Original Short Version
Very few people know that Schattenaelfen aren’t extinct. Even fewer know that while they are drow, they aren’t black skinned. A small tribe of Schattenaelfen live in the border between the necropolis of Kentarre City and the underdark, and have been acting as a mafia. When the matriarch died of a wasting disease, her children discovered that her signet ring, symbol of her right to rule, and half her wealth were missing. In their place she had left a note saying that the disease was her curse for betraying her one true love, and abandoning her eldest child. She had sent the ring and her wealth to that child and urged her other children to find their way to redemption before they all ended up like her. What this has to do with the nice elf who owns the Black Bayou Bar across the street from Whitehall is anyone’s guess. The bar has become somewhat famous for its Shaddar Kai chef and his shadowfell-focused cuisine. The class options are based on nature vs nurture, if his drow nature shows through no matter he never spent a single day in their culture, then assassin, if his upbringing among the townsfolk and ability to make contacts as a way to improve his lot in life is dominant then bard. Either way he will multiclass into the other one, it is just whichever the player wants to be dominant. The chef is an NPC hireling.
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Yakuza, level 3
Drow, Assassin (Executioner)
Executioner Option: Attack Finesse (Executioner)
Assassin Guild Technique: Red Scales
Darkfire Option: Darkfire Charisma
Dark Sun, Inherent Bonuses
Merchant Prince (Merchant Prince Benefit)
Theme: Masked Lord
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 12, CON 12, DEX 18, INT 13, WIS 12, CHA 14
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 12, CON 12, DEX 16, INT 13, WIS 12, CHA 12
AC: 15 Fort: 13 Ref: 15 Will: 14
HP: 34 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 8
Arcana +7, Bluff +8, Insight +9, Perception +7, Stealth +12, Streetwise +8
Acrobatics +5, Athletics +2, Diplomacy +3, Dungeoneering +2, Endurance +2, Heal +2, History +2, Intimidate +5, Nature +2, Religion +2, Thievery +5
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Masked Lord Utility: Create Lord’s Armor
Drow Racial Power: Darkfire
Assassin Attack: Assassin’s Strike
Assassin Attack: Garrote Strangle
Assassin Attack: Poisoned Dagger
Assassin Attack: Quick Lunge
Wild Talent Cantrip: Sensing Eye
Assassin Utility 2: Silent Stalker
Level 1: Two-Weapon Defense
Level 1: Bardic Ritualist
Level 1: Ritual Caster
Level 2: Mark of Shadow
Carrion Crawler Brain Juice
====== End ======
Playing the Assassin Build
This character, and the bar, are inspired by the cheesy TV Show Lost Girl. Worst faeries ever, I’m not going to lie, but the Dal Riata bar was a cool idea and used very effectively for story telling. “Trick” (short for Patrick) running the bar was not so well written, but very well acted and knew how to play a decent long-game and how to get people to do things for him and was easily my favorite character in the show. Without ever leaving bar he shook things up all over the country. His backstory encompasses all the phases of the Yakuza character’s family: being a rebel who becomes king and then falls to pride, nearly is wiped out by his failures but eventually finds redemption though his children.
It is also inspired by the new Hawaii Five-0 where one of the characters is dating the youngest son of a Yakuza Oyabun who is trying to separate all the criminal resources from the legitimate ones. This has been my favorite side plot of any character in the show actually.
The assassin build, multi-classed bard, has some social resources but the prime strengths the character brings is his ability to take care of threats quietly. Like the two elves when he said “I’ll take care of them later” the assassin build meant that anyone lurking outside the bar on the streets to ambush his cook would likely get beaten up (or killed) by him without anyone (especially the chef) noticing. This build will leverage physical threats and actual violence, possibly working with one or both of his Shadar-Kai servants or other PCs, to accomplish his goals.
The idea is that he comes from the violent shattenaelfen clan and their ways are in his blood even if he tried to resist it. So he fakes patience and a cool head in public, but then when people aren’t looking he unloads and shit goes down. When needed, he even has access to allies of the Hunters, who are completely at odds with all of civilized society and want to tear down all the kingdoms, to back him up. The nice thing about these guys is that they are not easily bribeable and are in no-one’s pocket in town. He has to convince them to help him, because they also don’t give a shit about anything in town. But reliably no one else has any leverage on them. Which is a true rarity. The other rare thing about him is the ability to remain hidden while in line of site from some enemies, and stay hidden if he misses an attack. So he is extremely safe while stealthing and only engages on his own terms. His most powerful ability is the executioner’s execute power: Any blow against an enemy that has 10 or fewer hp after the blow he can declare to be fatal. Even just flicking a coin down a low-level person’s throat so they choke to death or anything similar. The Masked Lord background gives him a safehouse (his bar) and once he hits 5th level it gains free warding against scrying making it a very safe meeting place. To state the obvious, this feature makes it valuable not just to the PCs. Having grown up in the shadow fell with the Shadar Kai he has access to many rituals and as a bardic entertainer he has some more. He has no dump stat, again emphasizing reliability, but high enough dex that he still is great in his area of specialty, and as a side asset he can see around corners at will.
The bard build emphasizes the social resources and is not a hands-on sort of guy, and emphasizes the magic and knowledge much more. He leverages the bar not so much for himself, but as safehouse where towns people can meet. He has connections not just outside of town, but with the Hunters. He has a wad of money. And he has two very stealthy very dangerous warriors who are deeply loyal to him. This build also would have great knowledge skills and would emphasize his patient influence. So this build is the behind the scenes plotter, a mastermind. His greatest strength is the ability to do multiple things at once. He can set up a meeting between two NPCs and provide a safe neutral spot (private room at his bar) and tell the chef to take care of them. Send his waitress out to spy on someone, and then go with the rest of the PC group all at the same time. The unique thing about this scenario is that he is the video game style boss: meaning more physically dangerous than any of his minions. He does have them do things for him, and he does build connections subtly, but he doesn’t have to. If needed he can still kick ass and take names. Actually I think this is only the second or third time in all my gaming that I build a legitimate video game style boss like this.
His drawback is that he has six drow siblings who want him dead so they can claim his ring and rule the clan. As noted, the clan might be going downhill but it is like a rabid dog and very dangerous still. Especially since each of the six have independent resources and minions, defeating one might just make the others stronger as they absorb the survivors. Plus they will come from six different directions.
Also, having ties to the Hunters is a mixed bag. They don’t get along with civilization which they consider the rape of the earth. The bar is safe from violence against warded patrons. But it is not invincible, and the Hunters might bring trouble that’s too big to handle alone. Like an Imperial Champion (epic level), because just their being in Kentarre is an act of war because of being soldiers of a hostile army in the capital city.
Long Version of the Story
Schattenaelfen are a rare breed of dark elf. Few scholars have ever heard of them and most think the name is just a variation of drow. This was true many centuries ago, but has not been for a very long time. The schattenaelfen were cast out from drow society ages ago for not being evil enough. They were banished into the underdark and assumed to have been killed. Though the efforts of a few great leaders and some unusual deities and primal spirits, they barely survived and live near the surface on the uppermost edges of the underdark. But they look just like normal elves, not at all like drow. They are secretive, and mysterious, and hate surface elves just as much as the drow do. Their ability to pass among surface elves undetected allows them to act out revenge in secret, and this they do.
Because Kentarre is the central place of power for the Royal Family it attracts a lot of negativity and draws in evil beings who mistakenly feel that mercy, kindness, and fairness are weak. Beneath the harbor quarter of Kentarre city, in the unmapped sections of the necropolis a series of gangs have battled for generations as new ones come in and old ones crumble. Most gangs come and go lasting only a few years, but the battle itself never truly stops and no one truly wins. Eventually they all lose. The longest lasting gang has been run by a family of schattenaelfen who run gambling dens and protection rackets. They survive retaliation from the knights by hiding in the necropolis and they survive other gangs by being tougher and meaner and smarter about business.
One evening a grey skinned warrior walked into the Black Bayou Bar. A decent number of shades and shadar-kai live in Kentarre so this would not have been particularly unusual, except that on his neck were tattoos that only those with darkvision could see. Even this would have gone totally unnoticed except that the owner of the bar, an elf, was able to see them. Being skilled at reading people, a necessity in his line of work, he could tell the warrior was hiding how nervous he was and trying to make it look like he wasn’t watching the front door ready to flee into the kitchen. Not wanting a fight to hurt any of his staff, or his property, the bar owner walked over and gave the warrior a drink of a local draft that he was promoting, and asked about how the tattoos were made.
The bar tender immediately sensed this was the wrong thing to say as the warrior seemed threatened by the fact that he could see them. Quietly, in the few words of shadow speak that he remembered, the bar tender told the warrior to calm down that his bar was powerfully warded and if he asked for sanctuary he would be protected here. With his eyes, the bar tender signaled the warrior to look more closely at a couple specific patrons.
The warrior glanced and saw clearly that though the room appeared to be full of humans and a few half-elves calmly talking, there were numerous glamours in place and almost everyone had at least some distinctly fey marking. He also now saw that two tables only appeared to be empty, even if he couldn’t tell who was seated at them.
Smiling reassuringly the bar tender nodded, and the warrior said “I request sanctuary from my adopted clan”. “Then so long as you follow my rules, in this place none shall harm you” and the warrior felt a warmth settle over him. Just then two stern looking elves entered, saw the warrior and started to walk toward him. The room got quieter but people mostly politely pretended not to see what was starting. The bar tender smiled at the two of them and said, “not here boys”. They leered back “Out of the way fool” pulled out small, hand-held crossbows and one fired at the warrior who was ducking too slowly. But the bolt never found its mark, it turned in flight and struck the shooter in the throat. “Like I said, not in here. Violence isn’t possible in this room… except against yourself.” The second elf looked around and saw the whole room chuckling and laughing as if seeing a street jester perform. He grabbed his bleeding companion and dragged him out. After they left the room went back to the way it had been as if nothing of note had happened.
The bar tender looked at the confused warrior and said “I told you, this place is a sanctuary.”
“But what good is it? I cannot leave, they’ll be waiting for me. I can’t live here forever.” He replied.
“Don’t worry about them, I’ll take care of them soon enough. Actually, I have an apartment upstairs and need a cook. Can you cook?”
“I can, but need to pay you for this drink and thank you for your hospitality.”
“No, no, as I said, this place is a sanctuary.”
“Call it a family tradition, besides, the payment I had in mind is a unique story that I need to entrust to the right person.”
“Well then, come with me and I’ll show you the kitchen and apartment and we can talk as we go” Said the bar owner.
As he got up to walk with the bar keep into the kitchen, the warrior secretly dropped one coin onto his chair. After they left the room, one of the people he had not been able to see walked over and took note of the coin lying heads up. The barely visible figure nodded every so slightly to itself, and then quietly left.
Over the course of a few months the cook told the bar keeper an unusual story about three generations of a fairy clan in a great stronghold of power. In the first generation, the clam moved into the stronghold and used terrors from the shadow dark to weaken enemies then move into their homes. In this generation, the clan grew using subtlety and misdirection. Then in the second generation, with the new leader they used brute force to accumulate wealth and buy their way into the upper classes, not realizing that they were being mocked in language they couldn’t speak as fake rich. And finally in the third generation, they had made too many enemies and their leaders realized they certainly would not last into a fifth generation, and the fourth was not guaranteed. Still powerful, and very much integrated into the fey stronghold, the clan appeared powerful but it was a façade. Like a wounded animal they were at their most deadly, but time was now their enemy. The leader of the clan was finally able to see all the mistakes they had made, selling their honor for wealth and pride. She sought redemption but it was too late. The clan was weakening because enemies they had made aimed enough power against them that it functioned as if a curse to block them and tear them down. So the leader, not knowing what else could be done, took the curse onto herself so as to spare her people. And she gave them a chance to start over. Taking from the clan the wealth and sources of pride they had fought for she hoped to force them to try a different strategy. And she sought out a bastard child she had abandoned long ago, half her clan, and half a founding family of the faerie stronghold, she hoped that this bastard could change the fate of her clan by mending the wounds her family’s actions had caused. But the story had no happy ending.
When the bar keep asked why, the Shadar-Kai said, because she never found her son. She found his father had been killed by one of her own clansmen years and years ago without knowing who he was. The father wanted to pay a debt for a neighbor who owed the clan, and the clansman who held the debt took the father’s life to clear the debt. What happened to the son after that no one could ever learn. As was tradition he had been sent to live with an uncle until he came of age, but the uncle didn’t live in the stronghold and the man had no other kin to say where the boy had been sent.
And then the cook left his new employer deep in thought and went about his job in the kitchens. The bar keeper knew that the Shadar-Kai was telling him his own history. How this was so, he didn’t know. He had never known how an elf had come to live among a tribe of Shadar-Kai hunters, as no one would ever answer his questions. His uncle swore that he was indeed blood of his blood, and was not adopted no matter how strange it seemed. Over the years he stopped wondering and just accepted it. And now with the answers at last in front of him, he knew that asking was still not going to work.
If the man wanted to tell him openly he would have. The man was clearly not a Hunter, he lived in town comfortably and did not make war on civilization. But only a member of his uncle’s tribe should know who his father was and how his father had come to leave the tribe. So the bar keeper bided his time. It was something he did very well as he was a patient man. After all, had he not returned to the place of his father’s death and lived quietly among his enemies for a decade? Had he not created this place of safety for Hunters and their allies deep in the heart of the source of all civilization? Had he not removed all his piercings and scars, unbraided his hair and cut it so he could pass for a wood elf? After all he had accomplished, surely he could wait for the right opportunity to present itself.
It took a few months for his patience to be rewarded. He came into his bar one morning, before opening, and saw his cook speaking to a bald and frail elf woman. Like the Shadar-kai this woman had tattoos that were visible to dark vision, and the pattern matched his. But unlike him they covered nearly her whole body and were much more ornate and complex. She wasn’t old as elves go, but she had clearly been sick for a very long time and was near death. Seeing him enter the room, she smiled and thanked him for taking care of her friend’s son for so long. Politely the bar keeper said, “it is no trouble at all, he earns his keep well. Thanks to his cooking my own reputation has grown.” She seemed pleased at this answer, but coughed bloodily into a cloth she carried. She explained that she wondered if she might strike a deal with the bar keeper, because the cook’s sister also needed sanctuary from the same group of elves, and could she also stay here? “who are these elves that so plague your friends?”
“They are my family” she said sadly.
“Can you not call them off?”
“I cannot, and would not if I could. They… “ she paused “need to find a new path on their own, or doom will come to them.”
“This place is a sanctuary to all who ask. She need only ask and agree to bide by my rules and she will be safe here.”
A movement drew his eyes to the wall near where the three of them were talking, and he saw a barely visible woman pull down the hood of a grey traveling cloak becoming visible as she did so. Her features, and tattoos, marked her as the cook’s relative. “Then I do ask for sanctuary, and I do agree to obey you.”
With all three of them in front of him, the bar keeper noticed similarities. The cook looked like his sister, and she looked like the dying elf. In his formal voice he said “Then so long as you follow my rules, in this place none shall harm you” and he saw the wards shelter her. The elf woman nodded and patted both of the Shadar-Kai on their cheeks, she bid them farewell, thanked the bar keeper again and left.
The woman worked for him tending bar and running errands and so on.
A year and a day later she gave to him a package that she said had been left on the doorstep that morning. In it he found a ring carved with runes that matched the dying elf’s tattoos, and a small enchanted pouch holding a vast sum of money. In simple elven script in the undercommon tongue a brief letter read “Your mother wants you to have this ring, and if you ever wish to join civilization for real it will be the key to open that door”.