the Order’s external group of adventurer-contractors, as the Order of St. Alphonsus liaison, he accepted, eager to do whatever he can to help the Order and protect others. While he takes his duty seriously, it is not out of a sense of legalism or coercion. Rather, Bartholomew firmly believes in the Order of St. Alphonsus, and the church of the One True God, and his belief impels him to do whatever he can to advance the cause. He is acutely aware of the needs of others, and cannot help but feel that he must aid them in any way he can. Idealistic and driven, Bartholomew is the image of the perfect paladin, only in miniature. He has not been back to see his family since leaving the valley, and he misses them greatly. As soon as his duty allows, he wants to go back and tell them all about the work that he is doing and encourage them to join him.
That’s all for Bartholomew. What do you think? Is he a character that you would like to play? What are some other interesting directions and twists you would like to explore with a paladin-type character? Let’s discuss. Next up is Jebediah Crushbone, the half-orc rogue, but that’s a story for another post.