This post was the first of many I wrote for my DM’s Binder project last year, which I have since decommissioned and am slowly re-releasing over here instead. Originally published on April 12, 2017, it describes a 5th edition D&D character suitable for use as an interesting NPC or as a quick-and-dirty PC with a background, personal baggage, and advancement choices planned out through level 12.
Cyna grew up in a very remote human village in the foothills of a large mountain range where the only regular contact with the outside world was in the form of mostly annual visit by small groups of either desperate or curious merchants. These merchants were always well received, but rarely considered the trips worth the trouble as while they could reliably expect to sell everything they brought with them… the goods they got in barter were mostly common foodstuffs and textiles that they could have acquired much more easily closer to civilization.
Cyna was the youngest of three children. Her older siblings were both married with families before she reached adulthood herself, leaving her alone at home to take care of their aging parents. The years passed and she never did meet anyone in town that struck her fancy, and had never caught anyone else’s eye as far as she knew. So when her parents died in Cyna’s 24th year, she inherited the family farm and continued to live and work out there alone, just outside of the village’s normal social circles.
With no one left to care for, and no particular interest in finding anyone, she reduced the scope of the farm, simply raising enough food to sustain herself and her small flock of sheep. She spun the wool and made fine cloth from it, which she bartered with the village or traveling merchants for anything else she needed. And books. She loved books.
In her second year alone, Cyna traded a heavy blanket for a small book of spells from an elderly halfling merchant who seemed to think that he had gotten the better end of that particular deal, and who left the village almost immediately after concluding the trade.
She wasn’t entirely sure at the time what she had done, and she never told anyone in the village about the book – most certainly not her family. But she devoted tremendous amounts of free time to studying from that moment on.
The book did not actually contain many spells, but what it did contain were remarkably useful to Cyna in her everyday life. She started relying on magic as part of her daily routine – so long as she was alone inside the farmhouse or out in the hills with her tiny little flock. She used magic instead of candles to read by at night, she used magic to repair things around the house, and she even used magic on one occasion to nurse an injured lamb back to health.
But the aspect of magic that fascinated her was wards. She placed an alarm on the sheep pen every night. She practiced shielding magic to protect herself in case of an accident. And she loved every moment of it. It made her feel more alive, more connected with the world than anything she had ever experienced.
All of this went well for the better part of a decade, with Cyna growing more potent, but also more distant from the villagers. It wasn’t that she thought herself above them, but she did not feel like she belonged in the village any more.
That winter, the snows were terrible.
Like most of the village, Cyna had been worried about the inevitable spring melt. Unlike the rest of the village, however, she was able to do something more than worry; she maintained wards on the snow banks uphill from town for the last several weeks of winter.
When the melt finally came, it happened almost instantly. Cyna rode into the town to warn people of the pending flood. They did not have much time to prepare, but they tried, with Cyna right there reinforcing the embankment with everyone else. When the surge hit, it carried debris with it from upstream, with some of that debris dragging along the top of and rapidly eroding the newly built-up embankment. When one log got wedged into the wall, several villagers scrambled down to release it before it collected too much more debris and created a dam… As they struggled in the mud to release it, they grew oblivious to the danger and didn’t see the second log rolling down the wall. They didn’t even notice when Cyna deflected it, but the rest of the collected village did.
Overall, the flood defense was mostly successful, with only minimal property damage – but Cyna was outed as a witch.
The village was unsure how to treat her after that, even her family. They were certainly grateful, but they also began to fear her. She didn’t stay in town for much longer. She left the farm to her oldest nephew’s family, took her book and an old pendant that had belonged to her mother, and went into the world to protect people who couldn’t protect themselves.
Trait – If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help.
Ideal – Sincerity. There’s no good in pretending to be something I’m not.
Bond – I protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Flaw – I can never go home again; living a lie for so many years cost me the trust of everyone I knew growing up.
Cyna believes that magic is a tool to help people, and is very resistant to using it directly as a weapon. She prefers to attempt to diffuse dangerous situations with words where possible and misdirection if that fails. She is by no means a pacifist, and won’t object to party members using magic as a weapon – but if she has to fight, she prefers to use a bow or some other more obvious weapon whose primary purpose is already violence.
Outside of that necessary to sustain herself, Cyna is largely uninterested in wealth – outside of magical knowledge. She is also completely uninterested in sociopolitical power, fame, or romance. Cyna is motivated by little more than a desire to grow in knowledge and ability to use her magic as a shield.
As she advances in level, she will gradually grow less reluctant to use her magic offensively – but prefers offensive magic that requires a melee touch. However, even at the highest levels, she recognizes that her strength is in preventing and unraveling harm before it occurs, and is more than willing to let others blow stuff up instead.
Stats – +1 Str, +1 Dex, +1 Con, +1 Int, +1 Wis, +1 Cha
Speed – 30′ (M)
Language – Common
Str - 9 + 1 = 10 (+0)
Dex - 11 + 1 = 12 (+1)
Con - 13 + 1 = 14 (+2)
Int - 15 + 1 = 16 (+3)
Wis - 12 + 1 = 13 (+1)
Cha - 13 + 1 = 14 (+2)
Defining Event – Saved people during a natural disaster.
Proficiency – Animal Handling, Survival, Weaver’s Tools, Vehicles (land)
- weaver’s tools
- shovel, iron pot
- common clothes
- belt pouch: 10gp
- You fit in with the common folk.
- You can find lodgings or a hiding place among commoners.
- They will shield you from pursuit/cops as long as you don’t put them in danger.
Hit Dice – d6
Saves – Int, Wis
Proficiency – daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaves, light crossbows
Skills – Insight, Medicine
- arcane focus (mother’s crystal necklace)
- explorer’s pack
- backpack, bedroll
- tinderbox, 10 torches
- mess kit, 10 days rations, waterskin
- 50′ hemp rope
Two of her starting spells (healing elixir and snare) come from the Unearthed Arcana: Starter Spells list.
Everything else is vanilla PHB material.
If you do not wish to use UA content, then replace those two starter spells with sleep and protection from evil and good instead.
Note: The spells specified below are only those that Cyna is guaranteed to have learned through advancement. Any other spells she has undoubtedly also collected through her adventures are entirely up to the player/DM.
1st level spells
Arcane Recovery, 1/day
- Recover spell slots equal to half wizard level (rounded up) at the end of a short rest.
- blade ward
- alarm (ritual)
- detect magic (ritual)
- healing elixir (UA)
- mage armor
- snare (UA)
Arcane Tradition – Abjuration
- The gold and time cost to copy abjuration spells into spellbook is halved.
Arcane Ward, 1/long
- Whenever you cast an abjuration spell (1st level or higher), create a ward on yourself that lasts until the end of your next long rest.
- This ward has hit points equal to 2 x (wizard level + Int mod).
- Whenever you take damage, the ward takes the damage instead.
- If the ward is at 0 hp, it remains, but does not absorb damage; casting another abjuration will replenish the ward for 2 x (spell level).
- identify (ritual)
- fog cloud
2nd level spells
- arcane lock
- invisibility (concentration)
ASI – +2 Int (18, +4 mod)
- shocking grasp (cantrip)
- misty step
3rd level spells
- dispel magic
- As a reaction, use your Arcane Ward to protect a creature you can see within 30 feet from taking damage.
- magic circle
- remove curse
4th level spells
- private sanctum
ASI – +2 Int (20, +5 mod)
- wall of fire
5th level spells
- conjure elemental
- Add proficiency bonus to ability checks made when casting abjurations.
- vampiric touch
- hold monster
6th level spells
- globe of invulnerability
- guards and wards
ASI – Observant
- +1 Wis, (14, +2 mod)
- Can read lips (known languages)
- +5 to passive Wis (Perception) and passive Int (Investigation) scores
- mass suggestion