It is time for another fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons character build. This time we will look at Maala, the Oath of the Ancients goliath paladin character I played in episode four of out RPG Crate sponsored game, Adventures on the Open Road: A Knight’s Tomb. Maala is a D&D character built on one major concept, the bearded woman. As a fan of American Horror Story I wanted to play a character like Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates). All decisions from that point on centered around what it meant to be a woman who is outside her culture, in a world where she does not fit the prescribed ideal of femininity.
A goliath paladin for Adventures on the Open Road
In the peaks of Kigona Mountain lives a tribe of goliath devoted to gods of wind, snow and stone, the Ethonu. The tribe carved the likeness of their gods into the face of the mountain with large hammers, or maalas in their tongue. When the chief gave birth to her first daughter the tribe agreed the child would carry the name of their sacred tool. Thus Maala Ethonu-Kigona was born.
Maala was not like the rest of her people. She had a soft place in her heart for the small plants that grew in the rigid cold, and no love for high places. For this she was given the name Soturi which means Softheart. In time her inability to follow the tribe’s traditions ended in exile. A band of missionaries came to the mountains, spreading word of false gods. The chief saw an end to two problems. She gave her daughter to the priest as an offering with the promise that if they returned to Kigona they would not leave a second time. Maala Soturi Ethonu-Kigona became a slave to people she did not know, who spoke a language she could not understand.Maala may have been the height of a man, boasting a beard greater than any of the missionaries, but she was barely twelve years old when they took her from her home. The paladins were harsh with her, forcing her to do most of the manual labor without aid. When she failed they would beat her. When she fought back they starved her. The clerics showed some kindness. A young man, Feldin, even taught her to speak their Common language, as well as how to read. With no written language among her own people Maala struggled with written words, often mixing letters up. In time she learned the basics.
Feldin and Maala spent a lot of time together. He called her Fullbeard, a name she cherished though she did not fully understand its meaning. Feldin taught her many of his rites and religious traditions, something she enjoyed greatly as none of them required her to hang from a cliff ledge with the ground hundreds of feet below. Affection grew between Maala and Feldin. When she decided to act on them Feldin was appalled. Among the priests, the love between two men was forbidden. Feldin, along with many of the missionaries, mistook Maala for a man. She tried to explain to him the ways of her people, and the beard, but he would not listen. The others mocked her relentlessly. Even the clerics took to cruelty. Heartbroken and humiliated Maala Sothuri Fullbeard Ethonu-Kigona fled from her masters.
The paladin captain, Garrys Colvin, took Maala’s abandonment as a personal affront. He pursued her into the forest where the two finally confronted one another. Garrys had training and divine power on his side. Maala was scared, weak and alone. She stood no chance. As Garrys assaulted the girl she cried out and the forest listened. The trees steeped in, deflecting Garrys’ attacks. In time the man was bloodied. He raised his sword to kill Maala but she grabbed a boulder and deflected his blow which shattered the holy sword.
In that moment she took the first and last life she would ever take. Staring at the remains of the man who worked hard to make the last few years of Maala’s life a living hell, she felt pity. Somewhere he had a family that would never see him again. Children who would not feel the embrace of their father. A wife who would never feel his lips. In her ambition to save her life she had stolen another’s.
In the glade she buried the body and set stones as a grave marker. She left his helmet and shield at the grave but took the broken sword. She would carry the holy avenger until the day she redeemed her crime. The forest watched her with compassion. Maala slept in the glade that night, where she dreamed of dryads and treants. When she awoke she was wrapped in roots and vines. The crawled away as she rose. Maala traveled through the forest, as it fed her and kept her healthy. When the time came to leave she knew the language of the Sylvan creatures. She could shape nature and mend the broken. She was a paladin of the ancient ways. Ways she never truly understood.
She set herself up as a street healer in a small logging village at the edge of the forest. The village people used her medicines reluctantly and they never truly accepted her. When paladins arrived asking about a bearded woman, Maala knew it was time to go. Maala snuck into a wagon as it left the town. It belonged to a circus troupe that received about as much welcome from the town as she did. It wasn’t long until she was discovered by the troupe’s strong man. He took pity on her and together they worked out a way that she could stay with them. Maala’s ability to shape plants turned out to be her saving grace. By the end of the day she had an act in the troupe. Another member of the troupe nick named her the Tree-Whisperer. In that moment Maala Soturi Fullbeard Treewhisperer Ethonu-Kigona found another family.
When thinking bearded woman most people jump to dwarf, but I had something else in mind. I know most goliaths are depicted as hairless, implying that they cannot grow beards, but this is my D&D character and I am not going to allow anyone’s artistic interpretation to hold me back.
The goliaths of the Kegona mountains do not shave any hair on their body. They are high peak masons and need protection from the bitter wind and biting cold. For this reason it is common to see great beards among the men and women of their tribe.One’s name is important to a goliath. It is a road map of their life. Each experience is a chapter told in a single word. That is why Maala Softheart Fullbeard Treewhisperer Ethonu-Kigona’s name is so long.
Class and background
The other blocks of her character fit into place pretty easily. I wanted a tank character who had an affinity for nature, therefore the Oath of the Ancients made perfect sense for a goliath paladin. As a member of a theater troupe, the entertainer background was a natural fit.
Many of the basic character choices for Maala came easy. What I spent a lot of time considering was equipment and spells. Despite being 6th level we still only had our basic gear given at character creation. I took a few liberties here with the idea of the trinkets. I poured over the list, asking what each item (at least the ones I didn’t dismiss outright in two seconds) said about her. I finally settled on a broken sword. It became a huge part of her story. A reminder of what damage fear and desperation cause. The provider of protection and danger. The past that she cannot give up. The sword told so much about Maala’s personality. That is why what happens at the end of the episode is so important. No spoilers.
If you plan to use Maala in one of your games and you would like to explore the holy avenger story thread, here are some things you need to know. The sword is a broken holy avenger with only a remnant of its power remaining. Maala can call on that power to aid her when needed (it is her holy symbol). However, whenever she uses the sword it also acts as a beacon. Within a few days of using the sword, the paladins searching for Garrys’ murderer will appear. Maala is very cautious about when she uses the sword. She fears for the safety of her companions and lives a comfortless life under the guilt of the lives she puts at risk. For that reason she doesn’t stay in the same place for too long, not does she like to attach herself to people for very long.
Spells and features
Her abilities mirror her need to protect those she loves. The protection Fighting Style ensures that enemies view her as the main threat. Bless, aid, cure wounds, and purify food and drink are all used to keep her friends safe from whatever dangers may befall them. Speak with animals and moonbeam reflect her connection with nature. She uses mending to repair damaged plant life. Her armor is an extension of the mending spell as pieces of wood and bark cover her body, hardening to provide protection that is as good as heavy armor.
Skill and attributes
Maala’s skills are very utilitarian. She needs physical talents to do many of her heavy lifting tasks, while a strong Insight allows her to gauge the crowd. Performance is important for any performer.
Maala’s real failing comes in her Intelligence. Coming from a people with no written language, Maala only knows how to read and write simple words and phrases, often mixing up letter placement. Her vocabulary is phonetic meaning her spelling is less than rudimentary. As a large and bulky person, she is clumsy, often tripping over things or knocking stuff over. Despite her fumbling she is kind and easily likable. Many of the troupe look to her as a mother figure even though she has only been with them for a short while.
That is Maala. I hope some of these traits came out in the game. When a character is a fully fleshed out as mine usually are it is hard to work all those details into 2-3 hour games. So if any of your are more interested in the D&D characters I make for the RPG Crate let me know in the comments below. This series is still in the experimental stage. Let me know what you like, dislike, what to should focus on, and what to leave out. I enjoy putting a lot of effort into the characters I play, even if they only see a small amount of screen time. Thank you for reading this article. Thank you Fraginator, Megan and Evaldas for joining me in this game and Nerdarchist Ted for running it. Lastly thank you RPG Crate for sponsoring this game. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are having a blast with it and we look forward to the next one.
From the Nerditor’s desk
There must be something appealing about giantish races and Oath of the Ancients paladins. In our free D&D adventure Arbor Jade, I designed a firbolg Oath of Ancients paladin as a guardian for an elven Nature Domain cleric in a skill challenge portion of the adventure. You can download Arbor Jade for free in the Nerdarchy store. While you’re there, take a look around as we continue to expand what we offer there. A free package of our revamped Patreon rewards, additional adventures, 3D-printed miniatures and accessories and a growing selection of nerdy apparent are over there – including several designs by our own staff writer Mike Gould, whose Out of the Box series is the basis for our own upcoming Kickstarter campaign!
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