In the Before Times there was a mighty group of heroes in the South Sound. These women and men put on shows, entertained the masses, and just maybe won a few battles for the hearts and minds of the people of the Near Cliff, Tahoma, and all that call the region home.
We were a tight group of specialists who when combined were a powerful faction of spellslingers, story weavers, and travellers who loved the region and would defend it.
These are the Heroes of Castle Cheney.
Delaney and I had conversations about what race and class each of the heroic representations of the group would be. While creating my friends, and Before Times coworkers, as playable characters (3rd level, Adventurers League rules, Players Handbook only, no stat below 10) I was able to add in a few more details about them.
Casey the Bard and Delaney the Illusionist
Casey is the leader of the group – the Director, if you must. A few things were required when creating him. Without any doubt he is a Bard. The man is a natural performer, whether on a mic, dancing on a dugout, or spinning records. He puts himself in front of people. His knowledge of Tacoma, Puget Sound, and so much more made the College of Lore an obvious choice.
When deciding on his race, his natural charisma had to be emphasized. Leaning into the trope that half-elves can be accepted by both of their communities seemed obvious as Casey is beloved in Rainiers and Defiance circles.
Slapping expertise onto Performance and Insight was so obvious a choice, I’m not explaining it. The Background of Entertainer was also an easy choice. I needed to get Casey a Disguise Kit for all of those costume changes we know and love.j
Spell choices leaned into charming types, with Longstrider added because if you’ve ever seen him move around the stadium you know there is magic behind it.
Delaney is an extraordinary illustrator. Capturing her level of talent in D&D meant more than a Background, but instead the magic of images. Locked into the PHB for cost reasons (maybe one of my friends eventually plays themselves) that meant the Illusionist.
Her past as an athlete was captured in two ways. First up, that meant the Gladiator Background. Second it was why I went Wood Elf for race. The increased speed combined with Athletics felt like the perfect way to capture her love and career in basketball.
Witch Bolt became the attack cantrip of choice, because I felt like that one would give Delaney the most joy when she used it. I can just see her eyes light up while going all Palpatine on someone.
Adam the Devoted and Phinney the Wild
Adam is a videographer I’ve worked with and around for nearly a decade now. Between our time together with Sounder at Heart and on Tacoma Defiance broadcasts we probably know each other better than I know anyone else in the Cheney creative team. He is a man with believes in faith, equity, and generosity. A noble Paladin seemed an obvious start.
In order to best represent his excellent eye for what’s going on around him, he had to have the Feat Observant. That meant going with Variant Human. Adam’s cameras capture the life in any game inside Cheney’s walls and the vibrant community that is Tacoma.
For his background I wanted to capture to personality traits.
I can find common ground between the fiercest enemies, empathizing with them and always working toward peace.“Acolyte”
I am tolerant of other faiths and respect the worship of other gods.
If you’ve met Adam you know that every fiber of who he is consists in those traits.
Phinney the Wild is the technical genius behind all of the light, sound, and video at Cheney Stadium. I started working with him on the broadcasts, but really got to know him through a project that started early in the pandemic when I asked each employee about what they were doing. That’s when I learned that Phinney loves the mountains and forests of Washington.
That made it obvious he needed to be a Druid or Ranger. Since he’s the lord of sound, I needed to give him the thunder spells – Druid it is. If I hadn’t chosen to lock myself into PHB or free content, I would have gone Firbolg, but instead he’s a goliath.
Phinney consumes books. That’s where the Sage comes in. He’s also well connected at local colleges, which is a doubly important reason for that nod.
Erin the Enchanter and Reema the Sorcerer
Erin is the other artist at Cheney Castle. Every party can have a duplication in role, but cannot have duplication in identity. To me, the other way to emulate the power of drawing/painting arts is Enchantment. The close choice was simple after thinking through that.
The high elf made sense after that, as I wanted a small boost to illusion magic. Also, Erin is fashionable, which fits the high elf tropes. Her fine precision in her artwork and design is captured in the Guild Artisan Background.
Erin and I worked together on the Defiance season ticket renewal magazine and several other projects. To recognize that her class skills are History and Investigation. No offense to Casey, but Erin spent as much time copy editing my writing for print as anyone.
Reema was my manager for Reign related projects in 2019. Through that time, when the team’s biggest star got in a Twitter war with the President and won every award available to a soccer player while winning The Best and a World Cup, we were in constant communication. Her leadership and belief in me was strong. Her charisma was readily apparent in discussions with ownership, or the brilliant talents that wore the crest – it came naturally to her. In D&D natural power such as hers often is displayed as a Sorcerer.
While the Noble Background is often about being born into high society, I chose that for Reema because she so seamlessly fits into the group. Between her sense of fashion, her wine and cocktail knowledge, and her will she belongs in those situations. The following trait and ideal also pushed that decision over the edge into a big “yep.”
Despite my noble birth, I do not place myself above other folk. We all have the same blood.
It is my duty to protect and care for the people beneath me.Noble
To represent her ability to make friends simply and easily I gave her the Friends cantrip, while ignoring the part about people knowing magic was used against the new friend.
Maddie the Trickster and AJ the Ranger
Maddie is so multi-faceted. To the fans in the stands she’s just part of the entertainment crew. To those of us behind the scenes she’s a manager of mascots, planner of schedules, and keen executor of fun. She’s part mage, that’s obvious. She also slips in and out of spaces, everywhere at once. The Arcane Trickster’s magic of entertainment was an obvious choice.
In her past our favorite Trickster was an elite tumbler. That meant expertise in Acrobatics and Performance, as well as the Entertainer background. Maddie always finds a way to share the fun with an audience.
Picking a race started with a look at which ones offered bonuses to Charisma. This quickly became a choice between lightfoot halfling and half-elf. There was a need to capture Maddie’s bravery in stepping into a role at the last minute, accepting all those challenges without any fear – halfling it is.
AJ, unlike the rest of the group, came to the Sound from elsewhere. He rapidly became a sounder, as in a person of the Sound, even if not a soccer fan. For his build I started with that Outlander background. His tales and stories from his youth, schooling, and previous jobs were foreign to us. The Outlander made so much sense.
The way AJ relaxes is to travel the new lands. He’s an expert on the parks around Pierce County and beyond. The Ranger embraces that. His willingness to support cross-functionally meant I went for the Hunter, as he knocks out small tasks frequently.
He’s good at so much – he can be a radio pbp voice, a video host, a writer, a social media expert, and more. There’s only one race that embraces the ability to do anything – the traditional human. Sorry, AJ, but little fantasy in that one. Bonuses to every single attribute will come in handy no matter what you do.
Throughout the design process every choice came back to how do I make the most heroic version of my friends and coworkers. Which skills, spells, and features made sense to show that these fantasy heroes are based in the real heroics during our year (or more, or less). Together, we overcame obstacles and used our various strengths to destroy the monsters that got in the way.
These are the heroes of Castle Cheney. I miss them, but that when a banner is raised asking for help they will answer, rally, and wave the Flag of Defiance for each other and our city.