Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Ballad of Fat Harold

Harold was born to a family of wealthy donkey breeders in the market town of Red River. The first twelve or so years of Harold’s life were opulent and comfortable. Harold’s lack of intelligence and ability of any kind were compensated for by his family’s riches. Lacking any drive or life plans, Harold had assumed that he would simply become a useless fop in a city somewhere, representing the family interest whilst surrounded with wine, women and song. Unfortunately for Harold, Trader County (his state of origin) was to become the battleground for one of the most vicious commercial conflicts the Wretched Earth had ever seen. The Arcane Donkey Wars were about to begin…

Trader County was a logistic hub for merchants travelling all over the Western part of the Wretched Earth, and especially to the ports that linked to the island nations. To this end, a constant supply of beasts of burden was continually in demand. Harold’s family had been in business supplying donkeys for over two hundred years and had a reputation for always being able to deliver the hardiest animals that could be worked for years of back-breaking toil. This all changed when Ro-Alum, a hotshot young wizard was contracted by the rival Packart family of breeders to magically crossbreed a newer, stronger animal. After a few unspeakable blasphemies against nature, Ro-Alum came up with what was christened the “Packart Mk VII”. The new donkey, although rather stupid looking could carry 50% more cargo, required less food and could be made into a delicious meal when they finally collapsed from exhaustion. In response, DonCo, another group of breeders contracted Delecti the Necromancer to come up with a competing solution. Whole herds of donkeys were slain and raised to make the “DonCo Frontiersman Undead Pack Animal” which whilst more expensive, required no food or water, and was immune to fatigue, disease and followed orders unquestioningly.

A bitter war for the marketplace ensued, with Harold’s family – convinced that they could prevail using traditional (non-magical) donkey breeding methods – being squeezed from both sides until their business collapsed. The Arcane Donkey Wars ended a few years later, but it was too late for Harold.

Thrust rudely into poverty, and with no marketable skills, Harold had some bad times, but clung to his dream of being a rich waster. The traditional method of achieving this and climbing out of poverty has always been adventuring – but Harold was palpably unsuited for Fighter or Ranger school, too dumb (and poor) for Magic University, and too coarse for the seminary. He tried his hand at joining the Thieves’ Guild, but his large size made him a poor rogue, and his aversion to physical exertion was the nail in the coffin.

Harold’s lucky break finally came whilst selling souvenirs at a small tourist town on the coast. The village had a dragon problem with raiding marine dragons swooping past to gobble up holiday makers at the seaside. A hippogriff-riding party of high level NPCs took up the task of ridding the town of the beasts, and engaged the dragons in an aerial battle. One of the dragons, stuck with a fatal blow, and burning with several arcane wounds, spiralled out of the sky and landed on Harold’s souvenir stand, crushing Harold. Both badly wounded, the dragon’s blood intermingled with Harold’s, and imbued him with the sorcererous abilities he now enjoys.

In his early days as a sorcerer, Harold used his powers almost exclusively for petty personal gain. Over the years, he has grown as an individual and learned much about his powers. As such, Harold now utilises his gifts for grotesque and enormous personal gain. Early on as a young low-level 3rd edition sorcerer, Harold was part of a classic D&D party providing fire support. As always, health was at a premium and following the loss of several party colleagues, Harold switched to a less bold and more cautious party. Over the years, Harold has seen editions and parties come and go and with the advent of 4e has found a niche as a mercenary make-weight in higher level parties. Up until 8th level he wasn't able to command particularly good fees - only taking on petty delves for a few encounters at a time; but as he has neared paragon level, he tagged on to the powerful and pragmatic Dog Leg Posse. Although the quests have been more dangerous than he would have liked, the rewards have been great, and Harold is only marginally short of his paragon goal. Following that, he may look to retirement as a minor dictator in a small tropical island.

Note: Despite his ultimate fate possibly being sealed, I'm now intending to use low-level versions of Harold as my main PC.

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