Playlist Spotlight: Pierre Lancaster

As a DM, one of my favorite things to do to help me work out NPCs and make them more fully-realized characters is to create a playlist for them. Several of my crucial NPCs in my world currently have a playlist. Today I’m going to talk about the playlist of an NPC named Pierre Lancaster. Pierre is one of the four generals and official trainers of the Tovellian army. He never knew his elven father but he loved his human mother dearly, though she passed away when he was sixteen. Ever since he has been a loyal member of the army. Throughout his military career, he has also fallen in love with a fellow soldier, which is against the rules, though the couple has struggled for other reasons in more recent years. His connections to Tovell and the army mean that his path has intersected with a few of the PCs before the campaign even started. Within the seven proper sessions that we have done, Pierre has not yet appeared, but because of the weight he holds within a few character’s backstories, he is what I would consider a key NPC.

Pierre’s playlist was the first NPC playlist I had ever created, and as such it feels a bit scattered. Most of the songs I chose have a lyrical importance rather than an aesthetic one as well. Many of the later playlists have a better style to them than this one. However, I am still proud of how this one turned out. For playlist posts, I am going to list the song and artist, as well as a few crucial lines, and explain a bit about why each was chosen and how it fits in to the backstory. (Want to listen along? Here!)

 

Song: Tear in my Heart

Artist: Twenty One Pilots

Sometimes you gotta bleed to know

That you’re alive and have a soul

But it takes someone to come around

To show you how

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire

She’s the tear in my heart

Take me higher

Than I’ve ever been

After Pierre’s mom died, Pierre was just kind of moving through military ranks, trying to do the best he could. When his lover came around, he finally had something to work towards. First it was someone to protect and train, then she became someone to love and to fight for. All Pierre needed was for someone to kick start his soul, and she was that person. Pierre is a broken piece of pottery, and she is the gold lacquer that repaired him

 

Song: I am Terrified

Artist: IAMX

You look good in leather, in bars
Breaking things, breaking hearts
You look good in pleasure, in hotels
Loneliness is the key to break that spell

I am terrified, I think too much
I get emotional when I drink too much
I buy every cry, ’cause I don’t trust
I am terrified, I think too much

This song is beautiful and depressing, a perfect snapshot of where Pierre has been for the past six years with his military career and his lovelife. Pierre is also a total light-weight, meaning he has spent more than a few nights in the bar wasted after only a drink or two.

 

Song: Pompeii

Artist: Bastille

And the walls kept tumbling down

In the city that we love

Gray clouds roll over the hills

Bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes,

Does it almost feel like

Nothing changed at all?

And if you close your eyes,

Does it almost feel like

You’ve been here before?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

A lot has happened in Goldcrest over the last few years. Despite his best efforts, this time has done little good for Pierre. The place that has been his home for nearly two decades now feels hallow, unwelcoming, and lonely. But if he concentrates, sometimes he can still smell her hair, imagine the leather of her armor, and feel the warmth of her hand in his.

 

Song: Dark Times

Artist: The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran

In my dark times I’ve still got some problems I know

Driving too fast but just moving too slow

And I’ve got something I’ve been trying to let go of

Pulling me back every time

In my dark time, taking it back to the street

Making those promises that I could not keep

In my dark time, baby this is all I could be

Only my mother could love me for me

This song perfectly encapsulates his mental state for the past few years. Pierre has never been one to not have spunk, but fights were never his thing. But some nights when the liquor flows too heavy and the pain runs too deep, all it takes is one wrong word to bring back those memories and Pierre simply breaks.

 

Song: One by One

Artist: One OK Rock

Kept down so long

Sick of living in the middle

If you stand for nothing

You’ll fall for anything

Our time is now

We won’t stand down

Wake up scream out

We are the chosen ones

Standing on the battleground

Standing on the front

Can’t see my way out

Standing on the pinnacle

Standing on the sun

Can’t see my way out

One by one we turn our hands to guns

One by one they fall down

Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, and Pierre knows which battles he would pick any day.

 

Song: Pardon Me

Artist: Incubus

So pardon me while I burst into flames

Pardon me while I burst into flames

I’ve had enough of the world and it’s people’s mindless games

So pardon me while I burn and rise above the flame

Pardon me, pardon me, I’ll never be the same

When his mother got sick, Pierre was angry at the world. A quiet and loving child, he couldn’t understand why his amazing mother was so sick, and he understood even less why no one could do anything about it. He began to question everything; his father, wherever he was, who had probably left the two of them to rot; the village elder, who said that the sickness was beyond his control to cure; the gods, for allowing this to happen. For a while, being in the army made sense, made Pierre feel as if he was doing something right. When he found out that his mother had died anyway, Pierre didn’t trust anyone for a long time.

 

Song: Help I’m Alive

Artist: Metric

Help I’m alive

My heart keeps beating like a hammer

Hard to be soft

Tough to be tender

Pierre has always been an incredibly kind and caring soul. But a bleeding heart doesn’t belong in the army.

 

Song: When the Day Met the Night

Artist: Panic! At the Disco

When the moon found the sun

He looked like he was barely hanging on

But her eyes saved his life

In the middle of summer

It’s hard to say where Pierre would be if his lover hadn’t come along. After his mother passed, Pierre didn’t really pray or believe in the gods, but having hr in his life felt like a godsend. Every night he would say a prayer to ask the gods to watch over the woman who he felt truly saved him.

 

Song: Peace of Mind

Artist: Boston

I understand about indecision

But I don’t care if I get behind

People livin’ in competition

All I want is to have my peace of mind

If Pierre could choose to be anywhere right now, he would be far away from Goldcrest-perhaps a farm or fishing boat, somewhere where he wouldn’t have to make a decision and be in charge. Pierre really isn’t cut out for army life, it’s just the hand he was dealt.

 

Song: Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Artist: Lorde*

It’s my own desire

It’s my own remorse

Help me to decide

Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever

Everybody wants to rule the world

Politics are tough, and in Tovell only the strongest survive. Pierre has struggled to reconcile his need to be in his position with the values that his mother taught him. Being an army trainer has its perks, but sometimes it’s simply not worth it.

*I also chose this version over the Tears for Fears version because even though I like that version better, I feel that this version does a better job of signaling the dread that Pierre feels about his current situation.

 

I think that each of these songs does a pretty decent job of explaining who he is, where he comes from, and what he’s feeling right now. The original playlist was 16 songs, but it’s cut down to 10 here for clarity and because some of the other songs were only tangentially related. Please let me know if you like seeing more of these posts! I enjoy doing them and I will probably do more when my school and work schedule gets a bit crazy again.


Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave me a comment or find me on Twitter @DandDDM.

Dungeons and Dragons and Aesthetics

There are many creative outlets that D&D players use to portray their characters. Many like to draw, some cosplay, others make playlists; the list goes on and on. The truth is players and DMs love the characters they create, and they want to find any possible way to keep their characters alive. One of my personal favorite things to do for D&D characters is to make an aesthetic or moodboard.

Although there are many different ways to make aesthetics, my personal formula tends to be very specific. To make the moodboards, I use the Android app QuickCollage (which I believe is unavailable for iOS) because it allows me to create a nine-picture collage with no borders around or between the pictures. I also use Pinterest to find the pictures I use, and I have an enormous board filled with all sorts of aesthetic pictures and other things that I can use to create the moodboards. When building a moodboard, I decide on two colors that I feel represent a character and don’t contrast and type in the color followed by the word “aesthetic”. I comb through the results to find things that match the character, and do additional searches to find anything that I feel is particularly relevant to the character. Finally, I either find a face claim or request one from the person who the character belongs to, put the images in the three-by-three grid, and put enough filters on the pictures to ensure that the colors look uniform. For he rest of this post, I am going to go through some of the aesthetics that I have made for my players and NPCs and breaking down why I chose the images and colors I did.

  • Lei

For Lei’s aesthetic (the picture above and the featured image for the blog), Neli said that the two colors that she imagined her in the most were black and red, and as such I chose those colors to work with. Additionally, she provided me with the appropriate face claim. I always put the face claim in the center of the moodboard to ensure that the character is the core of the aesthetic. The red pictures I feel all contribute to parts of Lei: soft and sweet like a rose, but not afraid to burn anyone who messes with her, like lava. Lei also has someone she really loves from her past, and she is absolutely not afraid to kick ass and take names (hence the “Girls bite back” at the bottom). The black pictures are mostly more obvious; arrows for an archer and combat boots for a former militant. The eclipse in the bottom left corner is mostly for aesthetic purposes, but could be interpreted as a deeper struggle in Lei’s soul. Finally, the quote in the upper right is a reminder of something from Lei’s past, something we haven’t broached in-game yet, but is an enormous part of her life.

Caileth

  • Caileth

Caileth’s colors are gold, blue, and white; these colors are the one’s that Eli chose for Caileth at the beginning of the campaign as a cleric, a moon elf, and just for overall aesthetic. Her character has blue hair and grey skin, and since it is hard to find a picture that matches that description, I was able to find a picture of a woman with short bright blue hair that fits just well enough for Caileth. The blue imagery is quite symbolic of Caileth as a whole; the underwater hands and the electricity between fingers highlights her nature as a tempest cleric, and the swirling neon “What do you believe in?” in the bottom left corner represents Caileth’ tumultuous relationship with her god, a relationship born not of necessity and belief but of chance. The clear glass with blue fog spilling out of it also fills a mostly aesthetic purpose. The gold trident is in place because it is Perceus’s favorite weapon, and a weapon that Eli hopes to get for Caileth one day. On the right and left, the gold sparkles and wings represent the divine nature of Caileth’s powers. Finally, the golden banner stating “I can and I will” are a symbol of the cleric’s optimistic nature and love of her friends.

Bel

  • Bel

Bel, as a lover of the forest and animals, naturally lends himself to the colors of green and brown that represents nature. Nearly all of the pictures in Bel’s aesthetic represent his attachment to the forest that he lived in before becoming an adventurer. The snake skin in particular is very important to Bel; he has two snakes that he loves dearly, and he himself is also a Path of the Totem Warrior barbarian under the Path of the Snake (using a homebrewed mechanic). When asked for a faceclaim for Bel, Reagan responded with Dane Dehaan, and as such he is the very center image representing her angry half-elf boy. The bottom left corner shows two men kissing, representative of a great love in Bel’s life (and as Reagan would probably say, of his gay little heart). The bright green “You are strong” is not only symbolic of his actual barbarian strength, but also of the hardship he has had to endure in his life. Finally, the last piece of the moodboard, the shot of the phrase “You suck less than most people”, is there to represent Bel’s attitude towards people and society. He is slow to trust and absolutely despises emotions (especially talking about them), but if you’ve made it past the walls he has built up, he will be there for you for life.

Solomon

  • Solomon

Solomon is a man shrouded in mystery for both the other characters and the players. Outside of my dad and me, no one knows anything about what has occurred in his past. He is a man of music who has a way with words. For the face claim, I picked Ben Barnes; he matched the physical description of Solomon my dad had given to me and is just about the right age range for the bard. For the rest of his pictures, I chose the burgundy and silver/grey color based off of my dad’s idea for his color scheme. The burgundy scrabble tiles to me represent his high charisma and way with words, while the storm cloud and staircase represent the hardship in his life, how far he has come, and how far he has still to go. Naturally, the last of the burgundy images is a stage, which also telegraphs his skills as a performer. For the silver and grey pictures, I wanted something to represent magic, and I felt the glittery hands were an excellent way to show the flashiness that charisma based arcane arts often possess. The horse is primarily filler aesthetic, but it does also have some background relevance to Solomon as well. I found the quote picture “I’ll survive. Somehow I always do” to be very fitting for Solomon because of the sheer amount that he’s been through over the years, both before the group and with them. Finally, the quote “You great unfinished symphony” spoke to me for the bard, partially because of the musical connotations, but mostly because of the idea that even though he’s been through so much, he is working towards a grand purpose and becoming a heroic person, even if he still has a long road ahead of him.

Creating moodboards is absolutely one of my favorite things to do for characters, both PCs and NPCs. The ability to pick colors and images that resonate with the core of their souls is something that I cherish and try to keep doing regularly. Many of my players also make their own moodboards for the characters too, and it is fascinating to see the different perspectives for how they see their own characters and the others. Having a creative outlet to express your D&D characters is something that I think everyone should have if they can find it, whether it be drawing, creating playlists and moodboards, designing figurines, or any number of other things. It just goes to show how much we love our characters, and how life-changing D&D can truly be.


Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave me a comment below or find me on Twitter @DandDDM.