The mountain dwarf Torthan of Clan Urtcheck, follower of Luc, dwarven hero of the Grand Duchy of Geoff, died at the hands of a vile undead shadow on Friday, Nov. 24, 2006. He was momentarily survived by himself, having risen from the grave as another of the undead creatures to threaten his fellow adventurers. They defeated him and his shadow progenitors, as well as the master they all served: the Mad Marquee of Sterich. His ashes remain lost to the world in the dungeons beneath the Marquee’s castle.
It was not the first time death touched him. During an earlier expedition to the Lair of the Eyebiter in Geoff, the barbaric bard fought and was killed by the evil followers of a rebel noble. His spirit could not be bound to the afterlife however, and he willingly allowed himself to be reincarnated by a druid. This resulted in his return to the land of the living in the form of a human.
Torthan was part of my gaming group’s grand experiment in alternative character creation for our Westmarks campaign. The campaign takes place in the aftermath of the Liberation of the Grand Duchy of Geoff from its giant overlords by a group of adventurers known as the Blackrazor Guild. Each character in the campaign was a follower of one of these adventurers, who had been rewarded for their service to the Duke with land and title. The twist was that each player’s character was created by someone else in the campaign.
Torthan was created with much min-maxing enthusiasm by my friend Bob. Eminently playable, Torthan was a war-drum playing 6th level bard with two levels of barbarian. He had an array of defensive spells, such as blur and invisibility that allowed him to close with his enemies, defensive options such as first and second level healing spells, and a few offensive spells like slow and blindness. Via his patron Luc, he had a variety of powerful magic items, including a shocking dwarven warhammer +2 and the excellent leather armor +2 silent, hammerblock. Topping it all off was the exceedingly useful “obscure lore” feat which granted him a near encyclopedic knowledge of ancient history and arcane secrets.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the character-swapping approach to the campaign, but Torthan grew on me once I figured how to take best advantage of his combat and bardic abilities, and latched onto his role as “keeper of dwarven lore”. He proved himself a competent fighter and survived more than a few brutal combats thanks to his raging ability.
In the end though, it wasn’t enough — his knowledge of the ancient ways and even his impressive armor could not defend him from the shadows of Istavan. The creatures’ life-draining touch siphoned the strength from his powerful frame, and ultimately caused him to collapse under the weight of his own arms and armor. He crawled away from the horrors, charging his touch with the divine energy of his ancestors. When one of the shadows closed for the kill, he lashed out and struck it with the positive energy. The charge dissipated, wounding the shadow badly, but not badly enough. The creature’s icy claws slashed at the bard, sapping the last of his strength and killing him. Twelve seconds later he rose again, a shadow of his former self … and a nightmare for his colleagues.