Fridays Unleashed 2-27-2015

Mist speakers are a career unique to the bog trog race. In bog trog culture they fill a role somewhere between that of a shaman and a chieftain’s advisor, hearing and interpreting the whispers of the great swamp beast Ashiga. The bog trogs believe this powerful entity slumbers in a mythical swamp and communicates with the mist speakers in its dreams. The fact that Ashiga’s wishes often align with a mist speaker’s own is entirely a coincidence, we promise.

Mist speakers first appeared—briefly—in the “Monsternomicon and Beyond” article series in No Quarter magazine. Transforming the single sentence of background and lone stack block printed there into a rich new career presented a challenge. The Mist Speaker career needed not only to reflect the creatures’ role in bog trog society but also to evoke that society as a whole. We thought long and hard about what skills and abilities Mist Speakers would possess—and, since they have magical abilities, which spells they would use. One of the first choices we made was to give the Mist Speaker career a stat bump, similar to how some sorcerer careers benefit. A Mist Speaker’s Intellect stat begins higher than that of his fellow bog trogs to reflect the intelligence and cunning of someone in this advisor role.

The decision to play up the “sneaky” side of bog trogs came early in the development of the career. The Mist Speaker retained the Mist Shroud spell from its first incarnation as a means of handing out concealment to friendly characters, which benefits the bog trog’s already impressive sneaking skills. Added to that are abilities like Backstab and Conniver, which quickly underscore the fact that a mist speaker is great to have in your corner—just not directly behind you.

One of the biggest challenges during the development of the Mist Speaker was the career’s spell list. We wanted to be sure that spell list suited the aquatic, cold-blooded race while not overlapping too much with the gatorman Bokor career. (It turns out that the gatormen already do the magical swamp thing very well on their own.) Some spells were developed and abandoned as being too powerful, too difficult to track on the table, or simply a poor fit for the concept of the career. In one early playtest, the mist speaker player dashed around a combat encounter leaving countless drowned Steelhead halberdiers in his wake, thanks to the specifics of how deep of deep water a mist speaker could produce.

As the career developed, one thing became gradually clear: mist speakers rarely fight their own fights. That isn’t to say they aren’t good to have around once fighting starts, but the role they fill in the wilds is the quick, clever guy who’s good at getting others to go out and take down their threats. They have numerous spells that obfuscate, deceive, and support their allies but only one spell that causes any direct damage. A dearth of damaging spells encourages the mist speaker to work in the rear of a conflict, manipulating events without having to get his own hands dirty . . . which is exactly how most mist speakers like it.

Lurk, the bog trog from the Unleashed Adventure Kit, exemplifies the mist speaker, thanks to the aplomb with which he embraces allies like Longchops, Gullin, and Zocha. Keeping them around means he is free to focus on his arcane craft and bend events to his desired outcome: he wants Knor’s head on a spike, and he isn’t picky about who puts it there.