Thursday, January 28, 2010

Death to Timrod! All Hail Timrod! or Who's running the damn cleric this time?

Timrod was the name of a character I ran during my hard core playing days as a youth.             Actually, that doesn't do him justice; he was a serial character that I and others in my gaming group ran.   He was the token cleric in our party when none of the players wanted to play one; a very common problem in our campaigns. The original Timrod was my henchman, and I named him in a direct and blatant attempt to annoy an itinerant player in our group whose name was Rodney.   And, to further the insult, I played the ‘Rod—we always allowed the PCs to “run” their own henchmen—as a sycophant who was more dedicated to my PC than to his chosen deity.

Timrod was killed in action at 2nd or 3rd level, but at the time we had a rule that allowed all dying characters one last non-combat action before they went to the great beyond.  Since Timrod still had a Cure Light Wounds spell handy, I figured why let that go to waste; I had him leap to my PCs side and with his dying breath, call upon his deity to heal me. The DM—my brother, who was generally supportive of my more ridiculous shenanigans—allowed it and it became one of those legendary moments of our group that is still discussed on those rare occasions when a few of us find ourselves in the same town for a few moments.

The idea of tormenting poor Rodney was such a hit that other players in the group started calling their cleric henchmen—the chore of henching the cleric was generally alternated between the players—by names derived from Timrod: Dimrod, Rimnod, Timroyd, Midrot, etc. I’m actually impressed that none of us stooped to naming him Nimrod; that would have been over the top. Though the original Timrod was a human, his successors were of any race and, at first anyway, they were all characterized by their adulation of certain PCs of the party. After several incarnations, however, the Timrods seemed to become more and more cynical and jaded. The worst was the above mentioned Midrot, a half-orc whose PC-employer declared was the reincarnation of the original Timrod and who therefore treated my PC with great antipathy. It mattered not that I was no longer running the same PC as Timrod the First’s employer.

Timrod was prevalent for a couple of years during jr. high and then the franchise died out when we started taking the game a bit more seriously in high school. Besides, the player whom Timrod was created to annoy had left the fold. So the ‘Rod had been dormant for almost 2 years when I decided to bring him back, but this time elevated to the role of PC. He was a half elven Cleric/MU and, like his predecessors, was somewhat lacking in self esteem; he had a low charisma and I drew a particularly unappealing character sketch of him. Actually, until I drew the sketch I had intended to run an elven fighter/magic user, but after finishing the drawing, I knew immediately that this dude was Timrod the Next. But Timrod needed to be a cleric; so a few abilities were re-arranged, “half’ was added to his race—as Per PHB, only NPC elves could be clerics—and voila!

Unlike his predecessors who often tended to be boisterously sycophantic or aggressively disgruntled, he was brooding and sullen (unusual for a character run by a 15 year old boy, no?), though kind and helpful to those he felt worthy of trust. He simultaneously revered and resented all full elven characters and magic users. He felt his role as cleric was a burden to him and was confounded by his own limitations as a MU—we played with the race-level limits for PCs as per the PHB. I decided that he was the child of a great human wizard whose legend cast a shadow on his life long after the parent's death. He sought out the career in the cloth to, hopefully, gain recognition and acceptance in the elven culture of his mother.

The party of which Timrod the Next was a member went defunct before completing a single adventure, but he continued on as a journeyman, cropping up in a campaign when someone of his skillset was required, drifting off again when his limitations made him less useful, or if I just got tired of playing him. He slowly amassed a large fortune and a hefty spellbook, and, though he could achieve name rank in neither of his chosen fields, he did build a large estate and became a prominent authority in whatever city he lived in—we generally based all of our PCs out of the Wild Coast, and I actually can’t remember which town Timrod settled in.

Because, I think, he was such a departure from the stable of rogue-ish fighters and good-natured thieves that were my main fare as a player, Timrod eventually became my iconic character. He was seen as moody and complex by other party members and they often went to some length to placate him. This, of course, was an extreme reversal of fortune for the Timrod franchise. Most telling, he was the only one of my characters that no one else ever played. While it was a common practice for us to alternate DMs within a single campaign, usually if the DM had a PC in a particular adventure, his character was passed off to one of the other players.  But if I was running a dungeon and the players wanted T-rod to take part, I ran him as an NPC.

Although I stopped playing the game pretty much completely by the time I went off to college, I have one friend who kept on at it—and still plays regularly to this day. He says that he has used Timrod NPCs from time to time in both incarnations: Timrod the Peon, faithful cleric whose sole purpose is to bring succor to the more important characters of the party, and Timrod the Wise, an enigmatic figure who commands respect before dispensing sagely knowledge.

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