As a part of my series on barbarian-blooded characters in every class BUT Barbarian, I’ve come to Sorcerers. A lot of the subclasses make perfect sense like the Storm Sorcerer using blizzard skinned magic with cold damage or a Draconic Bloodline tracing back to some of the White Wyrms of Icewind Dale. But one that caught my eye as a ‘road least taken’ was the Aberrant Mind subclass of Sorcerers.
(To see our take on the other Sorcerous Origins in a wild, barbaric setting like Icewind Dale, check this out!)
Now, just from the description, one would rule out such a subclass from getting anywhere near an Icewind Dale adventure. But, because of some of the side quests in the book, it begins to make perfect sense.
ICEWIND DALE SPOILERS ABOUND HERE
It all centers on the adventure set forth in Termalaine. It’s a simple job. Clear a mine of some pesky Kobolds and get paid. The only problem is that an alien Grell from the Underdark has also invaded. But none of this is what leads to my build of the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer.
No, it has much more to do with an item found in the mines. Embedded into one of the walls of the mine is the skull of a mindflayer with a Psi Crystal embedded into it. Since the Crystal was formed by the trauma of the creature, anyone who attunes to it gets an ‘indefinite madness’ found in the DMG. Also driving them mad is the replaying message from the crashed Nautilous that brought the Mindflayer here in the first place. The one attuned to the Psi Crystal can also track this signal to it’s resting place in the Spine of the World.
Now, the adventure is set up for the player characters to find this item and finally lead them to that part of the campaign. Of course, the way Icewind Dale is set up, your party may never find this crystal or know about the mindflayer’s crashed ship. My party is heading past Termalaine on their way to the Black Cabin and I knew I didn’t want them wasting their time cleaning out the mine. But, then, it hit me: What if an NPC found the crystal? That someone for me is the Shaman of the Bear Clan, Ulkora.
So, in accessing the Sorcerer’s subclasses coupled with this little tidbit from the adventure, I decided that I would give Ulkora the Aberrant Mind subclass as she is affected by the Psi Crystal. Having her end up with the job of cleaning the mine makes sense. When the adventurers are unavailable and off doing other jobs, the dragonborn speaker would either send word to the Bear Clan offering gold or food in exchange for them clearing the Kobolds out or the shaman would take up the job upon hearing it as she was in Termalaine getting supplies or something for her magic.
Of course, Ulkora comes upon the Psi Crystal and becomes attuned to it. She may or may not be intelligent enough to manipulate it, but it definitely would drive her a bit crazy as the message would just play over and over again. She may even make the trek to find the source of the message that torments her.
For my adventurers, as they either pass Termalaine or go in for a visit (they have already made friends with the speaker), they come in contact with the barbarian shaman/sorcerer Ulkora who is slowly going mad. If my players try and bypass this town, they will meat her on the way around. If they visit the speaker, she will enter the tavern and throw the kobold heads on the table in front of all of them; demanding payment.
Now, one sidebar to this in my game. My barbarian is wanting an upgrade to his AXE. So he’s been told to make contact with the barbarians to the north and they will introduce him to the MAKER that makes the magic weapons for all the great warriors in the wild. There is also a small band of actual Barbarians of the Bear Tribe just north of town waiting for Ulkora to finish. What he doesn’t know is that it’s not that simple. To simply meet the Maker, he will have to pass each of the tribes test. More on this in my article about THE MAKER.
My whole point on this is that Ulkora comes in contact with the Psi Crystal and it unlocks more of her magic. This item is the alien source of her growing magic. This gives her access to pisonic magic through an expanded spell list. She will be able to mentally communicate with other characters as well as become resistant to psychic damage. Not sure we’ll see Ulkora get to 14th level or beyond but it’s possible, of course.
This gives an extra layer to the danger if your players visit the Bear Clan. Given that she can communicate silently with her king, it makes her influence that more lethal. Ulkora can use spells to detect thoughts, send messages over distances and draw upon her newfound magic to affect ones mental concentration.
She can also access the spell SUMMON ABERRATION from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Calling in reinforcements in the form of a Beholderkin, Slaad or Starspawned could make an encounter a bit more dangerous. But, if she is only 7th level, she only has one casting of this spell and, at max, she can summon 3 times. The other thing that keeps this spell from being to OP is the fact that they give you a controled stat block for this summoning in TASHA’S. But the Slaad, although unable to infect one with a tadpole, can keep an enemy it damaged from gaining HP back. This could put a character in real peril, especially if they are in the elements or a storm. Ulkora can buff the hitpoints of whatever creature she summons by casting this spell at higher levels (+10 for every level over 4th). Otherwise, the creature will enter the fray with 40 HP.
Dealing Psychic damage brings a whole level to an encounter with her. Spells like Mind Sliver (cantrip), Dissonant Whispers (1st), Mind Spike (2nd), and Tasha’s Mind Whip (2nd) are some spells that she could have access to. Mind Sliver can not only do damage but effect the damaged enemies next save. Dissonant Whispers can take away a players reaction. (Give her the Magic Initiate feat to gain access to this one) Tasha’s Mind Whip can not only take a reaction away, but limit her enemy to either a bonus action, action or move action on the next turn. Mind Spike, upon a failure, will allow her to know the location of the enemy. This way, that pesky rogue can never hide or surprise her. There are some higher level spells, but, for Icewind Dale, it reasonable to believe she won’t be that powerful (but she might).
On the party’s first encounter with the scheming shaman, she may seem a bit disheveled while muttering to herself; repeating pieces of the words echoing in her beleaguered mind.
See the whole message on page 133 of the Icewind Dale adventure.
The party could treat the Shaman as crazy, try and stop her or become her ally in finding the ‘Nautilous’. It may become a focus of the Bear Tribe or she may be exiled for her sins or she just leaves. There’s so much flavor to be added to the story we’ve been given. Let us know what ideas YOU have. We do not create in a vacuum and we value your input. Message us here or on our Facebook page (themagictavernlgs)