In “Play the Heroes” we look at adapting characters from books, movies, and other popular culture to player characters for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Because many classes in D&D become much more customizable by third level (Paladin’s Oath, Cleric’s Domain, Monk’s Tradition, etc.), we’re going to create a character at third level. This lets us get much closer to the character in fiction as the character on the sheet.
A couple other ground rules: we’re using the standard array for stat generation and most characters will follow their fictional race (usually Human).
It’s worth noting that while these characters will be “legal” as far as the rules, concessions may be made while selecting skills, abilities, or features to keep them true to the fictional character that could prevent them being ideal in-game.
This article has minor spoilers for book 1 of The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Name of the Wind.
Kvothe the Bloodless. Kvothe the Arcane. Kvothe Six-String. The protagonist of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles has earned many names and titles, making his background an interesting and complex one. Born to a runaway noble and the leader of a troupe of transient Edema Ruh entertainers. Apprentice to a travelling arcanist and tinker. Street urchin in Tarbean, student at the University, Talented musician at the Eolian, Adem-trained swordsman, and (pen?)ultimately a tavern keeper. There’s a good amount of material here to work into a player character.
Some class options suggest themselves. Kvothe plays a seven stringed lute (or six strings, or five) and has a quick wit, which screams Bard. He’s training at the University with a focus on Sympathy (Wizard), artificing (Artificer), and Naming (perhaps Wizard again?). The Sympathy he’s able to perform is not “high magic”, mostly cantrip or 1st level spells. It’s also described as being much more a science than true magic. Naming, much more powerful and magical, would lend itself to a more magical class as well were it a larger part of Kvothe’s character. The Adem’s fighting style is arguably more Monk-ish, with focus on the philosophy of Lethani.
Kvothe is a performer first, so we have to choose Bard as the primary class. A distinction can be drawn between a simple performer who can play an instrument and a Bard who has found the magic in music, and Kvothe has certainly crossed that line. Throughout the adventure, he likely took a level or three in Monk and/or Artificer to account for his training in Adem and at the University.
Kvothe’s background, as we know, is complex. No one official background will contain all that Kvothe is at, say, the start of his time at the University. He’s Ruh first, and Ruh are Entertainers. Entertainer grants Acrobatics and Performance skills, a musical instrument (his father’s lute) and proficiency with it, and proficiency with disguise. His entertainer routines would likely be Actor, Instrumentalist, and Storyteller, though Kvothe likely is familiar with others.
Years of his early life were spent as an Urchin in Tarbean, begging and stealing to survive while forming bonds with the Tehlin priest Trapis and eccentric storyteller Skarpi and making enemies of fellow street urchin Pike and his friends. Urchin would provide proficiencies in Sleight of Hand and Stealth skills and with disguise kit and thieves’ tools. It taught Kvothe how to live modestly, which he needed to do throughout his early time at the University.
Guild Artisan makes some sense if we wanted to take the training of Abenthy and the University. Kvothe’s time alone in the woods suggests Hermit. Neither of these are a great fit. D&D 5e encourages tweaking backgrounds, so we will.
I think Kvothe’s background needs to be some combination of Entertainer and Urchin. Our Orphaned Entertainer background will use the Entertainer as a template, swapping skill proficiency in Acrobatics for Sleight of Hand, proficiency with disguise kit for thieves’ tools, and taking as equipment a small knife, Rhetoric and Logic, and a letter of introduction to the University from Abenthy.
Narratively, our 3rd level Bard Kvothe will have spent a semester or two at the University. He’s earned his talent pipes at the Eolian. He can earn a bit playing at the Eolian, but he is not a rich young man. He has a few valued possessions.
KvotheMedium humanoid (human), bard 3, neutral good
- Armor Class
- Hit Points
- 13 (3d8)
- 30 ft
- Proficiency Bonus
|14 (2)||13 (1)||11 (0)||15 (2)||9 (-1)||16 (3)|
- Saving Throws
- Sleight of Hand +3, Performance +7, Persuasion +7, Survival +4, Nature +4
- Passive Perception 9
- Lute, Six stringed lute, singing
- Simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords
- Jack of All Trades
- Starting at 2nd level, you can add half your proficiency bonus, rounded down, to any ability check you make that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus.
- Song of Rest
Beginning at 2nd level, you can use soothing music or oration to help revitalize your wounded allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures who can hear your performance regain hit points at the end of the short rest by spending one or more Hit Dice, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points.
The extra hit points increase when you reach certain levels in this class: to 1d8 at 9th level, to 1d10 at 13th level, and to 1d12 at 17th level.
- Cutting Words
- Also at 3rd level, you learn how to use your wit to distract, confuse, and otherwise sap the confidence and competence of others. When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, you can use your reaction to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll. You can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the DM determines whether the attack roll or ability check succeeds or fails, or before the creature deals its damage. The creature is immune if it can’t hear you or if it’s immune to being charmed.
- Kvothe's spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13).
- Cantrips (At will)
- Prestidigitation, Friends
- Level 1
- Comprehend Languages, Charm Person, Heroism, Identify
- Level 2
- Calm Emotions, Heat Metal
- It's not uncommon for me to do something impolite out of ignorance of a new society. This gets me into trouble often, and has been known to make me enemies.
- Reactions to me tend to be extreme: people either love me or hate me
- Tradition. Stories, legends, and songs of old are important, even more so because they may have clues of the Chandrian
- People. I love to see the emotion of people's faces when I play my lute and sing.
- I am Edema Ruh through and through, and can join any Ruh troupe for a meal, a place to sleep, or even travel with them
- I must learn the secrets of the Chandrian, who killed my family and troupe
- I have been intrigued by learning the Names of all things ever since Abenthy told me stories about them and used the Name of the Wind
- I'm always careful to show kindness to a Tinker (travelling merchant)
- I'll often trade something for a new verse of Tinker Tanner
- I try to trade a bit of food for some trinket every day with Auri (a name I created), who lives under the University.
- I would drop everything for a moment with Denna
- I have a lifelong enemy in Ambrose Jakis
- Green cloak with many hidden pockets
- Receipt from Master Lorren for a copy of Rhetoric and Logic
- Six-stringed lute
- El'lir at the University
- Edema Ruh
- Talent Pipes from the Eolian
What do you think? Is there a better class for Kvothe? I know he’d hate being called a Bard. How did I do on his Characteristics? Anything missing or wrong?
What other characters would you like to see built as a PC? Let me know on Twitter @calebthompson
Sources: Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook, The Name of the Wind