Novices and Neophytes
by James Mishler
The Novices & Neophytes column is a series dedicated to providing a "rogues gallery" of introductory level characters (1st through 3rd levels). In the case of the articles appearing in the Tome of Mystara, these characters will, naturally, be of Mystaran origins. The characters are presented for use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition), though they can be easily translated to Dungeons & Dragons.
The purpose behind the presentation of the characters in this article is threefold. First, they provide a Game Master with extra, ready-made NPC's. Second, they can provide Players with ready-made characters that they can just pick up and play (and, it must be noted, change as they see fit). And third, later articles will include a section dedicated to presenting the different paths the characters have taken in differing campaigns, providing insight into further ways to enhance characters and game play in your own campaigns.
Game Masters and Players that use these characters in their games are encouraged to write down the adventures that these characters are involved in and send in the stories for future publication. The best written and most interesting of these stories will be included in future articles to show others how these types of characters might be used. Send all such stories to my email address (Editor's Note: Or to the Tome's e-mail).
Without any further ado, here are the first three characters: one from each of the first three countries presented in the Gazetteer series of game supplements; later columns will cover characters in a similar order. Note that this article uses a default date of 1000 AC, though most of the characters can easily be used in a campaign set at a later date.
Mikhail was born 19 years ago in a small, unnamed village on the verge of the Dymrak Forest in Karameikos; from birth he exhibited a distinctive lack of intellect inversely proportional to a generous amount of luck. His parents and neighbors were Traladaran settlers that had carved a small section of farmland out of the dark woods; Mikhail tended to the hounds that the village kept as protection for their horses and sheep. They lived a difficult, if happy life on the frontier until 996 AC, when a party of goblins rampaged out of the forest and attacked the small settlement. Mikhail was knocked unconscious at the onset of the battle and awoke to find his family and all his friends slain; the only other being left alive in the village was one of the village hounds. Having nothing left to keep him there, Mikhail and the hound set out for Specularum, as his father had once mentioned that he had some distant cousins in that city.
Through lots of luck (or perhaps the oversight of the Immortals), Mikhail arrived unscathed at Specularum two weeks later. He wandered around the city for several days seeking his distant relatives, but his luck seemed to have run out, for there was no sign of his cousins. However, he always seemed to be at the right place at the right time to find a free meal in exchange for some simple work (to which he was well suited). He was on the verge of despair when he encountered Sergyev, the Patriarch of the Cult of Halav, during one of his many street speeches. Mikhail was quite taken by the charismatic presentation, being very amenable to the idea of "Halav Incarnate" (especially as regards vengeance against "Beastmen") and decided that Halav had meant for him to be there at that time so that he would join Sergyev and his church.
Thus, Mikhail was inducted into the Church of Halav Incarnate and has studied under the Patriarch over the last four years. He has tended to a small flock of followers in the poor district for the last year, and Sergyev now feels that his student is ready to go into the wider world and bring the Word of Halav to other towns of Karameikos.
Personality: Mikhail is a highly impressionable young man that can readily be compared to a friendly puppy. He is almost always trusting of strangers, as he has not as yet experienced any evil from his fellow humans (goblins are, of course, another matter altogether). Fortunately he tends to get lucky whenever fate would seem to dictate otherwise. He is fanatical about his faith (though he really doesn't understand it fully, especially as regards the ancient history) and always expounds on the virtues of Halav and Duke Stefan.
What He Says: "Halav will provide!" (the phrase he uses whenever he is stumped for an idea, which is all too often).
What Others Say: "Halav provided that boy with almost enough luck to make up for his lack of brains...almost." (Alya, a fortuneteller on the Street of Dreams, to one of her customers asking about the strange preacher on the corner).
Appearance: Mikhail is of medium height and build. He has pale skin, deep brown eyes and coal black hair. He wears his hair long, and has grown a mustache to emulate Sergyev (though he remains otherwise clean-shaven). He wears deep blue robes over padded armor while travelling, and always has his stout oaken staff in hand. A gray, shaggy-hair very loyal wolfhound named Pavel accompanies him at all times.
Using Mikhail: Mikhail, like his mentor, can be used as comic relief either in Specularum or elsewhere in Karameikos as Mikhail goes on his proselytizing trips. He can either act as the protagonist of an encounter, as he tries to convert a travelling Ylari merchant, or he can show up when the characters need a little help in an encounter along the road.
Combat: Mikhail has learned to use his staff with some proficiency, though like his mentor he prefers not to strike the first blow (though he will make exceptions for goblins and other creatures of such ilk). Pavel will join in the fight and will guard Mikhail's back whenever possible.
Kalil Ibn Faruq Al Bashshar was born in the City of Spires in the Emirates of Ylaruam in 974 AC. His father was Faruq Ibn Malik Faris Al Amin, a merchant prince of some wealth and repute, while his mother was his father's favored concubine. His only son (his wife having only given him two daughters), Faruq doted on the boy and spoiled him well.
Kalil was looking forward to a life spent in idle dissipation when he was caught engaged in a peccadillo affair with the daughter of a local Qadi. Faruq was forced to send his son into effective exile by attaching him to one of his trading caravans and sending him south into Thyatis until the Qadi and his clan were mollified.
That was five years ago, and Kalil has not looked back since. While he visits his father as often as possible, Kalil prefers to be on the road visiting new places and meeting new and different people (especially their lovely daughters, concubines and wives). In his travels he has visited Thyatis (Biazzan and Tel Akbir), Darokin (Selenica, Darokin City, Corunglain and points between), Alfheim Town and Castellan in the Soderfjord Jarldoms. He has been in a number of adventures and has already learned to dislike Glantrian Wizards on a personal level rather than simply theological level.
Personality: Kalil is quite garrulous for a Ylari, and though he may seem to be very friendly, it takes some time for him to truly trust strangers. However, once strangers are proven to be friends Kalil is a stalwart companion. He often tells legends and tales from his native land; he rarely, if ever tells tales of his own exploits, and when he does, they are not embellished in any way. He is not a very religious man and usually only turns to prayer when things get bleak.
What He Says: "Certainly I trust in the Immortals...but I always keep my blade well sharpened."
What Others Say: "Guards! There's an intruder in my harem! Guaaaards!"
Appearance: Kalil reflects his pure Alasiyan background in that he is tall and light of build, with smooth brown skin, long flowing black hair and brown eyes; he is very handsome, and cuts an impressive figure whether in mud and gore spattered armor or colorful silks. He is usually clean-shaven, well manicured and, unless on an adventure in the wilderness, well bathed and dowsed in cologne. He wears utilitarian clothing while adventuring, including chain mail, and is usually attired in the most expensive clothing possible while carousing in town.
Using Kalil: Kalil can be encountered just about anywhere, from the wilderness of troll-haunted Soderfjord to the flesh pits by the docks of Tel Akbir. Wherever he goes, however, trouble usually follows and invites his friends and companions along for the ride.
Combat: Kalil wields his grandfather's scimitar into battle; it is a family heirloom, and saw battle against the Thyatians and Alphatians during Al-Kalim's crusade almost two hundred years ago. Kalil wields it quite handily, though he prefers to talk rather than fight (though he admits he is rarely given the chance). He is equally as adept with his daggers and will not hesitate to throw them into the heat of melee (trusting in the Immortals to guide the blade toward enemies and away from friends).
Alva Bucerus was discovered abandoned as a babe in 970 AC on the steps of a small Shepherd of Rad monastery in the Glantrian Alps. He was quickly recognized as one of the Progeny, that is, as a child born of human and monster. His pale, albino skin and pinkish-red eyes combined with his small horns gave no direct evidence as to his ancestry, though much conjecture has been made over the intervening decades (most leading to a fiendish connection). Regardless of his origins, the Shepherds took him in, seeing some potential for magic in him.
Alva grew up knowing that he was different and that some feared him or respected him for that difference. Thus, he grew up to be a willful child and did not tend well to his responsibilities as a novice Shepherd of Rad. He did, however, absorb all information that he could about magic and its nature. By the time he was 30 he felt he had learned all that he could from the simple Shepherds that he lived with, and began thinking of a way to leave the order and strike out on his own, that he might seek out more magical knowledge. Fate, however, brought that knowledge to him in the form of a dying thief.
Three years ago the Shepherds found a dying man on their doorstep. He was well dressed, though his clothing was torn where inhuman claws had struck him. He had no identification on him; the only item of note that he carried was a large black tome written (mostly) in Traladaran. The man expired shortly after he appeared and the tome, which Alva felt possessed great power, was locked away in the Abbot's study. Alva was able after some effort (including blackmail and one "disappearance") to gain entrance to the study and began studying the tome, called the Black Tome of Bolgyrgrad, written by none other than Prince Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany.
Alva stole the tome and hid it in a cavern high up in the mountains. He studied the tome intently every week since then, and has learned many dark secrets from it.
Two weeks ago Alva returned from one of his "meditation" trips into the mountains to discover that his monastery had been utterly destroyed by an unknown attacker. Alva now fears that perhaps the Black Prince finally discovered where the thief had taken the tome, and sought it amongst his fellow Shepherds. Thus he gathered what few possessions he could find and fled via a long and circuitous route to Glantri City, where he became lost in the crowds. He has now purchased a horse and hopes to join a caravan to Corunglain, where he believes he will be out of the Black Princes' reach and can safely continue his studies of the tome. He is currently using the cover of a Shepherd of Rad seeking to bring the Wisdom of Rad unto the unwashed masses of Darokin.
Personality: Alva is motivated only by the desire to gain more magical knowledge and power; anything that gets in his way in dispensable with extreme prejudice. He has used blackmail, thievery and murder in the past and will not hesitate to use them in the future. He is arrogant in the extreme and is very used to getting his own way. He does not care about being the center of attention, merely about being the source of decision. He considers most other people to be tools to be used for his own whims, though he does realize that sometimes it is better to use the carrot than the stick.
What He Says: "I enjoy the night, under the clouded sky. It feels...natural." (to a guard in Glantri City inquiring why a Shepherd of Rad would be walking around alone at night. The guard disappeared shortly thereafter).
What Others Say: "I tell you, Henri, that child will bring this monastery nothing but grief! We should send him away as soon as possible!" (Hugh the Fat, the cook at the monastery, to Henri the Blue, shortly after Alvas' 10th birthday. Hugh was found dead several days later, drowned in a tun of his favorite wine. Henri left the Shepherds several weeks later and has not been heard from since).
Appearance: Tall and thin, Alva presents an emaciated appearance, as though he is always just this side of starvation. Alva is completely hairless (not even eyebrows or body hair), and has startlingly pinkish-red eyes and thin, bluish lips. The draped cowl of his snow-white robes, which are unadorned save for a thin rope belt, usually hides the small, sharp horns upon his brow. His voice usually exhibits an arrogant, somewhat sibilant tone.
Using Alva: Alva would make a good long term enemy for the party; introduced at low level, Alva first tries to use, then betrays then party when needed. Later he tries to eliminate witnesses to his betrayal. Alternatively, he could become an unusual ALLY if the party is opposed to the Black Prince of Rymskigrad.
Combat: Alva prefers not to engage in combat if at all possible, and will do so only if the odds are definitely in his favor. He prefers to use his spells to weaken his opponents, then he finishes them off with his dagger. He will not hesitate to flee if he feels combat is going against him.
Copyright (c) 2000, James Mishler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.