NOTE: This is a build that grew from our new Stream on Saturday nights around 7 PM called COLD BREW where we take a subject and do what we do best; brainstorm ideas. This Saturday the 17th we will discuss BARDS. Come join us with your personal builds and ideas to help us conceive some crazy characters. ALSO see the main article talking about using Barbarian and RAGE mainly as a catalyst for transformations. Not only did we mention VENOM, but several other great ideas.
There will be a character sheet and rundown of build at the end of article.
Dr. Elvistien J’Keel was a prominent alchemist in one of the largest cities in the kingdom. He was of High Elf blood, but some say there were excursions into Wood Elf in his family. This was especially true on his mother’s side. She was a healer and lover of nature. She taught him everything she could before dying to a mysterious poison at a very young age. But he never lost his love for the natural solution to life’s problems.
He spent most of the rest of his life alone (HERMIT BACKGROUND) honing his skills and learning from the many notes his mother left for him as well as her books she had inherited from her father. But there was just so much he could learn from this and soon he began to look toward civilization; not only for the knowledge, but the money he would need to continue his quest for answers.
Surrounded by the Urban sprawl as a young doctor, he never allowed himself to lose touch with the life just outside the city walls. He took many expeditions into the wild to find the rare herb or healing salve. But his green thumb for natural remedies continued to expand with his burgeoning wish to know the unknown. He bored with the simple day to day sickness and broken bones. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know it all.
So he studied under an old Alchemist in town who opened him up to the world of alchemical experimentation. He thrust himself into his studies and cast aside the constant, irritating needs of the sick and injured. He traveled to libraries in other cities, visited Alchemist monasteries where he could gather more and more info. But some of the knowledge he began to seek ‘worried’ some of those who guarded the gate. Even his teacher warned him of the path he was on, but J’Keel wouldn’t let that stop his progress.
He first learned how to infuse living things with simply adaptations like light, sound, odors or visual effects (MAGICAL TINKERING). He learned magic like spells to enhance him, his subjects or his experiments (SPELLCASTING). He grew to increase the potency of the infusions he injected into his subjects (INFUSE ITEM) enhancing them with speed, strength or vigor. But all of this paled in comparison to what came next; his crowning achievement.
He found during his experiments on calm woodland animals that he could tap into some primal force within that would make them dangerously predatory. He was able to reach down into the feral base of the creature and bring it to the surface. He did this to prove a hypothesis: Deep in all living things there exists a primal, feral core that has been dampened. And his EXPERIMENTAL ELIXIR was able to tap into that with unfailing accuracy.
This is what his peers and his teacher had warned him about but they were holding themselves back with what they called ‘civility’ and would allow themselves to reach their true potential. He would not be deterred so.
His experiments on human test subjects did not go as well. J’Keel was convinced that it was because they had buried that part of them deep under the trappings of ‘humanity’. They had rejected that part of themselves long ago and would never achieve the greatness they so desired. Most who took the elixir went mad; no more than blubbering animals. But this did not stop the good Doctor. No, it only showed him where he went wrong and pointed him to victory.
Finally, the day came when he felt it was time to take hold of destiny himself. So, reaching past what all of those fools feared to even look at, J’Keel took his own elixir.
He woke up disheveled, prone in the woods. He thought it need more work so he went back to the city to work more. That’s when the stories of a mysterious stranger who visited the city on a debaucherous rampage that none could stop. The city guard had tried to bring him to justice after he nearly killed one of the working girls in town, but, as the reports stated, not even a dozen of the best city guards could bring him in. In fact, they all report seeing him climb the wall and swing from tree to tree; departing too fast to be followed.
The upstanding Doctor, undaunted by the horrid reports, visited town after town, ‘testing’ his miraculous elixir and leaving urban legends of a Mr. HYDE who drank like no drunkard ever, cursed and abused all within reach and hunted the women of the town like a hungry wolf. What’s worse, he fought with the strength of many men and had hands like steel claws and feet that could scale any building or wall.
Dr. J’Keel had succeeded in tapping into the primal force that lies within all men and he was determined to control it. He visited many Barbarian Settlements in search of their secret to their unrivaled Rage. They accepted him in when they saw Hyde in action. But soon regretted it. The Doctor treated the good people of the villages and their honored leadership like no more than subjects in his sick experiment. After being driven from many Barbarian circles, he was determined to show them all. He knew that the primal spirit he had unleashed was stronger than them all; just as he had proved smarter than all of his associates and even his former teacher.
What comes next is a lifelong struggle between the brilliance of a fool and rage of an animal that hadn’t seen the light of day since more primitive times. It’s only a matter of time before the beast takes control and, now, J’keel knows it. He will spend the rest of his life developing a ‘cure’; a way to put the djnni back into the bottle, the beast back in its cage. The only problem is that he so much beast that he can no longer grow as an Alchemist. But the beast gets more and more control of the two of them as he masters his rage to a point that there are few that can stop him.
It’s a simple process to create the man of science holding back rage incarnate and when your character comes to realize the mistake he made is up to you.
Start with the HERMIT background for the Skills Medicine and Religion. Using the feature, DISCOVERY, leads into his choice of scientific vocation. Get with your DM for the details.
Three levels in Artificer: Alchemist brings all the flavor you need to build a good, but arrogant scientist who oversteps his bounds with nature. What if any levels you take in this class is up to you. The character I developed could no longer concentrate to continue his studies, but the RAGE was coming easier and easier.
This means you begin with your party after you began your journey into the Barbarian Rage (Level3 Artificer/Level 1 Barbarian). Although, you could play him from level one on; roleplaying his descent into the beast and his war with it.
The catalyst of all this is the Alchemist feature: Experimental Elixir which RAR only gives healing, switfness, resilience or boldness. But it is possible that you and your DM can discuss an alternate. My thought is giving one extra RAGE a long rest attained by ingesting the elixir. If this works, your Dr. J’Keel could rage first in that 3rd level of Artificer.
This brings us to another mechanic tweek I will suggest. I’m sure many of you savvy DMs have already seen a problem. Although Constitution is one of your focused Ability scores, Intelligence is the other. Constitution will aid you greatly in the coming Barbarian levels. But, unless you get lucky and roll a third high score for Strength, he’s going to be too weak to be any good. Well, I think I have a simple solution.
The Rage of the Barbarian is the focus of the manifestation of ‘Mr. Hyde’. Any other roleplaying of the beastial side of the good doctor is up to you and your DM. But the Rage is the thing. So, my suggestion is that every time you Rage, you simply flip your character’s Intelligence Score for his Strength. Now this means while he is in Rage mode, he’s going to be a dull as he is weak when he’s not Raging. This carries all of the flavor of the Jeckyl/Hyde balance and will keep him from being a weak alternative just to roleplay this strange case.
Choosing a PATH for our Barbarian, ‘Mr. Hyde’, may be a little more problematic. The Path of the Totem Warrior gives him the power and stamina of the bear. Gaining resistances to ALL damage but psychic is alluring along with advantage on all strength checks to push, pull, etc. PATH OF THE BEAST sounds like just what we need, but it really isn’t. All of the cosmetic transformations can simply be skins of any other Rage and the other abilities fall short.
No, my choice is PATH OF THE BERSERKER.
FRENZY, MINDLESS RAGE, INTIMIDATING PRESENCE and RETALIATION make so much sense for a savage Rager. No, Berserker is SO Hyde.
There are even alternate ways to deal with the transformation. Check Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft for the Dark Gift: Transformation. This is one way, but it is akin to Alter Self spell and may be limiting. It does give your character an unarmed strike with damage of D6, but that’s not going to be as alluring to a Barbarian as a Battle Axe or Great Sword. I still think reskinning the RAGE to BE the transformation is the best way, but let me know if you have any other ideas. I’m open to suggestion.