My first introduction into tabletop role playing came from Braden when he ran one of his favorite campaigns a friend in his old group ran, converted for the new 5th Edition of D&D which had just been recently released. While 5e was my first foray into the world of role playing games, it wasn’t long until I found other groups and systems.
After 5e my next experience was with a good friend, who also happened to be a gamer, and was in a Pathfinder campaign. Excited to meet new people, spend more time with good friends, and try out a new system I was ready to go. Expand your gaming horizons, right?
Then came that moment: “Yeah they really need a tank. Like a barbarian would be a really good choice.” In all honesty in retrospect I probably could have done anything I wanted, but at the time it really felt like Half-Orc Barbarian was being foisted upon me.
Now nothing against barbarians, or half orcs, but anyone who knows me well understands my contrary nature.
In other words if you order me to do something…well it usually doesn’t go well. Or it goes amazingly well. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.
So fine, I’ll be a half-orc barbarian if you give me no other choice. But he was going to be a WEIRD barbarian.
Meet Krok “The Phisosopher” – Charismatic Barbarian
Thus was born the half-orc named Krok. Growing up among a mixed tribe of orcs and half-orcs, he was a clear outcast because he realized at an early age that the questions of the mind were far more interesting and important than those of brawn. Muscles were obvious. Feats of strength could be clearly measured. But why were they here? What was the purpose of things? Why couldn’t I carve the perfect wooden spoon no matter how hard I try?
These were the questions that kept Krok up at night and caused him to become obsessed with thought and the study of thought. These phisosophical musings and Krok’s need to think and explore the mysteries of the mind made him an outcast and his moderate strength wasn’t enough to allow him to get away with such a mental focus.
His only friend was his imaginary friend (a camel like from the books a traveling merchant once showed him) and the occasional traders who had someone in their caravan of mental interest. He learned to read common in addition to speak it, and soon left his tribe to pursue the TWO things that he was passionate about:
- Development of the mind and his phisosophical abilities
- Sporting unarmed arena combat
- Ale & mead (preferably in mass amounts)
- Getting paid to fly into uncontrollable rages against bad people, thus earning money to take time off to study the pursuits of the mind
Let’s just say mathematics weren’t a major part of his self-taught lessons.
The Most Charismatic of All Barbarians
Half-Orcs are just tough by nature. That’s true in Pathfinder, and that’s true in 5e, as well. They are strong. They are healthy. That half-orc rage that kicks in when things try to murder you is a pretty awesome bonus. They are made to be barbarians, whose bonuses stack on top of those natural racial traits of the half-orc really well.
So naturally since I was pretty much forced into this role it was time to turn it on its head. However, I’m also a big story person. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was three years old, so story telling and narrative mattered. There still had to be barbarian traits there. There had to be some thread I could justify.
That’s when I saw that the skill Intimidation fell under charisma.
And since intelligence points (book learning) helped determine how many skill points per level up and not wisdom, I had my combination. A “philosopher” stupid by common measurements, not wise to the world, with the traits of a barbarian. The idea of Krok as a name was just too perfect. I had word play, I had misspellings, I said philosophy like a drunken frat boy but with the pride of a dim-witted barbarian who thought himself wise…and maybe still was based on where he started.
The image came in my head of that old Monopoly card “Take second place in a beauty contest, win $10.” From that I imagined this thick male half-orc barbarian philosopher making money going from beauty contest to beauty contest, intimidating the living f**k out of judges as he said through gritted teeth “I’m a beautiful, delicate f**king flower.” Intimidation check!
That made me laugh, and the character concept was born. Krok the Phisosopher. Too “smart” to be accepted in his tribe of mostly full-blooded Orcs, with the rage of a barbarian, and the incredible debate skills that come from intimidating the hell out of everyone you meet until they open their mind to your way of thinking. Also obsessed with carving the perfect wooden spoon, for some reason. Gotta have a random quirk.
A task that, alas, would not be achieved during the campaign although d20 rolls of 18 and 19 mean he had some dang good spoons. But never the perfect one. The cleric who bonded with Krok based on woodwork crafting managed to make the perfect spoon twice. I like to think to this day Krok studies such a perfectly carved wooden spoon still chasing after that seemingly impossible dream.
Wait, What? Let Me See Your Character Sheet!
The most fun from all this was the fact that the DM had me make my character sheet up to the level the rest of the group was on at that time. I believe it was around level seven or eight when I started. He was there if I needed help, but he wanted me to work with the stat sheet myself and try to get used to it. For the record: no problem with this. It was a great way to get a handle on a very different system and figure out many things myself, then get help on those things I didn’t quite understand.
That also provided me the perfect opportunity to make a weird build that the DM wouldn’t see coming.
The end result was glorious. A moderately decent tank with slightly above average attack strength who exercised battlefield control with a +22 intimidation that kept forcing enemies to get more and more debuffs as each round went on – because none of them were making that save. Even with my notoriously terrible dice rolling that meant they were still trying to save against a 26, 27, or 28.
But even better was the first time in session a battle broke out in the prison camp and I tried to intimidate the werewolves that decided we were supper. My roll was a 19.
DM: “So good roll, what’s the save then?”
DM: “Wait, what?
Me: “Save of 41.”
DM: “Let me see your sheet!”
To Wyatt’s credit, he knew the system inside and out and once he figured out what I did he started laughing. The numbers checked out, he could do the math. Good luck with later levels and battles but the build checked out and he wasn’t going to get in the way of that level of rookie creativity.
DM: “The werewolves are intimidated.”
Fellow Party Member: “You’re not even rolling for a save?”
DM: “No point. I can’t roll that high.”
Things just kept getting better from there, and my gauntlet was thrown down to the party for them to understand what to expect from this glittery and fabulous looking (because Krok deserves nice pretty things – KROK IS A DELICATE FLOWER!!!) half-orc and the type of random trickery, trouble making, and other mischief Shane the player intended to get into.
While originally I was going to pivot harder into actual tank skills to be useful…I had way too much fun intimidating everything. So I ended up just continuing and letting the terrible dice rolls continue to help get me into more trouble.
Awesome Shenanigans Ensued
Gaming with that Pathfinder group was awesome. While I always looked for the opportunity for mischief or fun, especially if it was based on misunderstanding or the faux “wisdom” of Krok’s phisosophy, I made sure to be a good teammate, as well. The balance matters. Good in a fight (though increasingly less so by the end, thank you for nothing d20 dice that would never role above a 5), though not great, good for absorbing some damage…as long as it wasn’t boss fight level, but always great for causing trouble, Krok the Phisosopher is one of my all time favorite characters.
Among the short list of troubles he got into:
- Intimidated a young white dragon twice during a fight (I mean the debuffs weren’t huge but just the bragging rights – the fact it then ignored me to attack my nemesis in the group was just bonus)
- Intimidated a group of roughs jumping us into giving up their loot to us and leaving instead
- Annoyed a teammate with bagpipes to the point of turning him evil
- Intentionally used intimidate on the crowd after winning a bare knuckle brawling match to increase my character’s reputation among the fans (took days to successfully roll out of the hangover debuffs our DM added)
- Became an Oracle for the god that the paladins in the party worshipped
- Created an animal companion shortly thereafter out of thin air – the camel imaginary friend of his youth named Toe. So Krok was finally reunited with his Camel Toe
- Crafted a near perfect wooden spoon
Krok the half-orc barbarian/oracle philosopher with his pet camel Toe: a very memorable character who caused trouble, tanked “good enough,” and in the aftermath of the campaign is traveling with the party, hunting down the traitor who joined the dark goddess and tried to smite us in the final battle.
I even had him show up briefly as an NPC in a 5e campaign I ran for another group. It was a lot of entertainment.
Krok was a great take on the barbarian, especially since I was kind of shoe-horned into that position. Although I’m not sure I’d play that build again, it was fantastic fun. Epic character, a great unique build I’m proud of, and in the shortlist of my hall of fame characters during my table top gaming career.
Brief Thoughts on Pathfinder (Coming from a 5e Background)
As a note I will say that this is all about the original Pathfinder system as Pathfinder 2 wasn’t around yet. I really liked Pathfinder, but there’s no denying the learning curve was steep. One thing you have to give the nod to Pathfinder for is the ability to make super specialized, super specific, super (broken?) overpowered characters who are very specifically designed to every trait you could want.
I also really like that there aren’t the same levels of restrictions with magic items. Or crafting. The degree to which you can run with an idea in Pathfinder is so much bigger than 5e as it is currently setup. Krok was an amazing character – and not one I could have built to this extent in a 5e world.
I started with 5e, played with groups that do a lot of homebrew with 5e so it has a special place in my heart that frankly, makes me a bit biased. Sometimes you just prefer the system you grew up with as a tabletop gamer, right?
I would absolutely play a Pathfinder campaign again. While I tend to like simpler and free flowing, the more open systems, there’s a lot of fun that can be had playing Pathfinder. I can see why there are groups that strongly prefer Pathfinder and others who strongly prefer 5th Ed D&D, they are very different systems, but if you’ve never tried one of them – you should. It’s worth the experience to see what both have to offer.
What’s Your Favorite Pathfinder Character?
Surely I can’t be the only player who has ever embraced Pathfinder’s ability to make super specific characters to cause mischief. How did you go about it? Was it a Min-Max the DM couldn’t figure out? A trouble maker who could do one or two seemingly small things expertly, things that weren’t so small when applied to everything (like intimidating every character in the campaign as needed, including arresting constables)? Did you find another way to cause trouble?
We’d love to hear your favorite Pathfinder characters. What was the build? What stuck out? What inspired them? Let us know here or on our Facebook page, or share it with our RPG section on the Patrons-only Discord to join that amazing community. We love the stories, love talking about all things role playing, and would definitely like to know if you had anyone who compared to Krok the Phisosopher.
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.